The New England Patriots weren’t going into this off-season quietly, that much is evident. Through the first two days of the legal NFL tampering period, Bill Belichick has been the general manager making noise. Uncharacteristic for the six-time Super Bowl champion head coach, he actually went out and got the top free agents. He opened up Monday afternoon by signing former Titans tight end Jonnu Smith to a four-year, $50M contract. With the Patriots having the statistically worst tight end corps in the league, that much was to be expected.
Belichick didn’t just stop there though. The Patriots continued to add by giving Ravens edge rusher Matthew Judon a four-year, $56M deal adding star power to the front seven. Followed that up by giving wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne their own respective deals. Belichick also addressed the defense by signing Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills and Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson. Already busy by Belichick standards, fans thought that maybe he would target one more receiver and be done with it all. Maybe look towards the draft a little bit sooner and address further needs there. Fans woke up surprised when they found out that the Patriots had picked up Chargers TE Hunter Henry as well on a three-year, $37.5M deal early Tuesday morning.
How Does This Compare to History?
The New England Patriots have already spent more money than they did in the previous four off-seasons combined. Addressing almost all of their key offensive needs in just the first two days of free agency. Fans are used to the Patriots sitting back and going bargain shopping. Guys like receiver Marqise Lee or tight end Matt LaCosse come to mind here. It’s definitely a new sight for the league for the Patriots blowing up Adam Schefter’s Twitter timeline for once. Their only high-profile get in recent memory was cornerback Stephon Gilmore in 2017 (who could be on his way out, read about it here).
If you’re a fan of quarterback Cam Newton, you couldn’t be any happier. Newton probably has the most complete set of weapons that he’s had since his 2015 campaign, where his leading receiver was a tight end, Greg Olsen. More than likely a tight end being at the top of the chain will be the case again. This Patriots offense just got so much more dynamic overnight. If the rumors are true and the Patriots actually follow through with landing former Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette? This team just went from worst (third place, actually) to first in a matter of just three days! This is why you can never count out the genius of Bill Belichick.
Where Do the Patriots Stand in the AFC East?
Are the Patriots contenders for the AFC East title once again? It’s hard to say. The Buffalo Bills have not gotten any worse this off-season. They just acquired wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to add to an already lethal stable of Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Sure, you could say the passing game doesn’t need the attention that the run offense does. The team of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss didn’t cut it last season, and their inability to run the football is what eventually became their downfall come the AFC title game.
The Miami Dolphins are no slouch either, entering year three with Brian Flores at the helm, and year two of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Although they’re without the comforting presence that Ryan Fitzpatrick brought to them last year, they did acquire Jacoby Brissett on the market. The Dolphins still own one of the most opportunistic defenses in the entire NFL. As well as an offense waiting to explode and begging for one or two more pieces.
It’s safe to say the New England Patriots are likely competing more so for a wild card position than the AFC East which as of now, is comfortably property of the Buffalo Bills for the time being. Though this shouldn’t discourage Patriots fans. At this point, they’re just as good as the Colts, Titans, Ravens and are probably better than the Steelers. So long as Cam Newton makes the most of year two, there’s no reason that the Patriots should have another losing season in the foreseeable future. We were warned the empire would strike back, but nobody suspected it would be this fast.
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