New England Patriots Off-season Moves Have Paid Off

New England Patriots Off-season Moves

The New England Patriots are not known for spending big in free agency, but they broke that perception this past off-season. The Patriots acquired several big name players such as cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This type of team building isn’t common with the Patriots, but these unusual acquisitions led to New England making its tenth trip to the Super Bowl.

New England Patriots Off-season Moves Have Paid Off

Stephon Gilmore Solidifies the Secondary

Gilmore left the Buffalo Bills on the first day of free agency for a huge payday with the Patriots. As Gilmore struggled throughout the first month of the season, this started off appearing as a terrible investment. The first year Patriot struggled understanding the defense, and was benched during the week four matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

Since then, Gilmore has been everything New England could have hoped for. After his benching, Gilmore shut down Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans. After missing the next three weeks with a concussion, Gilmore returned to the lineup building on his good momentum. The former Buffalo Bills has been the number one cornerback that New England has needed all season.

Most importantly, Gilmore has saved his best play for the end of the year. The sixth-year corner made his playoff debut this season, and has put together arguably his best two-game stretch of the season. Gilmore was only targeted four times against the Tennessee Titans, breaking up two passes and not allowing a completion. Gilmore more than held his own next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and made the phenomenal play that sealed the game and launched New England into the Super Bowl.

Gilmore’s resurgence has coincided with the Patriots defense playing its best. The Patriots defense leads the league in points allowed since week five. Not so coincidentally, this coincides with Gilmore’s resurgence. The Philadelphia Eagles should have a hard time moving the ball through the air as long as Gilmore maintains this level of play.

Brandin Cooks Opens Up the Offense

After signing Gilmore, the Patriots decided that they needed to make more headlines. On March 11, the Patriots gave their first round pick to the New Orleans Saints for the speedy Brandin Cooks. At first, it seemed like he would add to an embarrassment of riches. However, after losing receivers Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell for the year and Chris Hogan for seven games, Cooks’ value cannot be overstated.

He may not be the perfect receiver, but the passing game would look far different without Cooks. Cooks ended his season with 65 catches for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. While he disappeared a bit down the stretch, Cooks put up most of those numbers against the opposing teams best cornerback. Considering Phillip Dorsett was the next man up for most of the season, Cooks was easily worth the first round pick.

Like Gilmore, Cooks is entering the Super Bowl on the heels of one of his best games of the season. Facing easily the best cornerback duo all season, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, Cooks hauled in six catches for 100 yards. Cooks also amounted an additional 68 yards on pass interference penalties to add to his impact.

Cooks’ numbers are great on their own, but they become more impressive when realizing that most of the production came after tight end Rob Gronkowski left the game. Gronkowski is an absolute monster, and with him off the field Jacksonville could put more focus on stopping Cooks. Fellow receiver Danny Amendola (rightfully) is praised for his heroics, but New England probably doesn’t win that game without Cooks.

The Patriots two biggest off-season moves paid huge dividends for the team. Both players have been crucial to the teams success in making yet another Super Bowl. However, one of New England’s best moves was one they didn’t make.

Keeping Malcolm Butler Pays Off

Cornerback Malcolm Butler‘s future was up in the air this off-season. The Patriots had just signed Gilmore to a huge deal, and traded their first rounder to the Saints. Butler didn’t have a role, and New Orleans was showing interest in trading for the corner.

However, New England didn’t make the trade, and that decision has paid off. Butler hasn’t had his best year, but has still been crucial to the teams success. He has the ability to play every coverage New England runs, and is a clear step up above the rest of the depth chart. Eric Rowe missed six weeks with an injury, and Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi lack experience and upside. Without Butler, this defense would have had a major liability as their second and third corners.

This type of success isn’t supposed to happen in football. To win 12 or more games annually requires near perfection in team building. And once more, the Patriots have accomplished the amazing feat. The New England Patriots off-season moves were critical to building the success of this team. This article doesn’t even take into account the smaller acquisitions like running back Rex Burkhead, defensive lineman Lawrence Guy, and linebacker Marquis Flowers. This uncanny ability to make all the right choices has once more led New England into the Super Bowl and on the door of football immortality.

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