With the NFL draft smoke settled, it’s that time to evaluate the full offseasons for each team. I’ll be doing that for the Patriots. Being a fan of the Patriots, I’ve been spoiled with quite a bit of winning over the past couple of decades, and last year was definitely a “down back to Earth” year, which was probably healthy for the franchise. I’ll start with the two wide receivers the Pats picked up.
The Pats signed Kendrick Bourne to a three year deal, and Nelson Agholor to a two year deal. One of the most glaring issues on the team last year was our lack of talent at receiver. Bourne and Agholor won’t immediately fix that issue, because they’re mid-tier wide receivers, but it’s certainly an upgrade. Especially with Damiere Byrd heading to Chicago, it’s good that the Pats added some capable wide outs.
The next big move was the swap of offensive tackles. They traded away the long-time Patriot Marcus Cannon, and brought back in the behemoth of a man that is Trent Brown. The former Raider is 6’8, 320 pounds of pure man. He should slide in at the starting left tackle position and immediately dominate. Not only will he dominate in the run game, but the passing game is where he’ll really shine. A lot of Belichick’s passing offense is composed of screen passes, and to have Trent Brown out as a lead blocker is going to be amazing and hilarious to watch. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Trent Brown’s path when he’s on a lead block.
Next, probably the biggest additions to the team, the tight ends. Jonnu Smith signed a four year deal, and Hunter Henry signed to a three-year deal. At this point, the Patriots have spent more money on free agents than any other year. Jonnu is probably the better tight end here. He’ll add speed and strength, and give Cam Newton a really good target to pass to. Smith’s hands are among the best in the league, and at times he looked unstoppable. The problem is that in some games he completely disappears. He has games where he gets 80-100 yards and sometimes he gets 20 or below. Tight ends are safety blankets for QBs, and Jonnu Smith will be a great one for Newton, so those inconsistent numbers should go away.
Henry is another great addition for the Patriots. Henry not only adds strength and clean route running, but he’ll add some really strong blocking also. He’s coming off of two straight 600+ yard receiving seasons, so he’ll be a solid number 2 option in the passing game.
To round out the (meaningful) offensive signings, the Patriots re-signed David Andrews, James White, and brought back Ted Karras. Andrews signed on to a 4 year, 19 million dollar deal, which is a great deal for the team. James White only signed a one year deal, but he’ll still slot in as the team’s third-down running back, and pretty much play the same role he has been his entire career. Karras played four years with the Patriots before going to Miami for a year. He’s back with the Pats, and will probably slide into a starting guard position. His natural position is center but with Andrews on the team, Karras will have to switch to guard.
Now for the defensive additions. The main one being Matthew Judon. Judon has played his entire five-year career with the Ravens, and is coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons. Simply put, he’s dominant. He is the first big-name defensive lineman the Patriots had since Vince Wilfork. I expect nothing less than for Judon to come in and immediately dominate. He accumulated 34.5 sacks over his career and should continue that pace this upcoming year. It will be very welcomed considering the fact that Chase Winovich was their highest sacker with 5.5 and everyone else with 4 or less.
The other two big signings on the defensive side were Jalen Mills and J.C. Jackson. Mills is a mid-tier safety, but a big reason why he’s a great addition because Jason McCourty left to sign with Miami. This opens up a starting safety spot, and Jalen Mills is sure to pick up some reps there, along with Kyle Dugger. J.C. Jackson signed the free agent tender to stay with the Pats for an extra year. This might have been the most important signing for the Patriots. Jackson is the CB1 for the team and he was a huge key to the Patriots’ defense. He racked up 9 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, and 40 total tackles last year, and he’s still developing. He’ll definitely make some noise as one of the top corners in the game next year.
Now for the draft
With the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select Mac Jones. Where to start? At the beginning of the draft, I was hoping the Patriots either trade up to get Justin Fields or Trey Lance, but I should’ve known better than to think Belichick would trade up. So, when Chicago traded up to get Fields, I knew the Pats were going to roll with Jones. Before the draft, I said he’s the one QB I hope we don’t draft. I thought he was wildly overrated, way over his own head, and simply not ready for the league. The quarterback game is evolving and as important as it is to be a good pocket passer, which Jones is, it’s also essential to be able to use your legs to extend the play.
Yes, I understand there are players like Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, and Tom Brady who made their careers off of pocket passing, but it’s hard to compare Mac Jones to any of those guys at this point in his career. However, being a Patriots fan, I have to look at the positives of Jones too. As I said before, he’s an excellent pocket passer. In Bill Belichick’s system, it makes sense that he wanted Jones. I can’t imagine Belichick will teach Jones any differently than the way he taught Brady. I’m not sure who will slot in at the starter quarterback for week 1, but I think it should be Newton. Cam is a winner and a former MVP, so Jones can learn a lot from him and develop.
In the next two rounds, the Pats selected defensive tackle and Jones’s teammate Christian Barmore, and edge rusher/linebacker Ronnie Perkins. Two very weak positions for the Patriots last year, and Belichick decided to patch that hole up. Barmore is a huge dude and honestly might start right out of the gates. Perkins most likely won’t get many reps, seeing that he’ll be playing behind Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower, but he could be an investment in the future. Apart from that, the Pats didn’t make much more noise in the draft.
With the schedules just released, it’ll be exciting to line up the Pats’ new and improved roster against all the other teams in the league. Regardless of the record that they’ll end with, it’ll be very entertaining to watch the revamped roster.
Photo: Steven Senne