With the first wave of NFL free agency in the books, it’s time to grade how every team did.
Whether it’s differential cap space or having more impending free agents to take care of than others, every NFL team heads into free agency in a completely different situation, making it imperative that each team is graded on a rubric relative to their current standing, goals, and likelihood of making moves.
But it is encouraging to see how many teams, especially teams on the cusp of a postseason run like the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, were aggressive in free agency. Notable players, such as Michael Bennett and Odell Beckham Jr., swapped sides in blockbuster trades, and previously complacent teams like the Green Bay Packers finally took steps towards a better future with their window only narrowing.
It’s time to hand in report cards for every team now that the first wave of NFL free agency has concluded. Though some big names, such as Ndamukong Suh, remain, most of the heavy-hitters have found their franchises for, hopefully, the foreseeable future.
New England Patriots
DL Michael Bennett, WR Bruce Ellington, RB Brandon Bolden
DT Malcom Brown, LT Trent Brown, CB Eric Rowe, EDGE Trey Flowers, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, OT LaAdrian Waddle, TE Rob Gronkowski (retirement), TE Dwayne Allen
The New England Patriots lost more notable players than they gained this offseason, but that’s generally how things go in Foxboro. Fresh off of another Super Bowl victory, the Patriots only two huge losses are at left tackle and edge rusher, but given the cohesiveness of their well-coached offensive line – as well as Tom Brady’s lightning-quick release – and the acquisition of Michael Bennett, New England will be fine.
It’s interesting to note that the Patriots were linked to Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown before both superstar wide receivers were traded to the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Even Golden Tate, who signed a contract with the wide receiver-needy New York Giants, was connected to New England. They also struck out on Adam Humphries, who received a deal from the Tennessee Titans.
Despite these rumors, the Patriots were unable to sign a big-name receiver, and it’s become an even more glaring position of need following Rob Gronkowski’s unsurprising retirement. The huge void at tight end will have to be filled in the draft, where the Patriots have the No. 32 overall pick. They may also bring back Chris Hogan, who remains a free agent, especially since his market may not have been as robust as he anticipated.
They did, however, sign Bruce Ellington, a player who entered the league as a sleeper candidate with the San Francisco 49ers but failed to make an impact there, or with the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions. Ellington isn’t short on quickness or agility, and if he can get on the same page as Brady, he could become a good secondary slot option.
The Patriots don’t usually make a splash in free agency, and when they do lose key players like Flowers and Gronkowski, they find ways to replace them in the draft or with their “next man up” philosophy. New England took advantage of Gronk’s gifts during critical stretches of the postseason, but, for the most part, they were excellent on offense without him.
Though this was a quiet free agent period for New England and Bennett is the only real difference-maker joining the team, if there’s a team that can withstand a few losses, it’s the Patriots.