How the Patriots Should Spend Their Remaining Cap Space

Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf during the
Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf during the / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Jan. 22, New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo promised that the franchise would be "ready to burn some cash" ahead of this offseason. Mayo later took a page out of the Tom Werner playbook and attempted to walk back his comments, saying that he "kind of misspoke" on Feb. 29.

Entering the legal tampering period on Monday, New England's available cap space ranked atop the league with over $100 million to spend. They have made some strategic moves and retained the talent that they needed to through re-signings, but have yet to make a major splash thus far and move the needle significantly. The Patriots still have the third-most cap space available with over $58 million still at their disposal.

Per Pro Football Focus' rankings of the top 20 free agents, 17 of them have signed or been franchise tagged. Looking at the calendar, it's easy to say that it's still early in the offseason, but players are flying off the board and most of the marquee free agents have landed new deals.

Patriots in Need of Offensive Line, Wide Receiver Upgrades

Eliot Wolf and co. did what they needed to do by re-signing offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, but they still need a true left tackle with the impending departure of Trent Brown. One potential target, Jonah Williams, inked a two-year, $30 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday on an affordable deal.

Five-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith should top the Patriots' board at the position. New England is presumably going to draft a quarterback, and they need to invest in protecting their most valuable asset. Smith is on the older at 33, but his veteran presence could also be beneficial to a younger signal caller.

The Patriots were reportedly in the Calvin Ridley sweepstakes until the very end, but after bowing out to the Tennessee Titans, they will have to turn their attention elsewhere. There are no shortage of options for New England to upgrade at wideout, either through free agency, a trade, or next month's draft.

The sensible approach would be to pursue a combination of those options. Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins would be absolute blockbuster trades that feel far-fetched and would cost the Patriots extensive draft capital while they would have to pay up for either receiver. Based on how New England has operated to date in free agency, a trade for either feels far-fetched.

Re-signing Kendrick Bourne was welcome news at the position, but the Patriots still lack a true no. 1, and truthfully, none of the remaining free agent receivers really fit that billing either. There were even questions about if Ridley had earned that label.

Regardless, it would be irresponsible for New England to head into 2024 with their WR room as currently constructed, especially with a young quarterback on the way. They need to add another contributor at that position. Mark Daniels of MassLive laid out some of the players still available:

Lastly, New England's front office needs to continue exploring signing Kyle Dugger to a long-term extension. The Patriots placed the seldom-used transition tag on Dugger on March 5, a move that was reportedly a "disappointment" to the 27-year-old safety as he was angling for a longer-term deal.

Transition and franchise tags typically function a short-term band-aid until the team and player can agree on a long-term contract. New England should lock up Dugger while they have the space and before his discontent grows.

In other Patriots news: