3 moves Patriots need to make with remaining 2024 cap space

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots / Billie Weiss/GettyImages

The Patriots entered the 2024 offseason strapped with a whole lot of cash to fix a whole lot of roster holes. The expectation was they would be heavily involved in accomplishing that through free agency, which Jerod Mayo seemed to imply with his early comments as the team's new head coach.

Their lack of urgency to get moving when the legal tampering window opened set off alarms around New England, making it seem like this wasn't going to be a different approach to free agency than what's been done in the past, especially under Bill Belichick's guise.

Once free agency officially began, not much changed. Mayo and Co. made some solid moves re-signing their top pending free agents, like Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Dugger (although he was only transition tagged), and Mike Onwenu.

New players brought in, though, were incredibly underwhelming, which matched their reported lack of interest in inquiring about some of the biggest names available on the free-agent market. Because of that, they now enter the draft month with nearly $50 million remaining in cap space to spend and a limited number of intriguing players still looking for new teams.

So what should they do with all that money? There's a few ways things they can do that will benefit the team right now and in the future.

3 moves Patriots need to make with remaining 2024 cap space

Offer the most important players to contract extensions

It's never too early to sign your best players to extensions, right? That should be how the new regime should look at keeping around guys like Christian Barmore, Kyle Dugger and Matthew Judon, who all have become integral parts of the defense over the last four years.

Maintaining consistency on the more reliable side of the team will not only improve the defense but also allow them to keep their focus on improving the offense, which needs a lot of help. New England is fortunate to have a unit that has performed as well as the defense has over the last few years, and keeping around their most productive players heightens the likelihood of that continuing.

On top of that, offering extensions to these three players would be better to do now than when they are set to be free agents, when their salaries will only increase. Unfortunately, that won't necessarily be the case with Barmore since so many defensive tackles received massive contracts this offseason.

But Judon, who has been their primary and only constant pass rusher, and Dugger, who is reportedly not pleased about being tagged, would get a lot of interest from several teams, making it even more critical to get their deals done sooner rather than later.

Trade for a top wide receiver

The free agent class of receivers this year wasn't all too thrilling, with Calvin Ridley becoming the most desirable after Tee Higgins was franchise-tagged by the Bengals. The Patriots were reportedly in on Ridley and were said to be one of the top two teams he was deciding between before ultimately choosing the Titans.

Because they still need a clear WR1, and all signs point to them taking a quarterback with the third overall pick (or, if they trade down, probably taking an offensive tackle), they'll need to seriously consider trading for a receiver instead.

Mayo stated they were actively exploring their trade options when speaking to the media at last week's Annual League Meeting, which is certainly a good sign. But who they're looking at or what they're willing to give up to acquire them remains unknown.

They'll have a few options to consider, mainly Higgins or Courtland Sutton. There's a possibility that Justin Jefferson could be made available, but presumably only if the Vikings add him to the haul to trade up with the Patriots.

Sign more free agents to short-term, team-friendly contracts

It wouldn't be a popular decision, given the roster holes that remain on the team. But a few intriguing names are still available to sign and could be brought in on short-term and cheaper contracts.

Because the Patriots' plan seems to be focused on improving the offense entirely, signing players who could help accomplish that goal, even in the slightest, doesn't sound like a bad plan. Most of the remaining free agents wouldn't garner an expensive contract, allowing the Patriots to keep their pockets full but adding potentially low-risk, high-reward players.

It seems like the smartest thing to do, considering the NFL now allows any remaining unused cap space to roll over to the following season. The Patriots are already expected to have around $200 million in 2025, so there's no use in rolling over $50 more million from this year.

More Patriots coverage: