Curran: Pats re-signing core players not a failing strategy

Curran: Pats re-signing core players not a failing strategy originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

While the New England Patriots have been active in free agency, their moves have been far from flashy.

Most of their focus has been on re-signing their own free agents. They've reportedly re-signed linebacker Josh Uche, offensive linemen Mike Onwenu and Tyrone Wheatley Jr., wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Jalen Reagor, tight end Hunter Henry, quarterback Nathan Rourke, and cornerback Alex Austin over the last two days. Safety Kyle Dugger was given the $13.8 million transition tag, which allows New England to match any team's offer in free agency.

The Patriots' new signings have been unremarkable. So far, they've reportedly added offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor, running back Antonio Gibson, quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and linebacker Sione Takitaki.

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New England prioritizing its core free agents over some of the big names on the market has left some scratching their heads following the team's dismal 4-13 season. However, our Tom E. Curran argues the new regime in Foxboro has done exactly what it was supposed to do to this point.

"I've been hearing a lot of this on the radio today -- 'Why didn't they do anything? Why weren't they aggressive?' The league year begins tomorrow and the Patriots have already screwed it up," Curran said on Tuesday's Quick Slants. "We knew going into 2023 that (Hunter) Henry, (Kyle) Dugger, (Mike) Onwenu, those were the priorities. All of them had good years this past year, as did (Kendrick) Bourne pre-injury. The Patriots re-signed all of those guys.

"Any, had they left, would have needed to be replaced, and there were really no legitimate upgrades in free agency to do so. So the Patriots did the right thing here."

Curran believes Eliot Wolf and the new-look Patriots front office have already distanced themselves from former head coach/general manager Bill Belichick with some of their moves. And given how poorly the roster was constructed last season, New England had no choice but to retain its top players.

"Do you think Bill Belichick would've re-signed Onwenu or tagged Dugger when he virtually never retained players into their second contracts? If you didn't notice what happened the last few months, it's a pretty bad team," he added. "They went through eight quarterbacks, they had no right tackle, they had to send Onwenu out there to do that, they let one good wide receiver go to bring in two bad ones, Bill half-reveled in the crumbling of Mac Jones and never bothered to sign a veteran backup, they were the worst offense in football because they couldn't find their ass with both hands in the draft or free agency for years.

"We're really going to talk about buyer's remorse with the guys they brought back? They needed to bring these guys back because they are, on offense, the best players they had -- and they aren't even Pro Bowlers. So what do people expect to happen in free agency, think there was some test tube that we were gonna make a quarterback in? The Patriots need to take their medicine, eat their vegetables, build a team. Some of the things they found in this 4-13 record can be salvaged."

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Responding to Curran's take on the Patriots' free agency approach, our Phil Perry pointed out that fans will have a reasonable gripe if the team fails to address its biggest needs in the coming days.

"If I'm a Patriots fan right now I am reserving my right to be highly upset if we get to the end of the week and they haven't added a receiver that can play and they haven't added a tackle that can play opposite Mike Onwenu," Perry said. "I really feel as though that's OK.

"They came into the offseason with among the most cap space. They were first or second in cap space -- depending on where you look -- in the NFL. They have the resources. They have the needs. The players are out there. Make it work."

Which positions should the Pats prioritize?

"Tackle, wide receiver, corner. Hit those and maybe people will talk less about a lack of aggressiveness," Curran said.

New England reportedly has made a push to sign the top wideout on the market, Calvin Ridley. If he signs elsewhere, the Patriots could shift their attention to Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, who recently requested a trade.

You can watch the full episode of "Quick Slants" below, or on YouTube: