Notable acquisitions/signings: cornerback Jason McCourty, offensive tackle Matt Tobin, running back Jeremy Hill, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, defensive tackle Danny Shelton
Notable departures: wide receiver Danny Amendola, running back Dion Lewis, offensive lineman Nate Solder, cornerback Malcolm Butler
Best signing: Jeremy Hill. Hill provides similar versatility to what we saw out of Lewis last season. After a stellar rookie campaign in 2014, in which Hill eclipsed over 1,100 rushing yards, the 25-year-old has underwhelmed since. He has yet to reach 900 yards rushing, and ran for only 116 in seven games last season. He ended up being placed on injured reserve in November due to an ankle injury. Despite Hill not meeting expectations, a new start in New England could be exactly what the doctor ordered. He’s shown at times that he can be a top 10 running back and is a proven threat in the red zone. From 2014-2016 Hill was tied for the most rushing touchdowns in the league (29), with, wait for it… Legarrette Blount, a former Patriot who was a force at the goal line for three-plus seasons with the team. The former second round pick was also a teammate of current Patriot back Rex Burkhead, who, when healthy, proved to be New England’s go-to guy in the red zone last year. This move is smart for New England. It’s a low-risk, high-reward situation. They only locked up Hill for one year, and he is only guaranteed $150,000. Being in a winning atmosphere could help him turn things around, and New England seems to have a knack for turning players’ careers in the right direction. Hill could definitely be the next player to fall into that pool.
Worst move: Letting Amendola walk. Most of us knew Butler was gone, and it wasn’t shocking to see Solder and Lewis leave either, but Amendola signing with the Miami Dolphins didn’t make sense. With Brady in the late stages of his career, it’s fair to him to have a relatively consistent receiving corps around him. Amendola stepped up in a big way during Julian Edelman’s absence last season. That’s not to mention the fact that he played fantastically in the postseason, where he reeled in 26 catches for nearly 350 yards. He earned a respectable payday from New England, and sadly did not get it. His contract with Miami is for $12 million over two years. New England could have afforded to pay him that. While Amendola’s health is certainly a question mark, it’s tough to imagine him playing with someone other than New England now, especially with Edelman returning in the upcoming season. Amendola, Edelman and Brandin Cooks on the field together, with a healthy Gronkowski as tight end, would have been the powerhouse offense many hoped to see in 2017. Now, it’s another gap the Patriots need to fill. They have plenty of depth at the position, but letting go of a proven, clutch veteran like Amendola was not a good move.
It seems that almost every offseason in New England goes like this: A couple of questionable decisions, followed by a few under-the-radar pickups. New England’s never been the team to “win” free agency, although many would argue they did last offseason. Either way it seems the team is back to their formula. They have proven time and time again they will let players walk, no matter the how big the name is, and find a replacement. Most of the time it works to their favor and something tells me we’ll see more of the same in this upcoming year.