How does the greatest coach of all time respond to going 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the first time in two decades? He gets to work. The Patriots have been arguably the most active team in free agency thus far. They’ve been spending fast and furious, filling holes left and right.
Both the offense and defense were underwhelmed thoroughly, but it was the offense that took the bulk of the blame. I suppose that’s what happens when you follow up Tom Brady with the product they put on the field last year. There were problems everywhere and the Patriots have addressed most of them in a frenzy. Here’s what they’ve done so far:
QB Cam Newton returns on a 1-year, incentivized $14 million deal
The Patriots were bad last year, and Newton’s numbers weren’t pretty. However, it would be asinine to put all the blame there. The offense as a whole ranked 23rd in DVOA, which is far worse than the year before. Newton and the offense struggled to move the ball through the air and put up points, but the Patriots liked what they saw enough to bring him back for one more shot. With a full offseason and no COVID, plus the opt-outs returning, and better weapons, this offense should be much improved next year.
TE Jonnu Smith agrees to a 4-year, $50 million deal
Speaking of weapons, the Patriots started early Monday with the first big deal of the day. Smith joins a tight end group that scored one touchdown last year and ranked dead last in most meaningful statistical categories. Smith had 8 touchdowns last year and immediately boosts the depleted offense in New England.
WR Nelson Agholor agrees to a 2-year, $26 million deal
Agholor revitalized himself last season in Las Vegas, posting over 800 yards receiving. He brings speed and separation ability to a wide receiver corps that was seriously lacking in both. The Patriots receivers were among the league’s worst at separation, forcing Newton to fit throws into tight windows routinely. Agholor provides a deep threat that can stretch the field and draw at least some attention.
OT Trent Brown returns to Patriots after dealing with Las Vegas
Speaking of former Raiders, the Patriots traded a 5th round pick for Brown and a 7th round pick. The deal led to the eventual release of Marcus Cannon, but with Isaiah Wynn and now Trent Brown they have what they want. Brown strengthens an offensive line that was a rotating cast of characters last season.
WR Kendrick Bourne, Patriots agree to 3-year, $25 million deal
It has been well documented how much the Patriots wide receivers struggled last year. The Patriots, while not swinging for the fences with someone like Will Fuller IV, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Kenny Golladay, have addressed this. After signing Agholor, the Patriots went after former 49ers wideout Kendrick Bourne. Bourne posted a career-high 667 yards last season. It’s not a huge signing, but it provides depth to a depleted wide receiver corps.
TE Hunter Henry signs with Patriots for 3-years, $37.5 million
The Patriots did not let an overnight stop them. News broke Tuesday morning that they signed former Chargers standout Hunter Henry. Henry was considered the top tight end on the market, and then the Patriots went after Jonnu Smith instead. Now, they’ve got both in tow and are setting up a potentially dominant TE duo. Patriots teams are good when their tight ends are good, and this could be reminiscent of the Gronkowski/Hernandez years if it works out.
Not to be outdone, the defense, which was 26th in DVOA last year, needed help and has received it. Belichick is a defensive mastermind, and he’s getting himself some pieces to play with.
DT Davin Godchaux agrees to a 2-year, $16 million deal
The defensive front was the weakest link for the Patriots last season. They couldn’t rush the passer or stop the run, leaving the secondary to fend for themselves. The Patriots addressed this by adding a former Dolphins defensive tackle who has started 42 out of 52 games.
OLB Matt Judon signs 4-year, $56 million contract with Patriots
Judon is likely the highest-profile player the Patriots will add this offseason. He leaves Baltimore where he was an excellent pass rusher. The Patriots struggled all season to get any pressure on the quarterback, and by adding Judon, have made that a thing of the past.
DB Jalen Mills signs for 4-years, $24 million
Mills, who has played both safety and cornerback, has mixed results but represents the depth and likely starter material for the Patriots secondary. This probably means Stephon Gilmore will be traded, but if not, a trio of JC Jackson, Mills, and Gilmore is something special.
The Patriots were not happy last year. They went out and addressed most of their holes. The AFC East is competitive, as is the AFC as a whole, but the Patriots are re-inserting themselves into that conversation once more.