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2022 NFL free agency: 68 thoughts on the Patriots roster one week into the new league year

With the market officially open since last Wednesday, a look at where New England currently stands.

Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

One week into the 2022 NFL league year, the New England Patriots roster has seen a few changes. While in-house free agents such as Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Trent Brown were all retained, starter-level players such as J.C. Jackson and Ted Karras departed through the open market. Add the trade that sent Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay and you get a few holes that will need to be filled.

There will be time to talk about those, but for now let’s focus on the players currently under contract with the Patriots. There are 67 of them at the moment, including restricted free agent wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.

Let’s take a look at them, and how the last week-plus has impacted their outlook heading into 2022.

Quarterbacks

Mac Jones: Even with Jones hitting a bit of a rough stretch towards the end of his rookie campaign, the first-round draft selection was still impressive in his first year leading the Patriots offense. Entering his second season as a pro he appears to be a prime candidate to make the famous second-year jump and become one of the better young passers in the NFL. New England is counting on that to happen.

Brian Hoyer: Before free agency even began, Hoyer returned to the Patriots on a two-year contract. He will continue to serve as a backup behind Mac Jones as well as a mentor for the young passer.

Jarrett Stidham: With Hoyer back in the fold, Stidham becomes a player to watch over the course of the offseason and heading towards roster cutdown day. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, after all, he appears to be a realistic candidate to be traded.

Offensive backfield

Damien Harris: There was some speculation about Harris’ status when veteran running back Leonard Fournette was brought in for a visit earlier this week, but his status remains unchanged. Harris projects as the Patriots’ top early-down running back heading into what will be the final year of his rookie deal.

Rhamondre Stevenson: Coming off a solid rookie campaign, Stevenson projects as the 1B at the early-down running back spot alongside Damien Harris. The biggest question besides his ability to make the second-year jump will be how his usage will change without fullback Jakob Johnson in the fold.

James White: The Patriots retained White on a two-year, $5 million contract in free agency. The team captain is coming off a season-ending hip injury, which makes for an uncertain projection heading into 2022. If fully healthy, though, he should again play an important role in the New England offense.

Ty Montgomery: Montgomery joined the Patriots on a two-year, $3.6 million free agency pact. His ability to line up as both a wide receiver and a running back makes him an intriguing low-risk investment.

J.J. Taylor: Taylor saw limited action in his first two seasons in the NFL, and the return of James White as well as the acquisition of Ty Montgomery might hurt his outlook heading into Year 3. At best, Taylor projects as a depth option.

Devine Ozigbo: Ozigbo joined the Patriots practice squad last year and was kept on a futures contract after the team’s season came to an end. He too is projected to serve as a depth piece.

Wide receivers

Jakobi Meyers*: Even though he has not officially signed his second-round tender yet, Meyers is expected to stay with the Patriots after they decided to keep him aboard as a restricted free agent. The former undrafted rookie is heading into his fourth year as a starter-level member of New England’s offense.

Kendrick Bourne: One of the Patriots’ best free agency signings last year, Bourne built a quick rapport with Mac Jones and finished among the team leaders in receptions and receiving yards. His production is only expected to grow alongside the young quarterback.

Nelson Agholor: Agholor was seen as a potential candidate to see his contract altered this offseason, either through trade, restructure, extension or even cut. However, nothing has happened thus far; the 28-year-old remains the Patriots’ starting X-receiver as of now.

N’Keal Harry: After three disappointing seasons, Harry’s future in New England is highly uncertain. Realistically, the former first-round draft pick will be traded — if the Patriots can find a partner to move him to.

Matthew Slater: Slater will be back in New England for a 14th season, returning to the club on a one-year pact before the start of free agency. The long-time team captain will continue to play a valuable role both on special teams and in the locker room.

Kristian Wilkerson: Wilkerson signed a futures pact with the Patriots after their playoff loss in Buffalo. He will be given a chance to compete for a depth spot as an outside receiver.

Tre Nixon: Hand-picked by former Patriots research director Ernie Adams, Nixon has yet to make an impact. He spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad, but was kept on a futures pact.

Malcolm Perry: Perry moved between New England’s practice squad and injured reserve list last season and later joined Kristian Wilkerson and Tre Nixon on the list of future deals. Like those two, he projects as a depth receiver more than anything else.

Tight ends

Hunter Henry: Henry had an impressive first season after joining the Patriots on a three-year free agency deal last March. The tight end developed into one of Mac Jones’ favorite targets and ended the year ranked first on the team in touchdown catches. He will continue to play a sizable role in 2022.

Jonnu Smith: Whereas Hunter Henry adapted quickly to life in New England, Smith had a comparatively quiet first year as a Patriot. Him developing into a reliable presence as a versatile tight end would do wonders for the team’s passing attack; Smith might even be a candidate to take over Jakob Johnson’s old role as the lead blocker in the running game.

Devin Asiasi: Asiasi was active for just one game in 2021, and appears headed towards a crossroads. Will he become a more prominently featured depth option, or be on his way out of New England?

Dalton Keene: Like Devin Asiasi, Keene was selected in the third round in 2020 and has only had a limited impact since. After spending last season on injured reserve, Jakob Johnson’s departure might create an opening for the tight end/H-back hybrid.

Offensive tackles

Isaiah Wynn: The Patriots exercised the fifth-year option in Wynn’s rookie contract last spring, meaning that he will remain signed through 2022. The former first-round draft pick has had a lot of encouraging moments, but his injury history and up-and-down play last year might lead New England to plan for the future and add another tackle to the mix in the draft.

Trent Brown: After already losing their two starting guards in free agency, the Patriots were able to retain their big-bodied right tackle. Brown returned to the Patriots on a two-year contract that is heavy on incentives; like Isaiah Wynn, after all, he has struggled with injuries as of late.

Justin Herron: Herron served as the Patriots’ third offensive tackle when he joined the team in 2020, and his role has not changed since. That said, any potential additions might hurt his standing on the roster.

Yodny Cajuste: A former third-round draft pick, Cajuste finally made it onto the field in 2021 after having missed his first two seasons due to injury. He was merely a depth option last year, though, and is not guaranteed a spot on the roster this season.

Yasir Durant: The Patriots acquired Durant via trade last summer, and he saw some snaps early on in his tenure. However, he was relegated to emergency duty down the stretch and projects closer to camp body status rather than the starting lineup.

Interior offensive line

David Andrews: With guards Shaq Mason and Ted Karras both gone, Andrews is the Patriots’ lone starting interior offensive lineman returning for 2021. He is as reliable a player as any on the roster, but it remains to be seen if the changes around him will impact his own performance.

Michael Onwenu: With Shaq Mason and Ted Karras no longer part of the equation, the door is open for Onwenu to retain a starting position. The former sixth-round draft pick will most likely take over Mason’s role at right guard — one he already played during his college career at Michigan.

James Ferentz: The Patriots did not retain Ferentz on a futures deal after the season but re-signed him last week. His experience makes him a valuable depth option, even though his starter upside is limited.

William Sherman: A fifth-round draft pick by the Patriots last year, Sherman offers some intriguing versatility as a guard/tackle hybrid. Will he develop into a starter? That seems unlikely at this point, but he could become the top interior backup when all is said and done.

Arlington Hambright: The Patriots added Hambright on a futures contract earlier this offseason. He has some experience, but projects as a depth piece.

Drew Desjarlais: Desjarlais was selected fourth overall in the 2019 CFL Draft, and is now trying his luck in the NFL. Odds are he will not develop into a starting-caliber player just yet, but he will get a chance to prove himself.

Interior defensive line

Christian Barmore: The Patriots trading up to select Barmore in the second round of last year’s draft was a genius move. The Alabama product had an impressive rookie season, after all, and appears destined to anchor the New England defensive line heading into the future.

Davon Godchaux: Entering the final season of the two-year pact he signed last March, Godchaux is a candidate for a contract extension. Either way, he will likely see prominent snaps at the heart of the New England defense yet again.

Lawrence Guy: The veteran defensive tackle recently earned a $1 million salary guarantee. While this does not guarantee him a spot on the New England roster this season, it shows that the team is still planning to have him in the fold for the immediate future.

Deatrich Wise Jr.: Wise Jr. is not just a solid and experienced rotational player, but also one of New England’s defensive leaders. He likely will continue to see regular action as a versatile player capable of moving all over the defensive line.

Henry Anderson: New England decided to alter Anderson’s contract last week to create $1.25 million in cap space. The 30-year-old can earn that amount back, but he has to hit certain playtime incentives to do so.

Byron Cowart: Cowart missed the entire 2021 season on the physically unable to perform list. The former fifth-round draft pick has looked solid when on the field, but his standing on the depth chart is uncertain heading into Year 3.

Daniel Ekuale: Ekuale had some solid moments as a practice squad elevatee in 2021. He will likely not develop into a regular member of the rotation, but has value as a depth piece.

Bill Murray: Famous name aside, Murray has been quiet in two years as a Patriot. The former rookie free agent will likely be playing for his roster life this summer.

Outside linebackers

Matthew Judon: Judon signed a massive four-year, $54.5 million contract with the Patriots last offseason and lived up to it. The 29-year-old was voted to the Pro Bowl and ended the season with 12.5 sacks; he will play a prominent role along New England’s front-line yet again in 2022.

Josh Uche: With Kyle Van Noy released, the door is open for Uche to take over as the number two edge linebacker opposite Matthew Judon. Whether or not the former second-round draft pick can live up to it remains to be seen, but his upside is notable.

Ronnie Perkins: Coming off a redshirt rookie season, Perkins should be able to get onto the field this year. The former third-round selection projects as a rotational pass rusher after filling a similar role at Oklahoma.

Off-the-ball linebackers

Ja’Whaun Bentley: Bentley currently projects as the Patriots’ number one off-the-ball linebacker. Dont’a Hightower getting re-signed or a highly-drafted rookie getting added to the mix might change his standing atop the depth chart, but the team apparently has a plan for the 25-year-old after re-signing him on a two-year pact.

Raekwon McMillan: McMillan had an encouraging training camp last summer before a torn ACL ended his season. However, the Patriots signed him to a contract extension shortly thereafter — a sign that they still expect him to become a contributor on their defense.

Mack Wilson: New England acquired Wilson in a trade with the Cleveland Browns earlier this offseason; using fellow linebacker Chase Winovich to bring him aboard. Wilson had some intriguing moments over the first three years of his career, but he saw his playing time decrease each season. The Patriots hope he can return to the form he showed as a rookie in 2019.

Anfernee Jennings: Jennings was brought aboard as a third-round selection in the 2020 draft, but he has seen limited playing time: he was a role player as a rookie and missed all of 2021 due to a mystery injury. Projecting him for next season appears to be impossible.

Cameron McGrone: A rangy linebacker capable of playing sideline to sideline, McGrone is an intriguing talent. However, he also is coming off a year-long stint on the sidelines after tearing his ACL during his final year at the University of Michigan.

Jahlani Tavai: The former second-round draft pick joined the Patriots last year and saw some action on defense and special teams. Could he carve out a bigger role in his second season with the club? Given who is currently ahead of him on the depth chart it seems possible.

Harvey Langi: The first of the Patriots’ free agents to be re-signed this offseason, Langi was kept on a one-year, $1.19 million contract. The deal already shows that he will have to earn his spot on the roster this summer.

Terez Hall: Hall saw prominent snaps in 2020, but was unable to see the field in 2021 after undergoing offseason surgery. He projects as a depth option heading into the new season, but could be one of the benefactors of neither Dont’a Hightower nor Jamie Collins being re-signed just yet.

Cornerbacks

Jalen Mills: With J.C. Jackson having left for the Los Angeles Chargers, Mills currently sits atop the Patriots’ cornerback depth chart as the number one outside option. He will likely get some company either through the draft or via trade, but his status as a starter should not be impacted: expect him to play regular snaps again in 2022.

Jonathan Jones: Jones’ 2021 season ended because of a shoulder injury, but the expectation is that he will be back on the field for offseason workouts. Getting him back would be good news for New England’s defense: Jones is one of the better slot cornerbacks in the league.

Malcolm Butler: New England’s former Super Bowl hero has returned on a two-year contract, but it remains to be seen how big of an impact he will actually be. That said, Butler is an experienced addition at a relatively cheap cost and thus raising the floor of the cornerback group.

Terrance Mitchell: One of just two outside free agents added this offseason, Mitchell has plenty of starter-level experience. He therefore projects as the number two opposite Jalen Mills at the moment, but his one-year contract already shows that he will not be handed that role: he has to earn it, and his spot on the roster.

Joejuan Williams: Three seasons into his career, Williams has been a disappointment. The former second-round draft pick struggled to get onto the field in 2021, and appears to be on his way out of New England either via trade or release.

Shaun Wade: The Patriots acquired Wade in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens last summer but he saw minimal action in 2021. Entering his second year in the NFL, he will be a player to watch but expectations need to be tempered.

Myles Bryant: Bryant took over after Jonathan Jones’ injury and had some solid moments. However, the second-year man struggled with consistency and is therefore no lock to make the team again in 2022.

Justin Bethel: Even with Matthew Slater back in the mix, Bethel projects as a core member of the Patriots’ special teams units. His value as a depth cornerback is limited, though.

Safeties

Devin McCourty: The long-time team captain and future Patriots Hall of Famer will be back for at least one more season: McCourty re-signed on a one-year, $9 million contract before the start of free agency. As usual, he will play a sizable role in the New England defense as both a starting safety and key communicator.

Adrian Phillips: Phillips was originally scheduled to enter free agency this year, but the Patriots took care of him in early January. Now playing on a new three-year, $12.8 million contract, Phillips will continue to serve as a versatile linebacker/safety hybrid — one who will rarely leave the field.

Kyle Dugger: The Patriots’ second-round investment in 2020, Dugger is coming off a very good season. Accordingly, the Lenoir-Rhyne product will continue to see regular action as a do-it-all defensive back. Even with McCourty staying put, Dugger projects as a starter-level defender for New England.

Joshuah Bledsoe: Versatility is the key for the Patriots in their secondary and Bledsoe has plenty of it. The 2021 sixth-round pick is able to play both safety and cornerback, possibly making him a valuable depth option.

Cody Davis: Davis entered the offseason as a potential cut candidate, but the Patriots did not part ways with him. If he stays in the fold, he will continue to exclusively be used on special teams — including as the personal protector of punter Jake Bailey.

Specialists

Nick Folk: After back-to-back seasons as one of the most reliable place kickers in the NFL, the Patriots re-signed Folk to a two-year, $5 million contract. The veteran will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

Jake Bailey: No other punter saw more of his kicks blocked last season than Jake Bailey. While his long-term status is in question — he is entering the final year of his rookie contract — Bailey has proven himself as a solid member of the Patriots’ kicking game operation.

Joe Cardona: Cardona’s name rarely comes up, which goes to show how reliable a long snapper he is. In fact, he might be a candidate for a contract extension.

Quinn Nordin: Nick Folk returning on a two-year pact might be bad news for Quinn Nordin. The second-year kicker will likely not be able to unseat the incumbent given how his contract was structured.

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