New England Patriots: Barnwell gives team B grade on offseason report card
By Matty Simo
Many experts in the media thought the New England Patriots won this offseason. Free-agent signings, trades and draft picks helped New England improve heading into 2017. However, one expert did not give the Pats an A.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell began releasing offseason report cards for NFL divisions on Tuesday, starting with the AFC East. Barnwell’s quality in-depth analysis has been one of the bright spots on the network’s website, and he discussed what went right and wrong for each team.
Of the four AFC East teams, the New England Patriots were not alone with the best grade in the division. The Patriots and Buffalo Bills each received a B from Barnwell. The New York Jets (C+) and Miami Dolphins (D+) were further behind to round out the group.
Before New England fans get too alarmed, Barnwell does make some great points. He simply weighs a few key factors more than others. For example, he thought holding on to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was a mistake when the team could have gotten something valuable for him in a trade. This is what Barnwell had to say about Garoppolo:
"Garoppolo’s value could erode dramatically. He could be mediocre if given the chance to play in a larger sample. He could move into the lineup and suffer another injury, suggesting that he won’t hold up to a starter’s workload. A reasonable chunk of his value would have come by virtue of the bargain-basement $1.1 million cap hit Garoppolo was due in 2017, which won’t be the case in years to come."
On a positive note, Barnwell praised the Patriots for trying to win the next few seasons with Tom Brady. Barnwell really likes the additions of wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He believes Gilmore could team with the returning Malcolm Butler to form Bill Belichick’s best secondary in New England. Here’s more from Barnwell:
"It’s weird to say for a team that just won the Super Bowl, but the Patriots conducted most of this offseason like they want to build the best team possible over the next two seasons, as opposed to building a team that is more likely to be great four or five years down the line. It explains their move to trade a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks, who is signed for the next two years at a total of just over $9.2 million. It justifies their aggressive decision to head into free agency and sign Gilmore in lieu of replacing Logan Ryan with a draft pick. They traded for or signed guys in their prime, including Dwayne Allen, Lawrence Guy and Kony Ealy."
Finally, the main improvement Barnwell thinks the Pats can still make is adding a few veteran free agents who are still chasing a Super Bowl ring. Barnwell mentions defensive end Elvis Dumervil and cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Sam Shields as possibilities. Check www.MusketFire.com soon to find out what Barnwell thought about the other AFC East teams.
Next: Patriots projected to win 13 games by Football Outsiders