The New England Patriots under head coach/general manager Bill Belichick have never shied away from exploring all avenues of improving their team, and free agency is no exception (at least since the signing of linebacker Adalius Thomas in 2007). The team has had some notable hits in this area, with defensive tackle Lawrence Guy definitely also belonging in the group of the Patriots’ better open market pickups.
New England brought Guy on board in 2017, when the unrestricted free agent was signed to a four-year, $20 million contract. Since joining the club, the now-29-year-old has become one of the indispensable members at the heart of its defense — a notable development for a player who entered the league as a seventh-round draft pick back in 2011, and spent time on four different teams before the Patriots eventually picked him up.
Given his play over the last three seasons, it is no surprise to see that Guy has been named New England’s best free agency signing since the 2015 offseason. ESPN recently published a story titled The best and worst recent NFL free-agent signings for all 32 teams: Picking deals since 2015, and Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss picked the Arizona State product:
Best free-agent signing: DT Lawrence Guy. When the Patriots signed him to a four-year, $20 million deal in 2017, many were asking, “Who is this guy?” Guy was well-traveled, playing for the Packers, Colts, Chargers and Ravens, and the contract was the richest he’d been offered since entering the NFL as a seventh-round pick in 2011. Guy has since become a rock in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, winning a Super Bowl ring and being referred to by veteran Michael Bennett as an overlooked player worthy of a raise.
Guy’s journey from little-known journeyman to starter on a Super Bowl-winning defense is noteworthy, and a testament to his potential and him living up to it — something head coach Bill Belichick also pointed out last December: “He’s a hard guy to block, he’s got good power, uses his hands well, he’s instinctive, he recognizes plays well and plays very consistently. He’s probably one of the most consistent players we have on our team.”
While New England has made other big free agency signings since 2015, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore appears to be a solid competitor for the title of the best, Guy seemingly coming out of nowhere to fill a critical role along the Patriots’ defensive line speaks for their ability to identify talent and put it in positions to be successful. In that way, he certainly is deserving of being named the top free agency pickup of the last five years.
Not all free agency pickups worked out as well as Guy and Gilmore, however. Wide receiver Antonio Brown, for example, was picked by Reiss as the Patriots’ worst free agency signing:
Worst free-agent signing: WR Antonio Brown. One game. A $9 million signing bonus. Countless distractions. A messy release shortly after. As one person later explained, “We learned our lesson the hard way with him.”
New England is still fighting with the highly talented and highly troubled wide receiver over parts of his signing bonus. That tells you all you should need to know about the failed experiment.