Looking back and grading Patriots’ 2021 free agency
Patriot 2021 offensive free agents and grade
The Pats spent heavily on offense in 2021 free agency and the results were fair to middling. They brought in two wide receivers. On the plus side was the relatively inexpensive Kendrick Bourne. Bourne excelled in almost every way: on the field, with his best receiving season ever, to his electric personality. He was a solid addition, and essentially filled the role of the team’s No. 2 receiver with 800 yards on 55 catches. He also caught five touchdown passes.
On the negative side was the supposed No. 1 receiver Nelson Agholor. He was a huge disappointment, grabbing a paltry 37 catches. Lots more were expected, and his salary was significant. The team missed the boat big time on that signing. It was one of their worst.
Turning to tight ends, after botching two third-round picks in 2020 on TEs who haven’t done a thing, the Pats spent big on two veteran NFL tight ends, again with mixed results. The bright spot was Hunter Henry. Henry had a nice season, with nine touchdowns and 50 catches. That wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid nonetheless.
The second tight end, like Agholor, underperformed mightily. That would be Jonnu Smith. His season was eminently forgettable. Smith could only manage 21 catches and a lone touchdown. He was essentially a total bust.
The other top signing (who has since been allowed to leave again, an omission of the first order) was guard/center Ted Karras. Karras played in every game and started 13 of them. He was everything the team could have hoped for and more. It’s very Patriot-like, unfortunately, to allow a fine player who fit in well with his versatility and starting quality at two positions to leave. This non-re-signing represents Patriots personnel mismanagement at its worst.
Two other positives were re-signing stellar center David Andrews and kicker Nick Folk. Andrews is a mainstay on the offensive line, calls the plays, and is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Folk has been one of the Patriots’ best performers for a couple of years now. Re-signing him was a no-brainer.
Other than that, not much came from the free agent signings of Cam Newton, who was cut in camp, and James White, who was injured and played in only three games with 10 receptions and missed the rest due to injury. So what’s the final grade on offense?
One overall problem with the offensive free agency was you don’t get better just by keeping your own good players. You need to sign a bunch of additional good ones, as well. There were far too few of these. Their misses were huge and the hits were OK, but nothing spectacular. The grade because of Bourne, Henry, Andrews, and Folk is a B-. Just OK.
Now let’s turn to the defensive side of 2021’s free agency.