The New England Patriots’ offense fell short of expectations in 2022, and the line was no exception. While the unit certainly had its positive moments, it struggled with consistency both in terms of performance and when it comes to personnel.
Heading into 2023, therefore, the unit could be in for some changes. That being said, those should be expected to come almost exclusively at the offensive tackle spot; the interior is quite solid with all three starters under contract and the top backups from a year ago also in the fold for the upcoming season:
- Trent Brown: 29 | Signed through 2023
- Cole Strange: 24 | Signed through 2025 (+ possible 5th-year option)
- David Andrews: 30 | Signed through 2024
- Michael Onwenu: 25 | Signed through 2023
- Conor McDermott: 30 | Signed through 2024
- James Ferentz: 33 | Signed through 2023
- Kody Russey: 24 | Signed through 2023
- Chasen Hines: 22 | Signed through 2025
- Andrew Stueber: 23 | Signed through 2025
Let’s start with the interior, where Cole Strange, David Andrews and Michael Onwenu will man the starting spots. The three are not going anywhere, and with James Ferentz recently re-signed to join fellow backups Kody Russey and Chasen Hines on the roster the team is pretty much set; any additions would likely come through the draft or rookie free agency, so we will not bother looking at veteran free agents right now.
The tackle spot, meanwhile, is a different story. For starters, three players at the position — all of them seeing extensive action in 2022 — are headed for the open market:
On the roster, meanwhile, the team has starting left tackle Trent Brown heading into a contract season, Conor McDermott fresh off of signing a two-year extension, and unproven sophomore Andrew Stueber. The group needs an influx of talent, and New England could go in any direction to achieve that.
If the team opts to head down the free agency road, however, here are some potential targets:
Kelvin Beachum: Even though he will turn 34 in June, Beachum is still a very good and durable offensive tackle. In 2022 with the Arizona Cardinals, he gave up only five sacks (per Pro Football Focus) and also looked good as a pass protector. Despite all of that, his contract will likely be on the cheaper side due to his age.
Orlando Brown Jr.: There was speculation whether or not Kansas City would franchise-tag its starting left tackle for a second straight offseason, but the club opted against it. This makes the 26-year-old available and one of the top tackles on the market. As such, he will be paid handsomely — possibly by the Patriots, who have ample resources and a head coach who already worked with his dad back in Cleveland.
Taylor Lewan: Injuries derailed two of his last three seasons, and at age 31 he is no safe bet to return to the Pro Bowl form he displayed earlier in his career. That said, Lewan can be a good tackle and might be worth a prove-it type deal to see if he still has it.
Kaleb McGary: The biggest question with McGary is whether or not he can improve as a pass protector. If so, the Patriots could very well be interested. His run-blocking, after all, is already at a pretty high level and pairing him with Michael Onwenu would give the team a powerful duo on the right side.
Mike McGlinchey: If Orlando Brown is OT1 in this free agency, McGlinchey is not too far behind. The 28-year-old is the complete package: he’s a good pass protector and a good run blocker. The biggest questions are a) his price tag, and b) whether or not he would be able to properly adapt to the Patriots’ scheme after spending his career in the San Francisco 49ers’ zone-based offensive line.
Jawaan Taylor: Taylor is the mirror-universe-Kaleb McGary: he is a solid pass protector, but his run-blocking is a question mark. If the Patriots believe they can fix him, though, he might be worth a look as a good-sized, durable and still-young option at the right tackle spot.
When looking at the offensive tackles available, there is some drop-off between the top-two in the free agency class and the rest. Orlando Brown and Mike McGlinchey are the premier options available, and will likely command significant resources. The others, meanwhile, range from stop-gap starters at best to backup options at worst.
What we do know is that New England does have options to fix this most glaring weakness on the offensive side of the ball.
They could invest into Brown or, less likely, McGlinchey; they could roll with what they have plus an early-round rookie; they could do a hybrid form where they sign one of the top options as a longer-term starter while also drafting a replacement for Trent Brown in Round 1 or early on Day 2. Obviously, they could also swing a trade like they did when they first acquired Brown back in 2018 (one day after drafting Isaiah Wynn).
Regardless of what their plan looks like, addressing the position will be a priority. Sure, they could survive 2023 with Brown and Conor McDermott as their starters, but they have the resources to both upgrade the current group and build for the future.