It was not long ago that the New England Patriots were able to entice any NFL free agent to come play in New England.
The Patriots are an organization that for two decades, had the full package deal. I’m talking about great ownership, great coaching, and the greatest quarterback of all time. That trio was very successful for a long time.
As everyone knows, the Patriots have had nine Super Bowl appearances and won six Super Bowls since 2001. So luring in big-name free agents this offseason should be easy, right? Especially with such a successful organization, right?
Not so fast.
The Patriots still possess one of the greatest coaches of all-time in Bill Belichick, but without Tom Brady, they lack that elite quarterback they once had that would attract players to New England.
Two prime examples of players we all thought were perfect fits for the Patriots are Hunter Henry and Allen Robinson. The Patriots are in the market for a tight end and a wide receiver this offseason. In fact, ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote a column linking both players to the Patriots. Seems like a done deal right? Especially since the Patriots have a projected $64 million in cap space, per PatsCap’s Miguel Benzan.
The question is, based on both Henry’s and Allen’s recent comments, did they already close the door on possibly signing with the Patriots?
During an interview Friday, February 19 with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Henry said he of course wants to be fairly compensated in free agency but also does not want to join a team that has uncertainty at quarterback.
“I think obviously, you’ve got to look at it financially,” the Los Angeles Chargers star said. “I would be lying to you if I (said), ‘I’m not even going to look at the money,’ or anything like that. That’s part of it. That’s part of our job and everything. But I don’t think it’s all about that.
“I want to play somewhere where there’s a good quarterback. That’s huge for our position. It makes things a lot easier. … Playing with a good quarterback always makes things better. You’ve got to look at both. You’ve got to look at some of the financial stuff but not dive too deep into it that you go chasing it, because I also want to play with a good quarterback.”
“I’m still on the hunt to be a Hall-of-Fame receiver,” Robinson told GoLongTD.com. “That’s definitely important to me, as far as being able to play my best this next part — the prime of my career. That’s what it’s about. It’s about being able to play your best, being able to play meaningful games, being able to compete for a Super Bowl.”
Robinson was also asked if he thought he could get both, which is the contract he seeks, but with a contending team.
“I definitely think I can.”
Based on the comments made by both Henry and Allen, it is plain as day that until Belichick figures out his quarterback situation, New England simply is not the desired destination it once was.
As for Henry, well he is right. Without a good quarterback in this era of the NFL, you are toast. Just look back at the final four teams Championship weekend. The remaining quarterbacks were Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen. Unfortunately for the Patriots, they do not have a top quarterback. And to make matters worse, the rest of the league already saw how Brady struggled with a lack of offensive firepower in 2019. Newton had the exact same problem in 2020, only he put up even worse stats than Brady.
As for Robinson, when a player of his caliber is talking about being a hall of fame receiver and playing in meaningful games, why would he come to New England? The Patriots do not have a good quarterback that can get him the ball and they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Last season Robinson caught 102 passes between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.
As it stands today, why would any free agent look at this Patriots roster and feel good about it? Players across the league talk. It’s no secret that the Patriots went 7-9 in 2020 because of poor quarterback play and subpar pass catchers. But to be fair, part of Belichick’s job is to build a good roster. He has his work cut out for him this offseason.
For what it’s worth, Newton sat down with Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson, and Fred Taylor for the I Am Athlete podcast, where the quarterback made some interesting comments regarding the 2020 season with the Patriots.
Newton was asked if he would go back to New England, as, after all, he’s a free agent.
So, is there a chance?
“There’s always a chance for everything,” Newton said.
With Newton set to hit the free-agent market, Belichick needs to make a decision on who his starting quarterback will be. As of March 17th, the Patriots will not have a quarterback on their roster. Your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly the Patriot’s plan is at the position, but if Belichick wants to attract good free agents, naming his starting quarterback is a good first step.