Here’s how Bill Belichick reacts to losing: Spend, spend, spend some more.
The Patriots’ spending spree skyrocketed three hours into the first day of NFL free agency when they agreed to terms with pass-rusher Matthew Judon (four years, $56 million, $32 million guaranteed) and cornerback Jalen Mills (four years, $24 million, $9 million guaranteed), according to NFL Network. That came on top of an earlier splash with tight end Jonnu Smith (four years, $50 million, $31 million guaranteed) and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (two years, $16 million, $9 million guaranteed), per ESPN.
In a matter of hours, the Patriots have spent more guaranteed money than they have in any offseason in the last 10 years, according to ESPN.
For years with Belichick as coach and general manager, the Patriots have hard-lined their own free agents with a willingness to let them walk away, while shopping for bargains on the open market. It appears losing the greatest quarterback of all-time to the Buccaneers and suffering through a losing season (7-9) for the first time since 2000 have upped the urgency to patch holes.
Smith’s average annual salary of $12 million is the most the Patriots have ever spent on a non-quarterback offensive skill player, topping the $9 million averages for Rob Gronkowski and Randy Moss.
Judon played on the franchise tag for the Ravens last season, earning nearly $17 million. He had 34.5 sacks in five seasons with the Ravens. After Shaq Barrett re-signed with the Buccaneers, the Patriots had their choice of a deep pass-rushing market at the top and chose Judon over Trey Hedrickson, Carl Lawson and Bud Dupree.
“The Patriots clearly know that they have some holes on their roster and they also probably know that they can’t fill all those needs through free agency,” former Patriots executive Scott Pioli said on NFL Network.
Only the Jaguars and Jets entered free agency with more available cap space, but neither of those two teams spent big at the start.
The Patriots also got a jumpstart on their roster build earlier this month by re-signing Cam Netwon, acquiring left tackle Trent Brown from the Raiders, and dealing their left tackle Marcus Cannon to the Texans.