I define the Brady-Belichick Patriots into three eras. The first was the dynasty years from 2000-2006. At the end of 2006, the WR corp was god-awful and the RB position was sub-par. This was due to the lack of WR depth. So the Patriots sign Stallworth and Gaffney, trade for Moss and Welker, and develop Maroney. The team, reinvigorated and with a new identity, broke all kinds of records and had bad luck in the big game. The next year, Brady went down and the defense began to retire. In 2009, we see a new team. The old guys are gone (Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour, Law, Samuel, Cobb, Thomas, etc.) The defense draft picks didn't pan out: Wheatley, Butler, Brace, Crable, Meriweather. Moss was losing his skill, Maroney plain busted, and Gaffney and Stallworth were gone. With no TE production, little WR depth, no RB to speak of, Brady kept the team going. The Defense had maybe two or three guys who could be called franchise players. The team won the division twice (2009-10) but got blasted out of the playoffs. I define the new era as starting in the 2010 draft.
But here's what defined every year SINCE 2007. Bill traded half of his picks into next year. We had this rainy day fund. This year? The streak ends. Bill kept all his picks and traded up. He first traded up for a D-line elite athletic talent. No more overachievers. This guy has the tools to be an all-world player if he works hard enough. He got a vicious linebacker who automatically turns the LB position into a strength. I'm so excited to see Hightower, Spikes, Mayo, and one of the others on the field together. I don't know how Bill will do it, but the LB position is very talented now. So is the D-line. After adding a third-round and first-round talent, the D-line suddenly looks promising. Let's go to the secondary. Not only is Dowling coming back from surgery, McCourty regressing to the mean at least, Arrington coming off a great season, and Chung finally looking healthy, but we added a starting safety (Wilson) as well as a troubled but possible steal in Dennard.
In free agency? We picked up multiple talented D-linemen (Fanene, Scott), great safety depth (Gregory), and revamped the WR position, signing Lloyd, restructuring Ochocinco, signing Gonzalez and Stallworth, tagging Welker.
For the first time since 2007, the Patriots can truly say that they've addressed every need. D-line? Added 4 talented players, not to mention Pryor and Cunningham. LB depth? Added a first-round talent. DB? Gregory in FA, Wilson and Dennard in the draft, and Dowling and Barrett are coming back. Center? Resigned both Koppen and Connolly. Guard? Resigned Connolly and added Gallery. TE depth if Gronk injures a leg? Daniel Fells. And a deep threat WR? Check.
The Patriots have positioned themselves for greatness. Only draft busting or injuries can hamper this team now. The quote that will define the rest of the offseason for the Patriots is: "Our Greatest Enemy is Ourselves" I don't want to jinx them, but they haven't become worse in ANY area of the roster while becoming significantly better in almost every area. With every key player returning, young players stepping up, and new talent coming in, this could be the start of a third era. A new dynasty era to cap off an incredible Coach-QB partnership.