The New England Patriots enter the 2022 offseason with plenty of questions pertaining to both the coaching staff and the roster itself.
Will special teams ace Matthew Slater retire? Will the Patriots retain cornerback J.C. Jackson? Who will fill the void left by former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels? Can the Patriots draft or acquire a talented player at the receiver position?
Those are just a few of the biggest questions the Patriots face after a wild-card exit concluded the rookie season of quarterback Mac Jones. They also are among the topics discussed by ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, who gave his takes on New England’s best- and worst-case scenarios in a story published Monday.
Here’s what Reiss had to say:
Best-case offseason scenario: Jackson signs an extension, longtime leaders (Devin) McCourty and Slater (special teams) return for another season, the offensive line is solidified with the return of (Ted) Karras, steady kicker (Nick) Folk re-signs … and the draft brings a dynamic receiver and more speed, versatility and intelligence on defense.
Worst-case offseason scenario: Changes on the offensive coaching staff stunt Jones’ development and the draft looks more like 2019 than 2021 — when mistakes were made with top picks who ideally would be coming into their prime at this time.
Yeah, those obviously are polar opposites.
The return of Jackson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent unless getting the franchise tag, is key for the defense while the return of veterans like McCourty and Slater would ensure New England’s leadership contingent remains in place. On the other side, the development of Jones has to be first and foremost on the mind of head coach Bill Belichick. It’s the biggest reason why filling the void of McDaniels and other offensive assistants needs to be answered.
Reiss also identified three players who could be released prior to next season, two of which would be performance-related while the other due to finances.