New England Patriots

Mayo opens up about Patriots' offseason strategy, draft approach

The Patriots head coach asked fans for 'patience' as the team rebuilds.

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Jerod Mayo set the tone right off the bat Monday morning in Orlando.

"Hopefully you guys come out of here with some clarity as far as our strategy is concerned," the New England Patriots head coach told reporters, including our Tom E. Curran, during the NFL coaches' breakfast at the Annual League Meeting.

That's obviously a departure from Mayo's predecessor, Bill Belichick, who would rather get his teeth pulled than openly discuss strategy. But Mayo has been transparent with the media early in his head coaching tenure, and he continued that trend Monday morning by directly answering a wide range of questions about the Patriots' future.

Here are a few notable topics Mayo hit on during Monday's media session:

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Early impressions of Drake Maye

If the Patriots keep the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, most mock drafts have them selecting UNC quarterback Drake Maye, with USC's Caleb Williams going No. 1 overall to the Chicago Bears and LSU's Jayden Daniels going No. 2 to the Washington Commanders.

Maye apparently left a strong impression on Mayo and the Patriots when he met with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February.

"Drake Maye had a fantastic interview at the Combine," Mayo said. "He brings a lot of energy. You can tell he has that leadership ability.

"And also the exciting part about a guy like Drake Maye is the ceiling. Like there's really no ceiling with a guy like that."

Maye isn't the only quarterback on the Patriots' radar, however.

Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo spoke at the NFL owner meetings about UNC QB Drake Maye

Plans for the No. 3 pick and the merits of trading down

Mayo reiterated his message from Sunday night that the Patriots are prioritizing a quarterback in the draft but aren't set on using the No. 3 pick on a QB.

"We're open to trading the pick. We're open to taking a guy there," Mayo said.

The Patriots head coach added he views as many as five prospects as potential options to be New England's QB of the future, seemingly lumping in J.J. McCarthy and Bo Nix -- who both met with the Patriots at the combine -- with the "Big Three" of Williams, Daniels and Maye.

"When I first started watching these guys, it was that three-man race," Mayo said. "And now as you continue to go to these pro days and bringing guys in on the 30 visits and having time to spend with those guys, to really get to know what makes them tick, it's about five guys, honestly, that could come in and be a solid quarterback in the future."

In a further acknowledgment that the Patriots are keeping their options open, Mayo also noted the potential benefit of trading the No. 3 pick to acquire additional draft resources.

"The guaranteed way to win is to accumulate more picks," Mayo said.

Lack of big spending early in free agency

The Patriots have yet to make a "big splash" in free agency; their most money committed to an external free agency so far is $11.2 million over three years to Antonio Gibson, and they missed out on big-ticket names like wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

But Mayo insisted that wasn't due to any spending limits imposed by team owner Robert Kraft.

"When there is a guy that we want to get, the Krafts have already told us they'll spend the money," Mayo said. "Offensively this year, we were very picky as far as the players we were getting, and at the same time, that wasn't really a deep offensive free agent class."

Mayo also acknowledged that free agents may have been hesitant to sign with a team coming off a 4-13 season with a first-year head coach and first-year head of personnel in de facto general manager Eliot Wolf.

"The unknown is scary for a lot of people," Mayo said. "I would say even in our building right now, it's still unknown. Will I be a good head coach? I don't know, hopefully I can be. ... It's gonna be a process."

Plans to improve the wide receiver group

With No. 1 receivers such as Tee Higgins and Brandon Aiyuk potentially available on the trade market, Mayo suggested that was one way the Patriots could improve a wide receiver room that hasn't brought in any outside talent outside free-agent signing K.J. Osborn.

"100 percent, we are open on the trade market," Mayo said. "But I would also say this is a pretty deep (draft) class as far as receivers are concerned, so it's all on the table right now."

The 2024 draft class indeed is stocked at wide receiver, although if New England wants a top-flight talent such as Marvin Harrison Jr., Rome Odunze or Malik Nabers, it would mean trading the No. 3 overall pick instead of drafting a QB there.

Message to Patriots fans on team-building philosophy

There's plenty of pressure on de facto general manager Eliot Wolf and the front office to improve a team that went 4-13 last season. But Mayo suggested the Patriots are taking a multi-year view with their rebuild and are prioritizing players who will be good long-term fits.

"Hopefully fans understand that we're trying to build this the right way, and we're trying to bring in pieces that we think are for the long-term," Mayo said.

"... I would just ask Patriots fans for patience. Once again, there will be players that hit the (waiver) wire, free agents, guys that are explosive, there will be guys in the draft, there will be guys after the draft. So, just sit back and let us do our job going forward."

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