There have been a lot of things the Patriots "don't do" over the years that eventually are proven wrong. Spending big early and often in free agency is the latest example.
As the legal tampering period got underway last week, the Patriots immediately went to work, signing a boatload of players – many to lucrative top-of-the-market deals – that should help bolster what had become a sagging roster and allow the team the opportunity to get back in the playoff hunt.
Robert Kraft, the man who signed all those checks for all that guaranteed money, spoke to NBC Sports' Peter King of Football Monday in America and Albert Breer from Monday Morning Quarterback and explained the thought process of what went into the spending splurge.
"We had the second or third-most cap room at the start of free agency," Kraft told King. "This year, instead of having 10 or 12 teams competing for most of the top players, there were only two or three. And in my 27 years as owner, I've never had to come up with so much capital before."
The perfect storm of that capital (roughly $69 million is cap space) coupled with a sagging cap leading to more high-end players in their prime being available led to Bill Belichick's aggressiveness. The first two days alone saw Kraft commit close to $175 million in guaranteed money as Belichick went to work repairing the roster with a bevy of signings and trades.
"It's like investing in the stock market," Kraft said. "You take advantage of corrections and inefficiencies in the market when you can, and that's what we did here. We'll see. Nothing is guaranteed, and I'm very cognizant of that. But we're not in the business to be in business. We're in this business to win."
That was the same sentiment Kraft expressed to Breer. Last year's 7-9 non-playoff finish clearly did not sit well with anyone in the organization, and the team wasted little time trying to correct it.
"It was very exciting," Kraft told Breer. "Look, we want to win. We're spoiled. We got used to winning all the time. And that's our objective. It's a very competitive sport, it's all geared to having every team be 8–8 over a long balance of time, the way the draft is, the way we all have a salary cap. This was a unique year in the sense that the cap came down, and because we had so many players opt out last year, then have a non-continuation of the quarterback salary at the higher level, it created uniquely a big cap opportunity.
"It was a chance for us to recharge. We've never done anything like this in all the years I've owned the team. So what we did, as we were competing for new players, normally in free agency, you'll have 10 or 12 teams going after it. Here, we had two or three. I just want to compliment our staff, our organization, Bill, all the scouting and personnel people, for a real team effort. Look, we're not going to know till the fall — we always used to make fun of the people who won the headlines in March — but here I believe we really improved our team."
Whether that will be the case or not remains to be seen. Like Kraft said, teams have often been the subject of ridicule for taking the path the Patriots took. But if New England doesn't return to prominence in 2021, it won't be from a lack of effort on the part of team's brass.
"We gotta win," Kraft said. "And I think we're in a better position than we were two weeks ago to do that. But we'll let things play out. I've never had to come up with as much capital this fast, if you total the numbers, but we're happy to do it and we hope it has the right outcome."