The New England Patriots saw another subpar season in 2021, just their second season in quite some time without star quarterback Tom Brady. 2020 saw their first losing record since 2000, with a 7-9 record. They turned that around in 2021, finishing 10-7, in second place in the AFC East.
While it was a disappointing result for New England, there were plenty of positives to take away from the season, including first-year quarterback Mac Jones taking the team to the playoffs in his first go.
However, they’ll have a lot of work to do this offseason if they want to make a deeper postseason run, or if they even want to be considered as a Super Bowl contender. Their odds at DraftKings Sportsbook sit at +2800 to win the Super Bowl next year, while their odds to win the AFC East sit at +350, just behind the Bills who are at -200.
New England Patriots free agency preview
Positional needs: WR, CB, LB
The Patriots will need to continue building their team around Mac Jones, and that means giving him more reliable options to throw to. They have some decent receivers in guys like Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, who joined the squad last offseason, but they don’t have a clear cut WR1 at the moment. They have great red zone options in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, but without a strong and reliable WR1, they’re in for some more trying times like they saw against the Bills in the Wild Card round last season.
With a projected $8 million in cap space this offseason, it doesn’t give them a whole lot of room to make any big blockbuster signings. While they’re likely priced out of guys like Davante Adams, there are plenty of WR1-caliber receivers on the free agent market this year that could be a good fit for Bill Belichick’s team.
They’ll also need to figure out a way to plug some holes on defense, as their top cornerback in J.C. Jackson is set to be a free agent this year. It would do them some good to keep him in New England, but there are plenty of other teams who could use him on their squad too, so they’ll have some competition.
Players to target
Allen Robinson, WR
Robinson is set to hit free agency as he’s planning on not returning to Chicago now that his one-year contract is up, and the Patriots could have a real shot at landing him for next season. He’s a solid receiver and would be an excellent upgrade, and wouldn’t decimate their salary cap like a Davante Adams or Chris Godwin type would.
He’s a very talented route runner, and after a rough offensive season for the Bears, he would likely be elated to land at a team with plenty of offensive potential like the Patriots. Robinson is a seasoned veteran who could come in and provide some solid leadership among the receiving corps while locking down the WR1 spot without any trouble.
De’Vondre Campbell, LB
The Pats are in dire need of some linebackers now that Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bently are set to hit free agency this offseason. The Packers are more than likely to resign Campbell, but on the off chance they don’t, the Patriots should have him near the top of their list for potential offseason targets.
Campbell spent four seasons with the Falcons before moving to the Cardinals in 2020. The Packers scooped him up in 2021 where he earned the First-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. With Belichick being such a fantastic defensive-minded coach, Campbell could be a great fit in New England if Green Bay doesn’t get a deal done with him for next season.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR
Smith-Schuster is a 25-year-old receiver who’s already a seasoned veteran, with six seasons under his belt at a young age. He’s a physical receiver who can catch tough balls in crowded areas, and almost always finds ways to get those few extra yards in open space. He’s a bigger receiver, so maybe not as quick as a Julian Edelman type, but he can power through defenders like nobody’s business.
Smith-Schuster just returned from a shoulder injury that kept him out for the majority of the season with the Steelers last year, which means the Patriots should be able to get him at a decent price. He’s set to hit free agency, and if they don’t pick up someone like Allen Robinson, Smith-Schuster could be a great fit for Belichick’s squad.