The 2018 offseason was a tumultuous one for the New England Patriots. Coming off a Super Bowl loss, the team had to deal with questions about the big game, rumors surrounding its two biggest stars and leadership, and high-profile losses during free agency. But despite all the turmoil, NFL executives apparently believe that New England still had a very good four months since the 2017 season came to an end.
ESPN's Mike Sando recently asked “more than a dozen” decision makers round the league about their thoughts on each team's individual offseason before assigning a grade to it. The Patriots, despite all the questions and speculation after the Super Bowl's final whistle, are tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the highest grade in the NFL: A-.
The reason why the Patriots' offseason is seen as the best in the league is simple: The team was able to replace expensive veterans with cheap, high-upside talent – all while adding more draft capital down the line. “Solder, Butler and Lewis signed for $143 million combined,” the article reads about New England's free agency period. “Their replacements will command a fraction of that sum.”
While Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis all signed big-money contracts elsewhere, the team did not hesitate to replace them with Isaiah Wynn/Trent Brown, Jason McCourty, and Sony Michel. Furthermore, seeing them – plus veteran wideout Danny Amendola – leave for greener pastures also contributed to the team being projected to earn four compensatory draft selections next year.
The executives Sando polled also spoke about the individual additions. Michel is seen as a player that has “the potential to have an Alvin Kamara-type season,” while McCourty is described as follows: “You are getting a starter at a position of need for much cheaper than Butler – a steal, even if it is just for one year and then Duke Dawson replaces him.”
And while Tom Brady staying away from voluntary offseason workouts is listed as a negative, the returns of multiple previously injured contributors help boost the grade to A- – as does Josh McDaniels not leaving for the Indianapolis Colts but staying with the Patriots for yet another season. All things taken into account, New England's offseason was a rather successful one and NFL executives seem to agree.