The 2022 NFL league year got underway this week after an opening period of tampering and there was plenty of movement around the league that has altered the dynamics across nearly all of the eight divisions. For the Patriots it was a throwback to their usual operating style, sitting out the early high spending while waiting for the value signings to come to light.
2021 was an exception when they handed out a record $163 million in guaranteed money. So far in 2022, they've given out just over $16 million. The early lack of splashy action might be frustrating for fans, but the good news is that Free Agency has only just begun and there are still plenty of players who can improve the Patriots.
"Back to normal this year," one AFC exec told NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry. "Last year made everyone forget how business usually operates there."
Building off of last week's primer, here's an update of where everything stands as the free-agent frenzy settles into the period where New England has traditionally done the majority of their damage.
Comings and Goings
Internal FA Signings
- Jakobi Meyers: Tagged with a one-year RFA second-round tender. Team's leading receiver returns for a fourth season, could still be an extension candidate.
- Devin McCourty: One-year deal that reduces his projected 2022 dead money cap hit but pushes void years into 2026. The back end of the defense is in good hands.
- James White: Two-year deal low in guaranteed money, White will need to show he's healthy and can return to his usual third-down back role. A full healthy year for White with Mac Jones would be interesting to see.
- Matthew Slater: One-year deal for the ace special teamer and captain.
- Brian Hoyer: Two-year deal as Hoyer takes on an even more vital role as mentor to Mac Jones.
- Nick Folk: Consistent kicker who's had a career resurrection in New England will stick around for two more years.
- James Ferentz: Reliable backup and spot starter provides valuable depth and experience along the interior of the offensive line.
- REPORTED - Ja'Whaun Bentley: According to reports on Friday afternoon, the four-year veteran linebacker will be back in the mix.
External FA Signings
- Terrance Mitchell, CB: Cornerback has played his best football the last two seasons, forcing six fumbles and starting 29 games.
- Ty Montgomery, WR/RB/ST: Played a lot of positions for a lot of teams, but still just 29, he'll provide insurance for turnover at running back and returner and could find a similar role to Cordarrelle Patterson in 2018.
- Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay for a 2022 5th-round pick: 5th rounder fills a draft gap, while opening up about $7 million in space. Tough to lose a very good guard like Mason.
- Chase Winovich to Cleveland for linebacker Mack Wilson: Two teams swap players in the final year of their deals, Wilson is an athletic linebacker who will compete for defensive snaps as the linebacker position goes through some turnover.
Free Agents Lost
- JC Jackson: 5 years, $82.5 million with Chargers
- Ted Karras: 3 years, $18 million with Bengals
- Brandon Bolden: 2 years, $5 million with Raiders
- Jakob Johnson: 1 year, $1.5 million with Raiders
- Gunner Olszewski: 2 years, $4.2 million with Steelers
Patriots salary cap guru Miguel Benzan now projects the Patriots with over $11 million in cap space, accounting for all moves except the signing of Ty Montgomery, which was reported as a two-year deal worth up to $4 million. That should be plenty of space to make some moves in the coming days where the team can expect to get plenty of bang for their buck, especially when you consider they are projected to have over $100 million in cap space in 2023.
With 66 players currently projected under contract, there will be at least 24 more players added between now and training camp, including their draft picks which now stand as:
- 1st round - 21st overall
- 2nd round - 54th overall
- 3rd round - 85th overall
- 4th round - 127th overall
- 5th round - 170th overall (via TB)
- 6th round - 200th overall (via LAR)
- 6th round - 210th overall
Offensive line: Trent Brown was reportedly visiting the Seahawks, though the Patriots remain in the mix with the big tackle, while 2021 starting left guard Ted Karras is now a Brown and starting right guard Shaq Mason is now a Buc. Brown's return would check a major box off, and despite Michael Onwenu's presence to fill one of the guard spots, they'll need to address guard as well. The offensive line has the most glaring holes right now.
Fits: Brown, Nate Solder, Eric Fisher, Ryan Bates (Bills RFA)
Edge/Linebacker: Mack Wilson adds another layer of depth that is unproven in New England at the second level, but the team will need to do even more, especially along the edge. These could be prime positions in the draft as well but there are still intriguing names out there at these two important positions. Ja'Whaun Bentley's reported re-signing is a nice move for a young player who can certainly fill a role.
Fits: Everson Griffin, Trey Flowers, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Bobby Wagner
Cornerback: Though Terrance Mitchell provides some depth after J.C. Jackson's departure, he might just be a spot holder until the team can upgrade the position. Another spot that should figure heavily into the draft plans, there are still some vets that could make sense.
Fits: Justin Coleman, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett
Wide Receiver: Even with their top four receivers all under contract and set to return, there is little long-term stability at the position with only Kendrick Bourne under contract past 2022. This is the spot where staying patient could pay dividends. Tapping one of the many explosive receivers in the draft seems like a good idea as well.
Fits: Jamison Crowder, DaeSean Hamilton, Adam Humphries