Tom E. Curran

Mayo: Drafting a QB is a ‘priority' but Patriots ‘open to deals'

The first-year coach spoke candidly about New England's offseason plans Sunday.

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ORLANDO – Light rain fell on the NFL coaches as they stiffly assembled for their yearly “team picture” in front of the Ritz-Carlton at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Annual League Meeting.

Fresh off three hours cooped up in a conference room, their expressions faces said, “Let’s get this over with…” instead of “Cheese."

Jerod Mayo stood between Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor and the Jets’ Robert Saleh. Click. Click. Click. Over. And another sign the Patriots are a different team than they were in January, since the annual photo was something Bill Belichick never sat for.

The veering continued after the picture as Mayo spoke briefly but openly with Boston reporters about the team’s plans with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

“Obviously quarterback definitely is a priority,” Mayo acknowledged, echoing a response he’d given earlier in the day to NFL Media. “With that being said, we’re still open to any type of deals that come our way. We’re very far in the process but we still have a long way to go. I definitely feel like we still have time to nail down our prospects and who we’re gonna go after.”

Even if Mayo’s comments were a variation on what we’ve reported the past two months – that QB is the default setting; a final decision isn’t made; offers will be listened to – that kind of transparency is unusual.

It’s very true the clandestine approach worked well enough to land six Super Bowl victories. There’s also no harm in letting intentions be known when you’re in the top three, as New England is.

If the Patriots are open for business at No. 3, de facto GM Eliot Wolf will not be laying the foundation for a deal here in Orlando. Wolf is not part of the Patriots' small contingent, which includes Mayo, owner Robert Kraft, team president Jonathan Kraft, VP of media relations Stacey James and Mayo’s assistant, Bobby Brown.

Mayo, who will also speak Monday morning at the AFC coaches’ breakfast, was asked how far along the team is in its work on the top-tier quarterbacks.

“It’s hard to put a number as far as a percentage,” he replied. “Remember, there are other positions besides quarterback. We’ll be at 100 percent when the draft gets here. Just not yet."

As for the team’s effort to add offensive weapons in free agency, Mayo said, “I think the most important thing for us was to get our people back here. Re-sign our players, the Mike Onwenu's of the world. We have some good players that we wanted to keep and that’s part of the culture we want to build. Obviously, disappointed that (Calvin) Ridley went in a different direction but we’re good and I like the direction we’re going."

Mining the Ritz lobby for outside opinion, one NFC GM rhetorically asked, “Don’t they have to take a quarterback?”

Meanwhile, an NFC executive said of the “trade-down” idea, “I would always listen. But if you have a guy you love where you’re selecting, you have to (take him). But there are some badasses (at other positions) if you (trade down).”

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