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Tunnel vision, not lack of spending is the Patriots biggest off-season failure so far.




It’s not the heat it’s the humidity…


While many in the media and all-over social media have complained about the Patriots lack of spending during the first week of NFL Free Agency, I’m more frustrated about a bigger picture issue. Tunnel Vision.


That’s my beef.


There is no single way to build a team back to relevancy and while Patriots pseudo–General Manager, Elliot Wolf preaches about the need to “draft and develop” he’s not wrong but having that outlet as your singular approach outside the organization is incomplete.

Therein lay the problem.


Coming off a 4-13 season, with a roster devoid of enough talent to be competitive, I fully understand the hesitation to overspend with rigor in free agency. There is a market there however, a market with players that can help now and in the future as this team theoretically improves. Disengaging from the process even partially and missing the opportunities free agency brings, is truly a fool’s errand.


Are the Patriots ‘new’ or better said, ‘newly empowered’ leadership fools? Too early to say that, but the opportunities outside of the upcoming NFL Draft that have been missed already, should have fans that are paying attention alarmed.


Let’s play the hits or in the case of the Patriots 2024 team-build rather, the misses…

First, let me offer this, unlike many, I’m not hung up on losing a $92,000,000 overpay for Calvin Ridley. A fine player but where the Patriots are right now in terms of their roster, I do not think that transaction would’ve made sense for either side.


That aside, here’s what I’m really rankled about.


All-Pro Free Agent Left Tackle, Tyron Smith. Signs with the New York Jets for 1-year and up to a $20,000,000 contract.


A double miss. If three-plus months of rumors, that the Patriots will draft their hopeful next franchise quarterback with the #3 pick in this year’s draft are true, then this isn’t just a miss, it’s an epic blunder.

 

Investing some of their $100 million in cap space into someone who can keep their prospective young buck standing up straight, would seem to make sense wouldn’t it? Remember Jim Plunkett?

 

The former #1 overall pick and future Super Bowl winner for the Raiders, was best known in these parts for cleaning the dirt off his oft-sacked uniform. Plunkett barely had enough time to get the ball snapped into his shaking hands.

 

Worse than missing out on Smith, you just let your division arch-rival New York Jets get better and harder to beat with him signed. For a Patriots team that for two-plus years now, has relied on its defense to compete, good luck getting to Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the blind side next season.

 

24-year-old wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. Traded to the Cleveland Browns for a 5th & 6th round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. 


Ugh. This is the first of my three very deep, long, groaning ugh's.

If you don’t want to spend $92,000,000 on free agent Calvin Ridley, I’m more than ok with that. If that’s the case though and the remaining free agent wide receivers aren’t of complete interest to you, then there is an obvious market to turn to for help to augment your draft & develop strategy, the NFL trade market.


For a team devoid of any first or second tier talent at wide receiver, to be sleeping through low-cost trade solutions at the position is 1st-degree roster negligence.

Punishable by job loss.


To see a young talent (24 years old), traded within the conference, for a 5th & 6th round pick is criminal. This is EXACTLY the type of acquisition and transaction the Patriots should be trying to make. Beyond protection, your young quarterback-to-be will need receivers to throw to. One that is young, proven, and affordable to acquire like Jeudy, should have been atop the Patriots radar screen.


While the Patriots were looking in their collective rearview mirrors to find players who used to play for the Cleveland Browns to match their new system, the current Cleveland Browns were looking at the road ahead, trading two late round picks for the 24-year-old potential star. Worried about his contract perhaps? Four days after Cleveland acquired Jeudy they restructured his deal, favorably I might add. Speechless…


27-year-old WR, Diontae Johnson. Traded to the Carolina Panthers for a player and a swap of late round picks.


It’s bad enough the Patriots missed Diontae Johnson in the wide receiver rich 2019 draft, when the Patriots puked with the N’Keal Harry pick, but now his most recent availability eludes them yet again.

 

Like Jeudy, finding young, proven, and cost-efficient options at wide receiver or any position of need, feels like a safe building area for the Pats. These transactions however are happening around them without even murmurs of their interest.  You would be hard-pressed to find a wide receiver that can get open faster than Johnson and with a new quarterback and a suboptimal offensive line, one would think that’s a skillset the Patriots would cherish. When you see the next miss however, perhaps it’s not…

 

Veteran WR Keenan Allen. Traded to the Chicago Bears for a 4th Round Pick.


Talk about a wide receiver that can get open quickly, please allow me to introduce you to longtime, star Keenan Allen and just like that, he’s gone.


The Chicago Bears clearly understand the value of having reliable receivers to help groom a young quarterback; adding D.J. Moore last year and now Allen to help make projected #1 overall pick Caleb Williams’ transition into the NFL easier.


Adding to the frustration is that each one of these players offers the types of skills, resume, pedigree, and relative cost-efficiency to help improve your roster now and expedite your rebuild.


Draft & develop is the correct strategy for where New England’s roster stands for sure, but no team-build philosophy should live in a silo. Each of the examples above is proof of that, as any combination of wide receiver along with Tyron Smith at left tackle, would have left you plenty of draft capital to build with and money to make the signings you have to date.


There’s no denying it or excusing it. Elliot Wolf’s tunnel vision so far has slowed the curve of the rebuild and likely made year one for the Patriots first-year quarterback-to-be more difficult. It’s especially frustrating, knowing that a broader lens could have prevented it. Tunnel vision is never good. It’s time for the Patriots brass to broaden their lens.

 

 

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1 Comment


Agreed with everything here. I also took issue with Jonah Williams who also didn’t go for a prohibitive contract. You could also argue that acquiring some of the players mentioned in your article would have allowed the team to approach the draft with options on how to move forward, instead of drafting solely based on need/filling roster holes - which causes teams to force picks and get into trouble.

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