BOSTON (CBS) — When NFL free agency kicked off, the Patriots did not sit idly by and let other teams swoop in and sign the best players available. This time around, the Patriots did the swooping — and the spending — and made big splash after big splash.
They signed Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to give them a 1-2 punch at tight end. They added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to give the returning Cam Newton some targets at receiver. The pass rush received a big boost with the signing of Matt Judon, and versatile defensive back Jalen Mills is another body that can roam around in the defensive backfield. And those are just a handful of New England’s moves.READ MORE: Wild Card Leader Red Sox Beat Stumbling Mets 6-3, 6th In Row
It was unlike anything we’ve really seen before out of Bill Belichick. But as Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Wednesday, this offseason was the time to take full advantage of the unique spot that the team found itself in. The Patriots had plenty of cap space to work with, and not a lot of competition on the open market.
“If there was ever a year to do it, this would be the year because we moved quickly and instead of having 10-12 teams compete against us for free agents, there were only two or three. Our personnel department did an outstanding job setting priorities,” Kraft told New England reporters on a conference call following the conclusion of this year’s NFL owners meetings. “We moved quickly and also had the advantage of being in the unique position having, I think the second or third most cap space. We moved quickly and I really hope it makes a different. I’m excited about this upcoming season.”
This isn’t usually the way the Patriots operate, and Kraft knows that counting on free agency to cure everything that plagued the team during a 7-9 season last year isn’t the best practice. Focus now shifts to next month’s NFL draft, where the Patriots are slated to make 10 selections, including the No. 15 overall pick.READ MORE: 'Damn Right': Tom Brady's Father Says QB Feels Vindicated By Post-Patriots Success
Kraft admits that New England’s recent drafts have not been great, and it must be better if the team wants to go on another run of sustained success.
“The teams who draft well are the ones who will be consistently good. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years, but I hope and I believe I’ve seen a different approach this year,” he said. “In the end, it all comes out to what happens on the field and how well people execute. You really don’t know how good a draft is for at least two years. Especially in the environment we’re in now, I’m not quite sure still what our offseason training and learning abilities will be. Something we’re working very hard at with the unions today. Last year, younger players were really disadvantaged because they didn’t have a chance to come and learn and be part of it.
“That’s also what happened with Cam [Newton]. Everything was new and when he got going, he was playing pretty well if you remember how things were at the beginning of the season,” Kraft added, saying Newton getting COVID also threw things through a loop for the Patriots. “He’s more familiar with what goes on here, just like younger players from last year. We’ll see what happens this year.”
Kraft said New England’s 7-9 record wasn’t the leading reason to go on such a giant spending spree this offseason — but it certainly played a part.MORE NEWS: Match Preview: Revolution Look To Clinch Playoff Berth With Mid-Week Win Over Fire
“The bottom line here is winning. That’s what this business is. When we don’t, it’s not a good feeling,” said Kraft. “I expect to be a contender every year. That is my objective. Last year was very disappointing.”