The Patriots shouldn’t be done spending money on high-end free agents.
While it’s highly unlikely we’ll see the tsunami of spending the Patriots delivered in 2021, the team still has work to do in terms of improving the roster around quarterback Mac Jones. New England’s best hope at landing among the league’s top contenders is a major second-year leap for Jones, but the quarterback was the least of the problem in a season-ending 47-17 loss to the Bills in the wild card round. The 2022 off-season should be about continuing to add talent around Jones, or further complement the offense with an infusion on defense.
The quickest and simplest way for the Patriots to improve the roster for 2022 is to target established talents who may not command a long-term deal. There are two high-profile comparisons for such a move, that had drastically different results: the 2014 signing of Darrelle Revis, who played a key role in a Super Bowl-winning team, and the 2019 addition of Antonio Brown, who lasted only 11 days and one game in New England.
The Revis move, in particular, proved a worthy one-year gamble for Bill Belichick, who has made many similar moves over the years to get the most out of a veteran player. It’s not always a future Hall of Famer like Revis was, nor is it always particularly expensive.
But even Revis was exceptional value. He signed for one year at $12 million, in a year when Patrick Peterson made more than $16 million and Joe Haden earned that in just a signing bonus. Revis performed like a $16 million cornerback (at least) and anchored a championship defense. He was Belichick’s ultimate one-year wonder.
It makes even more sense for the Patriots to invest in a short-term splash now, while they have Jones on his rookie contract. Entering Monday, they have $10.2 million in cap space, according to Miguel Benzan, and would be capable of clearing enough cap space to shop ’till they drop again, if they so desire.
The free-agent pool is projected to boast a number of proven high-performing players, any of whom would be an instant difference-maker regardless of position or need. Some would fill pressing needs and provide clear upgrades on top of their upper-echelon talent.
One unavoidable downside: these signings would make the Patriots’ roster older rather than younger, so if youth is a priority this off-season, this would go against it. And the aforementioned Antonio Brown exists forever in Belichick lore as the worst case scenario for this type of move. But their ages are simply a reflection of the reality that they’re looking at short-term deals.