Expectations for the New England Patriots offseason should be tempered

Head Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Head Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

The 2021 NFL season was very encouraging for the New England Patriots and their fans. Despite that, their heart crushing loss at the hands of the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round proves that the team still has a lot of work to do before they emerge as a true Super Bowl contender.

There are some clear needs for the Patriots as they head into the offseason. Offensively, quarterback Mac Jones would certainly benefit from having some more playmakers at his disposal, particularly at the wide receiver position. Defensively, the team needs an injection of some youth and speed, as they wore down towards the end of the season, and the result was losses in four of the team’s final five games.

The problem is that addressing those needs is going to be easier said than done. After Bill Belichick went on a free agent spending spree last offseason (one that helped him earn the NFL’s Executive of the Year Award) the Patriots are a bit short on cap space. Not to mention, the team still has to deal with retaining their own free agents, which is a tall task in it’s own right.

After last offseason’s free agency chaos, fans are expecting the Patriots to follow that up with yet another spending spree to help push this team over the top. Unfortunately, that’s not a realistic outlook, and it’s going to be important for Pats fans everywhere to temper their expectations on what the New England Patriots offseason may look like.

The New England Patriots may end up being very limited this offseason

While this number is almost certainly going to increase between now and the start of free agency, the Patriots currently have just $6.4 million in cap space. Belichick and the front office can do a number of different things, such as restructuring deals, handing out extensions, or outright releasing players, to increase the amount of cap space they have to work with. In order for the Pats to accomplish the bare minimum this offseason, that has to be done.

The New England Patriots offseason gameplan will obviously start with them addressing their own crop of players set to hit free agency. There are 20 players from the 2021 Patriots roster set to hit the open market, and it’s safe to assume that not all 20 of them are going to return. It’s also of the utmost importance that some of these players end up re-signing in New England rather than going elsewhere, with J.C. Jackson easily being the most important free agent for the Pats.

Jackson’s contract status is the most important piece of the offseason. As of right now, the Patriots couldn’t even offer Jackson a deal that would pique his interest. Even if they can manage to clear enough space to make a tenable offer for Jackson, that’s going to eat a huge portion of their cap space for this offseason.

Assuming the front office is able to re-sign Jackson, there probably isn’t going to be a lot of space left for the team to bring in more talent without making some sort of groundbreaking move. This goes without saying that there are some more key players, such as Trent Brown, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Devin McCourty who need to be brought back if the team wants to contend for a playoff spot next season.

This goes to show that the Patriots probably aren’t going to have the cap space to bring in the same sort of free agent class they did last offseason. If you have hopes that the team is going to use all their money to go out and sign a top tier wide receiver such as Davante Adams or Chris Godwin, I’ve got some tough news for you. It’s going to be a quieter offseason in Foxboro, but that doesn’t mean this team is going to be entirely inactive.

Belichick and the front office are already working on ways to clear up their salary cap as we inch closer towards free agency, which is still a month and a half away. There are a lot of extension or contract restructure candidates on this team that would help clear up some space to make the team better. Isaiah Wynn, Nelson Agholor, and Davon Godchaux are prime examples of guys who are going to be making less money than they are currently scheduled to earn in 2022.

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Much of the New England Patriots 2022 offseason centers around whether or not the team is able to re-sign Jackson to a long-term deal. If they do, the rest of their offseason will be pretty quiet. If not, they will have the ability to bring in more players, but it’s still going to be much more scaled back than it was last offseason.

While it’s fun to daydream about what could be, it’s important for Patriots fans to understand that this could be a low-key offseason for New England. But just because it’s low-key doesn’t mean it’s not extremely important to the long-term success of the franchise. If Belichick and the front office play their cards right this offseason, the Patriots will be in a good spot to contend for now and the future.