On Thursday, the New England Patriots brought back LaAdrian Waddle and Marquis Flowers on one-year contracts, further asserting that this offseason will be a typical Patriots offseason and last year’s shopping spree was not becoming the norm.
Waddle and Flowers alone aren’t splashy signings. Nor are the extensions for special teamers Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden, and Brandon King. But this is the process for most Patriots offseasons: spend on special teams and on the third guy on the depth chart that will likely be a starter at some point during the season.
Those aren’t the only moves, either. The Patriots replaced Malcolm Butler with Jason McCourty, which could prove to be a lateral move and a huge cap saver in the short-term. They upgraded from Alan Branch and Ricky Jean Francois to Danny Shelton, a young, behemoth at nose tackle. They rounded out their improvements on defense by adding Adrian Clayborn on the edge, which means the Patriots could once again have a four-man pass rushing rotation.
And then they replaced the rushing, receiving, return, and gunner abilities of Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, and Johnson Bademosi with a mix of Rex Burkhead, and Jeremy Hill, Cordarrelle Patterson. Lewis is the most talented of the group, but the mix of Burkhead and Hill should reduce the impact of his departure, while Patterson is an All Pro returnman.
Oh, and fun fact: Amendola racked up 2,395 yards and 12 touchdowns in his five seasons with the Patriots. Patterson has 2,079 yards and 13 touchdowns over that same time frame.
The only change that comes with a glaring decline in production is at left tackle as the Patriots will have to replace Nate Solder with Waddle, Matt Tobin, Tony Garcia (hopefully), or a draft pick. While having your left tackle as a hole isn’t ideal, the Patriots should be able to find a suitable replacement with one of their first few picks in the draft.
Add in the hopeful boosts from Julian Edelman on offense and Dont’a Hightower on defense and the Patriots are in great position heading into the draft. They can address any position they want because the starting lineup (other than possibly left tackle) is set.
New England is limited by their current cap space- although extensions for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski would rectify that issue- and while they could take advantage of the bargains in the third wave of free agency, there isn’t much else they need to do.
The Patriots saw their star players sign huge deals this free agency period. They found replacements in the bargain-bin and New England shouldn’t skip a beat in 2018.