Patriots 2024 free agency tracker: Offseason moves, signings

AP Photo/Adam Hunger

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2024 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, which means free agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2024 NFL draft begins April 25 on ESPN.

Here's a breakdown of every 2024 NFL free agent signing by the New England Patriots and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Jacoby Brissett, QB

The Patriots plan to sign Brissett to a one-year, $8 million contract with a maximum value of $12 million.

What it means: Brissett returns to the team that selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft and represents a veteran bridge option should the Patriots draft a quarterback with the third overall pick and decide not to play him right away. Brissett was viewed as a positive veteran influence on Washington second-year quarterback Sam Howell last season, and then when called upon to play late in the season, he showed he could still be effective.

Brissett's background with first-year Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt -- having started 11 games in Cleveland in 2022 when Van Pelt was the quarterbacks coach -- was a link that had many predicting he would ultimately land in New England this year.

What's the risk: Minimal. The one-year term puts more of a strain on the salary cap than a multiyear deal would have, but the Patriots have plenty of space to work with.

Mike Onwenu, OT/G

The Patriots and Onwenu are in agreement on a three-year, $57 million deal, a source told ESPN.

What it means: Re-signing Onwenu was arguably the Patriots' top priority, and they paid a hefty price to do it, which is in line with the growing offensive line market. Onwenu can play guard and right tackle, with first-year head coach Jerod Mayo noting, "When he is going, he is dominant."

Not including recovering left guard Cole Strange, the Patriots can now lock in three 2024 starters in Onwenu (guard/tackle), Sidy Sow (guard) and David Andrews (center). The signing also represents what the Patriots hope to be about under Mayo and director of scouting Eliot Wolf: A program that drafts, develops and re-signs its own.

Onwenu entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2020, and while the organization likely wishes it had extended him sooner (which would have been cheaper), it can apply lessons learned from the prior regime into the future when similar situations arise.

What's the risk: A three-year contract means Onwenu will be scheduled for free agency again before he hits his 30th birthday, which could mean the team has to pay big once again to retain him.

Anfernee Jennings, LB

The deal was for three years with a base value of $12 million and a maximum value of $24 million.

What it means: The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Jennings came on strong last season after Matthew Judon was lost for the season with a torn biceps in early October. Jennings' primary value comes as a sturdy edge player -- forcing things back inside -- but he also showed the ability to contribute as a pass-rusher. His return, alongside Judon and Josh Uche, means the Patriots bring back an effective edge trio, with 2023 second-round pick Keion White a chess piece who also can play on the edge depending on the scheme.

What's the risk: The Patriots are banking on Jennings' 2023 season as a sign of things to come, as it represents the majority of his production over his four-year NFL career.

Josh Uche, DE

Uche will return to the Patriots on a one-year deal with a $3 million base salary, and incentives that can increase the value to $8 million

What it means: Uche was one of five players present for head coach Jerod Mayo's official introduction as head coach, which reflected his feelings entering free agency: Returning to the Patriots was his No. 1 priority. He backed his words with actions in accepting a one-year deal when there were more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. The 2020 second-round pick from Michigan was called the team's most gifted pass-rusher by veteran Matthew Judon, and Judon's return to health after missing 13 games last season because of a torn biceps could help boost Uche's production; the two complemented each other well on the edges in 2022 with each registering double-digit sacks.

What's the risk: Hardly any. Uche's primary contributions have been as a pass-rusher, and a one-year "prove it" deal doesn't put much onus on the team itself.

K.J. Osborn, WR

The Patriots are signing Osborn to a one-year deal.

What it means: The Patriots took a big swing at Calvin Ridley (who signed with Tennessee), which was a clear-cut indication of their intention to upgrade their receiving corps. While Osborn isn't the same caliber of player as Ridley (four years, $92 million), he also will come much cheaper and on a shorter term, potentially making him a solid value signing as he escapes playing under the shadow of first-round picks Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison. Osborn also provides a level of proven insurance as Kendrick Bourne returns from a torn right ACL sustained in late October. Osborn joins Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster and DeMario Douglas atop the receiver depth chart.

What's the risk: If Osborn has a big year, the Patriots could lose him in free agency in 2025.

Kendrick Bourne, WR

Bourne has agreed on a three-year deal to return to the Patriots that could be worth up to $33 million, his agent told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

What it means: Bourne wanted to be part of the Patriots' rebuild, and as one of the most enthusiastic, high-energy players to play for the team in recent years, the new regime seemed to reward him as the ideal fit for what it hope the culture will be. His absence in the locker room last year after sustaining a season-ending injury in late October was noted by many, signifying how important his presence was to teammates and coaches. When healthy, Bourne is a versatile receiver who can line up in multiple spots and is a threat after the catch. This is a deep WR class in the draft and the Patriots likely aren't done addressing the position.

What's the risk: Bourne is coming off a torn right ACL sustained in late October, and while he is ahead of his projected timeline, he is not yet fully cleared. Bourne's goal is to be ready for the start of training camp.

Hunter Henry, TE

The Patriots are bringing back Henry on a three-year extension with a $27 million base value and a maximum value of $30 million.

What it means: Henry was a team captain and steady presence during a challenging 2023 season, so his willingness to be part of a rebuild under first-year head coach Jerod Mayo is more than a passing note. Obviously, money is a significant factor, and the Patriots' financial commitment (reportedly a deal averaging $9 million per season) reflects that they believe Henry is still a No. 1 tight end as he enters his ninth season. The team has a lot of areas to address on offense and by re-signing Henry and continuing to engage with free agent TE Pharaoh Brown, the Patriots have essentially created a situation where they can draft and develop another tight end behind Henry with the future in mind.

What's the risk: Henry turns 30 this year, so the only question would be if he hits a point when age starts to catch up with him. But there have been no signs of that to date.

Jalen Reagor, WR

Reagor has agreed to a one-year, $1.292 million contract to return to the Patriots.

What it means: This is a modest deal for the 2020 first-round pick and reflects that he will be fighting for a roster spot as a depth option. Reagor, who totaled seven receptions for 138 yards in 11 games last season, made his greatest impact as a kickoff returner.

What's the risk: With a signing bonus of $142,500, and only $300,000 of his base salary guaranteed, there is minimal risk.

Sione Takitaki, LB

The Patriots are in agreement with the former Browns linebacker on a two-year deal, his agent told ESPN.

What it means: After the Patriots lost LB Mack Wilson Sr. to an agreement with the Cardinals earlier Monday, they struck a deal with Takitaki, who projects to a similar role on the team. The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Takitaki entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Browns in 2019 when Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf was working in Cleveland's front office -- and Wolf was one of his notable boosters. Takitaki is a high-energy player who projects as a complement to starting off-ball linebackers Ja'Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai, while providing value on fourth down as well.

What's the risk: The Patriots knew what they had in Wilson -- on the field and as part of their overall team culture -- and they are banking on Takitaki as the same solid fit.

Austin Hooper, TE

Hooper has agreed to sign a one-year contract with a base value of $3 million and a maximum value of $4.25 million.

What it means: The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Hooper slots in as the No. 2 tight end behind recently re-signed Hunter Henry. When he played for the Browns in 2020 and 2021, first-year Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt was Cleveland's OC, so the two have a prior link that helps Van Pelt project him to his offense. Hooper entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Falcons in 2016 and has played for the Falcons (2016-19), Browns (2020-21), Titans (2022) and Raiders (2023). He's coming off a season in which he totaled 25 catches for 234 yards and no touchdowns.

What's the risk: This is Hooper's fourth team in four seasons. He enters his ninth NFL season in 2024. This is a spot where the team would ideally turn to a younger player.

Antonio Gibson, RB

The Patriots have agreed with Gibson on a three-year deal with a base value of $11.25 million and maximum value of $17.25 million.

What it means: The 6-foot, 220-pound Gibson is a versatile running back with pass-catching skills (he's a former WR), as evidenced by totaling a career-high 48 catches last season. He joins Rhamondre Stevenson atop the RB depth chart, with Kevin Harris, JaMycal Hasty and Ke'Shawn Vaughn behind them. Running backs went off the board quickly in free agency across the NFL, and perhaps that led to the Patriots' move on Gibson, who provides depth for the future as well, with Stevenson entering the final year of his contract.

What's the risk: Gibson had five fumbles in the 2021 season (and seven over his four-year career).

Chukwuma Okorafor, OT

The Patriots have signed the former Steelers tackle to a one-year contract with a base value of $4 million and a maximum value of $8.25 million.

What it means: The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Okorafor was a top option because the offensive line badly needs reinforcements and he was available after being released by the Steelers in a cost-cutting move on Feb. 12. Okorafor turns 27 in August; he's still in his prime years, even though he fell out of favor in Pittsburgh last season when he was benched in favor of rookie Broderick Jones at right tackle.

So the Patriots, under new OL coaches Scott Peters and Robert Kugler, will hope a change of scenery helps Okorafor realize some of the potential the Steelers saw him in when they selected him in the third round of the 2018 draft. The Patriots also still hope to retain their own right tackle, Mike Onwenu.

What's the risk: The Patriots are banking on Okorafor projecting as at least a top backup given their financial commitment to him on a one-year term, with upside for Okorafor should that elevate into a larger role. So it isn't a great risk, but ideally the team would like to ultimately draft and develop players for this type of role because that wouldn't take up as much salary cap space.

Armon Watts, DT

Watts has signed a one-year deal that has a $2.16 million base value.

What it means: The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Watts, who served as a backup for the Steelers in 2023, enters his sixth NFL season. He played 273 defensive snaps (28%) last season and adds depth behind starting defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore. He joins a group that includes Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts, Jeremiah Pharms Jr. and Trysten Hill as he competes for a roster spot.

What's the risk: Watts joins his fourth team in four years, having played for the Vikings (2019-21), Bears (2022) and Steelers (2023).

Nick Leverett, G

Leverett has signed a one-year, $1.7 million deal.

What it means: With the availability of starting left guard Cole Strange an uncertainty because of a late-season injury, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Leverett adds a layer of depth at the position alongside Atonio Mafi, Jake Andrews and Michael Jordan. Leverett entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2020, spent his initial time in Tampa Bay on the practice squad and served as a depth option the past three seasons. He started 10 games in 2022 after an injury to Luke Goedeke, making an impression on the coaching staff with his aggressiveness before reverting to a backup role in 2023.

What's the risk: With plenty of salary cap space to work with, the Patriots assume limited risk devoting a small percentage of it to better position themselves depth-wise along the offensive line.

Jaylinn Hawkins, S

Hawkins is signing a one-year deal.

What it means: Hawkins fills in the depth chart behind starters Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers, joining Marte Mapu and Joshuah Bledsoe at the position as he will compete for a roster spot. The Patriots were looking to the fill a void created after releasing veteran Adrian Phillips in February and having Jalen Mills depart in free agency (Giants). Hawkins entered the NFL in 2020 as a fourth-round pick of the Falcons, was released during last season and signed with the Chargers. He has played in 58 career games, with 25 starts, totaling 135 tackles, 4 INTs and 1 forced fumble. Hawkins projects to play on special teams.

What's the risk: The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Hawkins isn't a lock to make the roster, and with a one-year deal that counts less on the salary cap than his base salary, there is minimal risk.