The New England Patriots had a busy free agency period. Not only did they watch cornerstone players such as quarterback Tom Brady and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins sign contracts elsewhere, they also traded safety Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions, and brought back guard Joe Thuney via the franchise tag while also reaching contract extensions with team captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater.
The Patriots also signed seven unrestricted free agents, despite having limited financial resources at their disposal: New England brought wide receiver Damiere Byrd and fullback Danny Vitale aboard, re-signed quarterback Brian Hoyer after a one-year stint in Indianapolis, added Beau Allen and Brandon Copeland to the defensive front seven, and agreed to contracts with safeties Adrian Phillips and Cody Davis.
The group may not feature the biggest of names, but it certainly includes players capable of making an impact in all three phases of the game. Whether or not this will actually happen remains to be seen, but Patriots followers have at least somewhat mixed feelings regarding the seven men. While all seven of the acquisitions were seen as net positives in our fan polls attached to the story of each signing, some graded out better than others.
Let’s quickly run through them.
SS Adrian Phillips
A former undrafted free agency, Phillips is arriving in New England after a successful six-year stint with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers: he carved out a role as a safety/linebacker hybrid and also earned All-Pro honors for his work on special teams. The Patriots are expected to use him in a similar fashion in 2020, and possibly to lift pressure off starting strong safety Patrick Chung. As a result, fans think highly of this acquisition: when putting numerical values to the grades (A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, F=5), we can see that the 28-year-old earns an average of 1.89 points. Expectations are high for Phillips.
FB Danny Vitale
The Patriots’ fullback position struggled with injury in 2019, as both James Develin and Jakob Johnson had to end the year on injured reserve. While linebacker Elandon Roberts was a serviceable replacement, New England felt the need to bolster the depth at fullback by bringing Danny Vitale on board — a signing generally thought highly of by Patriots fans: Vitale earned an average of 2.16 points, essentially a good B-grade.
SS Cody Davis
New England’s free agency losses did not stop on offense and defense: the team’s special teams units also saw the departure of a key player when Nate Ebner signed a one-year contract with the New York Giants. The Patriots did not hesitate to bring a potential replacement in, though, and signed safety/special teams ace Cody Davis. While his defensive upside appears to be limited, his contributions in the kicking game earned him a solid 2.29 grade from Patriots fans.
QB Brian Hoyer
Third time’s the charm for Brian Hoyer: shortly after his release from the Indidanapolis Colts, the Patriots brought the veteran quarterback back into the fold again for a third stint with the club. While Hoyer’s eventual role has yet to be determined, he is expected to offer experience and leadership alongside projected starter Jarrett Stidham. New England’s fans certainly feel good about the team adding the 34-year-old to their quarterback room, grading him with an average of 2.64 points.
WR Damiere Byrd
Damiere Byrd’s numbers — his average of 2.76 is the same as a solid C — may have suffered a bit by the fact that he was the first player signed after Tom Brady announced his departure from New England, but fans apparently still like his special teams experience and the fact that he can fill the role previously held by Phillip Dorsett: Byrd is a speedster that can challenge defenses deep. His statistical output has been limited, however, which makes him a bit of a wild card heading into 2020.
DT Beau Allen
With Danny Shelton signing a deal in Detroit, the Patriots looked to former Philadelphia Eagles interior defender Beau Allen as a possible replacement. Like Shelton, Allen is a big-bodied two-gapper who has experience in both three- and four-man fronts. He may not be a lock to make the team, but as of right now it seems likely he joins Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler in the defensive tackle rotation. The 1,711 fans that cast their vote are only somewhat convinced that he will pan out: his 2.83 grade is the equivalent of a C.
LB Brandon Copeland
Signed on the same day as Brian Hoyer, former New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland will try to help fill the void created by the departure of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. Fans are a bit sceptical, though: 559 of the 1,200 participating in the voting process gave him a C, while his average of 2.87 points indicates a player with limited expectations heading into the season. That said, the 28-year-old offers intriguing versatility and has had his moments as both a situational pass rusher and a run defender in New York.