New England Patriots Free Agency 2021 Recap

What is going on with the Patriots during the Free Agency, and how could it affect the team next year?


Steven Senne

Quarterback Cam Newton celebrates after scoring his first touchdown with the Patriots, Sept. 13 2020

On March 17, the NFL’s new league year officially began, marking the day that NFL teams can sign free agents (a sports player who is not bound by a contract and so is eligible to join any team) to their teams, in hopes of improving their roster. After a lackluster 2020-2021 season that left the New England Patriots with a 7-9 record, Bill Belichick definitely had a lot of work cut out in regards to the state of the Patriots.

Although the Patriots played a tough schedule in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic with a new quarterback, eight players who opted out, no preseason and closed facilities, they showed some promise to play better if they had a better team. Quarterback Cam Newton had a notably difficult year, throwing for only 2,657 yards, (24th in the league) 8 touchdowns (33rd in the league) and 10 interceptions (tied for 18th in the league), this could be attributed to the lack of weapons on the Patriots roster. Coming to a new team after nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Newton could have benefitted from offseason practice with his receivers, but this was not possible as a result of the COVID-19 protocols taken by the NFL. However, the Patriots have taken advantage of their sizable salary cap in the 2021 free agency, signing weapons such as Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry.

The Patriots did not have many good options at the wide receiver or tight end position last season. However, Nelson Agholor had a productive season as Derrick Carr’s number one receiver on the Raiders, with 48 receptions for 896 yards and eight touchdowns. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are also offering much needed relief to the Patriots, in relation to the tight end position. After former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement in 2019 (before returning 13 months later to play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), the Patriots have not been very lucky in the tight end position. Henry and Smith look to change that, serving as versatile players in a complicated and complex New England offense.

Many problems plagued the Patriots in 2020, but the lack of weapons on the offensive side of the ball was among the most egregious. Returning faces are always nice to see, considering the Patriots have a history of greatness with many of these returning faces. Among those returning are Cam Newton, David Andrews, James White, Kyle Van Noy, Lawerence Guy, Nick Folk, Deatrich Wise Jr., Ted Karras, Carl Davis, Cody Davis, Justin Bethel and others. New England’s offense last year relied heavily on their run-game, calling 502 rushing plays as opposed to 440 attempted passing plays, so the return of three-time Super Bowl champion James White is very important for the Patriots.

Kyle Van Noy is another familiar face that many New England fans are happy to see once more. In his most recent season with the Patriots, Van Noy was one of the most valuable defensive players on the team, and it will definitely benefit the Patriots to have him back.

Although many things about the 2021 NFL season are currently unknown, one thing remains certain: Cam Newton and the Patriots are ready to get their revenge, and it will make for an incredibly interesting season.