FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After finalizing their most anticipated draft in decades, a draft that will define the franchise for years to come, the Patriots waited less than 48 hours to make more history.

They inked defensive tackle Christian Barmore to the second-largest contract ever signed by a Patriot; a fitting dismount to an offseason defined by `the front office’s ongoing pivot to The Packer Way under ex-Green Bay executive Eliot Wolf.

So are they done now?


Several smaller decisions await Wolf in the coming weeks, starting with the open spot on his 90-man roster. But unless the next Malcolm Butler is scheduled to fly in for next week’s rookie minicamp, you don’t care much about the undrafted kid who will probably fill that spot. So, let’s look ahead.

How about a Bailey Zappe trade?


After drafting Drake Maye and cannon-strapped Joe Milton, the Patriots’ quarterbacks room is overcapacity at five players. Maye and Jacoby Brissett are locks for the Week 1 roster, making it a three-way fight for the No. 3 job between Milton, Zappe and CFL alum Nathan Rourke.

Zappe would fetch the best trade return of those three, most likely in a pick-swap trade if not a 1-for-1 deal for a late Day 3 pick. The timing may not be right, however, considering if the Patriots wait until the summer, Zappe’s market will grow when a starting quarterback or top-flight backup inevitably goes down somewhere in the league.

Then again, there are only so many reps for five quarterbacks to share in upcoming minicamp and training camp practices, so might Wolf feel some urgency? Either way, if Milton doesn’t prove to be a complete disaster in spring practices and/or Rourke performs at replacement level, Zappe should hold a plane ticket out of town by Sept. 1.

Now let’s duck into the receivers room, home to another crowd threatening to violate fire safety codes. Here, we find 11 players, including a sorely overpaid and underperforming veteran.

Because of the NFL’s salary cap rules, parting with JuJu Smith-Schuster becomes much more palatable after June 1. Starting next month, the Patriots can cut him at a cost of $9.6 million in dead money and no cap relief, per Over the Cap, while releasing Smith-Schuster before then would incur $2.6 million more in dead money and take a small bite out of their league-leading $54 million cap room before the Barmore extension. (Not that the cap should be a major motivator for a team swimming in space, but the calendar nonetheless will factor in their decision.)

If the Pats managed to trade him after June 1, they would save almost $7 million in cap room and clear a runway for their young receivers to see more playing time. The Packer Way mandates these players, specifically drafted rookies Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, plus 2023 sixth-round pick DeMario Douglas, be prioritized.


So if we accept that Smith-Schuster is no longer the No. 2 receiver he once was – something his Patriots tenure so far overwhelmingly suggests – what’s the point in keeping him? Especially with fellow veterans Kendrick Bourne and KJ Osborn also on the roster. It’s time for both sides to prepare their goodbyes.

Running down the depth chart a little further, do you know how many offensive tackles the Patriots employ right now?

It’s eight. And somehow out of those eight, there is a single proven starter: Mike Onwenu. Aside from Onwenu, projected left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor is the only other established veteran in this group, and he is being asked to switch positions entering Year 7.

So if the Okorafor experiment fails, and third-round rookie Caedan Wallace proves to be like most third-round rookies – unprepared to start Week 1 – where do the Patriots turn?

Well first, they would trim some roster fat. Offensive tackle Conor McDermott received his release this week, and others could follow him out the door: Vederian Lowe, Tyrone Wheatley Jr. or 2022 seventh-round pick Andrew Stueber, to name a few.

In their place, Wolf would need a proven left tackle, and lucky for him a few are still lingering on the market: ex-Packers great David Bakhtiari, Charles Leno Jr. and Donovan Smith. All come with issues pertaining to age and/or injury, and none of them would be anything more than a stopgap. But it was less than a year ago it became evident that Riley Reiff (washed) and Calvin Anderson (illness) wouldn’t solve the Patriots’ right tackle problem in training camp.


Still, the Pats waited until the end of August to trade for Lowe and Wheatley Jr. in a classic case of too little, too late. The position remained a black hole until Onwenu slid over from right guard, but the season was lost anyway, which triggered the sweeping changes and ongoing rebuild.

And if recent reports are to be believed, the Patriots had interest in acquiring a 49ers wide receiver to expedite said rebuild; meaning one of Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk. Between the two, Aiyuk is far more attractive as a long-term piece, a 26-year-old coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and entering his physical prime.

But like another sizable in-house extension, I don’t see that trade anymore.

Last week’s draft offered the best chance for any team to make San Francisco an offer it couldn’t refuse. No one did. The 49ers seem intent on running it back with Aiyuk, Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey around quarterback Brock Purdy for one more year while Purdy plays out his dirt-cheap rookie contract.

Perhaps first-round rookie receiver Ricky Pearsall impresses this summer to the point San Francisco feels secure enough in its wideout depth to deal Samuel or Aiyuk. If so, the Patriots should call about one or both every day.

Every. Single. Day.

Because while the draft is over, the Patriots’ rebuild is only just beginning.

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