Are the New England Patriots loading up for the 2023 offseason already?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Things aren’t looking too hot for the New England Patriots right now. While they have put together a fairly solid offseason so far, with the focus being towards retaining their own free agents, the rest of the AFC has turned into an arms race to see who will make the next big blockbuster move.

Yesterday, it was the Miami Dolphins who decided it was their turn to make their move. They pulled off a mammoth trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for star wide receiver Tyreek Hill out of nowhere, which helped make the AFC East even more crowded than it already was. It wasn’t the first trade of its nature this offseason, and it probably won’t be the last either.

The Dolphins are only just joining the fun. Other teams in the AFC that have made blockbuster moves this offseason include the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, the Indianapolis Colts, and just about every AFC West team, aside from maybe the Chiefs. The Patriots were the sixth best team in the AFC last season, and as of right now, they might even be in the top 10 anymore.

With just seven playoff spots up for grabs, New England’s prospects as a playoff team in the 2022 campaign have decreased significantly despite the offseason only being 10 days old. And while their quiet offseason has been a bit disappointing, it might end up working out in the future. With the offseason already seeing a number of AFC teams emerge as true contenders, could the Patriots front office already have their sights set on the 2023 offseason?

The New England Patriots are wisely building for the future

Right before the start of free agency, I outlined why it would be probably be better for most Pats fans to expect a quieter offseason from their favorite NFL franchise. Strapped for cap space, and given the explosion of moves from AFC teams, it just didn’t seem wise to overspend in hopes of competing in 2022. This team isn’t going to win a Super Bowl next season; heck, they probably won’t even make the playoffs.

While making the playoffs last season was quite unexpected, it has set a high bar for the New England Patriots in the second year of the Mac Jones era. In reality, the Patriots are ahead of where they were expecting to be just by virtue of making the playoffs last season. That doesn’t mean I am advocating losing in the upcoming season, but I will say that expectations should be tempered significantly.

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The front office, led by Bill Belichick, seems to recognize that. This team is good, and they made a lot of progress last season, but there’s no sense going all-in on the 2022 season just because everyone else is. Let the superpowers duke it out before making your next big move.

Think about it; that’s exactly what happened in 2020. There were a number of teams that loaded up for the 2020 campaign, making it pointless for the team to spend like they were going to be competent that season. I’m not saying that’s why they let Tom Brady walk in free agency, but even if they threw money at him to make him re-sign, they probably would have suffered the same fate the 2019 team suffered.

In 2021 though, the team made it’s move. They signed a number of key free agents, such as Matthew Judon, Kendrick Bourne, and Hunter Henry, and had a strong draft class that included landing their quarterback of the future in Jones. That led to a season where they were competitive when they weren’t really expected to be.

New England benefitted from having a ton of salary cap space, and as of right now, they are set to have a lot of money available to them come next offseason. The current projection, according to OverTheCap, is a little over $97 million. For comparison’s sake, the Pats have about $10 million in cap space right now.

That’s a lot of money, and with that money comes a lot of options. The team won’t have a ton of free agents to re-sign, with only a few big names currently set to hit the market (Damien Harris, Jonathan Jones, and Devin McCourty if he ends up playing another season), meaning they could spend big again in free agency. And that could just be when they decide to make their move.

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Is that the New England Patriots plan moving forward? Who knows. What we do know is that as boring as it may be, the team playing it safe this offseason is the right move, despite what detractors may say. The Pats are still rebuilding in a sense, and there’s no reason to force moves to be made just for the sake of doing it. New England is being patient, and that could pay off in a big way come the 2023 offseason.