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NFL Draft

3 Offensive Free Agents Patriots Should Target

  • The Draft Network
  • March 1, 2021
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The New England Patriots’ fall from grace post-Tom Brady was harsh. They were able to curb some of it by adding quarterback Cam Newton, but for the most part, the offense just could not keep up with the majority of the Patriots’ schedule—hence their 7-9 regular season record and missing out on the playoff for only the second time since 2002.

As we set the table for how the Patriots will look to improve their offense this offseason, let’s start with Newton. Newton came to Foxborough after a decade in Carolina as their franchise quarterback. Midway through that tenure, Newton was MVP of the league and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance. But over the last few years, injuries have kept us from seeing the talent we know he has within him. That was the case in New England this year, too. Newton was coming off shoulder surgery to start the 2020 campaign. As if that wasn’t enough, he suffered a hand injury and also missed time due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. Though he only missed one game on the COVID list, he mentioned this offseason that it set him back more than just the games missed.

All of that brings Newton’s time in New England into question. The Patriots have not decided whether they want to bring Newton back yet or not, as he is a free agent. He could still fill that spot, but they are not tied to Newton if they see an upgrade elsewhere.

As for the rest of the offense, the offensive line was one of the best in the NFL, and the Patriots’ run game thrived because of it. Isaiah Wynn, Shaq Mason, and Michael Onwenu were three of the top-graded offensive linemen at their positions, according to Pro Football Focus. As a team, they were top 10 in yards-per-carry average with backs like Damien Harris and Sony Michel, along with Newton, leading the way. 

Now for the bad news: this team is completely devoid of playmakers in the passing game. 

The Patriots (uncharacteristically) drafted wide receiver N’Keal Harry in the first round back in 2019. He has not lived up to that first-round selection, and around him, things aren’t much better. Julian Edelman played in just six games last season due to various injuries, as well as a seat on the COVID/reserve list. With recently drafted tight ends that haven’t really stepped out into playmaking territory yet and a weak receiver room beyond the struggling two I already mentioned, it’s bad news up there.

With all that in mind, the Patriots do have a projected $68 million in cap space, which is the third most in the NFL. Here’s what they might be able to do with it on the offensive side of things.

Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projected AAV: $18 million

I don’t see Godwin leaving Tampa Bay, but Bill Belichick would likely empty the bank account to get a receiver of Godwin’s abilities in a Patriots uniform. The reasons for that go beyond just how reliable Godwin is as a receiver; he’s also a fantastic blocker who does so much for the run game.

Godwin will be one of the highest-priced wide receivers to get this free agency period—deservingly so. But if he hits the market, money should not be what stands in the way of making him a Patriot.

Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Projected AAV: $10-11 million

This would be another big splash in the receiving game that would make a lot of sense for New England, even with the young tight ends they have on the roster. Henry has experience being a decent-sized focal point in an offense. He saw a career-high 76 targets in 2019 and then even more with 93 in 2020. There doesn’t have to be an “oh, the Patriots need a tight end” narrative to appreciate what Henry could do for them—especially if Newton is back at quarterback.

Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears

Projected AAV: $20 million

Oh, you thought the list would get less big-time the further we went down? Nope. The Patriots have a lot of money and have a massive need in the passing game.

Robinson has been one of the best receivers in the NFL over the last five years despite dealing with less than stellar quarterback play. They know he can thrive in the environment they currently have (not ideal), and will hopefully only get better as things improve (more ideal). He can be a true No. 1 wideout for them.

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