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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Will the Patriots get aggressive in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Related: Pats Pulpit Mock Draft Show: New England nabs a quarterback in the first round

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After a busy first week of free agency, the New England Patriots have stayed on the sidelines while the rest of the league has picked things up. The San Francisco 49ers packaged a trio of first-round selections to Miami to move up to No. 3 overall — presumably for a quarterback — while the Dolphins then jumped back up to No. 6 overall in an exchange with Philadelphia.

With just over two weeks until the NFL Draft kicks off, even more movement might be on the horizon — starting with Atlanta Falcons potentially auctioning off the No. 4 overall selection.

Whether the Patriots truly do operate under a new draft strategy this year — like owner Robert Kraft hinted at several weeks ago — or not, they will have plenty of talented options available to them all over the board. So, let's explore some of those options, as well as their current roster.

@JasonFromEndor With Hunter and Jonnu being the only 2 TEs roster locks, who will be the other(s) who stay on the roster?

Besides Henry and Smith, the Patriots currently have three other true tight ends on the roster: Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, and Matt LaCosse. They also have Rashod Berry (TE/DE), who did not play an offensive snap last year. So, looking at the true tight ends, I would be shocked if Asiasi was not to make the team and take a learning role behind Henry and Smith, while Keene could also see a versatile role as both a tight end and half back — much like he was used in college at Virginia Tech. With that being said, LaCosse is most likely on the outside looking in.

@PatsFanBen With the price of moving up to #4 to be incredibly high, is it more likely that Patriots trade back and grab more 2022 draft capital to make a move on a first round qb next year?

The price to move up to No. 4 overall was always going to be high — most likely starting with two first-round picks, a second-round selection, and some spare change. If the Patriots truly feel one of the quarterbacks in this class is a real franchise-caliber signal caller, they should not hesitate at all to move up and get him. They did a wonderful job addressing their weaknesses and filling out their roster in free agency, and selecting the right quarterback could result in an extremely quick rebuild.

Now, if they are not 100 percent sold on any quarterback in this class, moving back and stockpiling more picks is never a bad move. They already have a big gap to fill between their second and third selections (No. 46 and No. 96 overall), so a potential trade down is definitely in play. It would also not come as a surprise if they do look to move later picks (they currently have three fourth-round selections) or a potential player (N’Keal Harry) to grab more 2022 draft capital as well.

@NTylerVI Is it more or less likely that our long term QB is coming from the 2022 draft, rather than this?

Unless they find the next mid-round gem, the Patriots are going to have to trade up at some point to get their next long term quarterback. With that being said, it makes sense to do it as soon as possible if they feel confident in a specific prospect. But if they do not love one specific QB in this year’s class, or feel the price to move up is significantly too high, the focus shifts to Cam Newton this year and the 2022 draft — which is headlined by North Carolina’s quarterback Sam Howell.

If we were going to put odds on this however, I would give the slight edge to selecting the guy in this year’s draft.

@kirb410 Let’s talk Edelman. Why so much press about cutting or trading. 2.5 mil doesn’t seem like a hefty price tag even if he just rides the bench.

The 2021 season does not look promising for the soon to be 35-year old receiver. Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported Thursday that “it’s doubtful [Edelman] will be able to play the entire 2021 season” due to the knee surgery he underwent last season. As Edelman is not getting any younger, the spotlight immediately turns to his future in football.

A release of the 12-year veteran at any point would free up just over $3.4 million in cap space for the Patriots this season — while carrying a dead cap hit of $2.66 million. Considering his release would not free up significant money, the best option could be to place Edelman on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start the year, if he does not choose retirement. On the PUP list, Edelman would automatically miss the first six weeks of the season — including practice — and then must be activated, shifted to the injured reserve, or released within five weeks. Shutting him down until roughly Week 10 or 11 and seeing if he is then healthy enough to play a limited role in a potential playoff run could be the best option going forward. Plus, he would still be able to be around the team in a leadership role.

@thechris104 What’s the plan if Cam gets injured again?

As of now, it’s the Jarrett Stidham show. However, the Patriots will absolutely add another quarterback before the season kicks off. As the free agent market quickly dried up, it looks like another addition should come through the draft. We will have to wait and see if that come from a trade up for one of the consensus top five quarterbacks or a mid-round gunslinger like Kellen Mond or Jamie Newman.

@mac_quakes Say Pats stay at 15, who would be ideal selection: Jaycee Horn, Kwity Paye, or Micah Parsons? Also if they trade up I’d rather take fields over lance/jones any day of the year

Any of those three listed players would be a victory for the Patriots, but Jaycee Horn would be my selection. While cornerback is currently one the Patriots strongest positions on their depth chart, it is also one of their biggest needs entering the draft. With Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson’s future murky, it would not be a surprise to see New England pluck a cornerback off the board early.

As for Horn, he is a perfect fit — both physically and systematically — for the Patriots. He is perhaps the best man-to-man, physical cornerback in this draft, which is something that top Patriot corners have excelled at in the past. If New England does stay at No. 15 or slightly slides down the board, Horn would be a home run selection.

(And yes, I agree that Justin Fields should be the choice over Trey Lance or Mac Jones if they do move up)

@fullbackdivepod Will the RB-Room consist of Michel, Harris, White, Taylor and Bolden or will the Pats add someone else to the mix

With the return of James White and Brandon Bolden, the Patriots running back room quickly regained its form. Sony Michel and Damien Harris should provide a powerful 1-2 punch in the run game as White should make more of an impact in the passing game with an improved unit around him. Bolden has always been a solid change-of-pace option and quality special team player, while J.J. Taylor showed off dynamic flashes in limited action last season.

As for additions, I'm sure the Patriots could keep in touch with Rex Burkhead as he rehabs his torn ACL. Also, if they believe they find a cheaper option in the draft, Bolden could be released to save $1.47 million on the cap. Don’t expect anything major from the running back group, but some small remodeling can always be done.

@jwskinn Outside of QB what would be your draft strat in the first especially? Do you draft for need or value. Lets say D.Smith/Waddle drops to 15 are you drafting a player who fits more of a need (CB/T) or are you taking Smith/Waddle who you hypothetically have higher on your draft board

I always like drafting the best player on the board and figuring it out from there. It is never a bad thing to add talent to your roster even if it’s at a position of depth. At No. 15, the Patriots should have plenty of talented options available to them and many of them should fit specific needs as well. We’ve already discussed cornerback Jaycee Horn, but DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle would be great additions as well if they slide in the first round.

Based on the bevy of talent available on Day 1, the best option might be to trade down a few spots and close that gap between their second- and third-round picks (if they cannot get a quarterback of course). Moving back in the first round and still grabbing a player like Horn, Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, or Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw would be a major success.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered in the next mailbag, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!