Grading the Patriots' first batch of (re-)signings in 2024 free agency

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Mike Onwenu returns for a steal on a 3-year contract: (3-years, $57 million)

For many reasons, Mike Onwenu was probably the most highly anticipated free agency re-signing this year. Beyond becoming the best offensive lineman on the team, he was set to hit free agency for the first time in his career in the same year that all signs pointed to Trent Brown not returning in 2024 as well.

The offensive line has been a problematic unit on the team, so the idea of losing two of its better-performing players was not a situation anyone wanted to become a reality.

Although it still looks like Brown will be playing on a different team in 2024, Onwenu will be in Foxboro next year and on a pretty substantial yet not too hefty contract. Several linemen were signed before he was, most of which were to outrageous salaries, which increased the concerns about the likelihood of the Patriots' willingness to pay up to keep Onwenu beyond this past season.

Fortunately, they came to an agreement on a 3-year deal, which keeps him tied to New England during the best years of his career while also allowing him to explore free agency again in the future.

Locking him up removes a significant need from the board heading into the draft, allowing them to prioritize other positions of need earlier than the unsexy pick of a tackle.

Our grade: A+

Josh Uche returns on a team-friendly/prove it contract

If Bill Belichick were still the head coach and general manager, there was a high chance that Josh Uche would not be back on the team. He was the subject of trade talks before last year's deadline and was almost shipped off to the Lions until they refused to compensate the Patriots for what they wanted for him.

Now that a new regime is in control and the new head coach worked closely with Uche during his career, it didn't seem like Uche's return was entirely off the table anymore, even if early reports indicated there may have been a lack of interest.

When it was announced they had struck a deal with the linebacker, it was good to hear it was just a one-year contract. He had an impressive 2022 season, setting record highs in multiple areas, including sacks (11.5), combined tackles (27), and tackles for a loss (14).

Uche couldn't replicate that last year despite Matthew Judon's absence, so the one-year deal feels like a prove-it deal from the higher-ups in the organization.

What made the whole situation more interesting, though, were the details of what he turned down before re-signing with the Patriots. Reports claim Uche turned down other offers, including one for two years, $15 million with $11 million guaranteed. It indicated he wanted to remain with the Patriots since the contract was only for $3 million.

Our grade: A-