Patriots Mailbag: Answering Biggest Questions Ahead Of NFL Free Agency

NFL free agency opens next Wednesday

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March 11, 2022

Calvin Ridley suspended. Aaron Rodgers staying. Russell Wilson traded. Carson Wentz traded. Khalil Mack traded. And we’re still several days away from the start of free agency.

Let’s close out a wild week of NFL news by answering a few of your New England Patriots mailbag questions:

@Jalebsy
Thoughts on the Patriots signing Christian Kirk? I don?t hear his name connected to the Pats at all
I included Kirk in my rundown of potential Patriots wide receiver targets. He’s been a productive player for Arizona (77 catches, 982 yards, five touchdowns this season), boasted one of the NFL’s best catch rates in 2021 (74.8%), can play outside or in the slot and visited the Patriots before the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s also just 25 years old.

But with several of the top wideouts in this year’s free agent class either being franchise tagged (Davante Adams, Chris Godwin), re-signing with their current teams (Mike Williams) or recovering from major injuries (Odell Beckham Jr.), the price tags for second-tier players like Kirk are likely to be inflated. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported Kirk has interest from multiple teams and could command a contract worth roughly $12 million per year.

There’s a good chance he winds up being too pricey for the Patriots’ liking. We’ll find out when the NFL’s legal tampering period opens next Monday, with free agency officially beginning two days later.

@TomEffinBradyx7
What type of contract do you expect ARob to get in FA?

The Patriots reportedly have done work on Allen Robinson ahead of free agency. To me, that says they believe there’s at least a chance he’ll be within their price range. The soon-to-be 29-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career (38-410-1 in 12 games), so his stock is lower than it was at this time last year, when the Chicago Bears locked him up with the franchise tag.

But the same factors I laid out with Kirk apply here. Despite his lackluster 2021, Robinson will be arguably the best veteran receiver on the market, with Amari Cooper challenging him for that title if and when the Dallas Cowboys release him. The best player in free agency can expect a big payday.

Former NFL agent Joel Corry projected a four-year, $90 million contract ($22.5 million AAV) for Robinson with $50 million guaranteed. No chance the Patriots come anywhere close to that.

@Taghkanic
James White ? Coming back? And is it reasonable to expect him to have as much in the tank as before?
The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian reported White plans to play in 2022. He’s 30 years old, coming off major hip surgery and probably will never be the same player he was during the tail end of the Tom Brady era, but I still think re-signing him makes sense.

The Patriots would need a backup plan — whether that’s Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor, a free agent pickup or a draft pick — in case he can’t hold up physically or recover his quickness and burst post-injury, but White was arguably their best offensive player early this season, looking rejuvenated after an extremely difficult 2020 campaign.

And unless Josh McDaniels really wants to add the longtime Patriots co-captain to his first Las Vegas Raiders team, there likely won’t be much of a market for White’s services, meaning New England should be able to re-sign him to a budget contract.

@bradyrupp
Who might New England be interested in in the FA CB market?

I think Kansas City’s Charvarius Ward would make sense. He has solid size (6-foot-1, 195), has a lot of man-coverage experience and has been one of the NFL’s best tackling cornerbacks over the last few seasons. Tackling ability is a must for Patriots corners, and they traditionally have preferred to play more man than zone, though they tilted toward the latter this past season.

Here are five other potential targets as the Patriots look to replace J.C. Jackson, who is likely to fetch big money in free agency:

@thisryanjackson
do you expect any of the practice squad rule changes from the past two years to remain in place on a permanent basis?

The NFL removed all of its COVID-19 restrictions for players but, but it has yet to announce whether its COVID-inspired changes to practice squad and injured reserve rules will be sticking around for 2022. I like the idea of larger practice squads and allowing teams to elevate a select number of players on game days, and I especially like teams having the ability to return an unlimited number of players from IR after just three weeks. If any of those changes live on post-COVID, the IR one would get my vote.

@gear_pj
Do you expect Shaun Wade to get on the field a lot this season

He’s definitely a player I’ll be watching this spring and summer. Wade was put in a tough spot when he was traded to the Patriots late in the preseason. It would have been unrealistic to expect him, as a rookie with no training camp, to step in and immediately contribute. But fact he still was not ready months later is a bit concerning.

Though he garnered praise from Bill Belichick and some of New England’s veteran defensive backs, Wade played just 18 total snaps all season and was a healthy scratch nine times, including in Week 16 and 17.

Wade won’t be a roster lock and could be pushed out depending on what the Patriots add at cornerback this offseason, but this also is a player who was considered a first-round prospect before his lackluster final season at Ohio State. He still has upside.

@Chris_MC1983
Pats have any interest in signing Flowers back? Released by Detroit today.

I think a Trey Flowers reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides. More on why in here:

@pats300levelpod
Do you envision the Patriots drafting a developmental late round QB as a backup to Mac? And if so do they move on from Stidham this offseason?

I don’t think drafting a developmental quarterback is necessary when you have a starter as young as Mac Jones. But could they? Sure. The Patriots used a fourth-round pick on Rohan Davey three months after Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. I think an undrafted free agent is more likely than a draft pick, though, given the needs New England has at other positions.

This is the first time since 2019 that the Patriots didn’t head into an offseason with a major question mark behind center. But there is some intrigue at the position. Will Brian Hoyer be back? He was an ideal mentor for Jones this season but will be a free agent and is 36 years old. Is Jarrett Stidham the next-in-line backup, or could he be cut or traded before Week 1?

I’m of the mind that the Patriots should keep Hoyer to maintain some semblance of continuity for Jones amid all of their coaching turnover. And though Stidham’s trade value can’t be high right now, I can see Belichick trying to sell high if he looks good in the preseason, a la Jacoby Brissett in 2017.

@CoolerChat
At this point, is there any hope that the patriots add additional coaching staff for 2022 season
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lower-level coaching addition or two before spring practice begins. The Patriots have lost four assistants this offseason — five if running backs coach Ivan Fears retires — and have made just once publicly announced hire (Joe Judge as an offensive assistant). Seems like they could use a few more bodies.

But will they add any major, coordinator-level names (Bill O’Brien, Adam Gase, etc.)? That seems unlikely at this point. Multiple reports have indicated New England’s 2022 coaching staff is largely set.

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