The way Tom Brady has dominated the free agency news cycle, it’s almost hard to remember the Patriots will be pursuing other players.
That’s why we’re here.
Each day leading up to the NFL’s legal free-agent tampering period, which begins Monday, the Herald will unveil one of 10 potential Patriot targets on the open market. The Pats rank in the bottom half of the league in available cap space, so high-profile free agents like Cowboys wideout Amari Cooper will be omitted from the list. But the Patriots usually hunt in the bargain bin anyways, so that’s where we’ll dig.
Some names you’ll recognize, others you won’t. All, however, deserve to be remembered come Monday. Because all could be potential Patriots.
Giants LB David Mayo
Ht/Wt: 6-2, 245
Age: 26
2019 stats: 82 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 passes defensed
Why he’s a fit: A four-year special teams standout in Carolina, David Mayo made his biggest career splash in the Big Apple last season.
After getting cut in September by the 49ers, who inked him to a free-agent deal a year ago, Mayo quickly signed with the Giants and played every game. Better yet, he started 13 of them.
Mayo was thrust into the defensive lineup due to a cascade of injuries and established himself as an elite run stuffer for New York. Out of all the NFL defenders who saw at least 450 snaps last season, Mayo received the sixth-highest for run defense, per Pro Football Focus player. Among strictly linebackers, he ranked as the second-best run defender.
The Patriots got a first-hand look at one of Mayo’s best games, a 12-tackle showing that included a half-sack of Tom Brady. His dozen stops finished as a season high. Mayo also finished with 12 special teams snaps.
Mayo was a regular on Giants special teams, too, playing at least 40% of their snaps in every game but a pair. His ability to impact two phases of the game likely appeal to the Pats, who prioritize special teams as much as any team in the NFL. A longtime core member of their kick and punt units, Nate Ebner, is a free agent this offseason.
Mayo doesn’t carry the same physical traits as Ebner, but he does fit the mold of a typical Patriots linebacker. If he gains five more pounds, Mayo (6-2, 245) would be right in line with other players who manned the middle of the Pats’ defense at times last season: Ja’Whaun Bentley (6-2, 255), Jamie Collins (6-3, 255)), Kyle Van Noy (6-3, 250), Dont’a Hightower (6-3, 260) and Elandon Roberts (6-0, 240).
Like his strength and build, Mayo’s main weakness also mirrors a typical Patriots linebacker. While he tackled well until December, Mayo struggled in coverage throughout 2019. Considering it was his first year in a major defensive role, perhaps there are screws that can still be tightened with his game.
The former fifth-round pick made quite a name for himself via special teams and could be destined for more soon. That experience is likely to attract new Giants coach Joe Judge, the Pats’ former special teams coordinator. And it could consequently draw out his old bosses, who would be happy to make Mayo one of the newest Patriots in a few days.



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