Patriots owner Robert Kraft is confident in Coach Bill Belichick and his team, despite a lack off movement in the offseason. Doug Murray/Associated Press

The Patriots’ lackluster free agency amid a conference-wide arms race has caused some to wonder whether the team can contend next season, despite making the playoffs last year with a rookie quarterback.

Team owner Robert Kraft is not among them.

“I expect it to happen as soon as this year,” Kraft told reporters Tuesday at the NFL’s annual meetings in Palm Beach, Florida.

At most major sportsbooks, the Patriots are projected to finish with a record around .500 next season. Their odds of winning with the division are well behind the Bills, who are slated as AFC favorites, and only slightly ahead of or tied with the Dolphins. Miami is expected to make a leap after solidifying its leaking offensive line and trading for All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill this offseason.

Kraft indicated his confidence in the team stems from longtime head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Mac Jones, whom he’s “very high on.”

“We have a chance. Without a good coach and a good quarterback, no matter how good the other players are, I don’t think you can win consistently,” Kraft told reporters. “I believe we have both an outstanding coach and a good young quarterback.”


The 80-year-old owner also expressed disappointment in the team’s lack of recent postseason success. Since beating the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots have gone 0-2 in the playoffs and failed to advance past the wild-card round. Between those defeats, they went 7-9 in 2020, the team’s worst season in 20 years.

“It bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game the last three years,” Kraft said.

He quickly followed those comments with remarks about the draft, praising the work Belichick and the front office did to land Jones and fellow impact rookies Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson. Kraft is hoping for similar success next month.

“I’m happy that we, I think, we had a great draft last year and it made up for what happened the previous four years or so,” he said. “And I look forward to hopefully having a great draft his year. That’s the only way you can build your team long-term and consistently.”

THE PATRIOTS REACHED terms with former Giants safety Jabrill Peppers on a one-year contract, according to multiple reports.

Peppers was limited to six game last year due to a torn ACL, but will reportedly be ready for training camp. He posted 29 tackles, one pass breakup and a sack last season. The 26-year-old projects as a backup safety and potential returner in New England.


Over three years in New York, Peppers primarily played in the box and covered the slot. He was also named a team captain and is a reputed favorite of former Giants head coach and current Pats assistant Joe Judge. Prior to playing in New York, Peppers started his career as a free safety in Cleveland.

The Browns, who took him in the first round of the 2017 draft, traded Peppers after two seasons. He started all 29 games for Cleveland, which won just seven total games in those years. Peppers ranked among the Browns’ leading tacklers, but fumbled seven times as a returner and only nabbed two interceptions.

THE PATRIOTS AND Panthers are planning to hold joint practices this summer before a preseason game in Foxborough, according to reports.

Panthers Coach Matt Rhule told reporters at the annual league meetings he’s spoken with Belichick about practicing together. Rhule added he hopes the week will bring “good, productive work.”

“We still have to make sure that the league gives us that preseason game. But I think any time you have a chance to work against another team, it’s great. Especially that team,” Rhule said of the Patriots. “The way they do everything, their detail. And then running the ball against them, they’re physical up front, they have a really good defensive line, they have veteran players.

“They know how to practice, so we’ll take it for kind of a road trip, a little bit of team bonding, as we leave Wofford. I’m excited about it. I think it will be good for our guys.”

Since Belichick took over in 2000, the Panthers have been one of the Patriots’ most common preseason opponents. Last year, the Pats beat Carolina 24-6 in a regular-season matchup. Before the game, Rhule spoke glowingly of Belichick, saying he’s studied him for decades.

The Patriots’ other two preseason opponents remain unknown, though one will likely be the Giants, who have played the Pats in 16 straight preseason finales.

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