The New England Patriots are beginning to win games again. Sadly, that is a bit too late for 2023, and New England is doomed to at least its worst season since 2000. Plus, while Bailey Zappe makes the Patriots quarterback position look better and winning feels good, any wins now only hurt New England's 2024 draft status.
The organization is set up for a quick turnaround, though. New England will have a very high first-round draft pick and the third-most cap space in the league next offseason. With the right first-round draft selection and with good free-agent signings, New England could be back in the playoff hunt sooner than later.
All that comes with making decisions about current Patriots moving forward, however. Some players and coaches do not need to return. A new direction is needed to make 2024 better and 2027 great. The following five Patriots don't need to come back after this year.
No. 1 - Quarterback Mac Jones
There is no way that Mac Jones should be back next year. Plus, for the first time in his career, the Patriots won't have more in dead cap compared to Jones' cap hit if they release him this coming offseason. Jones will have a dead cap of $4,959,294, which is very little in the grand scheme of things. At least New England won't lose money by cutting him.
Some of Jones' issues in 2023 have been due to a Swiss cheese offensive line. He never had much time to throw, which affected his accuracy and confidence. But while Bailey Zappe has not been perfect since taking over from Jones, the Patriots locker room has to have a lot more belief in Zappe than Jones. Zappe is winning games, including two of the last three, while Jones has a win-loss record of 2-9 this year.
Jones' quarterback rating has also decreased in each of his first three years in the NFL. His 2023 number is 77.0. He also has a career-high interception percentage (3.5) and a career-low touchdown percentage (2.9). Zappe might not be the long-term answer at quarterback either in Foxborough, but he has shown in a bad year for the team that he is capable of leading New England to wins when Mac Jones simply cannot.