The New England Patriots’ front office suffered a major loss this offseason when director of player personnel Nick Caserio accepted the Houston Texans’ vacant general manager position. Caserio had been with the Patriots since 2001, and spent the past 12 seasons as the right-hand man of head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick.
In true “next man up” fashion, however, New England turned to Dave Ziegler to help replace Caserio’s contributions. While no official promotion has been announced by the Patriots just yet, the expectation is that Ziegler’s role within the organization will look similar to the one Caserio held between the 2008 and 2019 seasons: heading the pro and college scouting departments, and being a prominent voice in Belichick’s ear.
Earlier this week, Ziegler sat down with the Patriots’ in-house media to talk about his new gig and share light on his thoughts on the team’s offseason.
“It’s been fun, and it’s been challenging,” the 43-year-old told Megan O’Brien about the transition. “It’s been a new level of having to be ultra-organized, prioritize tasks, and be involved on just a greater scope with more people in the organization, which has been fun. Luckily for me, the support here within the scouting department from people like Brian Smith and Steve Cargile, Eliot Wolf — I could keep naming people.
“But we have so many good people here that offer support, that have experience, that it’s made the transition pretty seamless. And it’s exciting. A new challenge, more involvement, and being able to lead more people and hopefully have a greater impact is something that we all strive for in our careers. It’s an exciting opportunity and something I’m ready to keep grinding away at.”
Ziegler has been with the Patriots since 2013 and steadily climbed up the organizational ladder. After spending three years as assistant director of pro scouting and four as director of pro personnel, he was promoted to assistant director of player personnel last year — a move that made him the natural candidate to take over should Caserio, a college teammate of Ziegler’s at John Carroll University, leave one day.
Caserio indeed left when the Texans came calling, but there was a chance that the Patriots would also have to watch Ziegler leave: the Denver Broncos, with whom he spent three seasons before joining New England, interviewed him for their own open GM spot.
The Patriots were eventually able to keep Ziegler in the fold, though, with Belichick reportedly “stepping up” to convince him to stay — likely on a new contract after his previous one was scheduled to expire following the 2021 draft. New England was able to keep one of its top executives around for the foreseeable future and the rebuilding process that is underway at One Patriot Place.
An integral part of that is the team’s abundance of salary cap space this offseason, something Ziegler also mentioned during his talk with O’Brien.
“I think having cap space gives you flexibility, and there aren’t a whole lot of teams at this point that maybe have a lot of cap space,” he said. “I think having that flexibility, it just opens up options for you. And I think that at the same time, there’s still a responsibility to spend those dollars wisely.”
New England is currently projected to be $63.6 million under a league-wide cap of $180.5 million. While those numbers are still subject to change — a final salary cap for the 2021 season has not yet been agreed upon by the NFL and the NFLPA — the Patriots are among the league leaders in financial potency and as such serious candidates to actively reshape their roster once free agency opens in mid-March.
Ziegler will play an active role in this process, all while also helping New England sort through the college players entering the draft. The coming weeks and months will be busy for him, but Belichick and the Patriots’ leadership obviously believe he will be up to the task.