How this Patriots team was made
Championship teams are not made in a single offseason, they are made over years of smart decisions by management when it comes to the draft, trades and in free agency. No other team has been as successful as the New England Patriots, setting an NFL record by earning a 1st or 2nd seed in the playoffs for 5 years running. So how did the Patriots put together a consistent successful roster?
The Draft: The Patriots have been successful in the early picks in the past five years. With busts like Brandon Meriweather and Chad Jackson in the post Super Bowl victory years the Pats started to hit aces in 2010. That year they were able to grab McCourty and Gronkowski who are key players and former Pro Bowlers. Since then the Patriots drafted Solder, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins as solid contributors.
But good teams can find diamonds in the rough and the Patriots have done well in that respect. There is of course Julian Edelman who was a seventh round selection, fifth round selection Marcus Cannon, sixth round selection Nate Ebner, and most recently Zach Moore. The most notable sleeper pick of all time is of course Tom Brady.
Trade: For the most part the Patriots have succeeded in trades because of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots have been able to acquire Chris Jones, Jonathan Casillas, and Tim Wright from the Bucs. They also had Aqib Talib for two solid years and had he not been injured in both AFC Championship games the Patriots might have made another trip to the Super Bowl with him on the roster. The most notable trade has to be the acquisition of Akeem Ayers from the Titans. The second round pick couldn't get a starting spot in Tennessee but after being traded to the Patriots he filled in the void in the Patriot linebacker corps left by the injured Jerod Mayo.
Free Agency: The Patriots have capitalized on the mistakes of other teams. Brandon Lafell was not re-signed by Carolina and in his first year in New England has had more receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yards than any previous year at the Panthers. Once again the Bucs assisted the Patriots by cutting Darrelle Revis allowing the Pats to swoop in and sign him without having to give up any draft picks. Though LeGarrette Blount was signed in free agency after being cut by the Steelers you could also throw him in the trade category after being sent to New England from the Bucs in 2013 for Jeff Demps and a late round pick.
Some other key free agent signings include undrafted free agents Malcolm Butler and Jonas Gray. They were also able to sign Alan Branch earlier this year after he was cut from the Bills for being charged with a DUI.
Every off season there are big trades with teams giving up the farm to move up in the draft or a team setting a record for the amount of money paid for a free agent signing. The Patriots never seem to be apart of those headlines because many of their decisions tend to be low risk high reward. They may misfire on players like Haynesworth and Ochocinco but those decisions only cost them two fifth round picks and a sixth round selection cumulatively. They didn't spend $100 million to get Haynesworth like Washington did and because of that type of calculative maneuvering the Patriots have avoided the type of huge mistake that sets a team back for years. In fact Washington has been a model for how to not run a franchise with big free agent signings and giving up multiple draft picks for the often injured Robert Griffin III.
Moving forward it will be interesting to see how recent draft picks like Easley, Dobson, and Garoppolo will pan out. Hopefully their futures are more like Chandler Jones instead of like Jermaine Cunningham.
Follow me on Twitter @PatriotsFan1057
Read more of my work here