This week, Danny reacted to the beginning of NFL free agency:
What exactly are the New England Patriots doing?
In a 24-hour span earlier this week, Bill Belichick decided it’d be a good idea to spend over $130 million in guaranteed money on over a handful of free agents, before free agency even officially began. The Patriots’ reported signings were reported during the NFL’s “legal tampering” period. That “legal tampering” period began on Monday and ran into the official beginning of the new league year and free agency on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. As it stands, it goes down as the second-highest amount of guaranteed money spent during a single free-agent signing period in NFL history. Pretty wild. And to many here in New England, pretty exciting.
Consider me intrigued at Belichick’s imminent aggressiveness. But also, consider me a little confused.
Don’t get me wrong, the Patriots acquired some very good players in this free-agent frenzy: Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, defensive end Matt Judon, defensive back Jalen Mills, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, and defensive lineman Henry Anderson. But if you told me the Patriots were ever going to spend the second-most amount of guaranteed money in NFL history — in any offseason — I would’ve told you they’d be bringing in at least one absolute superstar. With this group of free agents that Belichick has brought in, I’d say two-time Pro Bowler Judon is the closest thing to a “superstar” that was added this week. And he got $32 million guaranteed.
Still, to call Judon a “superstar” would not be very factual. He had 6 sacks in 14 games with the Baltimore Ravens last year. That’s the same amount of sacks as Dolphins linebacker — and former Patriot — Kyle Van Noy. Judon also had 50 total tackles last season, which is 19 less total tackles than Van Noy. Are we considering that to be the resume of a “superstar?” I can tell you I’m not. The expectation would be for either Henry — $25 million guaranteed — or Smith — $31.25 million guaranteed — to turn into a superstar tight end in their mid-20’s, but it remains to be seen if that will end up happening.
My point is, while seeing the 7-9 Patriots spend an historic amount of money at the very beginning of free agency is certainly refreshing, I’m somewhat disappointed that there’s no elite household name in that group of signings. Some are saying that these moves will convince Deshaun Watson to push for a trade to the Patriots. But then where does that leave the newly re-signed Cam Newton?
I like a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, but the idea that Belichick re-signed Newton to another one-year deal — regardless of how incentive-based that deal is — in the hopes that Newton’s presence would convince a handful of free agents to sign with the Patriots, only to then use those free-agent signings to convince Watson to demand a trade to New England, is, as wacky a conspiracy theory as there is.
Like it or not, Newton is going to be the Patriots’ starting quarterback in Week 1. There’s a much better chance that the Patriots draft a quarterback next month than there is that they trade for an elite quarterback like Watson. I obviously hope that I’m wrong. I would love to see Watson in a Patriots uniform. I just don’t think it’s realistic. Newton’s presence isn’t what convinced these new free agents to sign in New England. Dishing out historic amounts of guaranteed money is what convinced them. And again, let’s stop acting like Belichick just signed a few future Hall of Famers. There’s a better chance that not one of these new signings is even a Pro Bowler next season.
I hate to be that guy right now. But somebody has to say it.
The Patriots got better this week, sure. How much better did they get though? Are they now a playoff team? Perhaps a playoff berth will be in the cards with this new roster. But Belichick doesn’t just want playoffs. He wants another Lombardi Trophy. Does this roster, with Newton under center, get him that Lombardi Trophy?
According to Vegas, the Patriots have the 10th-best odds of winning Super Bowl LVI at +3000. That’s 30-to-1 odds, compared to the favorite, the Kansas City Chiefs, at +550. It’s probably too early to dig into the Super Bowl LVI odds in March, but you get my point: Everyone in New England needs to calm down.
Follow Danny on Twitter and Instagram @DannyPicard.