NFL Notes: The latest Patriots free agency and draft intel at the combine

INDIANAPOLIS — After every week on the NFL Scouting Combine, and dozens of conversations with coaches, scouts and executives across the league, right here is all the things the Herald has realized concerning the Patriots’ offseason and plans shifting ahead:

Big-game searching

Considering their dearth of offensive expertise, the Patriots have lengthy been anticipated to smell round one of the best vast receivers and tight ends on the free-agent market. But don’t neglect concerning the different facet of the ball.

According to league sources, the Pats are concentrating on a minimum of one elite defender who would begin instantly underneath new coach Jerod Mayo. Director of scouting/de facto common supervisor Eliot Wolf stated the protection should get sooner and extra explosive throughout a press convention on Tuesday. After releasing veteran J.C. Jackson, the Patriots are working low on cornerback depth, and their go rush might take a success if exterior linebacker Josh Uche leaves in free company.

Starting linebackers Matt Judon and Jahlani Tavai are additionally approaching contract years. The Pats maintain greater than $100 million in cap house, per Over the Cap.

Dugger testing market

The Patriots have prolonged a contract provide to impending free-agent security Kyle Dugger, who is anticipated to check the market. Recent offers signed by Browns security Grant Delpit and Falcons security Jessie Bates put Dugger’s projected pay vary anyplace from $12-to-$16 million per yr.

Dugger, who will flip 28 this month, is believed to need a longer-term contract that may maximize his ensures in what needs to be his final probability to actually money in as a free agent. The Patriots drafted third-round rookie security Marte Mapu final offseason and have veteran Jabrill Peppers underneath contract. Though, front-office members have communicated publicly and privately that bringing again Dugger is a precedence.

Utilizing the franchise or transition tag has not been mentioned with Dugger, per supply. If both tag have been for use, the transition tag, round $14 million, appears extra seemingly than the franchise tag, which comes with a $17 million determine for safeties this yr.

Onwenu takes cost

New England Patriots guard Mike Onwenu (71) traces up in opposition to the Las Vegas Raiders throughout the first half of an NFL soccer sport, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Since firing his representatives earlier this week, Patriots offensive lineman Mike Onwenu has garnered vital curiosity from participant brokers. Onwenu lately spoke with a minimum of one former teammate about his illustration, per sources, however for now’s monitoring to signify himself with support from monetary advisors. According to a league supply, Onwenu gathered intensive intel and market analysis from varied brokers who pitched him on their companies, data he can now use on his personal.

The 26-year-old is anticipated to develop into the Patriots’ highest-paid free agent this month. Whether he stays in New England stays to be seen, although two league sources stated Onwenu has not been noticed within the constructing this offseason practically as typically as Dugger, a fellow free agent, or different choose veterans, together with JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Pats plan to begin small

Like a lot of the Patriots’ finest free brokers, it’s unlikely Dugger and Onwenu will attain an settlement with the crew earlier than free company.

In the meantime, the entrance workplace is shifting on lower-profile veterans, together with backup quarterback Nathan Rourke, who re-signed Friday. The Patriots are extra optimistic about talks with some of these gamers, in response to a supply, whom they’ve a historical past of re-signing within the days main as much as free company. NFL free company will open with a “legal tampering” interval on Monday, March 11.

Sources: Patriots impressed early by high 2024 NFL Draft QB prospects

Bourne’s market

Because of a depressed receiver market, Patriots free-agent wideout Kendrick Bourne needs to be met by extra suitors than initially anticipated, in accordance to some league sources. Bourne has ties to a number of head coaches and lead decision-makers across the NFL, who both noticed him play in a Shanahan-style offense with the 49ers at first of his profession or get pleasure from an 800-yard season with the Patriots in 2021. Bourne’s expertise working with Mac Jones that season may also enchantment to groups searching for an additional wideout to pair with their younger quarterbacks on cost-controlled rookie contracts.

Of word: Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Rams’ crew doctor, carried out Bourne’s ACL surgical procedure in Los Angeles final yr. ElAttrache just isn’t the one Rams worker with ties to the 28-year-old wideout. Tight ends coach Nick Caley labored on the Patriots’ offensive workers throughout Bourne’s first two years in New England. Bourne additionally overlapped with Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers throughout his preliminary rehab in Los Angeles, in response to a supply.

Inside the scouting system

New England Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
New England Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf speaks throughout a press convention on the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Wolf revealed this week that the Patriots are pivoting to a Packers-style scouting system that marks draft prospects by worth, or spherical.

A high-ranking personnel government who labored with Wolf spoke with the Herald about this method, which runs on a 5.0 to 9.0 scale. A participant graded as a 5.0 is taken into account an undrafted free agent. A prospect who receives a 6.5 grade is considered worthy of a second-round decide, and a first-round worth begins at 6.9 and goes up from there.

The Patriots’ earlier system was primarily based on a participant’s projected position inside their offense, protection and/or particular groups. The grading scale would mark prospects as a backup, eventual starter, first-year starter, rapid Pro Bowler, and many others., and infrequently contain a numerical worth and a letter grade.

The Patriots are weeks into establishing their new system, which Wolf described as “more collaborative.” The extra skilled evaluators are presently educating it to youthful scouts. One personnel government advised the Herald that stories have been streamlined in comparison with previous years, since Wolf was concerned in professional and school scouting throughout the season.

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Report card reception

The Patriots’ poor marks on the NFLPA’s annual report card didn’t shock staffers, given their No. 24 rating among the many league’s 32 groups final yr. The weight room lacks considerably, each when it comes to gear and house, as mirrored in its “F” grade. The Patriots have been the one crew within the NFL whose majority of gamers responded to the survey saying they believed the burden room is worse than exterior services the place they may additionally prepare.

The Patriots have labored on new structure plans, which concerned former offensive play-caller Matt Patricia, to improve their weight room for years. Patricia’s departure furthered the delay, which now has no definitive finish date, in response to a supply.

One Patriots staffer did make two objections to the report card: the “B-” grades for meals and vitamin/dietician. Team nutritionist Ted Harper is well-regarded within the facility, sources confirmed, and the staffer famous gamers who arrived from different groups have typically complimented the accessible meals and crew’s program to deal with their particular vitamin wants.

Tag, you are it?

Kyle Dugger arrives for New Patriots Training Camp in Foxboro. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald (Wednesday,August 2, 2023).
Kyle Dugger arrives for New Patriots Training Camp in Foxboro. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald (Wednesday,August 2, 2023).

Wolf advised reporters Tuesday that every one choices are on the desk with respect to the franchise tag. League sources agree Onwneu is extra possible to obtain the tag than Dugger, although neither situation is considered as seemingly. Tagging Onwenu would value $20.98 million for a rising participant at a place of dire want, whereas Dugger’s tag would value $17.13 million.

The Patriots’ resolution to tag or not tag one of many two gamers might hinge on how a lot cap house they consider they are going to expend as soon as free company begins. The deadline to use the franchise tag is March 5.

Mac Jones’ commerce worth

Three front-office executives advised the Herald quarterback Mac Jones ought to fetch round a fifth-round decide in commerce talks with different groups. Another AFC evaluator urged the Patriots is likely to be fortunate to land a sixth-rounder. Jones is reportedly anticipated to be traded this offseason, because the crew plans to improve its quarterbacks room.

Mayo’s schedule

Patriots coach Jerod Mayo arrived in Indianapolis final weekend and left on Thursday, after he met with the highest quarterbacks, in response to sources. Mayo was a part of a small contingency in that room that included Wolf, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney. Van Pelt arrived on Tuesday, in response to one supply.

Caley turned down OC job

Los Angeles Rams tight ends coach Nick Caley during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Los Angeles Rams tight ends coach Nick Caley throughout the first half of an NFL soccer sport in opposition to the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Former Patriots assistant and present Rams tight ends coach Nick Caley was provided the crew’s offensive coordinator job, however turned it down shortly earlier than Van Pelt accepted on Feb. 1, per sources.

Mayo made a tough push for Caley, who returned to Los Angeles after weighing household issues and the advantages of continuous to work for Rams head coach Sean McVay. Caley left New England for Los Angeles in January 2023, weeks after he interviewed for and misplaced out on the Patriots’ offensive coordinator job to Bill O’Brien. Sports Illustrated first reported Caley turned his previous crew down in late January.

Wolf well-regarded

Almost universally, brokers and rival scouts and executives have praised Wolf as a extremely smart and diligent expertise evaluator. The 41-year-old was typically described to the Herald as prepared for his new place, somebody whose intensive community in league circles can, and already has begun to, assist the crew rebuild. Several league sources, although, have been puzzled at Wolf’s lack of job safety, as a lot of the Patriots’ entrance workplace continues to work on expiring offers.