3 former Patriots the team was wise to ignore in free agency

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
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Justin Bethel

When the Patriots signed Justin Bethel in 2019 to lead their special teams, it was an underrated and perfectly timed move. He was one of the best players in the league at the time, and with New England's history of putting together a stout third unit, he was a valued asset right away.

During his three years in Foxboro, he was one of the more consistent parts of the unit, along with Matthew Slater. He never missed a game and was a solid mentor to the younger players, as the team was hoping to develop the next generation of special teamers to continue their reign as one of the best in the NFL.

Bethel was cut in favor of rookie Brenden Schooler before the 2022 season, and at first, it seemed like a risky decision. Fortunately, Schooler has become a critical part of the team and validated Belichick's decision to move on from 3-time Pro Bowler.

Since the Patriots are in a similar situation this offseason, after having had poor special teams production over the last few years, it would have made sense for them to re-sign a guy like Bethel to the team.

However, his performance has declined since he signed elsewhere, and at 33 years old, that pattern will only likely continue. The unit needs to improve, and a veteran like him could be beneficial—that's hard to argue against, especially with Slater retiring this offseason. Yet, at the same time, the new coaches have made it clear they want to prioritize youth for the team moving forward, and Bethel doesn't fit that direction.