After every Patriots season ends, the fans want to see the team go out and sign a lot of big name free agents. In most offseasons that doesn’t happen but in this one, it did. New England signed Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell, re-signed Julian Edelman, and kept Vince Wilfork through a restructured contract.
This has been the busiest offseason since 2007 when the Patriots went out and signed Donte Stallworth and traded for Wes Welker and Randy Moss. And let’s face it, with Tom Brady not getting any younger, it’s time to start realizing that the window is closing and it may be time to load up on talent.
It seems as if the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have become the new Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Both teams make a play for every big name on the market and a few players (Welker and Talib) even swap jerseys and go to “the dark side”. I actually think the Broncos being aggressive is a good thing because if forces the Patriots to be aggressive as well. For the past few seasons, there were really no teams thought to be better than the Patriots so as a result, there was nothing pushing them to sign big names and get better. Now, the Broncos looked to be the better team and made a splash in free agency early by signing Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware. The Patriots were forced to do something, and they did in a big way.
The Pats secondary has been a large concern and weak spot since the likes of Rodney Harrison and Asante Samuel left and before Aqib Talib came. When Talib was acquired, the secondary immediately got better as the team finally had a #1 corner. Belichick loves to take away the opposing team’s #1 weapon (usualy a wide receiver) and in order to do that, you need a shutdown corner.
And the difference between when Talib was on the field and off the field was eye-opening and obvious. In the last two AFC Championship games, Talib left due to injury and as a result, the secondary was shredded. Flacco and Manning both took advantage of the loss of Talib and went after the Patriots defensive backs in route to Super Bowls.
So when Talib signed with the Broncos, the Patriots had to make a move and they did by signing the best cornerback in the game (in my opinion), Darrelle Revis. This signing has to be one of the biggest ones in the team’s history. While it looks to be a short term deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if midway through the season, there is a long-term contract extension announced.
After getting Revis, the Patriots went out signed corner Brandon Browner to a three year deal. Browner will sit out the 1st four games of the season due to suspension but I don’t think that will matter a whole lot in the long run. The Patriots need their best players in January, not September. While there were some rumors about Browner moving to strong safety and being a heavy hitter over the middle, I think he’s best served at corner where he and Revis can be one of the best one-two punches in the league.
The last big signing was former Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell. LaFell adds size to the passing game and gives Tom Brady a big target in the red zone. At one point last season, Brady was throwing to Amendola, Edelman, and Austin Collie, all smaller guys. That makes things tough in the red zone. You need big bodies and LaFell provides that.
Julian Edelman was a key re-signing in my opinion. He was clearly Brady’s favorite target and he’s a very valuable punt returner. There seemed to be a lot of interest in him from other teams but the money didn’t add up and he came back to New England. A primary receiving core of Edelman, LaFell, Dobson, Amendola, and Gronkowski should be more than enough to put up plenty of points, given that they stay healthy. Fingers crossed.
After the Revis signing, news broke that Vince Wilfork wanted his release from the Patriots. But wanting it and getting it are two different things and everything was quiet for a while after that. That was until yesterday when Wilfork sent out a tweet saying he was going to remain a Patriot for a long time. Big Vince restructured his deal into a more team-friendly one and saved the Patriots some money and cap space.
It appears to me that the Patriots have gotten significantly better on both sides of the ball this offseason. They’ve bolstered their secondary into one of the best in league, in my opinion. They restructured Wilfork and Kelly’s contract and now have a solid interior defensive line. And they’ve added to the passing game. Also, let’s not forget that they are getting Mayo, Vollmer, and Gronkowski back from injury as well.
The Pats have lost a few players this offseason however. As I mentioned before, Talib signed with the Broncos. In addition to that, Brandon Spikes signed with the Bills, LeGarrette Blount signed with the Steelers, and Steve Gregory was released.
I still think there is some work left to be done. The team still needs a pass rusher. I was hoping for a Jared Allen signing but that didn’t happen. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are a good tandem but I still think they need someone else in that rotation. If one of those guys go down, the team will be in serious trouble.
One last thing I would like the see the team get is another pass-catching tight end. I think it’s just a given now that you can’t rely on Gronkowski to be healthy for the whole season. And when he goes down, the Patriots struggle to score touchdowns in the end zone. Adding a second pass-catching tight end could give the Pats an insurance policy on Gronk and if Gronk’s healthy, it gives them yet another weapon. New England has done pretty well with two solid tight ends before. There are quite a few good tight ends in the draft and I’m guessing the team will draft one of them. Jace Amaro has been linked to the Patriots a lot.
This offseason has been fun and the back and forth between the Broncos has been interesting but let’s not forget that beating Denver means going to the Super Bowl, not winning it. There are still quite a few teams in the NFC that have loaded rosters and will give the Patriots all they can handle.