FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots entered the new league year with the NFL’s most available salary cap space, but instead of adding players who would clearly put the team in a better situation to win this season, they emphasized re-signing their own free agents.

One of those players was tight end Hunter Henry, who was retained on a three-year, $27 million contract before free agency even began. Henry was asked the level of confidence he has that things will be different this season for a team that went 4-13 in 2023 and hasn’t acquired a high-priced addition.

“I mean, things are different for sure,” Henry said Tuesday about the Patriots, who replaced former head coach Bill Belichick with ex-linebacker coach Jerod Mayo. “They already are in the building. So, there’s some things we can carry over. There are some things we need to change. I can’t reveal all of those, but there will be a process to that too.

“Obviously, there was a lot of success here for a long time, and we want to be a part of that next success to come. That starts with us in the building, coming to work every single day. A lot of new coaches, getting to know each other. But we’re trying to be part of that change so that’s it’s not what it’s been the last few years.”

Mayo retained key defensive assistants from Belichick’s tenure, but almost completely retooled the team’s offensive staff, installing Alex Van Pelt as offensive coordinator.

The Patriots reported for the offseason workout program on Monday. Henry can already see a difference in Mayo’s style as head coach.


“Obviously, Jerod has a lot of energy and his persona and what he brings to a room,” Henry said. “He kind of lights up a room. Obviously, two I think, he was a player. He’s been in our seats, literally been where we are and played and then also been a coach too. He’s seen both sides of it. … Just that player experience is big for us.”

Jabrill Peppers dived further into what Mayo can provide the team as a former player. Mayo, former All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection, played for the Patriots from 2008-15, when he retired following three straight years finishing the season on injured reserve.

“Just schematics. Since he’s out there, he can tell you a little bit more tidbits, what to look for if you take this one thing away. As a player, then when you coach, I feel as though they have a different feel or understanding for the game. Not only were you out there, they tried it your way, you saw what works and what didn’t work. And now looking through it from a coach’s lens, you can kind of save some guys from making the same mistakes you make, help them play a lot faster, be more instinctual, things like that,” he said.

Peppers noted that some changes have been made in the building, as well. He was asked if all of the old messages, such as the “Do Your Job” signs, are still in the facility.

“I don’t know,” Peppers said Tuesday. “Not that I’ve seen. If they are, they definitely aren’t in the same spot.”

Peppers said he’s “always confident in my guys” when asked if believed the team can improve despite so many familiar faces – including wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Jalen Reagor, offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche and safety Kyle Dugger – being retained.

The team’s key additions were at quarterback, with Jacoby Brissett replacing Mac Jones, running back with Antonio Gibson, wide receiver with K.J. Osborn, tight end with Austin Hooper, offensive tackle with Chukwuma Okorafor and linebacker with Sione Takitaki. None of those players are guaranteed starting roles in 2024, however.

“Right now, it’s too early to tell,” Peppers said of expectations. “Games aren’t won in April, but you can lose some … if you’re going through the motions. Right now, that’s all we’re worried about, getting back in shape, getting used to new material, getting to know the new coaches, those guys getting to know us and we’ll get the ball rolling.”

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