clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL free agency 2023: Bill Belichick shares first thoughts on Patriots’ acquisitions

Belichick met with the media for the first time since free agency on Monday.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs dJay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since last season ended, head coach Bill Belichick met with the media on Monday in Arizona.

While he was his traditional mum self, it was the first opportunity for him to publicly speak about New England’s free agent acquisitions. Here is what he had to say.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Inking Smith-Schuster to a three-year contract with a maximum value of $33 million was New England’s first external addition of free agency. It came a day after losing Jakobi Meyers to the Raiders and due to the overlap in their skillsets/projected role, it seemed like a one-for-one swap. Belichick, however, did not it see it as such.

“Free agency is a process. It wasn’t a trade,” he explained. “Wasn’t planned that way, worked out that way.”

Whether you believe Smith-Schuster is an upgrade over Meyers or not, his ceiling is certainly higher — as shown by his 2018 season in Pittsburgh in which he eclipsed the 1,400-yard mark. While those statistics may be out of the picture in New England, he should be an important part of their offense this season.

“He’s a good player. Good guy. Look forward to having him,” Belichick said. “I think we’re getting a good player.”

TE Mike Gesicki

New England’s other external offensive addition was the former Dolphin tight end, who signed a modest, incentive-laden one-year deal. Belichick has often called Gesicki a “big receiver” in years pasts, which could set the stage for an interesting usage plan.

“Tough guy to game-plan for. Hard to cover,” Belichick said Monday. “I look forward to working with Mike, so we’ll see how it goes. He’s kind of a unique player, so hopefully we’ll be able to use him productively.”

New England will hope Gesicki will be an upgrade over Jonnu Smith, who they were not able to use productively throughout his tenure. It would be no surprise to see Bill O’Brien continue to deploy the 6-foot-6 Gesicki as a big slot receiver and occasionally even bump him out wide as well. He should also be a valuable addition to New England’s red zone offense, which ranked near the bottom of the league last year.

OT Riley Reiff

After a game of musical chairs at New England’s right tackle spot last season, the Patriots went out and added two veteran tackles in free agency. The 34-year old Reiff has plenty of experience — starting 149 games in his career — and versatility across the offensive line.

“He’s been in the league for a long time,” Belichick said. “Very experienced guy, played multiple positions. Smart, tough guy. I’m glad we have him. … We’ll see [where he plays]. He’s played both [tackle spots]. He’s also played guard.”

Reiff’s contract details made it seem like New England viewed him as a potential starter in 2023, which could impact their early plans in the NFL Draft. Belichick also said “we’ll see” when asked if Trent Brown could move back to the right side, leaving plenty of options open to new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm.

RB James Robinson

With Damien Harris out of the picture, New England gave Robinson a two-year contract with heavy incentives to compete for carries behind Rhamondre Stevenson.

“Productive player in Jacksonville and the Jets. Gives us some depth in the backfield and see how it goes,” Belichick explained.

The former UDFA running back got off to a strong start during his rookie season in Jacksonville in 2020 where he ran for over 1,000 yards. He then tore his achilles in December 2021 and was traded to New York mid-way through last season.

Robinson played just four games for the Jets and was a healthy scratch during New York’s final five games of the season. New England is likely hoping Robinson looks more like his Jacksonville self a year removed from his achilles tear.

LB/ST Chris Board

After finishing dead last in Football Outsiders’ Special Team DVOA ranking last season, New England shored up their special teams unit in free agency. That included going outside the organization to sign Chris Board, who Belichick called “the best special teams player we’ll play against all year” last season.

He was not as complimentary on Monday, explaining he’s just “look[ing] forward to working with all the players that we’ve added to the team” when asked about Board.