By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — NFL free agency is abuzz. The New England Patriots are asleep.

Such is the benefit of winning a Super Bowl. Such is the benefit of consistently being the best team in the NFL for two decades. It’s easy to let the rest of the world go crazy when you know that no matter what, you’re going to be just fine.

And while Bill Belichick soaks up some rays down in the Caribbean, making minor moves like re-signing John Simon and bringing back the Prodigal Special Teamer, the rest of the NFL is throwing all sorts of money at all sorts of players who will certainly never live up to their contracts. (‘Sup, Devin Funchess? Can I borrow eleven dollars?)

Such is life in New England, where there’s never a need to “make a splash” or “shock the world” or, in simpler terms, wreck the salary cap situation for one player.

This is the only splash Belichick has set out to make thus far in the offseason:

Meanwhile in the AFC East, where the Patriots have won 16 of the past 18 division titles, the other three teams are for sure in a scramble mode. The biggest move was made overnight, as Le’Veon Bell finally decided he’d sign with the Jets. (Apparently, having 12 months to think about his next football home wasn’t enough time for Le’Veon.)

The addition of the dynamic dual-threat back is just one of a flurry of moves being made by AFC East teams as they desperately try to get to the Patriots’ level.

RB Le’Veon Bell (four years, $52.5 million, $35 million guaranteed)
LB C.J. Mosley (five years, $85 million, $51 million guaranteed)
LB Anthony Barr whoops no he changed his mind
WR Jamison Crowder (three years, $28.5 million, $17 million guaranteed)
DL Henry Anderson (re-sign, three years, $25.2 million)
WR Josh Bellamy (two years, $7 million, $2.75 million guaranteed)

WR Cole Beasley (four years, $29 million, $14.4 million guaranteed)
WR John Brown (three years, $27 million)
T Ty Nsekhe (two years, $14.5 million)
RB Frank Gore (one year, $2 million)

WR Devante Parker (re-sign, two years, $13 million)
TE Dwayne Allen (two years, $7 million)
CB Eric Rowe (one year, $4.5 million)

That’s a decent amount of action. Close to 300 million smackers, to be imprecise. Yowza.

As everyone knows, the 6-10 Buffalo Bills were just an undersized scrappy slot receiver away from really making the leap into the NFL’s elite class.

The Patriots’ additions, by comparison, have looked quite modest.

DE Michael Bennett (acquired via trade)
OLB John Simon
RB Brandon Bolden

Now, compare that with the mass exodus of players and coaches that has taken place since the team won Super Bowl LIII a little over a month ago.

DE Trey Flowers (five years, $90 million, $56 million guaranteed)
T Trent Brown (four years, $66 million, $36.75 million guarnteed)
WR/KR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson (two years, $10 million)
CB Eric Rowe (one year, $4.5 million)
De facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores
Cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer
Defensive line coach Brendan Daly
WR coach Chad O’Shea
Asst. QBs coach Jerry Schuplinski

That’s a lot of sayonaras. It’s enough to give the average person a case of the cold sweats. And some heart palpitations. Week 1 is only 182 days away!

Meanwhile, Bill Belichick is tossing another Bon Jovi cassette into his Walkman and knocking out seven miles on the treadmill.

And while the imagery of Belichick vacationing in Barbados juxtaposed with the madness playing out in a number of NFL front offices may be an extreme illustration of the current events,  it is nevertheless indicative of his approach and philosophy.

Even if it appears as though the walls are burning down and the roof is ready to collapse, Bill does not flinch. Not now. Not ever. It’s simply not his style.

To be sure, we’ll hear of some moves come 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Some will seem bigger than others. But just as he does every year, you can count on Belichick once again fielding the best team in the AFC. It may not look like it on paper, but the Patriots never really are concerned with those paper competitions.
The ones played on Sundays, in real life? They’re pretty good at those. Their approach and philosophy on display this week is a big reason why.

Elsewhere, AFC East teams (which went a combined 17-31 last season, and 20-28 the year before, and 22-26 the year before that, and 24-24 the year before, and 21-27 the year before that, and 22-26 the year before that, and 19-29 the year before that, and 20-28 the year before that, and 22-26 the two years before that, all to combine for a 209-271 record over the past decade) are throwing money around like wild.

They’re creating quite the buzz.

Yet without doing a single thing, the Patriots remain prohibitive favorites to win the AFC East. That is the case in March, just as it will surely be the case in September.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

  1. Advice to Michael Bennett: You weren’t acquired to discuss politics with Trump supporters in the office or on the team. Stay in the locker room if you want during the National Anthem, but don’t expect any respect from Patriots Nation. The organization and the fans will NOT put up with another distraction.

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