Report: How Patriots are handling contract talks with no official GM originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
When the Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan reported Monday that the New England Patriots have been in contact with wide receiver and pending free agent Kendrick Bourne about a new contract, an obvious question followed:
Who exactly has Bourne been in contact with?
After all, the Patriots parted ways with their de facto general manager last week in Bill Belichick, who had a massive influence in both coaching and personnel decisions. So, who's running the show in Belichick's absence?
Our Phil Perry reported Saturday that New England isn't expected to bring in a new GM, with director of player personnel Matt Groh and director of scouting Eliot Wolf likely having "prominent" roles in personnel. And while the Patriots haven't officially given Groh or Wolf new titles, Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal reports that Groh is currently calling the shots when it comes to pending free agents.
Groh "has been the one reaching out to current Pats players who are in walk years about retaining their services," Giardi wrote Tuesday night, adding that Groh "has also been on the road doing some college scouting" along with Patriots director of college scouting Camren Williams.
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If that's the case, then Groh is a busy man: The Patriots have 15 players who are set to hit unrestricted free agency, including core players like Bourne, defensive backs Kyle Dugger and Myles Bryant, offensive linemen Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu, tight ends Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki, running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebackers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings.
It's possible that these responsibilities are nothing new for Groh, who is entering his third year as the team's director of player personnel. The key difference, of course, is that Belichick is now removed from the equation, and it's still unclear whether Groh, Wolf or someone else in the building has "final say" on personnel decisions.
This is a crucial offseason for the Patriots, who have $67.9 million in cap space (fourth-most in the NFL) and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft to try to improve a team that went 4-13 in 2023 and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
Simply put, New England has a golden opportunity to jump-start its rebuild in 2024, so it's imperative that the team establish where the buck stops on personnel decisions, and that the front office is working in lock-step with new head coach Jerod Mayo.