The New England Patriots have had a hell of a week. Free agency is often a time for the smart teams to sit back and watch the desperate ones throw unwise money on iffy players. However, with the ever-increasing salary cap it has become a legitimate way for teams to build roster talent, just look at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Without much cap space in 2018, the Patriots had to be smart about who to let hit the free market, and who to re-sign. The result has been an exodus of talent in the last week that has many fans worried about the state of the franchise moving forward. Oh how fickle support can be.
Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis were all vital contributors to the Patriots recent successes. Butler sealed Super Bowl XLIX, Amendola was the hero of last season’s AFC championship game, Dion Lewis led the team in rushing last season and Solder has been as solid a left tackle as the Patriots could have wished for the past six years.
Losing all four players is a blow, but the Patriots have been preparing for this. The signing of Stephon Gilmore last year has been a big success and was done with the intent to let Butler walk in free agency. Amendola may be leaving, but by adding Kenny Britt and Phillip Dorsett last year the wide receiver room is still full, plus Julian Edelman will be back on the field in 2018.
Lewis is tough to replace, but Bill Belichick has never been one for paying running backs, and they re-signed Rex Burkhead last night to a low-cost, three-year deal.
Replacing Nate Solder is tougher, and the Patriots were trying to re-sign him but the price (an NFL record $15 million per year) just got too high.
New England very rarely go shopping at the start of free agency. They normally wait for the crazy money to die down and then pick off the role players they like. Then add some veterans when roster cuts start to come down.
Left tackle is always a tough spot to fill, but the likes of Jason Peters could well become available in summer, and the Patriots have an ever-improving Marcus Cannon and last year’s third-round pick Antonio Garcia they can try out, if they don’t pick up the likes of Connor Williams or Kolton Miller in the draft.
Running backs are more available than they ever have been in the NFL draft. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara both showed how insanely talented mid-round backs can be, and you can rest assured that Belichick will be on the hunt for one of them this year.
Belichick has a knack for finding slot receivers on the cheap. From Wes Welker to Edelman and Amendola, you can expect that he will add another small, quick, weapon for Tom Brady to gel with.
Trust the process
The Patriots have been through roster changes before and continued to win. They moved on from Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Deion Branch and Chandler Jones without skipping a beat. There is no reason to think that the Belichick/Brady machine will grind to a halt because four players skipped town on the first week of free agency.
They have won five Super Bowls and eight AFC championships this century, and as much as talking heads love to prophesize the fall of the Patriots empire while Belichick and Brady are still there they will be favorites to win the Super Bowl again.
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