After their first losing season since 2000, the New England Patriots could look to use their $63 million cap space to help the franchise bounce back into the playoffs.
After the Pats re-signed quarterback Cam Newton to a one day contract on Friday, what other moves could be upcoming this offseason?
The Newton deal doesn’t preclude Belichick and the front office from drafting another signal caller in the draft this spring. It probably means they aren’t pursuing a trade for former quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out New England taking a run at a rookie quarterback in the first two rounds of the draft.
The signing of Newton to a one year deal probably indicates that neither New England nor Cam want to be left standing when the music stops on this offseason’s QB dance. Signing the former Carolina Panther now gives the team a quarterback who knows the system and can be an effective bridge while the QB of the future adjusts to the requirements of the league.
The Patriots currently sit at 15th overall and have nine picks overall in the draft. That means they would need to move up to take one of the top QBs and have the ammunition to do so. It’d be quite a jump though as they would have to leapfrog the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons at eight and four respectively. That move would require their first and second rounders this year as well as some early picks in next year’s draft.
Lol I guess that lil kid at Cam’s Camp was wrong https://t.co/R0eACJJTwe
— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) March 12, 2021
Trading up would go against the grain for Belichick, who usually likes to hoard his selections and accumulate more by trading back.
The problem is that this coaching staff are always going to be able to squeeze enough wins out of the roster to prevent the franchise from having a top 10 selection in upcoming years. Another route could be to wait for a player like Mac Jones or Trey Lance to drop and then put together a more conservative proposal to move up just a few spots rather than ten or eleven places.
Patriots offseason: Wide receiver and tight end
Whoever lines up under center, a priority needs to be adding more weapons on offense, particularly in the passing game.
A big bodied pass catcher at wide receiver and/or tight end is a must. Adding a player with a wide catch radius has often been seen as a necessity in the pass with Newton and so the franchise should really make tight end Jonnu Smith and receiver Kenny Golladay their primary targets. New England’s top two receivers last season were Jakobi Meyers (729 receiving yards) and Damiere Byrd (604 yards). After that there was a big drop off to running back James White (375 yards) and tight end Ryan Izzo (199 yards).
Golladay would bring big play ability and along with Smith could juice up the Patriots passing attack in the red zone which needs a jumpstart, as evidenced by Rex Burkhead leading the team in receiving TDs with just three.
Alternatively, Belichick could use the draft to trade up for Florida’s Kyle Pitts whose versatility to play inside and outside as a tight end or wideout would appeal to the head coach and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. In that scenario, the franchise would add a young weapon and in lieu of picking up a QB, could make a run at Garoppolo next year.
Patriots offseason: The offensive line
Patriots are not expected to use their franchise tag on OG Joe Thuney as they did last year, per sources. Thuney likely headed to the free-agent market.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2021
The team still has time and cap space they can use to resign one or both, with Thuney likely to be the more expensive of the two due to health concerns related to Andrews missing the 2019 season.
Wouldn’t it be such a Belichick move after all the hype around them making a splash at quarterback in the draft, for him to trade back and draft a player at a necessary but not headline grabbing position like guard? This Patriots offseason, they could add Alijah Vera-Tucker to replace Thuney as well as additional selections later in the draft. That may be appealing given the lack of young, affordable options available in free agency.
Patriots offseason: Nose tackle/edge rusher
Whilst New England’s secondary is in good shape with J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore manning the cornerback spots, getting more pressure on opposing passers from the front seven is a necessity. Belichick is more than happy to have a number of different situational rushers, but there are plenty of intriguing options available in free agency.
Signing Jadeveon Clowney feels like such a typical New England signing. A highly touted, first round pick who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations? Belichick is all over opportunities like that. Alternatively there are a variety of players available from those with productive records but injury concerns (Bud Dupree) to those who may just be at the start of an uptick in production (Haason Reddick or Romeo Okwara).
As well as adding more juice to the pass rush, creating more pressure up the middle would be a necessity. The team could look to re-sign Adam Butler who has produced 10 sacks from the nose tackle position the past two seasons, or pursue a more veteran option in the form of DaQuan Jones who played for former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel in Tennessee.
How will Belichick approach Patriots free agency?
This promises to be an interesting offseason for NFL observers and Patriots fans alike. We’re about to see how Belichick and New England react to their dominance of the AFC East being truly threatened (or over?) for the first time in decades.
Will they pursue the quick fix of a free agency spending spree or continue to pick up undervalued players cast aside by other teams and build through the draft?