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Patriots Mailbag: What changes are in store for Patriots 2023 offseason?

Patriots fans are turning the page to the 2023 offseason with questions about how the team will approach the coaching staff and team-building process.

2022_UnfilteredMailbag

Am I the only one excited about 2023? We have lots of draft picks and loads of cap space. We have the basis of a good squad when we add a high-quality wide receiver, corner, tackle, and linebacker. If we can get the coaching staff reorganized, we're looking at 13-4 and a strong run in the playoffs. -@Rechru795

While there were limited things to get excited about during the Patriots 8-9 2022 season, I'm definitely excited for the offseason and the opportunities that will come this spring. I wouldn't say "loads" of cap space, but I'd say enough to solidify a few spots and perhaps make a splash on a player or two. I do think you're on the right track with the four positions you're targeting, those are both needs and areas where the Patriots need to get better. The big question that permeates this initial part of the offseason is how to get to the next level and beat the best teams again. I'm not sure that's a problem that gets fixed at multiple positions by tapping external free agents, as we've seen that approach is risky and comes with no guarantees. So I'd say what I'm most excited about is to retain the players that have been developed here, solidifying select spots with young free agents and stacking an excellent draft class on top of it all. The 14th overall pick alone is a lot of reason for intrigue. -Mike Dussault

1. What do you feel is the most critical position we need to improve on this offseason?

2. Who's your ideal OC? Who do you think it'll actually be?

3. Prediction: What position gets drafted 1, 2 and 3?

Thanks for the great season, great content from you and your team! -@chrisbweaver

  1. I'm a little torn between tackle and corner as the most critical position to improve because I think those spots provide a baseline of competitive play. A few months ago it was tackle by a mile but even this group played some solid ball and at least gave Mac a chance to throw from a clean pocket more consistently down the stretch. But the cornerback depth started thin and only got worse and it's clear from how they matched up with the best receivers in the league that they need a number one corner to compete.
  2. Am I allowed to pick anyone not named Bill O'Brien? Kidding aside, I'm not sure who else is out there that is a slam dunk without reciting the usual list of former Patriots coaches that are out there like Chad O'Shea. Kliff Kingsbury deservedly is getting some attention as well. I'd really be fine with anyone who has experience and a philosophy, I'd be most intrigued by a new face who can and work with Belichick and Mac to develop something new and exciting.
  3. Right now, having only dipped my toes into the draft waters, I'd say tackle is the most likely selection given what I've heard of this class and who could be around at 14. But as mentioned earlier, I'd put cornerback and receiver right there with tackle as possibilities. I'd love to see all three of these positions hit in the first two days of the draft, when they have three projected picks. The three potential fourth-rounders could be some good ammo to really maximize the effectiveness of days one and two of the draft. -Mike Dussault

Has Jakobi priced himself out of NE? Feels like he is going to make some real money this off-season. -@IarocciDave

I feel a connection to Jakobi as we both arrived here in 2019 and I've seen him grow into a reliable pro here in his fourth season. Most in his favor is that he's been productive here with three different quarterbacks and makes consistent tough catches. Will another team value him more than the Patriots? I'm not sure and I think there's some wiggle room for the Pats to keep him in that grey area. The bigger question is does he move the needle enough for this Patriots team whose offense needs to find a new level this offseason? On the flip side, how would Mac Jones feel if his most trusted receiver leaves? There's so many levels to Jakobi's free agency. For me I just want him to cash in, make a bunch of money and find some security whether it's in New England or elsewhere. But no question that it would really hurt to see him leave for a number of reasons. -Mike Dussault

Assume the Pats: Drafted OT(s), Acquired free agent WR(s), Hired a good OC, Joe Judge back to ST coach, Matty P back to consulting. Over under wins on Pats 2023 season?? I would say 9.5. What say you? -@RoderickMelvin

I'd have to see what it actually looks like because there's a lot of range in what an acquired free-agent WR might be. Is it DeAndre Hopkins? Because that's a game-changer. If not someone of that caliber, I'd rather invest two picks in the first four rounds of the draft at receiver and just get them into the mix, sort of like what Green Bay did this season. But with a competent offensive operation, some stability at tackle and some promising young weapons, I'd say 9.5 sounds about right. That's clearly where the Belichick Pats can get no matter who's in or out. I'm looking to the young players on the roster and the potential 11-plus draft/undrafted additions to get this team on the right trajectory. They need a superstar or two to arrive or emerge to get them into the double-digit win range. -Mike Dussault

DB Marcus Jones
DB Marcus Jones

What do you think about moving Marcus Jones into the role of Julian Edelman. Then drafting a cornerback that is at least six foot tall? -@18loghan

Nah, I'd love to just see him continue to round out his three-phase role going forward. We know he'll be the returner at a plus level, but he's almost equally intriguing in coverage as his quickness and ability to match is absolutely vital in today's NFL, especially if the Patriots want to continue playing a good chunk of man defense. Marcus should very well be the full-time slot corner this fall. Then, develop his offensive plays even further in the offseason and into 2023 so that he has a package that he knows well and that can be sprung on opponents throughout the fall. Putting him into a slot receiver role full time just minimizes what he does best in my view. I'd rather draft a quick-cutting prospect to develop that spot. -Mike Dussault

We all know special teams has gone awry this year. What are the specific issues we can pinpoint as the biggest problems with the unit? -@AProskauer

I don't think injuries tell the whole story, but they have to be highlighted with Cody Davis going down, followed by Jake Bailey and Joe Cardona. Add in Justin Bethel's departure as another factor as well, although Brenden Schooler was a real find this year as a gunner. His absence in the season finale was felt. The trickledown effect was costly, especially on kickoffs, and that all came to a head against Buffalo. It seemed like a matter of time before an opponent busted off more big returns after we saw a touchdown return by the Vikings. By Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, the Patriots had the 32nd-ranked special teams in 2022. The were 1st in 2020, fell to 18th in 2021 and now bottomed out despite Marcus Jones' punt return ability that had them ranked third in DVOA in that aspect. Otherwise, FO has them 30th in punting and 30th in kickoff, those are the two glaring weak spots. Their results in field goals/extra points and kickoff return were closer to the middle of the league. ­-Mike Dussault

As Robert Kraft what are you telling Belichick you want to see happen this off season to improve the on-field product and making it a playoff team for 2023. -@chr12thornton_

I just want to have hope that this offense can potentially get into the top 10 in scoring based on the totality of moves and changes this offseason, which should include a reworking of the coaching staff with perhaps elements of a new offensive system installed, at least one or two new receivers with some promise and a reinforced offensive line that can be set into place from the start. Seriously, just inspire some hope that the offense will put 2022 behind them and be able to compete against the likes of Josh Allen, Tua and Joe Burrow, and it's enough for me. No significant changes to the offense is a non-starter for me. -Mike Dussault

Trent Brown? Ugh, such a disappointment. Since he left for the Raiders he has not been good for anyone. He has the talent. Maybe the last year of his contract in NE will wake him up? @floes420

I think there's some uncertainty there though I must say Trent settled in as the season progressed and wasn't the biggest problem. Even the fact that he played every game for just the third time in his career is a positive. I do believe Trent will be back but I also think the Patriots need at least two starting caliber tackles added, one to start at right tackle and another to develop and use as a swing backup, perhaps with an eye to starting them in 2024. Trent's the only tackle currently under a deal to return so I'd be surprised if they move on, especially with his manageable contract. -Mike Dussault

20230108_PDC_McCourty_DSP

Deuce Deuce! Would it surprise you if Devin McCourty did return? What is your take on the pros and cons of having that veteran (but maybe slower) safety on the roster? -@clazzyclare

At this point it would surprise me, it seems like over the last couple weeks all signs are pointing to him hanging them up. J-Mac was at the Miami game as was Devin's family decked out in 32 jerseys. From the emotion on his face too it seems like this was his final stretch and it's pretty cool he got his hands on the ball two more times in what was likely his career finale. Replacing him is impossible but the Patriots have gotten used to trying to replace the irreplaceable by now. Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger remain under contract, but neither are a rangy free safety type like Devin, he's unique in that regard. Include Josh Bledsoe in that mix as well. Without McCourty the Pats could make free safety a priority in the draft even though the position group still has two really good players. I'd also use this chance to mention how much I enjoyed watching Jabrill Peppers this season and would welcome him back though he is somewhat redundant as a box safety. This season showed the team could still find a way to get him on the field. His physicality jumps off the field. -Mike Dussault

What were your bright spots for the 2022 season? -@samwilliams2410

Let's start to wrap this thing up with just a bit of positivity. Kyle Dugger's pick-sixes and fumble-six, Marcus Jones' punt return against the Jets and touchdown against the Bills. Jack Jones' impressive pick-six of Aaron Rodgers. Any time Matthew Judon got a big sack and sparked a celebration. The fourth-down stops against the Lions. Rhamondre Stevenson bowling over would-be tacklers and taking souls. Those are just some that jump to mind and you'll note their mostly young players making impacts. That's the lifeblood of this team right now. Building around those young players and adding even more around them is the way back to the top. -Mike Dussault

Give us your biggest hot take for what will happen in the off-season mike. A big surprise move coaching or players? -@Fuadnehemen

The Patriots make a major move for an established NFL wideout and pay significant capital to make it happen. I think that's the spot that makes the most sense to let it rip. The team has always been pretty good at finding and developing corners and offensive tackles. If you're truly going to find out what Mac is in his third season, getting him a proven go-to wide receiver seems mandatory. -Mike Dussault

What are the biggest holes we need to fill in this year's draft? -@smartin0_

What is the biggest need for the Patriots heading into the off-season? -@ZacMercauto

Grouping these last two together to highlight a balance between what needs should be filled in the draft and which should be filled in free agency. I'd go WR in FA, but I'd still spend a Day 2 pick on that position just about every year until you're sure you're all set there. Free safety could be another spot that is more FA than draft as it needs to be a smart player who can be relied upon. Otherwise, I'm all about the draft for tackle, cornerback, linebacker atop the list. I'd also include a general front seven player for that linebacker spot. I think they need another impact defender up front in the mix, whether that's a defensive end or more of a hybrid inside/outside linebacker. Ideally, I'd love another off-the-ball, rangy type like we've all be clamoring for forever. I also wouldn't forget about third-down running back, though Ty Montgomery is under contract to return, nor tight end where Hunter Henry enters the final year of his free agent deal. -Mike Dussault

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