The New England Patriots’ free agency week is a comparatively quiet one so far, and the official start of the new league year on Wednesday was no exception. The team made just one outside acquisition, signing cornerback Terrance Mitchell to a reported one-year, $1.75 million deal.
The Patriots also saw two of their players leave — running back Brandon Bolden and fullback Jakob Johnson both signed in Las Vegas — and declined to tender restricted free agent Gunner Olszewski. While there was not a lot of personnel movement, it was all par the course for New England this week. Of course, that doesn’t mean the team is not working.
The Patriots’ brain trust, for example, was on the scouting trail: head coach/general manager Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Matt Groh, and senior football advisor Matt Patricia were all in Athens to watch the University of Georgia pro day.
One of the most anticipated events of this year’s pre-draft cycle, the Bulldogs’ pro day saw some of the top college prospects in the country work out: the team currently has 11 players listed among the top 100 players entering the draft, according to a consensus of 37 big boards.
Among those present were a considerable number of potential Patriots targets.
LB Travon Walker: Projected to come off the board in the middle of the first round, the are in the same position as they are with Jordan Davis: they likely will have to trade up to bring him aboard. Walker, after all, is an outstanding athlete and one of the better edge linebackers available.
DT Jordan Davis: One of the best defensive tackles available in this year’s draft, the 6-foot-6, 341-pound Davis boosted his draft stock with an outstanding performance at the Scouting Combine. The Patriots would likely have to trade up to get him, but Davis would be an intriguing addition to a D-line also featuring Christian Barmore.
LB Nakobe Dean: An outstanding athlete, Dean is undersized compared to what the Patriots are traditionally looking for at the off-the-ball linebacker spot: he measured at just 5-foot-11, 229 pounds at the combine. That said, New England appears to be in the middle of rebuilding its linebacker corps, which would make him a potential target at No. 21.
DL Devonte Wyatt: Wyatt is as versatile as any defensive linemen in this year’s draft. Capable of playing multiple techniques at a very high level, the 6-foot-3, 304-pounder was a disruptive presence in the middle of Georgia’s defense. He is a projected to come off the board late on Day 1.
WR George Pickens: Pickens has struggled with injuries as of late, but he has been a productive player for the Bulldogs whenever on the field. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound wideout would help bolster New England’s depth on the perimeter and deep-field abilities if drafted in his likely range (i.e. the second round).
S Lewis Cine: The Patriots re-signed Devin McCourty to a one-year contract, but might still have Cine on their radar. He is a versatile defensive back but his value lies primarily as a box safety. New England is set at that position with both Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips under contract, but might be willing to invest a Day 2 pick if the 6-foot-2, 199-pounder is available.
LB Quay Walker: Whereas fellow off-the-ball linebacker Nakobe Dean does not fit the Patriots’ traditional mold at the position, Quay Walker very much does. He was measured at 6-foot-4, 241 pounds at the Combine and is capable of attacking downhill versus the run and play sideline-to-sideline versus the pass.
CB Derion Kendrick: The Patriots have a definitive need at the outside cornerback position, so seeing them use one of their late Day 2 or early Day 3 picks to bring Kendrick aboard would not be a surprise. He is a project, but his athletic upside is enticing.
OL Jamaree Salyer: Salyer projects as a starting-level guard at the next level, and it is not hard to see why. The 6-foot-3, 321-pounder combines good size with fluid movement skills, and might help the Patriots replace the departed Ted Karras and Shaq Mason.
LB Channing Tindall: While not as intriguing a prospect as Nakobe Dean or Quay Walker, Tindall was a productive player in a part-time role for the Bulldogs. A smart player who offers some versatility, the projected mid-round pick lacks a high-end athletic skillset but could turn into a solid contributor if used in the right setting.
As can be seen, Bill Belichick and company were able to get a close look at a lot of talented players. Seeing at least one of them be brought in over draft weekend would not be a surprise given the Patriots’ current positional needs and affinity for players from a top-notch program such as Georgia.
Back in 2018, for example, New England invested first-round selections in Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel. The club also has center David Andrews hailing from that program.