Seventy million dollars.
That's approximately how much Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots‘ head coach and de facto general manager, dedicated in the first eight hours of the legal tampering window of 2021 NFL free agency to nine different players on a per-year basis.
Belichick and other top executives within the New England franchise went on a spending frenzy, making investments left and right — far more than any other NFL team. In theory, Patriots fans should be thrilled to see the team shelling out big bucks to several free agents to help bolster their 7-9 squad from 2020, an attempt to avoid a losing record in back-to-back seasons for the first time in nearly 30 years.
But don't be so quick to call this team “greatly improved” from last season after this spending spree. New England's free agent acquisitions weren't blue-chip players on the open market. They were questionable ones. Like GameStop and AMC stocks, among others, these players’ valuations were way overblown to the point where the Patriots overpaid for many.
Courtesy of PFF’s offseason tracker that lists all transactions including signings, cuts and trades, here are all the moves made by New England on Monday and in the days leading up to the tampering period:
- Re-signed QB Cam Newton for one year, $5 million ($13.6 million max value)
- Re-signed CB Justin Bethel for three years, $6 million ($2 million APY, $2.75 million guaranteed)
- Traded T Marcus Cannon to HOU for several pick swaps in the 2021 NFL Draft
- Traded a 2022 fifth-rounder to LV for T Trent Brown and a 2022 seventh-rounder
- Signed TE Jonnu Smith for four years, $50 million ($12.5 million APY, $31.25 million guaranteed)
- Signed DI Davon Godchaux for two years, $16 million ($8 million APY, $9 million guaranteed)
- Signed DB Jalen Mills for four years, $24 million ($6 million APY, $9 million fully guaranteed)
- Re-signed edge defender Deatrich Wise Jr. for four years, $30 million ($7.5 million APY max, $10 million guaranteed)
- Signed WR Nelson Agholor for two years, $26 million
- Signed WR Kendrick Bourne for three years, $22.5 million ($7.5 million APY)
- Signed edge defender Matthew Judon for four years, $56 million ($14 million APY, $32 million guaranteed)
- Signed DI Henry Anderson for two years, $7.5 million ($3.75 million APY)
- Re-signed DI Carl Davis
Before we get into the Patriots' Day 1 moves, let’s dive into how the team led into free agency. New England's trades to pivot the starting right tackle spot from Cannon to Brown were favorable. Brown, when healthy, is a better pass protector than Cannon — albeit barely. Over the past four years, Brown ranks 32nd among 69 qualifying tackles in pass-blocking grade, while Cannon ranks 43rd.