The Future of the Patriots After Offseason Pickups

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Courtesy of nflspinzone.com

The Patriots acquired many new players this offseason, exciting many fans.

Evan Fay, Contributing Writer

Since the start of the two-decade-long Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots have been nothing short of unstoppable, winning six Super Bowls and creating arguably the greatest football dynasty ever. This continued success quickly came to an end in the 2020-2021 season when the Patriots posted a disappointing 7-9 record, their worst single season performance since 2000. After watching former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory this past year, Coach Bill Belichick spent a sizable chunk of money during this year’s  NFL free agency in order to revamp the depleted Patriots roster.

Coming into free agency with $57.5 million in spending money, the third most in the league, Belichick wasted no time in filling the obvious holes in the Patriots roster, signing a multitude of impact players within the first few days of free agency.

With the departure of Patriots legend Rob Gronkowkski after the 2018 season, one of the biggest holes in the Patriots roster over the past few seasons has been at the tight end (TE) position; however, this quickly changed with the addition of 26-year-old speedster TE Jonnu Smith, on a four year, $50 million contract—the second largest contract given out by the Patriots in the last decade. Smith, coming off the best season of his career in 2020 with 448 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, received high praise from Belichick: “[Smith] is a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He’s great after the catch—probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch.”

Despite the praise, signing Smith wasn’t enough for Belichick. On March 16th, the Patriots signed another star TE, Hunter Henry, to a three-year, $37.5 million deal. Since his entry into the league in 2016, Henry has proved himself to be a dual threat tight end as both an efficient blocker and pass catcher. In just two days, the Patriots went from having practically no playable tight ends on their roster, to having the most dynamic tight end duo in the entire league. Somehow, this was only the beginning of Belichick’s free agency frenzy.

With the departure of Patriots legend Rob Gronkowkski after the 2018 season, one of the biggest holes in the Patriots roster over the past few seasons has been at the tight end (TE) position.”

The Patriots went even further in addressing their offensive issues by signing two more quality pass catchers: deep threat wide receiver Nelson Agholor from the Raiders, and strong wide receiver Kendrick Bourne from the 49ers. Although the Pats still lack a star wideout, the high end additions of Bourne and Agholor are  major improvements to the Patriots otherwise weak wide receiver core. The Patriots also decided to give Quarterback Cam Newton a second chance after his unimpressive 2020 season, re-signing him to a one year deal worth up to $13.6 million in incentives. Despite throwing for an atrocious eight touchdowns the entire 2020 season, Cam will now have significantly more offensive weapons to work with. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Patriots’ quarterback situation, as Cam Newton will need to step up his game if wants to see the field in 2021. However, don’t be surprised if the Patriots decide to draft a quarterback with the 10th overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft on April 29th.

Another exciting move which will add more bulk to the Patriots offensive-line was the acquisition of the monster 6’8’’ 360-pound form Patriots Right Tackle Trent Brown, who was acquired via a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. Brown, a former pro-bowler, played one season with the Patriots back in 2018 when they won the Superbowl, and will return to the Pats as Marcus Cannon’s replacement, who was traded to the Houston Texans for draft picks. All around, the Patriots offense is in exceedingly better shape for the 2021 season.

Belichick also made sure to address the issues on the defensive side of the ball with a surge of new high-end defensive signings. The Patriots began improving their subpar pass rush by signing outside linebacker and two time pro-bowler Mathew Judon from the Ravens to a four-year, $56 million contract. Judon has already proved himself to be a top tier edge rusher, as he was one of only three outside linebackers in the league last year who compiled 50 or more tackles, five or more sacks, and 20 or more quarterback hits. Despite the move, paying an edge rusher $14 million a year for four years is something out of the ordinary for Belichick, and could be seen as a risky overpay. Come the season, we will see if this monstrous deal pays off for the Pats.

The Patriots began improving their subpar pass rush by signing outside linebacker and two time pro-bowler Mathew Judon from the Ravens to a four-year, $56 million contract.”

On March 17th, Belichick signed veteran Middle Linebacker and former Patriot Kyle Van-Noy to a two-year, $13.2 million contract. Before departing from the Patriots in 2019, Van-Noy played a substantial role in the Patriots 2016 and 2018 Super Bowl-winning seasons. This reunion will add more defensive support to the mediocre, 15th ranked Patriots defense in 2020. Belichickwent even further in enhancing the Pats defensive line with two more quality signings: Defensive Tackles Henry Anderson of the Jets and Davon Godchaux of the Dolphins, solidifying the Patriots’ front line even more.

Finally, the Patriots signed the versatile defensive back Jalen Mills from the Philadelphia Eagles to a four year, $24 million contract. Mills, a five year veteran, will be a valuable addition to an already elite Patriots secondary, backing up Devin McCourtey and Adrian Phillips at the safety position.

It is safe to say that the Patriots will enter the 2021 season with a vastly improved roster on both sides of the ball, breaking the NFL record for the most guaranteed money spent in a single free agency. This massive influx of talent will allow the Patriots to rebound from the abnormal 2020 season and compete with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins for supremacy of the AFC East. Although mass-scale free agency spending has ended up hurting teams in the past, giving this much talent to a football mastermind and player-improving guru like Belichick is a scary sight for other teams. Come fall 2021, we’ll see if Belichicks’ record breaking offseason pays off for the Pats.