Chess vs. Checkers folks. This year is as good as any to point out why the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl discussion. This time of year is when most teams start dishing out large sums of money for the most prized free agents, however, the Patriot’s lack of spending has not made for a boring offseason down in Foxborough. Instead of throwing stupid money at a B class free agent pool, Bill Belichick has gone into a small trading frenzy over the last few days. Yes, they signed Chris Long to a pretty high prove it to me deal at 1 year – 2 million, especially considering the injury concerns, but the recent trades made by Belichick makes it obvious that he wants to resign defensive stalwarts who grew in his system while adding talent in other areas for low cost. The trades recently made by the Patriot’s organization instantly thrust them into the clear Super Bowl favorites.
Trading away Chandler Jones for Jonathan Cooper and a second round pick was a great move based on the simple fact that re-sighing him was a pipe dream at best. While the Arizona Cardinals have great athletes in the secondary, the pass rush was in need of immediate help. Jones was available because Belichick is more concerned about re-signing Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler who are all on the final year of their deals. The 2nd round pick is also a very fair value, while Jones benefited from the arrival of Jabaal Sheard and emerging defensive tackle play, 12.5 sacks is nothing to sneeze at. Let’s not sleep on Cooper either, he has not turned into the player the Cardinals wanted with the 7th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he is very athletic for his size, plays a relatively easy position (guard) and is coming off an injury which lowered the price tag. Belichick believes his excellent offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, can bring out the best in him.
The more surprising yet even more genius move came when the Patriots acquired the very talented Martellus Bennett from the Chicago Bears for a 4th round draft pick. Officially, the Bears get the Patriot’s 4th rounder and the Patriots get Bennett and a 6th rounder but either way this is an absolute steal. Bennett is also coming off some injuries from last year’s season but he turned 29 only a week ago and is hardly damaged goods. In 2014 he hauled in 90 passes (tops in the league) for 916 yards (third). He’s a tall, strong player whose best seasons came when Jay Cutler was throwing him passes, imagine what he will do with Tom Brady as his QB.
Over the past three seasons, Bennett is averaging 69 catches for 705 yards. This is not Scott Chandler coming to town, (41 for 470). Also, Bennett did his work in four less games. Chandler did have a less caliber QB’s throwing to him but he did have Tom Brady throwing to him last season and he did poorly even with that and Rob Gronkowski taking attention away from him. Bennett gives the Patriots not only a player to take away attention from Gronkowski but also another threat on the outside given his height and athleticism.
Trade acquisitions such as Bennett and Cooper can both be immediate contributors in areas of need for the Patriots. Those being offensive line and TE depth. Bennett is also in the final deal of his contract and could see this as a great opportunity to cash in after the season. The free agent acquisition, Chris Long, is a former number two pick hindered by injuries who just passed the age 30 mark. However, he is on that “prove it to me type deal” that could see him regain some of his former self from 2011 (13 sacks).
These moves made by Belichick are the typical low risk high reward moves we see year after year. Not to mention the players acquired are relatively young who have shown flashes of talent and have a lot to prove. None of these players are superstars but they can all be good to great contributors and the Patriots seemingly gave up very little to get any of them. Chess vs. Checkers folks.