An Important Off-Season for the Patriots

Photo courtesy of

-Noah Connors

Losing the greatest football player of all time after having him carry your team for 20 years is a major blow. It hits especially hard when he then goes on to win a superbowl for another team. Tom Brady left New England, but hey we got a couple draft picks in return. That’s an equal return for the GOAT, right? Right? Probably not, but at least it’s something. As a Patriots fan, last season was a rough one. The last time the Patriots had a losing record was 2000, a year before they won their first SuperBowl. For a team that has been utterly dominant year in and year out for the past 20 years, a 7-9 record is pretty disappointing. Most teams in this situation would be looking dead into the eyes of a potentially extensive rebuild. The Patriots are not one of these teams. The current ownership, coaching staff, and remaining players have built a culture of winning in New England. The Patriots organization, along with the fans, will expect nothing less than continued success.  

Although this past season was difficult, the Patriots are trending upwards. The Patriots have the third most cap room in the NFL, totalling in at a whopping 70 million dollars. That is a lot of money for Bill Belichek to play around with. To go along with this, the patriots have some crucial players returning from opt outs in 2020. The patriots should get back Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung. These two players have been extremely important to the team in past years, with Hightower and Chung anchoring the defense. They have both been captains in past years, and will have a huge impact on the defense as a whole. The Patriots also had veteran offensive tackle Marcus Cannon returning, however they traded him to Houston for a couple pick swaps. Despite the loss of Cannon, New England still boasts a stacked offensive line. Even with the potential departure of veteran guard Joe Thuney, they will still have one of the stronger lines in the league. Thuney could be a major loss for the patriots if there weren’t several players able to step in at his position. The Line will be a strength for New England, led by veterans such as David Andrews and Shaq Mason. They also have 2020 sixth round draft pick Michael Onwenu, coming off a monster rookie season at multiple positions across the offensive front. It is safe to say that Onwenu will be an absolute stud for the Patriots for years to come. The line will also be bolstered by talented but injury prone tackle Isaiah Wynn, and a newly acquired Trent Brown. New England snagged Brown and a seventh round pick in 2022, giving up only a 2022 fifth rounder in return. If you are worried about losing that fifth rounder, in 2020 the Patriots drafted a kicker who didn’t even make the team with their fifth. Brown came in with a pretty hefty contract, making 16.5 million dollars per year. That is a high price tag for an offensive lineman, however the patriots have plenty of money to throw at him. It was also reported that Brown will take a pay cut, dropping his salary down to 11 million dollars for the 2021 season. The Patriots now have a ton of flexibility on the o-line, and could potentially deal out one of their young pocket protectors to fill a position of need.  

The number one position of interest for the Patriots this offseason is quarterback. Although there are plenty of glaring weak spots on this Patriots roster, Quarterback is the most important position in football. It is safe to say that so far, the Cam Newton experiment has failed miserably. Newton looked promising in his first few games as a Patriot, however he fell off a cliff after the first three games. Newton was one of the worst Quarterbacks in the whole league when it came to throwing the football, something that he is expected to do at an elite level. The Patriots resigned Newton to a new deal that can equal up to $14 million if the Vet plays well. Although Newton was terrible last year, he is still a former MVP and all pro. If the Pats can surround Newton with the right weapons, it is quite possible that he could return back to an elite level player. It seems as though the Patriots are betting that this happens, as they gave hima pretty hefty payday. Still though, the Patriots are weak at many positions across the offense, and will need to dip into free agency to address those needs.  

There are multiple players that the Patriots have been linked to in free agency already. It is expected that the Pats will land multiple important free agent signings. There has been a flurry of cuts around the league, and there is expected to be more. These cuts will only add to what is already a stacked free agent class. With the 70 million that the patriots have to work with, there are some pretty juicy opportunities for them to fill needs. As mentioned earlier, Belichick loves to bring in guys that he has worked with before, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Kyle Van Noy is an elite linebacker who has spent time in New England, winning a championship with the Patriots in 2018. Van Noy was cut by the Dolphins, meaning he will make all of his guaranteed money from the 4 year contract that he signed a year ago. The Patriots could get Van Noy on a much smaller deal, adding another weapon to an already dangerous core of linebackers. Tight ends have always been a major part of the Patriots offensive scheme. Whether it be Rob Gronkowski, Benjamin Watson, or Martellus Bennet, the Patriots have always had versatility and depth at the tight end position. An important factor in why the offense struggled last season, was their lack of talent at tight end. Kyle Rudolph was recently cut by the Minnesota Vikings, and is a guy who New England has tried to acquire in the past. Rudolph is versatile and reliable. When surrounded by the right personnel, Rudolph can excel. Rudolph has also expressed interest in playing for the Patriots, so the fit makes almost too much sense. Rudolph and Van Noy could be huge pickups for each side of the ball, however free agency is not the only place that the Patriots could target some help.

Along with the massive quantity of cap space the Patriots are sitting on, they also hold the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The Patriots are notorious for not using their first round draft pick, so it is entirely possible that it will be traded away for more draft picks, and or a proven NFL player. This is quite possible, however it is still fun to think about what the Patriots could add with the 15 spot. Assuming they don’t land a Quarterback through free agency or trade, Mac Jones could be a solid pick in the middle of the first round. Jones has had major success at Alabama, a program that has drawn serious comparisons to the Patriots. Jones absolutely stands in the pocket and makes throws, something that Belichick values greatly. If Jones is their plan however, the Patriots need to make some serious additions to their receiving core. The 2021 draft class is extremely deep in a few positions that the Patriots need to address, so look for the Patriots to use a majority of their draft picks to add some much needed talent. The Patriots will most likely use at least a few of their draft picks on a Quarterback or a receiver. There are many ways to attack the holes in their lineup through the draft

To pull all of this together, it can simply be put that the Patriots are winners. They have won, and they will continue to win for years to come. The organization sacrificed one season to right the ship in New England, and even then the team was not atrocious. Over the last 20 seasons, the Patriots have built a culture of winning. One off season in the middle of a pandemic will not change that mentality. With the ammunition that the Patriots have to improve this team, look for them to be contenders for years to come.