The Patriots replaced Bill Belichick the coach but not the GM. New England’s general manager position is vacant, pointing to a setup in which the team entrusts front office leadership to someone not holding the traditional title.
On that note, the team is making a pivotal hire. Alonzo Highsmith will return to the NFL and take on an unspecified role with the Patriots, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. Highsmith has been back at his alma mater, Miami, since leaving the Seahawks midway through the 2022 offseason. Highsmith will travel to New England to discuss the new position today, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets.
This will reunite Highsmith with longtime Packers coworker Eliot Wolf. The latter remains with the Patriots as their director of scouting. The second-generation personnel man should still be viewed, post-Belichick, as someone who wields power in the New England front office, The Athletic’s Chad Graff adds, going as far as to posit that Wolf is poised to become the Pats’ top decision-maker. SI.com’s Albert Breer also labels Wolf as the top current Pats executive.
Wolf’s influence could also be seen on the Pats’ new coaching staff. Ex-Green Bay assistant Alex Van Pelt is in place as OC, while the team has also hired former Packers staffer Ben McAdoo and D-line coach Jerry Montgomery. Highsmith and Wolf both worked together in Green Bay, Cleveland and Seattle. They signed on as Seahawks consultants in 2020, though Wolf eventually left to join the Patriots.
Highsmith and Wolf trekked to Ohio in 2018, when the Packers promoted Brian Gutekunst to GM. The ex-Ted Thompson staffers’ time working together in multiple cities certainly suggests Highsmith will be assigned a prominent role in New England. Highsmith, 58, left the Seahawks to become the GM of the Miami football program. Though, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes the Hurricanes role was a bit lesser than the title would suggest. Highsmith worked on scouting potential transfers and was involved with the ACC program’s budget, The Athletic’s Manny Navarro adds.
While the Patriots have operated without a true GM throughout the 21st century, Belichick’s exit leaves some uncertainty in the front office. Wolf, 41, is in his 20th year as an NFL exec. The son of Hall of Famer Ron Wolf, Eliot has interviewed for GM gigs in the past. He rose to the role of assistant GM under John Dorsey in Cleveland and was elevated to his present director of scouting role with the Patriots in 2022. Wolf’s experience would make his appointment as a de facto Patriots GM sensible, if, in fact, that is the direction the organization is going.
As for Highsmith, the former NFL running back — the No. 3 overall pick in 1987 — has been on the scouting side for a while and held a key role under Thompson during the 2010s. The Browns hired him as their VP of player personnel in 2018. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots reshape their front office. As of now, ex-Packers staffers look set to make a serious post-Belichick imprint in Foxborough.