After its busy start, the first wave of 2018's NFL free agency is slowly winding down. This, in turn, gives us a chance to take a look back at what happened over the past week from a New England Patriots' perspective. We have already recapped the action yesterday, today we will take a look at the impact the moves made will have on the team and who are – this early during the process – the winners and losers of them.
Loser: QB Tom Brady
Coming off an MVP season and historic Super Bowl performance, Tom Brady again projects to be among the NFL's premier passers next year. However, the job will be a tougher one for him considering that the Patriots lost their starting left tackle (Nate Solder), third down specialist (Danny Amendola) and top running back (Dion Lewis). All three were integral parts of the team's offense and Brady's weaponry last year and how well they – Solder in particular – are replaced will have an impact on the unit and its quarterback.
Winner: WR Malcolm Mitchell
While New England added another wide receiver in the form of Cordarrelle Patterson, free agency can still be considered a positive one for Malcolm Mitchell. With the aforementioned Amendola leaving to join the Miami Dolphins, the third-year pro is in line to move up the depth chart and take over some of Amendola's work on late downs. Mitchell has shown some positive chemistry with Tom Brady in the past and might now get more chances to build on it.
Winner: RB Mike Gillislee
Before the start of free agency, Mike Gillislee was seen as a potential salary cap casualty. However, with Dion Lewis hitting the open market and ultimately leaving the team, the Patriots apparently felt it was the best course of action to keep the 27-year old and his $2.18 million salary cap hit around. And even though New England added Jeremy Hill on a one-year “prove it”-deal, Gillislee appears to be in a safe position for now.
Winner: The defensive line rotations
When the Patriots traded for Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton, they acquired a starting-caliber player that is projected to add depth and talent to the position and in turn help keep Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy fresh. The same happened on the defensive edge too, where New England signed veteran Adrian Clayborn. His addition should help limit the snap numbers of Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr. and, returning from injury, Derek Rivers.
Losers: Backup cornerbacks
New England trading for a high-end player from the Browns also has a trickle-down effect at the cornerback position: With the Patriots acquiring potential top-three option Jason McCourty, the competition for backup spots projects to be a fierce one. Depending on the draft, it would not be a surprise if just one of the current depth players – Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz – ultimately is able to make the team. The outlook might have been different if McCourty was not brought aboard.
Winner: TE Dwayne Allen
Just like Mike Gillislee, Dwayne Allen was projected as a possible cut to free up salary cap space. However, he is still part of the roster and his position on it looks rather safely right now as the Patriots did not add any tight end depth via free agency. Of course, this does not mean that the 28-year old will ultimately make the 53-man squad come September but his chances have never looked better than right now.
Loser: OG Joe Thuney
The loss of Nate Solder to the New York Giants is an undeniable blow to the Patriots offense. One of the players who might be most impacted by it is left guard Joe Thuney, who is coming off an up-and-down season. With Solder now gone, Thuney is under added pressure: He needs to become more consistent to help stabilize the left side of the offensive line no matter who ultimately winds up starting at left tackle.
Winner: LB Elandon Roberts
There is no sugarcoating it: Elandon Roberts had a bad 2017 season and was a liability especially against the pass. This led to speculation that the Patriots might add linebackers via free agency to bring in competition and bolster the depth behind starters Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. However, this has not happened so far which keeps Roberts safe – at least for now.