Robert Kraft addresses Bill Belichick's shot at ownership over Patriots' spending

New England Patriots v New York Jets
New England Patriots v New York Jets / Steven Ryan/GettyImages

One of the biggest gripes that Patriots fans have had with Bill Belichick over the years has been his apparent apprehension in spending top dollar to acquire the talent needed to put the team in a position to win.

That frustration with the head coach came to an ultimate head when Tom Brady walked away from New England in 2020, with one of the rumored reasons being Belichick's refusal to pay the quarterback a salary worthy of his talent.

In the three years since Brady left, Belichick has remained adamant about sticking to his typical spending ways, except in the 2021 offseason, when he spent a historical amount of $163 million to sign roster-changing players to the team.

Because the Patriots are heading into the 2023 season in need of a dramatic change to become a competitive team again, there was an expectation it would be another free agency similar to two years ago, especially in improving the offense. But that's not what happened, almost exactly to the contrary, which again frustrated fans and media members.

The head coach addressed the concerns during his end-of-the-year press conference in January. When asked if he felt the team was getting value from the players they signed during the historical spending spree in 2021, Belichick pointed out how they've consistently been at the bottom of the league in spending over the last few seasons.

"Our spending in 2020, our spending in 2021, and our spending in 2022 — the aggregate of that — was we were 27th in the league in cash spending. Couple years we’re low, one year was high, but over a three-year period, we are one of the lowest spending teams in the league. Had we averaged that out in those three years, you would have had the same numbers. Whether it’s two low and one high, two medium, three mediums, two sort of high and one really low, whatever it is, there’s an average that comes. That’s the three-year average, we’re 27th in the league in cash spending."

Since team owner Robert Kraft has expressed his disappointment with how the Patriots have fared over the last three seasons, missing the playoffs in two, some assumed Belichick's apprehension to spend might have been coming from the top.

His comments were interpreted to allege just that, but on a recent appearance on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition, Boston Sports Journal's Greg Bedard revealed Kraft's response to it all.

Bedard stated that he asked Kraft specifically about Belichick's comments from January since most believe it was a shot at the owner directly, but Kraft swiftly set the record straight regarding how they maneuver free agency and spending.

"So I asked Robert about Bill Belichick’s comments, about how they’re one of the lowest cash-spending teams in the league. And a lot of fans took that as a little bit of a shot at ownership, that the Krafts aren’t willing to spend for this team. And I asked Robert about that, and I just want to quote him accurately. He says, ‘He has never come to me and not gotten everything he wanted from a cash-spending perspective. We have never set limits.’ And he further went on to say, ‘Money spending will never be the issue, I promise you, or I’ll sell the team.’ So that’s pretty definitive."

It's interesting to hear Kraft's perspective on the matter when Belichick's actions seem not to match his words.

Despite the obvious need to drastically improve the offense this offseason, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki were the only significant signings, with the receiver signing a three-year, $33 million deal and the tight end securing just a one-year contract.

A silver lining at the moment, however, is the potential signing of DeAndre Hopkins in the near future. Hopkins had a reportedly successful visit to New England last month, with the two sides said to remain interested and in contact to get a deal done.

If that happens in the next few weeks, perhaps this offseason will be viewed differently. If not, though, it will once again feel like a wasted free agency spent not trying hard enough to sign or trade for the top talent available.