No team in the NFL was as aggressive during the first week of free agency than the New England Patriots. Coming off a 7-9 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, the Patriots had the cap space available to go after and successfully sign some of the best players available on the open market.
Along the way, the Patriots had to dig deep into their pockets. Sometimes, it seems, this was done to outbid other clubs to get their guys: according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, New England faced considerable competition for big-name signings such as tight end Jonnu Smith and linebacker Matthew Judon.
Up to eight different teams might have been involved with those two players alone:
Part of New England’s logic was this: These deals will be obsolete in two years due to the kick-in of television deals, so attack the window of opportunity now. And other suitors drove prices up in some cases. The New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, for example, made efforts to sign tight end Jonnu Smith. Judon had four to six teams involved. Both players were going for big numbers regardless.
The Patriots ended up signing Smith to a four-year, $50 million contract and later added Judon on a four-year, $56 million deal. They identified their targets, and were not going to let them slip away.
“We had the second or third-most cap room at the start of free agency. This year, instead of having 10 or 12 teams competing for most of the top players, there were only two or three. And in my 27 years as owner, I’ve never had to come up with so much capital before,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said about his team’s spending spree earlier this week.
Whether or not the investments translate into an improved on-field performance remains to be seen, but New England certainly did all it could in free agency to put itself into the best possible position.