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Sources: DE Flowers gets cleanup on shoulder

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, who projects as one of the top free agents on the market, is rehabbing from a recent shoulder surgery that is not considered serious, league sources told ESPN. The surgery was described as more of a cleanup.

It can be commonplace for players to have such surgeries after the season, as it accelerates their timelines to potentially be ready for the offseason program and other activities. Flowers' timeline, compared to most others around the NFL, was condensed after the Patriots' season ended Feb. 3 with the Super Bowl LIII win.

Flowers, 25, played in 15 regular-season games and all three postseason games last season. The one game he missed was due to a concussion.

The 6-foot-2, 265-pound Flowers has led the Patriots in sacks each of the past three seasons, with his 7.5 in 2018 a career high.

In 46 regular-season games, he has totaled 164 tackles with 21 sacks and five forced fumbles. In nine playoff games, he amassed 39 tackles and 5.5 sacks.

Flowers' versatility is one of the reasons he is expected to be a coveted free agent.

"Trey is one of the hardest-working guys on the team -- running game, passing game, his physical development and maintenance in terms of getting treatment and taking care of himself," coach Bill Belichick said in November. "A lot of times, he's playing inside. At his size, he's just lighter than a lot of guys that play in there over the guard and that position, so he does a good job of being able to hold up -- the techniques of playing inside, playing outside, playing on the open side, playing on the tight end side. He's a very versatile and valuable player for us."

Flowers played just four snaps in his rookie season, in part due to a shoulder injury, but also as a result of the team's depth at the position. He was ultimately played on injured reserve in December of that season.

By ending his season early, Flowers got a head start on his rehabilitation, which Belichick later said was an important decision from a timing perspective. Flowers then worked his way into a four-man rotation, playing 54 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016, followed by 75 percent in 2017 and 70 percent in 2018.