New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have already started to make moves on the offensive line for 2023, but there’s reason to believe they should aim higher.

As of Wednesday morning, the Patriots had three tackles under contract for the 2023 season: Trent Brown, Conor McDermott, and sophomore Andrew Stueber. The latter has yet to play his first NFL game after spending his rookie season on the reserve/non-football injury list. Brown, meanwhile, should be in line for a starting role if the Patriots consider him part of their plans for the coming season.

As for McDermott, he is reportedly signed for the next two seasons after agreeing to a new deal with the Pats. McDermott was the Patriots’ best starting right tackle in 2022, technically speaking. But that’s not saying much, and the Patriots should consider signing another tackle to entrench as the new starter – and there’s a specific guy that makes the most sense for them.

  • Jan 14, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (75) reacts against the Los Angeles Chargers during a wild card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 14, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (75) reacts against the Los Angeles Chargers during a wild card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

  • That would be Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who is on track for free agency and a big payday in 2023. In all actuality, it would behoove the Jags to keep Taylor around as a pillar of protection for budding franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence, even on just a franchise tag. But if Taylor hits the open market, and the Patriots want to get aggressive and open the wallets at tackle, he is the best possible fit for Foxboro. ESPN’s Matt Bowen recently named the Pats as the best fit for Taylor, as well.

    A second-round pick in the 2019 draft, Taylor has not missed a game in his career so far. Sixty-six possible games, 66 starts. He has steadily improved as a pass-protector, allowing a career-low five sacks and 16 total pressures throughout the 2022 regular season, according to Pro Football Focus.

  • INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 16: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – OCTOBER 16: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • You can see on the TAPE that Taylor does a good job using his feet to create leverage and cut off the right angles against oncoming pass-rushers. Despite drawing easier matchups on the right side against the Chiefs, he also matched up against Chris Jones on a few snaps, and held his own against the 2022 All-Pro.

    PFF isn’t as hot on Taylor’s run-blocking as his reputation may indicate, handing him a poor 39.7 grade for the season in that category. But that number appears to be a bit skewed by a few abnormally bad games over the course of the season.

    The eye test shows that Taylor has the ability to play physical and open holes in the running game on the right side. He most notably helped spring Jags running back JaMycal Hasty for a 22-yard run to the right side in the second quarter of the divisional round in Kansas City (watch No. 75 in white):

  • Given his impressive physical traits and strong footwork, Taylor should be a guy that Bill Belichick and new Patriots offensive line coach Adrian Klemm know how to use and put in a position to succeed in the offense.

    Of course, the big question is money, and how much the Patriots are willing to invest in a starting tackle this off-season. Spotrac estimates his annual value at $14 million. So, basically, a Matthew Judon contract. That is about the going rate for a starting offensive lineman, and it’s even more for a left tackle. But as evidenced by the Patriots’ spending on guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason in recent years, Belichick has shown a willingness to invest real money in the O-line, and right now feels like the right time to do it.

    That is, if the investment is in Taylor. Why does Taylor make more sense than other free-agents-to-be at right tackle? For one, his age. Taylor will be 25 years old at the start of the 2023 season, at the stage of his career that has drawn the most interest from the Patriots when making big free-agent signings. In their unprecedented spending spree two years ago, no free agent who signed a multi-year deal was older than 28 years old at the time of signing. Belichick clearly likes to sign guys in their physical prime and is comfortable betting on future value.

  • JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 09: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars throws the ball during the second quarter in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on January 09, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – JANUARY 09: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars throws the ball during the second quarter in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on January 09, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

  • Meanwhile, the other big projected free agents at right tackle are older: Mike McGlinchey and Kaleb McGary are 28, and Kelvin Beachum is a nice ripe 33. And while McGlinchey or McGary certainly have time left in the tank at the top of their games, Taylor has more upside as a pass-protector and as a fit for the Pats’ particular system.

    This is all a long way of saying that if you ask me who the Patriots should spend on at right tackle, I’m all-in on Taylor. Bringing him in will cost them on the financial budget, for sure, but he’d also quell a lot of concerns at arguably the biggest position of need for the team. If they go forward with Brown and Taylor as their starting tackles, they could feasibly focus on another position with the 14th pick in the 2023 draft.

    I also shared my thoughts on why Taylor would be the best fit for the Patriots in free agency, and other notable names to think about, on the latest Sports Hub Patriots Podcast with Alex Barth. Have a listen below.

  • Sports Hub Patriots Podcast | Offseason Preview

    (Click here to subscribe to Patriots Audio on 98.5 The Sports Hub.)

  • 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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