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The State of the Patriots Entering Offseason 2023: Crocus or Croke Us?

As we wait to find out who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy in a couple of weeks, New England Patriots fans are trying to get the stink of the 2022 season out of their nostrils and looking for reasons to breathe in the fragrant hope of the 2023 offseason.  Will there be bouquets of roses to come or more of the same skunk cabbage we smelled last spring?

The arrival of a professional Offensive Coordinator makes the odds of an FTD delivery more favorable, and with the franchise replete with free agent money and draft picks, there is every expectation that they will be able to pay the tab.

So what sorts of flowers should they spend the money on?  Has their defense proven that it is an American Conference Beauty Rose, or are there still some cuttings that need to be added to the rootstock?  With Billy O'Brien providing some fertilizer, is the offense actually ready to bear fruit, or is it too withered to save?

Let's wander through the winter garden and see what lives and what has died on this roster.

Players under contract going into 2023

DL Barmore, Christian [2024]

DT Godchaux, Davon [2024]

DT Guy Sr., Lawrence [2024]

DT Mitchell, DaMarcus [2024]

DT Roberts, Sam [2025]

DE Wise Jr., Deatrich [2024]

DE Perkins, Ronnie [2024]

OLB Judon, Matthew [2024]

OLB Uche, Josh [2023]

OLB Jennings, Anfernee [2023]

LB Bentley, Ja'Whaun [2023]

LB Tavai, Jahlani [2024]

CB Jones, Jack [2025]

CB Jones, Marcus [2025]

CB Wade, Shaun 2024]

CB Hayes, Tae [2023]

SS Dugger, Kyle [2023]

SS Phillips, Adrian [2024]

DB Mills, Jalen [2024]

FS Bledsoe, Joshuah [2024]

OC Andrews, David [2024]

OL Russey, Kody [2023]

OL Hines, Chasen [2025]

OG Onwenu, Mike [2023]

OG Strange, Cole 2026 - Option]

OT Brown, Trent [2023]

OT Stueber, Andrew [2025]

QB Jones, Mac [2025 - Option]

QB Zappe, Bailey [2025]

QB Hoyer, Brian [2023]

RB Stevenson, Rhamondre [2024]

RB Strong Jr., Pierre [2025]

RB Harris, Kevin [2023]

WR Bourne, Kendrick [2023]

WR Parker, DeVante [2023] 

WR Thornton, Tyquan [2025]

WR Montgomery, Ty [2023]

WR Webb, Raleigh [2023]

TE Henry, Hunter [2023]

TE Smith, Jonnu [2024]

PK Folk, Nick [2023]

PK Nordin, Quinn [2023]

P Bailey, Jake [2026]

LS Addington, Tucker [2023]

ST Schooler, Brenden [2024]

Forty-five players are under contract at least through 2023.  By position group, let's evaluate them for quality and depth:

Defensive Front: A few solid players and a couple of unproven youngsters on the interior could use some help in the middle and another pass rusher on the outside.  Not too bad, though, on the line of scrimmage.  At Linebacker, there is a need for depth and quality, especially in the area of sideline-to-sideline speed.

Defensive Backfield: This is not a strong group, with no apparent top Cornerback and possibly no Free Safety if veteran and captain Devon McCourty retires.  This is an area of great need for the team.

Offensive Line: With only seven players under contract, this group must be bolstered, especially at Tackle, with only two under contract, one of whom may even be let go before the season begins.  But first, he must be replaced with an upgrade, and certainly, there has to be far more depth, capable of playing the more demanding and crucial left side.  This is the area of top priority in the acquisition of new personnel.  Free agents are not available at anything less than a king's ransom (there really is only one on the market), and no team will trade an LT.  The Left Tackle position is very hard to fill, and the 2023 draft class looks thin at the position.  If there is to be an improvement here, it will likely have to come via the #14 pick in the draft.

Quarterback:  With two young players who are very similar in both their strengths and their weaknesses, one has to wonder if the playing speed of the NFL has passed the Patriots' Quarterback position by.  With the required improvement on the offensive line, these young players might be able to prove that wrong.  Not all winning Quarterbacks in the modern NFL are runners, after all.  This is not an area of immediate need, but it is never bad business to draft a QB.

Running Back: With the blossoming of Rhamondre Stevenson in 2022, the Patriots have their top RB on board, but they will need depth and a Back who can move around, run clean routes, and catch passes.  Is that Pierre Strong?  Ty Montgomery?  It is a position that can definitely be filled later in the draft, so it is not urgent, but we can expect to see an RB or two join the group in April.

Tight End: This used to be a strength of Patriots teams in the Belichick era, but 2022 saw them largely relegate the position to a blocking role.  With two on the roster, this group looks prime for an upgrade.  Expect to see a TE prospect drafted in the middle rounds or earlier.

Wide Receiver: With only three legitimate Wide Receivers on the roster, this has been an area of need and frustration for years in Foxboro.  Many fans want this to be the position of top priority, worthy of the #14 pick in the draft.  It absolutely must be addressed in the offseason, whether by trade, free agent signing, or the draft ...or all three!  If this offense is to return to a competitive level, the Quarterbacks must have a weapon or two that can disrupt an opponent's defensive game plan.

There are some other players that might help, mostly younger players, who have been signed to Futures Contracts.  None are known to be roster-worthy, but they may be able to add depth at least.  Thus far, they are:

DL Jeremiah Pharms Jr.

DL LaBryan Ray

LB Terez Hall

LB Calvin Munson

LB Olakunle Fatukasi

DB Brad Hawkins

DB Quandre Mosely

DB Rodney Randle

OL Hayden Howerton

OL Bill Murray

RB J.J. Taylor

WR Tre Nixon

TE Scotty Washington

TE Matt Sokol

Players that the Patriots are likely to lose to free agency or retirement

DT Davis Jr., Carl 

DL Ekuale, Daniel 

LB McMillan, Raekwon 

LB Wilson Sr., Mack 
CB Jones, Jonathan 
DB Bryant, Myles 

DB Williams, Joejuan 

SS Peppers, Jabrill  

FS McCourty, Devin 

OT Wynn, Isaiah  

OT Cajuste, Yodny 

OT Cannon, Marcus

OT McDermott, Conor 

OL Ferentz, James

RB Harris, Damien

WR Agholor, Nelson 

WR Meyers, Jakobi 

WR Wilkerson, Kristian

ST Slater, Matthew

ST Davis, Cody  

P Palardy, Michael

LS Cardona, Joe

Some of these might wind up back on the Patriots' roster in time.  Many of us see real game-day quality in Jonathan Jones, Jabrill Peppers, Jakobi Meyers, and perhaps a couple of others for development or depth.  The problem is cost: Meyers and Jones might be priced out of reach for a Patriots team that needs to find top players at WR and CB.

As our all-caps friend puts it, TWT.

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Dino Scapelli
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Walking up the ramp into the brightly lit, cigar-smoky, green heaven that was Fenway Park when I was a tyke., Watching the unheralded UMass Minutemen shock the NCAA basketball world and rise from the bottom to the top in the 1990s, Watching the unheralded Patriots become the heralds of the NFL under Bill Belichick