The New England Patriots finished the 2023-24 season with the same record (4-13) as the Washington Commanders and the Arizona Cardinals. Due to tiebreakers, they have been deemed as the third worst team in the NFL and will have the third pick in this April’s NFL Draft. Along with the Cardinals, the Patriots were tied with the 9th hardest schedule in the ’23-’24 season, and they actually outscored their opponents, 151-138, which is something of a “silver lining”. As mentioned in my article about the Commanders Free Agents, the Patriots were one of only four teams to not have a player selected to the Pro Bowl this year. New England also has about two dozen players entering free agency that new Head Coach, Jerod Mayo, will likely have a say in keeping. If you’re a Patriots fan, it’s really not all that bad, and this should be seen as your major reset/rebuild going into the next three to four years. Here’s my downfield read on who the Pats should keep, and who they should let walk this spring.
The offense was definitely not the strength of this club last season, if you couldn’t tell by the constant benching of starting/not-starting quarterback, Mac Jones. “Big Mac” wasn’t so satisfying being 28th in passing yards (2,120), 28th in QBR (36.6), 44th in Passer Rating (77), and having 12 INTs in just 11 games. His replacement, Bailey Zappe, wasn’t any better so don’t be surprised if the Patriots have someone new under center next season. New England’s offense ranked 31st in scoring, 30th in total yards, 28th in passing yards and 26th in rushing yards. That being said, of the Patriot’s free agents on offense, there are only two that I would make a “must re-sign”: Tight End, Mike Gesicki and Right Tackle, Mike Onwenu. Gesicki is 28 years old, has been a solid contributor for six years (five with the Dolphins), he’s not coming off a knee injury (Hunter Henry), and he should be relatively cheap (BONUS!). Onwenu on the other hand, I would make sure to lock down for four years for around $45M. He’s only 26 years old, and he did a great job moving from Guard to RT last year.
Obviously, this means that I would let a lot of people go on this offense, but rightly so UNLESS you can re-sign them for a bargain. You saw the offensive output statistics from above, right? Ezekiel Elliott isn’t needed when you have Rhamondre Stevenson and three other RBs. WR Jalen Reagor is a first round bust; let’s just admit that already. Kendrick Bourne had 406 receiving yards and four TDs but then tore his ACL. If you can’t sign him for 3 years for about $12M, don’t bother. WR Matthew Slater is just old (39). TE’s Pharaoh Brown and Hunter Henry can both go if you’re signing Mike Gesicki. LT Trent Brown was decent, but he’ll be 31 and he’s injury prone (only 11 games last season?). Center, James Ferentz and RG Riley Reiff are both going to start next season at 35 years of age. It’s time to get younger on the O-Line, New England!
Another reason why I wouldn’t re-sign a bunch of poor performing players from the Pats’ offense, is because I would be trying to keep as much of this defense together as possible. This was a solid unit: 4th in rushing yards allowed per game, 7th in total yards allowed, 11th in passing yards allowed, and 15th in points allowed (because their offense kept coughing up the ball). What they need to focus on is getting PRESSURE ON THE QB! They were 27th in sacks and 24th in takeaways. Opposing QBs were way too comfortable in the pocket and it showed. My “Must Re-Sign” crew: Linebacker Anfernee Jennings, who led this team with 14 tackles for a loss, is young and still developing, and SHOULD still sign for cheap. Linebacker Josh Uche is a lower end SLB1, and is still raw, but he’s 26 and should get better. They could probably get him on a three-year deal for around $20M. Kyle Dugger is a Top 10 Strong Safety that needs to be kept. I would go somewhere around four years for $60M range. Myles Bryant is a low-end CB1 to high-end CB2. Three years for $20M should lock him down. I also like Inside Lineback Mack Wilson Jr. He’s a solid backup to Ja’Whaun Bentley, and a young player (26) who’s been in a lot of games. Free Safety Jalen Mills is going to start the season at 30 years old, but he’s a great veteran with experience that I would try to keep around as a backup for the next two to three years as well. Finally, CB Alex Austin, who came to the team late last year but showed good enough skill to fight for a backup spot on next years roster.
That doesn’t leave a lot of FA players left, but I think with Jarod Mayo taking over the team, he’s going to want to keep as many of these pieces in place as possible; especially the LBs, who are a relatively young group. Players that the Patriots can let walk are LBs, Christian Elliss and Terez Hall, along with Free Safety’s Cody Davis (35) and Joshuah Bledsoe. Where New England will want to think about upgrading is on their defensive line. Like I said, they need to produce more pressure. Nose Tackle Davon Godchaux led the team with 8.5 sacks, and was second in tackles for a loss with 13. The Defensive Ends need to be upgraded, especially 34-year old Lawrence Guy Sr., who didn’t have a single sack last year. C’mon, man!
Special Teams and More
The Patriots should look into getting a better Kicker next year. Besides looking like he’s nine-years-old, Chad Ryland made only 64% of FGs last season. At 40+ yards away, he’s a coin toss to make it. If they can find a Kick Returner to replace Jalen Reagor (which shouldn’t be difficult), they will be just fine.
The New England Patriots SHOULD be a better team next season. Should. I’m not convinced that Bill Belichick was the problem, but we do know that Tom Brady NOT being a Patriot was DEFINITELY a problem. That being said, I think the Pats will panic and pick a QB with their third overall pick. They might even make the ultimate blunder and move up to number one and pick the bust of the decade, Caleb Williams. Jarod Mayo doesn’t strike me as a Head Coach, and I think Robert Kraft moved way too quickly with his decision when Mike Vrabel was right there to replace Bill. New England plays in a tough division with Buffalo, Miami, and the Jets. They are going to have to make some big offensive moves AND keep their defensive talent if they want to get out of the AFC East basement. Thanks for the “read” everyone.