The New England Patriots entered free agency week with the third most cap space in the NFL, and numerous holes to fill on their roster. So, what did they do? Fill those holes with the resources available.
New England rebuilt a lackluster tight end group by adding the top two options available, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The team bolstered its defensive edge by signings Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy. The interior defensive line was rebuilt with additions such as Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson. The wide receiver room was massively improved thanks to the arrivals of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
The Patriots of March 25th are undoubtably a deeper and better team than they were just two weeks ago. And yet, not everyone agrees with their method of attacking free agency.
Pro Football Focus’ Anthony Treash, for example, labeled New England’s approach as “pretty questionable” in a recent story titled Least favorite decision made by all 32 NFL teams in free agency. The segment about the Patriots reads as follows:
New England Patriots: It was all pretty questionable
New England had one of the most head-scratching free agencies in recent memory. They handed out the second-most guaranteed money ever in free agency with no clear answer for the quarterback position. Newton led the Patriots to the 26th-ranked passing offense in terms of EPA per play generated and really provided no downfield passing offense. There’s an argument to be made that all of their most notable signings — edge defender Matthew Judon, wide receiver Nelson Agholor, defensive back Jalen Mills, interior defensive lineman Davon Godchaux and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry — received deals well above their true worth. Assuming New England doesn’t make a power play to trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft for a prospect like Justin Fields, this screams quarterback purgatory.
PFF not being happy about the Patriots’ aggressive free agency should not come as a surprise. After all, the advanced analytics site has pushed for New England to tank in 2021 before. Bill Belichick’s approach over the last few days suggests anything but that, however.
Time will tell whether or not the Patriots’ spending spree will yield satisfactory results, but the team certainly seems to have set itself up nicely to bounce back after a 7-9 season — and to aggressively pursue a quarterback in the draft to fill the last glaring hole on an otherwise pretty solid roster.