New England Patriots

For the first time in the 2022 off-season, Bill Belichick met with the media during the NFL’s annual league meeting in Florida on Monday, to answer questions about the Patriots’ numerous recent storylines.

Particularly on the coaching staff, the group appears to be set, with no new additions expected. Matt Patricia, who returned to New England last season as Belichick’s senior football adviser following his tenure as head coach of the Detroit Lions, will again serve a number of roles.

“Broad role, very broad. He does a lot of things, helps me a lot of ways,” Belichick said. “He does a lot of things, he has a lot of experience, he’s done things when he was here and of course he had experience in Detroit, then last year, things like the COVID rules and that type of thing. Matt’s had a lot of different roles for us. Like I said, he’s been a big help to me and the organization.”

Coaching-wise, Patricia and returning assistant Joe Judge will work primarily with the offense, as the team continues its development of quarterback Mac Jones following the departure of Josh McDaniels to Las Vegas. Patricia coached the offensive line early in his first Patriots stint before rising up the ranks on defense, while Judge previously coached wide receivers in addition to coordinating special teams.

“Great to have Joe Judge back, and Matt [Patricia], of course,” Belichick said. “They’re two really good coaches, along with some of the other coaches we have offensively, [tight ends coach] Nick Caley, [wide receivers/kick returners coach] Troy [Brown], and so forth, guys that were here last year. We’re working through it. [We’ll] do the best we can here.”

Despite Patricia and Judge ostensibly playing major roles on the staff, Belichick does not show any intentions of specifically naming coordinators for the upcoming season, on either side of the ball.

“I’m not big on titles,” Belichick said. “We have jobs to do. We’ll do the jobs.”

Bill Belichick fields questions on Malcolm Butler, free agency and more

  • It’s been a while since reporters have had direct access to Belichick, and there’s plenty to ask the Patriots head coach about since the start of the 2022 off-season. Belichick was his typical concise self, but took the time at the NFL league meeting to field questions about the whole range of Patriots topics. Here are the most notable things Belichick addressed, in so many words.

    On the return of Malcolm Butler…

    Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots reacts with Eric Rowe #25 after intercepting Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots reacts with Eric Rowe #25 after intercepting Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    On re-signing Butler: “He indicated a desire to play this year, and we worked through the process with Malcolm like we do with every player. Obviously we know him, but he came up [for a visit] and, so, we signed him. Look forward to having him back.”

    On Super Bowl LII: “That’s all old news.”

    On his relationship with Butler now: “Good, great, glad to have him back.”

  • On free agency…

    Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the first half in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the first half in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    On the lack of spending this year: “Spent a lot of money last year. Those guys are all young, they’re under contract.”

    On the future outlook for the roster: “I think some of the players that we have on the roster, hopefully, will take a step up. But we’ll see. We’ll have other players, there will be new players here. See what happens with them.”

  • On the offensive coaching staff…

    Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    On Joe Judge and Matt Patricia coaching the offense: “Great to have Joe Judge back, and Matt [Patricia], of course. They’re two really good coaches, along with some of the other coaches we have offensively, [tight ends coach] Nick Caley, [wide receivers/kick returners coach] Troy [Brown], and so forth, guys that were here last year. We’re working through it. [We’ll] do the best we can here.”

    On replacing Josh McDaniels: “I think Matt and Joe are pretty good coaches. Josh is a great coach, but we’ve gone through that in multiple years.”

    On the assistants’ specific roles: “Everybody will have a defined role, like they always do. Again, the off-season’s the off-season. Once we get to getting on the field, coaching the players, game-planning and things like that, that’ll all work itself out.”

    On who’s calling the offensive plays: “We won’t be calling any for a while. I don’t know any games that are on.”

    On giving official titles: “I’m not big on titles. We have jobs to do. We’ll do the jobs.”

  • On Matt Patricia’s role…

    Senior football advisor Matt Patricia of the New England Patriots stands on the field before their game against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Senior football advisor Matt Patricia of the New England Patriots stands on the field before their game against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    “Broad role, very broad. He does a lot of things, helps me a lot of ways. … He does a lot of things, he has a lot of experience, he’s done things when he was here and of course he had experience in Detroit, then last year, things like the COVID rules and that type of thing. Matt’s had a lot of different roles for us. Like I said, he’s been a big help to me and the organization.”

  • On new Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh…

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gestures to quarterback Mac Jones (not pictured) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gestures to quarterback Mac Jones (not pictured) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    “Matt’s done a tremendous job for us. Very smart, very detailed. Obviously has a great football background with his dad, his family, growing up in football. Scouted multiple areas for us. He’s had multiple responsibilities, from area scouts on the west coast, to the southeast. Regional scout, national scout, and really put the draft together last year as the director of college scouting.

    “With Dave [Ziegler] leaving, I feel like he’s the best person to step into the personnel job, and he’s done a great job. He’s as good as anybody we’ve had in that position.”

  • On Tom Brady un-retiring…

    Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    “You’ll have to talk to Tom about all that. But Tom’s played a long time, nothing he does surprises me.”

  • On the Shaq Mason trade…

    Shaq Mason of the New England Patriots gets ready for a play in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

    Shaq Mason of the New England Patriots gets ready for a play in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

    “Felt like that was in the best interest [of] the team.”

  • On whether they tried to keep JC Jackson…

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    “Sure, we talked to all our players, we talked to all our free-agent players, we re-signed quite a few and some we didn’t re-sign.”

  • On the Brian Flores lawsuit…

    Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins takes the field during introductions prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins takes the field during introductions prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    “I can’t comment on it.”

  • On potential changes to overtime rules…

    Oct 17, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) makes the catch and runs the ball for the game winning touchdown against the New England Patriots in overtime at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 17, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) makes the catch and runs the ball for the game winning touchdown against the New England Patriots in overtime at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    “There was a little bit of discussion [Sunday]. I’m sure there will be more discussion, see what everybody has to say. … I mean, there’s a lot of different arguments for various proposals, gonna sort them out here.”

  • On re-signing Trent Brown…

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    “Good to have Trent Brown back, yeah, glad we were able to work it out. Glad we were able to work it out with all the players we re-signed. … He played well when he played [in 2021], he missed half the year, so hopefully we’ll be able to get more play time from him this year. But, he’s a quality player.”

  • On Josh McDaniels leaving for the Raiders and taking others with him…

    Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots stands on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots stands on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    “Yeah, no. I mean, Josh is a great coach. I’m sure that he feels like it’s a great opportunity, that’s why he took it. Other than against us, I hope he does well. I’m sure he will do well. He’s an outstanding coach and some of the people that are with him, they’re very good, too. But it all worked out well.

    “It was an opportunity we couldn’t provide. He’ll be hard to replace, but like I said, I feel like we have really good coaches on our staff and that’s what we’ll do.”


Patriots Mock Draft 2.0: Post-free agency edition

  • As the dust settles from the first wave of NFL free agency, it feels like it’s time to update our Patriots seven-round mock draft. We published our first Patriots mock the day after the Super Bowl, and it’s safe to say a lot has changed since then.

    When talking about the Patriots’ approach to the draft, the phrase ‘best player available’ comes up often. When the roster is pretty much set, the team can sit back and see which talented players end up in an unexpected fall.

    That may not be the case this year, with numerous holes still in the starting lineup. In his weekly Sunday column, ESPN’s Mike Reiss highlighted the reality that “this year feels different” and that “Bill Belichick and his staff still have a lot of work to do” on the roster which could “potentially telegraph[s] their intentions in the draft.”

    Last season, the Patriots added a trio of immediate impact players in Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Christian Barmore. It seems reasonable to think that the mostly-unchanged front office – which held onto the top two executives on the draft side of things in Matt Groh and Eliot Wolf – believes they can repeat that feat at other positions in 2022.

    Keeping all of that in mind, here’s a stab at what the Patriots’ draft board could look like in a few weeks…

  • Round 1, Pick 21: Trade

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Patriots get:

    –31st overall pick (1st round)
    –63rd overall pick (2nd round)
    –226th overall pick (7th round)

    Bengals get:

    –21st overall pick (21st overall)

    That’s right, we’re starting with another trade down. The top tier of this class is about 17 or 18 players deep, with not much separation between the next 50. With none of the blue-chippers left on the board, the Patriots take advantage of the linemen-needy Bengals and move down to add an extra top-100 pick while still remaining in the first round.

    The Patriots win this trade on the Bill Belichick trade chart, which is typically the case for teams moving down. Belichick & Co. give up 261 points worth of picks, and take in 275.

  • Round 1, Pick 31: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

    Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam (5) in coverage against Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver Je'Quan Burton (82) during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. Sept. 4, 2021.

    Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam (5) in coverage against Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver Je’Quan Burton (82) during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. Sept. 4, 2021. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services)

    The Patriots came out of free agency thin at boundary corner, both in terms of starting-caliber talent and depth. By picking Elam, they add a player who should at least be able to take on a rotational role on the outside initially, with the upside of developing into a potential 90-percent usage rate player within a year or two.

    Part of what would make Elam a fit in New England is a relatively smaller learning curve. A starter since midway through his freshman year at Florida, Elam has experience playing press-man coverage and has the size (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) and length to carry that style of play to the NFL. He’d also bring some much needed speed to the Patriots’ defense – he ran a 4.39 40 at the combine, the eighth-fastest among cornerbacks.

  • Round 2, Pick 54: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State

    Delaware linebacker Matt Palmer moves in as North Dakota State's Christian Watson pulls in a pass in the third quarter of Delaware's 47-22 loss at Delaware Stadium Saturday.

    Delaware linebacker Matt Palmer moves in as North Dakota State’s Christian Watson pulls in a pass in the third quarter of Delaware’s 47-22 loss at Delaware Stadium Saturday. ( William Bretzger, Delaware News Journal, Delaware News Journal via Imagn Content Services)

    Speaking of speed, the Patriots add some of the offensive side of the ball by taking Watson in the second round. This may be on the lower end of Watson’s range, but with so many good receiver in the draft someone has to fall, and it’s usually the more developmental players.

    That being said, there is a lot to like about Watson. He ran a 4.36 40 at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds. In terms of measurables, it’s harder to find a more ideal outside receiver in this draft. His route running will need to be refined at the next level, but he’ll be a deep ball and scheme touch threat from day one. The Patriots met with Watson at the Senior Bowl.

    Throughout the offseason, multiple reports have hinted at the fact the Patriots would like to upgrade their ‘X’ receiver spot. From Calvin Ridley to Robby Anderson to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, there seems to be a desire to get more production out of the role currently held by Nelson Agholor. Last time the Patriots used a premium pick on a potential ‘X’ receiver, they looked for a more bully-ball pass catcher in N’Keal Harry. This time around, they could take a more finesse approach.

    While Watson might not give the team that upgrade on Day 1, he’d still be able to contribute offensively while rounding out his game behind the scenes. If he didn’t assume the starting job by the end of the 2022 season, he should be ready for a high-volume role starting in 2023 (Agholor’s contract expires after the 2022 season).

  • Round 2, Pick 63: S Kerby Joseph, Illinois

    Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) intercepts the ball over teammate Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) and intended Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) intercepts the ball over teammate Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) and intended Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Free safety isn’t as much of an immediate need as some of the others on the roster, but it will be soon. Devin McCourty is back for his 13th NFL season, but the Patriots don’t have another true free safety behind him on the roster. Adding depth in the short term and a potential replacement for a crucial role on the defense in the long-term would be a classic Belichick move.

    Enter Joseph, who stands out among an otherwise weak free safety class after a productive 2021. The Illini safety was second in the Big Ten with five interceptions in 12 games. His athleticism allows him to cover large amounts of ground quickly, a trait that will only become more useful as he sees more football and his instincts improve. Another key part of his game the Patriots will like? He’s a strong tackler, which is a must as the last line of defense in a single-high scheme.

    Unlike Watson, who the Patriots are getting after a bit of a fall, this is around the top of Joseph’s range. Historically though that hasn’t been a problem for the Patriots if they like a player, especially in the secondary.

  • Round 3, Pick 85: G Dylan Parham, Memphis

    Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham (OL36) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham (OL36) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    There’s one truly pressing need the Patriots have yet to address in this mock, and that’s guard. Both of last year’s starters – Shaq Mason and Ted Karras – are now playing elsewhere. Michael Onwenu projects to take one of those spots, but the other is wide open. With their last pick in the top 100, the Patriots look to land a potential replacement in Parham.

    Parham was a four-year starter for the Tigers, and should come in ready to at least compete for a starting job on Day 1. His strength is as a run blocker, but he can hold his own in pass pro as well. There are some concerns about his size (6-foot-3, 311 pounds) but he’s coming from such a technically-sound floor that with the right coaching it should end up being a non-issue.

  • Round 4, Pick 127: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State

    May 16, 2021; Frisco, Texas, USA; Sam Houston State Bearkats defensive back Zyon McCollum (22) and his teammates celebrate winning the game against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at the Division I FCS Championship football game at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    May 16, 2021; Frisco, Texas, USA; Sam Houston State Bearkats defensive back Zyon McCollum (22) and his teammates celebrate winning the game against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at the Division I FCS Championship football game at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    As mentioned above, the Patriots don’t just need outside cornerback help at the top of the depth chart. The overall depth at the position in thin, and doubling down in the draft could be a way to help with that.

    There’s a lot for the Patriots to line in McCollum’s game. He’s another big corner (6-foot-2, 199 pounds) who played primarily press man in coverage. An absolute ballhawk for the Bearkats, he had 13 interceptions 54 pass breakups in 56 career games. With a 4.33 second 40 at the Combine, he showed he can add some serious speed.

    Like any player coming from the FCS level, McCollum may need some time to adjust. But as a five-year contributor at Sam Houston State, he has a solid base to build on. He also has special teams experience, so he should be able to get on the field right away in the kicking game. His upside though is as a standing-caliber boundary corner.

  • Round 5, Pick 170: Trade

    Sep 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriot logos on the podium during the press conference before practice at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriot logos on the podium during the press conference before practice at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Patriots get:

    –2023 5th-round pick
    –2023 7th-round pick

    Panthers get:

    –170th overall pick (5th round)

    With five players drafted already, the Patriots decide to push some draft capital into next year. They pick up a future fifth and add a seventh in the process. This one is an even swap on the trade chart, eight points for eight points.

  • Round 6, Pick 200: OL Cade Mays, Tennessee

    Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Cade Mays (68) waits for the snap during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Cade Mays (68) waits for the snap during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    You’d be hard pressed to find a more textbook draft fit for the Patriots than Mays. He’s a four-year starter who’s played all five offensive line positions in a college career that included time with two SEC programs (he transferred from Georgia to Tennessee in 2020).

    Mays is a big mauler at 6-foot-5, 325 pounds who projects to be a swing guard in the NFL, but he may be able to play right tackle for the Patriots as well. Having a player with his versatility and experience could be a huge help as the Patriots re-work their offensive line in the coming years.

  • Round 6, Pick 210: DL LaBryan Ray, Alabama

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21: LaBryan Ray #89 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    TUSCALOOSA, AL – OCTOBER 21: LaBryan Ray #89 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Ray is a slightly undersized yet very strong and athletic defensive lineman from Alabama – cut from a similar mold as 2021 Patriots’ draft pick Christian Barmore. Injuries kept him from being as productive as Barmore in college, but outside of the top 200 it makes sense to take a chance on a player with Ray’s terrific athletic upside.

    The Patriots are always looking to add stout, versatile players up front defensively. At 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, Ray fits the mold and can play tackle and end. The question is, can he stay on the field consistently enough to develop his game?

  • Round 7, Pick 226: LB Nate Landman, Colorado

    TUCSON, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 05: Linebacker Nate Landman #53 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half of the PAC-12 football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

    TUCSON, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 05: Linebacker Nate Landman #53 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half of the PAC-12 football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

    While the Patriots had some new needs open up during free agency, they did somewhat mitigate their needs at linebacker. Bringing back Ja’Whaun Bentley gives them an established run stopper. Mack Wilson, who turned 24 last month, is comparable as an off-ball linebacker to many of the Day 2 linebackers in this draft. Cameron McGrone, Raewkon McMillan, and Terez Hall – who all missed last season due to injuries – figure to factor in as well.

    Still, that doesn’t mean they’re done adding at the position. Landman would give them another athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacker – the kind of player they missed last season. He’s a little undersized at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, but makes up for his lack of size with good instincts and a willingness to throw his body around. At the very least, he projects to be a core special teams kind of player from day one, and then could work himself into a rotational defensive role.

  • Remaining needs

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 13: A view of New England Patriots helmets before the game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 13: A view of New England Patriots helmets before the game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

    This post begins by explaining this mock is a more needs-focused draft. So, it seems fair to explain the needs that weren’t addressed.

    The biggest is failing to add a true tackle. With Isaiah Wynn entering a contract year and Trent Brown’s injury history, the team could need a starting-caliber tackle soon. Mays could potentially be a right tackle, but he’s likely more of a guard. Given the Patriots’ history developing offensive linemen, they may feel just as comfortable working with a UDFA tackle than using a top-100 pick at the position. Potential UDFA tackles that could fit in New England include UConn’s Ryan Van Demark and Myron Cunningham of Arkansas.

    Another longer-term offensive need that isn’t addressed here is running back – specifically pass-catching running back. James White is returning from a severe hip injury, and his replacement from last year Brandon Bolden is now in Las Vegas. Pass-catching back is an important role in the Patriots’ offense, and one they’ve pretty much always had an established player at – from Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead to Shane Vereen to White.

    Oct 30, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Trestan Ebner (1) looks for more yards against the Texas Longhorns in the second half of an NCAA football game at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 30, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Trestan Ebner (1) looks for more yards against the Texas Longhorns in the second half of an NCAA football game at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

    In terms of UDFA’s at running back, Trestan Ebner of Baylor would make a lot of sense for the Patriots. Not only does he come from a pass-heavy system, but he’s a two-time Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a kick returner. With the departure of Gunner Olszewski, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots target a returner or two between the draft and UDFA process this year.

    Speaking of Olszewski, slot receiver is somewhat of a short-term need and may be a big long-term need with Jakobi Meyers now on a de facto one-year deal. Alabama’s Slade Bolden has been mentioned in relation to the Patriots often – not surprising given he’s a slot receiver who plays special teams and was roommates with Mac Jones in college. Samori Toure from Nebraska could also be a fit as a ‘big slot’ at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the one position that could be considered a need that isn’t addressed here is nose tackle. After finishing 25th in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt allowed last season, it would make sense they may try to bulk up up front. Arizona State’s D.J. Davidson, Idaho’s Noah Ellis, and North Texas’ Dion Novil could all be fits here.


Who are the Patriots' most valuable trade targets at wide receiver?

  • It’s unclear how likely any of these trades would even be, but if Belichick wants to bring a talented and cheap receiver, or at least someone with upside or someone who fits what they want to do, these are the best options.

    A.J. Brown

    A.J. Brown #11 of the Tennessee Titans reacts as he leaves the field at the half during a 28-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    A.J. Brown #11 of the Tennessee Titans reacts as he leaves the field at the half during a 28-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    If there were ever a make-good on a disappointing Belichick draft pick for Belichick, it’s this guy.

    In an incredible gut-punch to New England, Brown admitted in 2020 that he “cried” when the Patriots passed on him – twice! – to select Harry and Joejuan Williams. He said: “I just knew I was going to the Patriots, because I was a big Patriots fan.”

    The intriguing part: the Titans’ contracts are piling up, most recently with an extension for linebacker Harold Landry . They already have more than $165 million in real cash committed to their 2023 roster, including $27 million for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. So it’ll take some maneuvering and budget-related sacrifices in order to sign Brown to an extension of his own. Brown has produced enough to deserve one of the top contracts at the position.

    But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Titans ultimately decide they can’t afford that, and want to go in a different direction. So it would at least be worth a phone call to Titans GM (and former Patriots exec) Jon Robinson to see if a Brown trade is a possibility.

  • D.K. Metcalf (or Tyler Lockett)

    DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a second quarter touchdown against the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on September 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a second quarter touchdown against the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on September 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    Talk about a kick in the balls. It’s hard to get on the Patriots for passing on Metcalf in the draft, because almost the entire league did. But he made an immediate impact in Seattle, and in three years has 17-game averages of 75 catches, 1,100 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Spending more picks to get him after Harry would hurt.

    Why would the Seahawks trade Metcalf? Because they’re in rebuilding mode after trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos. According to Jack Settleman of Snapback Sports, the Seahawks are “open to listening to offers” for Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but “nothing is imminent.”

    They don’t have to trade Metcalf, though, since he’s such an excellent value. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the Seahawks instead committed to Metcalf as a piece of the foreseeable future. But a dynamic wideout isn’t of much use to a team in year one of a rebuild with no long-term quarterback in place, and may not be over the next 4-5 years, either. He’s certainly performed well enough to deserve a lucrative long-term deal somewhere, but perhaps that ends up in another uniform.

    It’s a relative pipe dream for the Patriots (or anyone) to land Metcalf right now, especially considering the draft pick compensation it may require in the wake of other recent deals at the position. But he may possess the best mix of talent, production, and price tag in the league.

  • Brandin Cooks

    Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 19, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 19, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    It’s only fitting to include Cooks on this list. He’s not cheap, though, but he’s in the final year of the deal he originally signed with the Rams. He’s on the books for $13.7 million cash and a $16.2 million cap hit, so if Belichick brought him back, he could possibly give him a short extension for some cap relief. The familiarity is there, and the Texans are a logical trade partner. Cooks is also coming off a career-best 90 catches and has topped 1,000 yards in six of his eight seasons, so he’s as proven and consistent a producer as there is in the league.

  • Andy Isabella

    Cornerback Troy Hill #22 of the Los Angeles Rams breaks up a pass to wide receiver Andy Isabella #17 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Cornerback Troy Hill #22 of the Los Angeles Rams breaks up a pass to wide receiver Andy Isabella #17 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    And now, we have the depressed assets.

    Isabella reportedly asked the Cardinals for a trade this off-season. So there’s that. He’s also a former UMass alum, and has privately expressed interest in returning to Massachusetts as a Patriot.

    The problem for Isabella’s trade hopes is that the Cardinals would be selling low after drafting him 62nd overall in the 2019 draft. It’s unlikely he’d cost more than a third-round pick after making just 31 catches in 36 games so far in his career. He’s on the books for only $1.1 million, so financially, it’s not exactly necessary to unload him. Plus, they lost Christian Kirk in free agency, so they need to replace his production.

    But Isabella could be a classic “change of scenery” situation in Arizona. The Cardinals still have DeAndre Hopkins, and 2021 rookie Rondale Moore seems to have already passed Isabella on the depth chart. In New England, where there’s no clear No. 1, Isabella would have the potential to become the team’s leading receiver if it clicked for him and Mac Jones.

  • Curtis Samuel

    Curtis Samuel #10 of the Washington Football Team runs with the ball during the first half a New Orleans Saints at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Curtis Samuel #10 of the Washington Football Team runs with the ball during the first half a New Orleans Saints at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Samuel is a bounce-back candidate after groin and hamstring injuries limited him to only five games in 2021. At the same time, the Commanders are ostensibly looking to sign Terry McLaurin to an extension, which could make Samuel expendable.

    Samuel is in the second year of a three-year contract with the Commanders, and all his guaranteed money has already been paid. Washington would save $8.7 million on the cap if they traded him with a post-June 1 designation.

    If the Pats acquired him, Belichick may want to restructure his deal to relieve the $12.6 million cap hit in 2022, and two years averaging about $10.5M for a receiver that dealt with multiple injuries wouldn’t be an ideal move. But Samuel has always seemed like a good fit, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he were made available in D.C.

  • Darius Slayton

    Darius Slayton #86 of the New York Giants fends off a tackle attempt by Avonte Maddox #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Darius Slayton #86 of the New York Giants fends off a tackle attempt by Avonte Maddox #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Slayton’s production dipped in 2021, with the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to the receiver depth chart. It’s unclear what direction the Giants want to take at the position under new head coach Brian Daboll, but Slayton, a fifth-round pick in 2019, could now be expendable. Slayton as a player could be reasonably compared to Nelson Agholor, so he’d give Belichick an intriguing option on the outside if Agholor can’t improve upon a disappointing 2021.

  • Sterling Shepard

    Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA;  New England Patriots cornerback Mike Jackson (35) makes a tackles on New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) during the second quarte at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Mike Jackson (35) makes a tackles on New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) during the second quarte at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

    Another Giant, and one that seems like an even better fit for the Patriots. Shepard is primarily a slot receiver, and while the Patriots like Jakobi Meyers there, Shepard would give them a more traditional inside option that they currently lack on the roster. He wouldn’t excite fans like more established acquisitions would, but he’d have the potential to deliver career-best numbers in Belichick’s system. The Patriots would love his consistency, as Shepard caught between 57 and 66 passes in every season from 2016-20 before playing only seven games last season.

  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

    JJ Arcega-Whiteside #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball prior to the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    J.J. Arcega-Whiteside #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball prior to the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Here’s an example of a 2019 draft pick who has only gone backward in the passing game and cratered his potential trade value. The Eagles drafted Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 draft, only to take Jalen Reagor in the first round in 2020, then DeVonta Smith 11th overall in 2021. So, like Isabella in Arizona, Philly has seemingly decided quickly to move on from Arcega-Whiteside, who was primarily a special teamer in 2021. He’d represent a total flyer for Belichick, but perhaps there is untapped potential here.

Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.