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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Charting a course at 15, free agency and more

The Patriots hold the 15th spot in the first round of the draft and should also be active in free agency next month. This week's mailbag looks at some possibilities for the team.


There is no consensus pick for the Patriots at 15 in the draft, with some speculation/expectation that Bill Belichick will trade up or down. Imagine you were in the war room with the Patriots on the clock at 15, no other club is looking to trade, and the following players are all available: Micah Parsons, Patrick Surtain, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kyle Pitts, Jaylen Waddle, Mac Jones or DeVonta Smith. Who would you pick and why?

David Beckett

You've listed some interesting names in this list and I wouldn't be all that upset with most of them but for me it would come down to Kyle Pitts or Micah Parsons. Pitts is an elite pass-catching tight end and some have argued he's the best pass catcher in the draft regardless of position. I'd probably lean toward him if he were available and there are no viable quarterbacks on the board. I don't view Mac Jones as a first-round talent so I'd pass on him. Parsons would fill a need as an athletic linebacker to add to a front seven badly in need of youth and talent. He'd be my second choice after Pitts. He also has some red flags to worry about. But honestly, you've given plenty of options here and aside from Jones I'd be OK with any of them.

Paul Perillo

Is it possible to bring Mac Jones from Alabama Crimson Tide here? Also Devonta Smith, Austin Watkins, Jaylen Waddle, Demetris Robertson and Jalen Virgil?

Trenten Arterberry

There's a better than average chance Mac Jones will be available at 15 but I'm not sure he would make the most sense for the Patriots. I think he's rather limited athletically, and although he enjoyed a great season and has some skills, I don't think he's worthy of a first-round selection. As for the rest of the post, it would appear you're interested in pretty much any wide receiver available. Smith and Waddle might be off the board at 15 but the rest would be options at some point in the draft.

Paul Perillo


Full list of Patriots 2021 NFL Draft selections

A breakdown of the New England Patriots current Draft capital.

With the cap space the Pats have can you give us an example of how many top free agents they can pickup? Example being can they grab a solid linebacker, edge rusher, receiver or two and a quarterback all at same time? Just curious how many pieces of the puzzle they can fill along with the draft in one shot with the cap situation.

Ron Scarlata

Cap space won't be an issue but actual cash is always a problem. There's only so much money in every team's budget and it will be interesting to see how the Patriots choose to spread it around. In terms of your question, it's possible the Patriots could fill all of those positions given the money they have to spend. Obviously quarterback would be the most difficult considering there aren't a lot of free agent options to choose from. But in terms of money, the Patriots should be well-positioned to fill several of the holes you mentioned.

Paul Perillo

Everyone is worried about who to get for quarterback. This year Cam Newton had great success at running the ball and very little throwing it. Is there any chance his passing could get better? He had come off an injury, was it still limiting him in some way and if so could it improve or is what he showed what he had? Certainly everything we heard in the media and from coaches is that he was good in the locker room, a leader and never made excuses. My wife wonders if he shouldn't transition to a running back but I can't see that happening.

Will Saltonstall

Personally I've seen enough of Newton and I'm not interested in seeing any more. I do believe it's possible that the injuries could have had an effect on his poor passing, but if that's the case there's no reason to feel it will improve much given the nature of the physical limitations. I also don't feel he was all that effective as a runner. Aside from his work near the goal line, which resulted in a bunch of short touchdown runs, I don't think Newton was very elusive as a runner. I think it's best to just put the year behind us and move on with someone new who might be a better fit running the Patriots offense.

Paul Perillo


2021 Patriots Unrestricted Free Agent Rundown

Breaking down the 2021 list of internal unrestricted free agents that the Patriots will have to make decisions on.

I've seen on the internet Derek Carr's and Marcus Mariota's names mentioned as possible fits for the Patriots. What do you guys think of either of them as a possibility and would they fit with the Pats?

Keith Nelson

I like the idea of Carr more than Mariota because I feel he's a much better pure passer. But I would be interested in either one of them as a short-term bridge option if the Patriots are unable to find a rookie quarterback in the draft to develop. Carr has been in the West Coast offense under Jon Gruden and there would be some adjusting to be done, but he has some mobility and likes to get the ball out on time and works the underneath game well. I feel these would be traits that would translate to New England's system. Mariota is less refined as a passer but provides more of a running threat. Again, I could see both fitting with the Patriots should there not be a rookie option worth developing.

Paul Perillo

I don't know why Anthony Gordon didn't get drafted as he was playing at the same level as Joe Burrow. But the Patriots should bring him in for a look see as you have nothing to lose. I like Jarrett Stidham too so make it a competition.

Mike Lydon

First, Gordon didn't play at anywhere near the level that Burrow did during the 2019 college season. Burrow had arguably the greatest season in the history of college football. Gordon played in Washington State's wide-open system that is very quarterback friendly but has yet to produce an NFL-caliber quarterback. Luke Falk, Gardner Minshew and Jason Gesser are a few former Cougars quarterbacks who put up huge numbers in college but couldn't duplicate that success in the pros. Gordon signed a futures contract with Kansas City and will at least begin the offseason with the Chiefs.

Paul Perillo


2023 Patriots Mock Draft Tracker

Find out what the top 'experts' are predicting the Patriots will do in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

How much do the Patriots value personality in drafting players? Many have Micah Parsons ranked as one of the top draft prospects. However, there are red flags apparently because of alleged hazing. Do you think that he is off the board for the Patriots?

Trygve Johannes Saevareid

A lot of teams take various players off their draft boards for various reasons. I have no idea if the Patriots deem the missteps by Parsons as being serious enough to remove him off their board. He has some pretty serious allegations against him in terms of assault stemming from the hazing incidents, and it's possible the Patriots wouldn't want to be associated with such a character issue. Again, it's impossible to know if Parsons would be removed from the team’s draft board for sure. The team would have to be pretty certain that those problems are in his past and don't represent the kind of person Parsons currently is or will be moving forward. These are always tricky situations to navigate.

Paul Perillo

Do you think, when Tom Brady does retire, that he will sign a one-day contract and retire a Patriot? I realize he is with Tampa Bay, he spent most of his career in New England, it just seems right. Emmitt Smith had signed a one-day contract and retired a Cowboy. When he goes into the HOF can he go in as a Patriot also?

Paul Pallis

It's certainly possible that Brady would return to sign a one-day contract with the Patriots so he could officially retire as a Patriot. Others have done so in New England, including Vince Wilfork. So, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to see Brady do the same thing. However, in the NFL players aren't inducted into the Hall of Fame as members of specific teams. They go in as individual players and all of their teams are listed on their plaques. So whether Brady officially retires as a Patriot or not, he will have his career accomplishments as a Patriot listed prominently.

Paul Perillo

Can the Patriots get Jimmy Garoppolo back as quarterback?

Kenneth Johnson

I'm sure Garoppolo would be among the Patriots top choices to play quarterback this season, but the problem with that plan is Garoppolo still has two years left on his deal with the Niners. Unless the Niners decide to move on from Garoppolo and either release or trade him, there's nothing the Patriots could do to acquire his services. But I would agree that based on the realistic possibilities that are out there at this point, Garoppolo would be the best.

Paul Perillo

I wanted to write in and ask about Kwity Paye. He may not be around by the time 15 comes, but I think he's at the top of Bill Belichick's draft board for being an excellent pass rusher who also sets the edge at an elite level. Having drafted Josh Uche and Chase Winovich in previous years, do you think Bill goes back to the Michigan well for the front 7? We've seen him take positional groups from the same school before (Rutgers DBs) and I would love to see the trend continue. Thoughts?

Zack Cahill

I'm just starting to really dive into a lot of the various prospects and Paye is a guy that I've been impressed with. As you said, he has the ability to play the run as well as get after the passer, although I don't see him as a pure pass rusher coming off the edge. He seems to win more with power than athleticism, and his production at Michigan was modest, but I do like Paye's overall game. It will be interesting to see when he comes off the board.

Paul Perillo

Do you think it will be difficult for the Pats to grab a first or second tier receiver due to the uncertainty at QB right now? Grabbing a veteran receiver I think would be a much safer option than drafting one (besides Devante Smith). Do the Pats have to convince these receivers that they are grabbing one of the bigger name QBs in the draft? I personally hope that NE grabs a veteran (or two) and drafts someone in the first few rounds, but it is hard for me to imagine a veteran receiver wanting to come to a team currently without a QB, with a tough coach (though the GOAT), and a notoriously difficult offense to learn unless NE overpays them. Is my skepticism warranted or am I missing something here?

Matt Haff

I feel the Patriots need to do both – grab a quality receiver in free agency and draft one in the early rounds as well. At this point the depth chart at the position is lacking too much to ignore, and adding just a veteran or two isn't enough. There is a need for youthful athleticism on the roster and the wide receiver position is expected to be quite deep in the draft, therefore providing an opportunity for the Patriots to grab a quality player even after the first round. In terms of attracting free agents, the Patriots will likely need to pay top dollar to convince free agents at any position to sign. In the past there were some examples of players who came to New England knowing they'd have the chance to play with Tom Brady and to compete for a Super Bowl. That is no longer the case, so the Patriots will likely have to adjust and be prepared to pay a little more if they want to attract top talent. It's not necessarily overpaying, but instead paying market value for talented players.

Paul Perillo


Key dates on the 2021 NFL / Patriots Calendar

A calendar of important upcoming dates for the NFL and the New England Patriots.

Before he got injured this season, it would seem Rex Burkhead was one of the top producers on the offense this year. I don't see a lot of talk about him right now, but he was electrifying to watch. Now that he's a free agent, what do you think it's going to take to keep him in New England?

Cliff Maurand

Burkhead was unquestionably the most productive member of the offense last season before he was injured. The reason there hasn't been a lot of talk about him lately is the torn ACL that ended his season. But while that was an unfortunate end to his 2021 campaign, it might wind up helping the Patriots re-sign him as a free agent. Burkhead will be 31 at the start of next season and aging running backs coming off torn ACLs don't create huge markets in free agency. I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots offer him a chance to come back on a modest deal.

Paul Perillo

With how KC was devastated by the pass rush with both tackles injured, do you see teams spending more on third tackles in free agency, making it harder for teams like the Patriots to find bargains at the position?

Scott Young

I think most teams invest in their tackles but injuries happen, and investing in backups isn't something most teams can afford to do. Kansas City's offensive line struggled in the Super Bowl but that was just one of many issues the Chiefs had that night. For example, the defense took several undisciplined penalties (lining up offside on a field goal) that allowed Tampa to establish a big lead, which in turned kept KC one dimensional and allowed the Bucs to tee off. In terms of spending, I don't see the price for backups going up too much based on what happened to the Chiefs.

Paul Perillo

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