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MORSE: Free Agency Projections and Post Combine Patriots Mock Draft

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
March 7, 2024 at 10:01 am ET

MORSE: Free Agency Projections and Post Combine Patriots Mock Draft(PHOTO: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 6 minutes

Monday starts the Legal Tampering period where teams and players can exchange proposals and essentially agree upon new contracts that can’t be executed until Thursday, the offiical start of the NFL’s new year.  Many of the top Free Agents will announce their agreements over these three days.   The Patriots have $100M available to them under the salary cap to spend on free agents and contract extensions.   There is a lot of pressure on Robyn Glaser and Jonathan Kraft to structure these contracts right.  Her role is not to negotiate the contracts, but to structure the contract and that means the money and how its paid out,

Free Agency

JC Jackson has been released to the tune of a $13M savings off the cap, giving the Patriots $100M to spend on Free Agents.

Kyle Dugger S Transition Tag – That’s $13.8M or what they match from an offer Dugger might get from another team.  That’s way too much for a Safety that is ranked #68 by Pro Football Focus.  Further by tagging Dugger they allow Michael Onwenu to go to Free Agency because they can’t tag two players in the same year.

Tyron Smith OT – There are reports the Patriots are interested in former Cowboys standout Left Tackle Tyron Smith.  Smith has played in 8 Pro Bowls and has made 1st or 2nd team All-Pro 5 times.  He is 33 years old and will turn 34 in December.  Last year he missed 4 games.  Is he worth a one-year $7.5M contract?  If the Patriots sign him, that completely changes my draft strategy.  Instead of taking an OT in the 1st round, the Patriots will invest in that position later in the draft.

Xavier Howard CB – At 31 next season the former Miami All-Pro still has something left in the tank and they could use that savings from JC Jackson on a two-year deal for Howard.

Xavier McKinney FS – The Patriots defense was good but not great because they had a gaping hole in their secondary at Free Safety.  Bill Belichick did nothing to fill the departing Devin McCourty’s spot and it burnt them on multiple occasions this past season.  Kyle Dugger and Jalen Mills were no answer.  Spotrac has McKinney Market Value at 5-years $10.5M Annual Average Salary (AAV).  McKinney is ranked 4th among all Safeties by PFF.

Michael Onwenu RT – Make him a 5 year offer around the $15M AAV area.  They didn’t tag him because the ye chose to tag Dugger instead.  Hopefully this means they are close on a contract extension.  Otherwise, they have been bidding against themselves and Onwenu is gone.  Spotrac estimates that Onwenu’s Market Value is more like 5 years $13.5 AAV.   The signing of Onwenu could be the largest contract ever given a Patriots Offensive Lineman in the teams history.

Hunter Henry TE  The Patriots have just one TE signed (LaMichael Pettway) Spotrac doesn’t see much of a market for Henry and thinks a 1year $7.5M AAV contract will get Henry (age 29).  PFF ranks Henry 19th among NFL TEs.

Kendrick Bourne WR Bourne was the best receiver on the team until his knee injury ended his season.  I would like to see him resigned.  Spotrac has Market value at 3-years $14.65M, $3.8M AAV.  I would like to see him signed to just a one-year contract at even less money.   It has been reported that Bourne has been offered a contract by the Patriots at $15M but Bourne is going to look into Free Agency.

Jacoby Brissett QB Michael Holley and Greg Bedard were all for signing Brissett (much to the chagrin of Mike Felger) as a stop gap QB until whoever the Patriots draft at QB is ready.  He made $8M last season and 3-year $24.5M with incentives.  New Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt has coached Brissett in Cleveland and he can run his new Offense.  The Patriots can structure the contract with incentives for games started that reward Brissett as the starter while his base pay is that of a veteran backup.

Anfernee Jennings Edge – Jennings filled in very well for Matt Judon and established himself as a strong edge defender against the run.   However, he lacks pass rush ability and will be taken out on pass rush downs.  A three-year $2M AAV contract should get him back in the fold.  He finished with 63 tackles in 15 games and 1.5 sacks.  Jennings will turn 27 before the start of the season.

Andrew Van Ginkel Edge He is exactly what Jennings isn’t.  Van Ginkel filled in very well for Jaelen Phillips who went down early in the season.   He made $2.65M on a 1- year contract last year.  A 3- year $15M, $5M AAV contract could get it done.  Van Ginkel is a 5-year vet and had 69 tackles and 6 sacks in 17 games.  Van Ginkel will be 29 at the start of next season.

Noah Brown WR – The 28-year-old has had back-to-back good seasons with Dallas and Houston.  The former 7th round pick out of Ohio State caught 43 and 33 passes that past seasons.  He is 6’2” 215 lbs., who ran a 4.56 coming out of college.  His offer will be in the same range as Kendrick Bourne’s 3-years, $15M and AAV of $5.6M.

Other Patriots Free Agents

Pharoah Brown- Re-signed

Myles Bryant -Re-signed

Matt Judon – Extension

Alex Austin – ERFA

Nathan Rourke – SIGNED

Further Moves

Juju Smith-Schuster – a post June 1st cut will save them about $1M against the cap.

DaVante Parker Trade – 4 years in a row he was the worst receiver in the league to get separation from the DB.  He is deadwood that is occupying a roster spot.  The only way the Patriots can get any cap relief is if Parker is traded.  I would take a basket of used jock straps to get rid of Parker.

Mock Draft #3 Post Combine

Now that we have the Free Agents filled, we can set a draft board accordingly.  Several players made money with strong performances at the combine.  Again, I used Pro Football Focus Mock Draft Simulator.  They have adjusted and will continue to adjust their player rankings as it gets closer to the Draft.   Those players that performed well at the combine moved up the board.  Others that didn’t took a hit and dropped.

#3 Marvin Harrison Jr. – Assuming the Patriots sign Tyron Smith to play LT, the Patriots switch gears to Wide Receiver.  It was reported that some in his camp don’t want him to play in a cold weather city, but that was debunked by Daniels in a post on X.  Harrison is a once in a generation wideout.  The son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison, he has arrived in NE via a strange route.  He refused to workout at the combine or Pro Days stating that if your scouts can’t see in the video of what I did on the field, then perhaps they need to seek a new occupation.  He has reported 4.39 speed and at 6’3” 209 lbs. has the size to stand up in the NFL.

#34 JJ McCarthy QB Michigan – The National Champion QB does nothing but win.  He had a 28 and 3 record as a starter at Michigan.  During the combine, McCarthy showed during the on-field drills his strong arm (2nd only to Joe Milton by 1 MPH) and making all the throws.  It was reported that he did well in the interview process and when he spoke at the combine, he spoke glowingly about Jerod Mayo and the Patriots interview process.  McCarthy is a pocket passer but has the speed to get outside and escape pressure.  Curious that he ran the 3-cone drill but not the 40.  His 3-cone drill was an outstanding 6.82.  That was faster than all the Patriots WRs last year except Pop Douglas.   At 6’2.5” 219 he has very quick feet as evidenced by the 3-cone drill.  His throws to the outside and deep throws were terrific.  Depending upon if the Patriots can sign Michael Onwenu, the Patriots might swing a deal with Kansas City (#32) to get back into the 1st round to take McCarthy and secure a a fifth-year option on a QB that most likely will sit a year and learn.

TRADE – NE trades Third Round #64, Fourth Round # 104 and 2025 #2 to ATL for Second Round # 43 and Third Round #79

#43 Kingsley Suamataia OT BYU – The Patriots get their LT of the future, but he will be the starting Right Tackle if they lose Onwenu.  The 6’5” 326lb. Swing Tackle ran 5.04 40.  At his weight that is an excellent time.  They give up alot to get this pick, but they need at least two tackles unless they can re-sign Onwenu.

#79 Brenden Rice WR USC – He is the son of Hall of Fame WR Jerry Rice.  At 6’ 2” 208 lbs . he ran a 4.5 flat 40.   her are his attributes per NFL.com:

  • Touchdown-maker, bringing in a score every 5.2 catches during career.
  • Works aggressively back to the throw and scrambles open for his passer.
  • Good job of setting up corners when breaking off short slants.
  • Shows ability to make route cuts at sharper angles on the move.
  • Excellent physicality at the top of the route to open catch doors.
  • Outworks and outreaches the competition on 50/50 balls.

Rice had an excellent ratio of scoring a TD every 5.2 catches.

#136 Roger Rosengarten T Washington – He played Right Tackle but does have the speed to play Left Tackle.  Troy Fautanu, who will be a 1st round pick played Left Tackle for Washington.   Rosengarten had a blazing 4.92 40 at 6’5” 308lbs.  Rosengarten could be the starting Right Tackle if Onwenu is not re-signed.  New Patriots Offensive Coordinator Kyle Van Pelt likes to sue a 6th O-lineman in short yardage or as a lead blocker in the backfield.  Rosengarten has the speed and short area explosiveness to handle that assignment.  Scott Peters the new Offensive Line Coach wants to go to a more zone blocking scheme that Rosengarten played at Washington.

#182 Tip Reinman TE Illinois  –  He doesn’t jump off the scoresheet, but his athleticism at 271 lbs is outstanding.  The 6’5” former walk-on turned Team Captain ran a great 4.64 40-yard-dash.  Reinman’s Relative Athletic Score of 9.93 was good for 2nd among TE’s.  His ability to block is how he will make the team.  He has sneaky athleticism that will burn teams.  Reiman can also be that fullback option that Van Pelt likes to use.

#228 Rasheen Ali RB Marshall – Ali was one of the snubs from the Combine.   Can’t wait for his Pro-Day which will show his athleticism and pass catching ability.  Rasheen had two 1000-yard seasons wrapped around a lost season because of injury.  Ali did come back from an opening game injury in 2022 to play the last two games and post a 5.7 YPC.   In 2023 Ali also caught 27 passes.  His estimated 40 time is 4.4.  The 5’ 11” 206 lb runningback was listed on Feldman’s Freak List of all college players at #96.

READ NEXT:
Thursday Patriots Notebook 3/7: News and Notes

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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    rochrist
    rochrist
    20 days ago

    It’s adorable that you think McCarthy will be around at 34. Wrong, but adorable. He won’t make it out of the top 10.

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