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Which GM candidates could Patriots consider if Belichick exits?

Which GM candidates could Patriots consider if Belichick exits? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Moving on from Bill Belichick might be the New England Patriots' best path forward. But it would also leave them with two very important job openings.

Belichick is not only the Patriots' head coach but also their de facto general manager who has final say on all personnel decisions, as he confirmed Monday. That means New England would be in the market for a head coach and a general manager if team owner Robert Kraft parts ways with Belichick this offseason.

While Jerod Mayo appears to be the heir apparent at head coach, the GM picture is less clear. The Patriots could go the internal route and promote a current front office member to GM, but there are also a host of external candidates who could be worth pursuing if they become available.

During a recent appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak & Bertrand, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer noted that if Mayo is named head coach, the Patriots may look to hire a general manager who's familiar with New England.

"I think Mayo gets paired with somebody who has experience here (in New England) -- somebody who's been here before," Breer said, as seen in the video player above.

Here are four names with Patriots ties mentioned by Breer and others as possible GM candidates, beginning with an executive already in the building.

Eliot Wolf, Patriots director of scouting

Wolf joined New England as a front office consultant in 2020 before becoming the team's director of scouting in 2022. He also spent 14 seasons in the Green Bay Packers' organization and two years as the Cleveland Browns' assistant general manager, so he has plenty of executive experience.

"(Wolf) has interviewed for general manager jobs before," Breer said. "(He's) got great background, was a high up in the Packers organization and was basically the runner-up for their GM job when it went to Brian Gutekunst. He's (former Packers general manager and Hall of Famer) Ron Wolf's son."

Jon Robinson, former Titans general manager

The Patriots gave Robinson his first NFL job, hiring him as an area scout in 2002. He spent more than a decade in New England before heading to Tampa Bay to become the Buccaneers' director of player personnel, then taking over the Titans GM job in 2016 prior to his firing in 2022.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport mentioned Sunday that the Patriots could consider hiring Robinson even if Belichick stays, giving him a familiar face in the front office while Belichick focuses on head coaching duties.

Dave Ziegler, former Raiders general manager

Ziegler lasted just two seasons as Las Vegas' GM before being fired on Halloween along with head coach Josh McDaniels. Prior to Vegas, Ziegler spent nine years in the Patriots' front office, elevating to director of player personnel in 2021.

Rapoport also mentioned Ziegler as a GM whom the Patriots could pair with Belichick if he returns as head coach in 2024.

Trey Brown, Bengals senior personnel executive

Like Robinson, Brown broke into the NFL in New England, spending three seasons in the Patriots' scouting department (2010 to 2012) before moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles (2013 to 2018) and eventually Cincinnati.

Breer described Brown as a "wild card" candidate but noted Brown has a "really good relationship" with Mayo.

"The good thing about hiring somebody from the Bengals is, they've got such a small scouting staff -- because they're cheap -- that guys know how to do everything, because they have to do everything there," Breer said. "So if you're looking for somebody who has applicable experience who's done a ton of different things, Trey Brown would be that guy."