In terms of the immediate future, it’s hard to feel too excited about the Patriots’ prospects for the 2022 season after the trade deadline.
Not only did the team decline to add new players, especially on the defensive front seven, but they didn’t acquire any new draft picks by trading away potentially expendable veterans like Isaiah Wynn or Nelson Agholor.
The former is even more troubling when you consider the Bills and Dolphins both made big moves to ramp up for a Super Bowl run while the Patriots seemingly resigned themselves to a middling finish.
But if you’re a glass half-full sort of person, Boston Globe sports columnist Chad Finn offered one positive take on New England playing out the string with what they currently have.
“I think it’s about draft capital,” he said. “They’ve had two good drafts in a row. This year’s draft has a chance to be really special. You never know how those things are going to turn out — the 2003 draft that they had looked absolutely loaded at the beginning…a lot of those guys petered out.
But this past one looks like it could be pretty special, especially if [Tyquan] Thornton ends up being what people think he will. They need another one. So maybe, even if it meant giving up a fifth-round or a fourth-round pick, [Bill] Belichick was reluctant to do that to bring in somebody who could be a plug-and-play at linebacker or a backup tackle.”
Of course, that might beg the question of why the Patriots didn’t add more draft capital by trading away anyone they could to acquire more. (The answer is probably that they wanted to milk as much as possible, especially if it meant parting with quality depth, and didn’t get the deal they wanted).
But the prior point might be an encouraging one.
Why try to force open a contention window that doesn’t exist yet? The Patriots didn’t build a roster meant to compete for a Super Bowl in 2022 whereas the Bills and Dolphins clearly were bought in from the start. They had a vision of a bridge year, and they’re sticking to it. While they’re playing out that string, some of their young players are making immediate contributions, particularly ones from this latest draft class (Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton, Marcus and Jack Jones, Bailey Zappe, Sam Roberts).
Slowly but surely, New England is creating a new team and identity as mainstays like Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater approach the end of their careers. Only through good drafting will the Patriots once again become one of the AFC’s best teams, and they appear to be banking on that rather than splash moves at the moment.
That’s not going to help them now, but sticking to their guns here could be a good sign for where they’re headed, especially if they keep drafting like they have the last few seasons.