Based on everything the New England Patriots have done the past few months, it’s safe to say Bill Belichick didn’t like what he saw from his team last season. After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 (when Tom Brady tore his ACL in Week 1), Belichick refused to play it safe this offseason. Instead, he took a surprisingly aggressive approach to upgrade a roster that lacked starting-caliber players at key positions.
While that strategy allowed the Patriots to fix most of their issues, they still have room to improve. Luckily for Belichick, the Atlanta Falcons have opened the door for the six-time Super Bowl champions to secure the missing piece of a championship roster.
New England vastly improved on both sides of the ball this offseason
Coming off a 7-9 campaign in which Cam Newton struggled mightily on a weekly basis, the Patriots had to make major changes this offseason. In the span of a few months, Belichick ensured the Patriots will look completely different on offense in 2021. In fact, his team will feature plenty of new faces on both sides of the ball.
Rookie first-round pick Mac Jones will compete for Newton for the starting job. And whoever wins the battle will benefit from having a supporting cast that now includes Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor. Plus, the Patriots added an intriguing running back to the mix by using a fourth-round pick on Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson.
Belichick also invested significant resources to fix a defense that looked slow and overmatched last season. He fortified the front seven by signing veterans Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, and Kyle Van Noy. New England also drafted two high-upside prospects in defensive tackle Christian Barmore and edge rusher Ronnie Perkins. Without a doubt, the Patriots increased their overall talent level, which sets them up for a quick turnaround.
The Falcons have opened the door for Bill Belichick to fill his final roster hole
Thanks to their offseason additions, the Patriots boast a much stronger roster than they did a few months ago. But they could strengthen their Super Bowl chances even further by calling up the Falcons.
In fact, Atlanta has opened the door for Belichick to secure the missing ingredient New England needs. According to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, the Falcons “would like to trade Julio Jones.” Because of the financial implications involved—Jones carries a $15.3 million base salary for 2021—only a few franchises look capable of making a move for the All-Pro receiver. Schultz mentioned the Patriots, Ravens, 49ers, Colts, and Chargers as teams that could be in the market based on their cap flexibility and the upside of adding a proven playmaker like Jones.
Although he turned 32 back in February, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound wideout still possesses the ability to dominate on Sundays. Despite missing seven games last season, Jones actually posted his highest yards-per-catch average (15.1) since 2017. He may only have a few years of elite play left in the tank, but the future Hall of Famer would instantly upgrade whatever offense he joins.
Belichick already invested free-agent dollars on the receiver position, but he didn’t acquire a true No. 1 target. Trading for Jones would give New England a legitimate star on the perimeter—something the team hasn’t had since Randy Moss. His presence would create much-needed space between the hashes and give the Patriots the ability to go deep. Plus, his large frame and wide catch radius would come in handy in red-zone situations.
Should the Patriots trade for Julio Jones?
Trading for one of the best wide receivers in NFL history seems like a no-brainer move, right? After all, the Patriots have struggled mightily to address the position via the draft. Why not add a proven commodity to a roster teeming with talent?
Belichick obviously has to consider the cost of acquiring Jones. If the Falcons want a first-round pick, it might be too rich for his liking. Could a second-rounder entice Atlanta to make a deal? Or maybe New England would consider trading Stephon Gilmore and a draft pick for Jones.
If the Patriots want to increase their odds of winning their seventh Super Bowl title, executing a deal for the seven-time Pro Bowler looks like a surefire path. Will Belichick pull the trigger and secure the missing piece to a championship roster? Or will the asking price prove too expensive for the Patriots to meet?
Let’s see if the man who calls the shots in New England has one more move up his sleeve.
[Correction: An earlier version of this article had the Patriots aiming for their eighth Super Bowl title rather than seventh.]