The New England Patriots ended their offseason program June 15. Here’s a look at how they fared:
Offseason goals/grade: Reload to hopefully win a third Super Bowl championship in a four-year span. As Bill Belichick said in the final week of OTAs, “We need to move on to 2017. We’ve had enough parades, celebrations, enough everything.” The team’s aggressive approach on offense has had some asking if this year’s attack could rival the team’s record-setting 2007 offense. Grade: A-minus.
Move I liked: Trading the last pick of the first round, No. 32, to the New Orleans Saints as part of a deal for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Watching Cooks in spring practices, albeit in a no-pads setting, it is clear he has the precise route-running skills, top-end speed and mental acumen to be an immediate difference-maker at a position that has traditionally been challenging for the Patriots to draft and develop top-end talent. Based on what was available at No. 32, and also factoring in economic considerations, this was a slam dunk move.
Move I didn’t like: No upgrades to bolster depth along the interior of the offensive line. With limited picks in the draft (four), the opportunities weren’t plentiful, and it didn’t make sense to pay any big free-agent prices for backup insurance policies. So this could still be an area the team addresses as the regular-season approaches, eyeing contingency plans in the event they don’t have a repeat of 2016 when starting center David Andrews and guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason avoided major injuries and were a consistent presence in helping keep quarterback Tom Brady upright.
Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: Because the running game isn’t a big part of spring no-pads practices, training camp will shine a brighter spotlight on the Mike Gillislee-for-LeGarrette Blount exchange at running back. Blount was often at his best in challenging weather conditions and near the goal line, as his 18 rushing touchdowns last season showed. A backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo, Gillislee has a chance to be the main replacement for Blount.
Salary cap space: $19,196,764 (source: Overthecap.com)
Undrafted rookie free agents signed: DT Josh Augusta(Missouri); DT Adam Butler(Vanderbilt); WR Austin Carr(Northwestern); TE Sam Cotton(Nebraska); OT Cole Croston(Iowa); RB LeShun Daniels Jr. (Iowa); LB Brooks Ellis (Arkansas); WR Cody Hollister (Arkansas); TE Jacob Hollister (Wyoming); OT Andrew Jelks (Vanderbilt); S David Jones (Richmond); CB D.J. Killings (Central Florida); G Jason King (Purdue); LB Harvey Langi (Brigham Young); CB/PR Will Likely (Maryland); CB Kenny Moore (Valdosta State); LT Max Rich (Harvard); CB Dwayne Thomas(Louisiana State); S Jason Thompson (Utah); S Damarius Travis (Minnesota)
Unrestricted free agents signed: RB Brandon Bolden (Patriots); DT Alan Branch (Patriots); RB Rex Burkhead (Bengals); FB James Develin (Patriots); CB Stephon Gilmore (Bills); DT Lawrence Guy (Ravens); S Duron Harmon(Patriots); WR Andrew Hawkins (Browns); LB Dont’a Hightower (Patriots)