#PostPulpit Mailbag: What remaining free agents could find their way to New England?

With the first official week of free agency in the rearview mirror, the New England Patriots have appeared to fall back into their old spending habits. After dishing out a record breaking amount of guaranteed money last offseason, the Patriots have largely been no-shows in this year’s free agent market.

So far, Bill Belichick has seemed to place the importance on resigning his own, inking veterans like Matthew Slater, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Devin McCourty, James White, and Trent Brown to contract extensions. When it comes to names outside the building however, he has largely focused on low-risk veteran additions.

It’s an interesting strategy, as a fringe playoff team from last year has watched the AFC become an even tougher gauntlet this offseason. Perhaps Belichick and Co. feel a similar squad as last year’s can improve enough on their own after making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback and overhauled roster. If that plan fails, the Patriots could then be in store for another monster offseason next year, as they currently are set to have just under $100 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.

Whatever the strategy is, let’s dive more into the team's offseason approach and explore what they could do next in this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

@NotBeanthedog1 Cap space, it’s a massive conspiracy theory right?

The “cap is crap” people have been out in full force this offseason. While teams have the ability to easily create cap space by restructures that avoiding cap charges until later years, the cap very much exists, and it always comes back to bite (hello, New Orleans Saints). If the salary cap was some massive conspiracy, the Kansas City Chiefs would not have just traded the best weapon in football in Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. Similar to the Green Bay Packers dealing star receiver Davante Adams.

After spending big last offseason, it’s no question the Patriots are strapped for cash this spring. So far, they’ve been unwilling to borrow money from future year’s in order to pay more players now. Perhaps they truly are preparing for another monster offseason next March.

@Common_Cor What’s the best/most realistic signing we could see for the Pats in this second wave of free agency? Also who is a trade target no one is talking about at WR you could see the Pats swinging for?

@DarkxCole Can you see trey flowers on the patriots roster in the future?

I’ll lump these two together because I believe the most realistic — and perhaps best — potential signing still out there is Trey Flowers. Flowers is built for a Bill Belichick defense as he can rush from multiple alignments and is a strong run-defender along the edge. As the Patriots EGDE depth is currently littered with younger talent (Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins), adding a proven veteran in Trey Flowers would be an excellent addition.

@sa_higgs Whats the biggest name the Patriots will realistically sign this offseason?

@LetendreCassie Do you think obj is a real possibility?

The biggest name would be Odell Beckham Jr., and it very well could be a possibility. Beckham noted during Super Bowl week that the Patriots were close to acquiring his services last year after being released from Cleveland, so it would be no surprise if the club was still interested. One of the reasons Odell may be a real possibility is because of his price. After tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl, Beckham likely won't be back to game action until October or November. Over The Cap currently projects the receiver to land a one-year, $5 million contract, which certainly would be affordable for New England.

As for a big name that may not be as realistic: safety Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is a player that has always seemed like a Patriot fit due to his position versatility. With needs in the secondary, perhaps Belichick acquires one of the biggest chess pieces out there. However, they likely would need to create cap space to acquire his services.

@cozyboyec Odds on a Gilmore reunion?

I would say low, but not zero. I also would have never predicted Malcolm Butler to be back on the team after the infamous Super Bowl benching (and his one-year “retirement” last season). As for Gilmore, it would be a welcomed addition if the two sides relationship is still not sour. It seems like Gilmore’s market is not what it was expected to be, possibly leaving a door open for them to work something out. Nothing has been reported yet, but again, the Patriots need more talent in their cornerback room.

We got @Mac_BZ back. Ayooo @BumpNrunGilm0re run it back like old times‍♂️

— J Jones (@Jonathan_Jones2) March 23, 2022

@Sheen6031 Seems like the Pats have taken a step back after FA Is this just a dud year for FA or do you think they’re being more forward thinking realizing we’re not gonna win this year?

As we mentioned, a duplicate of last year’s spending spree was unexpected due to salary cap reasons. However, this may be more of a forward thought process going on here. Again, Over The Cap has New England with a projected $97 million in cap space next offseason, with a free agent class highlighted by Damien Harris, Isaiah Wynn, Jonathan Jones, and Jakobi Meyers. If they keep their current mentality and do not borrow money from future seasons, they could be in a position to “win the offseason” again next year, while still having a solid club in 2022.

@patriotsfeeder Are we seeing a situation where Mac Jones has given BB enough confidence to change the offense ideology to a more spread offense with the news from Jakob of the patriots getting rid of the FB position being indicative of that new mindset

#PostPulpit Mailbag: What remaining free agents could find their way to New England?

The Patriots do appear to be slightly shifting their offense, as Jakob Johnson told German media that the team “no longer” needed him on the roster because they won’t be using a traditional fullback next season. While Johnson was great in his role, he was not much of a receiving threat.

Losing the traditional fullback could mean more unique packages for Jonnu Smith in 12 personnel. Despite inking Smith and Hunter Henry to huge contracts last offseason, the Patriots ranked 27th in the NFL in 12 personnel usage. The Patriots need to get Smith more involved in the offense going forward, and that would be a great place to start.

@KennyRiggleman How big of a waste was paying Jonnu Smith and Nelson Aglohar all that money

I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a troll, as it’s coming from a Bills fan. Neither’s first year in Foxboro went as expected, but, I would not call them a waste after just one season. Smith should see an improved role this year, which will allow him to get the ball in space and use his YAC skills to his advantage.

As for Agholor, who has received much criticism due to his contract (which expires after next season), he was not the issue with the Patriots offense last year. Their offense was night and day with Agholor on the field, as no other receiver on the roster had his speed and deep playmaking ability. Just watch how the Bills defended New England in Week 16 when Agholor was hurt. It’s a position the Patriots may choose to upgrade, but the potential is there for Agholor entering Year 2.

@Quintus78460334 What is the cap impact of trading Nelson Agholor

If the Patriots do move on from Agholor, they will receive $9.12 million in cap space via a trade, but just $4.12 million in cap space if he is released.

@jcm142 In your opinion who is the best fit in the first round of the draft and why is it Chris Olave

Jordan Davis. Let that absolute freak cause havoc at nose tackle next to Christian Barmore. I’d seriously take him in the first round before any linebacker.

@jambu2525 Why do Patriots “fans” on Twitter hate the Patriots? Seriously though, LB or CB in the draft?

It’s a cold world on the bird app.

For the football question, both. I’d be stunned if the Patriots leave the draft without a cornerback or linebacker. As for which one I’d take in the first round: cornerback. It’s a more pressing need as of now and the linebacker depth is very impressive in this year’s draft. A guy like Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. would be an excellent pick at No. 21.

@BeantownBrat What offensive skill positions do you see the #Patriots, I mean Bill’s ego, drafting?

As for offensive skill positions, it's wide receiver. I would also be surprised if the Patriots do not draft at least one receiver. It may not be in the first round, but they will almost certainly add a body or two there come April.

@kyletravis21 Potential draft day trade targets ?

We listed a handful of draft day pick swaps in last week’s mailbag. After the past few days, trading back to No. 28 or No. 29 — Green Bay and Kansas City, respectively — could be in the cards now as both teams are in the market for receivers.

As for players, we know Belichick loves acquiring low-cost rentals in the last year of their rookie deals. Some work (Kyle Van Noy, Trent Brown, Danny Shelton, Brandin Cooks, etc.), and others don't (Kony Ealy, Jonathan Cooper).

So, who could that be this season? A name that caught my eye was Raiders’ cornerback Trayvon Mullen. Mullen has size (6-foot-2, 199 pounds) and experience playing along the boundary, but was limited to just five games last season due to a toe injury. He likely could be available after former Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler already added two veteran cornerbacks in Vegas this offseason.

@nick_sund Why won’t Patriots fans just all get along?

We only get along when the duck boats are rolling down Bolyston St. Hopefully see you there soon.

@docterchill When will I know preseason game dates/times/teams

The 2022 NFL schedule will likely be released in late April or early May. I’d guess early May after the NFL Draft concludes.

@pmooney24 Did the team get better or worse this off-season?

It’s not as bad as it seems, but losing J.C. Jackson (obviously) hurts and the Shaq Mason trade makes little sense. So, worse.

@brodus_operandy Is a hot dog a sandwich?

I think. But speaking of hot dogs, here’s a better hypothetical I’ve been pondering for way too long lately: Who wins a race that consists of eating a hot dog then running a 100 meter dash, Joey Chestnut or Usain Bolt?

I’m going Joey Chestnut (I have my math to back-up my answer).

@TeamCrazyMatt If Rob Manfred and Roger Goodell were on a deserted island, and each could only have three items with them, how much better would the MLB and NFL be?

As long as Manfred doesn't bring that “piece of medal” with him and Goodell brings his stupid chair, much better.

@60065stan how strongly did that Edelman 3 part catches loop break your soul

I’m still thinking about it.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhinesand @PatsPulpit as well!