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Patriots Football Sunday: Team Captains, NFL Draft, WR Options



New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry speaks during a press conference after an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. The Colts won 10-6. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The New England Patriots still have a lot of work to do to get ready between now and the first mandatory minicamp on June 11. The NFL Draft takes place in less than a month. There is still additional work to do in free agency, including getting Kyle Dugger’s contract signed. Trade possibilities still exist that need to be explored. And there could be a general manager named in New England. A look around the happenings in Patriots Nation.

Team Captains

Jerod Mayo indicated that the Patriots will wear captains’ patches this season for the first time in franchise history. Last season’s squad featured six team captains. Two departed since, with Matthew Slater retiring and Mac Jones getting traded to Jacksonville. The four other team captains are currently set to return to Foxboro for 2024: Hunter Henry, David Andrews, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Ja’Whaun Bentley.

Joe Cardona is a solid bet to replace Slater as the team’s special teams captain. He is the Patriots’ longest-tenured draft pick. The team may stick with five captains. If more are added, candidates include Jacoby Brissett and Kendrick Bourne on offense). Defensive backs Jabrill Peppers, Kyle Dugger, and Jonathan Jones are all solid options on defense.

Patriots’ NFL Draft Plans

New England has left open the possibility of doing anything with the No. 3 pick while acknowledging that drafting a quarterback is the first option. Caleb Williams seems set to go to the Chicago Bears at No. 1. This narrows down the possibilities for the Patriots. Drake Maye (North Carolina) and Jayden Daniels (LSU) remain the most likely options. However, Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy has been moving rapidly up draft boards to make himself part of this conversation as well. There is also a possibility of moving back if the team gets overwhelmed by a trade proposal.

Washington controls the draft at the moment. Their plans might remain unknown until the pick is in or a trade is announced. So, New England is left waiting to find out if a player they love is going to be available. If they love more than one of the QB options they are in a great position. If not, they opt to move down. With the number of teams reportedly attempting to move up to take a quarterback, staying put and selecting a wide receiver or an offensive tackle no longer feels like great value, despite some outstanding prospects available.

Trading for a Veteran Wide Receiver

The cost of elite wide receivers continues to rise. Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson will make over $30 million annually on his next deal. It is one reason the Patriots continue to publicly preach a “draft a develop” philosophy. But such a philosophy should not prevent New England from making some inquiring phone calls.

Would the Vikings be willing to move Jefferson? What would the cost of trading for players like Brandon Aiyuk (49ers) and Tee Higgins (Bengals) look like in terms of both trade capital and salary demands? Robert Kraft stated the Patriots were willing to make up the tax difference on Calvin Ridley’s deal with Tennessee, suggesting New England would have been willing to pay even more than Ridley received from the Titans (four years, $92 million). If the Patriots would pay that type of contract to a very good (not great) receiver, trading for a proven wideout remains a real possibility.

Uniform Numbers

Earlier this week, new Patriots uniform numbers were announced. Aside from other returning players switching, which is still possible, there are several new additions still without jersey numbers.

QB Jacoby Brissett wore No. 7 in his first stint with the Patriots. He has also worn No. 14 and No. 12 during his NFL career. Last season two players (JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Isaiah Bolden) both wore No. 7, and No. 12 is not being handed out in New England.

RB Antonio Gibson wore No. 24 his entire career in Washington. Joshuah Bledsoe, who is still on New England’s roster, finished 2023 wearing that number.

OT Chukwuma Okorafor donned No. 76 in Pittsburgh. That was worn by Calvin Anderson last season, who Okorafor might be battling for a starting spot at left tackle.

TE Austin Hooper has worn No. 81 throughout his NFL career. It just opened up in New England. DeMario Douglas switched to No. 3 for 2024.

S Jaylinn Hawkins wore No. 37 for the Chargers. PK Chad Ryland wore 37 as a rookie last season.

DT Arman Watts previously wore No. 96 (Sam Roberts) and No. 94 (unoccupied).

OG Nick Leverett was No. 60 in Tampa Bay but David Andrews occupies that number in New England.

Patriots Football Now Schedule for the Week

This coming week on Patriots Football Now, there will be…

Later today: A seven-round NFL Mock Draft. This is one of only two that will be done, the other coming the Sunday before the draft.

Weekly Wednesday: Seven-Round New England Patriots Mock Draft.

Patriots Roster Breakdown: This week’s featured players include Ja’Whaun Bentley, DeMario Douglas, Matthew Judon, and Tyquan Thornton.

NFL Draft Rankings: Running Backs, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.

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