Understandably, everyone is all excited about what the Patriots did this offseason. The 2021 Patriots quickly went from also-rans to possible contenders if everything goes right: all the new pieces fit together at some point and they get good quarterback play ... from someone.
But when you have an organization like the Patriots — especially one that prides itself on sustainability l— the team is never a one-year snapshot. The best organizations keep the long view and work on multiple tracks. Yes, the next season matters greatly, but you have to keep one eye on the horizon and what's coming down the line.
The Patriots did great work this offseason, on paper, for the 2021 season. But even if all the signings and trades work well this season — and the odds are not all of them will — then the Patriots still have a lot of work to do in the short-term, namely the draft, to help them solidify the base of the roster in 2022 and beyond.
New England has bridged the gap, somewhat. When we did this a year ago — Patriots Future: (Lack of) Depth chart for 2022 shows just how crucial this team-building stretch is for Patriots — this is what the depth chart looked like:
After this offseason, and with some promising pieces from the 2020 draft, it looks a lot better (we'll reveal it in a minute).
But there is a long way to go, and not (as) many resources left to do it.
Basically, the Patriots have to build on the '20 draft, follow that up with another strong group in a few weeks, and most if not all of their deals this offseason have to work out.
Why? The Patriots are about to run into a free-agent iceberg in '22. And where those holes are should lead you to where New England might look for help in the draft, because Belichick prefers to draft one year out from need.
Patriots have just 35 players on the roster for 2022 (Devin McCourty voids, and Patrick Chung has not yet officially retired). Those 35 players already account for $163.6 million on a cap that will likely fall around $200 million, a modest increase over the $182.5 million this year.
The cap is not the issue for '22, unless guys Nelson Agholor reverts back to his Philly form, Jonnu Smith, Matthew Judon and Kendrick Bourne aren't ready to be leading men, and Hunter Henry can't stay on the field. In that case,