I’m not going to be a hypocrite. When the Denver Broncos went out and had those couple of years where they signed Aqib Talib, and Emmanuel Sanders, and Peyton Manning, and Wes Welker, I didn’t panic. As talented as those players were, I knew that there was still a season to be played, and that on any given Sunday anything can happen.
Through the years the Patriots fans have embraced this mantra. Sitting through quiet offseason after quiet offseason while the Dolphins bring in Ndamukong Suh, and the Jets sign Antonio Cromartie, and all the while we laid back and didn’t worry. Making flashy moves was something that bad teams did all the time and it blew up in their face. Ultimately, flashy moves aren’t an accurate indicator of what kind of season a team is going to have.
Just look at the 2016 offseason. There were 6 players who signed contracts for more than 10 million dollars per year. Malik Jackson, Janoris Jenkins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Brock Osweiler, Kelechi Osemele, and Olivier Vernon. Three of those contracts were signed by the Giants, who got knocked out in the Wild Card round in embarrassing fashion. Despite “Winning the offseason”, the Giants couldn’t even win their division. Being beat out by the Dallas Cowboys, who had an extremely quiet free agency period in 2016.
Look at Brock Osweiler, aka the human dumpster fire. He looked like a legitimate NFL caliber quarterback when he was with the Broncos. But once he got to Houston, he looked like a blind man being handed a football. The fact is you just don’t know how a free agency signing is going to work out until you actually see it in the season. There are so many variables that factor in. A new system that they may or may not fit into, the chance that the player might get his money and shut it down, the chance that he just had a really good contract year and in reality isn’t as good as you thought. You don’t know until the season starts.
That doesn’t mean you can’t react to it. You can still decide whether you like the signing or not based on what you think of the player and how he’s played. But yesterday, I saw too many Patriots fans calling for the city to keep gas in the duck boats, and while that type of expectation should be present when it comes to the Patriots, it should not be happening in reaction to a flashy offseason move. The Patriots have been the ones who have not made these moves in the past and won anyways. Pats fans have mocked the Broncos and the Giants for giving players like Talib and Jenkins massive contracts in the past, so we shouldn’t be walking around like we are the smart ones for signing Stephon Gilmore or for trading for Brandin Cooks.
I for one still have many concerns. Butler and Hightower remain unsigned at the time of this article being written. The linebacking corps is barren without Hightower, and even with Hightower, it would remain a glaring weakness for the team. Eric Rowe still could be the Patriots second corner next season, and while I’ve expressed conservative optimism about the potential of a decent campaign from the still very young corner next year, another horrible season of him getting beat over the top is still more likely. Brandin Cooks is a very talented guy, but the majority of his yards came on streak routes. I’m sure the Patriots are going to be asking Cooks to run less of those and more slants across the middle, and I’m very concerned about if he can adjust to that style of play and if he has the toughness to go into the middle of the field with those big linebackers and safeties play after play. The concern grows even more when you think about the fact that they are giving up a first round pick for him, gambling a huge amount on his ability to adjust, as well as the idea that he will be able to form a connection with Brady, which is an extremely difficult thing to do. On top of all that, can Dwayne Allen bounce back from a bad year? Are we sure he isn’t a guy who just got his money and shut it down? We’re the Patriots right to choose him over Bennett?
I’m not saying they were bad moves, I’m just saying there are still problems and concerns regarding the team and that we should all take a step back. The Pats are by no means some unbeatable juggernaut at this point. People are ignoring the weaknesses that the Patriots still have and they are assuming everything will go perfectly, which just doesn’t always happen. I don’t want to bring up Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. We just don’t know how all the pieces are going to fit until they’re all on the field together. Just wait until the first OTA at least. No matter what happens we’ll still be great, but the important thing to remember is that these moves aren’t determining whether the Patriots will be good or bad, they are determining whether the Patriots win a Super Bowl or they lose in the playoffs. We all know the Patriots will make the playoffs no matter what, but it’s the moves that workout like Chris Hogan that win you an AFC championship game.
I know that it’s exciting that the Patriots are likely having their biggest offseason in the history of the franchise, but Super Bowls are won in February, not March. We still have a long way to go in this offseason, and it’s been a hectic one so far. From hoax Instagram posts, to Adam Schefter putting his career in the trust of whoever is giving him his Garoppolo information. There’s over a month and a half to go until the NFL draft and things are already going insane. I don’t understand why Patriots fans are calling the 2018 Super Bowl this early. If we learned anything from watching the second half of the 2017 Super Bowl, it’s that it’s not over until it’s over…
Photo: (The Boston Globe)