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This offensive position is Patriots' No. 1 free agent priority, per report

This offensive position is Patriots' No. 1 free agent priority, per report originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots have money to spend in NFL free agency next month, and the team's plan of attack is beginning to emerge.

The Athletic's Jeff Howe and Chad Graff reported Thursday that the Patriots' "top priorities" in free agency are "in order, wide receiver, offensive tackle and tight end."

It's no secret the Patriots need help at wide receiver. DeMario Douglas had a nice rookie season, but he's likely never going to be a No. 1 wideout, or even a No. 2 on a Super Bowl contender. The Patriots could draft a wideout, such as Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr., with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. But taking a quarterback in that spot makes much more sense.

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The free agent wide receiver class is headlined by Calvin Ridley, who tallied 76 receptions for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. Michael Pittman Jr. could also join free agency if he's not franchise tagged by the Indianapolis Colts.

Other intriguing free agent wideouts include Marquise Brown, Darnell Mooney, Gabe Davis and K.J. Osborn, among others. Those guys aren't top-tier wideouts, but they're better than most, if not all, of what the Patriots currently have on their depth chart.

Even if the Patriots re-sign offensive tackle Mike Onwenu, they still need more depth at that position. Free agent tackle Jonah Williams, who could play at the right tackle spot, would be a good target for the Patriots.

Dalton Schultz is our No. 1 ranked free agent tight end. He caught 59 passes for 635 yards and five touchdowns for the Houston Texans last season. Schultz was a dependable target for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. Hunter Henry, who spent the last three seasons with the Patriots, is the second-best free agent tight end available.

If the Patriots draft a QB at No. 3 overall, pairing him with a dependable tight end is essential. You want to give your quarterback a sure-handed target on key third downs and red-zone plays.

The Patriots could have more than $90 million in salary cap space entering free agency if they release cornerback J.C. Jackson. They currently have around $80 million in cap space, which is the third-most of any team, per OverTheCap.

Having lots of cap space is great, but spending it wisely is a real challenge. The Patriots spent a ton of money in free agency during the 2021 offseason and didn't receive much value outside of Matthew Judon and Henry. The Patriots will need to spend more effectively this offseason to give their roster the infusion of high-end talent it desperately needs.