Why the Patriots broken offensive line is key to rebuild

Will the Patriots offensive line lead the rebuild?
Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Mike Onwenu (71)
Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Mike Onwenu (71) / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing 2023 season that saw the Patriots' offense rank last in the NFL, Only averaging 13.9 points per game, it is time to rebuild. The Patriots ranked third in the NFL in sacks, giving up a whopping 48 of them! They also ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing yards all the way down to team 26 out of 32.

No matter what type of offense a football team runs, it all starts up front with the offensive line. Being able to block effectively on run plays, protect the quarterback, and give receivers time to get open on passing plays is essential. For the Patriots to become a winning team again, whether with a rookie quarterback or a veteran quarterback, they need to strengthen the offensive line.

It all starts in free agency this March. 

Michael Onwenu, the Patriots' most versatile offensive lineman playing both guard and tackle, is a free agent. Trent Brown, their other offensive tackle is also a free agent and most likely not coming back. Onwenu’s franchise tag price is a little over $21 million, which they might see as pricey.

There is also the question of whether the Patriots will want to pay Onwenu guard money a bit lower or tackle money a bit higher. While he could certainly receive offers for tackle money on the market if they are unable to come to an agreement with Onwenu, that would leave them down both tackles since Brown’s not coming back.

In addition to possibly losing both tackles, there are rumors of offensive captain and leader of the offensive line, center David Andrews, possibly retiring this year. This year’s NFL draft class has a lot of talented offensive linemen. However, the Patriots can’t afford to rely on rookies to potentially fill 2-3 spots on the offensive line.  

If the Patriots sign Onwenu and add another lineman in free agency, that would drastically improve their options going into the draft. Otherwise, they will go into the 2024 NFL draft with only 2-3 starting offensive linemen from a lackluster group in 2023 and having to improve their quarterback/receiver positions simultaneously.

The Patriots have over $86 million in cap space, giving them plenty of money to transform their offensive needs. Not addressing the offensive line before the draft could deter a competent veteran quarterback and wide receivers from accepting offers because coming to a team with no protection is not attractive.

With the NFL combine, franchise tag window, and free agency happening before the draft, this is an important time for the next chapter of the New England Patriots. The Patriots could draft a phenomenal Quarterback and playmaker receiver, but if they don’t have time to throw and get open, 2024 won’t be much improved from 2023.  Let’s see how it all unfolds over the next few months.

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