The Patriots dynasty is over. It's a harsh reality for New England fans, but welcome to the real NFL. Nearly all of the dynasty's heroes and central figures have said their goodbyes to Foxborough, crowned with the departures of franchise icon Tom Brady, and most recently, Bill Belichick.
Belichick's exit and the hiring of Jerod Mayo have ushered in a new era in New England. As the Patriots do look to return to glory, changes will undoubtedly continue to come.
A new era in Foxborough inevitably means that familiar faces will depart, and new faces brought in. Whether they'll be riding off into the sunset, soon-to-be free agents, practical trade pieces, or strong candidates to be cut, here are 15 players that won't be returning to the Patriots in 2024.
1. Mac Jones
The 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jones had a promising rookie season, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns. The former Heisman Trophy finalist at Alabama finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting as New England earned a playoff berth. The future was looking bright for the young signal caller.
In year two, Bill Belichick inexplicably entrusted the imperative development of a franchise quarterback to a defensive coordinator and special teams coach in Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. The decision undoubtedly stunted Jones' development and also led to intense friction between Jones and Belichick. The bidirectional distrust seemed to persist for the length of their relationship in New England, and Belichick even reportedly shopped Jones in the trade market prior to last season.
The impact of Belichick's departure and Mayo's hiring on both Jones' and the team's desire to move forward with their partnership is an important X-factor in assessing the quarterback's future. Maybe Jones' beef was solely with Belichick, and the team's beef with Jones was solely through Belichick, and now all is seemingly forgiven.
Yet, over the course of the last two seasons, Jones has thrown the fourth-most interceptions of any NFL quarterback, and his benchings have likely saved him from being higher up on the list. Over the last two campaigns, Jones has thrown 23 picks while only throwing 24 touchdowns.
New offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, so perhaps the former NFL quarterback can help salvage Jones and return him to his 2021 level of play. However, with the third overall pick in this April's draft, the Patriots could also very well target a quarterback, casting even more doubt on Jones' future with the franchise.
Between the feasibility of New England taking a franchise quarterback at three, the possibility of Jones wanting out, the fact that the team has already shopped him in trade talks, and the unlikelihood that they will pick up his fifth-year option, don't be surprised in Jones isn't in a Patriots uniform next season.