It is understood in the NFL that with success comes turn over. If there was one player on the Patriot’s 2016 roster who was not expected to return in 2017, it was Jimmy Garoppolo. While others such as LaGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett, and Logan Ryan have moved on and cashed in, Garappolo will still be a Patriot in 2017. In fact, in a departure from what the team has done in recent years, the biggest stories with the Patriots this off-season have been about the acquisitions they have made, rather than who they have lost.
LaGarrette Blount was a monster for the Patriots last season, rushing for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns and became a free agent at the end of the season. Despite the year he had, the running back that the Patriots were quick to sign this off-season was former Cincinnati Bengal Rex Burkhead. Burkhead is a versatile player who cannot only play all three downs from the running back position, but filled the tight end role for an injury stricken Bengals team in the playoffs a few years ago and can return punts. This is the sort of player who Bill Belichick covets. Later, the Patriots added Mike Gillislee, who looked very impressive coming off the bench for the Bills last season when LeSean McCoy was battling injuries. These two will be added to a group that already includes Super Bowl hero James White and the athletic but oft injured Dion Lewis.
Of course, the big news out of New England this off-season was their trade to acquire Brandin Cooks. Cooks will add another dimension to an already potent receiving core. The Patriots also traded for tight end Dwayne Allen. Adding these two into the mix with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Chris Hogan will make an already powerful Patriots offense even more difficult to defend. How will Josh McDaniels get all of these players involved? That is a very good question.
In another aggressive move, the Patriots signed former Bills’ corner Stephon Gilmore. While rumor was that he would replace Malcolm Butler, it now appears he is the long awaited replacement for Aqib Talib. Gilmore gives the Patriots a bigger body at the corner position with the skill to cover top end receivers. Butler can still be utilized to cover smaller, shiftier receivers, making the Patriots that much stronger defensively. While the Patriots lost a few of their rotational pieces on the defensive line, the addition of Kony Ealy along with rookies Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise will add to the teams.
It is scary to think it, but the Super Bowl champs have gotten even better this off-season. Whether this is a final push to win another Super Bowl before Tom Brady retires or just Belichick looking to recreate his team, the rest of the NFL better take notice. The Patriots have become an even bigger obstacle to overcome, and once again the road to a world championship will go for New England.
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