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[Off-season] New England Patriots: for Mayo to take

The 2023 season has just ended, and on March 14, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes this opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the offseason. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agents to extend? Which recruits to observe? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the New England Patriots.

It's the start of a new era in New England. After the departure of Tom Brady, the Patriots method was still guaranteed by the presence of Bill Belichick. Now the coach is gone too. For the first time in more than two decades, New England will have a new coach. Jerod Mayo has been promoted to lead this team and now has to prove himself. In any case, he has a huge task ahead of him with a team which has only won 4 games in 2023.

The subject of the quarterback will necessarily be preponderant, but be careful not to focus only on the thrower. Other areas need improvement in New England. The advantage is that the franchise has one of the largest financial margins with no less than $66 million available in the cap (3rd highest total in the league).

The captains

1. Matt Judon (DE)
2. Christian Barmore (DT)
3. Christian Gonzalez (CB)

Unsurprisingly, all the captains of this team are in defense. It is indeed difficult to currently find essential players within the offensive squad. On the other side of the ball, however, there are elements that must be the pillars of a solid defense in 2024.

Matthew Judon first of all, is perhaps the best player in this squad. The former Ravens player quickly established himself as the cornerstone of this defense. During his first two seasons in Massachusetts, the pass rusher had 28 sacks. In 2023, unfortunately, Judon was injured after 4 matches.

Hit in the biceps, he was unable to help his partners and it showed. Without him, New England's defense isn't quite the same. He is also the 4th sacker on this team in 2023 (4 sacks) with only 4 games played. His return next year should help the Patriots.

Matthew Judon

He will be accompanied by young players who will gain more and more weight in this formation. The two Christians will also be the leaders. The first, Christian Barmore, literally exploded this year. During his first two seasons, he had already shown enormous potential, but it was in 2023 that this was expressed with notably 8.5 sacks in 17 games. At 24 years old, he is already one of the best players in the league at his position.

The second, Christian Gonzalez, is promised a future ball. The rookie only played 4 games last year, but has already proven that he has the build of a great. During his first 3 meetings, the 17th choice in the draft has already proven that he can slow down AJ Brown, Tyreek Hill and even Garrett Wilson. Performances which allowed him to be elected defensive rookie of the month for November. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely after a serious shoulder injury in October. The young player should return to 100% in 2024. He will in any case be an important part of Jerod Mayo's air defense.

The undesirables

JC Jackson (CB)
– Davon Godchaux (DT)
Mac Jones (QB)

The first name on this list is a no-brainer. While he had exploded at the Patriots, JC Jackson left for the Chargers by signing a big contract… before returning to Massachusetts via an exchange. Except that his salary remains staggering and cutting him would save the franchise $14 million. This decision would increase the Patriots' available envelope from 66 to 80 million for this next free agency. A significant increase which makes Jackson's future very uncertain. It cannot be ruled out that the cornerback remains in New England by re-signing a much lower contract.

For the rest, few players cost too much in New England. One of the few can be found on the defensive line. Despite a good season Davon Godchaux still accounts for 11 million in the payroll. Cutting it would save 8 million cap space to the Patriots at a position where the franchise regularly succeeds in releasing good players. Finally, quarterback Mac Jones is necessarily part of this list. Although there is little chance he will be cut since he is still on his rookie contract, Mac Jones does not represent the future in New England and may not be part of Mayo's plans.

The summer man

Jerod Mayo (Head Coach)

It’s hard not to put the Patriots’ new strong man in this category. Despite a path that was all mapped out for the former franchise player, going after Bill Belichick is no easy feat. The idea is not to forget the best coach of all time, but to create a new dynamic in Massachusetts. For this, Mayo will first be expected to create its staff. Knowing how to surround yourself is perhaps the most important thing when taking the helm of an NFL franchise. Jerod Mayo must find, in particular, his two coordinators. For now, research continues.

Then, it will be necessary to build or rebuild this squad, particularly offensively, before implementing its playing principles. In short, the task is difficult for the man who was for a few days the youngest active coach in the NFL. From now on, only Mike Macdonald, very recent coach of the Seahawks, is younger than the 37-year-old head coach. Considered a charismatic leader, he will in any case be expected around the corner by supporters who hope to see the franchise revitalized.

The main free agents

1. Kyle Dugger (S)
2. Mike Onwenu (OT)
3. Trent Brown (OT)
4. Josh Uche (Edge)
5. Hunter Henry (TE)

The others: Kendrick Bourne (WR), Riley Reiff (RT), Mike Gesicki (TE), Ezekiell Elliott (RB), Myles Bryant (CB), Jalen Mills (CB)…

The advantage of having a squad that is not particularly performing is that the fear of losing a major free agent is only very limited. That will be the case for the Patriots in 2024. Few free agents deserve the franchise to break the bank to keep them. The fact remains that the Pats would be well advised to keep a few players. Safety Kyle Dugger is one of them. Rarely, Bill Belichick's New England was inclined to give big contracts to safeties. It remains to be seen whether Jerod Mayo and the leaders will keep this guideline or not. At 28 years old, this will perhaps be the last big contract for the defender who will perhaps be very greedy.

On the offensive line, we will have to make choices. The two tackles, Mike Onwenu and Trent Brown are indeed free agents. The Patriots could decide to gamble on Onwenu here. The former Michigan man is younger (26 versus 30), more versatile and less injured lately. In short, if the Patriots only have to keep one, it should be right tackle.

For the rest, if the squad is to improve, we must make room and therefore not retain certain players. Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne are, for example, the franchise's two best touchdown scorers in 2023 with 6 and 4 respectively, but will perhaps not be selected to bring in new blood.

The Top 5 needs

1. Quarterback
2. Receiver
3. Offensive line
4. Defensive line
5. Running back

We could have put “talent, talent, talent and talent” in this list of needs as the Patriots workforce seems to lack them. In attack, the priority file is necessarily the quarterback. Mac Jones and Baley Zappe clearly do not represent a long-term solution and we will have to find a new pitcher. Whether via the draft with a young person with high potential or with a more experienced quarterback via free agency (or both), managers have work to do. But that won't be all since it will subsequently be necessary to surround this new attacking leader.

The receiving group absolutely needs to be strengthened, as does the offensive line to protect it. To a lesser extent, the riders will also need support, especially if Ezekiel Elliott, free agent, is not retained. In short, the entire offensive squad needs to be remodeled. New England will have money to spend this offseason and Jerod Mayo has made it clear he won't be afraid to line up the dollars. You still have to do it intelligently.

On defense, the urgency is less great, but if we had to prioritize one sector, it would be the defensive line and more precisely the pass-rush. The Patriots must be more decisive in this area and a little reinforcement would not be too much.

Target

Mike Evans (WR)

New England clearly lacks a number 1 receiver. Since Julian Edelman in 2019, no Patriots receiver has exceeded 1,000 receiving yards. It's time for this to change. With the money available, leaders have the opportunity to make a big impact. And who better than Mike Evans to take on this role. The Buccaneer is simply one of the best ball catchers in the league. At 30 years old, he is still performing well and has just concluded his 10th consecutive season with more than 1,000 yards.

Mike Evans, Buccaneers wide receiver

Of course, it could be expensive, but New England should take a chance. If they fail to flush out Evans, the Patriots could try their luck on the other names present in free agency this year: Tee Higgings or Michael Pitman could be good fallback solutions. Finally, with the 3rd pick in the draft, the temptation to choose Marvin Harrison Jr. could be great, but that would mean missing out on a young quarterback.

New blood

Jayden Daniels (QB, LSU)

The opportunity is too good to pass up. Positioned 3rd in the next draft, the Patriots must choose a new quarterback. Recovering a rookie with high potential could restore hope offensively and would allow Jerod Mayo to be able to build around the pitcher. It remains to be seen which one. If the Bears and Commanders, ahead of them in the draft, choose a quarterback, New England won't really have a choice.

Assuming that Caleb Williams and Drake Maye will be in the top two spots in this draft, the Patriots could move towards Jayden Daniels. The LSU pitcher represents a dual threat who could transform Jerod Mayo's offensive squad in the coming years. The winner of the last Heisman Trophy in any case has certain odds. Enough to convince the Patriots?

Other choices: Caleb Williams (QB), Drake Maye (QB), Marvin Harrison (WR)…

SEE ALSO:  Rams – Browns (36-19): Failed return for Joe Flacco
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