NFL franchises continue to search for personnel upgrades ahead of training camp, which will begin in late July. One of the more intriguing free-agent defenders who still finds himself available on the open market is veteran defensive end Trey Flowers.
Flowers has had difficulty staying healthy over the previous two campaigns, but the former Arkansas standout will be just 29 years old during the 2022 campaign and has plenty of football ahead of him. Flowers could make for a rather low-cost, intriguing reclamation project with the potential to pay dividends for a team willing to provide him with a fresh start.
After recording 21.5 sacks across an impressive three-year stint in New England, Flowers signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Detroit Lions in 2019 in a move that reunited him with former Patriots Defensive Coordinator and at-the-time Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia. Flowers recorded 7.0 sacks in his first season in Detroit, but the aforementioned injuries derailed his 2020 and 2021 campaigns. With the regime that signed Flowers no longer in Detroit, the Huntsville, Alabama native was released from his contract in March.
Flowers is now healthy and ready to resume his NFL career. At his best, Flowers is a true difference-maker that impacts opposing offenses in a variety of manners. We’ve identified three free-agent fits for Flowers.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Flowers is most likely to sign with a team that offers him a sense of familiarity. When the Patriots made Flowers the No. 101 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, current Raiders General Manager Dave Ziegler served as New England’s assistant director of pro scouting. Furthermore, new Raiders Head Coach Josh McDaniels was on the coaching staff, as was Raiders Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, who worked as the Patriots’ linebackers position coach in 2015. Both Ziegler and McDaniels remained in Foxboro throughout Flowers’ entire four-year tenure as a Patriot. All parties mentioned won at least one Super Bowl together. The familiarity for Flowers in Vegas would arrive in bunches.
The Raiders’ front-office brass has shown a willingness to reunite with former Patriots this offseason, having signed Chandler Jones to a three-year contract worth $51 million. Rumors also continue to link the Raiders to free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, proving Ziegler is still searching for additional defensive line depth in a loaded AFC West that promises to be a race to the finish. Flowers would be a seamless fit in Vegas while bolstering a defense that must be prepared to counteract the offenses of their three divisional competitors.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
A return to Flowers’ old stomping grounds may be the medicine required to rehabilitate his professional career. Flowers spent his first four seasons in New England, winning two Super Bowls, including the miraculous 25-point comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Flowers’ final appearance as a Patriot earned him his second Super Bowl ring in New England’s 13-3 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. Flowers then cashed in with the Lions later that offseason, but he’s still fondly remembered by the Foxboro faithful.
There’s also one common denominator that makes a reunion with the Patriots possible, if not likely. Patricia served as Flowers’ defensive coordinator for three seasons (2015-17) before signing him to a sizable contract worth nearly $100 million in Detroit. Patricia has since returned to the Patriots as Bill Belichick’s senior football advisor. Although reports indicate Patricia is taking on a larger role as New England’s offensive play-caller this season (not the defense), his mere presence makes the Patriots the best possible landing spot for Flowers. Flowers has always been an ideal scheme fit for the defensive system preferred by Patricia and Belichick.
The Texans have become jokingly known as the Patriots of the AFC South since Nick Caserio became their general manager. Caserio worked as New England’s director of player personnel for 12 years (2008-20). Caserio played a prominent role in the decision to draft Flowers back in 2015 and has signed countless ex-Patriots since becoming Houston’s chief decision-maker in 2021. Furthermore, Texans executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby also crossed paths with Flowers in New England. Easterby has a bunch of pull within the Texans’ organization and could co-sign on adding Flowers to the fold.
The Texans are going through yet another transition period under new head coach Lovie Smith after firing David Culley after just one season. Smith is a hard-nosed, defensive-minded leader who appreciates versatile defensive linemen that can both rush the passer and stuff the run. Flowers is that type of defender. The Texans didn’t draft a defensive lineman in April’s draft until the fifth round (Stanford’s Thomas Booker), and Flowers would add some much-needed veteran leadership to the current room.