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Even Bill Belichick would have to admit that the New England Patriots no longer possess a championship-caliber roster. Of course, most of that has to do with his decisions as the team’s general manager.

After all, his recent work in the NFL draft has largely delivered underwhelming results. Plus, the Patriots don’t exactly have a reputation for swinging big in free agency.

However, with the future of Robert Kraft’s franchise hanging in the balance, Belichick has smartly secured a $19 million weapon without spending a single dollar. But will that lead to a dramatic turnaround in 2021? Or will New England need another year or two to get back in the Super Bowl mix?

Bill Belichick went the cheap route with his 2020 roster

While some of the Patriots’ issues last season can be traced back to losing a league-high eight players to the COVID-19 opt-out policy, Bill Belichick didn’t exactly put together the strongest possible roster.

After watching Tom Brady leave in free agency, many expected New England to target a quarterback in the 2020 NFL draft.

That never happened.

Jarrett Stidham generated some early offseason buzz as a potential successor to TB12, but the 2019 fourth-round pick barely saw the field. Instead, Belichick signed Cam Newton to a laughably cheap one-year deal that included playing-time and performance incentives.

The former No. 1 pick struggled to make basic throws in his first season in Foxborough. Meanwhile, he worked with an underwhelming cast of “weapons” that included former undrafted free agent Jakobi Meyers, disappointing former first-round pick N’Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd. The fact the Patriots didn’t sign a premier wide receiver or spend an early-round pick on the position severely hamstrung the offense.

Besides going cheap at quarterback and wide receiver, Belichick also tried to address another key hole in a less-expensive manner. Rather than signing a legitimate starting-caliber tight end, he traded up twice in the third round to select Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. The rookie tandem combined for five catches for 55 yards and one touchdown. Veteran Ryan Izzo didn’t fare much better with 13 catches for 199 yards.

Defensively, the Patriots also lacked capable players along the front seven. That showed up on Sundays, as the defense routinely got abused against the run. And the team’s star-studded secondary looked average without the aid of a consistent pass rush.

Overall, Belichick’s refusal to invest financial resources on the 2020 roster left New England in a poor position to defend the league’s top offenses. Combined with his cheap approach on offense, it shouldn’t have been surprising that his first season without Brady ended with a 7-9 record and no playoff berth.

The legendary NFL coach smartly secured a $19 million weapon without spending a single dollar

Bill Belichick undoubtedly has a ton of work to do to rebuild a roster that lacks premier playmakers at key positions. While the Patriots definitely need to do better in the draft, they also have to start finding impact players in free agency.

Of course, that will require Belichick to pay up to convince a prospective free agent to sign on the dotted line.

Luckily for the Patriots head coach/GM, he’s already secured a $19 million weapon to help turn the franchise around.

Ironically, he didn’t spend a single dollar to do so.

By essentially sitting out free agency and not making any major in-season moves, Belichick put his team in a fantastic financial position for 2021. Per NFLPA records, the Patriots have officially carried over $19,571,247 in cap space for next season. That ranks sixth among all NFL teams.

With the salary cap expected to drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that gives New England’s chief decision maker a key weapon heading into the most important offseason in franchise history.

What will the Patriots do with their enormous amount of cap space?

Bill Belichick didn’t have to spend a single dollar to secure a $19 million weapon for the Patriots. However, he needs to invest that extra money this offseason to fix some major holes.

Expected to have nearly $69 million in cap space, New England has ample room to make some major free-agent splashes.

At wide receiver, Belichick should have a few proven playmakers on his radar. Allen Robinson would instantly fill a hole that has seemingly existed for far too long. Corey Davis of the Tennessee Titans also represents an intriguing player who could fit well in Foxborough.

Moving to tight end, it seems almost a guarantee that Belichick will invest significant resources to find a real replacement for Rob Gronkowski. However, the free-agent options don’t look particularly promising.

If the LA Chargers let Hunter Henry get to the open market, he will assuredly have many suitors for his services. Will Belichick go well over the $10 million annual salary mark to land one of the NFL’s top pass-catching tight ends? If not, he may have to settle for an aging version of Jared Cook as a fallback option.

Let’s not pretend that the defense doesn’t need help, too. The Patriots absolutely have to upgrade their pass rush. Whether that comes through the draft, free agency, or a trade remains to be seen.

The team also has to handle its own free-agent class, which includes major contributors such as J.C. Jackson, James White, David Andrews, and Joe Thuney.

Needless to say, Belichick will have his hands full this offseason. But by taking the cheap approach a year ago, the Patriots also have a full set of financial resources to improve their talent-depleted roster.

All contract data courtesy of Spotrac. All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.


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