5 of the worst free agent signings during the Bill Belichick era

Explore the New England Patriots' history of free agent signings under Bill Belichick, uncovering both hits and misses, as the NFL free agency period approaches.

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New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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2. 2021 - Jonnu Smith, TE

Jonnu Smith signed a four-year, $50M deal with the Patriots back in 2021. It was an interesting move, considering that Smith had never had a season with over 500 yards receiving at the time. To add insult to injury, Smith was never viewed as a blocking tight end, either.

Why the heck did the Pats give this man the BAG?

The move was questionable at the timeCo., but in hindsight, the move was even more perplexing. Belichick and co. got this signing wrong.

Smith played two seasons for the Patriots. In total. He caught 55 passes for 539 yards and one touchdown. For a player with an average annual contract value of $12.5M, that's insane. This move was trash from the beginning. Smith had never been a reliable weapon in the passing game over his previous four seasons with Tennessee. Expecting him to be the savior for a depleted roster worked out poorly.

Belichick got this signing horrifically wrong. The Patriots had more pressing needs than another tight end opposite newly acquired Hunter Henry. In hindsight, the Patriots would love to have this one back, as this signing was awful.


1. 2019 - Antonio Brown, WR

I mean, woof. Right? Antonio Brown is arguably the worst free agent signingAfter in New England Patriots' history. Coming off of six consecutive seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards, Brown had fallen out of favor with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In 2019 the Patriots threw Brown a one-year, $10.5M deal. This was a mistake.

Brown played in a WHOPPING one game with the Patriots, where he had four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. That was it. That was Brown's tenure in New England. Allegations came out about sexual assault, and the Antonio Brown Reclamation Project came to an abrupt end in New England.

He was more known for his off-the-field antics than anything he ever did on the field. That is never what teams want when bringing in free agents. Antonio Brown behaved incredibly immaturely during his tenure in New England, and the circus he caused easily made him the worst free agent signing of the past decade and potentially the worst signing of any team over the past ten seasons. I'm sure Belichick and the Patriots would love to have this one back. Antonio Brown receives the honor of being given the worst contract during the Bill Belichick era.


As you can see in this exercise, the Patriots have spent a lot of money on unreliable pass-catchers to fix their receiving problems. The irony is that the Patriots are still looking for a reliable receiver to help them move the ball downfield years later. The Patriots have tons of money to spend on all the wide receivers they want. Let's see if they choose the right one.

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