Arbella Early Edition

Why re-signing Mike Onwenu should be a priority for Patriots

The versatile offensive lineman is set to become a free agent this March.

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The next few months will be busy for the New England Patriots as they retool for the Jerod Mayo era.

Although the NFL Draft is top of mind with the Patriots owning the third overall pick, free agency will be key to building a roster that can bounce back from a putrid 4-13 campaign. Mayo has clearly stated his plan to spend big this spring.

"We’re bringing in talent, 1,000 percent,” Mayo told WEEI's The Greg Hill Show. "Have a lot of cap space, and cash. Burn some cash."

In addition to bringing in talent from outside the organization, the Patriots must decide which of their own players to retain. Among their most notable impending free agents are offensive tackle Mike Onwenu, safety Kyle Dugger, and tight end Hunter Henry.

Our Phil Perry believes as part of that cash-burning plan, the Patriots should make re-signing tackle Mike Onwenu a priority. He doubled down on that take during Wednesday's episode of Arbella Early Edition.

"I think four years, $60ish million, $15 million a year, puts him right in line for what he is," Perry said of Onwenu. "Jack Conklin recently signed with the Cleveland Browns, really good right tackle, and he gets $15 million a year. That's the going rate. If you want a starting tackle, if you don't want to have to completely start fresh at one of the most important positions in the league, you're gonna have to cough up some money eventually. They should do it with Onwenu."

Fellow Patriots insider Tom E. Curran agrees with Perry's point, noting the importance of fixing the offensive line rather than focusing solely on the skill positions.

"I would be stunned and amazed if right now the Patriots are at a point where they're crossing players off who have been great contributors," Curran said. "If it's an Onwenu and his agent conversation where they already established, 'We're not going to go back there, we're going to test the market,' well, they don't know what the bidding is going to be like post-Bill (Belichick). They never re-signed impending free agents, and you end up with an offensive line that is retreads and retreads. That's basically what they've got there.

"So, you do have to ante up at some point. If you don't re-sign Mike Onwenu or make a run at him, and you replace him with Sidy Sow and Atonio Mafi and Conor McDermott, you're basically saying, 'We're still plenty of time away. We're going to spend our money on talent at the skill positions first.' I think that's putting the cart way ahead of the horse because there's a part of me that understands the logic behind moving down at No. 3 and taking (the top tackles in the draft) Joe Alt or Olu Fashanu."

Whether it's Onwenu, one of the top options in the draft, or another impending free agent, the Patriots desperately need to add talent at the offensive tackle position. They currently have no tackles under contract for 2024.

With Bill Belichick gone, it's unclear who exactly will be negotiating contracts with free agents this offseason. Director of player personnel Matt Groh appears to be the favorite to handle that responsibility if owner Robert Kraft opts for an in-house general manager.

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