Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Patriots free agent notes: making sense of Bill Belichick’s surprise free agency madness

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Bill Belichick and Patriots had a lot of money under the salary cap to spend NFL Free Agency 2021. They weren’t going to let Tom Brady and the Buccaneers hold the spotlight on the open market.

While Tampa Bay have struggled to retain many key elements of their Super Bowl 55-winning team, New England has been busy recasting their roster. Since decision to re-sign QB Cam Newton For a year at $ 14 million at the end of last week, the Patriots focused their resources on improving offense rather than defense.

That makes sense, as they were both No.27 in yards and scoring last season. Highlighted by Newton’s top-down play in an unknown pattern, this is the main reason the Patriots finished 7-9 in 2020, ending their 11-season playoff streak tied to Brady. At the same time, defense and special teams have now become a more solid backbone.

But what quality did the Patriots get from the early large amount of free agents? Here’s a look at the New England additions and overall rating:

AFTER: SN’s latest simulation project | Large board of the 50 best prospects

Signing of the 2021 Patriots free agents

  • TE Hunter Henry (3 years, $ 37.5 million)
  • TE Jonnu Smith (4 years, $ 50 million)
  • WR Kendrick Bourne (3 years, $ 22.5 million)
  • WR Nelson Agholor
  • OLB Matthew Judon (4 years, $ 56 million)
  • DE Deatrich Wise (re-signed for 4 years, $ 30 million)
  • DT Davon Godchaux (2 years, $ 16 million)
  • DE / DT Henry Anderson (2 years)
  • S Jalen Mills (4 years, $ 24 million)
  • DB Justin Bethel (re-signed for 3 years, $ 6 million)

What was the Patriots’ best move in NFL free agency?

They waited until the morning after the first wave, but he caught Henry, the best tight end available, to team up with Smith. They initially filed their attempt to replace Rob Gronkowski at the tight end, choosing to draft only Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. Now they have a player who best resembles Gronkowski’s skill set as a line blocker and athletic catcher when in good health at a 6-5, 250-pound Gronk.

Smith would have been OK on his own as an upgrade, but Henry puts the Patriots above the top in the potential use of the hard-hitting staff of “12” (two tight ends) again, knowing Newton works best with at least a tight end as his real goal. to guy .. Henry and Smith also come from strong racing systems which will give Josh McDaniels good versatility for his game-appealing looks and support Newton in another way.

Newton lacked legitimate weapons in his first season with the Patriots and the tight part was non-existent in the passing game. This is a full 180, needed to better rebuild Newton as a short to intermediate passer to play his run.

AFTER: Follow SN’s live ratings on every signing, NFL free agent trade

Patriots free agency notes attacking

Henry and Smith were the headliners and given this combined long-term investment, the Patriots couldn’t spend big off either. So they settled for Bourne, the former 49er who is their ideal all-trades route-runner and Agholor, who already did it in the slot machine for the Eagles before surprising as a stretcher for the Raiders. in a 2020 rebound.

Bourne and Agholor seem to be more interchangeable pieces, whether for depth or contingency, for N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd. Either way, even without a big name, Newton now has two more viable options in the event of ineffectiveness or greater injury. When it comes to skillful players, in addition to running backs, the Patriots have gone from the correction several notches above the respectable. Grade: A

The free agency of the patriots notes the defense

The Patriots’ biggest splash here was Judon. He’s been a disruptive passer and active playmaker for the Ravens, but he’s also yet to be beaten for a double-digit sack season. New England might have overspent in hopes they could reach their peak in their system and complete Chase Winovich well at the second level.

Godchaux, of Brian Flores’ system, supports the nose in the defense against the run. Wise played a key role in the versatility of his position ahead of Belichick. Anderson, Mills, and Bethel are all types of Rotary Patriots players. Between all of their young defensemen and veterans Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung returning from opt-outs, there are a lot of pieces on the board that Belichick has to wield in his hybrid scheme. The Patriots have improved defensively as well, but it’s not as dramatic as the change in offense. Category B

AFTER: Ranking the 50 best free agents in the NFL by position

Who did the Patriots lose in the NFL free agency?

  • G / T Joe Thuney (signed with chefs for 5 years, $ 80 million)

It cannot be forgotten. The Patriots picked up right tackle Trent Brown in a trade with the Raiders, but they also lost the top free agent guard to the AFC champions, who are looking to revise their front for Patrick Mahomes. New England need years from Brown, left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews to make up for the solid blocking loss.

Are the Patriots a playoff-caliber team again in the AFC?

It’s a difficult question to answer so soon. The Bills remain a better team for now and are betting to take over the AFC East because of a Josh Allen against Newton’s raise. At 7-9 last season, the Patriots were four games out of a wildcard spot in a busy AFC where the Ravens, Browns and Colts all made the playoffs at 11-5. The 10-6 Dolphins were also three games ahead of the Patriots in the division. The Patriots were tied for the 10th best conference record with the Chargers.

This assumes a few of the powers weaken and teams like Dolphins, Raiders, and Chargers don’t improve either. There is still a lot of uncertainty about Newton’s game.

Splurging at an NFL free agency does not guarantee peak results. The Patriots have pushed themselves to at least climb back above .500 with on paper a favorable strength on the calendar for 2021. They are much better positioned for a 9 or 10 win floor, but they have a lot more work to do. make in the draft and rest of the offseason to push the ceiling towards the real contenders for the AFC.



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