Michael Onwenu

Patriots To Move Michael Onwenu Back To RG?

This offseason, the Patriots tapped offensive lineman Michael Onwenu as a core piece of their foundation, signing the versatile blocker to a three-year, $57MM contract. Shortly thereafter, we heard that New England planned to keep him at right tackle, where he took most of his snaps last season.

However, that plan may have changed. As Paul Perillo of the team’s official website observes, the Pats did indeed have Onwenu line up at right tackle in the early stages of spring work, but at mandatory minicamp last month, Onwenu slid inside to right guard. In Perillo’s estimation, RG is Onwenu’s best position, and the writer also made it sound as if the move is permanent, noting that David Andrewswill lock down the center spot next to Onwenu.”

While Onwenu’s ability to line up at right tackle and both guard positions is a selling point, Perillo may well be correct in his belief that the Michigan product is best-suited to RG. Pro Football Focus assigned Onwenu a strong 71.5 overall grade last year — positioning him as the 29th-best tackle out of 81 qualifiers — but in 2022, when he started all 17 games and took every single snap at right guard, Onwenu earned a 79.3 overall grade and finished as the league’s fourth-best guard out of 77 qualified players. In 1,044 snaps that season, he committed just two penalties and yielded 14 pressures, only one of which got home for a sack.

The Patriots, who are projected to lead the league with roughly $107MM in cap space in 2025, can afford to overspend on certain positions to retain premium talent, but the Onwenu contract does not qualify as a significant overpay even with his presumptive shift to the interior of the line. Since the Colts’ Quenton Nelson took the top off the market in 2022, a number of guards have landed contracts paying them at rates enjoyed by high-end tackles. In terms of average annual value, Onwenu’s $19MM figure makes him the fourth-highest-paid RT and the third-highest-paid RG. If we factor LGs into the equation, Onwenu slots fifth in the guard hierarchy.

Onwenu’s move to right guard opens the door for rookie Caedan Wallace to take the reins at right tackle. At present, Chukwuma Okorafor is penciled in at left tackle, though he has no experience on the blind side. While the Pats are surely comfortable with the Andrews-Onwenu pairing in the middle of their line, it would not be surprising to see them bring in reinforcements at OT as the summer progresses.

2023 fourth-rounder Sidy Sow, who started 13 games at right guard in his rookie season, will step in at left guard while Cole Strange recovers from knee surgery. That procedure will force Strange to miss the start of the 2024 campaign.

Latest On Patriots’ LT Plans

With Trent Brown no longer in the fold, the Patriots will have a new left tackle starter in 2024. Neither of the team’s top options to replace him have NFL experience on the blindside, though, leaving open the question of a free agent addition.

Chukwuma Okorafor has been taking the majority of first-team reps during OTAs, and that will likely continue through the summer. The former Steelers third-rounder has 59 NFL starts to his name, but his last action on the blindside came in college. Third-round rookie Caedan Wallace is also a candidate for the left tackle gig, but his Penn State tenure consisted of playing on the right side.

Head coach Jerod Mayo noted that both newcomers are seeing time at multiple spots as the team works out its plan up front. He made it clear, though, that moving Michael Onwenu from right tackle to the blindside is not under consideration. Onwenu re-signed on a three-year, $57MM deal this offseason and he will remain a key member of New England’s O-line regardless of who winds up winning the first-team spot opposite him.

“I mean, I think, look, we’re always trying to bring in good players,” Mayo said when asked about the possibility of an outside addition (via Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald). “Those guys are doing well. We’ll see what happens as the roster continues to play out. Realistically, we’re still early in the process, and training camp will reveal a lot.”

Indeed, evaluations of players on both sides of the line of scrimmage is challenging in the non-padded practices of OTAs and minicamp. More will be known about Okorafor, Wallace and former UDFA Calvin Anderson with respect to their blindside viability this summer. If it is deemed necessary, the Patriots could explore adding a veteran such as David Bakhtiari, D.J. Humphries, Donovan Smith or Charles Leno.

Each of those linemen remain on the open market well after the initial waves of free agency and the draft, and they should be available on a low-cost deal for New England or any other interested teams. The Patriots currently have the most cap space in the league with over $46MM available, so funds would not be an issue if a left tackle move was pursued. It will be interesting to see if that winds up being the case later on, or if they elect to stay in house at the position.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Bills, Fangio

Even though the Patriots re-signed Kendrick Bourne, their failed pursuit of Calvin Ridley leaves a void at receiver. Robert Kraft certainly believes the team made a viable offer but cited an interesting reason for the former first-round pick choosing the Titans.

It was not because of finance. Clearly, his girlfriend wanted to be in the South,” Kraft said (via the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed) of Ridley, referring to the wide receiver’s wife. “We had a situation where the taxes were, like, almost 10% higher. We offered — we were willing to keep going at that premium. But he didn’t want to be in the Northeast. And part of it might be the quarterback situation as well.”

The Pats and Jaguars were believed to be battling for Ridley, but the Titans came in with a monster offer. Tennessee gave Ridley a whopping $46.98MM guaranteed at signing — third among all wide receivers. That number will jump to $50MM if he is on Tennessee’s roster on Day 5 of the 2025 league year. The Patriots have faced criticism for their free agency route, after Jerod Mayo said the team was planning to be more aggressive. Much of the Pats’ moves have involved re-signings. The Pats have a big decision to make at No. 3 overall, and trade-down rumors are emerging. If they do draft a passer third, the WR need will be glaring — unless a rumored Pats trade effort produces a deal — on Day 2 of the draft.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Michael Onwenu joined the host of guards who received big paydays this month, but the Patriots are not planning to return him to his primary rookie-contract position. New England is planning to station Onwenu where he played much of last season. After re-signing the former sixth-round pick on a three-year, $57MM deal, the Pats are keeping him at right tackle, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Onwenu appears comfortable with this plan, per the Boston Sports Journal’s Mike Giardi. The Pats used Onwenu at guard during the 2021 and ’22 seasons, but after injury issues at right tackle last season, Bill Belichick moved him back to that position — where he spent time during his rookie campaign. While left tackle remains an issue post-Trent Brown, the Onwenu deal solidifies the team’s RT job.
  • Bills GM Brandon Beane does not expect Micah Hyde to retire, and despite the team having re-signed Taylor Rapp and brought Mike Edwards over from the Chiefs, Hyde could remain in the picture. Beane is not ruling out a re-signing, ESPN.com’s Alaina Getzenberg notes. Hyde played out a third Bills contract and joins a few other accomplished safeties on the market — Justin Simmons, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs among them. While GMs often indicate interest in re-signing a player at a lower rate exists, the Bills did follow through on this by bringing back Jordan Poyer at a lower cost (two years, $12.5MM) in 2023. Buffalo disbanded the Hyde-Poyer tandem by cutting the latter this month.
  • Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin has a workout scheduled with the Bills, per Sportskeeda.com’s Tony Pauline. The No. 43 overall prospect on Daniel Jeremiah’s NFL.com big board, Franklin has four “30” visits scheduled as well. Working with first-round QB prospect Bo Nix, Franklin posted 1,383 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Franklin was sick during Combine week, Pauline adds, noting he weighed in seven pounds heavier (183) at his pro day.
  • Mike McDaniel confirmed the Dolphins did not have the intention of moving on from Vic Fangio after one season, but the third-year HC indicated (via ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Beasley) a few one-on-one conversations led to an understanding it would be best for the sides to part ways. Fangio quickly agreed to terms with the Eagles, which came after players heard rumblings the accomplished DC was eyeing a move back to Philadelphia during last season.
  • Bourne’s three-year, $19.5MM Patriots contract includes $5.5MM guaranteed, and KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets the veteran wide receiver can guarantee $2.5MM of his $5.5MM 2025 base salary by eclipsing 800 receiving yards this season. Bourne, who is coming off a torn ACL, has one 800-yard season in six years; he posted exacted 800 in 2021.

Patriots To Re-Sign OL Michael Onwenu

Michael Onwenu will be back with the Patriots after all. New England has re-signed their versatile offensive lineman, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

It’s a three-year, $57MM deal for Onwenu, including $38MM in guaranteed money. The lineman also earned a $22.5MM signing bonus from the Patriots.

The organization made it clear that they wanted to retain Onwenu, although the team’s lack of free agent spending in recent years led to some doubts about the player’s future in New England. The lineman also made some headlines when he informed NFL teams that he was operating without an agent, a hint that he was simply preparing to sign with the highest bidder.

Ultimately, the Patriots stepped up and retained their lineman. Onwenu has spent his entire career in New England. The former sixth-round pick found himself in and out of the starting lineup in 2021, but he started all 32 of his appearances over the past two years. Listed as a tackle in 2023, Pro Football Focus ranked Onwenu 29th among 81 qualifiers this past season. The lineman ranked top-10 at his position in each of his first three seasons in the league.

The player engaged in negotiations with the then-Bill Belichick-led front office last offseason. However, those talks stalled, making the lineman an impending free agent. Having played both guard and tackle throughout his career, Onwenu’s versatility was expected to make him a popular name in free agency. The lineman ranked as the tenth-best free agent in our top-50 free agent rankings.

Onwenu will continue to be a reliable presence in New England, even with an uncertain offensive future. Mac Jones will no longer be under center, and there’s a good chance the Patriots snag a rookie quarterback with the third-overall pick in the draft. The team’s low-cost 2023 RT plan (Riley Reiff) lasted all of 45 snaps, and with Trent Brown all but certain to leave, it was important for the organization to retain some continuity on the OL.

Latest On Patriots OL Michael Onwenu

With Michael Onwenu set to hit free agency in a few weeks, the Patriots offensive lineman is currently operating without an agent. The lineman recently informed NFL teams that he has “terminated his prior relationship” with representatives Roosevelt Barnes and Jovan Barnes, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. NFL Players Association records also show that Onwenu doesn’t currently have an agent.

This could end up being a non-story. After all, players need to wait five days after terminating representation before hiring a new agent, per Florio. However, there’s also the possibility that the lineman could simply be looking to represent himself. With rookie contracts becoming more and more standard, we’ve seen a handful of first-year players enter the NFL without representation. However, it’s extremely rare for a veteran to operate without an agent, especially when they’re set to hit free agency for the first time in their career.

Onwenu has spent his entire career in New England. The former sixth-round pick found himself in and out of the starting lineup in 2021, but he started all 32 of his appearances over the past two years. Listed as a tackle in 2023, Pro Football Focus ranked Onwenu 29th among 81 qualifiers this past season. The lineman ranked top-10 at his position in each of his first three seasons in the league.

The 26-year-old may simply be gearing up to sign with the highest bidder in free agency. The Patriots apparently remain an option to retain the offensive lineman, with executive Eliot Wolf telling reporters today that the latest development about Onwenu’s representation doesn’t change anything for the organization.

“It doesn’t impact us,” Wolf said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “Mike is a core player for us. It’s no secret we want to try to keep Mike, and it will just be a little bit of a wrinkle dealing with him. Mike is really smart, he’s introspective, he’s thoughtful, and he understands; he knows what he wants, which is always good when you’re dealing with a player. He’s certainly someone we view as a cornerstone for us.”

Patriots Unlikely To Re-Sign OL Michael Onwenu; Kyle Dugger Franchise Tag In Play

Showing an intriguing skillset at both guard and right tackle, Michael Onwenu is expected to generate extensive interest on the open market. The Patriots have the option of franchise-tagging the former sixth-round pick, but that does not seem like the route the organization will take.

The Pats are expecting Onwenu to depart in free agency, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who indicates teams are monitoring this situation ahead of what is expected to be a strong free agency derby. Several teams slot Onwenu as the top free agent O-lineman this year, per Fowler. Onwenu is among a number of young guard starters close to hitting the market; the former sixth-rounder’s RT past stands to bolster his case to become a well-paid player soon after the legal tampering period launches free agency.

[RELATED: 2024 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates]

Seeing their Riley Reiff-centered right tackle plan produce only a handful of snaps in 2023, the Patriots moved Onwenu back outside. He had spent time at RT as a rookie, before settling in at guard in 2021 and 2022. In 2022, ESPN’s pass block win rate metric placed Onwenu eighth among guards. Pro Football Focus slotted the Michigan alum 29th among tackles last season.

Onwenu, 26, joins a host of guards who are coming off their rookie deals. Robert Hunt, Jonah Jackson, Damien Lewis, Jon Runyan Jr. and Ezra Cleveland are weeks away from free agency status. Tackle, however, looks much thinner. Among players seeking their first payday, Jonah Williams headlines the tackle crop. Onwenu could give a team a solution at multiple spots. While this resume overlaps with the swingman job description, Onwenu is far above that level. His next team will pay him to start at either guard or right tackle.

The Patriots losing Onwenu would deal a blow to an offense already light on talent. Trent Brown is expected to depart, and Cole Strange has not yet justified his first-round status. Brown’s latest Pats contract voided this week, Fowler adds, creating a $2MM dead-money charge. Onwenu has made 56 career starts and is coming into his prime. The Pats are looking likely to need new solutions at left and right tackle. Onwenu extension talks did not progress too far, though that came when Bill Belichick was still running the show. Eliot Wolf is believed to be in charge now, creating a sense of uncertainty due to Belichick having been at the top of the Pats’ decision-making pyramid for so long.

In an antiquated setup, all O-linemen remain under one umbrella when it comes to the franchise tag. This results in guards and centers rarely being tagged. Though, the Patriots bucked this trend when they last unholstered their tag; New England cuffed Joe Thuney in 2020. The O-lineman tag is projected to check in around $19.9MM. The Pats have another player residing as a more realistic tag candidate. They are more likely to keep Kyle Dugger off the market, Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal writes.

A Dugger tag is probably on the table, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss, who reminds of the Pats’ run of failures extending highly drafted players in recent years. The team has not extended a homegrown first-, second- or third-round pick since re-signing 2013 third-rounder Duron Harmon in 2017. Dugger qualifies as a candidate to reverse that trend.

Although the safety market basically turned into Jessie Bates and the field last year, teams have been looking into a potential Dugger pursuit for a bit now. It would cost the Pats roughly $16.2MM to tag Dugger. Doing so would buy them time on an extension, as teams have until July 15 to extended tagged players. Jerod Mayo also pointed to the team being more aggressive in free agency recently, Reiss adds. Holding the NFL’s second-most projected cap space (at $69.5MM), the Pats can afford a Dugger tag and have money to spend to address other areas.

Belichick held onto Dugger and Onwenu at the trade deadline, though both were rumored candidates to be moved as the team found itself in the rare position as a potential midseason seller. Dugger played 97% of the Pats’ defensive snaps last season, and with Mayo and DeMarcus Covington sticking around, the former second-round pick offers continuity for a team that just released Adrian Phillips. Dugger played ahead of the veteran in 2023. PFF only ranked Dugger 68th among safeties last season but viewed his 2022 more favorably; the Lenoir-Rhyne alum returned two interceptions for touchdowns that year. Although Dugger has fared better closer to the line of scrimmage, he has nine INTs over the past three seasons.

Trent Brown Expected To Reach Free Agency; Michael Onwenu Addresses Extension Talks

Among the list of shortcomings in New England this season, the team’s tackle position — a concern during the offseason — has seen its expected starters run into health shortcomings. Riley Reiff played in just one game during the most injury-plagued season of his career, and Trent Brown has seen injuries intervene once again.

In Year 3 of his second Patriots stint, Brown has missed five games. Ankle and knee injuries have hampered the Pats’ starting left tackle, but some internal frustration with the big-bodied blocker has developed within the building, according to the Boston Sports Journal’s Mike Giardi.

Brown, 30, has not started a game since Dec. 3, though he has played in two since that contest while missing two more during this span. The Patriots removed Brown from their injury report last week but made him a healthy scratch. Indicating some believe he has prioritized — as this season has gone south — making it to free agency healthy, Giardi adds (via NESN.com) Brown has also caused issues with tardiness. It does not look like Brown will be re-signed before free agency, and the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed points to a likely separation taking place soon.

We already had that opportunity. We have had plenty of opportunities to get that done,” Brown said of a Patriots extension, via Sophie Weller of A to Z Sports. “I mean, I’m not opposed to it, but we are at the end of the season. … It’d be kind of like, I feel like I’d be kind of doing myself a disservice to not see what other opportunities are out there, just at this point.”

After working as the Pats’ left tackle on their Super Bowl LIII-winning team, Brown did remarkably well as a free agent back in 2019. The Raiders gave him a then-tackle-record four-year, $66MM accord. Brown made the 2019 Pro Bowl, but a COVID-19-marred 2020 season — a campaign in which he played five games — led to the Raiders trading him back to the Patriots. Playing both left and right tackle since returning to Foxborough, Brown has started 33 games in his second Pats stint.

The Patriots have Brown on a two-year, $13MM deal that features weight bonuses and playing-time incentives. The team added the usage-based bumps this year, but Brown’s health issues have impeded him on that front. The former 49ers draftee also expected the Patriots to give him another contract after last season, when he played 17 games. Nothing transpired, and the ninth-year tackle is two months from free agency.

It would have been done when they said it was going to get done. When I signed the last one,” Brown said, via Weller, of his contract. “The one I signed two years ago, I was told that I would, if I had a good year then I would; we should get it fixed. It never happened.”

Pro Football Focus grades Brown as this season’s No. 10 overall tackle. Even considering his unreliability with regards to health, the 370-pound lineman will be poised to generate interest once again on the market. As of now, Brown is positioned to join Jonah Williams, Tyron Smith, Mekhi Becton and Patriots teammate Michael Onwenu as notable tackles in free agency. Brown and Onwenu departing would give the Pats work to do up front, as both have been regulars for years.

Onwenu may generate interest at two positions, considering he has spent extensive time at both tackle and guard as a pro. The former sixth-round pick has been a regular Pats starter for most of his career, but he said (via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss) extension discussions have not picked up. Onwenu said discussions have taken place, but it does not sound like they have been substantive. While mentioned in trade rumors before the deadline, Onwenu joined contract-year cogs Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche in being retained. All are weeks away from free agency.

With Reiff unavailable, the Patriots kicked Onwenu back outside midway through this season. PFF rates the Michigan product in the top 30 among tackles. Although the Pats have paid for their offensive deficiencies in the form of a 4-12 season, they have seen productive tackle play — when Brown is available, that is. The team has until the March legal tampering period to keep Brown and/or Onwenu off the market. Not doing so will obviously create major needs up front. It remains to be seen if Bill Belichick will be making those decisions.

Patriots Notes: Vrabel, Klemm, Onwenu, Boutte

With the Patriots in the midst of their worst season in decades, there’s been plenty of speculation regarding Bill Belichick‘s future in New England. If either Belichick or the organization decides to move on, it’s been assumed that de facto defensive coordinator Jerod Mayo would take over as head coach.

However, there are some whispers that Patriots brass could actually look towards another former linebacker to succeed Belichick. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, there are “definitely people” within the Patriots organization who would be receptive to a Mike Vrabel hiring. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe previously described a Vrabel pursuit as a “home run” option for the organization.

Of course, if the Patriots were interested in hiring Vrabel, they’d have to convince the Titans to let go of their head coach. Vrabel signed an extension with the organization in 2022 and is presumably under contract for at least a few more years. If the Titans get a hint that the Patriots will make a serious pursuit, there’s a good chance they’ll try to grab some compensation from New England.

On the flip side, the Patriots could just wait for the Titans to make a change. The Titans may finish with their second-straight losing season, and Vrabel hasn’t won a playoff game since the team’s 2019 run. Ownership may decide to pull the plug on their coaching staff, much like they did with GM Jon Robinson last December.

More notes out of New England…

  • Patriots offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is expected to be away from the team “for a little while” while dealing with a personal health issue, Belichick told reporters (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). The former Patriots second-round pick joined New England’s coaching staff this past offseason after having spent the 2022 campaign as Oregon’s associate head coach/OL coach. Assistant OL coach Billy Yates will likely take on more responsibility while Klemm is out.
  • Michael Onwenu has bounced around the offensive line throughout his career. After excelling at right tackle as a rookie, the sixth-round pick was moved to left guard during his sophomore season. He was switched to right guard in 2022 and went on to earn Pro Bowl honors, and he stuck at the position to begin the 2023 season. However, recent injuries and OL inconsistencies have forced Onwenu back to RT, and Belichick told reporters that the organization is comfortable keeping the fourth-year player at the position (per Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald).
  • Sixth-round rookie WR Kayshon Boutte hasn’t been active since he played 55 snaps in Week 1. Following Kendrick Bourne‘s season-ending injury, Boutte was expected to see a larger role on offense, but he proceeded to be inactive in Week 9 against the Commanders.There’s been some speculation that the rookie could be in Belichick’s doghouse after failing to get a second foot down on a crucial drive in Week 1, but Boutte dismissed that notion. “I don’t feel like I’m in the doghouse,” he said (via Reiss). “Looking back at the first game, I know that I can get open. I know how to create separation. That’s why I’m comfortable with myself.”
  • We learned earlier today that cornerback J.C. Jackson won’t be traveling to Germany for New England’s matchup against the Colts this weekend.

AFC Trade Rumors: Patriots, Broncos, Renfrow

The Patriots fielded lots of calls for trade offers during today’s trade deadline, but two of the bigger names on their roster reportedly received no interest. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, teams called New England to take the temperature on pass rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger, and tackle Michael Onwenu, while quarterback Mac Jones and veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t receive any nibbles.

Uche, Dugger, and Onwenu are all facing contract-years, so they all held a decent chance of being dealt. Uche was reportedly the most likely, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. After a couple quiet years to start his career, Uche burst onto the scene in 2022, combining with Matt Judon for half of the team’s 54 sacks last year. Mike Dugar of The Athletic reports that the Seahawks held serious interest in Uche “with talks going pretty deep,” but ultimately, landed Leonard Williams from New York instead. With Seattle filling their defensive line need with Williams, Uche will remain in New England.

As will, Jones and Elliott. It’s unclear how serious the Patriots were, if at all, about seeking trade partners for the two offensive contributors. The team will face a fifth-round option decision for Jones before next year, while Elliott will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting out West:

  • It was a similar scene up in Mile High, where the Broncos decided not to move any of their potential trade assets due to a lack of serious interest. While the team reportedly did receive offers on players like receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, they didn’t gauge the offers as good enough to move on, per Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report. Mike Klis of 9NEWS relayed that the team is “confident in its group of players.” While it seemed the team may be willing to dive into a rebuild, beating a sick Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may have convinced them otherwise.
  • Remaining in the West, the Raiders were unable to find a buyer for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, to little surprise. Las Vegas gave Renfrow a big-money extension after his Pro Bowl season and has diminished his role severely ever since. So far this year, Renfrow has been on the field for over half of the Raiders’ offensive snaps in only three games. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the remaining guaranteed money in Renfrow’s contract prevented any teams from fully following through on their interest in the veteran receiver. With Renfrow staying put and the many sources shooting down reports of wide receiver Davante Adams wanting out of Vegas, according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders stood pat at the trade deadline.

Patriots “Sniffing Around” At Potential Trades

We heard earlier this week that the Patriots were “willing to listen to offers” leading up to the trade deadline. According to Albert Breer of SI.com, New England’s front office may be the side that is initiating trade talks.

[RELATED: Latest On Patriots’ Deadline Plans]

The Patriots are “sniffing around” to see what draft compensation they could get for some of their logical trade candidates. Breer points to offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, safety Kyle Dugger, and defensive end Josh Uche as players who could be on the trade block. All three players are impending free agents, and despite possessing a chunk of 2024 cap space, the organization may want to move on from players they may not re-sign.

Breer opines that Uche is the player who’s most likely to be traded since he’d “probably be the most difficult of the group to re-sign.” The former second-round pick has followed up his 11.5-sack 2022 campaign by collecting six tackles and two sacks in six games this year. While his numbers this season are underwhelming, his pass-rushing ability means the Patriots would still be able to bring back a worthwhile return in a trade. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler agrees that Uche is a name “worth watching,” noting that the pass-rusher has garnered trade interest around the NFL. Likewise, based on his conversations with multiple teams, Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal believes Uche has the best chance of any current Patriot to be dealt.

On the flip side, Breer thinks Onwenu is the least likely of the group to be traded. The Patriots will use the rest of the 2023 campaign to evaluate Mac Jones, and Breer can’t envision the organization hurting the QB’s chances by subtracting from the offense. Following that same logic, Breer also doesn’t see wide receiver Kendrick Bourne getting traded, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com does not think New England will part with any top talent unless it receives at least a third-round pick in return. Of course, if another club were willing to take on an onerous contract (JuJu Smith-SchusterDeVante Parker) as part of a deal for a player like Uche, the Pats would certainly listen.

Breer adds one more name to the list of potential trade candidates: Jalen Mills. The defensive back has served in a variety of roles with the Patriots since joining the organization in 2021. Mills got through two years of his four-year, $24MM deal before getting cut back in March, but he quickly rejoined the Patriots on a new pact. While the Patriots have dealt with a number of injuries in their secondary, Mills has only seen time in 26 percent of New England’s defensive snaps this season.