One would think the New England Patriots would look to move the needle as it pertains to upgrading their roster after they made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones and an objectively average roster.
After all, spending money willy nilly last offseason (mostly) worked like a charm. While some signings were questionable, acquisitions like Matt Judon, Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry proved to be revelations for the Pats.
Yes, New England isn’t flush with cap space, but the cap is essentially one giant loophole and the front office seemingly didn’t think twice about overpaying to keep the likes of Ted Karras and JC Jackson around for the long haul.
While interior offensive linemen are interchangeable, the same can’t be said for premier cornerbacks. With no direct replacement lined up for Jackson and the free agent market all but bereft of elite talents, Bill Belichick will likely need to take to the draft to find a viable replacement for the All-Pro.
The decision to let Jackson leave seemed puzzling at the time and it looks significantly worse after the Dolphins struck a deal with the Chiefs for Tyreek Hill, who’s maybe the toughest receiver in the game to defend.
The Patriots’ decision to let JC Jackson walk couldn’t look worse after the Dolphins traded for Tyreek Hill.
Care to enlighten us on the plan, Bill? We know the de facto GM couldn’t have foreseen the Chiefs being forced to trade their six-time Pro Bowler, but seemingly not even putting up a fight to extend Jackson while fellow AFC teams were busy making upgrades at quarterback and wide receiver makes zero sense.
The Bills are a separate mountain to climb, but the Patriots will now have to go to battle against the likes of Hill, Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker (if he’s not traded), Cedrick Wilson, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki twice a year when Miami hits the schedule.
While Jackson can’t cover everyone, his presence as a lockdown corner would’ve gone a long way towards helping Belichick game plan to neutralize, or at least contain, the Dolphins’ other weapons. Who’s covering Hill now?
Given Jonathan Jones works in the slot, that leaves Jalen Mills, who allowed a 114.6 passer rating last year, per Pro Football Focus, as the default option when Hill lines up outside. Even if the Patriots use the No. 21 overall pick on a CB, does Belichick really want a rookie covering arguably the most dynamic weapon in the entire NFL?
With Jackson, the Patriots would still be hard-pressed to devise a game plan to contain all of Miami’s weapons, but he would’ve made it a lot easier, that’s for sure.
It’d be one thing if New England was busy paying a premium to upgrade other positions of need like linebacker, wide receiver or edge rusher, but that’s been anything but the case. The only pickups they’ve made at those positions have come in the form of Mack Wilson and Ja’Whaun Bentley, if you even count him.
We sure hope Belichick and Co. have an ace (or several) in the hole, because nothing about this offseason feels conducive to winning. It started with letting Jackson leave for nothing and now they’ll have to face Hill and the Dolphins’ dynamic offense twice a season without their top corner.
Again, what’s the plan?