The NFL is down to its final four while the Patriots are charging full steam ahead into the Jerod Mayo era as the new head coach begins to put together his coaching staff. There are plenty of questions for the Patriots this offseason, starting with their own internal free agents, the external free agent market and, eventually, the NFL Draft, which will dominate conversation from now until April despite all the other moves that must be made before then.
Predictably, questions from fans are all over the place but mainly focused on the top talent waiting to be selected in late-April, but also on how the program in New England will change under Mayo.
There is a lot of talk of the Bears trading down and taking a receiver in the draft. This would not help the Pats as Arizona is also predicted to go for the best receiver, limiting how deep the Bears can drop with confidence as there are only three worth a top eight pick. Someone will move up to #1 for their franchise QB (Atlanta, the Giants, Washington or Denver are all strong possibilities to make that leap up). All will be shooting for the #1 Qb. Will the Pat's be content with the third QB off the board or are they going all in and going to try to move up with either of the two teams above them? Perhaps Washington has all three QBs rated equally?? -David Brown
Seems like every mock draft I see has Williams first to Chicago and Maye second to Washington, but personally I could see value in keeping Fields, trading down a few spots and then rounding out the supporting cast at receiver and offensive line to give Fields the best chance for growth. At worst Chicago plays one more year with Fields at quarterback and if it doesn't work they'll have another high pick next year to figure out how to replace him, at least with some really solid pieces in place for whomever they play at QB. What we're seeing is the result of the recent explosion of quarterback value and that muddies everything. If you want a franchise QB most likely you have to get one in the first round, but it's not an exact science and if you're the Patriots, possibly stuck with the third-best player at the position if things play out as expected, shouldn't they consider something similar to what I laid out for the Bears? As much as there's the need to take a swing on a QB because you don't know when you'll be picking this high, there's a good argument for a steady approach that instead ignores the QB hype and takes a safer bet at receiver or tackle, both huge positions of need and positions where they could take the best player in the draft instead of the third-best.
Nobody likes to fall back on the excuse that injuries led to a lost season, because every team has injuries, but you have to admit the Patriots were severely snake-bitten when it came to serious injuries to really good players this past year. Is this just bad luck or do you the think the team was somehow deficient in its conditioning? Ultimately, we didn't have the depth at a lot of positions to effectively have a "next man up" mentality, but I think we'd have had 3 or 4 more victories if we'd been healthier. -Jason Rubin
There's no question that losing Matthew Judon was a huge blow and Christian Gonzalez was the rookie of the month in September so that one hurt too but in my view the other major injuries didn't really happen until the season had declared itself, like Kendrick Bourne's or Rhamondre Stevenson's, so personally I haven't really spent much time believing injuries were one of the biggest factors. I'm not sure the Patriots were all that much more devastated than an average team, certainly Buffalo lost more on defense and still found their way to the divisional round. Maybe Judon and Gonzalez would've added a win or two, but really it was the other side of the ball that was the biggest hinderance when it came to winning games. For the most part the offense was pretty much intact, other than injuries by players who have had histories of battling injuries like DeVante Parker and Trent Brown. I think the problems were baked into this team during the offseason, with a poor personnel plan along the offensive line and then just a handful of key injuries that exposed the flaws in their plan, like planning to rely on an aged veteran like Riley Reiff. The fact that they overcame the losses of Judon and Gonzalez to still play some impressive defense deserves credit, but to me the die was already cast on the offensive side of the ball in the spring.
Is there any talk about Tom Brady as offensive coordinator or general manager? His on the field awareness qualities and quarterback coaching would be a great asset. -Rick Wright
Nah, I think Brady is enjoying some free time before he embarks on whatever's next for him, likely with Fox working as a broadcaster. Hard to see Brady getting back into the relentless schedule of coaching an NFL team. One of the appeals to broadcasting is the freedom it allows while staying involved with the game. I think the closest we'll see Brady back in the NFL is either in the broadcast or owner's booths, certainly not the sidelines.
Now that the dynasty era is 'officially' ended with BB's departure, do you foresee a 'rebranding' in the future? Similar to how the team changed the uniforms in 2020 following TB12's departure, could there be a more wholesale change (uniform, helmets, logo updated Pat Patriot, etc). Something to solidify that this is indeed a new era? -Kevin Sulham
Tough to say at this point as these kinds of things need to be in the pipeline for a bit and I'm not sure that since they just changed jerseys in 2020 that a change would be already coming. However I've long been advocating for an expansion of the team's jersey selections, including the reintroduction of the dynasty 2000-2019 uniforms in some capacity. I think a lot of us enjoy the multiple combinations that the Chargers have and would like to see similar possibilities for the Patriots. I wouldn't rule anything out as Jerod Mayo puts his stamp on the team, but at this point as far as I know no major rebrand is in the works. I'd expect the throwback reds to be sticking around at the very least.
Would Mayo ever consider bringing josh McDaniels back to the team as the OC? He's not a head coach, but he was a really decent coordinator for the pats. The team would really benefit from it, they also should be offensive line minded when drafting this year. I don't think Mac Jones is 100 percent the problem. He needs to step up, in more ways than one. Kinda hard to do that when the defensive line is on you on a two count. Still completely heartbroken to see Bill have to move on from our beloved Patriots, but I do love me some MAYO! Thanks. -Shaun Crisp
I wouldn't rule it completely out, but I believe Josh would probably go with Belichick to his next landing spot. From what we've seen with the Patriots reportedly interviewing Nick Caley and Zac Robinson, it appears they could be ready to move in a new direction and away from the McDaniels/O'Brien offense that has dominated the last 20 years. That kind of a fresh change is probably the best route for the team as they look to resurrect an offense that was near the bottom of the league in every important category last season. I won't lie, there's a bit of intrigue thinking about whether or not McDaniels could resurrect Mac, but the bigger feeling is that the offense needs an entirely new direction.
Nice to hear the Patriots selected Mayo as their next head coach. My question to you is after looking at the teams needs what do you think of this scenario where the Pats take Harrison with the 3rd pick as he is a breed apart from the other WRs in the draft and then bundle their 2nd and third round picks this year to move up in the later part of the 1st round to get one of the QB's they like if still available or take an offensive tackle with the pick and use free agency to plug the other needed holes and would also give a 5th year player retainment to the 1st rounders. They would still have some late round picks to take a flyer on. -Russell Trickey
I like the idea of having two first round picks, but I'm not sure how much capital they'd have left trying to package their second rounder to move up. Perhaps a better way to do that would be to actually trade down from third-overall, swapping that pick with someone who has to have Harrison, and then taking a tackle and a receiver with the next two picks. Based on the depth of this draft that could be the best allocation of resources to maximize value. Of course, that means you're not getting a quarterback who's going to make any kind of instant impact. It's hard to fit it all together, especially before free agency, where many of these holes can at least be temporarily filled. As impressed as I am with Harrison, taking him at three is one move I don't think makes the most sense for the Pats. There are quite a few good receivers that will last well into the second round. We see it every year, Day Two receivers light it up all the time. But perhaps more important, protecting the quarterback off the edges is a big key and not one easily fixed in free agency where everyone is dying for tackles.
Given the misfires with recent player acquisitions, how worried should we be that Matt Groh will possibly remain as De Facto GM until after the draft? Thanks. -Andrew Thomas
Depends on how much you think Bill Belichick had final say and full control over the draft. No one really knows for sure how the process worked, and how much blame/credit should go to those around BB. It was easy to just point at him and give him all of it in both directions. But now he's gone and we'll be wondering the same thing about this new power structure. It's why who has final say is such an important question right now. I get the sentiment of the question however, whether it's been the draft or free agency, the last couple of years have been lackluster and even if it was Belichick making the final call, the overall output, with the exception of Gonzalez, hasn't produced or developed enough of the difference makers this team needs most. We'll see if and how it changes this spring and if more changes to the front office won't be on the horizon once the team building portion of 2024 winds down. No matter who is making the picks, the pressure is on.
Love your insights and ask that you indulge me for a second. What are your thoughts about trading for Justin Fields? I'm guessing you could get him maybe for a 3rd this year and 2nd next year. Though I'd love to know what you think it would take. Then draft Marvin Harrison Jr. with pick 3. I like Jayden Daniels but to me he's a 50/50 QB. He could be Lamar. He could be Fields. If you think he's Fields then why not try to get Fields? He's shown more good flashes than Mac so he's an upgrade there. Pair him with Harrison and you might have the beginning of a new connection. Thoughts? -Steve Valorz
I guess my question would be why wouldn't the Bears just do that then, they have Fields and could easily swing the first overall pick to someone and still take Harrison for him. So if the Bears don't see that in Fields, why should we on the outside? Are they that sure that Caleb Williams is a can't-miss talent? I do think Fields has some untapped potential that should be intriguing to outside teams, but given how much the Patriots need I'm more interested in using their draft capital for draftable talent that still has a greater element of the unknown. Truth be told, unless it's taking a swing on Jayden Daniels, realistic new answers at quarterback that get me really excited are escaping me at this point.
A lot of talk is focused on who should be on the roster for next season, whether (re-)signed, drafted, or traded for. Who should NOT be on the roster next season (at least not at their current contract)? For instance, JC Jackson didn't play all that well last season and cutting him would save $14M with no dead money, so that's an easy choice. What about guys like Godchaux, Guy, Parker, JSS, or even Judon? There's arguments for and against moving any (or all) of them. -Michael Aboud
Jackson is an easy one to move on from, even if he played well I'm not sure the Patriots would be signing up for that contract. He has almost as big of a cap hit as Judon for 2024. But outside of Jackson there aren't a lot of cost prohibitive deals, especially with a potential of about $70 million in cap space. There are vets that could be moved on from without major cap implications like David Andrews, Deatrich Wise and Lawrence Guy, but that trio was among the best players last year so those would all open up significant holes to fill. Adrian Phillips is one player who saw his playtime dip last year and could be a cap casualty. Parker and Juju's contracts are prohibitive when it comes to moving on unless you're ready to take a big hit on them. Judon will likely look for another contract sweetener, he's another to keep an eye on, especially without any long-term depth behind him at this point.
I know it's early, but am I the only one who thinks the Pats should trade down from the #3 pick? I think we all agree that QB and OL are the team's biggest draft needs. Going back to the 2013 draft, the failure rates on players at those positions taken with picks #1-3 are 62% and 66% respectively. So it is actually more likely than not that using the #3 pick on a QB or OL will result in a bust. Trading down would allow us to still select a high quality player while adding one or more additional picks, which we could certainly use. Isn't it time to stop being dazzled by the perennial hype machine surrounding so-called "can't miss" QB prospects? -Jeff Conti
I will certainly listen to this argument, especially considering how much the Patriots need. You're talking about all the critical positions… quarterback, left and right tackle, wide receiver and pass rusher are all on the needs list and it's not like nailing just one of those positions at third overall would translate instantly to postseason success. Trading down and still getting one of the top two tackles, while adding more draft capital might be the best case scenario outside of taking Daniels third overall and then he develops into the best quarterback in the class. That seems like a tough needle to thread, especially with makeshift tackles and no game-changing weapons.
I know some coaches and execs might be following Bill to his next destination (Atlanta?) but I thought it was interesting thinking which Patriots players might Bill be interested in to poach either by trade or free agency? I could see Bill, outbidding for a defensive, free agent player, such as Dugger or perhaps make a trade for an undervalued player with the new Patriots regime. -DF
Dugger could make sense for how important that kind of linebacker/safety hybrid player is to Belichick's defensive system. I'd also throw Hunter Henry in there as a reliable tight end that has been consistently productive in New England. Otherwise there's not a lot of available talent that Belichick could possibly pry away from the Patriots. Maybe if New England went on a special teams purge Belichick would be happy to grab guys like Cody Davis (pending free agent).
DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer