New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots guard Cole Strange (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to the Week 13 98.5 The Sports Hub New England Patriots Mailbag. As has been the case the last few weeks, and with the team at 2-9, the majority of the questions this week are about the offseason ahead.

Unlike previous weeks though where you all had questions about the draft and free agency, the heavy majority of the questions this week are about in-house decisions the Patriots will need to make this coming offseason. Some of you also pitched ideas for the team to consider personnel-wise.


READ MORE:

A familiar face returns to the Patriots’ quarterback room
Bill O’Brien takes responsibility for Patriots offensive struggles
Six Patriots named Hall of Fame semifinalists


Who will be making these decisions next year? And what players could be up for a potential position change? Let’s get to this week’s questions…

  • ashley1992 on Twitter: "Hi Alex, what are your thoughts on the play of Sow at RG? Do you think he's a long term player? / Twitter"

    Hi Alex, what are your thoughts on the play of Sow at RG? Do you think he's a long term player?

    After a rough start to the season, Sidy Sow has shown a lot of growth once being reinserted into the lineup in Week 6. He still has a long way to go, but given he spent most of training camp at tackle the progress he’s made is a good sign for a player playing a position for the first time in the NFL. Given the myriad of other needs the Patriots will have this upcoming offseason, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pencil Sow in as the Week 1 starter at right guard next year (assuming Mike Onwenu either moves out to right tackle or leaves outright) and count on another solid year of growth for him.

  • There’s certainly evidence that Cole Strange could be an NFL center. He took a good number of reps there at the Senior Bowl in 2021, which helped propel him up NFL Draft boards. His size and athleticism may play better in that spot as well.

    That’s not to say the Patriots should rush David Andrews out of the building to move Strange over. But if Andrews, who would be 32 at the start of training camp next year, decides to retire, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to try kicking Strange inside rather than having to add a new center (one of the other guards the Patriots drafted last year, Atonio Mafi or Jake Andrews could replace him at left guard).

  • Boorish on Twitter: "Why shouldn't we get a look at Strange as LT? pic.twitter.com/cZvUUZ24NG / Twitter"

    Why shouldn't we get a look at Strange as LT? pic.twitter.com/cZvUUZ24NG

    Trying Cole Strange out at center is one thing. Left tackle is another story. He doesn’t have the pure power to go with the athleticism needed to block elite edge rushers. It shows up in that chart, by way of his vertical.

    Strange would need to put on serious muscle in order to play left tackle in the Patriots’ system. Trent Williams bulked up significantly over the course of his career. That same kind of transformation isn’t nearly as realistic for Strange.

  • J Spell on Twitter: "Why haven't the Pats been more aggressive on an extension for Onwenu? / Twitter"

    Why haven't the Pats been more aggressive on an extension for Onwenu?

    That’s a very good question, and I unfortunately don’t have a direct answer. What I will say is this – it doesn’t seem like the Patriots haven’t been particularly aggressive in negotiating an extension with any member of that 2020 draft class, with Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche joining Mike Onwenu as candidates. It’s not out of character for a team that has struggled to keep homegrown talent in-house in recent years.

    Onwenu’s recent position shift from guard to tackle could also be part of the reason. If Onwenu is now negotiating from the point of view as a tackle, the conversation changes completely. This year, the top five right tackles in football are making an average of $22.8 million in terms of AAV, while the top five right guards average out to $16.26 million (per OverTheCap.com). Even if Onwenu doesn’t come up top-five highest-paid at whatever position he considers himself, the number is very different either way.

  • 🕸️Phil and his musings: 🕸️ 🏪 on Twitter: "What's an underrated or potential surprise need for next season. For example we think David Andrews will be back next year at center, but will he really want to come back for a rebuild? / Twitter"

    What's an underrated or potential surprise need for next season. For example we think David Andrews will be back next year at center, but will he really want to come back for a rebuild?

    I’ll give you one position on each side of the ball I don’t think fans realize the team needs as much as it does. With quarterback, tackle, and receiver in the spotlight a lot of other needs have flown under the radar (for now).

    On offense, it’s running back. In fact, the Patriots may need more than one. Rhamondre Stevenson will be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2024, and given that the Patriots both rarely re-sign running backs and rarely play rookies, it may make sense to draft a back at some point (doesn’t have to be high) and get his replacement in the building while he’s still here. Plus, the glaring need of a third-down back should be addressed, either in the draft or free agency. Tight end is another big need, with none of the three tight ends currently on the roster signed beyond this year.

    On defense, that need is boundary cornerback. Jack Jones is gone and J.C. Jackson has looked more like the player he was in LA rather than how he played during his first stint with the team. Assuming the Patriots cut him (his release would free up ~$14 million in cap space in each of the next three seasons with no dead money), their true boundary cornerbacks under contract for next year will be Christian Gonzalez and Jonathan Jones (players like Isaiah Bolden and Alex Austin could be signed to futures deals). While it’s not a premium need, adding a third rotational boundary cornerback is a must this offseason.

  • Mark on Twitter: "With a lot of uncertainty surrounding Mac Jones & whether he's playing & whose decision it was to draft him. Can you envisage a scenario where Mr Kraft gives him another year and has the personnel department provide him with pass protection and weaponry via the draft and FA? / Twitter"

    With a lot of uncertainty surrounding Mac Jones & whether he's playing & whose decision it was to draft him. Can you envisage a scenario where Mr Kraft gives him another year and has the personnel department provide him with pass protection and weaponry via the draft and FA?

    Look, it’s too soon to rule anything out. But this seems unlikely. If Bill Belichick’s front office was going to do this, last year was the time to do so (and they didn’t). A new regime may be more inclined to do it, but new GMs and head coaches often like to have their own hand-picked quarterback rather than inherit the guy that was there before them.

    So, it would take a very specific front office alignment to make that happen (likely Belichick leaving but a number of holdovers staying). Even then they’d need to believe in Mac Jones enough to make that kind of investment with a strong QB class on the board.

  • 𝕄𝕚𝕃𝕃𝕒 on Twitter: "Would You rather...Fresh new staff/complete overhaul Or Mayo as HCMcDaniels as OCS.Belichick as DCGroh as GM / Twitter"

    Would You rather...Fresh new staff/complete overhaul Or Mayo as HCMcDaniels as OCS.Belichick as DCGroh as GM

    The next few weeks will be key in answering this question. If the team starts to show some fight, maybe keeping key members of this year’s staff around makes more sense. If they finish with two or three wins, it’s going to look a lot more attractive to entirely clean house.

  • B. on Twitter: "Do you think if Mayo was appointed as the new HC, will he want Obrien as his OC or bring someone from outside?And do you think he'll be the defensive player caller? / Twitter"

    Do you think if Mayo was appointed as the new HC, will he want Obrien as his OC or bring someone from outside?And do you think he'll be the defensive player caller?

    If Jerod Mayo takes over as head coach, it would make sense to pair him with a veteran, experienced offensive play-caller – especially one with head-coaching experience. Bill O’Brien certainly fits that description.

    On defense, Steve Belichick currently handles the defensive play-calling. If Steve remains after his dad leaves, it may make sense to keep that arrangement in place and let Mayo focus on managing the overall game. If both Belichick’s leave, Mayo may be more inclined to call the defense himself.

  • Mark Cleland on Twitter: "If the Patriots land a top 3 pick could you see them trading out to get more draft picks if they are not sold on either Williams or Maye? / Twitter"

    If the Patriots land a top 3 pick could you see them trading out to get more draft picks if they are not sold on either Williams or Maye?

    Absolutely, Mark. In fact, I’ll take this a step further. They should trade down if they don’t believe in Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Taking a quarterback you don’t believe in just because it’s the ‘consensus’ thing to do never works out (see: Panthers, Carolina).

    If the Patriots do end up in the top 3, it’s possible they could maneuver themselves into two first-round picks and give this roster a much-needed infusion of talent. Trade down into the later top-10 where they may be able to draft a guy like quarterback Jayden Daniels (LSU) or wide receivers Rome Odunze (Washington) or Keon Coleman (Florida State), and then use the assets attained from moving down to get back up into the back half of the first round and grab a tackle like JC Latham (Alabama) or Amarius Mims (Georgia).

  • Paulie Walnuts on Twitter: "Do you think Chicago takes a qb ( panthers don't win again) at 1 or they trade back and accumulate even more capital? / Twitter"

    Do you think Chicago takes a qb ( panthers don't win again) at 1 or they trade back and accumulate even more capital?

    I hate to keep going back to this answer, but again I think this is something that will be decided in the coming weeks. Really, it’ll come down to what Bears ownership thinks of the job GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus have done. If those two stick around, they could either trade back or take Marvin Harrison Jr. with one of those top picks. If there’s another regime change in Chicago (Poles and Eberflus were hired before the 2022 season), then a QB selection becomes much more likely.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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