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MORSE: Reactions to Day One of Patriots Free Agency

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
March 12, 2024 at 9:58 am ET

MORSE: Reactions to Day One of Patriots Free Agency(PHOTO: Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 5 minutes

First Day of Free Agency

I’m ecstatic after the 1st day of Patriots Free Agency.  We retained the core players we needed to keep.  I love bringing back Hunter Henry, a team Captain.  Kendrick Bourne was re-signed before the start of Free Agency, and they gave Kyle Dugger the Transition Tag.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Antonio Gibson signing.  Gibson is a terrific receiver out of the backfield.  He has size at a little under 6’1” and 220 lbs. but he is also fast at a combine times 4.39 40-yard dash.   With his size, he is a reliable pass protector against the blitz.

I love the Jacoby Brissett signing.  It is a one-year deal wort ha base of $8M and up to another $4M in incentives.  Brissett is familiar with the type of offense that Alex Van Pelt wants to run, as he was the QB in Cleveland under Van Pelt.  If the Patriots select a QB with their 1st pick, they can have him sit and learn behind the veteran Brissett.

Brissett’s numbers the past few years have been pretty good.  In 2022, he started 11 games for Cleveland and completed 141 of 225 passes for 64% and 12 TDs to 6 INTs.  In 3 games for Washington, he completed 18 of 23 passes for 3 TDs and no INTs.  Brissett knows what Antonio Gibson can do and is familiar with him from playing at Washington together last season.  Brissett was one of the most popular and well-liked guys in the Patriots locker room back in 2016 according to Chris Price of the Globe.

The big signing was the re-signing of Michael Onwenu.  Free Agency set Onwenu’s market and a 3-year $57M contract is what it took.  I don’t have a problem with this.  It’s about time the Patriots reward a player they drafted and developed with a big contract.

The Salary Cap went up by $30M per team which pumped in another $980M into the salary cap, and this year’s Free Agents were the beneficiaries.  All my Free Agent signing Contract projections were off because of this.  Every Free Agent is getting more than they normally would.

The One That Got Away

Mack Wison, a player the team wanted to sign, signed with the Arizona Cardinals.  Wilson was not on my list of players I wanted to see retained.

Jaelon Reagor reups for one year.  I think he will have a difficult time making this team, especially if we add a #1 receiver either through Free-Agency or by trade.  I expect the team to draft two wide receivers.  Also, Antonio Gibson is a good Kick-Off return man.   Reagor was another player I didn’t want back.

The Patriots reportedly signed Sione Takitaki a LB from Cleveland.  In 2023 Takitaki had his best season as a Pro with 65 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception.  At the NFL Combine in 2019 he ran 4.63 40-yard dash at 6’1” 238 Lbs. and is the same size as Mack Wilson but significantly faster.  A good depth signing and a player that will play on Special Teams.   Takitaki is very flexible and can play all three linebacker positions.  His natural position is SAM LB but had to play MIKE last season for CLE because of injuries.  According to a Cleveland source he can even play the WILL LB in a pinch.   Takitaki was drafted by Cleveland when Eliot Wolf was assistant GM there.

Two of my projected Free Agents signed elsewhere.  Xavier McKinney signed a 4-year, $68M contract with Green Bay and Andrew Van Ginkel signed a 2-year deal with Minnesota for $10M per year.  Can’t blame him.  He is from Iowa (right next to Minnesota) and he gets reunited with Brian Flores.

Addition by Subtraction

Finally, the new regime released DeVante “Velcro” Parker.  Parker was the worst WR in the league at getting separation from DBs, for the last 4 years in a row.  As I said in my Free Agency piece, he is just occupying a spot on the roster.   The team also let it be known that LB Chris Board, a core Special Team player would also be let go.   There was one posting on X that Bailey Zappe may be jettisoned also.

What do we still need to do?

My priority will be to sign a Left Tackle.  There are three available, David Bakhtiari, Jonah Williams and Tyron Smith.   Smith and Bakhtiari have just one year left and the Patriots can draft a replacement this year and have them learn from the veteran and not be thrown into the fray.

WR is still a priority but that can come via a trade or Free Agency.  Ther are just two top tier Wideouts in Free Agency, Marguise Brown and Calvin Ridley.  Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season but bounce back last year with a 1,000-yard season and 8 TDs.  Of concern is the target/ completion percentage.  He was targeted 136 times last season and had 76 catches for a 55.8% completion rate when targeted.

I would like to see Anfernee Jennings re-signed or another Edge player.

All in all, Monday was a very good day for the start of the Patriots rebuilding plan under Eliot Wolf.  They signed the players they wanted to retain and added two new Offensive weapons in Antonio Gibson and Jacoby Brissett.  They finished off the night adding a nice depth piece in Sione Takitaki that could be a sneaky good player.

Mac Jone Traded for a 6th Round Pick

Mac Jones never had a chance here in New England.  Instead of the head coach that championed the Patriots to 6 Super Bowls, he got a bitter old man that was to set in his ways to adapt to the ne NFL.  Bill Belichick thought he was so good that he could put anyone in as the Offensive Coordinator, and they were going to win with a 2nd year QB coming off a pretty good rookie season.

Jones completed 67.6% of his passes in 2021, his rookie year.  That was the 2nd all-time to Dak Prescott.  His 92.5 passer rating was pretty good as was his 22 TDs to 17 INT ratio.  What happened in year two?  Matt Patricia, Bill Belichick’s hand-picked offensive coordinator who had never coached an offense in his life, was the reason that Jones had a bad year.  Jones was blitzed unmercifully and hit and sacked often.  There was no offense!  No one was open.  Jones developed some bad habits, and the Patriots didn’t have a QB coach to correct those mistakes.

In his final year he regressed so badly he was benched.  The Patriots did not have an offensive line, as evident by their nine different offensive line combinations they had to use.  The opening day lineup had three OL that did not play a down for the Patriots during Pre-season.  They were more holes in the O-line than Swiss cheese!  Jones got wrecked by the constant pass rush.  Consequently, he developed bad habits because he felt pressure even if there wasn’t any. He played like he had PTSD.  It was Bill Belichick’s bad choices as General Manager that led to this situation.  He knew the Offensive Line was a problem and didn’t properly address it in the draft, signing adequate Free Agents or making trades.  Belichick was responsible for destroying Jones’ confidence and making him a useless piece of the team.  The Patriots were only able to get a 6th round pick for Jones.

READ NEXT:
Tuesday Patriots Notebook 3/12: 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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