6. Mike Onwenu
Onwenu, who should be an offseason priority, had a breakout season once he returned to his natural right tackle position and provided some stability on a putrid offensive line. New England trotted out the most combinations of any NFL team in 2023.
Onwenu returned to right tackle in Week 9 and immediately settled back in. Per Pro Football Focus, the Michigan product was the ninth-best offensive tackle in the entire league during that span. He was also an absolute stalwart, playing every one of the Patriots offensive snaps (656 straight) for the remainder of the season.
Despite Onwenu possessing all of the hallmarks of a top offseason priority, “The Patriots essentially know Onwenu isn’t coming back, and he will have high bidders" per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Fowler continues to highlight that a multitude of teams across the league view the 26-year-old as the top offensive lineman in free agency. Teams are reportedly infatuated with Onwenu "because of his physicality, quickness and ability to play guard or tackle."
It appears that the hefty contract awaiting Onwenu in free agency is the primary deterrent to his return to New England, which truthfully is a little inexcusable given the cap space that the Patriots have this offseason.
The only real justification for letting Onwenu walk would be if he has made it clear that he wants to move on from Foxborough, but no reporting thus far has suggested this. Regardless, recent reporting doesn't instill a lot of optimism in New England fans.