New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Bill Belichick watches as Mac Jones and the Patriots warm up before a game. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

*Cracks knuckles*

With training camp starting next week, the Patriots’ offseason has come to a close. Let’s dig in.

This year, I tried something new at the start of the offseason. Instead of covering each step incrementally, I laid out a 10-point plan for the Patriots to build themselves back up into a playoff team.

The goal at the time was to create and ambitious yet realistic step-by-step offseason for the Patriots to get them back to being a team over .500 and competing into late January. There was no “trade for Patrick Mahomes, Justin Jefferson, and Patrick Surtain II while also moving up in the draft to take Will Anderson” talk. It was about creating a realistic approach, factoring in the historical trends of the front office.


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Even looking back on the original plan, I still believe that had the Patriots been able to follow it to a tee they would be positioned for a playoff run. In the end, they ended up completing some steps of what was laid out, but did have some crucial misses.

How much of the plan came to fruition? What got left behind? Let’s revisit that January 13 post and see how it turned out.

  • Step 1. Find new offensive and special teams coordinators

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien works with the team at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 12, 2023; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien works with the team at the Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Check and check. The Patriots ended up hiring Bill O’Brien – who was the favorite to land the job at the time the plan was put together – to replace Matt Patricia. He was the most qualified candidate to get the offense back on the right track, and now he’ll have a chance to do just that.

    As for special teams, the original post included the idea that a “whether its moving Joe Judge back to his old position or making an outside hire, a change is needed [at special teams coordinator].” Based on what we saw this spring it appears that Judge is back in charge of special teams, although is exact title remains unknown and up in the air with Cam Achord also still employed by the team.

    Original post for Part 1

  • Step 2. Upgrade positional coaches

    Oct 8, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Oregon Ducks associate head coach Adrian Klemm against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 8, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Oregon Ducks associate head coach Adrian Klemm against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    For the most part, the Patriots took care of this step as well. On offense, they added Adrian Klemm as an offensive line coach – replacing Patricia, and brought it Will Lawing to coach tight ends. In addition to serving as offensive coordinator, O’Brien will also be the team’s quarterback’s coach. Defensively, they retained head coaching candidate Jerod Mayo, and with that avoided other staffers leaving to join him and wherever he would have been hired.

    The one thing they didn’t do that was discussed back in January was add coaching depth. That could still come later – it will be interested to see what happens with former players like LeGarrette Blount and Aaron Dobson, who spent the spring with the team on a coaching fellowship. While the top of their coaching depth chart looks good right now, good coaches tend to leave for better jobs and it would benefit the Patriots to start preparing the next group of coaches now as assistants as they’ve done in the past.

    Original post for Part 2

  • Step 3. Don’t get dramatic at quarterback

    Oct 24, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) run onto the field before a game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 24, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) and quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) run onto the field before a game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    There was certainly quarterback drama for the Patriots this past offseason, but they didn’t get dramatic in practice. While some of the talk out of the team – such as Bill Belichick refusing to say Mac Jones’ name – certainly made headlines, the closest the Patriots got to pushing Jones with their actions was a pre-Combine meeting with Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson. In the spring, Jones worked exclusively with the first-team offense, with no sign of a quarterback competition between him and Bailey Zappe.

    As training camp gets underway, it should be clear to everyone – including Jones – that he is the team’s starting quarterback. All he needs to worry about now is proving the team right in trusting him.

    Original post for Part 3

  • Step 4. Internal free agency

    L-R: RB Damien Harris, WR Jakobi Meyers, CB Jonathan Jones (Getty Images)

    L-R: RB Damien Harris, WR Jakobi Meyers, CB Jonathan Jones (Getty Images)

    We broke the team’s 23 internal free agents into five categories – must returnworth paying extra to bring backonly bring back on a team-friendly deal, back if not retired, and it’s time to move on.

    There were not make-or-break free agents for the Patriots in 2023, but they did bring back all three players in our second group in cornerback Jonathan Jones, safety Jabrill Peppers, and long snapper Joe Cardona. Even better, none of those signings felt like exuberant contracts.

    Of the 12 players in the ‘team-friendly deal’ category, eight were re-signed. Those who ended up elsewhere were wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, running back Damien Harris, and restricted free agents Yodny Cajuste and Kristian Wilkerson. Because the Patriots were able to replace Meyers with JuJu Smith-Schuster the only key loss here is Harris, as the Patriots gave James Robinson a comparable contract to what Harris got in Buffalo (one year, $1.7 million), only for Robinson to be released before the end of spring practices.

    The ‘back if not retired’ category included just two players, safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Matthew Slater. McCourty retired, and Slater re-signed. Finally, the Patriots didn’t bring back any of the players in our ‘time to move on’ section. So again, outside of failing to retain Harris it felt like the Patriots did a good job with their own free agents.

    Original post for Part 4

  • Step 5. Contract extensions

    Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) and linebacker Josh Uche (55) react after making stop against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) and linebacker Josh Uche (55) react after making stop against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Technically, this step could still happen during training camp. So, we’ll give the team an ‘incomplete’ on this one. The 2020 draft class became eligible for contract extensions this offseason. For the Patriots, that group is highlighted by Kyler DuggerMichael Onwenu, and Josh Uche.

    As we explained in the original post Dugger is the most likely of the three to get a deal. The Patriots do tend to work on extensions during camp, so this remains something to keep an eye out for.

    Original post for Part 5

  • Step 6. Get a veteran No. 1 wide receiver

    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 12: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 27-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals during a game at State Farm Stadium on Dec. 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    As we get to the external portion of free agency, we also get to the Patriots’ first major failure of the offseason – failing to get an established, coverage-dictating wideout to add to their offense. After months of rumors about players like DeAndre HopkinsJerry JeudyMike Evans, Tee Higgins, and more, the only change to the Patriots’ wide receiver room ended up being swapping Meyers with Smith-Schuster.

    Granted, the wide receiver group the Patriots have right now isn’t bad – it’s certainly better than the group they had when they made the playoffs in 2021. But adding an experienced No. 1 would have unlocked the full potential of the offense with relative ease. Instead, that now falls on O’Brien and his staff maximizing the skillset of Jones and the players around him through scheme and creativity.

    Original post for Part 6

  • Step 7. Sign one of the top offensive tackles in free agency

    Dec 24, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (57) on the line of scrimmage against the Seattle Seahawks during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 24, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (57) on the line of scrimmage against the Seattle Seahawks during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    This is another key box the Patriots did not end up checking his offseason. Despite having money to spend, and needing a tackle in a great free agency tackle class, the Patriots didn’t sign any players from the top group that included Mike McGlinchey, Orlando Brown, Jawaan Taylor, or Kaleb McGary.

    Instead, they ended up with a project player in Calvin Anderson and a former starting-caliber player on the back end of his career in 34-year-old Riley Reiff. Given that, the team didn’t do much to add stability to a position that was a problem for them last year.

    Original post for Part 7

  • Step 8. Other free agency additions

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Taylor Rapp #24 of the Los Angeles Rams takes the field prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on January 08, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JANUARY 08: Taylor Rapp #24 of the Los Angeles Rams takes the field prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on January 08, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    After signing a tackle, there were a few other targeted additions we were looking for the Patriots to make. One was signing a veteran boundary cornerback who could mix into the rotation, which didn’t end up happening (although Marcus Peters is still a free agent).

    Another suggestion was added a true free safety to help make up for the departure of Devin McCourty. The Patriots did host Taylor Rapp – who we mentioned in the original post – for a visit but in the end stuck with the safeties they already had.

    Our final free agent target was a veteran running back to replace Damien Harris given the various uncertainties associated with Ty MontgomeryPierre Strong, and Kevin Harris. That player ended up being James Robinson, who didn’t make it through spring practices.

    Original post for Part 8

  • Step 9. Draft an offensive tackle in the 1st round

    Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Broderick Jones (59) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Broderick Jones (59) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The motto of the offseason for the Patriots was supposed to be SODO – ‘sign one draft one’ – referring to tackles. The idea was to finally fill a longstanding need for the team and make sure Jones or any other future quarterbacks would be protected for the long term.

    The board didn’t exactly help the Patriots here, with three of the four top tackles going before they were scheduled to select with the 14th overall pick. The remaining player, Georgia’s Broderick Jones, reportedly had some red flags during the pre-draft process. Instead, the Patriots traded down with the Steelers. Pittsburgh took Jones, and the Patriots ended up with Christian Gonzalez.

    In the end, that was a win for the Patriots even as they deviated from the plan. Cornerback was another major need, and they got a player many had as the top corner in the draft and some as a top-10 pick. At the same time, while Jones certainly would have helped stabilize the tackle position he wasn’t a sure thing either. Still, it would have been a bigger hit had they truly addressed the tackle need in free agency.

    Original post for Part 9

  • Step 10. Other draft needs

    Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu (Sacramento State Athletics)

    Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu (Sacramento State Athletics)

    After tackle, we identified cornerback as the Patriots’ second-biggest need in the draft. That was obviously addressed and addressed well by selecting Gonzalez.

    As for the needs after that, the Patriots added an ‘athletic off-ball linebacker’ (Marte Mapu), developmental slot receiver (Kayson Boutte and Demario Douglas), kicker (Chad Ryland) and punter (Bryce Baringer). Needs we mentioned they didn’t address were true deep safety and tight end (although they did sign Johnny Lumpkin as a UDFA).

    Original post for Part 10

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