Bill Belichick doesn’t do flashy when it comes to free agency, although there are exceptions like
the signing of Darrelle Revis back in 2014, expressly intended to bring a lockdown cornerback to
the defense who eventually helped New England win a Super Bowl. However, Belichick is all
about filling square holes with square pegs. There is never a thought to wooing a big-money
free agent into the fold just to put fans in the seats and hype the upcoming season. This is
Titletown, and there is more than enough rapt attention surrounding this team each and every
year. Belichick crafts each iteration of the Patriots with the express design of being able to
morph his team each week into whatever it is that will present their adversaries with the most
daunting lineup to confuse, and ultimately defeat them.
Unless the Patriots decide to make a bid for the services of former Buccaneers defensive
lineman, and six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, the die is cast and the Patriots will go into this
season with their usual collection of plug-n-play role players. They are all more than willing to
serve the specific purpose for which the Dark Master has uniquely conjured for each and every
member of his squad. A quick check of the NFL odds found over at Sportsbook Review, tells us
that all of the best online sportsbooks are again unfazed at the Patriots’ lack of star power
being culled from this year’s free agency herd, and have again made them one of the favorites
to win the AFC and the Super Bowl.
With the possible exception of former Eagles defensive lineman, Michael Bennett, who was
acquired via a trade with Philadelphia and not a free agent signing, the new names on New
England’s defensive roster won’t be familiar to the casual NFL fan. Hopefully, Bennett will fill
the void left by last season’s defensive stalwart Trey Flowers, who exited Foxboro for “greener”
pastures in Detroit, but the rest will fill a role that will change, to varying degrees, each week
depending on the opponent.
Belichick decided that re-signing the immortal John Simon was a small piece of the puzzle, as
was signing safety and special teams’ specialist Terrence Brooks. New England could very well
have gotten a steal by inking former Jets’ defensive lineman Mike Pennel to a two-year pact
after Pro Football Focus rendered him a lofty 87.1 grade for his performance last season. Let’s
also not forget that Belichick tapped four defensive players in the draft by trading up to select
rangy cornerback Joejuan Williams at the top half of the second round, linebacker Chase
Winovich of Michigan in the third round, defensive tackle Byron Cowart of Maryland in the fifth
round, and lastly Ole Miss cornerback Ken Webster in the seventh.
Just when you thought Belichick was done, he reached out to old friend Jamie Collins, who was
dealt under a cloud of suspicion to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional third-round pick in
the midst of the 2016 campaign. It was rumored that Collins had done a bit too much
freelancing and wasn’t sticking to Belichick’s defensive script. Collins had been tapped by the
Patriots in the second round of the 2013 draft and was a second-team All-Pro just two years
later. But Belichick doesn’t play favorites and many were stunned at Collins’ sudden departure,
but even more, groused about the return New England was given for a player of his caliber and
physical attributes. Collins would sign a four-year $50 million deal with the Browns in 2017 but
after an administrative shakeup he was shown the door after last season and Bill came calling
for his old pal…at a discount price.
The Patriots were ranked a woeful 29 th in rushing yards allowed last season and it wouldn’t take
much for this year’s defense to improve upon that. The question remains, as it does every year
at this time, whether or not the injection of new, unheralded, talent will be good enough to
take the Patriots to another championship title? If history tells us anything, we’ve got a pretty
good feeling that Bill’s master plan will deliver yet again.