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Patriots Mailbag: How will Pats ring in 2024?

With just one more game to go, Patriots fans are focused on the upcoming offseason and all the potential changes that could be in store.


The Patriots will put a wrap on the 2023 season this Sunday when they welcome the New York Jets and attempt to beat them for the 16th-straight time. However, with the second overall pick in the draft in play, many fans won't be too upset if that streak were to fall, handing the Pats a 13th loss but a chance at all but one prospect this April.

But draft picks are far from the only thing on their minds, as potential staff changes and what should be an active free agency will also be a major part of the offseason. How will it all shake out? Here are your questions…

Just a simple "what if".... Say that Josh McDaniels never left for the Raiders and stayed on as the Pat's OC; How much difference do you believe it would have made in Mac Jones and the Patriots offense? (Yes, I know that we'd still be lacking in offensive talent, but still......) -David Kirk

It's a good question, but I'm not sure it would be a completely different offense. Certainly it seems like Mac would've been more comfortable in 2022 without having to lose McDaniels, but I think it's also safe to say that even with McDaniels during the second half of 2021 things started to stagnate. The harder factor to understand is how did the offense get worse in 2023? Because those factors, like inconsistent play from the receiver group and up and down play from the offensive line played a significant role in their struggles across 2022 and 2023, regardless of who the offensive coordinator. All of this is just to say, I don't think it would've been all that different. Better in spots, sure. But I think the problems on the field and with personnel were the bigger factors than the adjustments to the coaching staff. -Mike Dussault

Why do some teams OC sit up in the coaching box during the games and others are on the sidelines like the Patriots do. Any advantage to either approach? -James White

Personal preference. Some OCs feel like they get a better view of the field and the game from up top, avoiding the chaos of the sideline while being able to focus on everything they need to in a more controlled environment. Certainly, some OCs wouldn't want that at all. They want to be on the sideline where they could like getting a better feel for the game down from field level. -Mike Dussault

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10).
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10).

Probably seems at this point it's better for the Patriots and Mac Jones to go separate ways after the season is over. I was just curious where you believe Mac Jones trade value is at. I read some articles saying teams would give a late round pick, but wouldn't Mac be able to fetch somewhere close to the package the 49ers got when they traded Trey Lance? -D. Favreau

Lance fetched a fourth-round pick, but I'd agree that Mac would probably be a fifth or sixth rounder at best because of the larger sample size of his play. There's still an element of unknown with Lance, just like there was when he was coming out. Everyone could agree he has all the tools but injuries that have led to a simple lack of football playing time have never let him truly find a stride in the NFL. In my opinion, just those little questions were enough to bump Lance into the fifth, especially if there were other suitors interested. I really don't know what to expect with Mac this offseason. My gut is that the team will be amendable to finding him a fresh start somewhere, even if they were not receiving trade compensation. After how hard the last two years were on Mac, I think that's what's in his best interest. As Bill said last year, "Mac can play In this league," but I think he's got a lot of work to do to get back on track and break the bad habits that he's developed. Maybe these last handful of weeks sitting behind Zappe can help reset him. -Mike Dussault

There is so much talk about taking a QB with their first pick in the upcoming draft. If Caleb Williams or Drake Maye are available then I agree with that. But lets remind everyone that Tom Brady who was drafted by BB was a 6th round pick. Therefore don't you think that building an offensive line through the draft makes the most sense? I also think they could trade down from their first pick to pick up a late 1st rounder and perhaps a 2nd round pick. What are your thoughts on this idea? -Jim Benoit

Everybody better make nice with the tackle selection. I have a hard time telling anyone that Olu Fashanu wouldn't be a slam dunk pick for the organization if they can't get Maye. Super smart, well respected and a competitive leader, Fashanu could be part of a new foundation for the future here in New England and make life a lot easier for whatever QB they put in there. We can't spend two years pointing at how bad the offensive line has been then kick and scream when they take a potential 10-year starter at tackle, especially when they have just Vederian Lowe and Calvin Anderson under contract at either right or left tackle right now for 2024. That said, if they can get Maye, I'm all in. And after this week's performance by Michael Penix, I'm sure plenty of folks out there like me would be plenty happy with him too. There's a lot to unpack in the draft and more risers and fallers to come, but here in the first week of January, that's how I see it. -Mike Dussault

So it has come down that the best scenario for the Pat's is to LOSE to the J.E.T.S.! The team that BB hates and loves to beat!! This is a nightmare for Pat's fans. I hope all the Pat's pending FA come up with the Foxborough flu (a relative of the 'blue flu'). Do you think that BB will play his scrubs to see what they can do in a real game or will he go all out to get the J.E.T.S. who are already playing their 3rd stringers? -David Brown

It's crazy how it all boils down to this. I thought the last game of the season was supposed to be meaningless, but this one still seems packed with interesting storylines. I have every expectation that the Patriots will approach this game like they have every other one this season, including after they were eliminated from playoff contention. It's just the only way Bill Belichick knows, and earlier this week he continued to keep his short-term focus solely set on getting ready for this final game. With how Belichick feels about the Jets, I believe this could feel almost like a playoff week around here. I expect him and the entire team to pour everything they have into it. -Mike Dussault

Heading into the last week, we have the no. 3 pick in the draft, with Washington at the same record as us but they are holding the no. 2 pick. Why is this considering they won head to head against the pats earlier in the season. Shouldn't we get the 2nd pick then? -Arvid Petersen

Welcome to the boring world of Strength of Schedule! I agree that head-to-head should be the first tie breaker but that's just not how they do it. Instead it's a complex formula based on every game that every team has played. Calculating the permutations based on all the different results from 16 games this weekend is tough, but the Patriots and Commanders are in a statistical tie, going all the way to the ten-thousandths to give Washington the current edge. So strap in, there's going to be a lot of math flying around on Sunday and all we know is the Pats could land anywhere from 2 to 5. -Mike Dussault

Let's assume the Patriots are going to start planning for a post-Belichick era: not in 2024, but certainly within 5 years. What personnel moves in the front office and coaching staff do you want to see to set up a smooth transition to a Mayo/O'Brien/McDaniels/other next regime? Specifically, I worry that with the departures of an entire tree of personnel (Pioli/Caserio/Ossenfort/et al), there isn't a credible GM candidate in house right now. -Andy Ellis

I think, to your point, it starts with retaining and developing those already here. The Eliot Wolfs and Matt Grohs of the world, who are young executives that have been working their way up. Also add in Camren Williams, the Director of College Scouting, who is well respected around the building as well. I'd welcome further additions to round that group out as they prepare for what could be a new front office structure down the line, but to me, continuity is key in retaining some structure. I wonder how all these execs might evolve and assuming there isn't a total house cleaning coming, it's still a good bet than many of those here will continue to play a role no matter how things change. The bigger thing to me is rebuilding the offense. This feels like it will be the fourth-straight year of doing just that to some degree, and this will probably be the most extensive changeover yet. -Mike Dussault

Let's assume the pats pick a QB in the draft. Do you prefer a pocket passer or a running threat? -@ThemaD79

Not sure it's so this or that, I think just about every quarterback needs some mobility these days and most do, they're almost all really good athletes. That said, I'd rather take a thrower I have to train to understand an NFL offense, than a runner I need to train to play in an NFL passing offense. The up and down nature of Justin Fields is the latest example and sometimes, as we're seeing with Fields, there's no easy answer. At this point I'm really interested in Drake Maye because he has all the physical tools, somewhat like Josh Allen and Justin Herbert did. It's just a matter of him learning to put them all consistently to use within the structure of an NFL offense. Jayden Daniels is electric but I think players like him are a lot more hit or miss. Michael Penix is another one of my early favorites for obvious reasons if you watched the National Semifinal. We've kind of been there, done that recently with a quarterback who has to overcome some innate physical disadvantages. I'd like to avoid that route again, but really, talent trumps all. -Mike Dussault

Patriots linebacker Marte Mapu (30).
Patriots linebacker Marte Mapu (30).

Have the Patriots been playing Mapu at LB more as of late and is there any reason - beyond a regime change - to expect he might play LB more consistently moving forward next season? -@PatSox23

Mapu was essentially employed to cover Dalton Kincaid on passing downs against the Bills. Because he often did that from the second level people were calling him a linebacker, but that doesn't really matter. He has good size for that role and I continue to be impressed with how he moves and how much space he can cover with his length. At least as far as this regime is concerned, it's hard to see Mapu playing inside linebacker on early run downs. I think we're seeing his role could actually be more useful than that, by giving the defense a long coverage player to deal with tight ends. Even with their stacked safety depth chart, that is no one's specialty. Peppers doesn't have the length, and Dugger has continued to be up and down in coverage. In my view I could see Peppers and Mapu being the primary safeties next year, with a rangy free safety addition to rotate in on pure passing downs, kind of like Duron Harmon used to do. To me, Mapu brings more value to the defense that way than he would at inside linebacker where his world becomes taking on offensive lineman and fighting guys in a phone booth. Let the tough guys Bentley and Tavai do that stuff. -Mike Dussault

Mike - we all know about the Patriots approximate draft pick slots. How do you think a potential Mac Jones trade will play into it all? -@JimGilhooly1957

The Patriots have seven picks this year, one each in rounds 1-5 and then two seventh rounders. They are not expected to receive and comp picks, so that's not a lot of ammo to work with. As I wrote about, I can't imagine Mac would fetch anything more than a Day 3 pick, and though those have value, they don't move the needle on the first two days of the draft. This might've been a better conversation before the trade deadline, because in retrospect they might've gotten something better for a player like Josh Uche. Now, it's too late and I don't see a lot of trade options on the roster other than contracts I'd like to see them get out of. -Mike Dussault

Do you believe the Patriots can beat the Jets and maintain their winning streak against them? And If you could choose a win or a loss where does your heart and head go what with that top tier draft pick on the line? -Clare Cooper

At this point, that second overall pick is pretty appealing but it's so hard that this last game is coming against the Jets. I'm going to try to hang on to the complex math that determines the final order and hope that win or lose the football gods will take care of us. I just can't bring myself to ever root for a loss to the Jets. Lots can happen, I'm just not going to think about it too much…fingers in ears… lalalalalala…. -Mike Dussault

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

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