For some franchises, a 7-9 record isn’t too bad, and it certainly isn’t the end of the world. In Boston, and within the New England Patriots organization, a season that falls short of making the playoffs is an embarrassment.
The 2020 season was a transitional year for the Patriots, but at least one beat writer for the team is expecting Bill Belichick to look to come back with a vengeance after missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss shared a few notes after the Patriots took a crushing 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins that eliminated them from playoff contention.
According to Reiss, the pitiful display from his team might usher in a more aggressive and free-spending Belichick this offseason.
If there is a silver lining for the Patriots in their 22-12 loss to the Dolphins, it might be this: Bill Belichick’s disgust in assessing the damage could produce “Vengeance Bill ’07” when it comes to how he builds the team in 2021. That ties into my view that Sunday’s loss wasn’t about the scheme as much as personnel. The shortcomings at tight end, receiver, quarterback, and the front seven on defense stood out. It was just fundamental football–particularly on run defense–and the other side was consistently better in 1-on-1 matchups. I refer to “Vengeance Bill ’07” from this standpoint: After the 2006 offense was hamstrung by significant limitations with its skill-position players, Belichick went on a personnel rampage the following offseason and acquired difference-makers Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth, almost as if to say, “I’ll never let THAT happen again.” That’s how I would imagine he feels after reviewing the tape of Sunday’s disappointment. That’s not Belichick-level quality.
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The main concept in Reiss’ note is aggression.
Belichick sought to make a splash in 2007 when he acquired weapons for Tom Brady and the offense. Perhaps that doesn’t mean Belichick will spend big on free-agent wide receivers like Juju Smith-Schuster, but perhaps he’ll be willing to trade up to grab a top tight end prospect like Florida’s Kyle Pitts, or maybe even Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama star wide receiver Devonta Smith.
The Patriots are scheduled to pick 15th in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. That figures to be too low to grab Pitts or Smith. A move up a few spots might not seem like classic Belichick, but perhaps that’s how he’ll show the urgency to find some immediate weapons on offense.
Attractive free-agent wide receivers and tight ends will be available in free agency. Aside from Smith-Schuster, there is also Allen Robinson, Curtis Godwin, Corey Davis, Kenny Golladay, Hunter Henry, Will Fuller, and Jonnu Smith. Every one of those guys would represent a significant upgrade for the Patriots at wide receiver and/or tight end.
The Patriots will have over $63 million in available cap space this offseason, so the resources will be there. They could perhaps clear even more room if they decide to trade star cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Because of the way the 2020 season went, and the cap space available, if there were ever a year for Vengeance Bill to reappear, this would be the one.
Hopefully, this happens, as it will make for an interesting offseason.
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