The Cam Newton project fizzled out quickly in New England. A 7-9 season was anchored by the lack of offensive playmakers and horrendous play by Newton. Featuring one of the worst passing offenses in the league means the Patriots offseason is essential to revive the offense. The many holes on the team also come with $58 million in cap space to address those needs.
Roster Needs: QB, WR, TE, IDL, LB
The offense is the most pressing need for New England. An abysmal 5,326 yards of total offense was fifth-worst in the league. Cam Newton Amongst starting quarterbacks to start in at least 13 games in 2020, Cam Newton threw for the least amount of yards. The lack of weapons and Newton’s obvious signs of decline means a full revamp of the passing game will be accomplished for the Patriots offseason.
The overall receiving corps was awful. Former first-round pick, N’Keal Harry has failed to put together any form of consistent play and is a bust candidate. Fellow receiver, Damiere Byrd is undersized and not a long-term answer. The only bright spot has been Jakobi Meyers who has excelled at creating separation in the slot.
With the Rams winning the Stafford sweepstakes, the Patriots do not have many intriguing options for quarterbacks moving forward. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton are unattractive veteran options. Both of whom would be significant upgrades over Jarrett Stidham. The Patriots have reportedly interviewed Alabama quarterback, Mac Jones during the Senior Bowl and may draft him with the fifteenth overall pick. Jones comes from a pro-style Nick Saban offense where he exhibited precise accuracy and great anticipation. Jones would be a fantastic building block for the New England offense. Free-agent offensive lineman, Joe Thuney and David Andrews should be re-signed to keep top-tier pass protecting options for any quarterback brought in.
The vast amount of money New England can spend means some big-time free agents will come in to overhaul the receiving corps this Patriots offseason. Marvin Jones Jr. is reportedly one of the top free agents Belichick is interested in. The addition of Marvin Jones is a great upgrade, but not a true alpha that New England needs. That alpha could be Allen Robinson. Spending time on the outside as a true X, Robinson found great success everywhere on the field. His athleticism and size make him an excellent target to high point the ball to. The diverse route tree he runs makes him an excellent separator as well.
The tight end position in New England has been a question mark ever since the departure of Gronk, as Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse could not turn in any form of production given ample opportunities This issue could be fixed in a multitude of ways. The athletic Jonnu Smith is a premier pass-catching tight end and could be brought in through free agency. His speed makes him a mismatch against opposing linebackers. If New England wants a more balanced tight end to help in the run game, Hunter Henry could be their guy. When healthy, Henry has helped in the run game and in the red zone. The 26-year-old finds the holes in coverage and the route running ability to get open.
The Patriots suffered from the highest number of opt-outs in 2020 with some key players sitting the season out. After being gashed by the run game, giving up the 7th most rushing yards, the defense needs true run stoppers at multiple positions. Interior defensive lineman Byron Cowart and Adam Butler both disappointed as starters last season. And interior playmaker Lawrence Guy is an impending free agent. Belichick needs to add multiple players on the interior to create penetration and dominate the trenches.
Nose tackle Damon Harrison has been one of the best run stoppers for the past few years. While he struggles to rush the passer, the big-bodied Harrison muscles past opposing centers and pushes the line back. Dalvin Tomlinson from the Giants also plays similarly but is much younger and has a higher long-term upside. The 26-year-old only generated 4 sacks but stifled the run on nearly every play. A more expensive option like Shelby Harris would bolster the New England defensive line. Harris has shown great versatility, excelling at both nose tackle and defensive end for Denver. He wins with quickness to make plays in the backfield on both the quarterback and running back.
Dont’a Hightower opted out but will be back and ready to lead the poor linebacking corps of New England. Ja’Whaun Bentley failed to impress when given the starting role and another option is needed in the 3-4 defense. Given how much New England struggled to stop the run, Denzel Perryman may be a perfect fit. The run-stuffing linebacker from the Chargers consistently fills running lanes and is a true thumper when making the tackle. He is not great at dropping back into coverage but possesses the athleticism to cover tight ends.