Kendrick Bourne opens up about free agency, Mac Jones, Pats' offense

Kendrick Bourne opens up about free agency, Mac Jones, Pats' offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots are entering a new era in 2024. And Kendrick Bourne wants to be a part of it.

The veteran wide receiver is set to become an unrestricted free agent next month, and it's unclear whether he'll return to the Patriots for a fourth season or sign elsewhere. But Bourne, who paced New England with 37 receptions and 406 receiving yards through eight games in 2023 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury, has made his free-agent intentions very clear.

Bourne joined our Tom E. Curran from Super Bowl Radio Row in Las Vegas for a 1-on-1 conversation as part of a new Patriots Talk Podcast to touch on several topics -- most notably his desire to stay in New England.

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"I felt like we were in a rebuild. That's personally how I felt, it was a rebuild the three years I was there," Bourne told Curran. "I loved being part of that and setting the foundation, and I think it's going to take off pretty soon. So, I want to be part of the take-off, in a sense. I'm excited for the new chapter and I would love to be a part of it, man. I definitely have unfinished business."

Bourne put up career numbers during his first season with the Patriots, racking up 55 catches for 800 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. His production dipped to just 434 yards in 2022 as he publicly voiced his frustration with an offense led by first-time play-caller Matt Patricia. Yet the 28-year-old still believes he can be the best version of himself in New England, which is operating with a new head coach (Jerod Mayo) and new offensive coordinator (Alex Van Pelt) after Bill Belichick's departure in January.

"The way they treated me last year, I mean, all my years (here), they helped me grow tremendously in my life, personally, emotionally, mentally, as a football player ultimately," Bourne said. "I want to be back in that. I was pushed to another level with the Patriots and I think it's just different. It's an environment that works for me, that helps me become a better person, better player. So I would love to keep that going.

"I felt like I was becoming the best player that I've ever been in my career. I had a great year in 2021, I had a great three years there. Obviously I got hurt (last season), but I definitely have unfinished business. I was playing great, so I want to go back and do that again."

One motivating factor for Bourne in wanting to stay in New England? The opportunity to play for Mayo, a 37-year-old former Patriots linebacker who will bring a very different energy than players were used to under Belichick.

"I just see a new era. It's just new," Bourne said of Mayo's hire. "There's nothing wrong with ending something that was phenomenal. Bill had a great tenure, it was just phenomenal, so I think it was just time for something new and everything comes to an end.

"... I've had a great relationship with Mayo. I've seen him there for three years, he's always walked around the locker room with great energy, with a great attitude, and I just love that that's the decision they made. So, I'm excited to see what he does. I think he's going to bring great energy.

"I think it's going to be a swag that we have to ourselves that hasn't been seen before in New England. I've only been there for three years, so I haven't seen before, but I think it's going to be different and new."

Bourne sees himself as a "glue guy" in the Patriots' receiver room, bringing an "energy" and "charisma" that he felt the team needed during his tenure. On the field, Bourne is hoping to get back to running the West Coast offense, which the 49ers ran during his four seasons in San Francisco, and which Van Pelt could run some version of in 2024.

"I love the West Coast offense," Bourne said. "Obviously my first tenure in San Francisco was West Coast offense. And I heard Van Pelt, he's kind of West Coast, so I'm excited for that. I think that might be a good change for what we need, maybe something different, something we've never done before. Learning new terminology and new ways to do things I think might help us.

"... I was very successful in the West Coast (offense), obviously played there (in San Francisco), got paid by the Patriots so it worked for me personally and I think it'll work for some players. I like both systems, but just whatever works for most of the team I think will make us better."

The question, of course, is who will be leading that offense. Few expect Mac Jones to be the Patriots' starter in 2024 after a disastrous 2023 campaign, but Bourne is still a believer in the young quarterback.

"I love Mac. I think it's just circumstances," Bourne said when asked what caused Jones' struggles in 2023. "I think the pressure (of being a) first rounder and certain things around him just didn't jell. It didn't glue for him, so it was hard.

"I've experienced my struggles coming into the league. I was undrafted, but it's hard when you're trying to reach expectations and you feel like you can't reach them so you kind of get down on yourself sometimes. So I think it just kind of got overwhelming. I think he's the same player. I think it just has to be pulled out of him in a certain way and I think he can do it."

And if the Patriots decide to move on from Jones? Bourne has a preferred QB for the Patriots to take with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

"I like Jayden Daniels. I'm a Jayden Daniels fan," Bourne said of the LSU quarterback. "Heisman Trophy winner, obviously. I love how he plays, being able to be versatile, so I think that would be a strong suit for us. Just my opinion."

Check out the video below for Bourne's full interview with Curran.