There’s making a splash, and then there’s what Bill Belichick and the Patriots decided to do on the Ides of March no less. In an unprecedented series of free agency signings the Patriots have completely revamped their roster in a way no one could have seen coming. Robert Kraft opened up his wallet to over over $200 million in total contract value in just one day – a move nobody in their right mind saw coming. Let’s take a closer look at each signing.
Jonnu Smith – 4 years $50 million, $31.25 guaranteed
Smith was my number one free agency target this year, and its clear Bill Belichick shared the same opinion. At just age 25, the speedy tight end is just coming into his own and should be the top option for years to come. Smith is a matchup nightmare and will be used all around the field, and is an above average blocker. His skill set is similar to former Patriot Aaron Hernandez and could be used in a comparable fashion.
Matthew Judon – 4 years $56 million, $32 guaranteed
Of all the signings they made, this one truly floored me. I had zero expectations that they would spend real money on a premium position, yet here we are with Judon making $14 million per season. Judon is a great fit as a true 3-4 outside linebacker that can seriously get after the quarterback, but also set the edge and drop into coverage. The former Raven should be close to an every down player, and will play all over the field in a role similar to Kyle Van Noy’s in 2019.
Nelson Agholor – 2 years $32 million, unclear guarantees
This was definitely an overpay, but Agholor represents a legit upgrade over Damiere Byrd, and adds an element the Patriots have not had since Brandin Cooks in 2017. After a brutal 2019 season, the former USC Trojan had a monster 2020 to the tune of close to 900 yards. A true downfield threat, Agholor should open up the field and spread defenses out, allowing for the Patriots to work their underneath game they love so much. My guess is that he’ll play mostly X receiver, although his skill set may be more suited for the Z spot.
Kendrick Bourne – 3 years $15 million, $5.25 guaranteed
Bourne is a nice complementary piece that should fit in fairly well in New England. He is certainly more quick than fast and runs really good routes. Bourne sees most of his targets over the middle in the short-to-intermediate range. He should play the majority of his snaps at Z or slot receiver in the Patriots offense.
Davon Godchaux – 2 years $16 million, $9 guaranteed
Godchaux fills a massive hole in the middle of the defense as a traditional two-gapping nose tackle that can hold up at the point of attack. After an excellent 2019 season, he was limited to just 5 games in 2020. He isn’t going to put up huge numbers as a run-stuffing tackle, but he should make a big difference in the run defense that was absolutely abysmal last season.
Jalen Mills, 4 years $24 million, $9 guaranteed
While I really like Mills as a player, the fit puzzles me at the moment. Mills played strong safety in 2020 after mostly playing corner in his previous years. He has the skill-set to play all over the field, but his role is unclear unless both Stephon Gilmore and/or Jason McCourty are leaving town. If Gilmore is out, he would immediately become the second best boundary corner opposite J.C. Jackson. If McCourty leaves and Gilmore stays, Mills would likely fill McCourty’s role as the 4th cornerback in the dime package. Certainly a lot of moving parts here, but we should have a clearer picture soon.
Henry Anderson, 2 years $7 million, guarantees unclear
Anderson has always seemed like a Patriots-type player as a versatile defensive tackle that can stop the run and also get after the quarterback a little bit. I could see him taking Lawrence Guy’s role if he does not return up front, or be a depth piece as the third defensive tackle. Either way, he is a big time upgrade at a significant position of need.