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Robert Kraft Discusses Patriots Offseason, Draft Approach and Finding the Next QB

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft touched on a variety of topics from the NFL's Owner's Meetings in Orlando.

ORLANDO - The NFL's annual Owner's Meetings wrapped up in Orlando on Tuesday with the league finalizing some significant rule changes while allowing an opportunity for the owners and head coaches to touch base with fans and media as the offseason continues to roll along.

After an appearance on Monday by Jerod Mayo, Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft held court with the media on Tuesday, touching on several different topics at the forefront of discussion this offseason.

Kraft kicked things off by expressing his excitement for how things were coming together under the new direction of Wolf, Matt Groh and Jerod Mayo, despite the team's lack of external free agency splashes.

"We're starting new chapters in our development as we evolve here," said Kraft. "I like the young people we have doing this. We were in an environment previously where everything really funneled to the top and maybe some of the young people that worked really hard didn't get a chance to have their positions heard or maybe didn't speak up as much. I've encouraged them to be collaborative and I think the combination of Jerod, Matt and Eliot, I'm actually excited with what I've seen... I think they're in tune.

"We'll evaluate after the draft and see how that's gone and decide where we go from there."

As the 2024 NFL Draft approaches, Mayo and Kraft acknowledged that all options are on the table for the third-overall pick and what direction the team could take. Whether it's staying put, trading down or something else, the team will weigh their options as things play out.

But the undeniable truth is that the biggest piece, a promising quarterback for the future that they can build around, must be atop their needs list.

"You can't win in this league consistently unless you have a first-rate quarterback and a first-rate coach," said Kraft. "We're going to be open to whatever can come our way but in the end, I'll let the team make the decision, whatever they think is best.

"Look, one way or another, we know at some point we're gonna get a young quarterback who will be gifted. Fortunately, there is a number of them in this draft. Where we take that position will depend on what comes to us. But I hope our personnel people do a good job in that area and I really believe we have the coaching to support that."

Ultimately, the recurring Patriots theme from Orlando was one of patience. Entering the offseason with a significant amount of cap space, many expected free agency fireworks, but thus far the team has remained steadfast in their disciplined approach.

Kraft acknowledged the team had pursued receiver Calvin Ridley, arguably the best offense piece that was available this offseason, showing the Pats could be selectively aggressive. But the team's first priority was re-signing their own promising players and trying to reestablish a pipeline of draft, develop and retain.

"This year we signed a number of younger players that we had drafted, that had been in our system as a foundation," said Kraft. "If you want to win consistently, you have to draft well and then get those players on a second contract. We started to do that this year."

Another major storyline this offseason has been the second annual NFLPA survey that saw the Patriots grade out poorly in some areas. Kraft said that the team was committed to acting upon the deficiencies that the players pointed out, with plans already underway to add a new upgraded football building.

"We're committing to a whole new facility that is adjacent to ours that has been discussed with the young leadership team," said Kraft. "We have to correct anything... I was not aware, even this daycare issue, that's something that's fixable and we want to do. The players are the heart and soul of our business, I'd be very surprised if that didn't improve."

With just under a month to go until the draft, there's still plenty of work to be done and unrecognized options that could still present themselves. Kraft pointed out that team building is a year-round process and despite the team's current roster needs, those are still needs that can and will be filled by the time the 2024 Patriots take to the game field in September.

"I don't want to do splashy things just to get attention and get good headlines one day," said Kraft. "I want us to do the things that are substantive, both in the short term and the long term."

"I believe we're going in the right direction. We've gone through a tough three, four years, at the same time we're privileged to have the greatest coach in the 100-year history of the game. He did amazing things, combined with the quarterback we had for two decades. It's a pretty high standard. But we're happy we were able to put the pieces in place that allowed that to happen and flourish and now we have to get back so that we're competing in hopefully a similar position."

Owner's Meetings Takeaways

Two significant rule changes were voted to be implemented during the Owner's Meetings, with a ban of the hip drop tackle and a reimagined kickoff both voted into the rule book and headlining discussion around the league.

The hip drop tackle has been in the league's crosshairs as multiple major injuries continue to pile up every season. Patriots fans need no reminder of Bernard Pollard's hip-drop tackle on Rob Gronkowski in the 2011 AFC Championship that essentially limited Gronk to just a decoy in Super Bowl 46.

But reactions from the players were mixed, as it added another restriction on the defense that will only complicate tackling for the defenders while also adding more for officials to process in split seconds. Now, any tackle that fits the multi-prong criteria will result in a 15-yard penalty.

The new-look kickoff was adopted to expand safety but also bring back more relevance to the special teams play that has fallen off in recent years due to other implemented rule changes. Fewer full-speed collisions and more potential gaps in coverage should bring relevance back to the kickoff.

That's good news for the Patriots, as third-year returner Marcus Jones could have expanded opportunities to impact the game with his dynamic speed and vision.

The kickoff rule change will initially only be written in for 2024, and will be revisited next season if it's to be made permanent.

Quotes of Note

Robert Kraft on reactions to The Dynasty documentary

"I felt bad that there was so much emphasis on the more controversial and challenging situations over the last 20 years. I wish they had focused more on our Super Bowl wins, our 21-game win streak."

Robert Kraft on Bill Belichick's induction into the team's Hall of Fame

"I feel so privileged that we had Bill here. I hope when he's finished, we'll have a chance to honor him the way we will do with Tom Brady this year. I look forward to the privilege of putting Bill into the Patriots Hall of Fame one day in the future."

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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