What Patriots' aggressive moves Monday mean for roster, rest of free agency

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The Patriots did not mess around on Day 1 of the NFL's legal tampering period, which over the years has turned into the first day of free agency with deals being agreed to left and right.

To recap, New England added seven new players Monday.

It addressed the tight end position by adding Jonnu Smith along with veteran wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. On top of that, it made big moves on defense by adding pass rusher Matt Judon, versatile defensive back Jalen Mills, as well as defensive tackles Henry Anderson and Davon Godchaux.

It’s no surprise the Patriots prioritized the tight end position considering it has received the worst production from that spot in the entire league each of the last two seasons.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the Patriots view Smith as a better player than Hunter Henry, the biggest name available, but perhaps they feel what they got Smith for (reportedly four years and $50 million) is better than what Henry will get from another team.

Smith is one of the better after the catch players in the entire NFL. Last season, he averaged 5.8 yards after the catch per reception, which ranked fourth among tight ends. Expect Josh McDaniels to find ways to get him the ball in space and allow him to make plays.

Relating to the position, this will be a major help for Devin Asiasi, who is entering his second season in the league. With Smith on board, not only will Asiasi get better matchups, expectations won’t be as high since he will be viewed as the clear-cut second tight end. The addition of Smith should give Asiasi a major boost.

Also on the offensive side of the ball, two receivers coming off career years were added in Agholor and Bourne.

For Agholor, it reportedly is for two years and $26 million with a base salary of $11 million per year. While it is a good chunk of change for the 27-year-old, he is a positive addition for the position and is a player who has speed, something it has lacked in recent years.

As for Bourne, he’s a nice under-the-radar player who should help the offense in a No. 3-4 wide receiver role. He had just four drops last season and seems like a player where his best football is ahead of him. Quarterbacks had a 95.1 passer rating when targeting him last season.

These two moves do not mean the Patriots will be done at the position, as it feels like another piece is needed. But, it does indicate they likely will not be in on the biggest names left such as Will Fuller, JuJu Smith-Schuster and maybe even Curtis Samuel, all of which seem to be in a position to really cash in.

The biggest move of the day, and maybe their entire free agency, was Judon.

The former Baltimore Raven has made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons and has 15.5 sacks the last two years combined. Paying a pass rusher a reported $56 million over four years is legitimate money and an indication of what the team sees in him.

With the Ravens, he played a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end role, which seems like a great fit for the Patriots defense and the scheme they play. Being one of the better pass rushers in the game, he immediately improves an area the defense struggled with during the 2020 season.

It’s also worth noting Chase Winovich and Josh Uche should continue to improve, so this could potentially turn into a strength of the unit moving forward.

Then there’s Mills, who started out as a cornerback in Philly and then transitioned to safety last season. It appears his future in New England is as a safety, especially with Devin McCourty nearing the end of his career and Patrick Chung as well.

Another thing to consider is maybe this is a sign Stephon Gilmore’s days in New England are numbered. If he comes back he will need another contract and with Mills getting four years and $24 million, do the Patriots have more money to spend in the secondary given some other needs on the roster?

Mills feels like a good signing, especially given his versatility. He also is known for being a good locker room guy, which will be needed once McCourty calls it a career.

As for Godchaux and Anderson, they are solid signings at a position that needed bodies. The group now has Godchaux, Anderson, Byron Cowart, Beau Allen, Akeem Spence, Nick Thurman and Bill Murray.

Both new players are known for their run-stopping abilities and their deals did not break the bank, so there’s still the opportunity to bring back Lawrence Guy or Adam Butler. In fact, it would seem like the team would prefer to bring back one of those two players because then the position would be in good shape heading into 2021.

All in all it was a surprisingly big day for the Patriots as they made the majority of their offseason signings, but with all the cap space they had going into the day, nothing precludes them from adding a few more in the coming days and weeks.

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