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A Blueprint for the Patriots' current free agents

Strong safety Kyle Dugger - set to hit the open market - will be a key focal point of the offseason for the Patriots. PIC: David Silverman

We've got a lot to unpack over the offseason. Will Bill Belichick be back in any of his capacities as the head coach or GM? That determines a lot of what happens next, but it also doesn't stop the Pats from addressing the 19 free agents on their books this offseason.

Source: Spotrac. Note: omitting Nick Folk, who is still on the Pats' payroll. Also omitting the 6 exclusive rights free agents, who the Pats can tender and sign at the league minimum.

Here's how I think it should all shake out.

2024 Free Agency Handbook - Existing Players

Need To Re-Sign

  • Kyle Dugger - SS

  • Josh Uche - OLB

  • Mike Onwenu - OG

Kyle Dugger has kept notoriously quiet on extension rumors, and Josh Uche has said that "wherever that may be, whether it be here, there, anywhere, I just want to play ball.” This needs to be top-of-mind for the Pats to retain their defense-first identity. These two have over-performed their expectations the past few years since they were drafted, and when the Pats bring back a fully-healthy defense next year, these guys will be a big part of it. I want to see them reward their two best defensive contributors in a crappy year by prioritizing their extensions.

On the Mike Onwenu front: this is where it gets a bit hairy. On merit alone, I'm not sure Onwenu deserves to be in this category; it feels like he has made either too many mistakes or hasn't been healthy for the first few years of his career. But with a PFF grade of 79.4 since Week 9, he ranks 9th among offensive tackles during that timeframe. So, on paper, he actually was one of the more productive offensive linemen this season in the entire league. I don't need any excuses for the Pats to take an OL in the first round. Sign Onwenu to a two- or three-year deal, even if it's an overpay, and reap the benefits of a new QB and WR with a halfway-decent offensive line instead.

Would Like To Keep

  • Hunter Henry - TE

  • Kendrick Bourne - WR

  • Jalen Mills - CB

  • Ezekiel Elliott - RB

  • Anfernee Jennings - OLB

  • Mack Wilson - LB

Two-pronged strategy here: reward the guys that you took a flier on, and retain a couple of the weapons you do have. Hunter Henry was really the only viable touchdown target this year, leading the team with 6 receiving TD's. Bourne missed half the year and came in second with four. Both are serviceable pieces - normally they'd be TE2 and WR3 on other teams, but they stepped up big-time in 2023. Jalen Mills felt like one of the more stable DB's this year. The crown jewel defensively on this list has to be Anfernee Jennings, who took a big leap forward in year three, setting a career high in tackles and TFL's. As for the fliers: Elliott proved he has ability left in the tank if utilized the correct way, and Mack Wilson proved to be a drastic improvement over Chase Winovich, who he was traded for in 2022. One thing is for sure: all can contribute in 2024.

On the Fence or Small Deal

  • Mike Gesicki - TE

  • Pharoah Brown - TE

  • Myles Bryant - DB

Mike Gesicki was the Patriot that had me most disappointed this year given his expectations to contribute immediately. If the Pats do well in the WR market via draft or free agency, I'm perfectly fine with Henry, Gesicki, and Brown in the TE room in 2024 - especially with Brown showing he's not just a depth tight end. A one-year "prove it" deal could be a fine stop-gap or pulse check on the status of the team next year. Myles Bryant, despite having a year that some might call a "breakout," was too inconsistent for me to put in the bucket of wanting to have him back. If he'll take a small flier deal, I'll have him back as depth. But if he's wanting big money, let him enjoy being DB1 in Atlanta or Washington next year.

Let Them Walk

  • Trent Brown - OT

  • Cody Davis - FS

  • James Ferentz - C

  • Jalen Reagor - WR

  • Terez Hall - LB

Everybody else? Clean house. Trent Brown has been unengaged the entire season and has openly discussed playing elsewhere. Well, Trent...don't let the door hit you on the way out. Cody Davis and James Ferentz could be hanging it up after this year anyway. Terez Hall had promise, but landed on IR - I wish him well playing on another team and hope he makes his way back. And for Jalen Reagor, minus a few punt returns that looked good, never should have been in New England anyway. Trim the fat.


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