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Defending Champs Continue to Find Value

Author: Casey Krouse

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots gestures in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After their third super bowl victory in the last five years, the Patriots kicked off the 2019 NFL Free Agency period doing what they do best: nothing. While many teams treat Free Agency like a limited supply continental breakfast and climb over each other to overpay the “missing piece,” New England rarely makes a move. In fact, while teams were outbidding each other week one, Coach Bill Belichick could be seen shirtless on a beach in Barbados with his girlfriend. While some will argue that he should be present and involved in the offseason transactions, no one can argue with his methods because of his results. For what seems like an eternity, teams have been trying to imitate the “Patriots Way” by hiring one of the coaches next to him. The most recent example was the division rival Miami Dolphins naming Brian Flores, their new Head Coach after his defense dismantled the Rams in the Super Bowl. No matter how many times it has failed (Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, etc.), teams continue to hire the guy standing next to Belichick in the hopes they can replicate his success. However, the real key to New England’s success hasn’t been a secret at all.

The real reason they are far and away better than most other teams is their ability to find value at almost every position. Of course, they are not perfect as many will point to the Albert Haynesworth trade. Yet for the most part, they always see value in players other teams don’t. Two of the best examples of this have been wide receivers, Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Edelman was drafted out of Kent State in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL draft. Standing a modest 5 feet 10 inches, Edelman was looked at as a mid-tier possession receiver at best. Ten years later, he has two 1,000 receiving yard seasons under his belt and has easily become Tom Brady’s favorite receiver (Pro Football Reference).

Similarly, Wes Welker started his career as a nobody, catching just one touchdown in his first five seasons combined; however, he would go on to snag 8 in his first season with the Pats to go along with 1,175 receiving yards. He tacked on three more 1,000-yard seasons before departing to Denver (Pro Football Reference). This off-season has been no different. Even with the news that future Hall of Fame Tight End Rob Gronkowski would be retiring, the Patriots remained silent. It wasn’t until April 16th that they broke the silence by signing veteran Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas to a one year deal according to SB Nation. The Patriots had been one of the teams interested in trading for Thomas before he ended up in Houston. However, after ending his season early on IR, they acquired his services without losing any draft picks. Thomas was regarded as one of the top receivers through his time in Denver tallying 9,055 yards and 60 touchdowns (SB Nation). While Thomas will miss a portion of the season, the reward of a possible top ten receiver far outweighs the risk of a mere 6 million dollars. Even if Thomas is half as good as he once was, it is hard to argue that the Patriots got an excellent deal for a potential number one receiver. Let’s not forget about the last time Tom Brady had an actual number one option to throw to.