15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: The first year of the post-Tom Brady era in New England began with optimism after the team signed 2015 MVP Cam Newton to a one-year deal to succeed the six-time Super Bowl winner with the Patriots. They started 2-1, but things took a downturn after Newton contracted COVID-19 prior to their Week 4 matchup with Kansas City. New England lost four straight overall as Newton returned but struggled to command the offense. It didn’t help that veteran receiver Julian Edelman appeared in six games before going on season-ending injured reserve following surgery. He has retired. The Patriots missed the postseason for the first time since 2008.
FREE AGENCY: Lost WR Edelman (retired), S Patrick Chung (retired), LG Joe Thuney, RT Marcus Cannon (trade), TE Ryan Izzo (trade), DL Adam Butler, LB Terrence Brooks, WR Donte Moncrief, LB Brandon Copeland. Signed TE Jonnu Smith, DT Davon Godchaux, LB Matt Judon, DB Jalen Mills, DL Henry Anderson, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, C Ted Karras, LB Kyle Van Noy, DE Montravius Adams, LB Raekwon McMillan. Re-signed Newton, C David Andrews, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., CB Justin Bethel, K Nick Folk, DT Carl Davis, S Cody Davis.
THEY NEED: QB, WR, OT, G, LB, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: DL, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Alabama QB Mac Jones, North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II, South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn, Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater, Tulsa LB Zaven Collins.
OUTLOOK: The Patriots spent big during the first wave of free agency, filling many holes on both sides of the ball. But finding their quarterback of the future is the priority with Newton back on a one-year deal. New England has the assets to trade up and target sought prospects such as Jones or Lance. The Patriots also could use their first-round pick at cornerback with uncertainty surrounding CB Stephon Gilmore’s future in New England as he enters the final year of his contract.
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