Patriots mailbag: What changes are coming in the next year?

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The Patriots’ 2023 season is going to be a slog if it keeps up this way.

Because of how poorly the team has played over the last three weeks, fans are already looking to 2024 and beyond. And that’s understandable.

This week’s mailbag features questions about what changes the Patriots can make in the next year and how quickly the team can rebuild after a 1-5 start to the season.

What is the biggest change you think we are likely to see in the next 12 months?

Based on how the season has gone up to this point, the biggest change the Patriots are likely to make is at quarterback. I don’t believe the Patriots can plan to start Mac Jones in 2024 based on how he’s played now for the last two seasons.

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There are certainly extenuating circumstances in play. Jones has been hurt by coaching changes, a poor and banged-up offensive line and a lack of quality playmakers. But he’s also physically limited, panics under pressure and makes dumb mistakes.

So, unless Jones can dramatically turn his season around, then it seems logical that the Patriots would not pick up his fifth-year option and make some other plan at quarterback in 2024, whether that’s in the draft or through a trade or free agency.

It’s possible that Jones could still be on the roster in 2024. But he will have to, at minimum, be competing for the starting job with someone else.

But it feels like anything is in play over the next 12 months. Do we know for a fact that Bill Belichick will be back or that the current infrastructure of the coaching staff and front office will stay intact? No. No one has said that, and the Patriots are 1-5 and set to be underdogs over the next two weeks.

Can they just forfeit the rest of the season to solidify getting the first overall pick this year

Sorry, but no, that will not be happening. But if it makes you feel better (?), there’s really no glaringly obvious win left on the schedule based on how the Patriots have played for the last three weeks.

If the Patriots can get blown out by the Saints and lose to a team quarterbacked for a half by Brian Hoyer, then what’s to say they can beat the Commanders, Colts, Giants, Steelers or Broncos?

Why has Kayshon Bouttee been a healthy scratch for the past month? I hope the answer isn’t because he plays the same spot as Parker.

I mean, the answer is that he plays the same position as DeVante Parker. That’s why he got so many snaps in Week 1, because Parker was out, and Boutte filled in for him. And then since Parker returned, Boutte has been back off of the field.

The wide receiver room is getting more crowded too. With Tyquan Thornton back, Malik Cunningham on the 53-man roster and Demario Douglas and JuJu Smith-Schuster back in practice as they progress through concussion protocol, I don’t see a path for Boutte to get snaps unless Parker gets benched.

And since the Patriots thought highly enough of Parker to give him a contract extension four months ago, I have a hard time believing he would be benched.

Will we have to rebuild or can we improve our offense in 1 offseason

The Patriots can definitely improve elements of their offense in one offseason, but if they’re bringing in a rookie quarterback, then it’s probably going to be a multi-year rebuild.

And honestly, I know it doesn’t sound that fun to go through a few more losing seasons, but the smart path is finding a quarterback through the draft.

Is the offensive line fixable in a single offseason?

It is possible to fix an offensive line in one offseason, and the Patriots have the salary cap to do it. I’m just not exactly sure what that will look like.

Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu and Riley Reiff are free agents. David Andrews is entering the final year of his contract. Calvin Anderson, Jake Andrews, Vederian Lowe, Atonio Mafi, Sidy Sow and Cole Strange, up to this point, have not proven that they can be counted on with key roles in the future.

Ideally, the Patriots should bring back Onwenu. But he’s had a difficult start to his tenure working with new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. And it’s not the greatest sign that the Patriots have not signed him to an extension yet. Andrews is still a good player, and Brown could be brought back. And the hope is that Strange can still be salvaged, but he has not played like a first-round pick up to this point.

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