New England Patriots

2024 NFL free agents: Four Patriots players make ESPN's top 50 ranking

Free agency is a little more than a month away.

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NFL free agency in March is going to be a very important period for the New England Patriots.

They have a ton of roster weaknesses to address -- mostly on offense -- and an abundance of salary cap space at their disposal. The Patriots are projected to have a little more than $66 million in cap space, per OverTheCap, which is the third-highest amount among the 32 teams.

"We’re bringing in talent, 1,000 percent,” Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo told WEEI's The Greg Hill Show earlier this month. "Have a lot of cap space, and cash. Burn some cash."

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A chunk of that money might go toward re-signing their own free agents, and there are a bunch of Patriots players with contracts about to expire.

Four of them made ESPN's ranking of the top 50 free agents, which was published Tuesday morning.

  • No. 25: Kyle Dugger, S
  • No. 26: Mike Onwenu, OT
  • No. 41: Trent Brown, OT
  • No. 47: Josh Uche, Edge

Onwenu is probably the one player of the four the Patriots can least afford to lose. He was among the few bright spots on an offensive line that struggled for most of the 2023 season.

He's also valuable because of his versatility in being able to play both tackle and guard spots. Onwenu is younger and more reliable than Brown, so if the Patriots are going to re-sign one of those tackles, it makes more sense to choose the University of Michigan product.

Dugger is a good player and has emerged as a real leader on defense, but he's also 28 and we have rarely seen the Patriots break the bank for a safety. Of course, that was with Bill Belichick running the roster, so maybe that'll change under different people.

Brown is a solid left tackle when he's healthy, but durability has been a concern with him in recent seasons. Here are his games played totals from the last four seasons:

  • 2020: Five
  • 2021: Nine
  • 2022: 17
  • 2023: 11

Uche had a breakout 2022 campaign with 11.5 sacks and 23 solo tackles, but he took a bit of a step back this past season with just three sacks and eight solo tackles. Still, quality pass rushers are very valuable in today's NFL, so bringing back Uche makes sense at the right price.

The Patriots would be wise to look at the class of free agent wide receivers. They badly need more high-end talent at that position, and there are several talented wideouts expected to hit the open market.

Whatever happens, the Patriots should at least be busy in trying to bring in high-priced talent. The Super Bowl isn't won in free agency, but choosing the right players can certainly put you on the right path, and the Patriots have a lot of places on their roster that need upgrading.

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