FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have lost four high-impact players in free agency, which makes 2018 a bit different for Bill Belichick and the team.
Belichick enters his 19th season in charge of the football operation. Only two other years really come close to matching what has unfolded this year with starting left tackle Nate Solder (Giants), clutch wide receiver Danny Amendola (Dolphins), No. 1 running back/kickoff returner Dion Lewis (Titans) and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler (Titans) saying goodbye.
Most recently, the 2015 offseason had some similarities. That was the year cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner; running back Shane Vereen; defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive end Akeem Ayers signed elsewhere. All five had played important roles in the prior Super Bowl championship season.
In 2004, to a lesser degree, it was goodbye to nose tackle Ted Washington, center/guard Damien Woody, running back Antowain Smith, defensive end Bobby Hamilton and guard Mike Compton. That was also a lot of good players on their way out.
The Patriots hung tough in both seasons after those personnel losses, winning a Super Bowl in '04 and losing in the AFC Championship Game at Denver in the '15 season.
So if history is a guide, the Patriots should once again be AFC contenders in 2019 even with such a talent drain.
Here is a recap of their comings and goings and draft-pick standing:
In each case, the Patriots sacrificed positioning in the draft and were willing to absorb around the same level of salary in each ($2 million-$3 million) to land what could be three quality players for them. One common thread: Each player is coming from a team with a new regime/coach in place, so his value to his former team wasn’t as high as it once was.
Draft pick reset
First round (31)
Second round (43)
Second round (63)
Third round (95)
Fourth round (136)
Sixth round (210)
Seventh round (219)
The Patriots are also currently projected to earn two 2019 third-round compensatory draft picks. That would help replenish the ’19 third-round pick they traded to Cleveland in exchange for Shelton and a 2018 fifth-rounder.
WR Danny Amendola
CB Malcolm Butler
RB Dion Lewis
LT Nate Solder
RB Jeremy Hill
OT Matt Tobin
The club had reached out to DE/OLB Trent Murphy as a possible target, but Murphy landed a strong three-year, $21 million deal in Buffalo. Clayborn comes in a notch below (two years, base value of $10 million), while Hill and Tobin signed modest one-year deals.
C David Andrews (last year, extension)
RB Rex Burkhead
LB Kyle Van Noy (last year, extension)
RB James White (last year, extension)
If Andrews, Van Noy and White hadn’t signed extensions last year and departed as free agents, they would have been included in another section of the analysis. So it’s only fair to include them here.