Patriots will regret not spending big in free agency at these positions

Pats missed the boat in free agency on 3 positions
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The New England Patriots are finishing mandatory minicamp, and training camp is just around the corner. The Pats entered the offseason with clearly defined deficiencies in their team. Much of that was a legacy of the outgoing de facto GM, Bill Belichick.

No NFL team is probably 100 percent set at every position. Some positions warrant more attention than others, depending on your returning players. One way to address those spots is through free agency, where veteran players with a solid track record in the league are available.

In 2024, the Patriots had a lot of needs to fill, especially on offense. To his credit, though he now seems to regret it, new personnel head Eliot Wolf drafted heavily on offense. That made perfect sense, but, unfortunately, it was necessitated by his omissions in free agency.

Here, we’ll look at three positions Wolf neglected in free agency that they'll regret. They're all important, and each will likely negatively impact the 2024 season. Let’s look at all three and determine how Mr. Wolf went wrong and will likely regret this inattention.

The Patriots didn’t sign a No. 1 wide receiver

The Pats neglected to sign a true WR1. They have missed drafting that caliber of player over the last few years, mainly due to the failed pick by Bill Belichick of N’Keal Harry in 2019. Harry’s lack of production and Julian Edelman’s later retirement left the cupboard bare.

Neither Belichick nor now Wolf made a concerted effort to fill it. Belichick tried to strike gold by trading for wide receiver DeVante Parker and signing free agent wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster. Both flopped. Wolf had a clear necessity this offseason to get a No. One wide receiver in free agency. How'd he do?

Top available 2024 free-agent wide receivers on Pro Football Focus's (PFF's) list included Tee Higgins from Cincinnati, Michael Pittman from Pittsburgh, Mike Evans from Tampa Bay, Marquise Brown from Arizona, and Calvin Ridley from Jacksonville. Any would have been a far better No. One than anyone on the Pats' roster.

For whatever reasons (some are not in your control), none wound up in New England. Neither did any others in the top 10 on PFF's list. Expectations were high that this would be Job One in the offseason. Copious cap money was available for just that purpose. Yet, nothing of substance was accomplished.

The grade here is an F. Wolf did draft two wideouts, Ja'Lynn Polk in the second round and Javon Baker in the fourth. At least he acknowledged the positional deficiency. Whether either can be a true WR1 is yet to be seen, but neither is a burner. Free agency was the best alternative, and the Patriots punted.

Two more major Patriots' omissions in free agency they'll regret

Wolf also neglected to address two other positions of need in free agency. One was the most pressing need (after quarterback), securing a left tackle. Though he did sign a right tackle and drafted another one, the left tackle was the most urgent necessity. Admittedly, the left tackle free agency group was weak this offseason. Regardless, an effort was mandatory.

Frankly, the better time to have moved on this was the 2023 offseason. Belichick inexplicably did nothing. Wolf repeated that mistake this year. The top five tackles on PFF's list were Tyron Smith from Dallas, New England's own Trent Brown (not an option), Mike Onwenu, the tackle/guard whom the Pats re-signed, Mekhi Becton from the Jets, and Jonah Williams from Cincinnati.

Only Onwenu, who's not a left tackle, having only played guard and right tackle for the Patriots, will be in Foxborough. He was re-signed to a huge contract. The free agent left tackle crop was weak, but the play was to sign the best available. They didn't sign any. Wolf still had the draft to bail him out. Yet, bewilderingly, he neglected to draft even one left tackle in his eight picks. The grade is an F.

A final critical Patriots free agency omission they'll regret was at the defensive edge position. Their best edge player, Matt Judon, is coming off a season-ending injury. That’s an issue. The team’s only real move was re-signing their own free agent, Joshua Uche. Uche has been inconsistent. He's had only one good season in four. The rest were mediocre. He can hardly be counted upon.

PFF’s top edge defenders included Josh Allen, Jacksonville; Brian Burns, Carolina; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota; Bryce Huff, Jets, and Chase Young, San Francisco. Regrettably, none was signed by New England, and neither were any drafted. Wolf has good cause to regret that. The grade is a D-.

All told, the Patriots did nothing in free agency to improve any of the three positions noted: wide receiver, left tackle, or edge. Since improvement is any off-season's sole objective, or at least should be, the overall Grade is a D-/F. The Patriots will regret not going stronger in free agency at all three positions.

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