Patriots Mailbag: Is it over for Mac Jones in New England? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots are on bye this week, but it’s business as usual for the ‘Bag.
Was the 2022 draft the worst in recent Patriots history? Has the Mac Jones era in New England run its course? We get to those questions and many more of your Mailbag submissions below:
2-8 doesn’t lead to ton of questions Phil
— Vik Shaw 🇺🇲 (@PrnceVikas) November 14, 2023
You’d be surprised, Vik! The Mailbag was overflowing this week…
How sad is it that people are pining for Will Grier to play QB? He hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2019, and his stats were terrible. Does Bill have any excuse for how dire the WB room is? pic.twitter.com/RiNvwziAU8
— Jason C (@JChalifour) November 14, 2023
Given the questions the Patriots had to have had about Mac Jones coming into the season after a rocky Year 2, and given the uncertainty that existed on the offensive line, you could make the argument that not having a more competent backup for Jones was one of the biggest roster-building errors Bill Belichick made going into 2024.
Most backup quarterbacks fall into one of two buckets: 1) Sage veteran who can handle an emergency fill-in role, or 2) Young, developmental player who may be able to start down the road. Seems like the Patriots have neither.
Can we officially classify the 2022 draft as the worst in recent Patriots history? What are the odds Bill the GM is gone but Bill the Coach remains going forward? Also, love the content guy!
— KaosBe4st (@Kaos_Be4st) November 14, 2023
It’s going to have some competition with 2019, Kaos! But the 2022 draft seems to look worse with each passing day. Cole Strange is at least a starter. Tyquan Thornton dressed but didn’t play in Germany, and given how the receiver room is constructed right now that should tell you what they think of where he’s at in his second season. Marcus Jones is on injured reserve and may end up being the best player of this group. It falls off a cliff after that. Jack Jones (released), Pierre Strong (traded), Bailey Zappe (cut, re-signed), Kevin Harris (released), Sam Roberts (healthy scratch last two weeks), Chasen Hines (released) and Andrew Stueber (released) aren’t giving them much of anything as Day 3 lottery tickets.
Getting Strange and Marcus Jones over N’Keal Harry, Joejuan Williams, Chase Winovich, Damien Harris and Yodny Cajuste probably gives 2019 the edge as the lesser class between the two. Jarrett Stidham looking like a relatively highly-valued backup might help 2019’s cause but I’d still go with 2022 as the better-looking class to this point.
As for Belichick staying as coach and giving up his general manager duties? I can’t see it. Particularly if the Kraft family would like to bring in someone from the outside. Hard for me to envision Belichick being willing to coach players he hasn’t picked.
When Cole Strange was drafted, I emailed the ‘bag’ and guessed he would replace Andrews at Center. I wonder if that happens next year… New LT, Mafi at LG, Strange at C, Sow at RG, New RT. Thoughts? Andrews is a great guy, but average at best.
— TC (@TomColo1) November 15, 2023
I think David Andrews has actually been their best offensive lineman outside of Trent Brown. Having him around next year and running the show from the middle of the line would be hugely helpful to whatever quarterback is imported this coming offseason — especially if it’s a young quarterback. This season, per Pro Football Focus, he’s the No. 10 center in the NFL.
If Bill is gone after this year. What staff, if any, would Kraft hope to retain.
— Mud Bird (@4bird_mud) November 14, 2023
Other than moving on from BB, what do the Pats need to do with the GM/Scouting departments? Is BB the main/sole reason for the numerous terrible moves with the offense, or do they need a top to bottom clean out of both departments to truly start rebuilding?
— Koan (@Koanwriter) November 14, 2023
It wouldn’t come as a massive surprise if the Patriots opted to bring in a general manager from the outside. Overall talent acquisition, you could argue, has been the team’s biggest issue the last several years. A fresh perspective, someone with a proven track record from a successful organization, might be welcome.
But perhaps ownership, understanding the behind-the-scenes dynamics better than anyone, would be comfortable simply elevating someone from within the department to truly control roster decisions in Belichick’s place. Between director of player personnel Matt Groh, director of scouting Eliot Wolf, director of pro scouting Steve Cargile, director of college scouting Cam Williams and experienced front-office exec Pat Stewart there are plenty of talented minds in the Patriots front office as currently constructed.
This decision — who controls the 53-man roster — might be the most important on the Kraft family’s plate this offseason if they opt to part ways with Belichick.
What do you think the chances are that Mac Jones starts next year with a different coaching staff?
— richard house (@riraho5) November 14, 2023
Can Mac be saved or is it over for Mac in New England
— Thomas Crocker (@ThomasC97177275) November 14, 2023
My feeling is the Mac Jones Era has probably run its course here. As a starter.
Would the team feel as though it wants to keep him as a bridge guy or failsafe in case they can’t land a free agent they like or the draft pick they covet? I could see it. His salary is just $2.8 million for 2024. Signing a starting-caliber free agent — like, say, Baker Mayfield — may require a $20 million investment or more. (Jimmy Garoppolo signed a contract worth just under $25 million this past offseason.) The draft, of course, is always unpredictable.
Jones, therefore, could be back. But I don’t believe the team is going to be looking to depend on him as the locked-in starter in 2024 — whether Belichick is here or not.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming QB draft class? Who would you pick with the nr.3 pick, if williams and maye are gone? Thx and best regards from austria
— BradyForcesJetsFansToCry (@Pats_1988) November 14, 2023
All the way from Austria, BFJFTC?!?! Appreciate you. We spoke about this exact scenario on the most recent Next Pats. I’d go with Marvin Harrison Jr. at No. 3, lock in the No. 1 receiver, and then look for a quarterback elsewhere. If LSU’s Brayden Daniels is still on the board early in the second round, his athleticism — and some of the passer’s polish he’s shown with the Tigers of late — would certainly make him worthy of a look in that range.
What has been the brightest spot (if any) on the Patriots team so far?
— Harry Mann jr. (@HarryMannjr1) November 14, 2023
Good question, Harry. Let’s skew a little more positively for a second here… I think Christian Barmore has been a force over the course of the last two months. In the middle of a lost season, his effort hasn’t waned. Since Week 5, per PFF, he has the seventh-highest pass-rushing grade among interior defensive linemen.
When talking about bright spots, you also have to include Demario “Pop” Douglas. He’s been a revelation in the slot. Does he always know exactly what he’s supposed to do inside? No. But he’s quick, he’s willing to work over the middle, he has strong hands, and he gives the Patriots an after-the-catch playmaker. Among players with at least 40 targets this year, Douglas is third among receivers in yards after the catch per reception.
Give me two non-QB free agents you want to see the Patriots give big contracts to this offseason
— Robert Snyder (@RobbieBuckets) November 14, 2023
Tough one, Buckets! Let’s start on the offensive side and go with Tee Higgins. The Bengals probably won’t be keeping him. He’s a true boundary threat, and he’s a guaranteed receiver upgrade in the prime of his career. One thing that might change this? If the Patriots are sitting with the No. 3 pick in the draft by season’s end. That seems to be the slot dedicated to Marvin Harrison Jr. with quarterbacks Drake Maye and Caleb Williams going at No. 1 and 2.
The second choice, to me, is tougher. Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones would be worthy of whatever massive contract it’d require to encourage him to sign with New England. Panthers pass-rusher Brian Burns will be one of the highest-paid free agents of the offseason if he’s not tagged in Carolina.
But, unfortunately for the Patriots, their tackle group is so bare for 2024, one of their biggest free-agent signings might have to be a re-signing… Trent Brown? Mike Onwenu? Both? Come on down! If they don’t return, not many clear and obvious answers at tackle. Free-agent-to-be Jonah Williams, from the Bengals, isn’t having a great year and is more of a right tackle than a left tackle. Onwenu seems like just as good a choice, if not a better one. And unless you’re willing to spend a high first-rounder on a left tackle, Brown will likely be the best left tackle available in March.
Let’s go rapid fire on the remaining Bag entries here…
Hey Phil – do you see them giving Jake Andrews a look at Center at some point? Seemingly he’s not an option at Guard. I believe he’s been active every game this year and hasn’t seen an offensive snap. Obviously C isn’t gonna be a position you rotate series to series.
— Steve Pratt (@Capybara4444) November 16, 2023
I don’t see it at this point. David Andrews has been good (as noted above). He’s grinding it out as a veteran captain. To bench him in favor of an unknown rookie? I get the merits of it. Taking a fact-finding approach on some of your young draft picks makes sense down the stretch of a lost season. But I think Andrews should be the center again in 2024 so I’m not sure there’s much benefit there.
Additionally, it may hinder the rest of the offense to the point that you don’t get a great look at the others — if you’re taking your fact-finding approach with the entire operation — in the offensive huddle the rest of the way.
If Krafts decide it is time to move on and start over give 2-3 names you would look at at GM , who is Howie Roseman’s top asst would you look that way ?
— Rick Ricciardi (@robemjoshreese) November 14, 2023
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer and I discussed this a bit on Early Edition this week. Adam Peters from San Francisco may be the top general manager candidate on the market this year. The success the Niners have had — especially with some of their later-round draft picks and their aggressive moves for established talent — could make Peters a coveted option. He was with the Patriots from 2003-2008.
Cincinnati senior personnel executive Trey Brown (with New England from 2010-2012) and Pittsburgh assistant general manager Andy Weidl (formerly assisted Howie Roseman in Philly) would be interesting names to keep an eye on as well.
Do you think Kraft has the GM/ops side of the team on his mind? 6 draft picks cut or traded from that class is bad, there’s a clear issue with player development & scouting that’s continued with a few limited hits
— Daniel Cromwell (@Dcromwell90) November 14, 2023
Has to be. What’s interesting is how the end of Belichick’s tenure comes to pass, if it comes to pass. If the Kraft family does not want to part ways until the season is over, how quickly will they have to act to land the general manager they want? Last offseason, the Cardinals requested to interview Monti Ossenfort the day after the regular season ended, and he was hired a week later.
Seems inevitable that BB will leave in January. Leaving NE requiring a new HC,GM & QB at the very least! Who would be your preferred HC, GM and QB combination?
— Mark (@Mark_1878_) November 14, 2023
I’m not sure I have a “preferred” trio just yet. But I could see something along these lines…
Head coach: Jerod Mayo
General manager: Adam Peters
Quarterback: Drake Maye
Since Maye and Williams probably won’t be there what do you think about Harrison in the 1st and then Jayden Daniels with their second pick (either trade up or with next pick)?
— Mike Scudiero (@mikescud46) November 14, 2023
Right now? Like it. Let’s check in on this again in a few months.
If in the top-two picks? Quarterback. If at No. 3? Wide receiver. If at No. 4 or 5? Tackle might be the play at that point.
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed to the Bag this week. Can’t tell you how much we appreciate you all for continuing to have the interest you do in our coverage of this team and its future. Have a tremendous Thanksgiving.