The New England Patriots entered the 2023 offseason with loads of needs to fill and they did act on a few of them. Yet, both in free agency and the recently concluded NFL draft they failed to fill perhaps their most important need, the critically important position of offensive tackle.
For at least two offseasons the team has required an infusion of talent at tackle. They failed either to add a top tackle in free agency or even to draft one offensive tackle; in the draft at all.
Anyone who downgraded their draft because of this gross omission has it completely right. They whiffed and it almost certainly will cost them in the upcoming season.
New England Patriots had opportunities to do the right thing
True believers will defend any action by the team in player personnel no matter how mind-boggling or illogical they are. It is what it is as they say in Foxborough.
The reality is different. The Patriots had a golden opportunity to make a statement in free agency by signing a top starting offensive left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (a favorite here) or right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Instead, they signed 34-year-old Riley Reiff, a solid player, along with several backup-level (if that) tackles. It wasn’t nearly enough. That was mistake No. One.
Many observers felt they’d remedy this big omission in the recently concluded NFL Draft. Yet, in true Patriot bizarre personnel fashion, the New England Patriots struck out again by not drafting a tackle anywhere among their 12 picks.
How the team could almost deliberately not draft any offensive tackles defies logic. It seems to be another of those, “we know better than anyone else” moves that have failed them miserably in the past so often.
New England Patriots will pay a heavy price for their poor offseason
These New England Patriots non-moves at offensive tackle and foregoing adding to the tight end room which after this season will have no signed players, essentially add up to a draft that left a lot to be desired. It received a meh C grade here.
The team surprisingly stayed on a solid course for a change with their first two picks, cornerback Christian Gonzalez and edge Keion White. This was a good start.
These were two consensus picks that made great sense with Gonzalez and good sense with White. Unfortunately, they then went off the rails with a series of mind-numbing selections and non-selections.
These included a huge reach for a hybrid safety/linebacker, Marte Mapu, and trading up for a kicker in the fourth round. One source graded that odd pick an F.
Additionally, no offensive tackles nor any tight ends were to be found and neither was a wide receiver, another need, until the sixth round.
New England Patriots headed for last place?
The outgrowth of the head-scratching draft and offseason will likely be an AFC East last-place finish in 2023. With both starting tackles either injury prone and older like Trent Brown or long in the tooth like the aforementioned, Reiff, injuries are to be expected.
The depth behind the two consists of low-level players who evidently the team thinks can slot in. They won’t likely be able to do so very well.
This will leave their immobile quarterbacks Mac Jones, the presumptive starter and Bailey Zappe exposed to extreme pass-rush pressure. That situation leads to a continued lackluster offense that can’t score points.
Championship teams or really any successful seasons are built in the offseason. The New England Patriots whiffed on a critically important position (or two) completely.
This relegated their grade to a C-/D+ for the entire offseason. As a result, the mediocrity they have experienced since they kicked Tom Brady to the curb is quite likely to continue.
The outlook is grim. Expect a last-place finish in the ever-more-challenging AFC East. As is usually the case, the New England Patriots remain their own worst enemy.