Key Additions: Darrelle Revis ($16M per year), Brandon Browner ($5.05M), Brandon LaFell ($3M)
Key Re-Signings: Julian Edelman ($4.25M per year)
Key Losses: Aqib Talib (Broncos), Brandon Spikes (Bills), LaGarrette Blount (Steelers)
Major Cuts: Steve Gregory($2.85M cap savings),Isaac Sopoaga ($2.5M), Adrian Wilson($1.17M)
Free Agency Thoughts:
I think one definitely has to wonder what the Patriots free agent plans were had Darrelle Revis not been available. The Patriots had never been a team to commit big money and years to cornerbacks and with Aqib Talib’s injury history I’m not sure they would have gone there even though it would have left a gaping hole in the defense. With Revis willing to sign what was essentially a one year Franchise tender it was almost a no-brainer to sign Revis as there is no long term commitment being made. You can’t even compare Revis and Talib there is such a disparity. Still the team is pushing future cap dollars with the Revis move and eventual release in 2015.
Signing Brandon Browner was another solid move for the secondary. Though he will miss four games due to a suspension, Browner will cost the team at most about $3.46 million with no cost to release in the future. The risk of the contract really just comes in the playoffs. If Browner has another slip up and is banned from the playoffs the Patriots will have wasted their cap space regardless of how he plays in the regular season.
The team waited on their own free agents and that helped them get Julian Edelman at the bottom of the second tier WR salary market while adding Brandon Lafell at a moderate cost. Edelman will essentially earn the same as the Eagles Riley Cooper, but without the guaranteed salary, which was a win for the Patriots. In addition the Patriots reworked the contracts of DT’s Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly to keep both on the team in hopes that they can stay healthy in 2014.
Two of the Patriots cuts (Sopoaga and Wilson) highlight some of the poor personnel decisions the team has paid for in the past. Wilson was injured before the season began and the team took on guaranteed salary from Sopoaga last year in a trade and then could find no use for him. That being said these were low cost failures and no brainers to release.
Overall Grade: B
When you evaluate the Patriots you are evaluating a win now team that is doing everything they can to beat one opponent in the playoffs. While things always change in the NFL, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the two constants. The AFC is so down that it is hard to imagine those two teams not meeting in the playoffs. Last year Manning ripped the Patriots defense to shreds so the team went out and drastically upgraded their coverage talent. While it would have been nice to see them add a better receiver, the way the team plays I am not sure that there would be value in adding that type of player. For what they run, the combination of Edelman and LaFell is a better use of resources than a DeSean Jackson or Eric Decker. All told the Patriots went into free agency without a ton of cap space and came back with two upgrades at cornerback without having to part ways with Wilfork or get into future cap headaches by restructuring the contract of Logan Mankins or Jerod Mayo.