EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this article late on Wednesday night, before the Stephon Gilmore news broke, before the Malcolm Butler trade rumors surfaced, before the Patriots came out yesterday and did what they did. As a result, none of this article makes any sense, and I’m only posting it here to acknowledge that I, just like everybody else on the planet, have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about regarding this team and if my life ever depends on successfully predicting what Bill Belichick is going to do at any given moment, I’m as good as dead. But I’m a big believer in accountability, and so here’s what was supposed to go up at around noon yesterday so you can all have a good laugh at my expense.
Free Agency is about to kick off this afternoon, and with it will come the absolute flurry of signings and roster moves that make up Free Agent Frenzy. We all know who the big names are, and we all know which teams they have been linked to; in just a matter of hours, we’ll finally get to see how the league is going to shape up as the 2017 year kicks off. It’s an extremely exciting time on the NFL calendar.
Unless, of course, you’re a Patriots fan.
If you’re a Patriots fan, Free Agency doesn’t carry with it the excitement and enthusiasm that it does for fans of the other 31 teams. The Patriots are rarely, if ever, the team that goes out and makes a big splash or huge money signing. They have a very specific approach to team building, and that approach does not involve breaking the bank for a marquis player. And while the results speak for themselves and the reward for patience in March in parades in February, it still doesn’t stop us all from asking the same questions over and over (and over, and over, and over, and over) at the start of every Free Agency period:
What the hell is Belichick thinking? How could he be letting these guys go? Why isn’t he pursuing anybody? There won’t be anybody left by the time he finally gets off his ass!
I can almost hear Hank trying to make his way out of the basement, where I have kept him successfully bound and gagged for a long time now.
Well that’s where I come in. I’m here to help get you all through these next few days. It won’t be easy - it never is - but together, we’ll be able to come out unscathed. Just follow the below tips for surviving Free Agency as a Pats fan, and you’ll be just fine.
- Stay Calm. This is the most important item on this list, which is why I listed it at Number One. You’d figure I wouldn’t have to say this by now, but every year, Free Agency starts, big names start signing with their new teams, and the Patriots do nothing. They sit there, unmoving and patient, as the market sets itself and needy teams spend big on players they hope will get their franchise over the hump and into a championship. Every once in a while, the Patriots do make a big splash, but if they do, it often raises more questions than answers. What about guys already on the roster? What long-term implications will all this have? What about those other names initially linked to New England who are signing elsewhere? As we all go to bed on the first night of Free Agency, the Patriots oftentimes look worse, not better. Maybe a few fan favorites are already gone. Maybe there’s now a big, gaping, Wilfork-sized hole on the roster somewhere. Whatever the case may be, stay calm. The Patriots know what they’re doing. This is how they do business. They have their guys, and their price tags, in mind, and just because other teams want to go out and give guys huge contracts, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to. We all know that this is the way it is in New England, and it works. There’s absolutely no reason to freak out at any point, no matter what happens. Belichick’s got this.
- Let the rest of the AFC East have their moment. For the rest of the AFC East, the period between the start of Free Agency and the end of the draft represent the most exciting time on the NFL calendar. It’s the time when the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins make the moves to acquire the players that will finally allow them to take down the Patriots. Guys like Mario Williams and Shady McCoy and Brandon Marshall and Cameron Wake and Matt Forte and...well, you get the idea. And when these guys come to the AFC East, they’re sure to be the final pieces of the puzzle and exactly what each team needs to host a playoff game in January, and the fans are ecstatic. And why shouldn’t they be? Without that optimism that this is finally the year that things start to change, that this is the year that the ship finally gets righted, why even bother tuning in? Let the fans of the AFC East have their offseason excitement; they have to sit through postseason after postseason of Patriots success, and that must be like a 24-7 weenie tap.
- Trust the process. Value is the name of the game for the Patriots, guys who can come in, fit into the schemes, and make an impact. They aren’t always the most exciting players - looking your way, Kyle Van Noy - but they do their jobs well and make great Patriots. These guys buy into the team mentality and will do what they have to do to win. It’s smart football operations, and it’s a process that I have 100% faith in. I encourage you all to do the same.
- Keep Google open. Odds are you’re going to need it when the Patriots sign a third string linebacker or a backup wide receiver to a three year deal. No matter how much you think you know about the NFL, Bill Belichick knows more, and the odds of him signing a guy you’ve never heard of as the Ravens bring in Adrian Peterson and the Jets sign DJax is pretty good. Having Google open and at the ready will go a long way towards helping you stick to my fifth and final point.
- Remember the Golden Rule. If your team signs a player, it’s a great move, savvy front office politics, and brilliant salary cap manipulation. If an NFL rival signs a player. they overpaid, the player is overrated, and good riddance, we didn’t really need that guy anyway.