The 2023 offseason was full of what-ifs regarding the Patriots, especially surrounding top free agents that remained available late into the summer. After losing out on DeAndre Hopkins, who signed with the Titans instead of New England, the next focus was on Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott, two top running backs available for the first time in their respective careers.
Fans wanted either player in a Patriots uniform, and fortunately they got Elliott, even if most were hoping for Cook. Although the former Cowboys workhorse hasn't had the productive season he's become known for this year, he's been a solid addition to the offense, even more so since Rhamondre Stevenson suffered a season-ending injury a few weeks ago.
Elliott's signing just got a little bit sweeter, though.
Remember how criticized the Patriots were for signing him to begin with? There were so many fans and media members who had already concluded he was a washed-up player who had nothing left in the tank, hence why Dallas released him.
Maybe he hasn't put up the same numbers as in previous seasons, but the Patriots won this summer's sign-off, as Cook just manipulated his way out of his contract with the Jets on Wednesday. The running back that most felt was a better fit for New England is now a free agent again, proving they won the battle of the running backs from the summer of 2023.
The Jets missed the mark with Dalvin Cook signing
Once released from the Vikings, Cook was a hot commodity. Because he had amassed such an impressive resume, nearly every team in the league would have wanted to add them to their offensive roster. Despite that, the running back waited it out and chose to skip offseason team activities and most of training camp, which led to him signing with New York in mid-August.
It wasn't exactly a surprising signing for the new Aaron Rodgers-led team since other players chose to sign with the historically losing team because of the future Hall of Fame quarterback. But their season really never kicked off, as Rodgers tore his Achilles in their opening game against the Bills.
The injury negatively impacted their trajectory, which most deemed Super Bowl or bust. And possibly due mainly to that, Cook never looked like the stud player he had proven to be out of Minnesota's backfield.
Some of that could also be attributed to Breece Hall's rise on the depth chart. He was projected to be the RB1 as a rookie in 2022, but an ACL tear ended his season early. That's how he's performed this season, seemingly forcing Cook out of the weekly game plan. So why did they sign him in the first place?
It's more than likely that if Cook had signed with another team that needed an improvement out of the backfield, he would've had a much more successful 2023 season. The Jets didn't need a play of his star power on their roster if they intended to use Hall as their primary back. You don't sign a guy like Cook to be the RB2.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they seemed to sign the right guy in Elliott. Maybe Cook would've been productive as a Patriot, but perhaps he wouldn't have. All we know is the Jets will Jet, and this is just the latest example of that.