The Patriots Were Aggressive in Free Agency, But Were They Successful?

Bean: Love the Pats' aggressiveness, just not many of the moves originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

We wanted the Patriots to be aggressive in free agency.

Honestly, by their standards, they could have quit after their first agreement of the day and we’d say this qualified as an aggressive start. 

But after signing tight end Jonnu Smith, they also got themselves a defensive tackle, an edge rusher, a defensive back and a pass-catcher, if you believe Nelson Agholor indeed catches passes. 

It was a busy day. Aggressive? Definitely. Yet if we want to consider New England’s day as being a big splash, it’s because they threw a handful of pebbles, not a sizable rock. 

Here’s where Pro Football Focus had the players New England signed ranked on their free agent list: 

TE Jonnu Smith: 34 (No. 2 tight end) 

WR Nelson Agholor: 67 (No. 12 receiver)

EDGE Matthew Judon: 84 (No. 10 edge defender) 

WR Kendrick Bourne: 159 (No. 25 receiver) 

DB Jalen Mills: 206 (No. 55 defensive back)

DT Davon Godchaux (not ranked among top 250 free agents)

New England’s moves represented them more strategically filling holes on their roster. That’s the goal, but they didn’t exactly do it with studs, which they have done in free agencies past (Adalius Thomas, Stephon Gilmore). 

Really, they just positioned themselves to enter the draft with way fewer needs. Their team is better -- I'll say they’ve leapfrogged the Dolphins in their division -- but there was probably only one signing that warranted a "did you hear the Patriots got him?!" move and that was Smith. 

For context, Cam Newton, the hopeful backup/maybe starter New England re-signed to jeers, is ranked 39th by PFF among free agents. He’s considered better than all but Smith among the team’s signings. 

I’m for the moves. I’m not exactly for all the "Belichick’s done it again!" reaction, because all he’s done is use the cap space he has because his roster wasn’t good. Teams that don’t have good players usually have money, and they use that money to fill needs. 

Was the money well spent? We’ll see.

I’m wary of Judon at his price ($32 million guaranteed over the first two years), but I liked Belichick casting a wide net. My only real issue is at receiver, where he went with two mediocre players. Agholor got $26 million over two years and Bourne got three years and $22.5 million.

The Patriots entered the offseason without a true weapon at wide receiver. In signing Agholor and Bourne, they likely still don’t have a weapon there; the depth chart is just a little more crowded. Are the Patriots done at the position? Are they content with Smith making up for star power at receiver? Are they aware that Smith himself isn’t a star? 

The Patriots hold the 15th pick in the draft. If they can get a receiver in the top two rounds (or tight end Kyle Pitts; I’ll keep dreaming there) they’ll have done a good job of revamping their pass catchers. So far, they’ve gone from non-existent at tight end and receiver to solid at tight end and below average at receiver. There should still be work to do. 

The biggest way they could improve their passing game, of course, would be by addressing the quarterback. For now, it looks like they’re filling in everything else, even if it isn’t with stars.

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