Top Patriots Free Agent Makes Surprise Move Before Negotiations

One top New England Patriots free agent has made a significant move before possible re-signing with the team.

Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Mike Onwenu (71)
Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Mike Onwenu (71) / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots offensive lineman Mike Onwenu is set to enter free agency as one of the premier players on the market at his position. In line for a big-ticket contract this offseason, Onwenu will, at least for the time being, do so without any representation at the bargaining table.

The 26-year-old has informed team that he's fired his agents.

Onwenu is ranked of Pro Football Focus' 25th-best overall free agent in this class and the third-best tackle. New England's offensive line was lacked any semblance of consistency in 2023, as they trotted out the most line combinations of any NFL team with 11 different linemen taking the field. With tackle Trent Brown's tumultuous tenure in a Patriots uniform set to be left behind in the past, retaining Onwenu should be even more imperative.

Despite the offensive lines lack of consistency as a unit, Onwenu provide immense stability once he returned to his natural right tackle position in Week 9. Following that transition, the former sixth-round pick lined up for every single one of the Patriots' 656 snaps for the remainder of the season.

With the news that Onwenu has fired his agents, you have to immediately consider if ESPN's Jeremy Fowler would revise his comment that the Patriots are not anticipating Onwenu's return. Or is his parting of the ways with his representation inconsequential to that expectation?

Onwenu is eligible to be franchise tagged by the Patriots, but it would be a pricey path for the Patriots to pursue, as the offensive line tag for 2024 is set at $20.985 million. This would be an astronomical increase, as Onwenu only earned around $3 million in 2023.

As things currently stand, that hypothetical cap hit would top New England's payroll in 2024. From a financial perspective, an ideal resolution for New England would to be lock up him for a longer contract duration at a lower average annual value.

With the second-highest salary cap space available, New England could hand Onwenu a hefty payday, but only time will time will tell how the (relatively) new front office regime prioritizes and values each position group.

Onwenu should continue to be a priority for the team this offseason, regardless of New England's assessment of the likelihood that he returns. With the Fowler report still looming like a dark cloud over Onwenu's future with the Patriots, New England fans can only hope that the recent events are a positive development.

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