Brandon Lloyd has joined the New England Patriots to fill the playmaking offense the team has been missing, not to mention a big name, which always adds a layer of excitement for the fans.
The addition of Lloyd was the exclamation point to the team’s busy opening five-day stretch of free agency, from which one conclusion can be drawn: Bill Belichick isn’t messing around.
Don’t be surprised if tight end Daniel Fells (Broncos) and/or safety LaRon Landry (Redskins) is the next to come aboard. Fells is scheduled to visit Monday, and Landry was in town Saturday. Who knows, maybe Belichick has a few other tricks up his hoodie sleeve, as the Patriots have been one of the NFL’s most active teams in free agency.
Time will tell whether the signings are the right ones — Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco looked like great moves last July but both fizzled — yet at the least one can clearly see Belichick’s intentions. Free agency has mostly been about strengthening the team’s middle class — players 20-40 on the 53-man roster — and the way the Patriots have worked the market has mirrored the way Belichick’s football teams often manage critical situations in games.
They’ve been smart, decisive at times, while showing patience and letting things come to them in other cases (e.g., Lloyd). They’ve also filled some key needs (defensive line, safety, receiver), which should give them flexibility heading into the draft in late April, a three-day stretch that will be more important than what unfolded the past five days.
No, the plan hasn’t always gone as scripted. Belichick was hot on the trail of Seahawks defensive lineman Red Bryant (he returned to Seattle), and the club was in on receiver Reggie Wayne, who ultimately re-signed with the Colts. Yet Belichick adjusted accordingly each time.
What stands out with the Patriots’ deals is that they limit their risk. Most of the contracts are shorter in length (three years maximum) and don’t break the bank.
Compare that to some of the other contracts signed around the league — Lloyd’s reported three-year, $12 million pact versus Pierre Garcon’s five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Redskins as one example — and it highlights how the Patriots don’t just seem to outperform teams on the field regularly. They outthink them in the front office as well.