Patriots press ahead with plans to upgrade offense, defense

The Herald has learned a lot about the Patriots' offseason plans after a week at the NFL Scouting Combine. Here are the highlights:

The Patriots are planning to be active players in free agency, with a particular interest in adding an impact defender.league sources say. The Pats have already extended a contract offer to safety Kyle Dugger, but he is expected to test the market. The team is also likely to prioritize re-signing guard Mike Onwenu, who spoke with at least one former teammate about his representation this week.

The Patriots are weeks into establishing a new grading system to evaluate draft prospects. It's a system that marks them by round, with a 5.0-9.0 scale. A player graded as a 5.0 is considered an undrafted free agent. A 6.5 would be a worthwhile second-round pick, and a first-round value would start at 6.9 and go up.

League sources say the Patriots have been impressed by top quarterbacks expected to enter the 2024 draft, including Michigan's J.J. McCarthy and Tennessee's Brady White. The Pats may be nearing a crossroads with Mac Jones, and could shop him this offseason.

Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf is poised to take on a larger role in the front office. Almost universally, agents and rival scouts and executives have praised Wolf as a highly intelligent and diligent talent evalerator. The 41-year-old was often described to the Herald as ready for his new position, someone whose extensive network in league circles can, and already has begun to, help the team rebuild.

The Patriots are looking to bolster their leadership, sources say. Player leadership waned late last season, especially after the team traded away veterans. Center and captain David Andrews is expected to return on a new contract, but the Pats lost longtime captain Matthew Slater to retirement.

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