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Patriots Best 3 Offseason Moves

As the New England Patriots prepare for the 2022 NFL season, Patriots Country highlights the team’s top three offseason moves.

FOXBORO — With the start of 2022 training camp approximately three weeks away, the New England Patriots continue to do their due diligence in building their roster for the upcoming season.

From retaining some key internal free agents during the offseason to receiving mixed reviews for their performance in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Pats remain committed to making the moves which they feel to be in the best interest of their football team.

As the Patriots begin their march toward the Sept. 11 opener in Miami, a look at their three best offseason moves:

3. Trading for Linebacker Mack Wilson

When the Patriots acquired Wilson from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for fellow linebacker Chase Winovich in March, many wondered whether the team had parted ways with the talented fan-favorite too quickly. However, Wilson may be a better fit for New England’s defensive system.

Wilson began his career as a fifth-round selection by the Browns in 2019. The Alabama product played 14 games in his rookie season, logging 82 total tackles (four, for loss), seven passes defensed, one forced fumble, one sack and one interception. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a starting position but Cleveland during his first-year as a pro.

However, Wilson’s playing time steadily began to dip over the past two seasons; decreasing from 88 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2020 to 21 percent last season. In 2021, Wilson served primarily in a rotational, off-the-ball role. He played a regular role on special teams, which he maintained throughout that decline. Despite the reduction in playing time, Wilson made the most of his time on the field, earning a career-best 75.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, in just 193 defensive snaps.

Wilson does have his injury concerns. In each of his last two seasons, the 24-year-old has missed at least three games throughout the year. This has been due to an ongoing knee injury which he suffered in 2020. During the 2021 preseason, Wilson was dealing with a shoulder injury, as well.

In the final analysis there is some uncertainty, but tremendous upside in bringing Wilson aboard in New England. With the Patriots looking to get younger, and faster at the linebacker position, he will clearly help in that regard. In New England’s system, he projects as an inside linebacker, playing off-the-ball. Despite facing some notable competition, Wilson has the speed and athleticism to earn a starting position.

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2. Signing Free-Agent Safety Jabrill Peppers

While Peppers’ signing may not qualify as a blockbuster in national circles, it has the chance to become the most impactful of the Patriots’ offseason acquisitions. The 26-year-old was the first-round draft selection by the Browns [25th overall] in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former Michigan Wolverine appeared in 29 games for the Browns throughout his first two years in the NFL. During that time, Peppers started all 29 contests, compiling 137 total tackles (six for loss), eight passes defensed, and two interceptions.

In 2019, Peppers was traded to the New York Giants, as part of the deal which sent Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland. Peppers spent three seasons with the Giants, playing 32 total games and amassing 196 total tackles (15, for loss), 17 passes-defensed, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. He suffered a torn ACL in October 2021, ending his season.

The Pats interest in his services should not be surprising. Over the course of his five-year NFL career, he has aligned at box safety, free safety, perimeter cornerback, slot cornerback, hybrid linebacker and even taken some snaps on the defensive line. Peppers also has plenty of experience on special teams, having compiled 117 career returns on both punt and kick return duties.

In addition to his versatility, Peppers likely caught the organization’s sharp eye thanks in part to their new offensive assistant Joe Judge. The safety played the past two seasons under Judge, as he served as the Giants’ head coach. Peppers also visited Foxboro during the 2021 preseason, as the Patriots and Giants participated in joint practices. His presence should strengthen both the Patriots defensive backfield, as well as their special teams core.

1. Trading for Wide Receiver DeVante Parker

New England significantly bolstered its passing game by acquiring Parker from the AFC East Division rival Dolphins. The often-elusive intra-divisional trade allowed the Pats to acquire a veteran outside receiver at a reasonable price. For the Patriots, they gain a true vertical presence on the perimeter, capable of winning his matchups both on the outside and downfield.

The 6-3, 219-pound product of Louisville has the size and the speed to instantly make an impact on the Patriots passing offense. In seven seasons with the Dolphins, Parker played 93 games (out of a possible 113) and had 338 receptions for 4,727 yards and 24 touchdowns. His most productive season came in 2019, where he compiled 72 catches on 128 targets for 1202 yards, and nine touchdowns. Parker is particularly adept at gaining yards after the catch, averaging 14 yards-per-reception throughout his career. In 2021, the 29-year-old finished with 40 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns. It should be noted that his season was interrupted by hamstring and shoulder injuries.

Parker is the type of receiver who can thrive in New England’s timing-based offense. He has the size and toughness to make contested catches, while giving quarterback Mac Jones a viable red zone target at the receiver position. In addition, he is particularly adept at gaining yards after the catch, a trait which Jones values in his receivers. The new Pats wideout has averaged 14 yards-per-reception throughout his career. In fact, he has never averaged fewer than 11 yards-per-reception in any of his seven seasons in the league. His versatility is likely to make him one of Jones’ favorite targets in 2022.