The New England Patriots have made their first free agency signing of the week, adding cornerback Terrance Mitchell on a reported one-year, $3 million contract. While not a big-name signing by any means, it is one that improves the overall depth at a position of need and likely will not impact New England’s salary cap too much.
With that said, let’s find out what adding Mitchell to the equation means for the Patriots.
New England adds some much-needed cornerback depth
After losing J.C. Jackson to a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers earlier this week, the Patriots were in dire need of more cornerback depth. That was especially true on the outside, where Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade were the projected top options currently under contract.
Now, Mitchell will be added to the equation. Primarily aligning on the perimeter throughout his career, the Oregon product projects as a potential starter based on the current makeup of the group.
In total, New England’s current cornerback depth chart therefore looks as follows:
- Outside cornerback: Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade, Justin Bethel
- Slot cornerback: Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Joshuah Bledsoe*
Adding Mitchell gives New England another experienced depth option on the outside, but to think that he will be the savior the team’s cornerback group is looking for would be naive. Despite having started 54 games over the course of his career, he has not been anywhere near the level of an elite CB1 such as J.C. Jackson.
In fact, Mitchell will probably not even be guaranteed a spot on the roster come the regular season. He improves the team’s depth and raises the floor at the cornerback position, but signing him will more than likely be just one of the Patriots’ moves.
Mitchell offers plenty of experience
Mitchell spent time with five organizations since arriving in the NFL in 2014, but he was able to carve out a starting role on three of them. Along the way, he gained experience in different coverage schemes.
Mitchell played in a lot of one-deep man-coverage schemes during his time in Kansas City under Bob Sutton. He later joined the Cleveland Browns, where he was part of an aggressive man-based scheme under Gregg Williams and a pattern-match zone scheme under Williams’ successor, Steve Wilks.
Despite the changes, Mitchell had been able to adapt.
“He’s been very coachable,” Browns defensive backs coach Jeff Howard said about him in 2020. “He’s a smart player. In the offseason, he really stood out ... We would end up quizzing them pretty much daily and he was one of the leaders of the group. He’s an intelligent player. He’s taken the things that he’s learned during the offseason and really applied it.”
After moving to Houston last year, Mitchell saw considerable action in a Tampa 2-style zone defense run by Texans coordinator Lovie Smith.
In total, Mitchell has appeared in 83 regular season games as well as four playoff contests. He has picked off eight passes and forced nine fumbles, including one against Patriots running back Damien Harris last year.
The Eliot Wolf connection shines through
Patriots scouting assistant Eliot Wolf spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Cleveland, serving as the team’s assistant general manager. As such, he played an active role in the club’s acquisitions over that two-year span — acquisitions that also included Terrance Mitchell: the team signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract in 2018.
Now, Mitchell and Wolf reunite in New England. The cornerback is not the first member of the Browns to recently join the team, though. Linebacker Mack Wilson was acquired via trade on Tuesday; he too spent time in Cleveland when Wolf was there.
The Patriots’ compensatory draft picks formula will not be impacted
Mitchell entered the open market last week, when the Texans decided to part ways with him. As a player released by his former team and not entering the open market because of an expiring contract, the 29-year-old will not count negatively against the Patriots’ compensatory draft picks formula.
At the moment, New England is projected to earn two such extra selections in the 2023 draft: losing J.C. Jackson and offensive lineman Ted Karras is expected to result in a third- and a sixth-rounder coming the Patriots’ way. Obviously, any signings made by the team could have an adverse impact on those two picks.