The New England Patriots had unprecedented success with head coach Bill Belichick and one of the best front offices in football. However, New England’s decline also falls on Belichick’s shoulders and with the future Hall of Famer headed out the door, it’s time to start evaluating Patriots general manager candidates for 2024.
No matter who Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft hires as his new head coach to replace Belichick, the organizational structure is likely changing. An incoming head coach won’t have full decision-making over the roster, putting New England legitimately in the market for a new general manager this offseason.
Let’s dive into our top Patriots general manager candidates.
Identifying top New England Patriots general manager candidates
Ian Cunningham, Chicago Bears assistant general manager
The next Patriots general manager will have their work cut out for them. New England’s roster is solid defensively, but they have one of the shallowest offensive rosters in the NFL. While adding talent through free agency can narrow the gap, the draft-and-develop philosophy is always the best path.
Chicago Bears assistant general manager Ian Cunningham provides that background as a talent evaluator. Not only that, he’s worked with some of the best NFL general managers in our lifetime. He served as a Baltimore Ravens area scout (2008-’16) and then as director of player personnel with the Philadelphia Eagles (2017-’21). Years spent learning from Ozzie Newsome and Hosie Roseman are an invaluable experience for a young executive.
In two decades, Cunningham has helped shape championship-caliber rosters with both the Eagles and Ravens. Now in Chicago, he’s the right-hand man in an operation with the Bears well-positioned to contend for years. If Kraft wants a fresh leader building the roster, Cunningham is a phenomenal option.
Ed Dodds, Indianapolis Colts assistant general manager
When evaluating Patriots general manager candidates, one factor we’re looking for is a track record of success with multiple first-class organizations. Indianapolis Colts assistant general manager Ed Dodds has been one of the most coveted GM candidates in recent years, but New England could be the spot that lure him to make the jump.
Dodds started creating his well-regarded reputation with the Seattle Seahawks serving as senior executive of player personnel from 2007-16. During that span, the team moved out of the Matt Hasselbeck era and into a prolonged period of success with Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom. After working as one fo the top talent evaluators in Seattle, Dodds went to Indianapolis as assistant general manager.
Since joining the Colts’ organization, Dodds has overseen talent evaluations and selections on players like Josh Downs, Bernhard Raimann (77th overall pick), Braden Smith (37th overall), Bobby Okereke (89th overall), Zaire Franklin (235th overall), Shaquille Leonard (36th overall) and Michael Pittman Jr. (34th overall). He also has an extensive background in quarterback evaluation, with a track record that could entice the Patriots.
If New England prioritizes finding a new general manager before a head coach, Dodds provides another quality. He was part of the Colts’ thorough coaching search last offseason, which landed on Shane Steichen. Dodds knows the type of qualities a team needs in its head coach, is familiar with some of the top head-coaching candidates and could help pick someone that he’d have a great relationship with long-term.
Joe Hortiz, Baltimore Ravens director of player personnel
The most important quality the Patriots will be looking for is an NFL executive with an extensive track record of identifying talent in the NFL Draft, especially in the mid-to-late rounds. It’s been one of the biggest reasons for New England’s storied success and is why you see teams like the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers near the top of the NFL standings every year.
Enter Ravens’ executive Joe Hortiz. With Baltimore for the last two decades, he’s had the benefit of learning from both Newsome and current general manager Eric DeCosta. Hortiz’s time with the Ravens makes him partially responsible for countless selections, including Za’Darius Smith, Kyle Juszyck, Matt Judon, Chuck Calrk, Bradley Bozeman, Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown Jr., Justice Hill, Geno Stone, Brandon Stephens, Ben Cleveland, Isaiah Likely and Justin Madubuike. Building through the draft is what Hortiz knows best.
One potentially appealing aspect of Hortiz for Kraft could be his comfort with the media. Even as an assistant in the Ravens’ organization, Hortiz was involved in breakdown videos on NFL Draft prospects and analyzed draft classes. While it’s not customary for general managers to do that, in his new role it could lead to Hortiz being slightly more transparent with the media and providing fans with some insight into the Patriots’ new process.
Adam Peters, San Francisco 49ers assistant general manager
Fans understandably prefer for New England to make an outside hire, straying from talent evaluators who are directly responsible for the state the roster is in today. However, familiarity with Kraft and the organization matters. That’s why Adam Peters should be one of the leading Patriots general manager candidates in 2024.
Peters started his career in New England, serving the franchise as a pro and area scout (2003-’08). He then left the team to work as the director of college scouting for the Denver Broncos (2009-’16). Over that span, he scouted draft picks like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Malik Jackson and Matt Paradis.
He then joined San Francisco, earning the title of assistant general manager. Working alongside general manager John Lynch, the 49ers have struck gold late in the NFL Draft. From depth players to impact starters, Peters has helped identify players like Brock Purdy (262nd overall), Talanoa Hufanga (180th overall), Elijah Mitchell (194th overall), Jauan Jennings (217th overall) and Dre Greenlaw (148th overall).