Patriots Mailbag: Recent Pats First-Round Picks Face Uncertain Futures

Two Patriots first-round picks might not be long for New England


March 12, 2021

By this time next week, the New England Patriots should have some high-profile signees to help raise morale among the fanbase.

The free-agency tampering period begins Monday, and signings can be made official at the start of the new NFL league year on Wednesday. The Patriots have over $60 million in salary-cap space, so they should actually be heavily involved in the early portion of free agency for once.

Until then, let’s get into questions on N’Keal Harry’s trade value, 2018 first-round pick fifth-year options, quarterbacks and more in this week’s mailbag.

Watch above and read below and tweet your future questions to me at @DougKyed using #MailDoug.

Harry is getting some trade interest around the league, I have two questions:

1. What do you think his value is?

2. Would you move on from him if he has no real value (conditional pick or late pick swap) or keep him on the roster?
I would personally set N’Keal Harry’s trade value at a comparable player or a late-round draft pick. I can’t imagine a team giving up anything more than a fifth-round pick for a player who has 45 catches for 414 yards with four touchdowns in two seasons. His numbers are similar to Kalif Raymond, Olamide Zaccheaus and Marcus Johnson in that same span. I don’t think I’d give up a fourth-round pick for any of those players. Maybe a fourth-sixth-round swap?

I’d consider trading Harry for a player or possibly a fourth-sixth-round pick swap. I know Arizona Cardinals wide receivers Andy Isabella and Christian Kirk have been mentioned by The Sports Hub’s Marc Bertrand and ESPN’s Mike Reiss as potential trade targets for Harry. It’s possible that a change of scenery could help both teams.

But it would be better to hold onto Harry than to deal him for a fifth-round or later pick unless the Patriots feel like he’s simply not a culture fit and won’t succeed here regardless. And if that was the case, then he probably wouldn’t have played as much as he did after returning from a concussion last season.

Was the Trent Brown trade good business? Considering cash, internal candidates and breaking news of a few Tackles hitting the open market?

I understand why this question is being asked. Brown can make up to $11 million in 2021, but it’s unlikely all of that money will hit the salary cap since some of it almost certainly tied up in “NLTBE” or “not likely to be earned” incentives like per-game roster bonuses. Keeping Isaiah Wynn at left tackle and Marcus Cannon at right tackle probably would have been a cheaper option, and Riley Reiff and Eric Fisher have since hit the open market as cap casualties.

But the Patriots know Brown is a fit. They saw how he played in 2018, and now he’s working towards another contract while on a one-year deal. Signing Reiff or Fisher, while possibly cheaper, would have been additions by projection.

I can’t say that I was quite as bullish on the addition of Brown as some of my fellow media members. I think it will work out just fine, but I also don’t view the trade as some incredible stroke of genius by Bill Belichick. Brown is absolutely a good and useful player, but it’s also understandable why the Las Vegas Raiders were so willing to part with him. He signed a big deal and played 16 games in two seasons.

Still, as long as Brown’s cap hit isn’t $11 million and is closer to $7 or $8 million, it’s a good acquisition and probably smarter than bringing in an unknown.

The Patriots might still need to address their offensive line through the draft, however, with Brown only on a one-year deal.

Free agency : what would YOU do vs what do you think THEY will do ? #MailDoug

I would spend big on a wide receiver and tight end on the first day of free agency. The Patriots need guaranteed production from those spots, so snag either Juju Smith-Schuster, Curtis Samuel, Will Fuller or Corey Davis at wide receiver and Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Gerald Everett or Kyle Rudolph at tight end.

And then I’d probably hang back a little to grab better values. Really good players will be left on the market for a long time this offseason because no one will be able to afford them (other than New England and a handful of other teams). So, that’s when I would grab another wide receiver and help at defensive tackle, linebacker and on the edge.

I think the Patriots will probably take a similar approach, though I’m not as convinced that they’ll make splurge signings at both wide receiver and tight end. They might grab one big offensive playmaker and a front-seven defender early then hang back and wait for value.


also, do you think the patriots will target any RFAs this year? (i know tim patrick was tendered but thought he would be interesting)
I’m just ready for free agency to start. The free agent and quarterback hypothesizing is getting a little bit old. Next week will be fun to see who the Patriots actually acquire.

Wide receivers Tim Patrick and Zach Pascal, cornerback Darious Williams, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, tight ends Robert Tonyan and Anthony Firkser and defensive tackle Poona Ford are the most interesting restricted free agents on the market. Would New England be willing to give up a second-round pick to acquire any of those players? Maybe. They’re all starting-caliber options. Patrick, Williams, Tonyan and Ford are the most intriguing to me, personally.

The Patriots should definitely make a contract offer if any of those players fall through the cracks and can be acquired for zero draft compensation.

Do you see them picking up the options on Wynn and Michel?

Isaiah Wynn at $10.4 million: maybe, probably, yes?
Sony Michel at $4.5 million: no

Wynn is really good when he plays. Unfortunately, he’s only been on the field for 18-of-48 possible regular-season games through his three-year career. But $10.4 million isn’t too much to spend on a left tackle of Wynn’s caliber. It does remain to be seen whether the 2018 first-round pick will stay at left tackle or move to guard or right tackle in 2021 with Brown back in the mix. Brown is only under contract for the 2021 season, however.

Michel might be a little bit too pricey at $4.5 million, however, especially if Damien Harris resumes his role as New England’s starting running back in 2021. The Patriots could draft or sign a cheaper replacement for Michel. They also could already have his replacement on the roster in J.J. Taylor.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Why hasn?t Hollywood Higgins been brought up as a viable option at WR? Would be a good #2 on the outside and probably lower $ than most of the second tier

I think everyone is just aiming higher, but Rashard Higgins absolutely could wind up being a decent value addition to pair with a “No. 1” wide receiver, whether that’s Davis, Samuel, Fuller or Smith-Schuster, plus Jakobi Meyers and Julian Edelman.

Burgers or hot-dogs ? #MailDoug #DougsBuds

I eat more burgers, but if I’m at a cookout, I’ll probably enjoy the hot dog more than the cheeseburger. I hope that answers your question, Seb.

Who is the most likely realistic Free Agent Signing for a receiver/TE. Not a dream scenario one that could actually happen?

Samuel and Henry. I think Belichick will go after Henry hard. I’m not sure if he’ll win him, but Belichick really loves him some Henry.

DT has been a noted concern for us, but isn?t talked about quite as much as the offensive weapons issue. Quite a few big name DTs getting released. Think the Patriots snag one of these guys in free agency? Or think they mainly focus on the offense with the opt outs coming back?

I definitely think the Patriots should be in the defensive tackle market in free agency. They’ll be able to find a good value there.

Hi Doug, What are your thoughts on signing Thuney, moving him to center and our middle of the line is Owenu/Thuney/Mason, pretty nasty line #MailDoug

Joe Thuney is a great player, and he performed well at center last season, but I think the smarter move would be to just re-sign center David Andrews who will come cheaper.

How do snakes move?

Get a sleeping bag, put it over your head, lie on the ground and try to move. That’s how.

Would Demetric Felton be a James white upgrade/replacement if lost in FA? #maildoug

I think he certainly fits the mold of a third-down back in New England. I worry a little bit that he only averaged 4.7 yards per carry in college. That’s low for a player who’s already undersized for the position (5-foot-11, 200 pounds). But James White has more catches than rushing attempts in his NFL career, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

Why Malcolm Butler was benched in the Super Bowl? #MailDoug

I’ll tell you later.

Do you think Browns/Falcons would accept these trades:

Nkeal Harry
Julio Jones

Nkeal Harry

Falcons: No. Probably not enough for Julio Jones.

Browns: Maybe. I know a Gilmore for Odell Beckham swap has been speculated on social media. It seems like a pretty even trade.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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