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NFL free agents: Best available players at key positions for Patriots

NFL free agency is officially one day old and most of the top players who hit the market have found new teams. But there are still plenty of good options remaining for teams that have a lot of salary cap space like the New England Patriots.

Wide receiver remains a glaring weakness on the Patriots roster. They made a competitive offer to free agent Calvin Ridley, but he agreed to sign a four-year deal worth $92 million ($50 million guaranteed) with the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday.

Luckily for the Patriots, wide receiver is probably the position with the best collection of players still available.

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In fact, Mass Live’s Mark Daniels reported Wednesday that the Patriots have some interest in Tyler Boyd. The 29-year-old veteran didn’t receive a ton of fanfare in Cincinnati over the last few years because star wideouts Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were ahead of him on the depth chart, but he’s been pretty productive his entire career.

Boyd has averaged 72.8 receptions, 862 yards and 4.6 touchdowns over the last six seasons, primarily as a slot receiver. This kind of consistency should appeal to the Patriots. They need as many sure-handed, reliable targets in the passing attack as they can get, especially if the team drafts a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick next month.

Boyd isn’t a No. 1, but he’d probably be the best player on the team’s wide receiver depth chart if he came to Foxboro.

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Which other free agents should the Patriots pursue as free agency moves along?

Here’s a list of the best players available at positions the Patriots could really use additional depth and/or talent in.

Wide receiver

Williams is the most talented player available. He has great size and is tremendous at making contested catches. Durability is a concern, though. He’s played a full season just once in seven years as a pro, and he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3 last season. But when healthy, he is very productive and a fantastic red zone target.

Osborn was a solid No. 3 wideout in Minnesota last season and could find similar success with the Patriots. Brown is one of the fastest wideouts in the league and a real deep threat as a result. The Patriots don’t have a ton of speed at the position right now. Reynolds was an underrated part of a very productive Lions passing attack last season.

Tight end

The draft might be the best place for the Patriots to get a third tight end behind Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper, but there are a few decent veterans still on the market. Thomas tallied 55 receptions for 496 yards and four touchdowns for the Commanders last season. He can be a difficult cover at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds.

Offensive tackle

The Patriots were able to re-sign Mike Onwenu, who could be their starting left tackle next season. Tyron Smith is the best tackle still available. He’s 33 years old and has missed 36 games over the last four seasons due to injuries. But when healthy, the eight-time Pro Bowler is still a pretty good player and absolutely an upgrade over what New England currently has on its tackle depth chart (excluding Onwenu).

Cornerback

The Patriots still could use additional depth at cornerback, even with 2023 first-round pick Christian Gonzalez returning from injury. A Gilmore reunion would be fascinating. He’s no longer a top-five cornerback but still an upper-tier player at the position. Fuller is another intriguing option. He tallied 55 solo tackles with two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and nine pass breakups for the Commanders last season.

Safety

The Patriots placed the transition tag on Kyle Dugger, but after losing Jalen Mills to free agency and releasing Adrian Phillips, adding a veteran safety would make a lot of sense. Simmons has been one of the top safeties for several years but was released by the Broncos earlier this month to save salary cap space. The 30-year-old veteran, who was selected to the Pro Bowl last season, is a great tackler and pretty good in coverage, too. He has tallied 30 interceptions in eight seasons.