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Sunday Patriots Notes: Is offensive tackle Trent Brown on the trade block?

Notes and thoughts on the Patriots and the rest of the NFL.

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New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

NFL free agency is in full swing, and the New England Patriots have been quite busy so far. Over the last six days since the opening of the legal tampering window and through the start of the new league year, the team has made 19 transactions — either signing or re-signing, trading, or releasing players.

Those moves naturally attracted all of our attention these last few days and can be recapped in more detail in our Patriots Free Agency Tracker. As for other storylines, notes or thoughts that emerged over the last week, that’s what our Sunday Patriots Notes are for. Enjoy.

Is Trent Brown on the trade block? Even with Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon remaining on the open market, the Patriots made some investments in their offensive tackle group this offseason. After re-signing Conor McDermott to a two-year pact in February, the team also added free agents Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson, and placed the original third-round tender on restricted free agent Yodny Cajuste.

New England might not be done, either. The tackle position could very well see more additions in the draft, with the team possibly going as early as the first round to find some long-term stability and developmental upside.

All of this begs the question: What does this mean for the offensive tackles already on the roster, especially Trent Brown? He has been a starter since his return to New England in 2021, first on the right side before being moved to the left last season.

Brown remains under contract through 2023, but is coming off his worst season as a Patriot while carrying a $12.25 million salary cap hit. Considering the prospect of an early-round tackle joining the mix, and the fact that both Reiff and Anderson signed deals indicating they might be on the team this fall, his future remains in question.

Outright releasing him as a possibility and a move that would generate $8 million in gross savings versus a $4.25 million dead cap charge. However, a trade might also be an option — one that would change those financial parameters to $1.25 million and $11 million, respectively.

And make no mistake, Brown very well has trade value. He is still only 29 years and showed some strong durability in 2022; he played in all 17 of the Patriots’ games after having missed almost half of possible contests the previous three seasons combined. He also offers considerable experience, positional versatility, and can still be a good player both in pass protection and run blocking.

New England keeping him is therefore entirely possible. However, the factors mentioned above might prompt the team to possibly put him on the trade block and roll with a mix of an early-round rookie, Reiff, Anderson and Cajuste in 2023 — a risky plan on paper, but one the team might still feel comfortable in.

All that said, the Patriots moving on from Brown should not be expected to happen before the draft — if they even want to move on from him at all.

The Patriots’ free agency speaks a clear language. When taking a look at those 19 moves made by New England mentioned above, we can see that the team identified a few areas of concern worth addressing. Three stand out among them: receiving talent, offensive tackle play, and special teams performance.

In the receiving department, the Patriots effectively replaced wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (signed by Las Vegas) and tight end Jonnu Smith (traded to Atlanta) with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki. Of course, while Meyers and Smith-Schuster are a similar type of pass catcher, Smith and Gesicki are on different ends of the tight end spectrum; the former is more of a blocker, with the latter almost exclusively a receiver.

As for offensive tackle, the moves outlined above leave little doubt about the team’s feelings on the production it received in 2022. And as was mentioned, it would not be a surprise if additional talent gets added to the mix through the draft.

The kicking game, meanwhile, saw some re-signings — Matthew Slater in February, followed by Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson, Joe Cardona and Cody Davis this week — as well as the addition of arguably the top special teamer on the market, Chris Board. Time will tell if the investments pay off, and how the team will fill the vacancy at punter, but on paper New England has made improvements.

A part of Matthew Judon’s salary is now guaranteed. Amidst all the free agency frenzy, Patriots linebacker (and amateur recruiter) Matthew Judon also was involved in a transaction — although rather passively: as was pointed out by Miguel Benzan on Saturday, $2 million of Judon’s $11 million salary became fully guaranteed.

The 30-year-old carries the highest salary cap hit on New England’s current roster, being on the books with $18.11 million. Nonetheless, he is as close to a lock as any player under contract to make the team.

Jakobi Meyers talks Patriots in his Raiders introductory presser. After four years in New England, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders last week. The former rookie free agent was introduced by the team a few days later, and the Patriots were also part of the conversation.

One of the topics mentioned was a tweet of his referencing his de fact to replacement, JuJu Smith-Schuster, signing a three-year deal at the same initially reported value (in reality, the deal is more team-friendly than Meyers’): “Cold world lol” he wrote at the time.

On Thursday, he explained his reaction.

“I just like messing with people. I just like getting under people’s skin,” he said. “But, honestly, I appreciate them for everything that I’ve been through there. I never really got to say… well I did get to say goodbye, but I never really get to tell them bye as I was leaving the building. That was just me being childish, for real. But I love them, but I’m also happy to be here.”

Financials obviously played a role in Meyers’ decision to leave New England; the Patriots were surprisingly not willing to offer a deal matching Las Vegas’. However, his connection with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — the Raiders’ head coach since last spring — also played a role.

“When I first met Josh, he was pushing me,” he said about his connection with McDaniels. “Maybe at the time, I wasn’t his biggest fan but looking back on my career he helped me grow as a football player, as a man. He definitely played a big part as far as me choosing to come here. Just want to be a better person, a better player.”

Devin McCourty was ‘shocked’ to see Jakobi Meyers leave New England... Meyers’ departure came as a surprise, especially given the relatively reasonable contract he ended up signing. One of the people taken by surprise was recently retired Patriots safety Devin McCourty.

Appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show, he expalined his feelings on the situation.

“I thought what Jakobi signed for for the Raiders was, like, ‘Eh,’” he said, as transcribed by NESN’s Zack Cox. “He was our most productive receiver the last two years, and this year he missed [three] games and still was head and shoulders our most productive guy in an offensive system that loves having a guy that can work short routes inside, intermediate routes, vertically on third down, and is the guy usually on third down.

“So, when I saw what he signed for, I was kind of like, ‘Damn.’ I thought that would have been an easy contract to bring him back here, and from talking to him, I think he wanted to be back here.”

Alas, itt was not meant to be.

...and shares his thoughts on the team’s safeties. Now off to retirement, McCourty has time for other ventures. One of them is being active on social media, whether is breaking the news of Cody Davis’ return or sharing thoughts on the team where it currently stands.

Two tweets of his in particular caught the eye:

McCourty followed up those endorsements in the remaining group of Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe and Brad Hawkins, by mentioning one player in particular: third-year man Bledsoe, who played a backup role in 2023 and rarely saw the field.

McCourty, however, is optimistic about his development.

New England earning 2024 compensatory picks would be a surprise. The Patriots have been relatively active in free agency, but they saw only one of their players — Jakobi Meyers — actually depart through the open market. Of their other 20 free agents, 14 were either re-signed, tendered or are now off to retirement; only six remain available to be picked up.

Meanwhile, the Patriots themselves added six outside free agents. That discrepancy between players lost and players signed means that the team will likely not receive any compensatory draft picks in 2024.

Even if some of those six unsigned free agents will join new teams, they would have to sign contracts big enough to tip the scales in New England’s favor again. That happening seems unlikely given that running back Damien Harris and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn are the most prominent options among them.

Why the Packers hold the leverage in the Aaron Rodgers trade. The Patriots’ free agency activity over the course of last week generated a few headlines, but none as prominent as the Aaron Rodgers situation. The long-time Green Bay Packers quarterback and future first-ballot Hall of Famer has announced his desire to leave the team and join the New York Jets.

A trade is expected to happen, but compensation might be an issue between the two organizations. And while there are some arguments that the Jets might have the better negotiating position, a recent breakdown by Acme Packing Company’s Justis Mosqueda makes a strong case that the opposite is actually true.

The entire article is worth reading, but this excerpt outlines the gist of the situation:

Here are the Jets’ options:

First, they can trade a first-round pick and a conditional pick for Rodgers.

Second, they can trade up to three first-round picks to take the third rookie quarterback taken in the 2023 draft.

Last, they can ride it out with the failing Zach Wilson.

Which option do you think Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas, the head coach and general manager tandem that has combined for an 11-23 record, will choose? If those two weren’t already on the hot seat, losing out on the entire veteran quarterback market while failing to secure Rodgers would place them firmly on it.

The Patriots, being division rivals of the Jets and as such scheduled to play them twice each year, will closely monitor the situation. Fact is, they will play Aaron Rodgers in 2023; the question is how much assets New York has given up at that point.