Urgency Meter: Do these Patriots have a ton at stake in 2023?

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills / Timothy T Ludwig/GettyImages

The New England Patriots look to improve on their disaster of a 2022 season. Some of this improvement hinges on the performance of certain places who have a ton at stake. How many players currently on the roster have a ton at stake in 2023?

Honestly, there are a good bit. The Patriots are a unique team; they have quite a few good players, but virtually no one who is considered elite, perhaps outside of Matthew Judon and Mike Onwenu. They are definitely being drowned out in the now loaded AFC East, and I think a lot has to go right for them to even finish with a winning record in 2023.

Let's create what we can call the "Urgency Meter." We'll use a 1-10 value, one being the least urgent and 10 being the most urgent and assign a value to a few players who may or may not have a ton at stake in the 2023 season.

Urgency Meter: Do these Patriots have a ton at stake in 2023?

Mac Jones: 1,000,000

There might not be a player with more at stake in the 2023 NFL season than Mac Jones, who saw his play decline and relationship with Bill Belichick decline in 2022. Now playing in an offense ran by a competent mind in Bill O'Brien, Jones needs to forget about year two and build on his very promising rookie season in 2021, or else the Patriots will surely look elsewhere for their signal caller in 2024 and beyond. It also doesn't help Jones' case that Bailey Zappe played better than him in 2022.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 8

JuJu Smith-Schuster signed a three-year contract with the Patriots this offseason, effectively taking Jakobi Meyers' spot on the roster. Even though he just got here, I think there is a ton at stake for him in 2023. He's likely going to be the top receiver targeted in the offense and I think the Patriots are hoping he can play like he has at times in his career where he's looked like a solid WR1.

If JuJu isn't more than a moderately effective option in the receiving game, I bet the Patriots again look to improve their WR core for 2024 and potentially even swing for the fences to try and bring someone in with legitimate WR1 upside. Contractually, he'll be here for two years, at least.

Kyle Dugger: 5

I think there is some at stake for Kyle Dugger in 2023. He'll be entering his age-27 season and was a 24-year-old rookie, so he's already seeing a much shorter shelf life in the NFL because of his age. He's also a free agent at the end of the year and likely wants to chase the money as he'll already be entering his age-28 season in 2024.

The biggest thing for Dugger is that his play cannot fall off in 2023 if he wants to sign the biggest contract possible and chase that generational wealth. I think he'll improve once again, as he has in his first three seasons in the NFL, but you never know.

Trent Brown: 10

There is a ton at stake for Trent Brown, who has been all over the place during his career. He's played both tackle spots but has excelled more at right tackle. He switched to left tackle last year and had a rough go at the LT spot. With the additions of Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson in free agency, and Brown being a free agent himself at the end of the year, I think he has just about as much at stake as possible.

Brown needs to not only show up, but play well if he wants to continue being looked at as a starter in the NFL, not just with the Patriots.

Bill Belichick: 10

I was thinking about finishing this off with another player, but Bill Belichick himself as a ton at stake in 2023. I think if the New England Patriots miss the playoffs in 2023, Belichick will no longer serve as the HC of the team, a position he's held for over 20 years.

The Patriots have been irrelevant in the NFL since Tom Brady left after the 2019 season, and I think Robert Kraft has just about had enough. It'll be a giant shock to not see Belichick on the sidelines every week, but it's a distinct possibility and one that fans need to consider.