Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft spoke publicly for the first time since the team spent an unprecedented amount of money in NFL free agency, as part of Peter King’s weekly Football Morning In America column.
Kraft pointed to the Patriots’ ample salary cap space as a driving force of Bill Belichick’s spending spree, which included 12 signings from outside the organization and another seven free agents who were on the 2020 roster. The Patriots owner also noted the Patriots’ relative lack of competition around the NFL, where most teams found themselves needing to clear space rather than spend it.
“We had the second or third-most cap room at the start of free agency,” Kraft told King. “This year, instead of having 10 or 12 teams competing for most of the top players, there were only two or three. And in my 27 years as owner, I’ve never had to come up with so much capital before.”
Eight of the Patriots’ additions in their first stint with the team – tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, linebacker Matthew Judon, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, defensive back Jalen Mills, and defensive linemen Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson – combined for $130.5 million in guaranteed money alone. Add the returns of quarterback Cam Newton, center David Andrews, defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, kicker Nick Folk, and special teamers Justin Bethel and Cody Davis, and the guarantees jump to more than $162.5 million (data via Spotrac). Any guaranteed money for DL Montravius Adams, LB Raekwon McMillan, or C Ted Karras isn’t publicly known.
Kraft credited the Patriots’ cap space and the timing of the 2021 offseason as principal factors in the spending, but gave King a simple reason for their motivation to overhaul the roster in the first place: they want to return to contention in the AFC after a 7-9 season in 2021. And at the same time, Kraft acknowledged that spending doesn’t necessarily lead to winning.
“It’s like investing in the stock market,” Kraft said. “You take advantage of corrections and inefficiencies in the market when you can, and that’s what we did here. We’ll see. Nothing is guaranteed, and I’m very cognizant of that. But we’re not in the business to be in business. We’re in this business to win.
“We’ll see. I do remember we always made fun of the teams that spent a lot in the offseason. So we know nothing is guaranteed, and I’m very cognizant of that.”
Scroll down for a list of players still available as the second wave of 2021 NFL free agency gets underway.