3 things we’ve learned about Jerod Mayo’s Patriots rebuild from free agency 

New England Patriots Introduce Jerod Mayo as Head Coach
New England Patriots Introduce Jerod Mayo as Head Coach / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The Patriots have signed a total of 13 players since free agency began. But four of them were on the team last season, and none of the new faces have made more than $8 million annually.

That’s how much they’re paying Jacoby Brissett, and it makes him the 22nd highest-paid quarterback in the league, sandwiched between Sam Darnold and Taylor Heinicke.

It seems unlikely that those three will be regular starters this year. But who knows?  

So, it has been an inauspicious start to Jerod Mayo’s tenure as head coach. Unless big things are on the horizon, there is a chance he is about to become a bit of a sacrificial lamb for the Krafts. Taking over from a legend is always tricky, but it’s impossible if the front office isn’t doing everything possible to help you. 

3 things we’ve learned about Jerod Mayo’s Patriots rebuild from free agency 

#1. This is going to be a long rebuild 

The first thing that we’ve learned is that the Patriots aren’t aiming for a Texans style instantaneous turnaround. That may mean that Mayo is a bridge coach, just as Brissett is a bridge quarterback.  

Part of that is down to the fact that Belichick is a master of finding ways to make ordinary players incredibly effective within his system. So now Mayo is left with quite a lot of ordinary players. The other part is that they seem to have approached free agency with the handbrake on. They missed out on Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Shaq Barrett, and others who would have provided experience and some elite skills.

Signing someone with more pizzaz than Jacoby Brissett would have brought the buzz back to New England, too. Brissett is undeniably a great leader, but the reason he’s a great leader is that he spent his entire career dealing with the sort of adversity he’s about to be faced with in New England. 

At the AFC coach's breakfast, Mayo seemed impressed with Drake Maye. But he followed that up by saying he would be more than happy to trade the third overall pick for more picks. Whether those would be future picks remains to be seen. If they play the long game, they could trade for an extra first-round pick in 2025 or 2026. 

#2. Mayo doesn’t think the defense needs bolstering 

If he does he hasn't done anything about it. Nine have left, three have arrived, and they’ve only got seven draft picks. That’s an incredible simplification of what has happened so far in free agency. Nonetheless, it’s a concern.  

Seven of the Patriots’ 2023 defense have yet to find a new home in free agency. While they are believed to be interested in bringing back J.C. Jackson, they may not need him. Oddly, the defensive backfield is well-stocked. With Christian Gonzalez and Isaiah Bolden due to return, they already have seven cornerbacks and a nickelback.

Jackson has had more than his fair share of issues during his NFL career. He ended the 2023 season on the non-football illness list as he was dealing with mental health problems. If the team wants to re-sign him to ensure he gets the help he needs, that’s admirable. But time is of the essence if that’s their plan.

If he is going to play in 2024, he could move to safety. There are currently five safeties in New England, but Brendan Schooler is more of a special teamer, so they could probably use another one. 

Elsewhere in the defense, on the defensive front, both Christian Elliss and Lawrence Guy Sr. are still available. However, linebackers Chris Board and Mack Wilson have signed elsewhere. Defensive tackle Armon Watts and linebacker Sione Takitaki have replaced them.

That probably points toward one of Elliss or Guy returning to the team, but the delay is odd when both players earned less than $1 million (significantly less). 

There will be exciting pass rushers available in the draft (Christian’s brother Jonah will be one of them), but they already have a very young defensive front. Drafting rookies is cheaper than signing veteran defenders, but ownership keeps insisting that money isn’t a problem.  

#3. Mayo definitely drafting a tight end 

Austin Hooper’s arrival to replace Mike Gesicki is probably the Patriots’ best move in free agency. But Pharaoh Brown left, too, and he was very good for the Patriots in 2023. Luckily, the 2024 tight end class is full of exciting prospects.

Theo Johnson has been flying up big boards since the combine, but Brevyn Spann-Ford would be an excellent replacement for the uber-physical Brown. Brown is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 288 lbs, while Spann-Ford is 6 feet 6.5 inches tall and weighs 260 lbs.

He’d certainly fill out a Patriots jersey well. 

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