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Patriots News 01-15, The 2023 Offseason Begins Now

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 weeks ago at 5:00 am ET

Patriots News 01-15, The 2023 Offseason Begins NowJan 1, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the field for warm ups before the start of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

How Do They Get Back To The Postseason?

Good morning, and unfortunately, while Wild Card Weekend is in full swing, the Patriots are already in the process of fixing their issues for the 2023 season. But the good news is, the needs aren’t as extensive as one would think. 

We’ll get into that below and talk about what we feel is how they can return to the postseason and be a competitive playoff team in 2023. Later this week, we’ll take a look at the team’s free agents and decide which ones need to come back and which ones should be allowed to find greener pastures.

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:  

Patriots Statement: The Patriots released a statement on Thursday that was quite different (for them) in regard to how they conduct business. In a rare move of transparency, the Patriots put their plans out in public.

“The New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick have begun contract extension discussions with Jerod Mayo that would keep him with the team long-term,” the statement said. “In addition, the team will begin interviewing for offensive coordinator candidates beginning next week.”

The Patriots have had such a brain drain in the past few seasons as the coaching staff has been poached, and it was an issue that came home to roost in 2022 on the offensive side of the ball. They obviously want to keep Mayo, who has already been asked to interview for a head coaching job in Carolina, in the fold. 

It will be intriguing to see if they can work out the details to keep Mayo (Asst. Head Coach-Def.?) on the Patriots staff. As for the OC position, that move is the #1 need heading into the 2023 season.  

Pat Freiermuth: The Steelers tight end raised some eyebrows with his comments about not wanting to play for Bill Belichick. The Massachusetts native said how much he enjoyed playing for Mike Tomlin during an interview on the Off The Field with Aditi, podcast. 

Freiermuth (at the 10:41 mark)said  he “wouldn’t want to play for coach Belichick.” He added he had “heard some stories” and was good with not playing for New England. Aditi Kinkhabwala later posted on Twitter that she brought up Belichick and that Freiermuth “wasn’t ripping anyone.”

DeAndre Hopkins: The 30-year-old wide receiver is expected to be traded this off-season by the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots are one of three teams that are rumored to have the inside track on trading for Hopkins, as well as Green Bay and Kansas City. 

Hopkins is still a viable #1 receiver. He played in only nine games this season due to a suspension but still added 717 yards receiving yards. That worked out to 79.6 yards per game and would equate to 1353 yards in a 17-game season. However, Hopkins played in only four games with QB Kyler Murray and averaged 96.3 yards per game. Jakobi Meyers led the Patriots with 804 yards in 14 games.

Hopkins and Bill Belichick have a mutual admiration society, as evidenced by their pregame talk earlier this season. When the Houston Texans were trading Hopkins a few years ago, the Patriots attempted to make a trade with Houston involving Jamie Collins.

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I looked at the Bills game and took a look at 2023. 

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Fixing the Patriots In 2023:
This is a pivotal year for the Patriots. After Josh McDaniels left to take the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders, it was clear that the Patriots didn’t have a succession plan in place to replace him, and he took three offensive coaches with him.

The loss of McDaniels, QB coach Bo Hardegree, OL coach Carmine Bricillo and WR coach Mick Lombardi left a void that took a huge toll on the offense and Mac Jones. Hiring an experienced OC is essential. So also does the Special Teams.

The Patriots still have positional holes to fill as well as also. And a slew of free agents that have to be decided upon as to whether to bring them back or let them walk.

So, how do the Patriots begin to plan to fix the team this year? Let’s start with the first.

Hire an Experienced Offensive Coordinator: There’s a no-brainer, right? Matt Patricia as the defacto OC and Joe Judge as the QB coach didn’t get it done in 2022. The offense and QB Mac Jones badly regressed. 

And the team announcement on Thursday wasn’t just throwing a bone to the fans that the team is intent on making changes next season. It is absolutely necessary to get it done as soon as possible. The new OC will probably bring in his own QB coach as well. 

Those two will have to do an extensive job of self-scouting the team. They need to see each player’s strengths and weaknesses and how to utilize those talents best. Then they’ll have to sit down with the head coach to decide which players will fit their system and which don’t.

Then they’ll have to decide which of the team’s free agents fit into their plans. Currently, the free agents on offense include Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Damien Harris, Isaiah Wynn, Marcus Cannon, Yodny Cajuste, James Ferentz, and Connor McDermott.

The new coaches will also have a say in who the team should target in free agency and start doing work on the 2023 draft, where the Patriots own the 14th pick.

There have been some names thrown out there, and while I’d love to see some new blood brought in, we all know Bill Belichick always looks to hire coaches he’s familiar with/worked with.

I’m focusing on the three main names: Bill O’Brien, Chad O’Shea, and Nick Calley.

O’Brien is, of course, the front-runner in everyone’s book. He was the team’s OC back in 2011 and worked in Alabama with Mac Jones. He also has a child with medical needs and would benefit from Boston’s outstanding children’s hospitals. 

He’s familiar with the Patriots’ offense and terminology that they ran during the Josh McDaniels years, and the transition with Mac Jones should be fairly seamless. However, he comes with a caveat which we’ll mention below. 

O’Shea is another coach who worked with the Patriots for 10 years during the McDaniels era. He also worked with other teams/coaches as well. He’d be very familiar with the Patriots system as well.

Calley was thought to be (including here) the guy they were going to turn to in calling the offensive plays in 2022. He has been the Tight Ends coach for the past several years. His contract is up, and he’d be an intriguing choice. Many OCs work their way up from being tight-end coaches. The Jets said they would like Calley to interview for their open OC position. 

Hire a New Special Teams Coordinator: Cam Achord has been under fire for the past two years, and with good reason. The STs in 2022 was the worst in the Belichick era. And no one dedicates as many players and practice time to STs as Belichick. 

Achord has the institutional knowledge and respect of his players to be successful, but it hasn’t worked out for some reason. And changes have to be made. As much as the call to fire both Patricia and Judge has been resonating with the fanbase, putting Judge back in charge of STs is a no-brainer. He got a head coaching gig with the Giants specifically because of his STs work. 

The STs coordinator has to deal with the free agency of Joe Cardona, Cody Davis, Michael Palardy, and Quinn Nordin (ERFA), as well as Matthew Slater, who is considering retirement. 

Sign an Established #1 WR: The team currently has Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton under contract. Meyers and Agholor are free agents. They’ll have to decide whether Meyers will command too much money to retain. 

The offense in 2023 has to feature much more of Thornton and Bourne, and they need a #1 WR who opposing teams will have to game plan against. A game changer someone who will draw coverage away from the others, allowing them more room to operate and making the entire group better.

DeAndre Hopkins is the most frequently named player mentioned coming to the Patriots. If he stays in Arizona, Hopkins would be owed $30 million in 2023. However, if he’s traded, his cap hit to the new team is $19.4 million.  As we said above, Hopkins and Belichick spoke to each other before a prime-time game in 2022. 

However, this is where the caveat we mentioned above with Bill O’Brien comes in. Reportedly O’Brien and Hopkins didn’t get along in Houston, which was why he was traded to Arizona. If O’Brien is hired as the OC, would Hopkins invoke his no-trade clause to the Patriots? Or could the two get along in a new environment?

Sign a Top-tier Offensive Tackle: There are a couple of very good tackles on the market this year in free agency. In truth, the Patriots could really use two. Both Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown had the worst years of their respective careers. If the team were to cut Brown, they’d save about $6 million on the salary cap. 

They could sign a right tackle and draft a left with the #14 pick in the draft with several very good tackles or vice-versa. I spoke with our own Derek Havens today (Friday), and he mentioned Mike McGlinchey, the excellent right tackle of the 49ers. His average market value is slotted to be $10.7 million per year, according to Spotrac. 

We’ll get into draft prospects later, but the draft is very deep at tackle. 

Add A Boundary Corner/Free Safety: With Jonathan Jones being a free agent, the fact that he’s shown the ability to play inside and outside may bump his value up and out of range for the Patriots. Some good boundary corners are available in free agency, including James Bradberry of the Eagles, Bradley Roby, Marcus Peters, and more. And there are some intriguing corners in the draft as well. 

If Devin McCourty does indeed retire, free safety may be an area that needs to be addressed. However, if the team resigns Jabrill Peppers, he and Adrian Phillips could man the in-the-box, dime linebacker role and move Kyle Dugger to McCourty’s role as a center fielder/free safety taking advantage of his athleticism. 

Those are the major changes needed, and it can be done if things fall into place for the Patriots. Adding good coaching on offense, STs, and the right mix of players could vault the team back into contention. 

Wild Card Weekend Predictions:

The slate of games for Wild Card Weekend and my predictions are straight up for this week.

Saturday Football

San Francisco over Seattle
LA Chargers over Jacksonville

Sunday

Buffalo over Miami
Minnesota over NY Giants
Cincinnati over Baltimore
Dallas over Tampa Bay

Last Week:        11—5

This Season:   175—92—2

Last Season:   182—88—1

2020 Season:  169—86—1

2019 Season:  162—93—1

______________

There’s a couple parts to that question, so let me try and go backwards here if I can bring it all together. Certainly, there were a lot of examples where players in the rookie class showed promise and gained some experience. We’ll try to build on that. They’ll learn from that and build on it. 

“Year two is a different year, not everything goes in a straight-line progression. Some players start their career quickly and show promise their rookie year or part of their rookie year and sometimes that levels off, sometimes that ascends. Some players don’t do much their rookie year, [Tom] Brady for example, and end up turning into a different level of player later in their career. 

“It’s really hard to tell how that’s going to go. I think it depends on certainly those players having opportunity, the players that gained experience and had production, have an opportunity to build on that. It doesn’t always go that way. Some of the players that didn’t have very much production or maybe didn’t have very much opportunity, James White would be another player in the past that you could put in that category. 

“As a rookie, didn’t have any production, neither did Tom and they became great players in this organization. Year two is related to year one, but in a way it’s a little bit independent of year one. That’s a lot of time a combination of opportunity, player development and the players commitment and recognition of what he needs to do to improve, whether he had a productive rookie year or not. Certainly, we’ve seen players come in and have productive rookie years and then go on to have great careers and build off of that. 

“It’s a great question, and everybody’s in their own unique situation on that; each player is. It will really be in large part, up to them, to determine how their career goes from here, in year two and in subsequent years. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, but certainly from a team standpoint, the players that did get experience, the players that did have an opportunity to perform, there’s a much better evaluation of those players and certainly in anticipation of what they will be able to do or maybe some things they need to work on or maybe some things that they aren’t going to be able to do so well and how you work around those. 

“That’s a part of the process, but I’d say year two is always an interesting process because it doesn’t always go in a straight line. Some players can ascend very quickly, but that doesn’t necessarily happen with all players, so we’ll have to see there. 

“Yeah, overall, they gave us a pretty decent level of contributions for the year and that’s good. We’ve had a couple of years of that, so hopefully we can continue, and those players will continue to develop in more of a straight-line course like Kyle Dugger or somebody like that, that has kind of been steady in their progress versus low to high or maybe high to more moderate. Good question, thank you.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick asked about the contributions of this year’s rookie class and the impact that they had.

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 


Posted Under: Patriots 2023 Offseason
Tags: Bill Belichick Damien Harris Devin McCourty Jakobi Meyers James White Jamie Collins Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots 2023 offseason

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