Patriots’ 5-step plan for a successful 2023 offseason

The New England Patriots are already well into offseason planning, mainly focused on the NFL draft, while also determining who of their own to retain or let walk in free agency.

As simple as it may sound, there are numerous combinations of moves that could occur this offseason.

This offseason, there is an optimal, five-step plan that should see the Patriots returning to the playoffs in 2023. Hiring Bill O’Brien was the first major step for the team to take. Now with a proven offensive mind in the building, the Patriots will look to fill multiple holes on that side of the ball.

However, the issues don’t stop there, and like every team, there will always be improvements to make.

Let’s get into the five-step plan for a successful Patriots 2023 offseason.

Extending top talent early

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As of writing this, the Patriots have around $32 million in cap space, with ways of making more and structuring contracts to fit into that. Before anything else occurs, like draft selections, trades, or free agent signings, the Patriots could and should look at the current roster.

An option salary cap-strapped teams usually do is trim the fat (aka cutting large contracts to clear space), but luckily for the Patriots, they don’t need to get that extreme, unless they want to get more aggressive.

Mike Onwenu, Kyle Dugger, and Josh Uche are all eligible for contract extensions this offseason, as they are entering the last year of their rookie contracts. Onwenu and Dugger are no brainers, as both represent the core of the talent in New England.

I mentioned what a contract extension could look like for each a while back, and the expectations are still the same, especially for retaining one of the best guards in the entire NFL long-term.

Mike Onwenu – 5 years $75m

Kyle Dugger – 4 Years, $60m

Josh Uche – 4 years $46m

In the past, the Patriots have been burned by not drafting well, but the last three years have been much better drafts compared to the previous five leading up to 2020. They have also been burned by not signing their own early, and letting them get too expensive, especially as the salary cap rises.

Signing these three players, who could be a part of the core for the foreseeable future, is one of the first things the Patriots should do in the step one/phase one of the five-step plan.

Re-signing Patriots' unrestricted free agents

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The Patriots are like every other NFL team.

They have players who will want to test the open market, and they also will sign players you might not “like.” NFL rosters are 53-men deep, and to remain talented when injuries arise, middle and lower-tier contracts need to take up the cap.

It’s all about balance. Having too many cheap contracts means you probably are stripped for talent, and having too many expensive contracts means you probably overextended for a championship window and have talent, but are forced to trim fat.

The dynastic Patriots always seemed to be in the middle of the pack and balanced. Being to one extreme or the other usually forces you to spend big in free agency to fill the roster like the 2021 Patriots did, or to cut bait with valued veterans and replace them through cheaper alternatives.

In our five-step plan, we have the Patriots working through the following contract extensions:

CB Myles Bryant – 3 years, $12m

S Jabrill Peppers – 2 years, $6.7m

DT Daniel Ekuale – 2 years, $3.9m

RB Damien Harris – 3 years, $12m

CB Jon Jones – 2 years, $26m

Look, the Patriots don’t have a ton of free agents they should retain. So these five players make the most sense. Unfortunately, Jakobi Meyers will likely command big money on the open market as the best wideout available. Devin McCourty has yet to make his decision, but I chose to forecast his retirement prior to 2023. So the Patriots will need to find the answer.

Bryant is a role-playing nickel corner who can return punts, and play a little safety in a pinch. Bryant staying long-term is exactly the type of deal mentioned above. Not every player needs to be an All-Pro making $20-plus million per year.

Peppers was thought to have a robust market, but he could wind up returning to New England, where he has essentially revitalized his career. He could also replace the Adrian Phillips role, along with serving as a huge help, if McCourty decides to retire

Ekuale is a depth player who filled in nicely for the Patriots when Christian Barmore went out. His return on a cheap deal to back up the Patriots’ defensive line is not a bad move, especially considering the Patriots aren’t very young on the defensive line.

Harris is entering a very robust running back market, but he loves it in New England. Estimations have him walking and the Patriots replacing through the draft, but for a respected leader, the Patriots could look to keep both Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson in the fold.

They could use Stevenson like Bill O’Brien used Jamyr Gibbs at Alabama as a versatile offensive weapon. This would leave Harris as the powerback, who could be pinned as one of the new generation of leaders in New England.

Jon Jones could walk, but the Patriots certainly need help at outside corner. They could ultimately decide to keep Jones in the fold for a few seasons, and keep developing Jack Jones and a corner they likely select on day three of the NFL draft to develop for a few years.

Extend veterans

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The Patriots could look to extend veterans or restructure to help circumvent the salary cap. Key players they see as veteran voices could remain in New England. In a previous article, I talked about some ways to free up space outside of these moves here. So the Patriots could cut bait with some veterans this offseason.

Hunter Henry – 3 years, $30m extension

Kendrick Bourne – 2 Years, $12m extension

Ja’Whaun Bentley – 4 Years, $32m extension

Bourne and Henry extensions could help spread their cap hits through multiple years, while also keeping some veterans on the offensive side of the ball.

Bentley has proven to be an undervalued player on the Patriots defense. Where Bentley lacks in coverage skills, he makes up for it in intelligence. He may never become a true every-down backer, but if the Patriots find a coverage linebacker or two, Bentley could see the field almost every down.

Henry is the best tight end on the roster, and but he might not get what he got in 2021. However, retaining a veteran and leader in New England is important.

Bourne is a valuable playmaker who is still young. If the Patriots can get an extension done this offseason, it may look like a steal by the end of the year, if O’Brien could unlock Bourne again.

Address key areas in free agency

The Patriots still need to add to their roster, and they surprisingly still have cap room after resigning and extending their own.

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OT Jawaan Taylor – 4 years, $50m

One of the first moves the Patriots should make is signing Jaguars right tackle, Jawaan Taylor.

Taylor is a good pass-blocker, who has struggled in the run game, which could be improved with new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm in the building. The Patriots would sign the 26-year-old with plans to slide him to left tackle. That would allow Trent Brown to move over to his more natural right tackle slot.

Brown and Mike Onwenu would be scary for NFL run defenses in 2023, and Taylor, a better pass protector than run blocker, may find some comfort in his new position.

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DT Greg Gaines – 2 years, $10m

Gaines has played 67 percent or more of the snaps the last few years for the Rams, and he could sure up the Patriots’ defensive line by adding a versatile lineman with playoff experience. He could be had for $5 million per year, and could help bridge the gap for an aging defensive line group, while also pairing nicely with Christian Barmore and Davon Godchaux.

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S – Jessie Bates III – 4 Years, $52m

Bates III could be the closest thing to replacing Devin McCourty, and the Patriots should take advantage of signing a good, young player to sure up the secondary, which will likely move on from Adrian Phillips, while seeing Jabrill Peppers taking over the hybrid role behind Kyle Dugger

Hit in the NFL draft

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Since tackle is taken care of for 2023, the Patriots can opt to use their first three selections a little differently.

At 14 overall, the Patriots look to fill their wide receiver need by going after Jordan Addison.

At 46 overall, the Patriots address tackle by going after Dawand Jones from Ohio State.

At 76 overall, the Patriots look to add a tight end, and opt to select the Iowa man, Sam LaPorta.

This would be quite the haul for the Patriots by adding a prototypical wide receiver No. 1 in Addison, a Trent Brown replacement for 2024, and a tight end in one of the best tight end classes in recent memory.

All three of these picks should give Mac Jones the proper tools to succeed in 2023 and the foreseeable future.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire