With the second wave of free agency coming to an end, and the final big piece of the New England Patriots’ spending period seemingly fallen into place, it is time to take a deep breath for once and assess what has happened since the start of the legal tampering period last Monday. The Patriots, as you may have noticed, were uncharacteristically but not unsurprisingly active over these past two weeks.
They brought 13 new players aboard, or, in the case of Kyle Van Noy and Ted Karras, old players on board again. New England was thus able to bolster a roster that struggled mightily in 2020 and finished with a 7-9 record and out of the playoffs.
Equipped with the third most salary cap space in the NFL, the Patriots therefore tried to patch the holes all over their roster by going after bona fide talent at positions such as tight end and linebacker. They also bolstered their interior defensive line and wide receiver depth charts to leave all but one major position on the team — quarterback — in a comparatively unsettled state at this point in time.
Patriots fans, it seems, were happy with this aggressive approach. After each reported transactions we asked visitors at Pats Pulpit to grade them on a scale from A to F. As o Friday morning, roughly 35,000 votes were cast and the average score for the players brought in was a rather solid 1.95 — roughly the equivalent of a B-plus.
Let’s dig a bit deeper though, and look at how each transaction was rated by you, the fans.
TE Hunter Henry: 1.26
The most popular outside free agency signing of the last two weeks was that of Hunter Henry to a three-year, $37.5 million deal. Even thought he Patriots had already agreed to terms with Jonnu Smith the previous day, they also plugged the other top-tier tight end off the market to completely rebuild the position group. Henry finished with an average score of 1.26 — clearly the best among all players signed.
LB Kyle Van Noy: 1.36
We already argued that bringing back Kyle Van Noy should be a no-brainer for the Patriots immediately after his release from the Miami Dolphins, and it seems the team agreed. Van Noy returned on a two-year, $13.2 million deal to bolster an edge linebacker group that had also seen the addition of Matthew Judon earlier during the legal tampering period.
LB Matthew Judon: 1.43
The Matthew Judon signing had a slightly worse approval rating than that of Kyle Van Noy, but Patriots fans are still very much in favor of it. It is not hard to see why: Judon perfectly fits what New England is looking for from its outside linebackers, offering experience and versatility in the passing and running games. The team signed him to a four-year, $56 million contract.
TE Jonnu Smith: 1.46
New England’s first reported signing of the legal tampering period was tight end Jonnu Smith — and it was a good start for the team when judged by the fanbase’s reaction to it: Smith finished with an average approval score of 1.46 points. One of the top-two tight ends available on the open market this year, the Patriots signed him to a four-year, $50 million deal.
DT Davon Godchaux: 2.02
The Patriots were lacking a quality nose tackle in 2020, forcing other players to repeatedly be aligned out of their natural positions. Davon Godchaux helps address this issue, and New England’s fans feel good about his signing albeit not the same enthusiasm they showed for others. Still, the former Dolphins defender enters the team with a score of 2.02 points
OL Ted Karras: 2.02
When the Patriots brought Ted Karras back into the fold on a one-year, $4 million deal, starting center David Andrews still remained unaccounted for. Andrews eventually returned via a four-year deal of his own, but Karras still is a valuable addition to bolster the depth along the interior offensive line. Fans generally feel good about this signing.
DT Henry Anderson: 2.06
Part of the Patriots’ attempt to rebuild their interior defensive line, Henry Anderson was added on a two-year, $7 million deal. Projecting to fill the end position in 3-4 base looks, the 29-year-old is a long player who has proven himself a stout run defender — thus addressing a major need for the defense a year ago. Fans generally felt good about the signing, giving it the equivalent of a solid B-grade.
WR Kendrick Bourne: 2.12
One of two wide receivers signed by the Patriots in free agency so far, Kendrick Bourne is the more popular of the additions at the position: he finished with an average score of 2.12 points — slightly better than that of Nelson Agholor (more on him in a second). Being signed to a three-year, $15 million deal, Bourne projects as a third/fourth option in New England’s offense that offers a versatile skillset and good route running.
LB Raekwon McMillan: 2.16
New England’s off-the-ball linebacker position struggled in 2020 and Raekwon McMillan at the very least gives the team another option. While not guaranteed a roster spot based on the structure of his one-year, $1.15 million pact, he offers upside as a former second-round draft selection. Fans feel a bit more lukewarm about the signing compared to others, a possible reflection of his uncertain outlook on the roster.
WR Nelson Agholor: 2.23
As noted above, the second wide receiver signed by the Patriots last week did not earn the same grades as the first, Kendrick Bourne. Why is that? The fact that New England signed Nelson Agholor to a relatively cost-intensive two-year, $22 million contract might have something to do with that. Given that he showed some major inconsistency over the first six years of his career, this price tag appears hefty. That said, as colleague Taylor Kyles recently pointed out, from a scheme-fit perspective, Agholor is worth every penny.
DB Jalen Mills: 2.27
With Stephon Gilmore still in the fold and J.C. Jackson soon to receive the restricted free agency tender, the Patriots already fielded one of the best secondaries in football heading towards free agency. Nonetheless, they signed the hyper-versatile Jalen Mills to a four-year, $23.9 million deal. Mills helps bolster the depth in New England’s defensive backfield, but given that he is not addressing an obvious need his approval rating is lower than that of other high-profile additions.
LB LaRoy Reynolds: 2.35
Veteran journeyman LaRoy Reynolds is not guaranteed to make New England’s roster, but he does offer plenty of experience and proven production on special teams. That alone may not be sexy and a contributing factor to his rather average grade of 2.35, but the Patriots could very well identify him as a valuable player to have on their 53-man squad come September.
DT Montravius Adams: 2.63
One of the more “eh” signings made by the Patriots, half of the more than 2,200 fans that voted gave Montravius Adams a C-grade. While he might have some potential as a big-bodied end in New England’s 3-4-based system, he is not guaranteed to make the team and therefore a projection more than anything else. His grade reflects that and earns him the dubious title of least popular free agency addition so far this year.
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