The New England Patriots have plenty of offseason needs on the defensive side of the ball.
The New England Patriots are in a solid position moving forward. After a down season without Tom Brady in 2020, the team quickly rebounded to find new life in Mac Jones during the 2021 season. Now, Bill Belichick and company can resume their ways of navigating the offseason in silence while building another championship contender.
New England Patriots Offseason Needs: Retool the defense
That process this year will need to start on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not that New England’s defense was bad. They ranked second in the league for passing defense and were middle of the pack for their rushing defense. However, the impending free agents will force the hand of the Patriots to make some moves this offseason to address the unit.
The linebackers unit is the one to watch most closely for the Patriots this year. This has always been a focal point during the Belichick era. Whether it be Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Jared Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and many others, this is the core of the New England defense. And it could see some turnover this year.
The list of players who could enter free agency from this position group in New England is lengthy. Hightower headlines the list that will include Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and others. On top of that, Jahlani Tavai and Raekwon McMillan only have one year left on their deals, meaning this position could look very different for New England in the near future.
Now, some of those players can come back and the fact of the matter is they are all veterans of the position. Knowing Belichick, new blood is already in waiting to step up and take over new roles. However, whether it be starters or depth, the Patriots are going to need to add players at linebacker this offseason.
Like I said earlier, the New England Patriots were the second-best passing defense in the NFL this past season, so why would secondary be on this list? For the same reason why linebackers is on this list. Free agents.
The list in the secondary is a bit shorter for New England and they have plenty of youth to step up. With that being said, there could be a massive veteran presence loss with this group, mainly Devin McCourty. McCourty has played his entire career in New England and could be looking to hang up his cleats. However, should he return, the Patriots would obviously make the most sense.
In addition to McCourty, New England could also lose J.C. Jackson and Brandon King from the secondary. Jackson had a breakout season in 2021, being selected to the Pro Bowl and leading the league in passes defended. That will be hard to replace if he doesn’t come back, but the Patriots will have to formulate some sort of plan to do so.
Mac Jones put together an impressive rookie season in New England with his top wide receiver being Jakobi Meyers with 866 yards on 83 catches. Meyers is set to be a restricted free agent, so odds are he will be back in New England, but would the Patriots consider upgrading the position?
It isn’t exactly Belichick’s method to go after top receivers, unless they are aging veterans looking for a new start. Most of his weapons have been homegrown under the radar, like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. That could change, though, given how intriguing and deep this 2022 NFL Draft is at the wide receiver position.
We know Belichick isn’t going to take just any player, but if the right wide receiver falls to New England perhaps they pull the trigger. Jones can produce with the current unit, but that doesn’t mean an upgrade shouldn’t be considered.
Like the defense, the offensive line isn’t in dire need just yet, but departing pieces could change things. The Patriots allowed the third-fewest sacks in 2021 and produced a top eight rushing attack. What could change would be the absence of two starting offensive linemen.
As of right now, both Trent Brown and Ted Karras are set to become free agents. That would leave New England without their starting left guard and right tackle from the 2021 season. If they leave, this needs to be put at the top of the Patriots’ needs. However, it seems like they could return to New England, which would be a huge gain for this offense.