4 ways Patriots failed to narrow gap with Bills this offseason
3. Patriots had mixed results on re-signing their own top free agents
In round two of the offseason — “Retaining your own top free agents” — the Patriots missed badly. The worst was not re-signing top cornerback and interception-master par excellence, JC Jackson. He signed with the LA Chargers.
Then, to make matters worse, the Pats inexplicably declined to even franchise tag the player and glean maximum draft capital should he be signed by another team. This was their worst move of the offseason.
Jackson was the team’s best cornerback, best defensive back, best defensive player, and arguably best player period. He should have been signed two years ago to a long-term extension. But for whatever obscure reasons the personnel team led by Bill Belichick could conjure up, they whiffed on that.
Also retained were solid performers Devin McCourty, Ja’Whaun Bentley, James White (though aging and coming off an injury season), and terrific kicker Nick Folk. They also did re-sign Trent Brown unexpectedly and should be lauded for that.
But then, to further weaken the offensive line, they inexplicably and inexcusably allowed (for the second time) versatile starting quality guard/center Ted Karras to leave in free agency. Additionally, while they let go of the declining Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, the team also released their best all-around linebacker last season, Kyle Van Noy, who signed with the Chargers, in another head-scratching move.
The Patriots’ actions in this area widened the gap between them and Buffalo.