The Kansas City Chiefs have repeated as Super Bowl champs and now the 2024 NFL offseason has officially arrived, as the Patriots and 30 other teams will embark on another spring of team building with the hope of solving Patrick Mahomes and the reigning two-time champs at the top of their to-do lists.
For the Patriots, most fans are already locked in on the draft at the end of April, with a keen eye on the offensive side of the ball. But that dismisses what could and should be a hugely impactful free agency period. New England has money to spend, holes to fill and plenty of directions they could take, all of which will significantly impact how exactly the draft might unfold in just under three months.
Hopefully there will be more free agency questions coming in future mailbags, but for now the 'bag continues to primarily focus on upcoming rookie quarterbacks, receivers and tackles. Let's dive in!
If we were to be pessimistic in our outlook and say that we expect next year to be a top 5 draft pick season, should we take the best player in draft, i.e. Marvin Harrison, with aim to bulk that up with similar draft strategy next year plus free agent additions. And we look at a three-to-four-year rebuild as opposed to chasing a difficult one-year jump under new GM, HC and QB. Appreciate drafting a QB is appealing but I loathe the idea of a Byrce Young situation. -Karol Hannon
If Marvin Harrison Jr. (a GENERATIONAL receiver) is available how can the Pats NOT take him? Any quarterback can throw to an open receiver just like ANY running back can run through a huge whole in the line. It's Harrison or the draft is a complete bust. He is the next Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, etc.. How do you pass on him? Forget "draft capital". He is the BEST player in not only this draft but in any draft in the last 10 years. The third best quarterback? Give me a break. Mac Jones will find him, Bailey Zappe will find him and so will a Kirk Cousins. He is a generational player and should be our pick. Don't get cute and outthink yourselves. Just get HIM... All else will fail into place. No brainer. -Todd Titus
Alrighty, kicking things off with a focus on wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., since the expectation is that he should be there and available with the third overall selection. This is a great debate and one that I find myself leaning into more than I thought I would. I understand the point of view. Take the potential generational player instead of the third-best quarterback and forget about the line of thinking that you can't make a wide receiver the first piece of an offensive rebuild. Let's stick with this line of thinking, while remembering that it also might be a lot easier to pull the trigger on Harrison after free agency. Or perhaps it could be harder, but let's keep playing. Whether you want him or not, Harrison is the kind of prize that comes with the third-overall pick. How else would the Patriots expect to ever get the chance to draft a player with his kind of potential? Are we sick of looking under every rock and behind every curtain for an impact receiver? Of wondering how the Pats could trade a pick for a receiver going into his contract year? We can all agree the Patriots won't be championship contenders until they get a quarterback, but there really are no rules for how it has to be done and I don't think we can dismiss Harrison at the third overall spot. Maybe it's unorthodox or goes against traditionally accepted rebuild milestones but in my view the bottom line is that this team needs impactful talent and I think we'd all rather our team has the courage to take a receiver at third than take a swing on a quarterback they might not truly believe in just because that's what conventional wisdom dictates. -Mike Dussault
It's apparent that the Patriots are looking to draft a quarterback in the first round. It looks like Jimmy Garoppolo will probably be released by the Raiders before this season. My question is do you think that Jimmy G could be a viable option to bring him back and be the backup quarterback as long as he understands that the backup quarterback is the only alternative? -Greg Knott
Coupled with the drafting of Marvin Harrison Jr., I wouldn't be entirely against it. The Patriots do need a veteran quarterback in the mix and there are obvious reasons why Jacoby Brissett and Garoppolo could make sense for a return to New England. Perhaps the bigger question is whether or not the team thinks they could get similar play out of Bailey Zappe this season. Let's face it, are the Patriots knocking Patrick Mahomes from atop the NFL with any of these options? What about with Kirk Cousins? That's still a no for me. So I just don't want to tie up a bunch of money on a quarterback that isn't the answer. So if you could get Garoppolo or Brissett on a manageable veteran deal that isn't starter money, I'd consider it, while fully acknowledging that it would be a temporary situation. This is where we get into the counter argument against Harrison. Wouldn't it be better to not waste time at the quarterback position? At least if you reach on Jayden Daniels a bit and he doesn't turn out to be the team's next long term starter, you took the chance on a dynamic and exciting player. Then do it again next year until it works. Garoppolo or Brissett can be throwing to the best receiver in NFL history next fall and it still probably wouldn't elevate the Patriots to contender status, so maybe everything else should be put aside until the quarterback is in place. Again, free agency will clarify the picture significantly. -Mike Dussault
The Patriots should trade up to #1 overall and select Caleb Williams or stay at 3 and select their franchise QB? -Jaden Hawkins
I wouldn't trade up for Williams. The Patriots need too much and he has too many questions, even if he is the most intriguing quarterback in this class. As mentioned above, Bryce Young is a bit of a cautionary tale, when you unload so many of your team's assets for the first overall pick and then you're left with a quarterback and not much else around him for the first coupe seasons. It's certainly not the best way to set up a young player for success. Ideally I think Drake Maye is worth the pick at three if he falls. Jayden Daniels gives me a bit more pause and if there was a way to get him a bit lower I'd feel a lot better about the risk. Mitigating the Daniels risk by picking up some extra picks and putting some pieces around him makes the most sense to me. However, there's not a lot of intrigue at quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds and that's troubling if the Pats do pass on a QB with their first pick. Are Bo Nix and J.J. McCarthy trade back up into the first round kind of players? Not in my view. So then you're left taking a late Day 2, early Day 3 flier, which isn't going to move the needle as far as a 2024 is concerned. As you can see, things are extremely complicated as we sit here before free agency. -Mike Dussault
Lots of comments in favor of selecting a QB or WR as opposed to O-line. Considering the article about what the team is likely to look like under Van Pelt, the running game was a primary item. Furthermore there were lots of items that blocking was very important. Last year the biggest weakness and a large part of the failures were due to poor Oline play. Without better Oline play the greatest QB or WR will struggle, particularly rookies at those 2 positions. How would you rank those 3 needs for each of the first 4 Pats picks? -David Fogg
It's hard to truly rank them before free agency because I'd expect at least the offensive line to be somewhat addressed before the draft. You simply can't expect two rookies to step in and start, and you especially can't just let March go by without adding some veteran depth. However this is a uniquely deep tackle class and it seems like the biggest absolute must is that the Patriots get at least one of them but they're going to go quick. One mock draft I saw had NINE go in the first round alone! Once again there are plenty of receivers, even if there are three players standing out above the rest. Yes, the Patriots need impact receivers but it's also a spot where the team could add in free agency. Overall, I'm least stressed about receiver. Every year there's a deep class of wideouts that lasts well into Day 2 with impact players. Lastly comes the hardest, quarterback. I've ruled out Williams. The Patriots won't trade up for him and he won't get past 2nd overall no matter what. Maye checks all the potential boxes, and while Daniels has work to do to round out his game, he's an intriguing player who would be worth the risk, even if I think the Pats could move down a couple picks and still get him. Unfortunately that's just not how the league works. Quarterbacks get overdrafted. There's something appealing about just taking the top rated wide receiver or tackle. The Pats could easily get either one if they wanted to. Then go with the other in the second round. Mavin Harrison and then a tackle in the second? They could instantly remake the offense in a tangible way and make for favorable circumstances for whoever the quarterback is. -Mike Dussault
Two questions here! -Dante Swinton
- There has been little discussion over Bailey's growth over the last several games of the season. Was it perfect? Obviously not. But he did show up in many ways, and I wish Bill had turned to him sooner (after the Cowboys game especially). To me, it makes more sense to stick with him and overhaul his supporting cast through free agency and the draft. With a new offense for 2024, how do you think Bailey and Mac should approach it, assuming they will remain with the team? Can they spend time with Alex Van Pelt in the offseason to learn it, or are there rules prohibiting that?
- I think Bill missed a major opportunity last season. When Kirk Cousins went down, that would've been the perfect time to trade Mac to the Vikings. The Pats could've gotten back a conditional fourth or fifth if the Vikings made the playoffs. Mac would've received the change of scenery he clearly needs, and Bill and the Pats would move on from a relationship that clearly wasn't working. Do you think this would've been the better result?
Reports out this weekend from Ian Rapoport and NFL Network said that Mac is expected to be traded, take those for what they're worth. I think we were all wondering if Mayo might give Mac a fresh start but the indications now are that the Patriots will be starting this offseason with just Zappe. Of course, there will be at least one veteran addition if that's the case. The Patriots will be able to get started early on the offseason program, thanks to having a new head coach, then we'll get a chance to see OTAs and minicamp to see how it's all coming together. I think Zappe should go in ready to compete, no matter who arrives. From a rebuilding standpoint the best thing until the Patriots find their next franchise quarterback, would be to play someone like Zappe on a rookie deal. Who knows, maybe he continues to ascend.
I agree on that Mac trade option. Clearly his stock is lower now than it was then, but by how much? I could see the Patriots maybe getting a conditional 5th-round pick for Mac? Maybe it would've been a conditional 4th in-season? At this point, you kind of have to take what you can. -Mike Dussault
Can we try and ease our draft needs by filling holes before the draft? Whilst I am not a fan of burning cash like the coach said (kind of made me cringe when he did that) but maybe look at opportunities with other teams? Players like Conklin (RT at Browns) had a good year and would appear to be second fiddle to Dawand Jones could possibly be prized loose and alleviate an immediate need. Terrace Marshall Jr, a WR at the Panthers I loved in the draft a couple of years back but looks to be on the outs could be worth a flyer (they can have Parker seems fair). Lots of teams have these players who could offer value will our de facto GM be able to work these angles or will there be other priorities? I love the idea of Ridley as a FA pick up. -Jason Rollinson
I like what you're laying out Jason, getting creative to find players to fill the Patriots biggest holes. Let's start with Calvin Ridley because in my view he'd be a perfect upgrade and would fit in well as an "Z" receiver who can do a lot of different things. Curtis Samuel is another option, one with a little less juice. Your move on Conklin is more intriguing though because this is not an inspiring tackle class in free agency and certainly most teams will have their preference to draft one of the many talented ones coming out this year. Those kinds of moves are hard to project at this point, hopefully, the Patriots brain trust can unearth some of them to make better use of the team's cap dollars in free agency and free them up when it gets to the draft so they don't have to draft for need at a bunch of positions. -Mike Dussault
Why is free agency before the draft? It would seem better to get draft picks, then get to free agency. Cart before the horse? It just seems weird. Also, what a great time to be a Patriots fan. So much to look forward to on this new journey for success? -George Porter
Interesting take, quite a few things to unpack if the draft came first. Of course it wouldn't be great for veteran free agents because as it's set up now, those guys are the hole fillers. Teams round out their roster with at least serviceable veterans across the depth chart, but when opportunity arises in the draft those veteran players can quickly be pushed off the roster. I wonder if they'd even have the chance to get into camp if teams were drafting these players first, making veteran depth less necessary. However, there are always veteran depth players out there, even after the draft. Having the draft first also could drive up the free agent prices as teams get desperate post-draft. Lots to unpack, I like it the way it is, giving the vets first priority and then forcing the rookies to come in and earn their spots. -Mike Dussault
Hello all, thank you for the insight you provide each week on the team. My question is about Mayo's security as head coach. Mayo was an instant favorite of mine since he was drafted, and I have been awed by his success on the field and now by becoming head coach of the Patriots. With that said, how much room for error will there be with Mayo? Should the Patriots endure 2 poor seasons, or even a bad start to the next season, is Kraft the kind of owner who will part ways with Mayo early? I don't want to think this would happen, but it lingers in my head. I would hope with the succession plan for Mayo since last year that he would be in it for the long haul no matter what. Looking forward to years of Mayo as coach. Thank you. -Chris C.
I think Jerod Mayo has at least two seasons of job security no matter what the outcomes look like. Clearly the Krafts have had their eye on him for a while and will need to allow him some freedom to make mistakes, learn and grow. Obviously Mayo is a little short on coaching experience and he'll need some time to figure things out but so far he's assembled an experienced staff that should help guide him. I like the mix of different experience and backgrounds on the new coaching staff and I'm excited to see how it all comes together. -Mike Dussault
I am made up with the brilliant news that new head coach Jerod Mayo has went with his gut and recruited New England's legendary linebacker, team captain, three time Superbowl champion and all round class act Dont'a Hightower to be the new linebacker's coach which I feel will not only bring a vast knowledge of how to play the position with skill and competitive fire but that he will also vastly contribute to the new positive energy that is flowing through New England at the moment, how do you see the hire Mike and what's your view of how it might contribute to the overall success of this new regime? -Marc Saez
Of course, I love having Hightower back in the mix and hopefully this will be a chance for his coaching career to really take flight. How could any Patriots fan not love having two of their best linebackers now on the sidelines? I don't think the team can carry over any illusions of "The Patriot Way" to this new era, but any time you can bring in people who have performed at the highest level and know what it takes to win championships, they're a welcome addition. It will be great to see Hightower back in the building after two years away. -Mike Dussault
Hi all - How about we take about 4 offensive tackles in this years draft? We drastically need two tackles, not one, especially if Onwenu only wants to play guard. I think we should take the quarterback at pick 3 if there is one the coaches really like, but then I think our primary focus should be on tackles. If we draft four or maybe even five, we can let them fight it out in camp and start the best two after looking at them in camp. I think we can take a year off from defense, since that's pretty much all we have drafted for the last ten years with Bill picking the players. I would like to see a wide receiver or a tight end drafted, but I think tackle and quarterback should take precedence over everything else. Am I crazy? -Gary Fiske
C'mon Gary, we can't waste five of seven picks on all tackles. Sign a starter in free agency, draft a potential long-term starter and I think they'll be okay. Vederian Lowe and Calvin Anderson are current depth pieces while Tyrone Wheatley should also be in the developmental mix. They'll figure it out at tackle one way or another, though there's certainly some appeal to taking the consensus best player in a strong class in Joe Alt and fixing the problem at left tackle for the next 10 years. -Mike Dussault