Resetting Patriots’ Roster After First Wave Of Free Agent Activity

The Patriots have made six external additions thus far


Mar 20, 2023

One week into NFL free agency, the Patriots’ roster looks noticeably different on both sides of the ball.

New England’s external additions have been largely offense-focused, with two tackles, a running back, a wideout and a tight end making up its first five outside free agent signings.

On defense, the plan has centered around retention, with seven of the Patriots’ nine internal defensive free agents re-signing. They’ll have some sizable holes to patch in the secondary, however, after losing longtime free safety Devin McCourty to retirement and cutting starting cornerback Jalen Mills.

With the opening wave of free agent activity now settled, here’s an updated look at each New England position group (new additions in bold):

Mac Jones
Bailey Zappe

The Patriots officially cut veteran backup Brian Hoyer last week, so expect them to add at least one additional QB before OTAs begin in May. Will they draft one for the third straight year?

Rhamondre Stevenson
James Robinson
Pierre Strong
Kevin Harris
Ty Montgomery
J.J. Taylor

Robinson projects as Stevenson’s new running mate, replacing Damien Harris, who appears unlikely to re-sign. We’ll see if 2022 draftees Strong and Kevin Harris can take on larger Year 2 roles after playing sparingly as rookies, and whether Montgomery still is in the Patriots’ plans after he missed nearly all of this past season with an injury.

JuJu Smith-Schuster
DeVante Parker
Kendrick Bourne
Tyquan Thornton
Lynn Bowden
Tre Nixon

The Patriots’ most notable free agent move thus far was swapping out the steady Jakobi Meyers — their leading receiver for the last three seasons — with Smith-Schuster, who offers more upside and run-after-catch ability but has durability concerns. New England has been linked to trade candidates DeAndre Hopkins and Jerry Jeudy, so we’ll see if any more veteran additions are forthcoming. The Patriots also would have some intriguing options (Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Zay Flowers) if they targeted a wideout in Round 1 of the draft.

Hunter Henry
Mike Gesicki
Matt Sokol
Scotty Washington

Gesicki really is a super-sized receiver, not a traditional tight end — Bill Belichick has said that himself on multiple occasions — so it’ll be fascinating to see how new coordinator Bill O’Brien utilizes the 6-foot-6, 250-pound pass-catcher in New England’s offense. With Gesicki and Henry both entering contract years and Jonnu Smith now in Atlanta after a salary-dump trade, the Patriots also should be looking to draft a tight end. Fortunately for them, this year’s class is considered one of the most talented in years.

OT Trent Brown
OT Riley Reiff
LG Cole Strange
C David Andrews
LG Mike Onwenu

Reserve tackles
Conor McDermott
Calvin Anderson
Yodny Cajuste
Andrew Stueber

Reserve guards/centers
James Ferentz
Kody Russey
Chasen Hines
Bill Murray

Veteran newcomer Reiff projects as a starter based on his contract, but it’s unclear whether the Patriots plan to play him at right or left tackle since he and Brown both can play either. Anderson and McDermott also have some starting experience. With Reiff and Brown both in contract years and on the wrong side of 30, it would not be at all surprising to see the Patriots go tackle with their top draft pick.

Davon Godchaux
Lawrence Guy
Deatrich Wise
Christian Barmore
Carl Davis
Daniel Ekuale
Sam Roberts
DaMarcus Mitchell
Jeremiah Pharms

No changes so far to this unit, as the Patriots are set to return their entire D-line after re-signing Ekuale and Davis. They’ll be hoping for a true Barmore breakout after the 2021 second-rounder missed half of last season with an injury.

Matthew Judon
Ja’Whaun Bentley
Jahlani Tavai
Josh Uche
Raekwon McMillan
Mack Wilson
Chris Board
Anfernee Jennings
Terez Hall
Calvin Munson
Ronnie Perkins
Olakunle Fatukasi

The Patriots opted for continuity here, as well, re-signing backups McMillan and Wilson early in free agency. Judon, Bentley, Tavai and Uche all had strong 2022 campaigns, but New England could use more speed and athleticism in this group. We’ll see what their plan is for Board, who is one of the NFL’s top special teamers but also had a role on defense during his stints with Detroit and Baltimore.

Jonathan Jones
Jack Jones
Marcus Jones
Myles Bryant
Shaun Wade
Quandre Mosely
Rodney Randle

Cornerback is one of New England’s most glaring needs following the team’s decision to cut veteran starter Jalen Mills. The three Joneses and Bryant all are under 6 feet, and Jack Jones’ status remains unclear after the Patriots suspended him late in the season. Adding someone with size and starting ability should be on the to-do list.

Kyle Dugger
Adrian Phillips
Jabrill Peppers
Joshuah Bledsoe
Brad Hawkins

The Patriots kept three-fourths of their veteran safety group by re-upping Peppers, but replacing retired free safety Devin McCourty will be a challenge, both on the field and in the locker room. New England doesn’t have an obvious in-house successor for McCourty, though Dugger, Phillips, Peppers, Bledsoe and cornerbacks Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones and Bryant all have varying levels of experience at his position. Free agent Taylor Rapp visited the Patriots last week but left without a contract.

K Nick Folk
LS Joe Cardona
LS Tucker Addington
ST Matthew Slater
ST Brenden Schooler
ST Cody Davis
ST Raleigh Webb

You can include Board here, too, whom Belichick last season called “the best special teams player we’ll play against all year.” The Patriots agreed to terms with him last week and re-signed Davis, who’s coming off a season-ending knee injury, over the weekend. They also locked up Cardona on a record-setting four-year contract and will get another season out of Slater, who put off retirement to return for Year 16. The obvious hole is at punter, as the Patriots don’t have one on their roster after releasing Jake Bailey. That’s another likely draft target.

Thumbnail photo via George Walker IV/The Tennessean via USA TODAY Sports Images
TCU Horned Frogs guard Mike Miles Jr.
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