Michael Onwenu

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.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Jets, Onwenu

Last year, the Dolphins made a splashy trade on deadline day. They sent the Broncos first- and fourth-round picks, along with Chase Edmonds for salary-matching purposes, for Bradley Chubb and subsequently signed the edge rusher to an extension. Although the Dolphins have shown more firepower this year and reside atop the AFC East at 5-2, they may not be too interested in a major exchange before Tuesday’s deadline. Mike McDaniel said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) he is “very, very comfortable” with the team’s roster and that GM Chris Grier has not come to him with any trade offers.

The Dolphins, who have endured two double-digit losses, rank first offensively but have seen injuries stack up on their offensive line. Terron Armstead and Connor Williams have missed multiple games, and left guard Isaiah Wynn suffered what looks like a season-ending injury. Vic Fangio‘s defense also ranks 27th in points allowed, though Jalen Ramsey‘s return will be a significant in-season acquisition of sorts for that unit. While Miami also was connected to just about every potentially available running back this offseason, its De’Von Achane pick has been a hit, despite the third-rounder residing on short-term IR.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Jets re-signed Quincy Williams to a three-year, $18MM deal days before free agency, and the former Jaguars third-rounder has received rave reviews from the coaching staff this season. Pro Football Focus also ranks Williams as a top-10 off-ball linebacker. Williams, however, said he disagreed with the comps the team made when assessing his value this offseason. “I’m going to be honest with you; the contract situation threw me off, for real, for real,” Williams said, via ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. “Listening to the players they thought were better than me, that kind of put a chip on my shoulder.” While that makes it rather interesting Williams did not test the market to gauge how other teams viewed him, his $6MM-per-year contract ended up similar to most of the veteran ILBs who hit free agency this year.
  • Robert Saleh said Duane Brown will not be designated for return this week. While Brown is eligible to practice this week, the New York Post’s Brian Costello notes he will not do so until at least Week 9. The 38-year-old tackle has been on IR with a hip injury since Sept. 23. The Jets moved Mekhi Becton to left tackle, but with RT replacement Alijah Vera-Tucker out for the season, it will be interesting to see if Becton is kicked back to the right side to create a spot for Brown.
  • Regarding the Jets’ Mecole Hardman trade, Saleh said (via Cimini) rookie UDFA Xavier Gipson made the free agent signing expendable. Gipson, who has operated as the Jets’ kick and punt returner this season, has only played 39 offensive snaps. Hardman only logged 28 during a disappointing Jets tenure, but it should be expected Gipson will see a bit more time at receiver going forward. Hardman played in the Chiefs’ Week 7 game, notching an impactful punt return and playing 11 offensive snaps back with his original NFL team.
  • Riley Reiff is now on IR for a second time this season, and trade acquisition Vederian Lowe struggled to replace him at right tackle. The Patriots moved guard Michael Onwenu back to right tackle in Week 7, with Bill Belichick approaching the contract-year player about the switch last week, per MassLive.com’s Chris Mason. Onwenu has spent time at right tackle during his Pats career but had settled in at guard. With the former sixth-round pick in a contract year, a right tackle switch could certainly affect his 2024 market.
  • Malik Cunningham once again passed through waivers and onto the Patriots’ practice squad, but the team was not as lucky with DB Ameer Speed. New England waived Speed last week, but ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss notes the team wanted him back on the P-squad. The Colts nixed that plan with a claim. A sixth-round pick this year, Speed played in five Pats games before his Foxborough exit.

Latest On Patriots’ Deadline Plans

Despite their upset win over the Bills in Week 7, the 2-5 Patriots are likely to find themselves in the sellers category ahead of the upcoming trade deadline. To no surprise, the team is open to at least considering offers on a number of players.

[RELATED: Patriots, Bill Belichick Agreed To Offseason Extension]

Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald reports that the Patriots are “willing to listen to offers” which could see them deal away members of their core, specifically those on expiring contracts. That means the likes of edge rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger and offensive lineman Michael Onwenu in particular could be the subject of trade negotiations in the coming days.

A recent report indicated Uche and the Patriots have not held extension talks, leaving him on a path toward departing in free agency in March. New England does not have a history of valuing situational edge rushers such as the Michigan alum as highly as other teams. As such, it would not come as a surprise if a market developed for his services to close out the 2023 season, but also for years to come on a long-term deal given out by an acquiring team. Uche had a breakout season last year with 11.5 sacks, but he has managed just a pair so far this season.

As fellow 2020 draftees, Dugger and Onwenu are playing out the final year of their rookie contracts. The franchise tag could be in play for the former in particular, Kyed notes, and it may become necessary if an extension cannot be worked out. Dugger expressed an affinity for the Patriots in the summer when asked about his contract status, but no updates have emerged regarding an extension being on the horizon. The same is true for Onwenu, who has proven to be a versatile and consistent blocker over the course of his career (although his performance has taken a step back in 2023).

Kyed adds that the trio of Uche, Dugger and Onwenu would each likely garner draft compensation ranging from second- to fourth-round picks if they were to be included in deadline deals. Veteran wideout Kendrick Bourne – previously named as a low-cost trade target at his position – could also draw attention and yield a Day 3 pick in return. As Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required), New England is seen around the league as a team with desirable trade chips, so they will be a team to watch in the coming days.

The Patriots are currently slated to have the third-most 2024 cap space in the league at nearly $93MM. That flexibility could go a long way in informing their moves (or lack thereof) ahead of the October 31 deadline as they weigh the value of future assets against that of retaining key players in what appears to be another season destined to land outside the postseason.

OL Notes: Vikings, Bengals, Pats, Nijman

Garrett Bradbury suffered a back injury last season, and the Vikings center saw his absence extended after he aggravated the malady in a car accident. Bradbury missed the Vikings’ final five regular-season games but returned for the team’s wild-card loss. The Vikings circled back to the former first-round pick in March, re-signing him to a three-year, $15.75MM deal. That contract becomes a pay-as-you go accord after 2023, and Bradbury has run into familiar trouble. The Vikings ruled out the fifth-year center for their Thursday-night game in Philadelphia due to a back injury.

We felt positive about him, and he’s done everything and had no issues whatsoever through a pretty physical training camp for us to feel really good about it,” Kevin O’Connell said (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) of Bradbury’s back issue. “It’s just how this game goes sometimes, and he’s a tough guy, big part of the interior of our offensive line and we’ll hope to get him back as soon as we can.”

Austin Schlottmann, who returned last week after a broken leg ended his 2022 season, is set to start at center against the Eagles. Here is the latest from the O-line landscape:

  • The Bengals completed an unexpected transaction this week, releasing La’el Collins from the reserve/PUP list. The team had given Collins a three-year, $21MM deal to step in at right tackle, which he did for 15 games. But ACL and MCL tears ended his 2022 season in Week 16 and prevented him from starting this season on time. The Bengals have Jonah Williams at right tackle opposite big-ticket UFA addition Orlando Brown Jr., but Jackson Carman — who replaced Williams at LT in the playoffs last season — is not the top backup any longer. D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, is positioned as Cincinnati’s swing tackle now, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carman has started two playoff games but lost three position battles in his three training camps. Viewed as a project coming out of East Carolina, Smith has played 56 career offensive snaps.
  • Reliability questions surrounded the Patriots‘ offensive line, and the team responded accordingly when setting its 53-man roster. Before Riley Reiff ended up on IR, the Patriots submitted an initial 53 with 11 O-linemen. No other team’s first 53 included that many, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes. Only seven teams kept 10 blockers, though that is where New England’s contingent stands after the Reiff move. The Pats needed to use this depth early. Calvin Anderson, who came off the Pats’ reserve/non-football illness list late in the preseason, started at right tackle in Week 1. Guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu were out, moving fourth- and fifth-round rookies — Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi — into the lineup. Onwenu and Strange have each logged two limited practices this week, though both Sow and left tackle Trent Brown suffered concussions in the opener, leaving their Week 2 statuses in doubt.
  • The Commanders, Packers and Vikings each restructured an O-line deal recently. Washington created $6MM in cap space by moving $7.5MM of Charles Leno‘s base salary into a signing bonus and adding three void years, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Green Bay topped that by adding four void years to Yosh Nijman‘s deal, creating $2.54MM in cap space, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. This proves interesting due to Nijman being on a second-round RFA tender; he is due to be a 2024 free agent. Minnesota added $9.99MM in space by restructuring Brian O’Neill‘s contract, per Yates.

Patriots Activate G Michael Onwenu From Active/PUP List

With less than a week to go until teams must make determinations about players on their respective PUP lists, the Patriots received good news on one of their starting offensive linemen.

Michael Onwenu returned to practice Wednesday, the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed notes (on Twitter), ending a lengthy hiatus. The fourth-year guard has been out of the mix since suffering an ankle injury near the end of the Patriots’ Week 18 game in Buffalo.

Coming off the PUP list gives Onwenu a decent shot to be ready for Week 1. The Patriots have used the former sixth-round pick as a regular starter for the past two seasons. Onwenu returning will round out the solid interior of New England’s offensive line. Tackle issues have arisen this offseason, but the Pats’ Onwenu-David AndrewsCole Strange trio is locked in.

Onwenu, 25, started all 17 Patriots games last season. Pro Football Focus rated the Michigan alum as one of the NFL’s best O-linemen, slotting him fourth among guards. A recovery from ankle surgery, however, did not go smoothly. Onwenu was already battling an ankle issue, but after Bills defensive tackle DaQuan Jones fell on the back of the Pats blocker’s legs, it forced a slightly early end to his season. Although the surgery took place before the Pats’ offseason program began, Onwenu was down for nearly all of training camp.

This season, a contract year, will be pivotal for Onwenu. Showing full recovery from the ankle surgery will put him on track to command a lucrative second contract. The Patriots do not have a single eight-figure AAV tied to an offensive player beyond 2023, and only Hunter Henry qualifies as such this year. While that could open the door for Onwenu staying in Foxborough — as Shaq Mason did on a second contract — the team’s current right guard could be tough to keep. As of now, Onwenu joins Robert Hunt, Cesar Ruiz, Jonah Jackson, Damien Lewis and Jon Runyan Jr. as guards set to play out their rookie deals in 2023.