The New England Patriots have been making headlines with free-agent signings. The aggressiveness has been calculated and not been a foolish gamble.
The New England Patriots have done the unexpected at the start of free agency. The team has put their money where their mouth is and made good use of the available salary-cap space. The rumors of the team being aggressive in free agency certainly became a reality.
The Patriots signed/re-signed nine total players during the first 24 hours of the free-agent tampering period. The total value of the contracts is a potential $269 million. In most years, the Patriots wouldn’t do more than potentially re-sign one of their own free agents to this point. This year, they are paying premium prices for players. It is definitely a more targeted and aggressive approach.
The Patriots have added talent to the offense by signing the consensus top two tight ends available in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both tight ends differ enough to be played on the field at the same time. Both are still ascending tight ends who should just be entering the primes of their careers. Adding both means the Patriots can go back to using their tight ends as chess pieces and not just extra bodies on the field.
They also added wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor to the mix. These moves are not as flashy, but the money was more than the Patriots would normally commit. Bourne should fill the slot role nicely for the Patriots while Agholor adds the versatile speed element the receiving core has been lacking. He has played both inside and outside during his career, and he may have been a cheaper alternative to Curtis Samuel.
Defensively, the team made a splash by signing edge player Matt Judon from Baltimore. He has the size the Patriots love from their edge players and has shown an ability to get to the quarterback. Judon was rated high in the free-agent market, but he also made the most sense for the available edge players. He can make an impact in both the passing game and the run game. He is still only 28 and should have plenty of production throughout his contract.
Further help from the defense came in the form of defensive back Jalen Mills, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, and the re-signing of Deatrich Wise and Henry Anderson. Godchaux and Anderson are the types of big bodies the team was lacking upfront last year. Mills has been a corner and safety. Bill Belichick will value his versatility.
Even though the headline has been the amount of money the Patriots have spent, we should not overlook how much these players fit the team’s system. The Patriots were not just throwing cash at any player that wanted it, but instead targeted players they wanted and went out and closed the deals.
Perhaps many or even all of the signings do not work out. Any player acquisition requires risk, but the Patriots did a good job of evaluating players that fit specific needs and making sure they were able to sign them. In a market where there were not enough buyers to meet the supply, the Patriots took advantage. For a team that missed the playoffs last season, it was much needed.