The 2022 NFL offseason has been one for the ages. With a record nine Pro Bowl players changing teams, this offseason is unlike anything we have ever seen, yet it is still only just the beginning. The AFC looks like the premier conference for the upcoming year. Several teams have made improvements in their quarterback position while others have acquired top-tier stars. However, there is one team that is missing out on all the free agency fun – the New England Patriots.
The sport’s top team over the last two decades has had quite a frustrating and underwhelming start to the 2022 season. Instead of following the previous season’s trend of heavily investing in the free-agent class, the Patriots are only making relatively minor moves and have still not addressed several holes in their roster. Last year they spent a franchise record of money and picked up tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, defensive end Mathew Judon, wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor and cornerback Jalen Mills. The team also picked up quarterback Mac Jones, running back Rhamondre Stevenson and defensive tackle Christian Barmore in the draft.
The draft has not happened yet and free agency is not over, but their moves so far have not been desirable. They started March off by releasing two-time Superbowl champion linebacker Kyle Van Noy, hurting an already depleted linebacking core. This was followed by the resignations of veteran leaders including safety Devin McCourty, running back James White, tackle Trent Brown, kicker Nick Folk, linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley and special teamer Mathew Slater.
The Pats lost a top cornerback in the league in J.C. Jackson, who went to the Chargers via free agency. The team also lost starting guard/center Ted Karras to the Bengals. New England traded another starting offensive lineman in guard Shaq Mason to the unretiring Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team also traded away defensive end Chase Winovich to the Browns for linebacker Mack Wilson. Replacing some of the departing players, the team brought in wide receiver/running back Ty Mongomery from the New Orleans Saints, cornerback Terrence Mitchell and brought back an old friend in former Superbowl hero cornerback Malcolm Butler.
The Patriots did not go into the offseason with a lot of salary cap space, but in the NFL, the cap can easily be manipulated. This year’s lack of signings isn’t strictly a financial decision.
What makes their lack of action even more frustrating is that teams that they will be competing against have gotten exponentially better because of the deals they have made. Miami and Buffalo, two division rivals, have put in a lot of work into their programs and brought in some of the league’s top players. The Dolphins traded for the electrifying Tyreek Hill and made him the league’s highest-paid receiver with a four-year $120 million deal, while the Bills signed former Super Bowl MVP defensive end Von Miller to a six-year $120 million deal.
Outside of the AFC East, Cleveland traded for elite quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Amari Cooper in separate deals. Denver brought in elite veteran quarterback Russell Wilson and Pro Bowl defensive end Randy Gregory. Defending conference champions, Cincinnati went from the worst offensive line in the league to one of the best by bringing in the aforementioned Karras, as well as Alex Kappa and La’el Collins to an already stacked team. Las Vegas acquired arguably the best wideout in the game in Davante Adams from Green Bay, as well as former sack leader, linebacker Chandler Jones. The Los Angeles Chargers recruited the aforementioned Jackson and teamed him up with their new addition, game-wrecking defensive end Khalil Mack to make an elite defense to pair with an electrifying offense. Finally, the Colts brought in former MVP quarterback Matt Ryan to be their new signal-caller, which is an upgrade from Carson Wentz whose play held the Colts back last season.
New England finished sixth in the AFC last season before getting smoked by Buffalo in the playoffs. As of now, they would be extremely lucky to get back to that spot. Granted the draft still needs to happen and the season does not start for another six months, but it is looking like it could be a disappointing season for boys in Foxborough.