The 2017 NFL Free Agency involved many shocking signings. However, it is quite obvious who won free agency…
In 2017, The New England Patriots found a way to further improve their team. As the Super Bowl Champions, it seems shocking that they could meaningfully improve their team. But the Patriots broke the bank, and found able veterans looking to win a championship. And although they did not sign a plethora of players, they signed high quality players. Their biggest acquisition was not a free agency signing, but rather a trade acquisition.
Early in the free agency period, the Patriots were able to ink a deal with arguably the top cornerback on the market, Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots broke the bank to sign him, by agreeing to a 5 year deal worth $65 million, with $40 million guaranteed. Gilmore showed promise during his career with the Buffalo Bills, which caught the attention of most team as when he became available.
The Patriots also were able to sign running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead spent the early part of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. While he was never their top back, he was able to come in and provide a physical running style. While the patriots are flooded with talented backs, they lost their physical bruising back in LeGarrette Blount. Burkhead can fill that void while also providing youth in the backfield.
The key to free agency is not only acquiring new players, but also retaining your own players. The most important free agent for the Patriots in 2017 was linebacker Dont’a Hightower. After almost a week on the open market, the Patriots were able to retain their Pro Bowl linebacker. Hightower’s presence became even more important after the Patriots traded fellow linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland midseason.
Finally, the most shocking and key acquisition of the New England Patriots, WR Brandin Cooks. In a shocking move, the Patriots traded their 1st and 3rd round picks to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for Cooks and a 4th round pick. Cooks had a breakout season in 2016, eclipsing 1,000 yards, and establishing himself as an elite wide receiver. Cooks joins an already stacked group of wide receivers in New England, and will most likely establish himself as the best of the bunch.