Take out the New England Patriots’ upcoming free-agent class, and their depth chart, as to be expected, is looking a little barren in certain spots.
The new NFL year begins March 18. Until then, the Patriots have exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents, a group that includes quarterback Tom Brady.
Here’s the Patriots’ 2020 depth chart if the season started today. Note: The 2020 season does not start today.
Free agent: Tom Brady
Clearly the Patriots can’t go into their spring practices with Stidham and Kessler as their only quarterbacks. If the Patriots don’t re-sign Brady, they’ll likely sign another starting-caliber veteran quarterback or select a signal-caller high in the 2020 NFL Draft to compete with Stidham.
The Patriots are all set at running back. They could add a young pass-catching option to compete with Burkhead, but otherwise, this group is set.
The Patriots should be set here, as well. Maybe the Patriots sign another young fullback as insurance after the 2020 NFL Draft.
Quincy Adeboyejo (future)
Devin Ross (future)
Free agents: Phillip Dorsett, Matthew Slater
The Patriots could get by with that group if they improve their tight end corps. They should sign or trade for a veteran receiver who can be a No. 1 or 2, however. That would leave Sanu, Harry and Meyers competing for the No. 3/4 roles.
Free agent: Ben Watson
The Patriots need a starting-caliber complete tight end to fill out this group. They should sign a sure-thing and draft a rookie tight end, as well. This position group needs an overhaul.
Najee Toran (future)
Free agents: James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse, Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor (RFA)
It seems unlikely the Patriots will re-sign Thuney since they already have a lot of money invested in starting guard Mason. They can’t trust Cajuste or Froholdt to take over Thuney’s starting left guard job. Look for the Patriots to bring back Eluemunor as a restricted free agent. Re-signing Karras would be valuable insurance at guard and center. They also should look to add another young interior offensive lineman in case Froholdt doesn’t pan out.
Nick Thurman (future)
Tashawn Bower (future)
Free agents: Danny Shelton, Adam Butler (RFA), Keionta Davis (ERFA)
If the Patriots re-sign Shelton and Butler, they would be fine at this position. They should try to find another pass-rushing defensive end in the mold of Wise, Michael Bennett or Adrian Clayborn to fill out the group, however.
Terez Hall (future)
Free agents: Shilique Calhoun, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy
Winovich and Rivers are more pass rushers than off-the-ball linebackers. The Patriots need a third starting-caliber linebacker to pair with Hightower and Bentley, whether that’s Collins, Van Noy or a player from outside the organization. If Winovich can take a leap in 2020, it would help fill the void left by Van Noy.
The Patriots are all set here.
Obi Melifonwu (future)
Adarius Pickett (future)
Free agents: Nate Ebner, Devin McCourty
If McCourty doesn’t return, the Patriots would likely just turn to more two-safety looks and count more on their cornerbacks. McCourty is valuable, however, and they should do everything in their power to bring him back.
K Stephen Gostkowski
P Jake Bailey
LS Joe Cardona
Free agent: Nick Folk
Folk is unlikely to return, but the Patriots should bring a young kicker into camp to compete with Gostkowski.