Revisiting Patriots' free-agent signings, departures and trades from 2022 offseason

Curran: Revisiting Patriots' 2022 offseason as 2023 free agency looms originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2023 player acquisition season is ramping up. The NFL Combine starts this week, free agency starts in 15 days and trade winds will be blowing for the next 60 days.

We are 50 games into the post-Brady era. Since he left, the team is 25-25 with one playoff appearance. By conventional standards, they haven’t cratered. But one playoff appearance (a loss) and a somewhat wasted 2022 have created consternation.

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Tom Brady was a one-man rising tide that lifted all boats. Even when the talent around him was middling or worse, New England remained a Super Bowl favorite. Without him, the need to bring in talent that can fit and contribute takes on greater import.

This week, we’ll examine the three post-Brady offseasons, looking more closely at the March and April comings, goings and retentions the Patriots experienced as they enter the same critical juncture in the 2023 calendar.

First up: the 2022 offseason.

Free agents signed

Jabrill Peppers, safety: On April 13, Peppers signed a one-year, $ 2 million deal with $ 1.35 million guaranteed. He also had another $ 3 million in incentives. He was a sneaky valuable addition with his versatility to play in the box and the mean streak he brought to the defense. He finished the season with 60 tackles and played extensively on special teams.

Malcolm Butler, cornerback: On March 23, Butler signed a two-year deal worth up to $ 9 million. He was injured in the preseason, put on injured reserve and released with an injury settlement before the season.

Ty Montgomery, running back: On March 19, Montgomery agreed to a two-year, $ 3.6 million deal. He might have helped a lot in the Patriots' 2022 passing game as a James White-style change-of-pace back for Rhamondre Stevenson, who wound up shouldering a ton of work. Injured in training camp, Montgomery surprisingly was ready for the opener against Miami and scored the team’s lone touchdown but was injured again and put on IR. He had shoulder surgery in November, ending his season.

Terrance Mitchell, cornerback: On March 17, Mitchell signed a one-year deal worth a total of $ 3 million. He was released at the end of August.

Free agents retained

Devin McCourty, safety: On March 13, McCourty signed a one-year, $ 9 million deal. He turned in another steady season with 71 tackles, four picks and eight passes defensed. He also had at least three dropped picks. His leadership in a tough season for the team was valuable.

Nick Folk, kicker: On March 14, Folk signed a two-year, $ 5 million deal to stick around. He was 32-for-37 on field goals and 4-for-5 outside 50. He also missed just three PATs and handled kickoff duties for a large part of the season, which normally isn’t his job.

Trent Brown, offensive tackle: On March 23, Brown re-signed after a short dabble in free agency. His two-year deal is worth $ 17.5 million but has myriad incentives in it, many tied to keeping his weight down. Brown had an enigmatic season, flipping to left tackle early in the offseason. There were weeks he was as dominant as any tackle in football, and then plays he just seemed absent. He also took penalties at an alarming rate for a veteran player.

Ja’Whaun Bentley, linebacker: On March 18, Bentley signed a two-year, $ 9 million deal. He had his most productive season with 125 tackles, a pick, three sacks and a fumble recovery. He helped stabilize the second level of the Patriots defense after the team transformed the linebacker room.

Brian Hoyer, quarterback: On March 14, the Patriots re-signed Hoyer to a one-year, $ 1.05 million deal. He was pressed into duty in Week 4 when Mac Jones sprained his ankle and was 5-for-6 against the Packers in the first quarter before Isaiah Wynn missed a block and Hoyer got sacked and concussed, ending his season.

Matthew Slater, special teamer: On March 14, Slater signed a one-year deal worth $ 2.62 million. He again played at a high level on special teams and -- like McCourty -- was as important as anyone to the team’s overall psyche in a difficult season.

James White, running back: On March 14, White agreed to a two-year, $ 5 million deal. He wasn’t able to come back from a hip injury suffered in 2021 and retired before the season.

James Ferentz, offensive lineman: On March 14, the utility lineman re-signed for one-year, $ 1.035 million. He played in 12 games and did a credible job for a team that struggled up front.

Carl Davis, defensive lineman: On April 28, Davis re-signed for one year, $ 1.035 million. He played in 16 games and took 21 percent of the defensive snaps. The space-eater had 11 tackles.

Trades made

Mack Wilson acquired from Browns for Chase WinovichOn March 15, the Patriots dealt Winovich to Cleveland in exchange for linebacker Mack Wilson. Winovich, a third-rounder for the Patriots in 2019, had 20 tackles in eight games for Cleveland. Wilson had 36 tackles in 17 games for the Patriots. Winovich’s departure opened the door to an extent for Josh Uche, who sparkled in 2022.

DeVante Parker acquired from Dolphins: On April 5, the Patriots sent a third-round pick to Miami in exchange for WR DeVante Parker and a 2022 fifth-round pick. Parker had a very good training camp and ripped it up in Week 3 as the Patriots tried to embrace a downfield passing attack. But Jones’ ankle injury, the team’s inability to pass protect, and knee and head injuries limited Parker. His production was below-par in 13 games with 31 catches for a robust 539 yards (17.4 YPC). He’s back for another season in 2023.

Shaq Mason traded to Buccaneers: The Patriots got a fifth-round pick in exchange for their best offensive lineman. Trading Mason was a money move, but it also had a negative ripple effect on the offensive line, and that group held the Patriots hostage in 2022.

Mason, who played right guard in New England, played 99 percent of the snaps in Tampa. His spot here was filled by Michael Onwenu, who was dependably solid. But the domino effect of a new offense, a new crew of offensive line coaches, greater emphasis on wide-zone runs and the ineffectiveness of some key players make it easy to question whether the Mason savings were worth it.

Free-agent departures

J.C. Jackson, cornerback: Signed a huge, five-year, $ 82.5 million deal with the Chargers. An already disastrous season through four games (149.3 passer rating when targeted, 20.9 yards per completion on 16 completions on him) got even worse when he blew out a knee and missed the final 12 games.

Brandon Bolden, running back: Joined Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas and was used sparingly on offense after a 41-catch year for the Patriots in 2021. He signed for two years and $ 5 million in Vegas.

Ted Karras, offensive lineman: Signed a three-year, $ 18 million deal with the Bengals. Kinda rich. But he was useful in New England and useful in Cincy as well, playing 16 games and 1,100 offensive snaps.

Jakob Johnson, fullback: Rendered moot by the Patriots' offensive change that never really took, Johnson went to Vegas along with Bolden.

Gunner Olszewski, special teamer: Went to Pittsburgh. Wasn’t missed in the return game here as Marcus Jones is probably better already.

Overall grade: C

They nailed it in deciding to pass on J.C. Jackson. Peppers was a good add. And the retentions -- McCourty, Folk and Bentley in particular -- were valuable. I still like the Parker trade.

But letting Karras walk and trading Mason while also saying goodbye to Brandon Bolden and Jakob Johnson were absurdly short-sighted misses for the offense both up front and in the backfield.