As I stated in my Patriots Offensive Priorities article, it is a fair assumption to believe the Patriots will be one of the more aggressive teams this off-season. How aggressive? Well, that remained to be seen. Yesterday on day one of free agency, the Patriots already spent their most guaranteed money on free-agents in any off-season over the last decade. The Patriots dished out over $200 million on just the first day of free agency, and they might not even be done yet.
The Patriots made their first move yesterday signing former Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith to a four-year $50 million deal with $31.25 million guaranteed. Smith, who was one of the top tight ends available in free agency this off-season, provides some much-needed talent at the tight end position. Smith will look to fill the void that has been impossible to fill for the Patriots since the departure of Rob Gronkowski. To put into perspective how good this signing is, here are some numbers. In 2020, Jonnu Smith had 41 catches, for 448 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo, and Matt LaCosse, have just 37 catches, 499 yards, and 3 touchdowns in a combined 6 YEARS! Smith is a great athlete that also provides great blocking ability. A great signing for the Patriots in desperate need of help at the tight end position. Also a great singing for Cam Newton, who has played pretty well with tight ends. During Cam’s time with the Panthers, former tight end Greg Olsen recorded 3 straight 1,000+ yard seasons and was named a Pro Bowler in each of those seasons.
If this tweet says anything about Smith’s work ethic, he will fit in just fine in Foxborough.
Shortly after, the Patriots struck on the defensive side of the ball, signing former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Davon Godchaux to a two-year $16 million deal, with $9 million guaranteed. At 6’3 311 pounds, Godchaux will look to provide some speed to a defensive line in need of some help. The 2017 fifth-round draft pick out of LSU is coming off torn biceps that limited him to just 5 games in the 2020 season. Before the injury, Godchaux recorded 16 tackles and 2 quarterback hits.
After landing Godchaux, the Pats made another big splash. This time on the defensive side of the ball, inking former Ravens linebacker Matt Judon to a four-year $56 million deal, with $32 million guaranteed. Judon has been a key piece on the Ravens defense throughout his five-year career totaling 34.5 sacks and 236 tackles. Judon has been selected to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons in a row and will provide a much-needed presence on the edge. Along with his pass-rushing ability, Judon also possesses the ability to drop into coverage, a talent that should prove valuable in this Patriots scheme. A great signing for a team that needed a solid edge rusher.
The Patriots next signing stayed on the defensive again as they added former Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills. Mills, who is another LSU alum, agreed to a four-year $24 million deal with $9 million guaranteed. Mills can play corner or safety and is an exceptional athlete. The Green Goblin brings versatility Mills played a key role in the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl run, most notably in the divisional round against the Falcons. Mills had excellent coverage on Julio Jones in the waning seconds of the game to secure the victory. It will be interesting to see what this deal means for Stephon Gillmore, whose name has been floating around in trade talks. It will also be interesting to see if Mills sticks with the green hair, or will he go with a more Patriot-centric color?
The Patriots then shifted their attention to the offensive side of the ball signing former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne to a three-year $22.5 million deal. The 6’1 200-pound wideout finished his 4-year 49ers career with 137 receptions for 1,769 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 13 games started. Bourne brings speed and versatility to the Patriots with the ability to play out wide, or in the slot. A good signing for a team that needs all the help it can get at the receiver position.
The Patriots bolstered the receiving core even more following the Bourne signing, adding another former Philadelphia Eagle to the roster in Nelson Agholor. Agholor and the Patriots agreed to a two-year $26 million deal. After five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Agholor was believed to be a first-round bust. But the speedy wideout changed the course of his career when he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders last season. Agholor had a career year in 2020, his lone season with the Raiders. He finished with 48 receptions for 896 yards and 8 touchdowns. Agholor was arguably one of the best deep-ball threats in the league last season. His longest reception was an 85-yard touchdown in week 16 against the Miami Dolphins. Drops have been a problem for Agholor throughout his career, but he is another versatile offense weapon for the Patriots and brings along a serious deep threat.
The final addition for the Patriots on the first day of free agency day one was former New York Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson, who signed a 2-year $11 million deal. Anderson had 7 sacks and 16 quarterback hits for the Jets back in 2017 and is a six-year NFL veteran spending time with both the Jets and Colts. Anderson is a very productive run stopper and has proven he can rush the passer when given the opportunity. Again, acquiring talent on the defensive line was a must for the Patriots heading into the off-season, and they accomplished it with the additions of Judon, Godchaux, and Anderson.
The moves did not stop Monday, as the Patriots made yet another HUGE splash Tuesday morning singing former Chargers tight end Hunter Henry to a three-year $375 million deal with $25 million guaranteed. This comes as a big surprise as it was rumored Henry was prioritizing money and good quarterback play into his free agency decision. As I stated earlier, the tight end position has been abysmal for the Patriots since the departure of Gronk. New England landed the top two tight ends in free agency providing some much-needed help on offense. The Patriots’ offense is now headlined by an incredible tight end duo in Henry and Smith, along with speedy receivers. The Patriots get back to their two-tight end offense which has been pretty successful for them in the past (Gronkowski and Hernandez, Graham and Watson). Bill Belichick has always been high on Hunter Henry, and now he is the Patriots’ top offensive weapon. Something tells me, Belichick got his stimulus check.
Don’t forget, the Patriots also brought back offensive tackle Trent Brown last week via trade, and resigned quarterback Cam Newton and interior defensive lineman Deatrich Wise. Oh, and did I mention they hold the 15th pick in the 2021 draft? There is still a lot of moving parts that will affect this year’s off-season, and something tells me the Patriots aren’t done yet. Keep an eye on what the Patriots do with their draft picks and Stephon Gillmore.
Oh, and one more thing… what happened to players not wanting to play for Bill Belichick?