New England Patriots 2022 Offseason Preview: Pending free agents, team needs, draft picks, and more

How will Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots address their offseason, including pending free agents, team needs, and draft picks?

The New England Patriots returned to the playoffs after just a one-year absence. Now, Bill Belichick wants to do something he only has with Tom Brady: win a Super Bowl. But more firepower on offense is a must, plus many of their most familiar names could be gone in the coming months. We preview the 2022 New England Patriots offseason, with a look at their pending 2022 free agents, team needs, salary cap space, and NFL Draft picks.

New England Patriots 2022 Offseason Preview

The Patriots checked off the biggest box on any franchise’s to-do list. They got their quarterback. Mac Jones was excellent as a rookie and a fantastic value considering New England landed him with the No. 15 overall pick.

And the best part? He’s under contract at a very cheap price for the next three years, which is great since the Patriots went on a free-agent spending spree last season. Those signings were largely successful, and New England was successful because of it. But work remains, particularly on offense. Get Jones a dynamic deep threat and this offseason could be electric.

Patriots have $31.4 million in projected cap space

Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)

A byproduct of handing out roughly $160 million in guaranteed money one offseason is a constrained ability to spend the next year. The Patriots’ top four 2022 cap figures — linebacker Matthew Judon ($16.5 million), wide receiver Nelson Agholor ($15 million), and tight ends Hunter Henry ($15 million) and Jonnu Smith ($13.8 million) — were all 2021 free-agent signings.

The Patriots could clear out another $15 million or more in space. But the question is, should they? Why cut good players to sign other … good players? The one player that we have already mentioned that could prove expendable is Agholor. The Patriots could save $5 million if they were to move on from him after one year. There are other options, but with 47 players under contract and around $20 million in cap space, the need for wholesale changes is not desperate.

Patriots pending free agents

Some of the most recognizable names of recent Patriots rosters are poised to hit the open market. Right tackle Trent Brown, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, cornerback J.C. Jackson, safety Devin McCourty, special-teams ace Matthew Slater, and running back James White all have Super Bowl rings. They could all also be playing somewhere else next year.

Of those, Jackson is the biggest concern. New England allowed Stephon Gilmore out of the building during the 2021 season and now they could lose their other starting CB in free agency. The other option would be losses in terms of experience, but McCourty would be the most potentially devastating loss on the field.

Patriots team needs

The Patriots’ needs are less a reflection of deficiencies on the 2021 roster than indicative of their many 2022 unrestricted free agents. But do they simply re-sign their own? Or do they try to upgrade through free agency? The latter worked so well for Belichick last year that there’s no reason to think he won’t try it again.

The lack of consistency they have had from Isaiah Wynn pushes tackle to near the top of the priority list. However, that gaping hole at corner if Jackson leaves departs is huge for a team that has often relied on a number one corner to be the bedrock of their defense.

Patriots’ top-five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason

  • Cornerback
  • Tackle
  • Linebacker
  • Defensive tackle
  • Wide receiver

Patriots’ 2022 NFL Draft picks

We all see what’s coming, right? The Patriots are low on draft picks (with just five). But Belichick loves moving back and picking up more assets. He’s dropped out of the first round altogether three times since 2009. So if a talented quarterback unexpectedly slides, you can expect Belichick will not only answer the phone but probably strongly entertain moving back.

To see how the Patriots’ picks stack up right now, check out the current 2022 NFL Draft order.

  • Round 1 (Pick 21)
  • Round 2 (Pick 22)
  • Round 3 (Pick 21)
  • Round 4 (Pick 21)
  • Round 6 (Pick 32 — from LAR)

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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