The New England Patriots’ 2022 season came to an end with a 35-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, which might have been the final game for a handful of mainstays over the last several years.
Of course, Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty hinted that it might have been their final NFL game as they’re considering retirement. But there are also several key Patriots players that are set to become free agents.
Running back Damien Harris, who’s been among one of the team’s most popular players as he’s embraced Boston, indicated he wants to stay. However, he isn’t sure what the future holds for him.
“If they want to have me, I’d love to be back,” Harris said. “But at the end of the day, I know this is a business. This organization is going to do what they feel is best for them. At the end of the day I have to do what I feel like is best for me. We’ll see what happens. I’m not really worried about that right now. I’m just trying to enjoy this last opportunity to be with my teammates. Whatever happens next year, happens next year.”
Harris was one of the league’s better running backs in 2021, rushing for 929 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns in 15 games. But he struggled with injuries in 2022, missing six games and departing early from two others as he dealt with hamstring and thigh injuries along with an illness. He rushed for 462 yards on an efficient 4.4 yards per carry, but Rhamondre Stevenson usurped him as the team’s starter. The fourth-round selection of Pierre Strong Jr. might make him expendable as well.
Damien Harris has entered the chat pic.twitter.com/KEvgKg7It4
— BennyGIFs (@BennyGIFs) January 8, 2023
New England’s top free agent on the defensive side of the ball is cornerback Jonathan Jones. The 29-year-old had a bit of a surprising season as he moved from slot corner to outside corner and had some success. He graded out as one of Pro Football Focus’ top corners in the first half of the season before struggling a bit in the second half of the campaign, allowing two touchdown receptions to Stefon Diggs over two games against the Bills.
Jones said he’s “so far from next year” when asked if he’d like to remain with the team.
“Oh man, I’m going to take some time to digest this season,” Jones said on how he’s feeling about his contract situation. “Wherever the cards lay, they will.”
JONATHAN JONES PUNCHES THE BALL OUT AND DEVIN MCCOURTY RECOVERS IT! pic.twitter.com/qhAxZBQOh6
— BennyGIFs (@BennyGIFs) January 8, 2023
Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers expressed a desire to stay in New England and an appreciation for the Patriots organization on Monday. But he isn’t the only Patriots receiver that might be on the move. Nelson Agholor is also set to become a free agent. He said he wants to “let the excitement” come to him entering free agency.
“Just take some time,” Agholor said on how he’s feeling. “I think with time, everything will be clear for you, but right now is not the moment to make a statement like that with what you think might happen or what you think is for you next. Just take some time.”
Agholor was a part of the Patriots’ big spending spree in 2021 but didn’t reach similar heights as he did with the Las Vegas Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles. He recorded fewer than 500 receiving yards in both seasons with the Patriots and posted just 68 receptions and five touchdowns in 31 games as he struggled to get consistent playing time through much of 2022.
Kendrick Bourne isn’t a free agent, but he has one year left on his contract and New England could save over $5 million in cap space if it cuts him. Even after showing frustration with how the offense was being run in 2022, Bourne expressed a desire to stay with the Patriots, who he had a career year with in his first season with them in 2021.
Bourne again! Is the comeback on for the @Patriots?! 👀
📺: #CINvsNE on CBS
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/12iaSiFKaP pic.twitter.com/hShghaHMwW
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2022
In fact, Bourne told MassLive’s Mark Daniels he wouldn’t request a trade this offseason even after seeing his play time drop, leading him to have 20 fewer receptions in 2022 than he did in 2021, posting just one touchdown.
“No man, I definitely want to be back here. I like it here. I love it here,” Bourne said. “This is a team locker room, man. It’s not about one player. It’s not about two players. It’s about the whole team. I think the Patriots do a good job of making that known and making that understood. I’m a good role guy. I would love to be and I am going to be back.”