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MORSE: Patriots Free Agents, League Free Agents I would like to sign, Offensive Tackles in Draft

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
January 26, 2024 at 9:48 am ET

MORSE: Patriots Free Agents, League Free Agents I would like to sign, Offensive Tackles in Draft(PHOTO: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Jan 26, 2024 09:48
🕑 Read Time: 8 minutes

Now that the season is over, it’s time to evaluate which of the Patriots Free Agents the team wants to bring back.  The Patriots have up until the start of the New NFL Calendar Year to sign any of their own Free Agents exclusively.  Most Free Agents being this close to Free Agency elect not to negotiate with their former teams until they have started Free Agency.

Resign – Michael Owenu

The Patriots have developed the former 2020 6th Round (#182) selection out of Michigan.  The 6’3” 350 lb lineman was taken to play Right Guard.  He excelled at the position.  However, the need was for a Right Tackle and Owenu moved to play the position twice in his 4 years with the team.  PFF rankings for 2023 Tackles had Owenu at # 29.

The 26-year-old Owenu has been drastically underpaid for his contributions to the team.  His 2023 salary was just $874K.  I would expect Owenu to be valued around $15M per season for 4 years.  I think if the patriots made that offer this week, they could sign Owenu before he gets to Free Agency.  That would show their commitment to Owenu and reward a player they developed with a second contract.

Say Goodbye – Trent Brown

I would have cut Brown last year.  Money doesn’t even motivate Trent Brown.  The Patriots re-negotiated his contract in the Pre-season to give him another $2M in incentives.  Brown didn’t show up to any off-season workouts except the mandatory Mini Camp, and he was a day late for that because of flight problems.

He showed up out of shape for the start of camp and had an “injury” issue that wasn’t resolved until he got the contract reworked.  Amazing how that happened.  During the season he was in and out of the lineup with various injuries.   He had a $6.5M playing time incentive in his contract.  If he played 65% of the offensive snaps he would receive the bonus.

Coming into the final two games he was at 61.9 % and would not have met the 65% even if he had played.  The Patriots held him out of both games.  Players on the team didn’t name him specifically, but alluded to the fact that he was protecting his health as he entered Free Agency, mad because he wasn’t given a contract extension.  We don’t need him or any players with that type of attitude.

Resign – Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott played very well for the Patriots especially in Rhamondre Stephenson’s absence.   Ezekiel was excellent as a receiver out of the backfield.  The estimate by Sportrac is that Elliott will settle for a 1-year, $2.7M contract and if the Patriots offer that they should be able to retain his services.

Resign – Jalon Reagor

He showed enough burst in the brief amount of playing time that they should resign the former 1st round draft pick.  He adjusted well to passes downfield and he also ran well on reverses.  Speed is his calling card and something this team doesn’t have enough of.  He shouldn’t be a very expensive signing.

Say Goodbye – James Ferentz

I can’t believe he has lasted this long in the league.  He is 34 and was a street free agent when the Patriots signed him 4 years ago.  We won’t be saying goodbye for long as Ferentz was working with the young lineman as a de facto O line coach once Adrian Klemm left the team.  He will be added as a coach, probably replacing Billy Yates as the assistant line coach.

Resign – Hunter Henry

Henry was voted as a captain this year and he served notably.  He would love to come back to the Patriots and I think they could get a reasonable deal short of what he made in his last contract.  Seeing that they have just one TE signed beyond this past season, it would be reasonable that he resigns.

Say Goodbye – Mike Gesicki

Gesecki did nothing to earn his salary this year.  He was a huge disappointment.  I thought with his speed and size that he could compete as the slot receiver.  He isn’t and has never been an inline TE that will block.  Gesecki had 29 catches on 49 targets in 17 games.  We can do better in Free Agency.

Resign – Pharaoh Brown

The big TE had some key catches and a good YAC.  He made 13 catches on 15 targets for 208 yards and a 16 YPC average.  That big fumble in Buffalo was a killer, knowing the coaches have been telling them all week long that the Bills secondary tries to pry the ball out on every play.  He will be cheap and should come back.

Resign – Anfernee Jennings

We finally saw the player they thought they were getting in 2020 out of Alabama.  Jennings was very stout against the run and would be taken off the field on 3rd down.  He held the edge and had 14 Tackles for Loss.  His 65 tackles were 6th on the team.

Resign-Mack Wilson

He will not cost much, and he will provide depth for camp.  I would make his chance of making the team as 50/50.  Wilson had 36 and 37 tackles the last two seasons for the Patriots.  He did contribute 3.5 sacks.  I believe it was Mack Wilson who stated that because the Patriots hired Jerod Mayo, he has made re-signing with the Patriots his number one priority.

Say Goodbye – Kyle Dugger

Dugger is going to overvalue himself and he will find out what he is really worth in Free Agency.  According to PFF Dugger is a middle of the road Strong Safety.  The Patriots have Marte Mapu to replace Dugger.  Jabrill Peppers is a top 4 SS.

I am very disappointed in Dugger’s play.  I was very high him when he was drafted.  I loved that Bill Belichick traded out of the 1st round and got a high 2nd round pick and third from LA Chargers.   Especially because Dugger was DII player, and taking a player like Dugger is something that Belichick never does.

If Dugger were to come in with a reasonable contract expectation, I think they would resign him.  If he is asking for the moon, then let him go.

Resign – Christian Elliss (ERFA)

Elliss was a late season addition from waivers.  He started some games for Philadelphia in 2023 and totaled 23 tackles for the season.  The 2021 Undrafted Free Agent is a very good Special Teams player and the type of player the teams need.  One criticism of the Patriots roster is that they have too many Special Teams only players.  Elliss can play linebacker too!

Say Goodbye – Josh Uche

Uche is a one trick pony.  All he can do is rush the passer and once Matt Judon was listed as out, Uche couldn’t produce.  He is awful against the run and can’t hold the edge, getting blown out every time.  Somebody is going to overspend to get his pass rushing skills.

Resign – Myles Bryant

Bryant played very well in a variety of roles last year.  The 2020 Undrafted Free Agent out of Washington is criticized for his size (5’9”).  However, he has played where he was needed and with all the injuries in the secondary, Bryant played well at each different position.  (3-years – 8.33M AAV)

Resign – Joshuah Bledsoe (ERFA)

Bledsoe has sat behind the list of Strong Safeties on this team.  It is his turn to step up.  Resigning him should not be a problem as he is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent.

Resign – Kendrick Bourne

Bourne is coming off his best season with the Patriots up until he got hurt.  Because of the injury I don’t think Bourne will receive Market Value.  I would quickly resign him so that he can continue his rehab of the knee and see if he can come back to his previous form.  The contract would be for 2 years at Vet minimum.

Resign – Alex Austin (ERFA)

Austin was a 7th round selection by Buffalo in last year’s draft.  He looked very good in his brief appearances, so good that the Patriots can afford to let go of an overpriced veteran like Jalen Mills.   As an ERFA he won’t cost much and may not meet the rule of 51 and count towards the Salary Cap.

Say Goodbye – Cody Davis

Another Special Teams only guy that missed part of the season.  He played 11 games after coming back from last year’s knee surgery.  He only had 5 Special Teams tackles and one memorable scoop and score TD off a blocked punt.  He is 34 years old and will be 35 next season.

Say Goodbye – Jalen Mills

He played a lot more than expected this season.  He was tried at Free Safety and was a disaster.  Mills is 29 now and will be 30 next year.  That’s old for a CB.   Mills played all 17 games and had 45 tackles on the season.

Resign – Tre Nixon (ERFA)

Nixon may be best known as the Ernie Adams draft pick.  Belichick allowed Adams to make the final selection in the 2021 draft.  He was waived injured in August and reverted to IR when he cleared waivers and missed the entire season.  ERFA shouldn’t cost much and Nixon will provide camp fodder at WR.

Resign – Tyrone Wheatley (ERFA)

Wheatley is best known as the desperate move the Patriots made at the end of training camp and bring in anyone with a pulse to fill in at Right Tackle.  Wheatley didn’t play a down.  The patriots traded RB Pierre Strong the patriots 2022 4th round (#127).

Outside Free Agents  

Xavier McKinney FS New York Giants – McKinney is in the top 10 FS in the league and is just 26.  The former 2nd round pick by the Giants out of Alabama is a top 10 tackler at Safety.  He will cost an AAV of $8.5M.  The top 3 positions of need are OT, QB and Free Safety.  There are no Tackles worth paying other than your own Michael Owenu.  I would try and sign a veteran Free Safety as I don’t see any in the draft.

Jacoby Brissett QB Washington Commanders – Brissett will be a stop gap transitional QB to let the rookie we draft a couple of years to learn.  He would need a 2-3 year contract with an AAV of $10M.   Take a look at the success Jordan Love had this year after sitting behind Aaron Rodgers for two years and developing.   Also compare what happened to Mac Jones.  Three years, and three different Offensive Coordinator (it’s a stretch to call Matt Patricia an Offensive Coordinator).  This past season under Bill O’Brien, Bill Belichick’s failure to address the Offensive line caused all the Patriots QBs to have PTSD after getting slammed day in and day out.

Michael Pittman WR Indianapolis – Pittman may end up getting Franchised by Indy.  If not, it would cost the Patriots between $18M+ a year for 4-5 years.  He is worth it and instantly upgrades the Patriots receiver room.

Bryce Huff LB New York Jets – He is a big-time pass rusher.  This past season he had 10 sacks.  Replacement for Josh Uche?  Pass rush specialist only.  It will cost them a 4-year contract with AAV of $9.5M.

Andrew Van Ginkel LB Miami Dolphins – Van Ginkel started 11 games this season and had the 2nd most tackles in his career (68) and 6 sacks (career high).  He signed a $2.5M 1-year contract last season and is looking for a raise.  He missed the last two games with a foot injury but will be ready for the start of spring practices, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus. The 28-year-old 5-year vet would give then a low-cost edge player.  $3.5M 2-year deal should be enough to grab Van Ginkel.

Last year, he visited the Patriots before re-signing with Miami.   He didn’t run the 40 at the Combine but ran an impressive 6.89 3-cone drill.  His 40-yard dash at his Pro Day was 4.59.  Thats pretty good for 6’3″ 241 lbs.  He also posted a 38″ Vertical Leap.  The Wisconsin grad was a 2019 5th round (#156) selection by Miami.

Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine game

Practices start this weekend for both All-Star games.  Troy Brown will be the Offensive Coordinator for the Senior Bowl.  He will be one of several unidentified Patriots personnel at the Senior Bowl.  Since both games are running simultaneous practices, there should be Patriots personnel at the East-West practices also.  During this week the coaches get an opportunity to talk with and interview players.

The Senior Bowl features several of the top Offensive Tackles.  Graham Barton, Tyler Guyton, Taliese Fuaga, Jordan Morgan and Patrick Paul will be participating in this game.

Eight Offensive Tackles Could Go in 1st Round

Two separate 1st round projections have 8 Tackles going in the 1st round.  One of those Mock Drafts is by ESPN’s Mel Kiper.   My first Mock Draft had the Patriots taking the #1 Left Tackle, Joe Alt from Notre Dame.  If the Patriots take a QB at #3, they will have to wait until the second round and get the 9th ranked OT.  Whoever they select at OT will have to be plugged in right away into the starting lineup at Left Tackle.

Patriots Sign Michael Jordan

No not that Michael Jordan, this Jordan was a 2019 4th Round (#146) selection by Cincinnati out of Ohio State.  The 6’6″ Left Guard has played in 55 games and started 27 of those games.  He has even been credited with a touchdown, recovering a fumble in the end zone.

He was on Green Bay’s Practice Squad and refused a futures contract from them to sign with New England.  Players from Green Bay could not sign futures contracts until after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs.  His signing will give the Patriots some competition for Atonio Mafi as a backup to Cole Strange.

Jordan’s primary position coming out of college was at Center.  His combine measurables of 5.27 40-yard dash, 34 1/2 ” arm length, combined with his height suggest that he could play Tackle as well.

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.

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