4 Patriots on Thin Ice Heading Into Free Agency

These four New England Patriots players find themselves on thin ice as the NFL free agency period is set to open on March 13.
Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of four players on thin ice in New England ahead of free agency.
Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of four players on thin ice in New England ahead of free agency. / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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New England Patriots fans are excited to see what their franchise has in store once free agency opens on March 13. The Patriots are heading into a new era following Bill Belichick's offseason departure and now have approximately $78.4 million to upgrade their roster through the open market, per Spotrac.

While the Patriots have plenty of holes to fill this spring, they can also afford to upgrade certain areas of the roster. A handful of New England players struggled to deliver results in 2023, leaving their future with the franchise up in the air.

Keeping that in mind, here are four Patriots on thin ice ahead of free agency.

1. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

If the ice is thin for some Patriots, it's absolutely paper-thin for JuJu Smith-Schuster.

There were plenty of reasons to be excited about Smith-Schuster's arrival on a three-year, $33 million deal last offseason. The former USC Trojan was coming off a Super Bowl-winning season with the Kansas City Chiefs that saw him rack up 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season.

Instead, the 27-year-old wideout was practically invisible for the majority of the campaign. Limited to 11 games due to injury, Smith-Schuster posted a career-worst 29-260-1 stat line while averaging just 23.6 receiving yards per game with a putrid 48.2 passer rating when targeted.

If the Patriots want to give their future quarterback to succeed, better pass-catchers are needed. Smith-Schuster has only been productive with Patrick Mahomes throwing the ball over the last five seasons and, chances are, New England's next QB won't be at the three-time Super Bowl MVP's level right out of the gate.

The Patriots can clear up anywhere from $5 million to $7.6 million in cap space if they trade Smith-Schuster this offseason, per Spotrac. If they can find a cheaper/more reliable option in free agency, the veteran WR's future in New England could be in jeopardy.