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#PostPulpit Mailbag: What will be the Patriots’ next moves?

Related: Patriots free agency preview: New England has some options to upgrade at wide receiver

New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The NFL offseason is apparently a full-go. Over the past few days, eight franchise tags were dished out — which did not include New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson — while Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson shook the current landscape of the league when they decided their futures. To make matters even wilder, the Chicago Bears sent Khalil Mack to the Chargers for a pair of draft picks on Thursday.

As for the Patriots, they have begun to get to work on their roster as well, which was highlighted by the decision to not tag Jackson while also releasing linebacker Kyle Van Noy. As for Jackson, it appears the two sides are preparing for a split, as the All-Pro cornerback is in line for a mega-pay day on the open market.

With free agency now right around the corner (legal tampering begins Monday March 14), the Patriots have plenty of work to due to their roster if they hope to make it back to the playoffs in 2022. So, let’s explore what some of that work may consist of and more in this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

@TheLad212 Chances Amari Cooper gets signed?

Another story that’s been beaten into your brains at this point of the offseason is that the Patriots need more at the wide receiver position. It’s believed the team feels comfortable with Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne handling slot duties, so upgrading Agholor at the X position may be the priority — and there might not be a better option available than Cooper.

Cooper is exactly what the Patriots offense could use on the outside, but he likely will price himself out of New England. Cooper should negotiate around the three-year, $60 million deal Mike Williams just inked with the Chargers — the exact same AAV he was scheduled to make in Dallas. The Patriots could obviously negotiate things to lower the overall cap number this season, but it’s still hard to imagine.

@Brian_Neumann If you were to bet on one WR the Patriots pick up either in Free Agency or the draft, who would it be? Side question, who would you want if you could choose?

Speaking of Cooper, he likely would be my first choice out of the receivers that are available. Looking at some realistic options in free agency, there’s not too much to get excited about outside of the top market options. One name that peaked my interest was Will Fuller, whose stock has never been lower after missing all but two games last year. He’d instantly bring speed and deep playmaking ability to any offense, but has never been able to stay on the field. For whatever reason, adding Fuller on a low risk/high reward deal screams like a Bill Belichick move.

As for the draft, if I was actually betting my money the pick would be easy: Alabama’s Slade Bolden. Him replacing Gunner Olszewski just seems done already. But to make the answer more fun, I’ll go with Alabama’s John Metchie or a day two prospect in Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore.

@elijahb6_ Should the Pats pursue Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf if they’re made available via trade?

It appears to be a full blown fire sale in Seattle as the team traded quarterback Russell Wilson and released All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner just several hours later on Tuesday. Seattle will likely listen to offers on everyone on their roster, except wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who still is only 24 years old.

That does leave fellow wide receiver Tyler Lockett potentially open for grabs. The 29-year old has been one of the most productive receivers in the league over the past six seasons. Lockett has posted 36 receiving touchdowns over the last four years while exceeding the 1,000 yard market three times, and having 965 yards in the other. He has also just missed two games since arriving in the league.

Acquiring Lockett would also come with the four-year contract extension he inked last offseason. If the Patriots were responsible for his $13 million roster option, his 2022 cap hit would be $6.25 million if traded. Lockett would inject some serious speed and production to the Patriots offense, all at a reasonable cap hit. If he’s made available, New England should pounce on the opportunity.

Besides Lockett, checking in on recently released Wagner would also be wise for New England as they prepare to remodel their linebacker room this offseason. Wagner has arguably been the best linebacker in football over the past 10 years and still plays at an extremely high level all three downs. The 31-year old likely could fetch some serious cash on the open market, but perhaps a role in the middle of New England’s defense appeals him. He’d be an ideal replacement for Dont’a Hightower.

@CraigJoly Who gets released next?

The Patriots got their offseason off to a start by releasing Kyle Van Noy to free up just over $4 million of salary cap space. It was an almost expected move as the Patriots (stop me if you've heard this before) will undergo changes at the linebacker position this offseason.

So, who's next?

To start, any player moved off the “Top 51” (top 51 cap hits on each roster) will have their spot replaced by Cameron McGrone, whose 2022 cap hit is $$765,038. So, if the Patriots were to release defensive lineman Henry Anderson and free up over $2.6 million, they technically would only save $1.91 million on the cap. N’Keal Harry also could be a candidate for a release before free agency begins, which would net the Patriots roughly $430,000 in cap relief.

One of the biggest players to watch will be wide receiver Nelson Agholor. It’s no secret the team is looking to upgrade the X receiver spot, meaning Agholor’s future with the club is bleak. The Patriots would prefer to find a trade partner for the receiver, as working out a trade will net the team $9.12 million in cap space, compared to releasing the veteran which will save them just $4.12 million in cap space.

Jake Bailey will be another interesting name to watch, as the punter is on the books for over $4 million this season. A straight up release of Bailey would free up nearly all of that money ($72,245 in dead cap), but perhaps the two sides just work out an extension to lower this year’s cap hit. Tight end Hunter Henry, defensive lineman Davon Godchaux, and linebacker Matthew Judon also would be candidates for a contract extension/restructure.

@MikeM75351549 It looks like Trent Brown tweeted out a cartoon of him in a pats uni is his deal essentially already done to come back?

Here is the tweet in question:

Whether you believe that indicates a potential deal with New England is up to you. Re-signing Brown would make sense for the Patriots, as Isaiah Wynn is set to play the 2022 season on his fifth-year option. If Brown does sign elsewhere, offensive tackle would be a more important need come draft time.

@masonFLD If NE trades back, which teams below them could be possibly looking to trade up and what kind of package could they get for 21? Would like to get an extra 2nd or 3rd this year

No. 21 overall does seem like a potential trade back spot for New England. According to Rich Hill’s trade value chart, the Patriots first round pick is worth 261 value points. Here are some other potential offers that could be done based on that chart:

  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to Houston for No. 37 and 68 (235 value points)
  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to Detroit for No. 32 and 66 (260 value points)
  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to Jacksonville for No. 33 and 70 (250 value points)
  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to New York Giants for No. 36 and 67 (241 value points)

@BostonEvan11 Chandler Jones?

I never understood the Chandler Jones back to New England hype. The Patriots already dealt big money to Matthew Judon on the EDGE last offseason, who’s play style is extremely similar to Jones. Plus, the former Patriot is likely still looking for a deal north of $10-12 million per year. It’s a no from me, but I do believe adding a veteran EDGE player for cheap would be the best way to round out the depth chart. Perhaps even newly released Trey Flowers, if the price is right.

@LarryReport1 Who would u say most likely pats get in FA?? Any chance of amari ??

I’m putting my money in the Charvarius Ward basket. The Patriots need corners, especially if Jackson departs. Ward, 25, could be a great fit in Belichick’s defense, as he is at his best when in man-to-man coverage.

@acdevos How many core Special Teams players can we sign with our newly created $20 mil. cap space?

Just give all of it to San Diego States’ Matt Araiza. Belichick is already dreaming about a two punter formation.

@ChunkyAs*Ragu how many 2nd graders can trent brown take in a fight?

Trent Brown is listed at 6-foot-8, 363 pounds. Based off some quick google searches, the average second grader weighs in at roughly 4-foot-1, 65 pounds. In conclusion, he would beat all of them.

@oinwards If they draft Olave at 21, what planet will Keagan ascend too?

My guess was all the way to Neptune, but, I asked him for myself:

“My soul will almost certainly become detached from my body and I’ll watch my self celebrate four years of mocks coming to fruition.” — Keagan Stiefel, leader of the Chris Olave fan club.

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 @iambrianhinesand @PatsPulpit as well!