It is the calm before the storm. In just under two months, the Patriots will embark in defense of their Super Bowl Championship. Despite the dreadfully slow last couple of weeks, the Patriots offseason, since hoisting their fifth Lombardi Trophy, has been quite eventful.
This offseason, many have stated, rivals the monstrous haul of 2007 that brought the Patriots Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and much more. So what have been the best moves of the offseason for the Patriots? Here are the Top 5:
Around the NFL: Mark Schlereth joins FS1 as newest NFL analyst
What’s Trending: Chiefs hire Brett Veach, an Andy Reed favorite, as new GM
NFL Mount Rushmore: What are the greatest NFL uniforms of all-time
cover32 Debates: Julio Jones vs Rob Gronkowski; which receiver is more dominant
NFL Reaction: Is 40 the beginning of the decline for Tom Brady
Patriots’ News: Training Camp schedule, Week One
Patriots trade for defensive end, Kony Ealy
Ealy burst onto the scene with the Panthers in Super Bowl L against the Broncos. In that game, Ealy recorded three sacks and an interception of Peyton Manning. He most certainly would have won MVP honors had the Panthers prevailed. But it didn’t happen and now Ealy finds himself in New England. Not a bad consolation prize.
In his final season in Carolina, Ealy recorded five sacks, 19 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one interception. Ealy replaces the departing Chris Long on the defensive line, but with a much higher ceiling. At age 25, the former second round pick could be on the verge of a breakout season if put in the right position to succeed. There’s no one better at doing that than coach Bill Belichick.
Stephon Gilmore signs on the dotted line
In probably the most surprising move of the offseason, the Patriots went for length at cornerback and signed Stephon Gilmore to a big-money deal. What makes the deal sweeter is that he was snatched away from the Buffalo Bills. He now joins former Bills teammates’ Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee.
Recognizing the long list of big receivers on the 2017 schedule, Bill Belichick signed the 6-foot-1 corner to add some size to his defensive backfield. Logan Ryan was the biggest corner on the roster last season but departed for Tennessee in the offseason. Gilmore replaces his size and comes with much more talent. Gilmore and Butler have the potential to be one of the top cornerback tandems in the league next season.
Patriots’ re-sign Dont’a Hightower
If all the other moves happened and the Patriots didn’t re-sign Hightower, the offseason would border on subpar by Patriots standards. Hightower is the leader of that defense and filling his void would have been impossible. Even for a team on the cusp of back-to-back Super Bowl Championships.
Hightower has been at the center of two crucial Super Bowl plays in the past three years. First, it was his tackle at the two-yard line that set up the Malcolm Butler interception to win Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks. Then, this past February, Hightower’s sack and forced fumble on Matt Ryan help swing the momentum in favor of the Patriots. His presence in the middle of the Patriots defense is unmeasurable.
Brandin Cooks arrives from the Saints
Brandin Cooks is not Randy Moss, but he is the closest thing to Moss that Brady has ever employed. Cooks arrival will add an incredibly scary dimension to a Patriots offense that has no shortage of weapons. Cooks’ ability to stretch the field, unlike any other Patriot playmaker, will open up holes for the likes of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
The best part of the deal was that the Patriots only surrendered the 32nd overall pick. That’s it. For a 23-year-old budding superstar, all the Patriots had to do was send the Saints their first round pick. There were talks that Malcolm Butler would be part of the deal but that never came to fruition. With Cooks added to an already lethal offense, the Patriots could threaten many records this upcoming season.
Patriots hold on to Malcolm Butler
There was a point in time where it seemed inevitable Malcolm Butler would be a member of the Saints. The excitement of the Stephon Gilmore signing was dulled a bit with the idea that he would not be lining up across from Butler. However, the draft came and went and Butler remained on the Patriots.
Now he WILL join Gilmore and form one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL. By now, everyone knows Butler’s story. Undrafted free agent turned Super Bowl hero. It would have been hard to watch Butler the talent and the person pack his bags. However, the return on a trade would not be worth more than just one more season of Butler.
– Ian Glendon is a National Co-Editor for cover32 and the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots. He covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on Follow @iglen31 Follow @cover32_NE and Facebook.