AP NEWS

Flowers to Bloom in Detroit

March 12, 2019

The new year is off to a familiar start for the Patriots.

There’s a ton of cash being thrown around at the beginning of free agency, and the Patriots haven’t even touched their wallet.

Instead, they’ve watched their two prominent free agents -- defensive end Trey Flowers and offensive tackle Trent Brown -- sign elsewhere.

Flowers is heading to Detroit to link up with former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, according to multiple reports.

“For the memories, for the lessons, for the relationships (and) for the opportunity, I thank you!,” Flowers wrote on his Instagram account.

Brown will sign with Oakland, a source confirmed.

Both moves will be finalized when the new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m.

The Brown departure is hardly a surprise. The 6-foot-8, 380-pound Brown vastly exceeded expectations after arriving in New England via trade a year ago. He was acquired as the Patriots attempted to replace Nate Solder, who left in free agency for a lucrative deal with the Giants. Brown stepped into Solder’s left tackle position from Day One and helped anchor an offensive line that grew into one of the league’s premier units.

The Pats also planned for the future by selecting Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the 2018 draft. Wynn, who missed his rookie season because of an Achilles injury, projects as the starting left tackle opposite Marcus Cannon. The Pats could target tackles in this year’s draft, too.

Brown’s deal is worth $66 million over four years with $36.75 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It’s a figure the Patriots never were going to match.

The Flowers situation was not quite as predictable. A fourth-round pick in 2015, Flowers missed most of his rookie season, but made massive strides in each of the past three years. He developed into a menacing two-way defensive end, equally adept at stuffing the run and terrorizing the quarterback. He wasn’t a freak athlete off the edge (like a Von Miller or Khalil Mack), but Flowers was effective in a multitude of roles for the Patriots. He was capable of regularly winning one-on-one matchups against tackles, and he often bumped inside on passing downs, proving too powerful and explosive for interior linemen.

The Patriots were well aware that Flowers, 25 years old and dominating at a premium position, was in line for a huge payday when his rookie contract expired. That’s what happens with young defensive ends. It’s why the Patriots traded Chandler Jones before he reached free agency.

But Flowers’ versatility and game-to-game consistency made him a more valuable asset than Jones, so the belief existed the Patriots might go above and beyond to keep him.

The terms of Flowers’ agreement with the Lions have not yet been disclosed, but Detroit likely hit a number the Patriots were unwilling to approach.