When looking at the New England Patriots’ current offensive roster, the one thing that stands out right away is the lack of clearly identifiable receiving talent outside of Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman. After losing tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement, quarterback Tom Brady has no targets other than Edelman to consistently win their one-on-one matchups — and none whatsoever to do it on the boundary.
Brady also has no established blindside protector after left tackle Trent Brown decided to join the Oakland Raiders on a record-breaking free agency contract. Yes, Isaiah Wynn was selected in the first round of last year’s draft and appears to be on his way to contribute in his second season. However, he injured his Achilles tendon in the summer of 2018 and has yet to appear in a regular season or playoff contest in the NFL.
Things don’t look any prettier on the defensive side of the ball: not only was standout defender Trey Flowers also lost via free agency — he will play for former New England coordinator Matt Patricia in Detroit — the team also had to watch four members of its defensive coaching staff depart. Among them are 2018’s signal caller Brian Flores and the man expected to take over for him this year, Greg Schiano.
That all being said, you should not worry about the Patriots just yet.
Why is that? For one simple reason: as head coach Bill Belichick will be the first to tell you, it is April. We are not even two months removed from New England’s sixth championship and still have more than five months to go until the 2019 NFL season will be kicked off with the Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers. Belichick and the rest of his team have plenty of time to figure things out and build another roster capable of defending the title.
Just look at last year, when the club had to watch four starters depart via free agency and also traded away its most dangerous wide receiver from a year prior — showing plenty of confidence in a player coming off a season-ending ACL injury. That player, of course, was Julian Edelman: he went on to have a very good season as the Patriots’ number one wide receiver, and played a key role in the team’s Super Bowl triumph.
Will Isaiah Wynn have a similar impact? That remains to be seen, but the Patriots apparently feel confident in his development considering that they also let backup swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle go on a relatively modest offer from the Buffalo Bills. One year ago, Waddle was only just re-signed during the third wave of free agency while Wynn himself was still preparing to get himself drafted early.
On April 1, 2018, the Patriots therefore also lacked a clear-cut starting left tackle after the departure of Nate Solder in free agency. They found two replacement options during the draft: Wynn on day one, and the aforementioned Trent Brown on day two. New England acquired the three-year veteran, who played exclusively on the right side with the San Francisco 49ers, via trade and turned him into a starting-caliber left tackle in the span of just four months.
The Brown trade will go down as one of the better moves made by the Patriots, and it serves as a perfect example of how a team can add high-end talent between the end of free agency and the start of the regular season outside of the draft. New England, never afraid of pulling the trigger on a deal, will actively work the trade market once more later this month — whether it is to add receiving talent at wideout or tight end, or to bolster the defense.
On top of that, the Patriots also have a lot of ammunition to add talent via the draft: the club is tied for the league-lead with twelve selections currently in hand, and should be able to address its areas of need early on if it so chooses. There are plenty of them and hitting on a few draft selections will be key for New England both in the short and the long term, but the club is in a comfortable situation when it comes to its draft capital.
The draft, the trade market, and free agency — either when it comes to veterans still available or rookies going undrafted — all present opportunities for the Patriots to further keep building and improving their roster. They used all of them last year, and albeit under different circumstances turned out alright in the end. And even though the last month was not exactly kind to the team and its talent levels, there is ample time left before the season gets kicked off.
So if you are worried about New England as it stands right now — and there is no blaming you when it comes to that — just remember that nobody is better in the NFL at constructing a roster or at least scheming around its shortcomings than Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and company. Are they perfect? No. But are they more than capable of taking what they have available and turn it into a championship contender yet again? You bet.
“In Bill We Trust” is a comforting phrase for Patriots fans, and one that should be applied this offseason once more. And beyond that, it also helps to have the greatest quarterback of all time showing no signs of slowing down... If the past has taught us anything, this combination will lead to New England being fine once more — even if it may not look like it at the moment.