The New England Patriots invested heavily in free agency last month, especially on the offensive side of the ball. This spending spree was a direct result of the Patriots’ inability to find quality contributors over the last few years, and seeing their wide receiver and tight end groups become some of the worst in football following the 2018 season.
That does not mean New England did not try to address those needs over the last couple of years. Drafting N’Keal Harry in the first round and acquiring Mohamed Sanu via trade were just two of the moves made to bolster the wide receiver depth chart, for example. The Patriots also selected Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round of last year’s draft.
Along the way, the free agency was also explored to bring some much-needed talent to the group. However, this process also landed the worst free agency signing of the last decade in New England — at least according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic:
The Patriots made an aggressive play to appease Brady when they agreed to a one-year deal ($10 million guaranteed) with Brown the day before the season opener. It came with some risk due to Brown’s past, but the Patriots had no idea just how bad it would get. Brown was accused of sexual misconduct by two women, including a civil lawsuit that alleged sexual assault and rape. He also allegedly sent harassing text messages to an accuser before the Patriots released him, just 11 days after he joined the team. The fallout hurt. The Patriots traded receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Jets to make room for Brown, then didn’t have enough cap space to make necessary moves before the trade deadline. The lack of receiver depth was a major factor in the Patriots’ first wild-card loss in a decade.
Signing Antonio Brown gave New England some impressive wide receiver depth for a few days, with Julian Edelman being joined on the roster by Brown, Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett. It was not meant to last: Brown and his massive cap-hit were released, while Gordon was cut ahead of the Sanu trade later that year; Edelman struggled to stay healthy; Dorsett was a non-factor.
The Patriots’ offense showed plenty of promise with Brown in the fold, but struggled to move the ball through the air down the stretch. Meanwhile, fans were left to wonder what could have been.