Patriots Offseason Review (So Far)


Nick Glennon

The usually dormant Patriots have made several key moves so far since the start of free agency. Overall, how has their offseason been so far?

The Patriots started out the free agency period shaky by losing star cornerback Aqib Talib to the rival Denver Broncos. Talib was a prime member of the depleted Patriots defense last year. While he struggled to remain healthy for a majority of the season, he was stellar when on the field. One of his prime highlights of the season was when he went one-on-one with Saints TE Jimmy Graham and held him catchless. He was a vital part of the Patriots secondary and it was surprising that they let him walk, especially considering there were rumors he was very close to a deal with New England right before the start of free agency. However, Denver offered a ludicrous contract of 57 million over six years – a deal so good Talib couldn’t turn it down.

So how did the Patriots try to replace Talib? Simple answer – by getting one of the only cornerbacks in the league better than Talib, Darrelle Revis. The Pats opted to take the low-risk high-reward type route by signing Revis for a one year deal worth 12 million. He was a shutdown corner for the rival Jets for a half decade before injuring his knee and being traded to Tampa Bay the following season. Revis had a stellar season last year for the Bucs and was rated the #1 cornerback in football by Pro Football Focus and #2 overall behind Richard Sherman by Bleacher Report. Revis is perhaps the first true shutdown cornerback to play in New England since the days of Ty Law. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he performs in the Patriots defense next year.

However, the Pats weren’t done addressing the secondary even after the addition of Revis. Not even a week later the team struck again by reaching a deal with former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner has elite talent and size (6’4”, 220 pounds) but he’s been marred by controversy and trouble the past few seasons. Browner, who signed a deal worth  17 million over three years, is suspended for the first four games of next season. He struggled for Seattle last year as he suffered an injury mid-season and was replaced on the depth chart and eventually lost his job completely. Browner hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2010, but the Patriots obviously saw something they liked. He could be the perfect fit in the defense as he’s big, strong and a fairly hard hitter. The secondary was good coverage-wise last season but were fairly soft in terms of contact. Talib was very timid towards attacking running backs and wide receivers and the other corners followed his lead. Look to Revis and Browner to change the culture of the defense and make things more physical.

The wide receiver position was another major issue for the Pats heading into the offseason. While they haven’t fully addressed the situation, they haven’t let it become more of a concern. Re-signing Julian Edelman, who caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns last season, was a top priority for the Patriots heading into free agency. The team took their sweet time getting the deal done but Edelman was eventually brought back into the fold with a team-friendly deal of 17 million over four years. Edelman was a spark plug last year and fans are ecstatic to see him and a healthy Danny Amendola on the field together. The team also reached a deal with former Panthers wide out Brandon Lafell. Lafell had 49 catches for 627 yards and 5 touchdowns last season for Carolina. He’s expected to compete with Aaron Dobson for the X role and he can also fill the slot receiver role and be used as gamebreaker with his explosive speed. Look for Tom Brady to develop some chemistry with Lafell next season.

The offseason wasn’t entirely perfect for the Patriots – they lost Talib and power running back Legarrette Blount, who was crucial down the stretch of the season and in the Divisional playoff game against the Colts. However, Talib will easily be replaced in the secondary and while losing Blount isn’t ideal, the Patriots still have a proven starter in Steven Ridley and a very good complementary back in Shane Vereen. Also, the Patriots offseason still isn’t nearly over as the NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. An already solid team just got even better this offseason. The Patriots were good enough for an AFC Championship appearance last year but if things pan out next year then a Super Bowl run could definitely be in the cards.