The New England Patriots had another busy day on Friday, making four transactions and bringing a player in for a free agency workout.
The team started off by re-signing defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale, followed by adding a pair of free agents: tight end Mike Gesicki on a one-year deal and linebacker/special teamer Chris Board on a two-year pact. In addition, the Patriots released Jalen Mills and had fellow defensive back C.J. Moore in town for a visit.
How do the moves impact the rest of the team? Let’s find out.
Winner: QB Mac Jones. New England’s starting quarterback has a new weapon to work with. While Mike Gesicki is essentially a tight end in name only — he is more of a big slot who offers little in terms of blocking — he certainly improves the Patriots’ skill position personnel. This, in turn, could help make Jones’ life easier especially on third downs and in the red zone.
Gesicki, after all, offers a 6-foot-6 frame and has the catch radius to become a serious threat on jump balls. He is the latest (and biggest) addition to a pass-catching corps that is featuring considerable size.
Winners: CB Jack Jones. There are still questions about Jones’ status as it relates to his late-game suspension and outstanding grievance with the team. That being said, New England releasing Jalen Mills can be interpreted as a positive sign: with the veteran gone, Jones would be the next man up as a starting cornerback on the outside.
Time will tell whether or not that assessment turns out accurate. At the moment, however, the door at least is theoretically open for him to not just stay with the team but take on a staring position in its secondary.
Winners: CB Shaun Wade, CB Quandre Mosley, CB Rodney Randle. Removing Mills from the cornerback group also has a positive effect on the depth players at outside cornerback. Realistically, New England will add more players in free agency and the draft, but for now one competitor for a roster spot has been eliminated from the race.
Loser: DT Sam Roberts and DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. Daniel Ekuale will stay put on a reported two-year contract, which in turn allows New England to keep its defensive tackle group intact. This might also mean fewer opportunities for New England’s sixth-round draft choice from a year ago as well as former practice squad member Jeremiah Pharms.
Had Ekuale left in free agency, both would have had a better chance of earning regular practice reps and possibly a spot on the team. With Ekuale likely not going anywhere in 2023, those chances are now minimal.
Losers: WR Kendrick Bourne. As noted above, Mike Gesicki is a big slot receiver more so than a traditional tight end. Adding him to the mix therefore also impacts the other slot receivers on the roster, most prominently Kendrick Bourne.
His position in the offense was already in question with JuJu Smith-Schuster signing a three-year contract in free agency. Having Gesicki now as well might give further impetus to Bourne possibly being moved.
Losers: LB Mack Wilson Sr. and LB Raekwon McMillan. In 2022, Wilson and McMillan served in a dual role as backup linebackers and special teamers. While they were both re-signed as free agents, the addition of Chris Board — especially on a multi-year pact — might make it difficult for both to remain on the active team through roster cutdowns.
Obviously, a lot can and will still happen until late August and early September. For now, however, Board’s presence as a virtual roster lock puts more pressure on both Wilson and McMillan.