Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had a message to fans while addressing the media for the first time this offseason from the NFL's Owners Meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, on Monday morning.
"Long way to go. It's March. We play in September. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do," Belichick said. "I think we've taken steps to improve the team. Again, it's March."
Belichick was then asked why fans should be optimistic about the direction the team is heading, "the last 25 years," the future Hall of Fame coach responded.
The Patriots have made progress this offseason to improve their roster through free agency. Whether you believe that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster or tight end Mike Gesicki are upgrades, there's an argument to be made that they'll improve the offense. The same goes for the additions at the offensive tackle position, while New England has retained most of their depth pieces on defense and bolstered a special teams unit that struggled a year ago.
However, the Pats went into the offseason needing to make significant upgrades at wide receiver, offensive tackle, and cornerback. After the initial wave of player movement, they are still seemingly in the market for elite talent at those three positions; not much has changed.
Although those major acquisitions haven't come to fruition, Belichick added that the team remains diligent in finding ways to improve the roster.
"There's a lot of ways you can acquire players. I wouldn't rule out any of them or rule in any of them. We see something that can help the team, then we'll do it. We are not afraid to do whatever we need to do to help the team, whatever that is, Belichick told reporters.
Specifically, Belichick was asked about adding at the wide receiver position and said, "if we can improve our team, we'll try to improve our team," while declining comment on players not currently on the Patriots, including a potential pursuit of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and free-agent wideout Odell Beckham.
Speaking of the two quarterbacks currently on the roster, the Patriots head coach generalized about every player's ability to compete for playing time this spring and summer.
"Everybody will get a chance to play. We'll play our best players," Belichick said. "Every position. Everybody will get a chance to play. Everybody who is on our roster, if they earn an opportunity to play based on what they do in practice, then they'll get an opportunity to play."
Belichick explained the process after the season where the coaches talk to all the players individually about how they can improve. Although Belichick was speaking about every player, his answer to a question about Mac Jones's hold on the starting quarterback position certainly kept the door open for second-year QB Bailey Zappe to push Jones for the starting job.
Along with questions about the roster, the Pats head coach also spoke about adding offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and former Patriot offensive lineman Adrian Klemm to the coaching staff, who are working through the schematic changes to the offense as we speak.
Belichick pointed to his history with coach O'Brien, "I have a good relationship with Bill [O'Brien]. We go back a ways," Belichick said. "I thought it was the best thing for the team."
As for Klemm, whose hiring has not been formally announced by the team but is expected to coach the offensive line this season, Belichick essentially confirmed that on Monday morning.
"Smart guy. Played in June's [Jones] offense. A really good understanding of some of the more complex things on the offensive line. I think he has performed well in his coaching positions at various spots," Belichick explained. "I think he'll do a good job for us."
With the roster-building process ongoing, Belichick is leaving every door open this offseason. Although he didn't directly say it, it's also safe to assume that the Patriots are also hoping that the additions to the offensive coaching staff will organically improve the roster as well.
Understandably, Patriots fans want to see the talent on the field dramatically improve after the team missed the playoffs with an 8-9 season a year ago. Being patient is not easy in the offseason, but Belichick's sentiment that there's still a long way to go is a fair assessment.
As the calendar turns to April, it's a reminder that talent acquisition is fluid with the 2023 NFL Draft on the horizon and plenty of moves to be made before the 2023 season begins this fall.
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