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#PostPulpit Mailbag: We are on to the offseason

Related: The Scho Show: Star Wars characters as punters

Florida vs Alabama Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The New England Patriots will not take part in the NFL Playoffs for the first time since 2008. It’s a weird concept to understand currently and one that will leave Patriots’ fans with free time on their weekend schedules in January for the first time in 12 years.

With the last two games on the Patriots schedule mattering more towards New England’s draft seed rather than their playoff seed, it is expected to start and anticipate the roster shakeup this team will undergo this offseason. While the 2021-22 league salary cap has yet to be announced, the Patriots are expected to be near the top of the league in salary cap space.

In this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag, that anticipation was certainly there. There was not too much interest in this week’s Monday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills, but a lot of free agency and NFL Draft talk, which is also very exciting.

So, let’s get into it:

@davidlinder00 What are your top 3 needs in The offseason in The Draft and free agency?

I think the top three needs for the Patriots team is pretty clear. In no exact order: quarterback, offensive weapons, and front seven help. The quarterback situation will be the most interesting one to watch unfold, as New England will have to decide between adding a developmental piece, a proven veteran, or another bridge-type quarterback.

Regarding the weapons, the Patriots current wide receiver/tight end group is easily bottom five in the NFL. Any quarterback New England trotted out on the field this season would have struggled. Heck, even Tom Brady went 4-5 down the stretch last year with a very similar — and arguably better — supporting cast. Jakobi Meyers looks like a real piece to the Patriots future offense, but there was not much else to get excited about. Damiere Byrd gave New England solid play throughout the year, but his production could be replaced. Hopefully a full, normal offseason would allow Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene to make a real impact next season.

As for the front seven, the Patriots need a serious influx of talent. The potential return of Dont’a Hightower from his Covid-19 opt-out will help, but one player won't fix all their issues. Chase Winovich and Josh Uche have proven to be key pieces, while John Simon and Deatrich Wise Jr. should return on reasonable deals. On the defensive line, Adam Butler should be a priority, while a new deal to Lawerence Guy would also be welcomed. While these players are a good place to start, more talent certainly needs to be added.

@rodblanchard99 1. Trade for a veteran QB and be aggressive at the draft to get a top rated QB? or 2. Acquire a veteran QB and/or keep Cam? #postpulpit

The quarterback position will be the one to watch the closest this offseason. New England currently sits at pick No. 15 in the NFL Draft, which would position them selecting outside of the consensus top-four quarterbacks barring a trade-up. The most likely situation to me is they go the bridge-type quarterback route again while bringing in another mid-round rookie or a current NFL QB who has not quite panned out like expected (i.e. a Sam Darnold-esq. player).

When exploring who will be that bridge player at quarterback, a reunion with Newton is likely at the top of the list. I know many of you just rolled your eyes in disgust reading that, but Newton knows the system and has proven he still deserves to start in this league. It wasn't always perfect, but remember the circumstances he went through this year (learning a new offense with no offseason, league’s worst supporting cast, contracting Covid-19, etc. etc.). He performed well over stretches throughout the season and if given a normal offseason and more talent at his disposal, should get New England back in the playoffs next season.

@Mariglenm If a QB falls in the draft, do pats trade up?

We just mentioned that New England will likely pick outside of the consensus top four quarterbacks in this draft (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance), but what if one of them starts to fall? To me, if Belichick and Co. were to trade up for a quarterback it is because they firmly believe he is ‘the-guy’ going forward. This Patriots team currently has a lot of holes on their roster and they currently project to have just nine picks available to fill them. Belichick is not just going to draft a quarterback to draft a quarterback and especially won't trade up just to do so.

Looking at the current draft order, if New England is to move-up and get their guy, they would likely have to jump the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions — both teams that could be in the market for their next franchise quarterback. That could mean a call to old friend Joe Judge and the Giants at pick No. 10, which would likely cost New England their first- and second-round draft selections. It’s a tough price to pay, but absolutely worth it for your next franchise quarterback.

@Brady94265939 Who do you believe will be the future at the QB position?

This question is almost impossible to answer, but we go all-out here. Based off our last two answers, a 2021 quarterback room of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, and a mid-round rookie like Jamie Newman seems the most likely to me. While you could certainly get to the playoffs and compete with those options, it might not provide you with your starting quarterback for the next five-plus years. Now, maybe that prediction is horribly wrong and they find their future this year, perhaps with draft pick or by resurrecting a current NFL quarterback’s career.

For my prediction, I'll say Cam Newton is the short-term future, but the real quarterback of the future will be playing college football next year. Building this team back-up and then bringing in a young gun-slinger might be the unsexy, but best option.

(It pained me not to say Zach Wilson.)

@FichtenMoped_W With it now being apparent, that the team is in need of playmakers especially at Offensive Skill positions, do you think it is more likely, that Belichick starts paying players more to join or stay on the team in the next Free Agency period?

Moving on the the Patriots other areas of need, playmakers might even be above the quarterback position. As we stated earlier, any quarterback who played this year would have struggled with this group and if they don't upgrade the skill positions, you are setting up any quarterback you bring in next year for failure.

To answer your question, yes. Belichick will absolutely pay wide receivers or tight ends to join this team. I’ve seen the ‘Belichick won't pay a WR’ crowd on social media, but that is a complete myth. Back in 2019, the Patriots were one of Cole Beasley’s final choices in free agency. Beasley signed with Buffalo on a four-year, $27 million contract. That same offseason, New England was heavily interested in free agent Adam Humphries. After Humphries committed to his four-year, $36 million deal with Tennessee, it was reported the Patriots raised their offer to $10 million APY. Belichick also had no issue handing Antonio Brown $10.5 million on his one-year deal. They have made it clear the past few years they are open to paying a wide receiver, so that should be no different this year.

@scalspeaks What d-lineman would you like to see come to the team in 2021 either from draft or free agency?

Retaining Adam Butler is at the top of my list. As for free agency, Belichick’s past has shown he often doesn't pay defensive lineman big bucks. That likely means they won't be breaking the bank for a top end pass-rusher like Shaq Barrett. Looking more to the interior of the defensive line, New England will still have Byron Cowart and Beau Allen - who missed all of 2020-21 - under contract. If Allen is healthy, he could hypothetically take Guy’s place on the interior. From there, I’d expect them to continue to get younger and add through the late rounds of the draft. Perhaps Belichick calls his good friend Nick Saban to get his thoughts on former five-star prospect LaBryan Ray.

@scalspeaks Should McDaniels still be the at OC? Do you think he can coach us a top 10 offense without Brady?

Yes. Josh McDaniels is still a top 10 offensive coordinator in football. I’m aware he’s been frustrating at times with his wide receiver screens and half back tosses, while he’s also gone conservative mode the past year-and-a-half. However, that is likely a direct result of the Patriots’ lack of talent on offense. That is quite clear this year, as the Patriots 52 percent run rate ranks 31st in the league, 10 percent higher than the league average. New England has always had a strong balance of run-pass plays, but the discrepancy this year is alarming.

McDaniels has certainly proved his abilities in coaching up an offense in the past. With more talent to work with in the future, he should have no problem leading a top 10 offense — even without Brady. Something to monitor this offseason is whether or not he will be in consideration for a head coaching job yet again. Patriots quarterback coach Jedd Fisch was hired as the University of Arizona’s head coach on Wednesday and a McDaniels departure may not be far behind. Some early names to monitor if the Patriots need a new play caller are: Kevin O’Connell, Chad O’Shea, and Bill O’Brien.

@Cringeusername1 What does the ideal offseason look like for the patriots?

After breaking down the Patriots needs this offseason, let’s play the projection game. My ideal offseason would start with selecting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson come April, but I don't see the Patriots going quarterback right now that early. As for some realistic projections, here are a few:

  • Patriots resign QB Cam Newton to a one-year deal, draft Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman
  • Patriots sign WR Corey Davis to a four-year, $50 million contract
  • Patriots select Florida TE Kyle Pitts in the first round

Rapid Fire time:

@RMGGJ91 How many years are we going to be a sub .500 team

Not long. This offseason will be looked back on as the reason the Patriots get back to the playoffs or continue to struggle for the next several years, but I think they will be back to over .500 next year.

@DirtyWaterKluz Odds of @Patriots going after @M_Ryan02 [Matt Ryan]?

New England will certainly explore all options at quarterback, which could be an established veteran like Matt Ryan. The former BC Eagle could be on the move as Atlanta will hire a new GM and head coach this offseason. If the new regime was to move Ryan, it would most likely come in a post June 1st trade. That would leave Atlanta with dead cap hits of $17.9M in 2021, & $26.5M in 2022, but save them $23M & $15.1M in their respective years.

A team trading for Ryan might have to surrender some serious draft capital, as well as taking on his remaining three-year, $74.75 million dollar contract (only $5.5 million remains fully guaranteed). It’s an unlikely option for the Patriots.

@lukeobrienNFL How much will the run stuffing DT that we draft in the first round weigh?

The Patriots won't take a defensive tackle in the first round (I think), but if they do Jay Tufele is the top ranked player at the position. Tufele currently is listed at 315 lbs., so to answer your question: 315 lbs.

@burn_vevo How to cope with the unrelenting pain and agony

A quick Google search recommended deep breathing and meditation. My own personal search recommended watching college football and Christmas cookies.

@jamowise Which 3 players would you realistically like to see the Patriots sign this offseason?

We already mentioned Corey Davis. Some other receivers to watch could be Marvin Jones Jr. or Sammy Watkins. If New England does not take Kyle Pitts in the first round, Hunter Henry’s name comes to mind. As for defense, a EDGE player like Haason Reddick would be an intriguing fit, but his contract demands could get too high. Former second-round pick Kamalei Correa could also be a cheap and interesting resurrection project.

@Riley_Longhair What should be the first 3 draft selections??

Considering they do not go quarterback: Kyle Pitts (Florida - TE), Chris Olave (Ohio State - WR), Chazz Surratt (North Carolina - LB).

@thechris104 How do you rank these Pats WRs? Brown, Edelman, Welker.

Oh boy, this shouldn't make anyone angry. In my opinion, Welker was the best receiver of the three (get the one image from Super Bowl 46 out of your minds already). While he was the best pure receiver, Welker easily is last in terms of Patriots’ legacies. So: Edelman, Brown, Welker.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season! If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!