New England Patriots

New England Patriots

L-R: Tackle Mike McGlinchey, cornerback Jamel Dean, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. (Bob Donnan/Kevin Jairaj/Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)

L-R: Tackle Mike McGlinchey, cornerback Jamel Dean, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. (Kyle Terada/Bob Donnan/Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)

The New England Patriots still need to add players. Their 2023 roster will certainly include new additions in free agency, perhaps someone decently-priced. But at what positions?

NFL free agency is an area of mystery and intrigue as to how the Patriots utilize it to bolster their roster. That’s partially because the market isn’t great for wide receivers, and arguably the best one available would be Jakobi Meyers. It’s also because the Pats do have room to spend, with about $32.7 million of cap space (via Over The Cap), fourth-most in the NFL. Their projected cash spending ($136 million) is 29th, so if ownership has any desire to prove willing to spend more (they already have with their new coaches), the Patriots will go out and get someone legit.

  • Nov 9, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) looks on behind head coach Bill Belichick before the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 9, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) looks on behind head coach Bill Belichick before the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

  • So, let’s rank the “Big 3” positions the Patriots should upgrade in free agency. Positional need is the main factor to consider, but the pool of available players is also important. For that reason, wide receiver is not in the top-3 positions for New England in free agency, and really shouldn’t be for any team in the league.

    Additionally, this list is focused on bringing in players from outside the Patriots organization. Re-signing Meyers would be an aggressive move to keep one of their most dependable players on and off the field, but he doesn’t count as an addition.

    Anyway, in honor of the Sports Hub Underground podcast, here are the “Big 3” positions for the Patriots to spend on in free agency…

  • 1. Offensive Tackle

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the game at Levi's Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the game at Levi’s Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    An easy one, but also an easy choice for free agency in particular. Several established, starting-caliber tackles are on track to hit the open market, and the Patriots have shown a willingness to pay a premium for offensive linemen, like they did with guards Shaq Mason (extension) and Joe Thuney (franchise tag). They’re due to make such a move at tackle, even if they still draft someone with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Trent Brown is under contract for 2023, but his on-field performance in 2022 was inconsistent. He played all 17 games, but missed 19 games due to injury from 2020-21. He may end up entrenched in a starting tackle spot for 2023, anyway, and the bright side is he’s proven able to play either spot.

    But if the Patriots can get Brown back playing consistently well at left tackle, that’s ideal. So their free-agent target would be at right tackle, assuming they finally move on from Isaiah Wynn. Niners tackle Mike McGlinchey would be an impactful addition. But if they don’t go that route, they could look at the Jaguars’ Jawaan Taylor, the Falcons’ Kaleb McGary, or the Cardinals’ Kelvin Beachum.

  • 2. Defensive Back

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jamel Dean #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after catching an interception during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on September 18, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – SEPTEMBER 18: Jamel Dean #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after catching an interception during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on September 18, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

  • Well wait a minute, cornerback or safety?! Sorry to do that to you. But if the Patriots decide that their biggest free-agent move is in the secondary, they can go in either direction.

    Devin McCourty still has not decided whether he will retire or continue playing in 2023, so if he calls it a career, maybe the Patriots get aggressive at safety. But with or without McCourty, their biggest need is arguably a bigger outside cornerback to match up against No. 1 wide receivers.

    Jack Jones showed awesome playmaking ability as a rookie in 2022, but at 5-foot-10, he may be limited against big pass-catchers. They could stand to upgrade a spot that was held down (admirably so) by Jonathan Jones or Jalen Mills in 2022. Cornerback is another position that could land the Patriots an immediate impact player in the first round of the draft, but they’ll have options in free agency.

    For a legit top-of-the-market outside corner – which is not unprecedented in New England – the Patriots could target the Bucs’ Jamel Dean. If they don’t get that aggressive, James Bradberry and Rock Ya-Sin could be out there. Safety? The Bengals’ Jesse Bates III and Von Bell are on track for free agency, as are the Bills’ Jordan Poyer and the Saints’ Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

  • 3. Defensive Line

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 18: Javon Hargrave #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a sack during the third quarter in the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 18: Javon Hargrave #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a sack during the third quarter in the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Even with Christian Barmore taking a step forward in 2023, this position is where the Patriots would benefit from an injection of explosiveness, particularly in the pass-rush. The bulk of the impact coming from their defensive linemen under contract for 2023 is against the run, with Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy. When Barmore was injured, Daniel Ekuale took over many of his snaps, and is now on track to be a free agent himself. Nose tackle Carl Davis is also a pending free agent.

    So, the Patriots have a logical spot to fill with a free agent. Ideally, Barmore stays healthy for the full season in 2023 and turns into a true every-week game-breaker himself. But they’ll also have to replace those snaps lost from Davis and Ekuale, if they aren’t re-signed. They’ll have opportunities to aim higher.

    If the Pats decide to make a surprise splash on the D-line, you’re talking about Eagles DT Javon Hargrave, the Commanders’ Daron Payne, and the Saints’ Marcus Davenport. They might also like the size and versatility of the 49ers’ Charles Omenihu.

  • LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches his players, including quarterback Mac Jones #10, warm up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches his players, including quarterback Mac Jones #10, warm up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Again, wide receiver did not make the “Big 3,” because if the Patriots want to make a big move at that position, they’re better off making a trade. If you’re one of those quarterback nuts, you can fantasize about Lamar Jackson or you can accept that they’re going with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. Linebacker, meanwhile, is well-stocked at the moment, and a position to feel confident that Bill Belichick can find in the draft.

    We’ll have plenty more for you as NFL free agency approaches, especially as it relates to the Patriots, here at 985TheSportsHub.com. Stay tuned for news, rumors, rankings, and a lot more.

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

  • Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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