Is This Right Year For Patriots Coach Jerod Mayo To ‘Burn’ Cash?

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The Patriots will be among teams who have the most cap space to utilize this offseason, but there are multiple reasons why they should be cautious in how they spend.

New England likely will have at least $100 million in cap space after cutting J.C. Jackson. It can open up more by trading players like DeVante Parker, but the Patriots will have the resources to rebuild a team that experienced their worst season in three decades.

However, head coach Jerod Mayo walked back his line where he said the franchise intended to “burn some cash.” That doesn’t mean New England doesn’t plan on being aggressive this offseason, but it might hint at how thin the market quickly can become.

Mike Evans reportedly is expected to sign an extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also will try to retain Baker Mayfield. The Indianapolis Colts used the franchise tag on Michael Pittman Jr., which was the first time they used the franchise tag since they gave one to Pat McAfee in 2013. The Jacksonville Jaguars used the franchise tag on rising pass rusher Josh Allen, which continued to thin out the talent pool in the market.

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There still is talent for the Patriots to pursue, but the list of high-end players might be shorter than fans realize. Calvin Ridley should be at the top of the list, and despite entering his age-30 season, he still put up 1,000 yards in 2023 after a season away from the NFL. And fantasy football players know his numbers could have been even better if touchdown luck went his way.

New England should try to retain Michael Onwenu for his versatility and to build a solid enough offensive line for whoever the quarterback will be. Christian Wilkins and Frankie Luvu are high-upside players who entered the market more out of their respective team circumstances rather than ability.

However, after that, you start playing the “if” game with a lot of free agents. Chase Young is in the prime of his career, but if he couldn’t get things to work with the San Francisco 49ers, why would it be different with the Patriots? Gabe Davis and Marquise Brown are intriguing wideouts to add, especially if New England drafted Jayden Daniels. But the pair are extremely low-floor players who have yet to show consistency.

Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley still have a handful of good seasons left in them, but why wouldn’t the Patriots just take a shot in the draft at running back where you can gain more value?

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The Patriots must be vigilant and not fall into the trap of adding players just for the sake of it. New England spent $163 million in the 2021 offseason and largely mediocre players. Free agency is not where you build your team. It’s where you can sign the best players who hit the market at the right time rather than buying high on talents who are reaching the end of their prime.

It’s why the 2024 NFL Draft is so important for Mayo and director of scouting Eliot Wolf. The draft truly is where you build a championship-contending team. It’s how the Kansas City Chiefs were able to go on their Super Bowl runs — Patriots Mahomes obviously is a big help — and it’s how the Niners continue to remain at the top. It’s also why teams like the Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions can become breakout contenders.

This is a vital offseason for the Patriots, and it’s imperative they learn from their past mistakes to truly turn the franchise around.

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