Let me start by saying that I am taking nothing away from Trent Brown or Trey Flowers in this article. Brown, who Von Miller once referred to as “maybe the best tackle in the league,” had a fantastic year, and was an absolute monster at left tackle. And I consider Flowers to be an almost perfect Patriot: he excelled on the field, not only doing flashy things like getting sacks and making big plays, but also the small “do you job” things that don’t get noticed by everyone. Plus, both players were reserved with the media, and never a distraction during their time with in New England.
With all that being said, they’ll be fine. How do I know this? They always are.
The Patriots have been to eight straight AFC Championship Games. Let’s run through some of the free agents that have left since March of 2011, the offseason leading into the season that streak started. Ben Watson, Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Shane Vereen, Vince Wilfork, Akiem Hicks, Chris Long, Logan Ryan, Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, and Nate Solder. Somehow they’ve managed to make at least the AFC Championship Game the season after losing each of these players. There are some very good players on that list, but the Patriots have found a way to replace them all and still continue their success.
Some of that has to do with building depth on their roster in anticipation of losing a key player. They did that when Matt Light was going into his final season, by drafting Nate Solder in the first round. They did it again two years ago, when they drafted Antonio Garcia to possibly replace Solder. When that didn’t pan out, they drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round last season, and also traded for Brown. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Patriots have been stockpiling talent at the defensive edge position? Because it isn’t. To aid that, they traded for Michael Bennett, and gave up next to nothing to do that.
That trade may prove important. Not because I think Bennett steps in and does as good of a job as Flowers for a fraction of the cost (although his stats say that’s at least a possibility), but because it doesn’t effect the amount of compensatory selections they receive. New England got two third rounders this year, and seems to be headed for two more next year. They are always targeting players that can step in and fill roles on the team, even if they’re not perfect, the feel as though they can mold them to help the team. The Patriots have always subscribed to the notion that having a multitude of competent players at a position is just as good as having a star at that position. That may drive the talking heads crazy, but, outside of the quarterback, it’s hard to argue with their reasoning.
So, I wish the best for Trent Brown and Trey Flowers. I hope that they both make multiple Pro Bowls, and I’m happy that they got huge contracts, because I feel strongly that they earned them. But I’m not going to lose sleep about how the Patriots are going to move on without them, and neither should you. They have always figured it out, and I have no reason to believe that this year should be any different.
Pat is the co-host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats