Less than a week after the official start to the offseason, the Patriots offensive line seemed to be in disarray. The starting guards from 2021 were gone, and the right tackle was in Seattle listening to free agent overtures from the Seahawks. That left New England with potentially three openings in the starting five, not exactly an ideal way to protect a young quarterback.
But as the second week of activity opened the Patriots reportedly came to terms with Trent Brown on a new two-year deal, at least providing a semblance of continuity at tackle from a year ago. Brown spent a couple of days in Seattle but ultimately chose to remain in New England, which was his stated preference prior to the beginning of free agency.
It's a welcome move for the Patriots, who already lost starters Ted Karras (Cincinnati) and Shaq Mason (traded to Tampa Bay) and could ill afford a third lost starter.
Bill Belichick and his staff sometimes allow their free agents to test the market to get a better gauge of their value, and that appears to be the case with Brown as well. There wasn't much interest in the soon-to-be 29-year-old tackle, which is likely due to his extensive injury history. Brown hasn't played a full season since 2018 (his first stint in Foxborough) and last year missed half the year with a calf injury.
But the Patriots weren't in position to be picky. They reportedly expressed interest in former Cowboys tackle La'el Collins but the Bengals beat them to the punch. That left very few proven options, and Brown was clearly the best one. When healthy he's a powerful run blocker with deceptively quick feet to operate in space as well as handle the pass rush. If he can stay on the field he becomes the team's best offensive lineman.
But Belichick still has a lot of work to do up front. Mike Onwenu projects as a starter at one of the guard spots but there is still a spot open. Veterans Yasir Durant and James Ferentz could fill the role, and CFL newcomer Drew Desjarlais is on the roster as well. Expect Belichick to address the offensive line in the draft if for no other reason than to find depth, but an early-round choice to find a starter is not out of the question.
Brown's return avoids a disaster up front but it by no means fixes the problem entirely. While it's still early in the offseason, there is plenty of work to be done.