The New England Patriots have completed the two most important aspects of their offseason, free agency, and the NFL draft.
It’s time to grade them on these critically important team-building aspects and assess where they stand. Have they done enough to improve or not?
Championships are built in the offseasons of any team sport. Other than undergoing truly catastrophic injuries that can derail any season, you are what you build in the offseason.
The New England Patriots enjoyed the liberty of being less than capable in team-building due to the presence of Tom Brady, the great safety valve for 20 years.
Sign underperforming free agents? No problem, No. 12 made it work. Draft outrageously and out of all norms of the NFL? Fine, Brady was there to save you from yourself.
Brady made up for all manner of offseason failures with his sheer brilliance and propensity for making chicken salad out of chicken … liver.
So, what now in 2023 with Brady in the rearview mirror for four years?
New England Patriots free agency was a huge disappointment
Emerging from a playoff-less 2022, an owner’s dissatisfaction, and being labeled as mediocre, one would have expected the Foxborough football brass to get real and have a knockout offseason in 2023. To put it simply, they haven’t.
After starting nicely with the trade of Jonnu Smith and signing upgrades at both wide receiver (though not a major one) with JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end, Mike Gesicki, the team then bottomed out.
Their free agency after the above-mentioned positives was lackluster and boring. They signed an older (34 years old) offensive tackle, a major position of need in Riley Reiff. That was OK and probably an improvement over the cast of 2022 at right tackle. But not by much.
They also signed Calvin Anderson, a waiver-wire level tackle whom they had cut a few years ago. In addition, they resigned a former third-round draft pick bust, Yodny Cajuste, and waiver-wire pick-up Conor McDermott.
In total, free agency disappointed as the key move to be made was signing either a top offensive left tackle like Orlando Bloom Jr. or a top right tackle, e.g. Mike McGlinchey. They whiffed on both. The result was a grade of a very weak, C-/D+.
New England Patriots draft graded
The Patriots draft was, well, the usual Patriot draft. They started fine with a trade down and then the selection of a top cornerback in Christian Gonzalez. Day one was a big success.
The team then reverted to their bizarre form and went downhill. They did OK with the second selection, Keion White, an edge player from Georgia Tech. It was an OK pick though a bit of a reach. Keep that word in mind, reach.
They then essentially wasted their third-round pick on a hybrid linebacker/safety, Marte Mapu. Since Mapu was looked upon as a lower-round pick, the Patriots as is their style reached way up to get a player who is essentially a special teams guy.
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The rest of the draft was punctuated by reaches all over the board from a kicker in the fourth round to the selection of three interior linemen. The result was a weak C draft.
The total offseason grade as a result of the free agency disappointment and the as-usual head-scratching, reaching the Patriots draft is a grade of C-/D+. The team may have improved marginally but not nearly enough.
The result is this, the team will be looking up at the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins, a given, and probably also the now Aaron Rodgers-led New York Jets.
Patriot Nation, your team barring a miracle (maybe in Malik Cunningham, the dual-threat undrafted free agent signing?), the New England Patriots is now a cellar-dweller, a last-place team.
You are what you build in the off-season. They built poorly and the result is likely a last-place finish in the AFC East. As they say in Foxborough, it is what it is. And what it is, ain’t good enough.