With the Lombardi Trophy now awarded, the NFL offseason will soon kick into full gear. The New England Patriots got a head start on their offseason following a putrid 4-13 season, and missed out on a playoff berth for the third time in four seasons.
The Patriots' offseason has been in full gear since Jan. 11, when the team parted ways with its head coach and de facto general manager of 24 years, Bill Belichick. Jerod Mayo was hired as the team's 15th head coach in team history on Jan. 12, and has quickly gotten to work assembling his staff.
With the key coordinator and coaching positions now filled, the team can begin to turn more of their attention towards the player personnel department.
The Patriots certainly have the room to spend, with nearly $70 million in salary cap space this offseason. Their cap space is the third-highest total in the league. Earlier this offseason, new head coach Jerod Mayo said that the team is planning to capitalize on that cap space: "We’re bringing in talent, 1,000 percent. Have a lot of cap space, and cash. Burn some cash."
On Thursday, owner Robert Kraft pushed back against the narrative that New England hasn't spent on players, even though the franchise has ranked last in the NFL in cash spending over the last 10 years. Kraft continued on to promise fans that spending would not forestall the team from spending on free agents, a promise that the fanbase will undoubtedly hold him accountable on.
With the third overall pick and the league's third-highest cap space available, there is a window for New England to quickly upgrade their roster talent and reposition themselves to put the rock-bottom 2023 season in the rearview.
Here are five players that the Patriots need to target in free agency as they look to return to their winning ways.
5. Josh Allen, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Pairing Josh Allen (no, not that Josh Allen), opposite Matthew Judon as edge pass-rushers would keep some offensive lineman up at night.
Allen just finished a monster 2023 campaign in which he recorded 17.5 sacks, earning him a Pro Bowl selection. His 17.5 sacks set a Jacksonville franchise record. In five NFL seasons, The 26-year-old has racked up an impressive 45 sacks. New England sacked the quarterback 36 times this season, Allen nearly reached half of their total by himself.
Allen is the third-ranked free agent, and his estimated deal falls around five years and $108.6 million (average annual value of $21.7 million), Judon's cap hit in 2024 will be just shy of $15 million, so it will be interesting to see if New England is willing to shell out a combined nearly $37 million for two players at the same position.
Nearly a week ago, Allen stated that "of course" he wants to remain in Jacksonville and leave a legacy there, but he wouldn't exactly be the first player in the history of pro sports to pull an about-face in free agency.
New England edge rusher Josh Uche is also set to hit free agency after the Patriots didn't pull the trigger on any trade offers for him at the deadline. If Uche ultimately departs in free agency, New England will have to find a way to replace his production. Bringing in Allen wouldn't just replace Uche, it would be one heck of an upgrade (albeit it at a steep price).
Similar to some other players on this list, Allen is eligible to be franchise tagged by his current team, which could throw cold water on any plans of him hitting the open market. For the time being, however, the Patriots need to have their eye on his elite ability to get after the quarterback.