3 Patriots New England Can't Afford to Let Hit Free Agency in 2024

Next month's NFL free agency period is around the corner. If the New England Patriots are smart, they won't let these three players hit the open market.

WR Kendrick Bourne is one player the Patriots shouldn't let hit free agency.
WR Kendrick Bourne is one player the Patriots shouldn't let hit free agency. / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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2. RT/RG Mike Onwenu

With all signs pointing to veteran offensive tackle Trent Brown leaving in free agency, the Patriots certainly can't afford to let Mike Onwenu hit the open market, too.

A former 2020 sixth-round selection, Onwenu has become an important piece of New England's offensive line. The 2023 campaign wasn't any different. The ex-Michigan Wolverine received the 29th-best offensive grade (71.5) among 81 eligible tackles, per Pro Football Focus, after allowing only 23 pressures (18 hurries, 2 QB hits, 3 sacks) on 505 pass-block snaps.

Onwenu wasn't as dominant as last year and that's more than okay. He's still only 26 years old and has plenty of time to get better — especially if the Patriots continue to beef up the O-line. With more competent help around him, I wouldn't be shocked if he returned to his 2022 form next season.

Spotrac projects Onwenu's market value at $13.6 million annually. Is that a lot? Yes, but it's also worth it given the terrific protection he brings to the table. He's also four years younger than Brown, so it also makes sense if New England prioritizes re-signing him above his veteran counterpart.

It doesn't matter who's under center next season; if Onwenu isn't around, the offensive line will get worse before it gets better.