The New England Patriots are looking to bounce back from one of their worst seasons in recent memory in 2020. The first year in the post-Tom Brady era wasn't a particularly smooth process as the club went 7-9 and were under .500 for the first time since Bill Belichick's first season in New England in 2000. They also missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. While last year's campaign wasn't as fruitful as many had hoped for around Foxborough, there is hope that they can rebuild and turn things around in a rather short period of time.
The Patriots enter this offseason armed with a number of draft picks -- including No. 15 overall -- and are projected to have the fourth-most cap space in the league during an offseason where most clubs will be needing to shed salary to get under the decreased cap number. That creates a strong buying opportunity for New England to capture some highly talented players, but the first order of business, of course, will be to address the quarterback position. Names such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota, Mac Jones and others will pop up on headlines for the next few weeks and we're here to guide you through all the madness.
Below, you'll find our offseason hub for the Patriots, which will give you every piece of information you'll need to stay caught up with Belichick's comings and goings. We'll have the latest rumors and news along with some dates that you'll want to circle on your calendar.
Key upcoming dates
- March 9: Deadline for clubs to place the franchise or transition tag on players
- March 15-17: Legal tampering period opens. Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year.
- March 17: The 2021 league year and free agency period begin at 4 p.m. ET. All 2020 contracts expire after this time and eligible players are free to officially signs deals with other clubs. Prior to this deadline, teams must exercise options for 2021 on all players who have option clauses in their 2020 contracts, must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation, and must submit a minimum-salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2020 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.
- April 5: Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2020 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.
- April 19: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
- April: 23: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign.
- April 28: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
- April 29 - May 1: 2021 NFL Draft (Cleveland)
*All dates and times are tentative and subject to change.
2021 regular-season opponents
- Buffalo Bills
- Cleveland Browns
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Miami Dolphins
- New Orleans Saints
- New York Jets
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tennessee Titans
- Atlanta Falcons
- Buffalo Bills
- Carolina Panthers
- Houston Texans
- Indianapolis Colts
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Miami Dolphins
- New York Jets
*The actual 2021 schedule will be released later this offseason.
2021 NFL Draft picks
- First round (15th overall)
- Second round (47th overall)
- Fourth round
- Fifth round
- Sixth round
- Sixth round (via Dallas for Michael Bennett)
- Seventh round
More picks will be added once the 2021 compensatory selections are handed out. New England is projected to receive three compensatory draft picks in 2021 for the loss of quarterback Tom Brady, along with linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, in free agency last year. Those picks will likely either be in the third or fourth round.
Pending in-house free agents
Restricted free agents:
- J.C. Jackson, cornerback
- Dee Virgin, cornerback
- Jakob Johnson, fullback (ERFA)
J.C. Jackson is the clear headliner of this restricted free agent group for New England. The Patriots will almost certainly place a first-round tender on the up-and-coming cornerback as they look to keep him in Foxborough for the foreseeable future. With Stephon Gilmore nearing the end of his contract (signed through 2021) and possibly on the trade block this offseason, keeping Jackson may arguably be the Patriots' top priority on the defensive side of the ball. In 16 games last year, Jackson hauled in nine interceptions and defended 14 passes, both of which were team highs.
Unrestricted free agents:
- Joe Thuney, offensive lineman
- Jason McCourty, cornerback
- James White, running back
- Lawrence Guy, defensive tackle
- Adam Butler, defensive tackle
- David Andrews, center
- Rex Burkhead, running back
- Jermaine Eluemunor, offensive lineman
- John Simon, defensive end
- Cam Newton, quarterback
- Terrence Brooks, safety
- Damiere Byrd, wide receiver
- Cody Davis, safety
- Shilique Calhoun, linebacker
- Justin Bethel, cornerback
- Brian Hoyer, quarterback
- Nick Folk, kicker
- Brandon Copeland, linebacker
- Carl Davis, defensive tackle
- Marcus Martin, offensive lineman
- James Ferentz, offensive lineman
- Deatrich Wise, defensive end
- Devin Smith, wide receiver
Joe Thuney may be the most talented Patriot set to enter the free agent market. New England placed the franchise tag on its starting left guard last offseason, so it's unlikely it does so again this year. That means if the Patriots get to the start of the new league year with no deal executed with Thuney, they'll be competing with the rest of the league. This could be a pivotal offseason with New England's offensive line as starting center David Andrews is also looking at unrestricted free agency. Thuney and Andrews have been key pieces to the Patriots' sturdy O-line and if they are looking to double-down on their rushing attack in 2021, it may behoove them to re-sign both players.
Of course, Cam Newton is another notable free agent. New England's passing attack wasn't prolific with Newton under center last year, but the quarterback did see a tremendous amount of loyalty from Bill Belichick. While he may have been benched in-game at times, Newton never saw Belichick take his starting spot away from him when he was healthy. It'll be safe to assume that the Patriots will look for an upgrade over Newton across the league this offseason, but you also shouldn't rule out a potential return.
In the backfield, the Patriots have two fan-favorites entering free agency in James White and Rex Burkhead. While both have been key members during New England's most recent Super Bowl run, it does seem like Damien Harris is primed for a larger role in 2021, which could make them expendable. Specifically, White could have himself quite the market as one of the better pass-catching backs in the league.
On the defensive side of the ball, Lawrence Guy should be a player New England focuses on keeping. He's been a fantastic piece in the interior of the defensive line over the course of his tenure. In 14 games played last year, Guy posted 57 tackles and two sacks.
Free agent scorecard
Free agents the Patriots retained:
Free agents the Patriots signed from another team:
Free agents the Patriots lost to another team:
Players the Patriots signed who were cut by another team:
*It's important to differentiate between the players signed as unrestricted free agents and those signed after being cut by another team. This is true because players who are signed after being released by another team do not count in the compensatory draft-pick formula for the team that signs them.
Rumors, reports, updates
March 3: Kyle Rudolph interested in New England
According to Doug Kyed of NESN, veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph has expressed interest in playing for the Patriots. Rudolph was released by the Minnesota Vikings after 10 seasons on Tuesday and is now looking at free agency for the first time in his career. New England reportedly tried to acquire Rudolph as recently as two years ago and given its lack of talent at the position it wouldn't be surprising to learn that it is still intrigued with the idea of bringing him aboard.
March 3: Patriots not enamored with current free agent QB class
As the Patriots look out at the current free agent quarterback landscape, they are not enamored with what they see, according to Michael Giardi of the NFL Network. New England -- like a number of other QB-needy teams -- are hoping that certain dominoes fall throughout the NFL leading up to the new league year that injects more talent to the pool at the position.
Feb. 26: Julian Edelman wants to play in 2021, uncertainty surrounds knee
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that Julian Edelman wants to play in 2021 but it really depends on whether or not his injured knee allows him to do so. The veteran receiver was limited to just six games in 2020 due to that knee, which required a minor procedure to be done in the midst of the 2020 campaign. Per Rapoport, Edelman is continuing to rehab his knee so he'll have to wait and see how it responds before a final decision is made on where he goes from here.
Feb. 26: Hightower, Chung, Cannon to play in 2021
The Patriots are getting some key reinforcements for next season as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon will all play in 2021. That trio opted out of the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is ready to play going forward. Rapoport added that all three are said to be in a good place physically.
Feb. 22: Patriots calling about every available veteran QB
Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports that New England has been scouring the quarterback market and has called about every veteran signal-caller who may be available this offseason. Despite the intense search, the Patriots have been "disciplined" in their approach, per Howe, and "so far been thwarted by inflated prices in an offseason that is currently siding with the sellers."
Feb. 22: Cam Newton open to a Patriots reunion
During an appearance on the 'I Am Athlete" podcast, Newton noted that he "can't go out like that," signaling that he has no plans on retiring from the NFL after a less-than-stellar year with the Patriots. Speaking of New England, he was firm when asked if he'd be willing to return to Foxborough to suit up with the Patriots in 2021, saying "Yes. Hell yes."
Newton also added that he believes there are not 32 quarterbacks better than him right now, meaning that he expects to start somewhere in the league in 2021.
Feb. 18: Patriots had no real interest in Carson Wentz
The Patriots are very much in the quarterback market, but as Michael Giardi of the NFL Network reports, they had "no real interest" in pulling the trigger on a trade that would land them Carson Wentz, who has since been dealt to the Indianapolis Colts. Wentz's 2020 campaign didn't leave much to be desired and the Patriots may have felt that the conditional second-rounder (that could turn into a first) that was the centerpiece of the Wentz trade to Indy, was a bit too rich for their blood.