The salary cap has finally been set and free agency is a little more than a week away from beginning. Tom Brady recently restructured his contract and that gave the Patriots some additional space to work with. Now the question is, what will the team do with it?
There has been quite a bit of speculation that the Patriots will become big players in the market, much as they were in 2007 when they signed Adalius Thomas, Donte' Stallworth, Kelley Washington and Kyle Brady while trading for Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The moves were a large part of the team's perfect regular season and run to the Super Bowl.
Six years later many believe a repeat is in order. The team has plenty of money to spend and there are more than a few attractive commodities available on the open market.
All of this leads us to a very simple debate this week for our Samsonite Make Your Case: Will the Patriots be big players in free agency?
PFW's Erik Scalavino says ...
! Tom Brady showed everyone how much of a team player he is and now the Patriots have the money to spend to help him out. You bet they're going to be big players in free agency.
First, the team needs to re-sign Wes Welker to keep him as the focal point of the passing game. Then they need to look toward free agency to sign Mike Wallace. This offense is extremely productive but it lacks big-play ability. Wallace would bring that and then some, and the Patriots have more than enough money to pay him.
I also expect New England to make a run at a numbers of defensive veterans who will be available. Baltimore's Ed Reed, Indy's Dwight Freeney, Green Bay's Charles Woodson … obviously the Patriots can't sign them all but at least one will be wearing blue and silver next season. And maybe even a trade for Percy Harvin will be in the works.
The Patriots may not bring in as many players as they normally do, but I expect them to be swimming in deeper free agent pools than they normally do. They have the money and the players are available – now it's time to get it done.
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
!In the real world, $25 million is a lot of money. But when building or maintaining NFL rosters, $25 million just doesn't go as far as it used to. People forget that New England had similar money to work with last year, and that spring's frenzy involved tagging Wes Welker while adding the likes of Steve Gregory and Jonathan Fanene. Not exactly the Canton class of 2019.
I fully expect the Patriots to be active this spring. But active could mean re-signing Welker and maybe even Aqib Talib. Active could involve adding a couple second-tier veteran contributors on defense to mix in with a very young core. Active could mean extensions for guys already on the roster like Rob Ninkovich.
The types of moves New England made in 2007 – and the success with which they worked out – are rare. That was a perfect storm of need meeting opportunity in both free agency and trades. The landscape isn't the same this time around. The need isn't as great for a team that's already pretty young and talented. I also don't think there are that many guys on the market who are all that enticing, especially when value is taken into consideration.
Belichick will improve his team this spring. He'll make moves that he thinks make his team better. But he's not going to be on a Redskins-like display of team building spending. It's not necessary. It's not productive. It's not the Patriot Way.
**Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.