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It sounds like Mike Onwenu is the Patriots' top priority in free agency

Sports Final: Jerod Mayo's staff is introduced and what the Patriots will be looking for at NFL Comb
Sports Final: Jerod Mayo's staff is introduced and what the Patriots will be looking for at NFL Comb 06:54

BOSTON -- NFL free agency is just a few weeks away, and the Patriots have a bevy of players set to hit the open market. From the sounds of it, Eliot Wolf has bringing back offensive lineman Mike Onwenu high on his offseason to-do list.

While the New England offensive line has been a mess the last few seasons, Onwenu has always served as a steadying force in the trenches. Whether at right guard or right tackle, Onwenu is one of the best in the business at protecting his quarterback. 

Good, steady offensive linemen do not come cheap, and Onwenu is going to command top dollar in free agency. But the Patriots have cash to spend this offseason, and from the sounds of it, they'd like to give a nice chunk of that to the 2020 sixth-round pick.

Onwenu no longer has an agent after firing his representation over the weekend, and will be representing himself this offseason. Wolf said that won't impact the team's pursuit of the versatile lineman, whom he views as a "core player" for the Patriots.

"It's no secret we want to try to keep Mike and it'll just be a little bit of a wrinkle dealing with him," Wolf said of Onwenu firing his agent. "Mike's really smart and he's introspective and he's thoughtful. And he knows what he wants, which is always good when you're dealing with a player. He's certainly someone that we view as a cornerstone for us."

Wolf also said that he would like to bring back safety Kyle Dugger, who has become a key contributor in the New England secondary since being drafted in the second round in 2020. Wolf, who had a long run in the Green Bay Packers front office, said there will be a big emphasis on developing young players in New England and re-signing them when they're due for a new contract. 

Wolf will get his first crack to do so with Onwenu and Dugger, who have both developed into important players in New England. The franchise tag could be an option for either, with the window for teams to tag players set to close on March 5. 

"I would say that all the options are on the table. We definitely want to keep Mike and Kyle," said Wolf. "We're hopeful to continue to work with Kyle's agent and Mike to make that happen."

The franchise tag for an offensive lineman is set for $20.985 million, while it's a $17.123 million hit for a safety.

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