As the New England Patriots close the book on their 2021 season and shift their focus to 2022, here is one final thought on each of their offensive players.
For a rundown of New England’s defensive players, click here.
(Note: Practice squad players who did not receive future contracts were not included.)
One thought on Jones? How about eight.
Having an uber-experienced veteran like Hoyer in the room was a great asset for Jones. The 36-year-old will be a free agent in March.
Stidham returned to the roster in November after preseason back surgery but never dressed for a game. If this is it for Hoyer in New England, the 2019 fourth-round pick could step in as Jones’ primary backup this offseason. He has one year left on his rookie contract.
Harris’ 15 rushing touchdowns this season ranked second in Patriots history behind LeGarrette Blount’s 18 in 2016. Only unanimous first-team All-Pro Jonathan Taylor (18) had more in 2021. As the leader of New England’s run-focused offense, Harris was our pick for Patriots Offensive Player of the Year.
Even when his stat line didn’t reflect it, the fourth-round rookie always seemed to provide a jolt of energy to the Patriots’ offense, both as a hard-charging ball-carrier and as an adept pass-catcher. Stevenson and Harris averaged an identical 4.6 yards per carry this season and should form one of the NFL’s top backfield tandems in 2022 if both stay healthy.
We’ll be honest: We didn’t expect Bolden to fill James White’s third-down role as seamlessly as he did. The career special teamer caught 41 passes for 405 yards and two touchdowns after White was lost for the season in Week 3. And though Patriots fans hope never to see another third-and-1 handoff to Bolden, he also averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 44 attempts. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent, but with how much Bill Belichick adores him, it would be surprising to see him land elsewhere.
Will White, another UFA, return in 2022? That’s the biggest question facing the Patriots’ backfield. He was arguably the team’s best offensive player before his injury and shouldn’t cost much to re-sign as he returns from season-ending hip surgery.
By midseason, it became clear Taylor was the low man in the Patriots’ backfield hierarchy. He appeared in just one of the team’s final 10 games and finished the season with 37 rushing yards on 19 carries.
The 25-year-old reportedly turned down a December offer to join Jacksonville’s active roster to stay on New England’s practice squad. The Patriots signed Ozigbo to a future contract earlier this week, so he’ll compete for a spot this spring and summer.
Henry’s per-game reception and yardage marks this season were his lowest since his rookie year, but he was a weapon in the red zone, finishing tied for first among NFL tight ends with nine touchdown catches. The oft-injured 27-year-old also played in every game for the first time in his career, which he said “means a lot, honestly.”
The biggest bust of the Patriots’ star-studded free agent class, Smith caught nine passes in his first two games with New England but just 19 the rest of the way. He was held to one catch or fewer in eight of his final nine games and saw just one total target over his final four, including goose eggs in both Buffalo losses. The Patriots also mostly abandoned their two-tight end package, using 12 personnel on just 14% of their offensive snaps. The terms of Smith’s contract make him almost impossible to cut or trade this offseason, so the Patriots will need to hope he can improve after a year in the system.
Jakob Johnson (fullback)
Johnson became the third member of the NFL’s International Pathway Program to log 1,000 career snaps. He played 28% of New England’s offensive snaps as their primary lead blocker, but New England averaged more yards per carry with him off the field (4.37) than on it (4.08). Johnson also had an apparent mistake on special teams that led to a blocked-punt touchdown.
Asiasi played a grand total of 12 snaps this season, sitting out all but one game as a healthy scratch. The 2020 third-rounder has just two career receptions.
Drafted 10 picks after Asiasi, Keene was placed on season-ending injured reserve before Week 1. The collective career totals for those two third-round picks: 15 games, 12 targets, five catches, 55 yards, one touchdown.
Meyers saw 126 targets from Jones this season. That’s 51 more than any other Patriots pass-catcher (Henry was second with 75). Meyers also finished with 18 more receptions and 66 more receiving yards than any of his teammates. He’ll be a restricted free agent this offseason but said he “definitely” wants to stay in New England.
A smash-hit signing, Bourne proved to be one of the NFL’s most reliable and efficient receivers. He ranked third among all wideouts in catch rate (78.6%, trailing Rondale Moore and Hunter Renfrow) and second in yards per target (11.4, trailing only Deebo Samuel).
Agholor’s contract was the most controversial of New England’s 2021 spending spree, and he couldn’t replicate the career year he had for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. He did bring value to the Patriots’ offense with his ability to threaten defenses deep and outside the numbers, but his numbers declined in every statistical category. With the Patriots needing an upgrade at receiver, it’ll be interesting to see how they proceed with Agholor this offseason.
This was another underwhelming season for the 2019 first-rounder, who averaged a career-low one reception per game. Harry’s nadir came in Week 16, when he played 95% of offensive snaps but caught just two passes on six targets for 15 yards in a loss to Buffalo. He was benched the next game for practice squadder Kristian Wilkerson and later played just five snaps in New England’s playoff loss. It’s time for the Patriots to cut bait.
Olszewski had another strong season as the Patriots’ punt returner (second in the NFL in return average, third in return yards) but remained an outsider on offense. He totaled just two receptions on three targets for 31 yards, plus one 9-yard carry. Like fellow 2019 UDFA Meyers, Olszewski will be an RFA.
Still technically listed as a wide receiver, Slater has been strictly a special teamer for most of his career, earning his 10th Pro Bowl nod this season for his prowess in that area. Will the 36-year-old be back for a 15th season in New England? He didn’t reveal whether he plans to retire but did acknowledge he’s “closer to the end.”
Wilkerson broke out with two touchdowns in Week 17 while Harry sat out as a healthy scratch. The Patriots opted not to use him in either of their final two games, but he’ll be a prime roster candidate this summer.
Hand-picked by Ernie Adams in the seventh round last year, Nixon spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad with no elevations. Belichick said in December that the UCF product had “improved considerably” over the course of the season, so we’ll see if he can challenge for a roster spot in Year 2.
The former Navy quarterback spent two-plus months with the Patriots early in the season but never appeared in a game. Belichick, who had multiple pre-draft conversations with Perry, will get a second look at him this offseason after signing him to a future contract last week.
A calf injury wiped out the first half of Brown’s season, and the O-line performed much better as a unit after he returned. The 6-foot-8, 280-pound behemoth allowed just one sack and 12 pressures in 296 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Brown’s future is the most pressing question facing this unit, as he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency. After hearing him rave about his fit within the Patriots organization, would he be open to a hometown discount?
Wynn was able to stay (mostly) healthy for the first time in his career, but his performance was inconsistent at best. Though he was better in the back half of the season, he allowed team highs in sacks (six) and pressures (28) and missed Saturday’s playoff loss to the Bills with an ankle injury. The Patriots exercised Wynn’s fifth-year option, so he has a fully guaranteed $10.4 million salary next season.
A legitimate Pro Bowl snub, Mason was PFF’s highest-graded Patriots player this season. He’s been a pillar on New England’s O-line for years, but with salary cap hits of $10.2 million next season and $8.9 million in 2023, could he become a cap casualty at some point?
Karras was the unsung hero of the Patriots’ offense this season, helping stabilize what had been a chaotic and ineffective O-line when he was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 5. That New England opted to keep him at left guard and move promising second-year pro Mike Onwenu to the bench spoke volumes. Like Brown, Karras will be a free agent.
Andrews didn’t miss a snap for the first 16 weeks of the season, finally breaking his ironman streak during a late-season blowout of Jacksonville. He finished as PFF’s sixth-highest-graded center.
Onwenu opened the season as the Patriots’ starting left guard, then moved to right tackle, then was bumped into a reserve role upon Brown’s return, seeing significant work as a jumbo tight end. It’s still unclear whether his long-term home is at guard or tackle.
Herron really struggled when asked to play right tackle early in the season, but he was largely solid on the left side, where he started for four seasons at Wake Forest. The second-year pro played all but nine snaps in Wynn’s spot over the Patriots’ final two games and allowed just two total pressures (both hurries).
Like fellow 2019 draftees Harry and Joejuan Williams, this could be the end of the road for Cajuste. He played sparingly in his third pro season, seeing action on offense in just three games.
Durant played 80 offensive snaps over the first four weeks. After that? Just two, and he was active just once after Week 6.
The 2021 sixth-round pick spent the entire season on the practice squad, with one elevation.
Hambright wasn’t with the Patriots this season, but they signed him to a future contract on Tuesday. He played in nine games for Chicago as a seventh-round rookie in 2020 and boasts one of the best names in the NFL.