With the NFL offseason officially underway, the New England Patriots plan to reclaim the AFC East as soon as possible. They finished the 2020 season with a 7-9 record, giving the franchise the first losing season since the year 2000.
Bill Belichick has his hands full in his attempts to reclaim control of the division he had dominated for two decades. To do that, this franchise will need to put most of its attention on the offensive side of the ball.
With the defense shaping up to be back to its former self with the returns of Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung, New England has the luxury of acquiring young talent to upgrade the offense. The Patriots have the 15th pick overall in the upcoming draft.
New England’s offense was less than spectacular last season after signing Cam Newton to a one-year deal to replace Tom Brady. Newton played well to start, but after contracting COVID-19, his play fell. Newton finished with 2,657 passing yards and just eight passing touchdowns.
Even with a decent offensive line, Newton was unable to get the ball to a depleted receiving core. Jakobi Meyers seemed to step up, however, finishing with 729 receiving yards and a 72.8% catch percentage. He seemed to be the most reliable target on the Patriots last year with Julian Edleman out for most of the season.
With that said, the Patriots will be looking to upgrade in two areas: QB and WR.
Cam Newton is not returning, and it doesn’t seem like the franchise is going to rely on Jarrett Stidham anytime soon. Additionally, having Meyers as the top wide receiver isn’t the best situation either. He has the potential to be a high-end slot receiver, which means New England will likely be searching for a talented receiver to upgrade that position.
Patriots must find a franchise QB
The quarterback situation in New England is dull at the moment. The Patriots don’t seem to have much faith in Jarrett Stidham. It’s possible this franchise searches for a new quarterback in free agency or the draft.
In free agency, there is one quarterback who sticks out among the rest who might be willing to sign a one-year deal with New England. The front office should highly consider signing 16-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason. He played nine games last season, switching in and out with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. Fitzpatrick finished with 2,091 passing yards and 13 touchdowns.
He’d be a nice bridge quarterback until the Patriots can find the right guy for the long-term job. For Fitzpatrick, this may be the best place for him if he’s looking to receive legitimate playing time next year.
Another route for the Patriots would be the draft. They have the 15th selection right now, which means they’re possibly just on the outside of drafting one of the top-four prospects in the draft. If New England is looking to draft a quarterback, they might have to trade up to get the guy they want, or trade back for more picks and draft a prospect later.
Two options the Patriots should consider are Trey Lance and Jamie Newman. Lance is considered one of the top prospects and should be drafted within the top 15. On the other hand, Newman is a raw talent who is projected to be drafted much later. Either way, both prospects have the potential to become starters in the NFL, but it just depends on what the front office wants to do in the draft.
Upgrade WR group
As for wide receivers, it might be more difficult to find some immediate help. While there are a number of good free-agent options (Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin and JuJu Smith-Schuster, to name a few), would any of these big names want to join a team with such a big question mark at quarterback?
Still, the Patriots might be able to snag some cheap options in free agency this year. Demarcus Robinson is unlikely to re-sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, and he could be someone this franchise targets this offseason. He’s not the best guy available, but he has proven to be a decent receiver for the Chiefs.
At the end of the day, New England should consider taking a receiver in the draft. Two candidates who stick out the most are Rashod Bateman and Elijah Moore. For the Patriots to take Bateman, they’ll likely have to use their 15th pick to acquire him. As for Moore, it seems he’s being projected as a late second-round to early third-round selection.
Either way, New England could walk away with a solid wide receiver prospect.