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New England Patriots 2024 Free Agency Primer

Here's everything you need to know before the free agency frenzy begins on Monday!

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It might seem like the NFL season just ended, but the new league year is already upon us and with it comes the opening of the league's Free Agency tampering period on Monday, March 11. These two-and-a-half days before the start of the official 2024 season provide teams with a chance to get a jump on signings, which will then become official with the start of the new league year on Wednesday. Get ready, because the reports will be quickly rolling in for the Patriots, who are projected to have over $80 million cap space but plenty of holes to fill and upgrades to be made.

With a new front office regime and head coach in place, Eliot Wolf and Jerod Mayo will be looking to put a new stamp on their team that should bring a refreshing dose of new energy.

Before the free agency frenzy kicks in here's everything you need to know about where the Patriots stand and what could be coming over the next week.

Patriots Free Agents

Restricted Free Agents: Terez Hall (RFA), Christian Elliss (ERFA), Tre Nixon (ERFA).

Signed ERFA: Alex Austin
Signed ERFA: Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

Unrestricted Free Agents: J.C. Jackson, Trent Brown, Kendrick Bourne, Mike Gesicki, Adrian Phillips (released in February), Jalen Mills, Ezekiel Elliott, Lawrence Guy (released in February), Myles Bryant, Cody Davis, Mack Wilson, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Pharaoh Brown, Jalen Reagor, Terez Hall, Michael Onwenu.

Transition Tag: Kyle Dugger: The Patriots tagged Dugger but still have hopes of working out a long-term deal. Either way, it looks like Dugger should remain in New England at least for 2024, giving them continuity at safety and a chance to continue working with the promising young player.

*Reported Signing: Hunter Henry: According to the NFL Network, the Patriots signed Henry to a three-year deal on Friday before Free Agency opens. It's a no-brainer move, as the tight end market was fairly sparse and Henry has been outstanding both on and off the field in his three years with the team.

Positional Free Agency Breakdowns

Here are Patriots.com's full free agency positional breakdowns featuring analysis of each position and potential fits:

Cap Space

According to Patriots cap guru Miguel Benzan, the team has around $87 million in cap space to work with after tagging Kyle Dugger. Of course, if the team and Dugger work out a long-term extension that number could change. Even still, the Patriots remain among the NFL teams with the most available cap space in the league.

Top Needs

With the third overall pick in the draft, the Patriots needs will be a balancing act between wisely using the available cap space to set the table for at least two potential high-impact Top-50 draft selections and filling some current holes on the roster with reliable veterans. Listed below are the needs that make the most sense to address in Free Agency based on the team's veteran needs and the players available on the open market.

1. Offensive Tackle

The Patriots have already reportedly made a move at offensive tackle and it was a needed one considering the team's lack of proven players at the position. Before Free Agency, New England signed former Steelers tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, a 2018 third-round pick with 27 starts under his belt as a right tackle. Otherwise, it's Calvin Anderson, Vederian Lowe and Andrew Stueber, while 2023 trade acquisition Tyrone Wheatley Jr. was retained as an Exclusive Rights Free Agent. Anderson is the most experienced of the bunch but was limited to just five games last season due to an illness. Recent social media posts indicate that Anderson is ready to return fully and he's not without some potential after logging 12 starts in three previous seasons with the Broncos. Lowe played every down for the Patriots in 2023 from Weeks 2-6 but became more of a rotational player later in the year. Stueber and Wheatley have yet to make their NFL debuts.

Add all this up and tackle is a critical need both in free agency and the draft for the Patriots, though Okorafor is a solid signing. It's not a great free agency class outside of Tyron Smith, the future Hall of Fame left tackle from the Cowboys, but Smith is 33 and could be more interested in an immediate contender than even a hefty payday from the Pats. The Bengals' Jonah Williams could be a solid right tackle option that at least gives them a starting point on one side, and former Patriot Jermaine Eluemunor, who played mostly guard in NE, could also be an option to consider, but it's worth wondering if Okorafor is already a better option considering his age and potential.

2. Wide Receiver

There are a few intriguing names in Free Agency at the wide receiver position, headlined by Jacksonville's Calvin Ridley who would make a nice complementary addition to the offense and add an explosive dynamic. Odell Beckham is another big name but could continue his quest to play with Super Bowl-ready teams as he did with the Rams and Ravens. Curtis Samuel is another name to keep an eye on. He had 62 catches for 613 yards and four touchdowns with Washington last year. Parris Campbell and Marquez Valdez-Scantling round out some of the more notable players hitting the open market.

The Patriots have reportedly been in contract discussions with Kendrick Bourne, who was lost last season to an ACL tear just as he was putting together one of the best years of his career. Perhaps that familiarity helps a reunion in New England, or the team could instead choose to focus on a loaded draft class at the receiver position featuring younger, cheaper and higher ceiling options than almost any they might consider in free agency.

3. Quarterback

As of the start of Free Agency, the Patriots have three quarterbacks on the roster, Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe and Nathan Rourke, but it's expected that they'll make some kind of veteran addition at the most important position. Speculation has swirled about Jones' future, whether he'll get a chance to get back on track in New England or if they'll provide him with a fresh start via trade somewhere else. Either way, the long-term outlook is cloudy at this point, even as almost every mock draft out there has them selecting a QB at third overall.

If that's the case, a veteran stopgap makes a lot of sense. Jacoby Brissett is a popular choice given his ties to both New England and the coaches who were with him in Cleveland. Even Joe Flacco gets some mention in that regard after joining the Browns late last year and helping them get into the playoffs. Gardner Minshew is another potential option who has won games in the NFL and could reasonably hold the fort until a rookie is ready.

If the Pats choose to make a splash at the position and lock up an actual starter Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins top the list of options. Both would cost big money and come with the expectation that a third-overall pick wouldn't be breathing down their neck. Ryan Tannehill is another option to consider who might split the difference between a big money starter and a bridge quarterback.

Whatever the Patriots do at quarterback it will point in a clear direction toward their plans for the draft.

4. Running Back

A devalued position, there are a ton of name running backs on the market that have had dominant seasons in recent years. Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry and Josh Jacobs are the headliners and any one of them would make a nice complement to Rhamondre Stevenson unless they're still looking to be the focal point of a backfield. Perhaps a better option for the Patriots could be to lean more towards third-down kinds of backs like Austin Ekeler or Tony Pollard. Both are explosive backs who have battled injuries and might make more sense in a platoon than carrying the bulk of the load.

With only Stevenson on the roster, it's a good bet the Pats will take advantage of market trends at running back. Ekeler or Pollard would be dynamic additions who move the needle while also providing needed depth.

5. Don't Forget the Defense

The Patriots need to upgrade their offense but it's not the greatest free agency market on that side of the ball, but defensively there are a lot of studs who could be impactful additions. Edge depth is non-existent, while the defensive line is getting older and the secondary needs a third starting-quality player. Christian Wilkins is a Boston native who is one of the top gems on the market and is still just 28. A'Shawn Robinson is an Alabama product that would help replace Lawrence Guy's heavy snapload.

Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings are internal options to return, but a splash like Danielle Hunter from Minnesota or Bryce Huff, who had 11 sacks with the Jets last year, might provide more all-around bang for their buck.

In the secondary, a reunion with vets Stephon Gilmore or Kenny Moore would provide a needed boost of reliable play to complement Jonathan Jones and Christian Gonzalez.

Despite not having the team's biggest needs, the Patriots could make their biggest splashes of free agency on defense, while waiting for the draft to truly rebuild the foundation of their offense.

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