The New England Patriots went gangbusters last offseason by spending more money than they had in the franchise's history in free agency. They also found their quarterback of the future by selecting Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. All of those moves helped New England get back into the postseason after a one-year hiatus. At one point in the middle of the season the Patriots were sitting as the top seed in the conference. However, the team did lose three of its last four to close out the regular season and then was quickly sent packing in the playoffs to the tune of a 47-17 shellacking by the Buffalo Bills. That stumble and eventual playoff exit was a reminder that while the team has made strong strides over the calendar year, more work needs to be done.
Once again, the Patriots find themselves entering a critical offseason where they'll need to continue to build upon the foundation they are constructing around Jones. While the coaching staff may need some enhancement following the departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, there are also spots along the roster that need improvement as well. Below, we've highlighted five moves (in no particular order) New England should make to its roster this offseason.
1. Sign Charvarius Ward
The Patriots decided against placing the franchise tag on J.C. Jackson, which may be an indication that they are not going to pursue the player once he hits the open market. Jackson is reportedly looking to set the market at his position, which would pay him an average annual salary of over $20 million if he is successful in his pursuit. That's a number that is likely a nonstarter for the Patriots, so Jackson is likely heading elsewhere. That now opens up a big need at corner for New England and they should look to fill it with former Chiefs corner Charvarius Ward.
While considered one of the better cornerbacks in this free-agent class, Ward may not see the piles of money that Jackson and Carlton Davis could be seeing, which opens the door for the Patriots to get an ascending player at a decent value. According to Spotrac's market calculations, Ward is projected to see a contract that pays him an AAV of $9.9 million, which is possibly half of what Jackson's market is shaping up to be.
Last season, the 26-year-old allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 51.3% of their passes when targeting him and those signal-callers had just a 79.4 passer rating against him as well. He also had 10 pass breakups.
2. Trade for Cardinals WR Andy Isabella
The Cardinals granted Isabella permission to seek a trade this offseason and the Patriots make a lot of sense as a landing spot. Despite being a second-round pick in 2019, the UMass product has been buried in Arizona's depth chart and hasn't seen many opportunities to this point in his career. He only appeared in eight games last season and saw just one target in the passing game, leaving his résumé thin. Given that lack of a track record, Isabella may not cost all too much for the Patriots to take a flier on and would give the offense something they desperately need: speed. At the NFL Scouting Combine in 2019, Isabella ran a 4.31 40-yard dash, which was the third-fastest time at the event.
3. Draft Georgia LB Nakobe Dean
Not only do the Patriots need speed at the receiver position, but they need it on defense as well, specifically at linebacker. With the No. 21 overall pick at this year's draft, they could add a dynamic piece to their defense in Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean. He is currently the No. 25 prospect on CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Chris Trapasso's big board and the top linebacker in this class. Trapasso highlights Dean's short-area quickness and speed to the football as some of his strong traits along with his coverage skills. That type of talent is sorely lacking at linebacker for the Patriots, who have Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Ja'Whaun Bentley all set to hit free agency. They also recently released Kyle Van Noy. This unit not only needs a speed injection but desperately is due for a youth movement and that could begin with snatching up Dean at No. 21 if he's still there.
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4. Re-sign S Devin McCourty
Devin McCourty is reportedly training with the intent to play in 2022, so it doesn't appear like the veteran safety is eyeing retirement at this point. If he does play next season, it should be an easy decision to re-sign him for the Patriots. He's spent his entire career in New England and has been a fixture in the secondary for multiple Super Bowl championships. Also, his play on the field hasn't waned much as he totaled 60 tackles and had 10 pass breakups to go along with three interceptions last season. Not only is McCourty still a valuable contributor to the secondary, but he is one of the main leaders on a team that still needs a veteran voice in the locker room.
5. Trade for Seahawks WR DK Metcalf
The Seahawks and Broncos executed the biggest blockbuster of the offseason with Russell Wilson being traded to Denver for an assortment of picks and players. With Seattle hitting the reset button at the quarterback position, it is fair to wonder if more moves are on the horizon for the team as they begin collecting assets. If I were Bill Belichick, it wouldn't hurt to call up the Seahawks to see if there is a path to acquiring star receiver DK Metcalf. After all, he is entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2022 and could be out the door in a year anyway.
If you're the Patriots -- a team that has struggled mightily at drafting wide receivers and is in desperate need of a No. 1 option for Mac Jones -- dangling a first-round pick in front of Seattle would be a worthwhile attempt.