Phil Perry

Are Patriots planning to open up search for more front-office help?

At least one external personnel person would have interest in the Patriots' GM job.

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LAS VEGAS -- Chiefs assistant general manager Mike Borgonzi is one of Kansas City's lead front-office voices. He’s helped build a roster that's been to four of the last five Super Bowls. He could soon be collecting his third championship ring.

He's also a New England guy. He starred at Everett High before going to Brown, where he was a three-time All-Ivy League fullback. And when approached by NBC Sports Boston at Allegiant Stadium on Media Night this week, he acknowledged he's thought about what it would mean to have a shot at coming back home for the right opportunity after 15 years with the Chiefs.

"I grew up in Everett," Borgonzi said. "My dad was a season-ticket holder for 20 years there. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to. That would be a dream of mine to come back home and work for the Patriots. I have a great job here right now. But that's always been in the back of my mind, I think, ever since I got into the NFL. A lot of my family is still back there, and it was the team I grew up watching."

The Patriots have been busy filling out their coaching staff over the course of the last few weeks. They've hired three coordinatorsa position coach, and a senior offensive assistant.

The front office, though, remains untouched since Bill Belichick's departure. Whether or not it stays that way is still somewhat unclear.

UPDATE: The Patriots are adding University of Miami executive Alonzo Highsmith to their front office as an executive in the personnel department, The Athletic reported Wednesday. Highsmith's title has yet to be determined.

Will they interview external candidates to direct the personnel side of the football operation? Will Robert Kraft hand out the general manager title for the first time in 30 years of owning the team? Will he prefer to elevate from within? Is he waiting to make moves after the draft?

This is a desirable landing spot for experienced and accomplished NFL executives, like Borgonzi, who told NBC Sports Boston that he has not yet been contacted by the Patriots about interviewing for a front-office job.

The Patriots have resources from a draft-capital and salary-cap standpoint that make the rebuild in New England an attractive one -- even if it means a complete overhaul on the offensive side of the ball with obvious needs at quarterback, receiver and along the offensive line. They own the No. 3 and No. 34 overall draft picks, and they're among the NFL's leaders in cap space this offseason.

"That's a dream job," Borgonzi said. "You get to go in there and kind of shape your own vision and what you want the organization to look like, what you want your players to look like. That's a dream job for a personnel guy to go in there on a clean slate and try to restore the history and the championship-level football that they had there in New England."

But is the job actually open?

Team sources explained to NBC Sports Boston last month that a general manager hire was not anticipated. Additionally, it was explained to NBC Sports Boston that Belichick's top front-office assistants -- director of scouting Eliot Wolf and director of player personnel Matt Groh -- were expected to stay with the organization in key roles.

At the time, the thinking was that the team was reluctant to undergo too much change immediately after parting ways with arguably the greatest coach of all time. And with Belichick out of the picture -- after having had final say on every personnel decision for the vast majority of his tenure -- this would be an opportunity for the Kraft family to better evaluate the evaluators they've had in the building for years. The decisions will be theirs, meaning they'll now have an opportunity to better show what they're capable of.

That appears to be how the team is functioning at the moment.

Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images
Eliot Wolf has had a "significant" role behind the scenes, as the Patriots have hired two staffers who worked with him in Green Bay.

Wolf has had a significant role behind the scenes as the Patriots have made important decisions on their coaching staff. (Recently-hired offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and senior offensive assistant Ben McAdoo both spent time with Wolf in Green Bay earlier in their careers.) Groh led a team of scouts down to Mobile, Ala.. for the Senior Bowl. Respected personnel minds like senior executive Pat Stewart, director of pro scouting Steve Cargile and director of college scouting Cam Williams remain in the fold as well.

There is still the potential for the front office to experience some shake-up after the draft, since there are personnel people with the Patriots whose contracts are set to expire at that point. But for now, the way things are is the way things are. And there are critical decisions being made that could shape the next several years of the franchise's future.

Those decisions are only going to continue to pile up. How should the franchise tag be used? Where should resources be allocated in free agency? Which draft prospect is worthy of the No. 3 overall pick?

With everything that's at stake over the next few months, why wait until May for a major front-office change, when the course for the organization's foreseeable future will already be charted? 

And why not, for the first time in over 20 years since Belichick's arrival, conduct a search for a lead personnel person? While looking for the best fit for the job, that kind of process would also function as a rare opportunity for the Patriots to sample ideas from bright football minds across the league.

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Kraft hinted at the possibility of an executive-level-employee search during Mayo's introductory press conference last month. While acknowledging that he likes to promote from within when considering change in his businesses, he also offered up the chance that qualified candidates from outside the Patriots organization would be considered as additions to the front office.

"We have a lot of people internally who have had a chance to train and learn under the greatest coach of all time and a man whose football intellect is very special," Kraft said. "In the short-term, we're looking for collaboration. Our team has a tremendous opportunity to position itself right, given our salary cap space, and we've never drafted -- in my 30 years of ownership, we've never been drafting as low as we're drafting. We're counting on our internal people whom we're still learning and evaluating. 

"We're going to let that evolve and develop, and before the key decisions have to be made, we will appoint someone. At the same time, we'll probably start doing interviews and looking at people from the outside. But my bias has always been, in all our family companies, to try to develop a culture from within where we understand one another. 

"I'll just give you a little factoid. In the 30 years that we've owned the team, today -- so it's really 31 -- this is the third coach that our family has hired. In that period, there have been 244 coaches hired in the NFL, which means an average of roughly eight coaches per team, which means there's a turnover every three and a half years. We like to get continuity in our company, get the most competent people, and then try to build stability, and so before we just rush and hire people, we want to understand what we have internally. It's a long answer, but an important question."

If Kraft wanted to supplement what he has internally, he would likely have options.

Former Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler is available after having been fired last season. He's thought to be a savvy evaluator who communicates directly, and he maintains good relationships with folks in New England, where he spent nine years in personnel and worked his way up to director of player personnel. He may be willing to work alongside Wolf and Groh as he looks for the right place to make his return to the league.

Someone like former Falcons general manager and Patriots director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff, current CEO of the analytics startup SumerSports, would be worthy of consideration as well. Whether it's as the person running the show, so to speak, or as an experienced voice to help a first-time personnel chief. 

"You know, it's interesting," Dimitroff said on the Patriots Talk Podcast when asked if he had any interest in being Patriots general manager. "They're always my favorite second team... I daydream about a lot of different things in this business. I've been out (of the league), this is my third year. I always thought, honestly, I would be out two or three years and I would do a PHD -- let's call it a Master's -- in data. Because I'm a football guy at the core. .

".. I have thought about, 'OK, what's the next step now? Three years out, would I consider places?' It flies by pretty fast."

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Borgonzi's entry into the NFL gave him a first-hand view of the Patriots front-office approach. He was initially hired in Kansas City by former New England executive Scott Pioli, meaning he's familiar with the scouting language and grading system that has been used in Foxboro for more than two decades. And he told NBC Sports Boston that he would be willing to buy into the collaborative efforts Kraft is hoping to see at One Patriot Place.

"I know there's a lot of great people in that building," Borgonzi said. "I've heard a lot of great things about Jerod and some of the coaches there on staff I still know. That would be a dream opportunity to go back home, and collaborate, and build that thing up back into a champion."

Who's chosen to do the building -- and specifically who has final say on the blueprint -- remains a question, though, as Kraft oversees one of his team's most important offseasons since he bought the team.

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