They breezed through Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” suspension, came out swinging on the other side and won their second Super Bowl in three years. This year if anything they’re better, and they’re looking to make it three out of four.
Last year: 14-2
Subtractions: TE Martellus Bennett, RB LeGarette Blount, CB Logan Ryan, DE Chris Long
Additions: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Stephen Gilmore, LB David Harris, RB Mike Gillislee, RB Rex Burkhead, TE Dwayne Allen
Notable Rookies: DE Derek Rivers, OT Antonio Garcia, OT Conor McDermott
During the current Patriots dynasty they’ve rarely been the team to “win the offseason,” instead relying on Bill Belichick’s remarkable ability to spin other teams’ fringe players into gold. This year however has been an outlier: there’s a strong case to be made that they had the best off-season of any NFL team. While most Super Bowl champs take a hit due to expiring contracts and depleted cap room, the Patriots added one of the top corner backs on the market (Gilmore) on a massive contract and acquired on of the top young receivers in the game (Cooks) in a trade with the Saints. They replace battering ram running back LeGarrette Blount with a pair of buy-low backs (Gillislee and Burkhead) who under Belichik’s tutelage will probably turn into Jim Brown and Marshall Faulk. That’s hyperbole of course, but by now we’ve all seen what the Man in the Cutoff Sweatshirt is capable of. All-time great Tom Brady returns at quarterback for his age 40 season with some new toys but it’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank. Only two 40-year-old signal callers have ever posted a season QB rating over 76: Brett Favre in ’09 and Warren Moon in ’97. Is that why the franchise was suddenly so aggressive this offseason, or is Belichick planning to retire soon and he’s not telling any of us? Either way, it’s hard to pick against the Pats to win the AFC East.