The New England Patriots have been one of the most successful teams in any sport over the past 20 years. They’re almost always winning the AFC East division and making it to the playoffs, and similar to the Spurs of the NBA, can never be counted out until they are officially out. Oh yeah, and they just won their 5th Super Bowl under head coach Bill Belichick and with starting QB Tom Brady.
So what does a team expect after winning a championship? They get to party, enjoy the win, rest up and then finally get ready for off-season training camp and to get started on next season. Not the Patriots. Belichick is getting ready for next season the day after the Super Bowl. Also, guys on Super Bowl teams on expiring contracts might get an offer higher than they normally would thanks to the Super Bowl win, and with the contract situations the way they are in the NFL, they almost have to take the best offer available. This could be problematic for a team looking to repeat as champions, losing some of the talent that helped them win. Too bad this doesn’t apply to the Patriots.
The Patriots knew Martellus Bennett was a free agent to be and they probably would not be able to re-sign him to the amount of money that he wanted, so on Thursday, they went out and traded a 2017 4th round pick to the Colts for a 2017 6th round pick and TE Dwayne Allen. Friday, Bennett proceeded to test the market and wound up signing a new contract with the Green Bay Packers. So the Pats did not lose their TE for nothing, and Dwayne Allen is a younger version of Bennett. But that’s not all they did.
Later on that Thursday, they signed free agent CB Stephon Gilmore, formerly of the division rival Bills, to a 5 year $65 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. To help even more on the defensive side, they went out and traded away their 2017 2nd round pick to the Carolina Panthers for 25 year old defensive end Kony Ealy, and a 3rd round pick in the 2017 draft. They basically moved down 8 spots in the draft and picked up one of the better young edge rushers in the league. But that’s not all they did.
To top this all off, late Friday afternoon, the Pats traded their 2017 1st rounder (32nd overall) and a 3rd round pick to New Orleans for their 4th round pick, and WR Brandin Cooks. For the first time in almost 10 years, the Patriots will have a true #1 wide receiver. They haven’t had one of those since a guy name Randy Moss came to the team, and together with Brady, broke the regular season TD record. Brandin Cooks is no Randy Moss by any means, but he’s one of the fastest receivers in the league, able to break the lid off of almost any defense (here’s an example) and has been steadily getting better after each of his 3 seasons in the league so far. With only guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as the listed WR’s catching short to intermediate passes from Brady, the Pats finally have a guy they can throw long to and expect big things out of, outside of Rob Gronkowski from the TE position.
To recap, after they won a Super Bowl, the Pats lost defensive end Chris Long to free agency, but replaced him with a younger Kony Ealy, signed an excellent CB in Gilmore to play across Malcolm Butler, retained Butler after he was involved in a lot of trade talk which ultimately never panned out, lost TE Martellus Bennett but replaced him with a younger Dwayne Allen, and traded for the Saints #1 WR in Brandin Cooks.
The Patriots found a way to win again before the season has even started.