Offensive line help is still available for Patriots before 2024 Draft

The remaining free agent left tackles

Dec 17, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; The New England Patriots offensive line and Kansas
Dec 17, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; The New England Patriots offensive line and Kansas / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

One week into free agency, the Patriots' quiet performance has the fanbase scratching their heads. The team is going into its fifth season since Tom Brady left, and the rebuild is becoming more concerning.

A significant concern lingering is how they will protect the quarterback in 2024. Re-signing Mike Onwenu provided some relief with the offensive line needs. There is still a need for a starting left tackle, and the answer may still be available.

A name that was mentioned in many rumors was Tyron Smith. Smith signed with the New York Jets. A team- friendly contract heavily based on performance incentives, a smart contract when you consider Smith's durability questions. That contract could pave the way for the Patriots to sign offensive line help in free agency.

Below are free agents who are still available that could secure the O-line before the NFL draft.

Offensive line help is still available for Patriots before 2024 Draft

Mekhi Becton

Becton was a first-round draft pick in 2020 by the New York Jets. He played college football at the University of Louisville, where he played in 13 games as a freshman. As a freshman, Becton was the most highly rated freshman in the country. He was also the number 1 pass blocker in the ACC, giving up just six quarterback pressures in 312 pass-play snaps.

At 6'7 and 365 lbs., Becton has the size and length of an NFL offensive tackle. He is also able to play on the right and left side. There are some injury concerns. In 2021, he underwent knee surgery to repair cartilage damage. That caused him to go on the injured reserve list.

When he moved to the right tackle spot during the 2022 season, Becton was diagnosed with a kneecap injury. He then missed the remainder of the 2022 season. The 2023 season saw Becton play 16 games for the Jets. He committed a few penalties and allowed 12 sacks.

After missing almost two seasons, the 16 games started in 2023 give Becton something to build on for his future in the NFL. At only 24 years old, Becton may be a player the Patriots consider, given his performance when he is healthy.

Charles Leno

Leno was a seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 2014. He spent seven years there as a starter. During his time in Chicago, he made the Pro Bowl in 2019. Leno spent the last three seasons with Washington.

While he is a good player, he's not great, but he could help the Patriots not rely on a rookie to start on day one. There are some concerns to look at as well. Leno was scheduled for
hip surgery last week and finished the 2023 season on injured reserve with a calf injury.

Given the questions on the offense, it would be worthwhile for the team to look at Leno.

David Bakhtiari

A fourth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2013 NFL draft and a five-time Pro Bowl selection, Bakhtiari is another player for the Patriots to consider. First, let's look at a big concern about his durability.

Since suffering a knee injury in December 2020, Bakhtiari has only played in 13 games. After a strong performance in game one of the 2023 season against Chicago, where he
He showed that he could still be effective, and he would not see the field again last season.

In September 2023, Bakhtiari prepared for a fifth knee surgery. As good as he is when healthy, consistent knee problems and surgeries may be a hard pass for any team. With a team-friendly contract, Bakhtiari could be a strong mentor for rookies that the team drafts in April.

Donovan Smith

The next player we will look at is Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Donovan Smith. After a stellar performance in college when he was a three-year starter at Penn State and was one of the best offensive tackles in the country. Smith was a 2015 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He spent eight seasons in Tampa Bay, missed only six games, and had an impressive performance in 2021. During the 2021 season, he played close to 1,200 total snaps, 800 pass-play snaps, and gave up just one sack. During the 2022 season, Smith had some elbow and foot issues.

Smith signed a one-year contract with Kansas City for the 2023 season. After missing five consecutive games late in the season due to a neck injury, he returned for the wild card playoff game against the Dolphins.

Andre Dillard

The last player we will look at is Andre Dillard. Dillard signed a 3-year $29 million contract with Tennessee before last season. He got released on March 15th after only one season with the team.

He played in 16 games in 2023 and gave up 12 sacks and 42 quarterback pressures. Before playing for Tennessee, Dillard spent four seasons with Philadelphia after being drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft as the number 22 pick. During his first four seasons in Philadelphia, he was serviceable but not great.

The Patriots were interested in signing Dillard for the 2023 season.
After a disastrous performance last year, their interest may have changed.

There is no question the Patriots need to weigh the positives and negatives of every option.
With an experienced player, the franchise would need to look at the price tag, durability, mentor skills, and fit on the team. With a rookie, they may need to face the fire of NFL competition on day one if the team has no other option in place.

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