The New England Patriots have been the talk of the NFL offseason thus far. While most of their recent coverage has revolved around their links to some of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft pool, the majority of it has to do with their free agent spending spree.
In case you slept through the frenzy (expecting the Pats to do nothing, per usual), the Patriots dished out close to $300 million on the open market, easily eclipsing their combined spending budget over the last decade.
The method of spending like a drunken sailor doesn’t always equate to team success, but the Patriots, given their cutthroat culture and top-rate coaching staff, seem poised to break that trend next season.
After all, most of their newcomers figure to patch up areas of weakness.
If there is one downside to welcoming a bevy of high-profile free agents to a lackluster roster, however, it lies in the fact that some incumbent players could see their snap count reduced in a big way. Why would the coaching staff give players it doesn’t trust a major role?
The Patriots will have a microscopic margin for error in 2021 after they labored through their worst season in two decades. Getting back into the playoffs has to be the floor for this team, so let’s highlight three players who could suffer the consequences of their free agent splurge.
Which Patriots players could have reduced roles next season?
3. Justin Herron
Justin Herron could fall victim to the Patriots’ revamped offensive line.
For as much as fans expected the Patriots to overhaul their wide receiving corps, nobody anticipated them renovating their offensive line to the extent they did.
When the dust settled, Joe Thuney left in free agency, center David Andrews re-signed after he seemed destined to sign elsewhere, 2020 opt out Marcus Cannon was traded, and Trent Brown was re-acquired via trade to presumably be the starting right tackle.
For a moment there, it looked as though Justin Herron, who stole headlines this offseason when he helped prevent an attempted sexual assault at a park in Arizona, could weasel his way into a starting role as a sophomore. Unfortunately for him, however, those hopes fell by the wayside after that slew of transactions.
Herron luckily has the requisite versatility that could see him slot in as a reserve at guard or tackle in most games, but he’s likely headed for a reduced role after he appeared in 12 games (six starts) as a rookie and played 35% of the offensive snaps last season.
It bodes well for the 2020 sixth-round pick that he played that much in Year 1, but that mostly boiled down to injuries and the fact that the Patriots lacked depth up front. Barring a major injury, you’d have to think Andrews, Brown, Isaiah Wynn, Shaq Mason and Michael Onwenu will play a healthy portion of the snaps in 2021.