Patriots Notes: Kraft, Newton, Stidham, Free Agency

The Patriots went 7-9 during the inaugural season of the post-Tom Brady era, making it the first time New England had missed the postseason since 2008 (when the team was forced to rely on Matt Cassel in place of an injured Brady). Robert Kraft and the entire Patriots brass are focused on getting back to the playoffs, and they made that clear when they handed out an NFL-record $165MM in guaranteed money during the early parts of free agency.

“What happened here last year was not something to our liking. We had to make the corrections,” Kraft said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “In all the businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market. We were in a unique cap situation this year and it allowed us to try to [fix] things we missed, to a certain extent, in the draft. So this was our best opportunity.”

While Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office were able to patch some holes by spending in free agency, Kraft also acknowledged that this strategy isn’t a recipe for long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe, I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft said.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, linebacker Matt Judon, and wideout Nelson Agholor were among the Patriots’ major free agent acquisitions.

Let’s check out some more notes out of New England:

  • Kraft seemed to excuse quarterback Cam Newton‘s uneven play in 2020, noting that the veteran was joining a new team during an abbreviated preseason, had COVID-19, and dealt with an inconsistent receiver corps. “In fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year,” Kraft said. “I really do believe Cam getting COVID, and what it did to the team, it changed a lot. Now we’ll get a chance to see…Players on the team, in the locker room, really love the guy. In the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team, and put the right players in the best position to succeed.”
  • While the owner seemed to hint that Newton would be under center next season, he also kept the door open for former fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, who was expected to receive more playing time during his sophomore season. “I don’t know that Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot,” Kraft said. “We have to wait and see what happens, and we still have the draft. … Quarterback is the most important position on the team. One way or the other, we have to get that position solidified.”
  • While the Patriots certainly had the ability to spend on free agents, Reiss writes that Belichick’s “cachet” was a major reason why the Patriots were able to recruit players. “This opportunity couldn’t be passed up because of the prestige, being coached by some of the best coaches in the NFL,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan. “Coach Belichick told me that he’s been watching my career. For a player, you’re talking to a Hall of Fame coach, that really inspired me.”
  • Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia rejoined the organization this offseason as an assistant, but Reiss notes that the coach’s role has continued to evolve. Patricia has spent recent weeks helping to negotiate and finalize contracts, thus serving “as an added layer of support to Belichick,” per Reiss.
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11 comments on “Patriots Notes: Kraft, Newton, Stidham, Free Agency

  1. CoachWe

    When running/owning a business, which I have done for my entire career, it is important to capitalize on unique opportunities (example: Buy Real estate when market crashes). Many GM’s/owners failed to see this unique opportunity. Reduction in Cap gave Pats the biggest buyers market in decades. It was so obvious that the Pats saw this and jumped, and signed YOUNG players. Others did not.
    Some GM’s should lose their jobs for not seeing this opportunity like Bill did.

    • Ak185

      In fairness, most teams did not have the holes that the Patriots did, so spending $165 million in guarantees would be unnecessary, minus the cost in cap space that most teams could not afford.

      People only think about Brady leaving, but they fail to notice the number of holes the Pats had outside of that. The Pats had needs at pass rush, middle linebacker, tight end, and wide receiver even before Brady’s departure. On top of that, important starters opted out (Hightower, Chung, and Cannon), two of which are now gone. It’s no coincidence that New England spent money where it did.

      The team needed help in many different areas-the cost cutting moves and Cam’s ludicrously minuscule contract (much smaller than Brady’s in his last year in New England) gave them enough money to spend freely, much more than they’ve had recently and much more than most teams. I don’t think many other teams had as much need and as much ability to spend as the Pats, and those that did are going through long term rebuilds where spending on free agents is counterproductive (like Jacksonville).

    • CoachWe

      Spot on. Agree with your take 100%.

      In fact, I think Bill had an eye on this off season dating back to 2019, and that influenced his “reset” approach for 2020. They knew Brady may leave bc they had so many roster issues w/o a real chance at addressing it. The Pats carried $26m in dead money with zero flexibility after 2019. Why? Because they spent forward between 2015-2018. And it worked (appeared in 3 SB’s). Who would blame them for this?

      Draft: Because Bill does not draft WR’s well, he gets targeted a bit unfairly. Add to this that the Pats had a bad 2017 & 2018 draft as some picks have not worked out. Bill (like all GM’s) has his fair of misses. However, Bill red shirts his draft picks & I give each of them a huge break for 2020 (no rookie camps, no pre-season, Covid protocols & a terrible roster). Bill typically drafts well up the middle and does not get enough credit for this.

      Stidham: I do NOT think Stidham is as bad as some say, and I think Kraft is telling the truth when he says that they are still looking at him (needs a shot). Bill has a history of not playing many year 1 (rookies), but waits longer w QB’s, unless forced. And that is during normal situations. I truly believe that Bill was protecting JS (crappy roster and zero off season to work with young QB who has upside). I beleive Kraft revealed their true thoughts regarding Jarrett.

      This being said, I think the Pats will go get a QB to compete now. Cam was signed to a contact that says back up, red zone specialist, transitional QB, or locker room guy. I hope the new addition it is a young QB via trade, who “still” has upside, but now possesses a couple of years of time under center.

      • Ak185

        I agree with your points, particularly in regards to Bill planning for this year’s offseason. He knew how many contracts were expiring, and that he was going to have to go through a rebuild. That’s why he didn’t go fully at Brady to re-sign him. He would rather have had the cap space and/or the opportunity to get someone some reps, or at least someone cheaper to build around.

  2. crosseyedlemon

    “In all the businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market”.

    A nice way of saying we spy and cheat whenever we think we can get away with it.

    • rusty.coqbern

      That’s a toddler comment.. That’s not what that line meant and you know it – you just wanted to troll, pretty stupid take.

      And if you had any real idea of what any team does behind the scenes, you’d understand that they ALL look for ways to get over on the other teams.

      What a little crybaby… This is you: “Awaaaaa, I hang out on comment boards that have nothing to do with the team I like, I hang out and snipe other commenters on Patriots related articles because I’m a well adjusted”.. hahaha

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