Patriots' re-signings of mediocre players miss the boat

Retaining mediocre or marginal players isn't "getting any better"

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Patriots' media people are trying hard to put a positive spin on the team's de facto General Manager, Eliot Wolf, retaining their "core" players. They're missing the boat entirely.

If these players are mediocre or just adequate, no great things will eventuate from that. If you're not improving, you're standing still. cites their own (excellent, by the way) Tom Curran on the topic,

'"I've been hearing a lot of this on the radio today -- 'Why didn't they do anything? Why weren't they aggressive?" The league year begins tomorrow and the Patriots have already screwed it up," Curran said on Tuesday'sQuick Slants. "We knew going into 2023 that (Hunter) Henry, (Kyle) Dugger, (Mike) Onwenu, those were the priorities. All of them had good years this past year, as did (Kendrick) Bourne pre-injury. The Patriots re-signed all of those guys."

The problem is, did you overpay for certain positions for certain players, or did you just waste precious cap space on players who should have been broomed? It's a reasonable discussion, and it may be time to disagree with Mr. Tom Curran. That's what we'll discuss here.

Patriots' Eliot Wolf kept payers who should have been shown the door

Eliot Wolf is on a Missouri contract. He has to "show me" and his owner, Robert Kraft, that he knows what he's doing and can do better than the previous GM, Bill Belichick. While that shouldn't be too difficult, he's had an up-and-down start to free agency.

Wolf started great by dumping Lawrence Guy and Adrian Phillips. He then continued on his good streak by trading Mac Jones, albeit for a proverbial bag of footballs, but there was a lot more that could have been done. And unfortunately, Wolf isn't getting that job done. He's reverted to Belichickian form, keeping marginal players on board and, in so doing, not at least attempting to get better at those positions.

He re-signed Hunter Henry at a reduced salary. That one has to be looked upon as reasonable, but you still aren't getting any better. Henry signed for a reduced deal, far less than his previous on which he underwhelmed. He's an NFL tight end, a decent one, but that's it. Since the free agent market was lousy, it's an OK move, but nothing more. And again, you're not getting any better by keeping Henry.

In addition, the Mike Onwenu move has questions, as well. Now, this will be met by all kinds of grunts and groans, and if so, so be it. First, if Onwenu were re-signed as a tackle, the situation would look somewhat better, but his contract is still too high for a right tackle. $57M over three years is exorbitant.

Onwenu is a good tackle, albeit who lacks all-important length, but that's top money he's being paid. It should have been spent elsewhere. The overarching issue is that he should have been signed two years ago, but with Belichick, it wasn't about to happen.

On defense, the Patriots are also missing the boat

On defense, Wolf has retained several players who should have been shown the exit door. Kyle Dugger is a good player but not worth the $13.8M he got on the Transition tag. The Pats should have moved just on with Jabrill Peppers in his role.

Other questionable moves by Wolf include one-year-wonder, former second-round pick Josh Uche, who had one of four years in which he played well. Uche had 11.5 sacks in 2022. He had seven in his other three years. The redeeming and mitigating factor is that his cap hit is only $2.94M, and it's a one-year deal.

But Wolf should have just cut ties. He will either learn or join Belichick in the GM unemployment line.

Another linebacker who's been retained is Anfernee Jennings. He signed a three-year deal worth $12.M. An edge player, Jennings, had a massive three sacks in his three years on the field (one out injured). Jennings showed up a bit in 2023, but before that, he was the invisible man. It's another poor decision by Wolf, who should have just cut ties and moved on from this former third-round bust. Yes, indeed, there is a pattern here. High Bill Belichick draft picks flopped early and often.

Those are some questionable retentions that Wolf has made. The question of opportunity cost is very much in play here. Those cap funds could have and should have been spent elsewhere on better players, as in top players, in at least (and that's an important qualifier), at least an attempt to improve the team and not to stay static.

Therefore, on retentions, Wolf's grade thus far is a less-than-stellar C-/D+. More releases like DeVante Parker's still need to be made. Unfortunately, Wolf is banking on players who've been unreliable in the past to suddenly emerge as consistent, productive players.

There's something called "track record" that has to enter into all this.

Wolf prefers to ignore lots of it. It very likely won't work and could sink him in the process. Buyer beware.

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