The offseason is fully a go, as the NFL’s franchise tag window is now officially open — and it might have some importance to the New England Patriots this season.
So, lets officially open this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag and explore the franchise tag and more.
@TheReturn2005 What WR’s could help Mac Jones. Kendrick Bourne is pretty good so some other ones.
We get it by now, the Patriots need to add more along their wide receiver depth chart. Speaking of Bourne, he is a fantastic piece that needs to be featured more in their passing game, but adding a top option ahead of him on the depth chart should be their first priority this season. Now, it’s always easier said than done, but the Patriots will have more than enough opportunities to evaluate and acquire a potential top wide receiver this offseason.
Looking towards April, drafting a wide receiver — such as a Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, etc. — could be the best formula on paper, as New England would be able to add a game changing talent on a rookie deal. But, based on the Patriots track record through the draft, perhaps they decide to acquire a proven veteran commodity, like a Calvin Ridley.
@BostonEvan11 Who’s calling offensive plays
That remains to be known. While Joe Judge was given the offensive assistant title, it has been reported he will work with the quarterbacks this season - perhaps an indication he will be the de facto offensive coordinator. That may sound scary, as throughout his coaching career, Judge has never called plays and his inability to develop Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense in New York was the main cause of his downfall.
On the positive side, Judge’s New York offense — which adopted Jason Garrett’s Air Coryell system — may have some pieces that can significantly help the Patriots on the offensive side of the ball. While the Patriots ranked dead last in run-pass option (RPOs) plays last season, the Giants ranked 12th. The Giants shifted their offense to something Daniel Jones had success with at college, something the Patriots need to do with Mac Jones — who was extremely successful in a RPO-offense at Alabama.
Despite the addition of more RPO’s, Judge’s Giants offense also ranked seventh in the league in percent of 12 personnel offense (two tight ends). New York found plenty of ways to get Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph on the field together, something the Patriots also need to do a better job of with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry next season.
Besides Judge however, Nick Caley could be a name to watch for play-calling duties, and would be at the top of my list. If Ivan Fears does retire this offseason, Caley will be the longest-tenured member of the offensive coaching staff as he enters his eighth season. As the tight ends coach, he also has had a voice in both the run and pass game plans in years past. Perhaps seeing what they have in Caley could be the best option.
@OFFICIAL_TRUCK Joshua Bledsoe got some buzz late in the year before going back on IR. What could he add to the safety room? Is he a potential McCourty replacement or more of the Dugger/Philips role?
Bledsoe is an intriguing piece along the Patriots back-end. He sounded like a prototypical Patriot from what you heard about him at Missouri: high football IQ, versatile in the secondary, man-to-man coverage skills, and of course, special teams talent. As for his fit, his mold in college was definitely more like Dugger and Phillips than McCourty.
@jmersh22 Is JC Jackson going to be tagged or resigned?
My belief remains that Jackson will receive the franchise tag from the Patriots and the two sides will work on a long-term extension until the draft, where they then could reevaluate his future with the club. Now, I would personally pay Jackson a long-term deal, largely due to his importance in Belichick’s heavy man-to-man defensive system. Striking a long-term deal would also lower his cap hit this season instead of the $17.4 million franchise tag. Jackson, 26, still seems to be getting better every year and is a crucial part of this Patriots’ defense.
@Patriot_Moss Who is the #1 FA you’d want the Patriots to target in the off-season?
If the Patriots want to find the veteran commodity we talked about earlier at wide receiver in free agency, I still would love Michael Gallup. While his availability is under question due to the torn ACL he suffered last season, Gallup could be a perfect fit at the X receiver position.
Besides receiver, it’d be interesting to see if the Patriots plan on bringing in another cornerback to pair with Jackson, allowing Jalen Mills to move around the secondary. Kansas City’s Charvarius Ward could be an intriguing name to watch as his best football has come playing man-to-man along the outside.
Also, adding more along the EDGE in free agency may be in the cards. New England has a number of young prospects at the position (Jsoh Uche, Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins), so perhaps adding a cheaper, veteran in free agency is the best route. Los Angeles Rams’ Ogbonnia Okoronkwo could fit that bill, as he can rush the passer and hold up in the run game. The 26-year old EDGE defender is coming off career-best year, but has struggled to see consistent playing time in the Rams loaded front seven. Okoronkwo could provide a nice complimentary piece with starting potential.
@GregHueser What you think about taking LSU LB Damone Clark in later rounds
Another story you’ve heard by now, the Patriots will draft a fast linebacker. But, that’s something they've been doing now, as they have drafted athletic linebackers such as Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Cameron McGrone, and Ronnie Perkins over the past few seasons.
As for Clark, he fits the bill of what the Patriots have drafted in recent years - athletic linebackers who still fit the mold of a typical Belichick linebacker (230+ lbs.). Clark showcased some serious athleticism at LSU and weighs in around 245 pounds. Certainly keep an eye on him in the late day two, early day three range.
@patrickridner What do you believe to be the issue with Winovich and Uche not getting consistent playing time?
Speaking of the fast players the Patriots have drafted, the concern is that they haven't been able to consistently get on the field. Injuries have certainly not helped the cause, but Winovich was a healthy inactive several times this season and Uche seemed to disappear at times. Your guess is as good as mine as too whether it’s a poor system fit or development issue (or maybe a bit of both). Going forward, the Patriots need to figure out how to actually use these athletic players, not just acquire them.
@Jermfree23 Who is your #1 dream draft choice for us to choose if that prospect is still on the board in this year’s draft?
Chris Olave has long been a draft crush of mine. Staying at receiver, Alabama’s John Metchie seems like a great fit in the Patriots offense. On defense, I’d love if Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. found a way to No. 21 overall. He’d be a great fit across the field from J.C. Jackson. Also, there’s a ton of linebackers in the day two range I love, which may be highlighted by Wyoming’s Chad Muma.
@zttack317 Who are some late round/Day 3/UDFA prospects you would like to see the Patriots to take a chance on?
Assuming the Patriots take care of wide receiver and linebacker early on in the draft, I'd bet they focus on the trenches later on. Kentucky’s interior defensive lineman MarQuan McCall, who is a throwback nose tackle, could be a target in round six or seven. John Ridgeway could also be an earlier day three target along the defensive line. I’d be surprised if the Patriots also didn't take an offensive tackle at some point in the draft, perhaps Max Mitchell, Abraham Lucas, or Rasheed Walker.
Some non-trenches names: CB Josh Jobe, CB Jack Jones, S Smoke Monday, LB Jack Sanborn, RB C.J. Verdell, WR George Pickens, WR Slade Bolden.
@Jaej28 Is Mac and the Pats ready for a deeper run in the 2022-23 season?
Considering a deeper run technically means winning one playoff game, sure. But, that’s no easy task in a loaded AFC. They have work to do this offseason.
@NathanielRoth3 why didn’t we bring Flores back? :(
In a recent interview with HBO’s Real Sports, Flores said he never talked to anyone in New England about a return. Appearing on I Am Athlete, Flores said he is not mad at Bill Belichick and called him the “GOAT,” but did mention that he has not spoken with him since the lawsuit was filed.
Maybe him not retuning to New England actually had nothing to do with the ongoing lawsuit, but the fact that the Patriots already have Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick leading the defense. Adding a third high-powered voice in Flores to a mix that may already be at a crossroads could have created larger issues.
@OFFICIAL_TRUCK Is Drew Desjarlais the real deal?
He's a two time Grey Cup champion, so, obviously.
@floydianship Who came up with the name Pats Pulpit?
That is a wonderful question and one that I'm not even sure of. What a name, though.
@Stefano0o0 What gives?
What does give, Stefano?
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. 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!