Next Pats Podcast

Projecting the salaries of Patriots' core pending free agents

Mike Onwenu, Kyle Dugger, and Hunter Henry headline the list of Pats players set to hit the market.

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The New England Patriots are expected to aggressively make moves to improve their roster in free agency, but the first order of business could be retaining their key players.

Their most notable impending free agents are offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, safety Kyle Dugger, and tight end Hunter Henry. They recently placed the transition tag on Dugger, which is worth $13.8 million for safeties in 2024. This means teams can offer Dugger a contract in free agency, but the Patriots have the right of first refusal to match that offer.

All three players will be among the top free-agent options at their respective positions. So, just how expensive can we expect them to be? Pro Football Focus' Brad Spielberger joined our Phil Perry on a new Next Pats Podcast episode to share his contract projections.

🔊 Next Pats: Patriots core free agents could cost HOW MUCH?!? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

First, Spielberger estimated Onwenu's value on the open market.

"I have a four-year deal for $58 million. So 14-and-a-half million per year," Spielberger said. "A strong guard deal. We're seeing the rise of the guard market, kind of a counter to the interior defenders getting all this money. ...

"At the same time, though, I mean, Robert Hunt (in) Miami, you have Kevin Dotson in L.A. There are some very, very good players. Obviously, Onwenu has the tackle flex too, which adds value. But anyway, $14, $15 million. A good deal but not quite top of market."

As for Dugger, Spielberger notes that his position doesn't help his cause.

"To me, he's more like the $12 to $15 (million) per year range," he said. "It's a tough, tough position in free agency. One of the biggest lessons I've learned from doing this -- like, Marcus Williams for example comes from New Orleans, phenomenal player, young, gets $14 million a year in Baltimore. Jessie Bates got 16 last year. I don't think (Dugger) is in that caliber of player. So, you know, 12 to 14 range, I suppose."

While Henry has shown he still has plenty left in the tank, he likely won't be too pricey given his age.

"I have a two-year, $12-and-a-half million," Spielberger said. "Tight end's tough too. Thirty years old at tight end is ancient. I mean, remember, (Rob) Gronkowski retired at 29. So yeah, it's gonna be a pay cut, only half of what he was making before. But I do think he had a role. Like, in the red zone on third downs, money situations, he was an important piece of that offense.''

NFL free agency officially opens at 4 p.m. on March 13.

You can watch the full Next Pats Podcast episode below or on YouTube:

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