Compared to 2021, the New England Patriots had a quiet day to start this year’s legal tampering period. They did not add any outside players, re-signed a handful of their own, and saw two starters — cornerback J.C. Jackson and guard Ted Karras — leave to join other clubs.
And yet, all these moves together give us a clearer indication about where the Patriots are going as far as their roster construction is concerned. Multiple positions were either directly or indirectly impacted by them, so let’s take a look at who may or may not have benefitted.
Winners: WR Nelson Agholor and WR N’Keal Harry
The Patriots entered free agency week with a definitive need at the wide receiver position, especially on the outside, which is precisely where Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry are usually lining up. However, New England has not made a move at the position so far.
The finances likely played a role in this; the Patriots entered the day with only around $10.2 million available. However, there is also a scenario in which the team simply feels confident in the veteran talent it has under contract and will wait until the draft to address the position (likely at the expense of Harry).
At the end of the first day of legal tampering, though, both Agholor and Harry remain the top receiving options on the perimeter.
Winner: G Michael Onwenu
Michael Onwenu entered the 2021 season as the Patriots’ starting left guard, but he eventually lost that role to Ted Karras down the stretch. Karras delivered a solid performance, and turned it into a three-year, $18 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday.
As a result, the door appears to be open for Onwenu to return to the left guard spot he held for the first four weeks last year. And with starting right tackle Trent Brown also still unaccounted for in free agency, he might be able to compete for another starting spot as well.
Loser: OT Isaiah Wynn
After starting his career playing alongside ultra-reliable Joe Thuney, the Patriots’ left tackle will see another transition next to him. He started the 2021 season playing next to Michael Onwenu, but the Patriots coaching staff decided that Ted Karras was the better option.
Now, Karras is gone and Wynn will either need to continue building his chemistry with Onwenu or a new left guard altogether. Either way, some turnover is coming.
Loser: K Quinn Nordin
With veteran Nick Folk returning on a new two-year contract that includes $2.19 million in guarantees, second-year place kicker Quinn Nordin is in a difficult position. He might be able to beat Folk out over the course of the summer, but it seems more likely that he will serve as a practice squad option yet again — if he even makes it thus far.
Loser: QB Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots retaining veteran Brian Hoyer is good news for starting quarterback Mac Jones, but bad for fourth-year backup Jarrett Stidham. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, after all, re-signing Hoyer is putting Stidham in an uncertain situation: he might only serve as QB3 again in 2022, if the team even decides to keep him in the fold altogether.
Stidham, after all, might become a realistic trade candidate. It is clear that he has not established himself as a long-term backup option behind Jones, and trying to get at least some value back for him appears to be the best move for the Patriots.
Either way, Stidham’s outlook has gotten a lot more muddy with Hoyer returning on a two-year, $4 million contract.
Winners: CB Joejuan Williams and CB Shaun Wade
The Patriots’ secondary as a whole suffered a major blow when J.C. Jackson decided to sign a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. On an individual level, however, the deal is good news for two of the team’s fringe options on the outside.
Neither Joejuan Williams nor Shaun Wade were guaranteed to make the roster in 2022, and their standing on the team is still fragile. That said, losing Jackson thins out the herd at cornerback and at least creates a theoretical chance for one of the two to compete for a more prominent role this season even if more depth is added over the coming days or weeks.