Patriots whiffs beginning to haunt championship chances

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have long been given free passes on bad personnel moves because of their greatness. It’s time for that to end.

On Wednesday, the New England Patriots released wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Matthews, entering his first season with the team, injured his hamstring in training camp, causing his termination.

The 26-year-old is the latest Bill Belichick move to go bust, and while injuries happen, the line is becoming quite long behind Matthews in terms of Belichick whiffs.

For years, the Patriots have made moves that get lauded mostly because they’re the Patriots. If another team traded for Dwayne Allen, it would barely make the ESPN ticker. New England does it, and Belichick is a genius. Perhaps the last few seasons are proving that while he remains every bit the savant on the sidelines, his magic is wearing off in the office.

Here’s a list of notable signings/trades Belichick has executed since 2015:

  • March 12, 2015: Signed Jabaal Sheard
  • March 16, 2015: Signed Scott Chandler
  • March 11, 2016: Signed Chris Hogan
  • March 15, 2016: Traded Chandler Jones for Jonathan Cooper and second-round pick
  • March 17, 2016: Traded fourth-round pick for Martellus Bennett and sixth-round pick
  • March 18, 2016: Signed Chris Long and Shea McClellin
  • Oct. 31, 2016: Traded Jamie Collins for a conditional draft pick
  • March 9, 2017: Traded for Dwayne Allen for conditional draft pick
  • March 10, 2017: Signed Stephon Gilmore
  • March 11, 2017: Trade first-round pick for Brandin Cooks
  • March 11, 2017: Trade second-round pick for Kony Early and third-round pick
  • March 13, 2017: Signed Lawrence Guy
  • March 14, 2017: Signed Rex Burkhead
  • April 24, 2017: Signed Mike Gillislee
  • Sept. 3, 2017: Traded Jacoby Brissett for Phillip Dorsett
  • Oct. 31, 2017: Traded Jimmy Garoppolo for second-round pick
  • April 4, 2018: Traded Brandin Cooks for first-round pick

Of the 17 moves listed above, the Patriots would arguably make four of them again. The signings of Sheard and Long weren’t hime runs, but were solid additions to a championship-caliber unit. Belichick would surely do the Bennett trade again, and the Cooks one-year experiment may have been worth it.

Still, in the end, you’re left with the losses of Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones for mere cents on the dollar. Burkhead, Guy, McClellin, Chandler and Gillislee have been either completely unproductive or underwhelming. In the case of Early, he didn’t make it through training camp before being cut.

The deals sending Garoppolo and Brissett elsewhere, while understandable considering Brady’s presence, brought back meager returns.

Additionally, his drafts have spawned little help. From 2013-17, the Patriots drafted a whopping 40 payers, a result of Belichick’s constant trading back. It’s something he’s been praised endlessly for, and it resulted in a single Pro Bowl appearance and zero All-Pro teams. The only player to reach the Pro Bowl, Collins, was dealt away.

In short, Belichick’s ability to draft, sign and trade for players has been poor in recent seasons, leaving New England in an unfamiliar role. This season, the Patriots are underdogs.

New England will certainly cruise in the AFC East and may still be the top team in its laughably soft conference, but the Patriots aren’t a top-five team leaguewide. One would be hard-pressed to take New England’s roster over that of the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles or Los Angeles Rams. Heck, arguments could be made for others as well, including the Green Bay Packers.

When Belichick retires, owner Robert Kraft should build a monument to him. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that in recent years, Belichick’s value has been confined solely to the field.

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