Breer: There's a ‘smoking gun' in Patriots' front office plans

Breer: There's a ‘smoking gun' in Patriots' front office plans originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots are taking an unusual front office setup into their most important NFL Draft in three decades.

Eliot Wolf will have final say on all personnel decisions through the draft as the team's de facto head of personnel. His title is still director of scouting, however, and as our Phil Perry has reported, Wolf's contract -- along with those of several other front-office members -- actually is set to expire after the draft.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters last month the team plans to conduct interviews for front office help after the draft and officially name a general manager, which may or may not be Wolf.

So, is Wolf just temporarily running the show, or is that "search" for a GM more about making sure the Patriots follow the proper protocols before eventually giving Wolf the official title?

🔊 Patriots Talk Podcast: Eliot Wolf reiterates Patriots’ plan for sweeping change at NFL Combine | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Perry believes Wolf is the clear candidate to become the team's official GM after the draft, in part because of how he's run the show since Bill Belichick left the team in January.

"I would be surprised if Eliot Wolf wasn't leading the charge for this Patriots front office moving forward," Perry said Thursday on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition. "Because the early returns on Eliot and how the operation has run, to this point at least, have been positive, and people high up in the organization have taken notice of that."

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer agrees with Perry and points to New England's hiring of former University of Miami football general manager Alonzo Highsmith as proof that Wolf isn't going anywhere.

"Now here's the smoking gun: Alonzo Highsmith is on board," Breer said. "I think that means more than Ben McAdoo or Alex Van Pelt or Jerry Montgomery or any of the other guys that were added to the coaching staff because of Eliot's connections.

"On that side, I think that's more about helping Jerod Mayo out because he was a little short on the connections. When you add somebody who's been a No. 2 (in the front office) as well in Alonzo Highsmith to that department, that's sort of an indication that's becoming that person's department."

Highsmith and Wolf have eight years of professional overlap, spending six seasons together in the Green Bay Packers' front office from 2012 to 2017 before moving to the Cleveland Browns, where Highsmith was the vice president of player personnel and Wolf was assistant general manager from 2018 to 2019.

To Breer's point, Wolf probably wouldn't hire Highsmith if he wasn't sure about his job status after the draft, and Highsmith likely wouldn't leave a cushy job at his alma mater (Miami) if he was unsure that Wolf would keep his job for longer than five months.

"He's on a contract that's going to pay him a significant amount of money," Perry said. "Would they do that if Eliot Wolf might be gone, and therefore Alonzo Highsmith might (be gone) right after the draft?"

"And would Alonzo Highsmith have left his alma mater for a very temporary setup?" Breer added.

It's possible the Patriots could add more new faces to the front office after the draft in late April. But barring a surprise turn of events, this looks like Wolf's show for the foreseeable future.