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Grading the New England Patriots free agency moves

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Andy Behrens is joined by Denny Carter of NBC Sports Edge to look at the Patriots' offseason additions through a fantasy lens.

Video Transcript

[YAHOO FANTASY SPORTS INTRO SOUND EFFECTS]

ANDY BEHRENS: They've kind of just sort of made a mess of free agency. They're spending money like the team in your salary cap draft, right, who thinks that they can conserve money for some sort of later edge, but then they just mistimed it and they end up with Nelson Agholor. It's a kind of hideous collection of players that they've signed. I don't know, you can break it down, you've written all the blurbs. It's Jonnu Smith, it's Hunter Henry, it's Nelson Agholor, it's Kendrick Bourne. I've probably missed some guys. They resigned Cam Newton.

DENNY CARTER: All of those guys, I mean, do they inspire a ton of confidence in that offense from a fantasy perspective? I mean, to me, not really because you have the two tight ends who could kind of cannibalize each other's opportunity. And I think that we all kind of know that in a run heavy offense. Now the one thing I will say about New England's offense is that there could be some "known unknowns"-- if I could quote Donald Rumsfeld, which I do often, actually-- in that maybe this is part of a grand plan that we just can't know yet in which the team revamps, overhauls its offense for 2021. That might include being aggressive in the draft, and trading up and acquiring one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft, and running a more balanced offense than they did last year. Of course, in 2020, only the Ravens threw fewer passes than the Patriots. So in that sort of offensive environment, it really is impossible to see how both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith can become every week set-it-and-forget-it type starters in 12-team leagues.

ANDY BEHRENS: Yeah. So Cam Newton last year-- and I'm glad that you mentioned the possibility of the Patriots, not that they're a team that generally trades up in the draft and tries to move to some sort of prime drafting position, but it's possible, because certainly Cam Newton can't be their long-term plan at quarterback. They didn't sign him that way. He averaged 177 passing yards per game last year, which is fine if it's 1975, and it's not OK if it's 2020, right? That's crazy. It is a crazy number in the modern era. Obviously, he had COVID and he came back from that and was not good for several weeks, and there's all sorts of reasons there. Only had a couple of 300 yard games, and they were against absolutely horrendous defenses, right? I think it was Seattle and Houston. And every other game was, there were a bunch of games with double-digit passing yardage which, again, something you never see in the modern NFL.

He has to be better than this, right? Or is that just what we're gonna get from Cam? Some of it had to be the receiving corps, I guess is what I'm saying. He can't be that bad again.

DENNY CARTER: Sure. I mean, they had, bar none, the worst receiving group in the league last year.

ANDY BEHRENS: Yeah.

DENNY CARTER: I mean, when Jakobi Meyers is your unquestioned number one target dominator, I think you probably have an issue with the pass-catching group. And Bill Belichick knows that, and that's why they're going wild here in free agency. That definitely did have something to do with it, and Cam Newton said he never recovered from being out with COVID. And he's not talking about from the health standpoint, although that could have been a factor, too, for a bit there, but he's talking about from being behind. He said I missed two weeks. I completely missed two weeks. I come back, the offense has advanced. I've lost pace with how the team is progressing, and that affected him for the rest of the season.

Do I think he could be better? Well, I mean, it's hard to be worse. So yes, but I don't think we're going to see anything close to like a vintage Cam-type situation.

ANDY BEHRENS: Yeah, he does get a full normal off-season with the team, presumably, which helps a lot. He obviously didn't have that last year. He was a late signing, too. I have a difficult time imagining a path to either of these tight ends. It's a bummer with Hunter Henry because, maybe it's not a bummer, but I'd kind of penciled him into either Cincinnati or Jacksonville. I thought that was a pretty natural fit. There's still some teams out there that have glaring needs. Maybe by the time people listen to this podcast, those teams will have filled those needs. Zach Ertz is hanging out there as a trade chip and whatnot. But this is not where I expected two tight ends to go.

There has been, without calling anybody out, I've seen some relatively shorthand, maybe lazy, analysis about how these two tight ends, there was another time when the Patriots had featured two tight ends, right, in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. I see almost no similarities between these two players and those two players. I see almost no similarities between present day Cam Newton and prime Tom Brady. So I don't think I can fit either one of these guys into my top 10, maybe even top 12, tight ends.