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Ex-Patriots executive Michael Lombardi: Bill Belichick returned ‘to his roots’ in free agency

Related: Updating the Patriots’ offseason needs one day into the legal tampering period

(Foxborough, MA, 01/25/15) Coach Bill Belichick talks with Michael Lombardi, assistant to the coaching staff, as the Patriots practice in the Dana Farber Field House at Gillette. Sunday, January 25, 2015. Staff photo by John Wilcox. Photo by John Wilcox/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are not necessarily famous for being among the most active spenders in free agency, but the 2021 legal tampering period still represented a return to Bill Belichick’s roots — at least according to one person pretty familiar with the team’s inner workings: ex-Patriots executive Mike Lombardi appeared on the Pat McAfee Show to talk about his former employee’s active free agency week so far.

New England signing eight free agents in a 24-hour span was a step in the right direction, and a sign that Belichick is well aware of his roster’s previous weaknesses.

“They went through a tough year last year, and I think this is not just Belichick throwing things in the shopping cart as he goes down the aisle. This is a strategic plan,” Lombardi said. “At the end of the year he knew he had a team with very little skill players, no tight ends, receivers that really couldn’t make plays and be dynamic, a quarterback that couldn’t throw the ball effectively, but could run the ball well.

“I think what he decided to do is get back to his roots. He needed to fix his offensive and defensive lines — trades fo Trent Brown, signs a couple guys in the defensive front that will help them — and then try and improve the skill level of his team.”

Lombardi worked in the Cleveland Browns’ front office under Belichick, and later re-joined him in New England between the 2014 and 2016 seasons.

On the first two days of the legal tampering period, the Patriots signed tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, as well as linebacker Matthew Judon and cornerback Jalen Mills. They also retained two of their own free agents in defensive linemen Deatrich Wise Jr. and Carl Davis.