In recent years, only a precious few players have found longevity in their New England tenures, and still, fewer opposing squads have rivaled the Patriots’ pervasive roster turnover. Annual title contention in spite of such extensive depth chart reshuffling offers compelling tribute to the dynasty’s adaptability. Equally impressive is the ability if each season’s sea of new faces to invariably offer valuable contributions to the perennial AFC East champ. It is imperative, however, to understand that not all of Belichick’s transactions have achieved equal success. While New England faithful has developed and deployed the motto “In Bill We Trust,” below you can find a few roster moves in which Bill was not to be trusted.
With just one day remaining until this year’s trade deadline, New England dealt promising second-round selection Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, filling a cavernous void at quarterback for the NFC South franchise. In return for Garoppolo, the Patriots received a 2018 second round pick – selection #43 overall. In his eighty-five meaningful minutes under center for New England, Garoppolo shined, throwing four touchdowns and leading the team to two early-season victories. I maintain, however, that the decision to deal Garoppolo was the correct one. In fact, I would have traded him sooner. In advance of the 2017 NFL Draft, rumors swirled that Cleveland was prepared to ship New England a 1st round selection (and more) in exchange for the Eastern Illinois product. While such a generous offer may be more fiction than fact, it’s easy to believe the Browns were prepared to offer more than a 2nd rounder. Barring a Tom Brady trade, the Patriots wouldn’t have been able to offer Jimmy any semblance of what he received in San Francisco, so a trade seemed necessary for quite some time. Why then, did New England drag Garoppolo into the final year of his rookie deal, and in doing so depreciate his trade value to a mid 2nd round pick?
New England’s leading rusher, Dion Lewis totaled a career-high 896 yards on the ground in 2017. Adding 32 receptions for another 214 yards, alongside irreplaceable contributions in New England’s return game, the Pitt certainly made his presence felt this season, a year in which he tallied 10 touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, though, he recorded zero regular season fumbles, a praise-worthy feat given Lewis’ history of shaky ball security. In the 2018 offseason, however, Lewis cut ties with the Patriots, inking a 4 year – $19.8 million deal with the Tennessee Titans. While New England has embraced the “running back by committee” approach for some time now, Lewis offered a crucial sense of stability down the stretch. In retaining the versatile runner, New England would have not only brought back one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets out of the backfield but also been able to spend their 1st round pick on a defensive talent, rather than Georgia running back Sony Michel.
Arriving from New Orleans via trade last offseason, Brandin Cooks brought his 4.33 speed to an offense that seldom boasts a true vertical threat. Not since Randy Moss had a wide receiver reached the 1,000-yard plateau in his first year under New England’s system, a feat Cooks ably accomplished in 2017. Using his speed and precise route running to stretch the field, the former Oregon State Beaver opened up the middle of the field for Rob Gronkowski’s signature seam route. Tragically, Cooks and fellow Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman never did share the field in regular season action. Cooks’ field spacing ability was sure to benefit Edelman, the team’s slot receiver (a position that often runs shorter routes in tightly packed areas), more than anyone else. In Edelman’s absence, Danny Amendola took over at starting slot receiver, where Cooks helped him score a career year. Days before the 2018 NFL Draft, Cooks was shipped to Los Angeles for a 1st round pick. While New England is sure to benefit from outstanding guard/tackle prospect Isaiah Wynn, Foxboro will feel the absence of the Stockton, CA native’s unparalleled explosiveness and fiery competitiveness. Becoming a true fan favorite in just one year, Brandin Cooks’ departure is one that New England’s fans have accepted only begrudgingly and one that Belichick will, before long, regret.
In March of the 2015 offseason, following the franchise’s 4th Super Bowl title, the Patriots shipped linebacker / defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and former 7th overall selection Jonathan Cooper (guard). The Patriots seem to have made the most of their modest return for Jones, turning the 2nd rounder into two special talents – Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell and North Carolina State guard Joe Thuney. Unfortunately, Jonathan Cooper’s time in New England merited less excitement. The Patriots released the former standout in early October. Meanwhile, Chandler Jones has flourished in the desert, starting all 32 games and adding 28.0 total sacks in his first two years with the new organization. Perhaps most impressively though, only Chandler Jones, Von Miller, and Khalil Mack have compiled double-digit sacks in each season since 2015. In the 2017 season, the former 1st round pick led the league in sacks, recording 17.0 en route to a first team all-pro selection. In addition to rushing the passer, the former Syracuse stud wreaked havoc on opposing teams rushing attack, leading the NFL in tackles for loss (28), building his case as the #28 overall player in 2017 (via the NFL top 100). Back in Foxboro, the Patriots’ pass rush struggled mightily all year long, securing 0 sacks in Super Bowl LII. Had New England retained Jones, he could have played well off of rising star Trey Flowers, affording the Patriots a formidable front 7.