Monday March 15 starting at noon marked the start of NFL free agency for the upcoming season. Within the first hour the New England Patriots added quite a few players that has fans excited for the 2021-2022 season.
There is no doubt that the 2020 season was a disappointment for both the players and fans of the Patriots. A 7-9 record has been unheard of in the past 20 years and not making the playoffs is even more so out of the norm. But, with both of these scenarios taking place last year, the team was in desperate need of an upgrade at almost every position.
To the naked eye the Patriots had a solid defense last year with their defensive backs appearing to carry most of the weight. With a core of Stephon Gilmore (2019 DPOY), JC Jackson and the McCourty twins, the group was nothing to scoff at. It was the linebacker group as well as the rest of the front seven that needed addressing. Besides Lawrence Guy, there was no one on that defensive line that seemed to be able to stop the rush. Giving up an abysmal 131.4 ypg on the ground last year, the men who lined up across the ball from opposing offensive lines were not getting the job done.
Enter Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux and Jalen Mills. Three defensive free agent signings by Bill Belichick that fans should keep an eye on. Godchaux and Mills are depth pieces that could have tremendous upside if given the opportunity they were not given in Miami for Godchaux and Philadelphia for Mills. Judon, on the other hand, will be a starter on this defensive squad and will contribute to what will be a top five defense in the NFL in 2021. Judon came into the league in 2016 and has played at least 14 games in each season and was selected to the pro bowl in each of the last two. With the re-signings of Guy and Deatrich Wise Jr. and guys like Dont'a Hightower (opted out in 2020) and Kyle Van Noy (released by Miami) returning after a yearlong hiatus from the team, the defense is in good position to keep the team in games if their offense were to be lacking like it was last year.
Thankfully, there is no reason to believe the offensive will struggle as much as it did last year. Cam Newton is returning and as of right now it seems as if he will be the starter. What the Patriots do in the draft to address the quarterback position remains to be seen. With that being said, Belichick added substantial pieces on the offensive side just as he did with the defensive.
The weapons around Newton last year were certainly a problem and the lack of tight ends on this team has been suspect ever since Rob Gronkowski retired in 2019. But it was also apparent to anyone who watched that Newton has lost a step in his game. He was throwing balls in the dirt, overthrowing guys and it even looked as if he had lost a bit of speed.
Well, the team has certainly paid up and surrounded Newton with four new weapons to make this offense “dummy proof,” which is how WEEI’s Christian Fauria described the offensive unit when discussing viable options at quarterback for the team.
Notable additions to the Patriots offense:
Hunter Henry TE (3 year $37.5 million)
Jonnu Smith TE (4 year $50 million)
Kendrick Bourne WR (3 year $22.5 million)
Nelson Agholor WR (2 year $26 million)
Most notably about these four is the fact that they are each 27 years old or younger. Not only are the Patriots adding skilled players to their offense but young skilled players who signed multi-year deals. So, for however much they are built to compete next year, they are in a position to contend for years to come if they can keep the team healthy and intact.