The New England Patriots avoided making any splash signings when NFL free agency first opened in March, but they’ve found some potential steals in the second and third wave of additions.

Their biggest moves in March were acquiring Michael Bennett via trade and re-signing wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, cornerback Jason McCourty and defensive end John Simon. They signed running back Brandon Bolden, wide receivers Bruce Ellington (already cut) and Maurice Harris, tight end Matt LaCosse, defensive tackle Mike Pennel and safety Terrence Brooks from outside the organization when free agency began (leading to complaints from some of the more impatient and spoiled members of the team’s fanbase).

In April and May, they’ve re-signed kicker Stephen Gostkowski and added much more familiar names in tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Shilique Calhoun, offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, tight end Benjamin Watson and linebacker Jamie Collins. Chances are that at least one of those players makes an impact on the 2019 Patriots.

What do you think on the Collins signing? Is Roberts the man looking out #MailDoug
— @Austin_Whittel
After saying all of that above, I don’t think there’s any reason to get too high or too low about a signing made in mid-May. There’s a reason these players are available, and they’re almost always signed to short-term, low-risk contracts. I know fans are excited about Collins since they know the name and because he was a very good player in his first tenure with the Patriots. At the same time, there’s a reason Collins was on the open market after being cut two months ago.

I think Collins can contribute for the Patriots. And clearly, Bill Belichick knows what Collins can do for his team. I would assume a conversation took place before the signing, illustrating what role Belichick sees Collins filling.

I still think Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Ja’Whaun Bentley begin the season as starters, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if one or two of those players missed games during the season with injuries. It would be smart to keep Collins and Roberts on the roster, but there’s clearly a numbers game at hand.

I don’t think the Collins signing spells the end for Roberts. There’s room for both players.

Bill is going to be the de facto D coordinator, but who is he grooming to take it over in a season or two? Why isn’t Bret Bielema stepping in to a larger role…or is he?
Bielema is taking on a larger role as defensive line coach this season. He was only a consultant to the head coach last season (some of the titles Belichick assigns to members of the organization are hilarious).

As far as who Belichick is grooming to take over as defensive coordinator, we’ll find out in the final preseason game when we see who is calling plays. Brendan Daly, Brian Flores and Josh Boyer are gone. The candidates are Bielema, Steve Belichick, Jerod Mayo, DeMarcus Covington and Mike Pellegrino. The younger Belichick is the senior member of the defensive staff.

Bielema, Steve Belichick and Mayo are seemingly the best candidates. Covington and Pellegrino were just promoted from coaching assistant roles.

#Mailbag what members of the 2018 practice squad have the best chance of staying with the team at least on the Practice squad and will Herron be resigned at some point?
— @yaunti
Here were the Patriots’ practice squad players to finish the season:

OL Tony Adams
OL Cole Croston
QB Danny Etling
DE Trent Harris
DT Frank Herron
S A.J. Howard
LB Calvin Munson
WR Damoun Patterson
OT Dan Skipper
CB Jomal Wiltz

Adams, Herron and Wiltz are no longer on the Patriots’ current roster.

I’d say Munson has the best chance. He was a starter as a rookie with the New York Giants.

Harris was impressive last preseason. So, I’d say he has a shot, as well.

Ultimately, I doubt any of those players make the 53-man roster. I think Herron could be back on the summer roster if he goes unsigned and the Patriots suffer an injury to a defensive tackle in training camp.

Who is off the team for the 53 man roster? This team is loaded! Repeat?
— @DanielF29405641
I’d say about 38 players will be off the 53-man roster. (The Patriots currently have a 91-man roster because Jakob Johnson doesn’t take up a spot.)

Here’s a quick crack at a 53-man roster projection:

QB (3)
Tom Brady
Jarrett Stidham
Brian Hoyer

RB (6)
Brandon Bolden
Rex Burkhead
FB James Develin
Damien Harris
Sony Michel
James White

WR (5)
Phillip Dorsett
Julian Edelman
N’Keal Harry
Dontrelle Inman
Matthew Slater

PUP: Demaryius Thomas
Suspended: Josh Gordon

TE (2)
Matt LaCosse
Benjamin Watson

OL (9)
David Andrews
Yodny Cajuste
Marcus Cannon
Hjalte Froholdt
Ted Karras
Shaq Mason
Joe Thuney
Jared Veldheer
Isaiah Wynn

DL (8)
Michael Bennett
Adam Butler
Byron Cowart
Lawrence Guy
Mike Pennel
John Simon
Chase Winovich
Deatrich Wise

LB (6)
Ja’Whaun Bentley
Jamie Collins
Dont’a Hightower
Brandon King
Elandon Roberts
Kyle Van Noy

CB (6)
Keion Crossen
Stephon Gilmore
JC Jackson
Jonathan Jones
Jason McCourty
Joejuan Williams

S (5)
Terrence Brooks
Patrick Chung
Nate Ebner
Duron Harmon
Devin McCourty

ST (3)
P Jake Bailey
LS Joe Cardona
K Stephen Gostkowski

The toughest decisions were at defensive back. I considered removing Nate Ebner, but I think he’s still one of the best special teams players in the NFL. Duke Dawson was a tough cut.

I elected to only keep two tight ends to create space for the additional safety, running back and quarterback. Ryan Izzo and Austin Seferian-Jenkins also were tough cuts.

Who do you predict will handle kickoff/punt returns? I know Edelman is there still to do it but I’m an ideal world he’s not taking those hits
— @jonothorpejazz
I think Edelman will continue to handle punt returns.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Michel or rookie running back Damien Harris winds up returning kicks. I’m excited to see who practices in that role in OTAs and minicamp. It seems to be completely up in the air with Cordarrelle Patterson gone.

Do you see a rise in 3-4 packages now that Collins has been brought back.
— @ChrisNothing
I think the Patriots will continue to run hybrid fronts with an emphasis placed on nickel and dime packages using five or six defensive backs on the field.

The Patriots used a linebacker on the edge of their defense for most of last season. That was usually Van Noy, and he was very good in the role, so I can’t necessarily see Collins taking it over. I personally think Collins is best used on third down unless injuries occur.

Which, if any, of the remaining free agents on the roster last year do you think we will sign?
— @RommelRoo
The Patriots only have four unsigned free agents: running back Jeremy Hill, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and linebackers Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber.

I don’t expect the Patriots to re-sign any of those players.

As currently constitute (but removing the possibility of a Gordon return), do you consider WR a position of strength or weakness for the Patriots?
— @alonsocervp

I think it has the potential to be a strength if Thomas gets healthy, Gordon is reinstated and stays clean and Harry immediately looks like a starter. But that’s a lot of unlikely ifs.

I’d temper expectations for the wide receiver corps heading into the 2019 season.

I like Harry, however, and I think Inman could wind up being a very good signing. There’s hope for this group, but there also are a lot of variables.

Will the Patriots D be as aggressive as they were at the end of the last season or will they go back to bend but dont break with Bill Belichick as the possible DC?
— @CfbHogan
I’m very curious to see how the Patriots’ defense will be run with Belichick as the presumed defensive play-caller. He had some creative minds around him in recent years with Matt Patricia and Brian Flores.

He’s pretty creative himself, though.

And if he thinks being aggressive is the best thing for the team, then he’ll go that route. The Patriots typically play a more disciplined brand of defensive football, however.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Do you see the pats being interested in Gerald McCoy? They have a need at the position and belichick has a history of going after star DL’s late in their careers (Washington, G Warren, Haynesworth for example)
— @ChefdDds89
Not unless he’s cut. His cap hit is $13 million. The Patriots have less than $10 million in cap space right now, and that’s not even accounting for some of their more recent signings.

R u seeing John wick this weekend
— @Mikesul33830663
I haven’t even seen “Endgame” yet. So no, probably not. It’s tough to see movies with a 20-month old.

Also, I know this is the hottest take in the world, but I think the John Wick movies are overrated.

What are you most excited for this summer?
— @PapaBurgundy___
Like every summer, I get a five-week vacation starting after the final organized team activities practice. We’re heading out to Southern California on June 14. So, that’s what I’m most excited about.

@DougKyed Do you think Collins will get his #91 back from Wise? #maildoug
— @Rudens23
I would be a little surprised since Wise has worn No. 91 for two years now. It’s not like Wise is a rookie.

Veldheer and now Collins, any chance the Pats add a veteran like Suh to help the D-line?
— @pcord901
I think Ndamukong Suh will prove too costly to sign.

How do you wait until May to fire your general manager? How does this happen?

Will Pats make a move for Kyle Rudolph?
— @whatthefokkens
His $7.275 million salary would be tough to absorb on the cap. He also might have to be released before the Patriots could add him. Unless …

Any concern to TB12 not signing an extension at this point? #MailDoug
— @TheRealZiploc
Let’s wait until training camp to get concerned. Brady has been skipping voluntary workouts for the second consecutive offseason.

If Brady signs an extension, then plenty of cap room to acquire Rudolph would be opened up.

#maildoug Do we see Collins at safety sometimes?
— @MrQuindazzi
No, we do not.

You pumped for AEW M̶o̶n̶d̶a̶y̶ ̶N̶i̶t̶r̶o̶ Tuesday or Wednesday Night Something?
— @lobster_dog
I actually am. I actually think AEW should run their show on Monday night. “Smackdown,” which currently airs on Tuesday night, will be WWE’s main show when it moves to Fridays on FOX, so there’s an opportunity for AEW to beat “Monday Night RAW” in ratings. I know I’d watch AEW over “RAW.”

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images