First week of free agency a hit for the Patriots

First week of free agency a hit for the Patriots
March 18, 2014, 12:45 pm
Share This Post

Today at 4 pm, we’ll officially hit the one-week mark on NFL Free Agency, and it’s hard to imagine it could have gone much better for the New England Patriots. That doesn’t mean Week 1 was perfect. That doesn’t mean that the current roster is without holes. But when has a team ever been perfect after the first week of free agency?
 
When this whole thing started, there were two main priorities for the Patriots. Two courses of action that it was widely believed they had to take for this offseason to get started in the right direction:
 
1. Re-sign Julian Edelman, which they did.
 
2. Re-sign Aqib Talib, which they did not.
 
Instead, they went out and signed an even better cornerback — Darrelle Revis, the best cornerback in the league — for less guaranteed money.
 
They also signed Brandon Browner, who, last year, was one of the starting cornerbacks for one of the best secondaries in recent NFL memory.
 
And then there’s receiver Brandon LaFell, who was inconsistent over four years in Carolina, but that’s not all on him. In LaFell’s rookie season, his quarterback was Jimmy Clausen, and the Panthers went 2-14. The next two years, his quarterback was the insanely talented, but still very raw Cam Newton.
 
Of course, last year Carolina was one of the best teams in the NFL, but you know what? LaFell had a part in that. He was the Panthers clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver, and finished second on the team in touchdown catches (5) behind only tight end Greg Olsen.
 
LaFell is 6-foot-2. He’s athletic. He’s a good blocker, a solid route runner and has reliable hands. Nothing’s guaranteed (obviously), but if LaFell can get on the same page as Tom Brady, he can be a factor. Think the next David Givens.
 
So, yeah, in theory, Week 1 of free agency could have gone better for the Patriots. I would have loved for them to trade for Megatron. Or maybe Adrian Peterson? J.J. Watt would help, too. But realistically, Week 1 was a home run. The Patriots are already better than they were last year.
 
And then there’s this.
 
Bobby Hamilton. Otis Smith. Matt Chatham. Joe Andruzzi. Jermaine Wiggins. Antoine Smith. Roman Phifer. Tom Ashworth. Ted Washington. Corey Dillon.
 
Ten key contributors to Super Bowl winners who Belichick acquired more than a month into free agency. (On the non-champions list: Randy Moss was acquired in April. Rob Ninkovich was signed in August.)
 
And here are some other names you might recognize:
 
Tom Brady. Richard Seymour. Matt Light. Deion Branch. David Givens. Ty Warren. Asante Samuel, Dan Koppen. Vince Wilfork. Logan Mankins. Jerod Mayo. Sebastian Vollmer. Devin McCourty. Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Hernandez. Nate Solder. Shane Vereen. Steven Ridley. Chandler Jones. Dont’a Hightower. Alfonzo Dennard. Jamie Collins. Logan Ryan.
 
These are all legitimate talents who Bill Belichick has drafted. Overall, he hasn’t always drafted well, but even if we play it on the safe side of history, it’s fair to assume that at least one or two more impact players are on the way. And it’s also a decent bet that those players will play positions that fill some of the holes on the current roster. That’s the point of the draft, right?
 
Basically, it comes down to this: Imagine Bill Belichick is a contractor. In this case, one of the best in the country. And back in January, you hired him to build you a house.
 
At the start of the negotiations, you sat down and layed out the plan. . .
 
“OK, Bill. So I want you guys to start building in March, and I’d like for the house to be ready by September. At the very least, ready enough for my wife and I to move in. After that, I figure we can spend the next few months just fine-tuning the operation. You know, we’ll live there, we’ll see what works, what doesn’t work, and then adjust accordingly. And then by next January, I want to be living in the best damn house on the block.”
 
Now, fast-forward to today — March 18. Are you going to walk by the construction site, nearly six months before the initial move in date, and bitch about the fact that it’s not ready yet?
 
I’m not.
 
I’m looking at the foundation . . .
 
On one side, a Tom Brady statue, standing tall next to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, protected by Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins and Nate Solder, and flanked by Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski. On the other side, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovitch and Tommy Kelly in front of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins in front of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan, Alfonso Dennard and Devon McCourty.
 
. . . And I’m thinking: “Damn, Bill. This is a nice start.”
 
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine