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A rising O, a splintering D, and a lot of salary cap space — what’s it add up to for New England in 2023?
Forecasting the Future in New England
In 2022, the New England Patriots finished 8-9, good for 3rd in the AFC East, just missing the playoffs after going a disappointing 3-5 in the second half of the season, including losing to division rival Buffalo. If NE wins either of those games, they would probably have made the playoffs.
WRs Jakobi Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are free agents. All-World ST stud Matthew Slater and S Devin McCourty could walk or retire. That said, New England’s salary cap situation is top-notch with perhaps $52 million to spend, and the Patriots pick 14th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, with a busy Day 3 to collect late-round values.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of what to expect from the New England Patriots in the 2023 off-season.
The Patriots finished #26 in total offense at ~315 YPG, #24 in rushing, and #20 in passing. Sophomore Rhamondre Stevenson (210/1,040/5) is the lead horse at RB. In my eyes, young QBs Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe don’t have much separating them after Year 1 (Zappe has the better QB rating for ‘22 at 100.0 to Jones’ 84.8, but fewer starts).
The biggest challenge this unit faces in the 2023 off-season is a potential exodus of depth from the O-Line, with Isaiah Wynn, James Ferentz, Conor McDermott, Yodny Cajuste, and Marcus Cannon all scheduled for free agency. That’s 23 starts and a lot of veterans in the meeting room to replace.
The Patriots’ defense was sneakily good in 2022, finishing up the season ranked #9 overall (~322 YPG), #6 against the rush, and #14 against the pass. Fifth-year LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (125 tackles, 3 sacks) is on a lot of radars. Matthew Judon (15.5 sacks) and Josh Uche (11.5 sacks) added a pass-rush threat to this potent LB core.
The playmakers are spread out in the Patriots’ secondary. S Devin McCourty was good for 4 picks in 2022 but may elect to retire this off-season. S Kyle Dugger (78 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 TDs) is ready to fill the void. CB Jonathan Jones (69 tackles, 4 INTs, 3 FFs) is a real-deal #1 CB. Look for upgrades on the interior DL in ‘23.
The Patriots finished up tied for 10th in kicking points per game at 7.5. The Punting game was bottom of the barrel at 35.9 yards net, down 3 yards from 2022. Look for the Patriots to replace their punter in 2023. NE averaged 1.9 FGs per game, good for 7th. PK Nick Folk is solid if not spectacular.
In the returning game, Marcus Jones was #2 overall in the NFL with 362 punt return yards, and #6 in kickoff return yards with 645 — dude don’t need replacing. Look for the Patriots to add depth to their ST units in 2023 by adding more athletes to play coverage roles.
Needs include WR, Edge, CB, and DT. The Patriots have the 3rd most cap space heading into the 2023 off-season at ~$52.5 million under the cap. They will need it with more than players heading for free agency, including a pair of WRs, a quality RB, four O-linemen, two starting DBs, and a flotilla of defensive backups.
The New England Patriots must use the 2023 Draft to reload on defense. Draft candidates at #14 may include Army OLB Andre Carter II, CB Clark Phillips III from Utah, and Baylor big man NT Siaki Ika. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots package some of their five Day 3 picks to load up on Day 2 and improve at OT or add another S.