New England Patriots

Patriots roster reset: 2024 cap space, free agents entering offseason

A pivotal offseason for the Patriots has finally arrived.

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The New England Patriots are about to enter one of the most important offseasons in their history as an NFL franchise.

Bill Belichick could depart after 24 seasons leading the team as head coach and the person responsible for building the roster. Not only could a coaching search be necessary, but the roster itself has plenty of question marks and weaknesses to address.

The Patriots have a lot of important players eligible to become unrestricted free agents. They also are projected to have more salary cap space than almost every other team, which should help them in free agency and the trade market.

Here's an overview of the Patriots' cap situation and list of pending free agents after a 4-13 regular season in 2023.

Salary cap

The Patriots have a ton of salary cap space entering the offseason, which they can use to re-sign their own free agents, sign players from the other teams on the open market, or use to make trades.

Here are the five teams projected to have the most cap space in the offseason, per OverTheCap:

5. Indianapolis Colts, $71,192,587

4. Houston Texans, $71,438,770

3. New England Patriots, $72,366,858

2. Tennessee Titans, $77,240,779

1. Washington Commanders, $78,835,534

Depending on how many of the Patriots' own free agents they re-sign, they could have a large amount of cap space to use on the open market. The 2024 free agent class is pretty good, and it features a lot of players who have been key contributors on really good teams.

Here are the top 10 free agents expected to hit the market. It should be noted that some of these players could be re-signed or franchise tagged before free agency begins in March.

10. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Bears

9. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts

8. Justin Madubuike, DL, Ravens

7. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Buccaneers

6. Christian Wilkins, DL, Dolphins

5. Brian Burns, Edge, Panthers

4. Josh Allen, Edge, Jaguars

3. Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals

2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings

1. Chris Jones, DL, Chiefs

The top players in the 2024 class are mostly defensive players. However, there are a couple good wideouts who could be available, and the Patriots desperately need more talent at that position.

Free agent wide receivers who might hit the market include Michael Pittman Jr. (Colts), Calvin Ridley (Jaguars), Tee Higgins (Bengals), Mike Evans (Buccaneers) and Marquise Brown (Cardinals).

Pending free agents

Kyle Dugger
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Safety Kyle Dugger is one of several core Patriots players set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. (Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots have 15 players who can become unrestricted free agents. Here's the full list, sorted by position.

  • Ezekiel Elliott, RB
  • Kendrick Bourne, WR
  • Pharaoh Brown, TE
  • Mike Gesicki, TE
  • Hunter Henry, TE
  • Trent Brown, OT
  • Mike Onwenu, OL
  • Josh Uche, LB
  • Anfernee Jennings, LB
  • Mack Wilson, LB
  • Myles Bryant, DB
  • Jalen Mills, DB
  • Kyle Dugger, S
  • Cody Davis, ST
  • Matthew Slater, ST

The most impactful names on this list are safety Kyle Dugger, tight end Hunter Henry, offensive lineman Mike Onwenu and linebacker Josh Uche.

Dugger was a 2020 second-round pick and is one of the top players on the Patriots defense. Keeping him is the best-case scenario for the Patriots. But will they pay him what a player of his caliber at age 27 can get on the open market? We haven't seen the Patriots break the bank for safeties in the past.

Uche had a terrific 2022 campaign with a career-high 11.5 sacks in 15 games. He has tallied just three in 15 games this season. Still, he's a talented pass rusher and those kinds of players are very valuable.

Onwenu was a 2020 sixth-round pick and has started 56 of the 64 games he's played for New England. The University of Michigan product has played tackle and guard in the NFL, proving how versatile and valuable he is to the offensive line.

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Tight end is a position the Patriots will have to make a decision on fairly soon. They have zero players at the position signed for next season. Henry has been both durable and productive in his three seasons with the Patriots. Re-signing him would be a good idea, but will the Patriots offer him a reasonable contract? And would he even want to be part of a rebuild at this stage of his career?

If the Patriots don't re-sign one of their own tight ends, they might have to look for one in the draft. They have drafted poorly at tight end since taking Rob Gronkowski in the second round in 2010.

Running back is another position where the Patriots might need to add a veteran if Ezekiel Elliott departs. Rhamondre Stevenson figures to be the lead back next season, but there's not much proven talent below him on the depth chart, assuming Elliott isn't here.

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