I decided to do a brief Patriots fan survey distributed to my Twitter followers. Here are the questions and results of that survey:
For Patriots fans, the 2022 off-season was relatively uneventful. Compared to their off-season last year, one of the most eventful in NFL history, this off-season was an absolute snooze fest. Besides the intradivision trade for DeVante Parker, no moves or transactions by Belichick changed the outlook of the 2022 roster. The Bills and Dolphins, both major division rivals of the Patriots, each made splash moves of their own, with the Bills signing Von Miller and the Dolphins trading for Tyreek Hill.
With all of these moves by rivals, I was curious to see if my concerns and frustrations with the Front Office were consistent with those of my peers. Hence, I decided to do a brief fan survey distributed to my Twitter followers. Here are the questions and results of that survey:
Question One (Poll): Do You Approve Or Disapprove Of The Front Office’s Job This Off-Season?
I was expecting this poll to be overwhelmingly negative, but much to my surprise, 64% of the surveyed individuals, said they approved of the Front Office’s job this off-season.
Clearly, the Patriots – Bill Belichick specifically – do not like to do things like the rest of the league. From the decision to “streamline” the coaching staff, trade away Shaq Mason for a fifth-round pick, and draft Cole Strange in the first round, Belichick frankly does not care what others think about him and his organization. This independent mindset from Belichick, one that has earned him several Super Bowl rings and dozens of years in the NFL, has been adopted by players and fans alike. It takes some getting used to, but fans have come to recognize that Belichick ultimately knows best, and that is why I think the results are the way they are.
Question Two: What Was Your Favorite Signing/Extension Made By The FO This Off-Season?
The FO made nearly 40 transactions this off-season, so the survey responders had mixed opinions and answers. Here are the numbers:
Favorite Off-Season Move By The Patriots, As According To The Fans
First (28%): Signing DeVante Parker
Second (8%): Signing Malcolm Butler, signing Tyquan Thornton, and signing Jabril Peppers
Third (4%): Drafting Cole Strange, trading for Mack Wilson, extending Trent Brown, drafting Jack Jones, and signing Lil’Jordan Humphrey
It is hard to get a real sense of what the fans actually liked since so many options are tied, but it seems clear that DeVante Parker was the fan-favorite signing. Even before the numbers produced from the survey, it was evident from fan reactions and commentary on social media that everybody loved this move from Belichick. DeVante Parker is a phenomenal player with an unfortunate injury history and now has a captivating New England system to play in. Everybody will be excited to see if he can reproduce his 2019 season, in which he received over 1,000 yards.
As for the rest of the results, I was fairly surprised that the decision to draft Tyquan Thornton was that high up on the list. Thornton was a big question mark heading into the draft, and many analysts were critical of Belichick’s decision to choose him in the second round. Regardless, Thornton’s remarkable speed is highly intriguing, and many fans may believe that could be the weapon Mac is looking for.
Question Three: What Was Your Least Favorite Move By The FO? (This Can Include Letting A Player Go. It Does Not Have To Be A Signing)
We’ve already gone into great detail about what the fans think the FO did correctly. What do the fans feel the FO did incorrectly?
The Least Favorite Off-Season Move by the Patriots, As According To The Fans
First (32%): Letting JC Jackson go to the Chargers
Second (12%): Trading Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers and trading Chase Winovich
Third (4%): Drafting Cole Strange, releasing Byron Cowart, not obtaining a high-end receiver, releasing Van Noy, drafting Tyquan Thornton, and trading N’Keal Harry
Like the question before, there is a clear frontrunner in the standings. Nearly one-third of all survey takers said that letting JC Jackson sign elsewhere was the worst move this off-season. Jackson signed a five-year, $82 million contract in March this year. This decision from JC Jackson came despite the Patriots reportedly offering a deal worth slightly more than the one of the Chargers. Regardless, the Patriots are left with an insufficient secondary due to the loss, and fans are clearly unhappy.
The decision to trade Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers, which is tied for second place in the standings, is also an understandable frustration. Mason was regarded as one of the higher-end offensive linemen last year, and I can’t imagine that people were pleased to see him depart in exchange for the insubstantial price of a fifth-round draft pick. To make up for the unnecessary loss on the offensive line, the Patriots controversially drafted Cole Strange from UT-Chattanooga in the first round. This series of debatable events could have been avoided if the Patriots decided to stick with Shaq Mason. However, if Cole Strange does well in his time with the Patriots, I’m sure fans will begin to look past the Mason trade.
Some of the other survey responses surprised me a bit. For example, the commonly accepted move to trade N’Keal Harry was on there. However, Harry was one of the worst draft busts in Patriots history and was in one of the most incredible receiving draft classes in NFL history. This unfortunate combination, coupled with a series of mind-boggling game mistakes, ultimately prompted the team to make a move, eventually trading Harry to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round pick. I’m not sure what people are unhappy about this trade.
I was also confused to see the Byron Cowart departure on the list of responses as well. Byron Cowart, the former fifth-round selection for the Patriots, released recently, was not necessarily a draft bust like Harry, but he provided little value to the team. Sure, Cowart was a decent backup who met the expectations of a fifth-rounder, but releasing him was one of the more insignificant moves this off-season for the Patriots. So placing him as the least favorite move of the entire off-season seems like a stretch to me.
Question Four: If You Were Belichick, What Would You Do Right Now To Improve?
It’s one thing to criticize the moves of others. It’s another thing to make meaningful moves of your own. So let’s see how the survey takers would change the roster if they were GM.
**Note: I will not include all responses since they are different and cannot be created into an accurate poll. The reactions seen below have been hand-selected from the survey.
“Restructure Judon To Save Money, Trade Agholor For A Bag Of Peanuts, And Sign Julio Or OBJ.”
This answer is very financially friendly, which I like. First, I think restructuring the contract of any player with a high cap hit, not just Matthew Judon, is a superb idea. The Patriots are approximately three million above the current salary cap limit, and creating some wiggle-room can be a huge help.
I additionally like the Agholor component of this answer. Agholor carries an absurdly high cap-hit relative to his production, and trading him for non-valuable draft picks would not be a horrible transaction. Once again, creating flexibility in the financial area is never a bad idea, especially when you can do it by giving up an insignificant member of the team.
The final part of this answer, possibly the most important one, is something I have been expressing for nearly half a year now. If the Patriots want to develop their second-year QB Mac Jones properly, they must supply him with the proper weapons. Julio Jones signed with Tampa Bay while writing this article, but I would love to see Odell Beckham Jr. become a Patriot. Odell recently said in the past that he was “very close” to becoming a Patriot, and I see no reason why he would not still like the team as a landing destination. However, Beckham remains a Free Agent, and I hope the Patriots will stay persistent in landing the Super Bowl Champion on their roster.
“Sign Better Cornerbacks”
The cornerback room for the Patriots is looking bleak at the moment. Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell, and Johnathan Jones are all players who are yet to show exceptional skill at the professional level. When talent is lacking that much at a position, GMs -including Bill Belichick- will often turn to the NFL Draft to partially solve their problems. By doing this, teams can keep developing their original starter while placing future replacements behind them. In the case of the Patriots, Bill Belichick selected Marcus Jones and Jack Jones, both cornerbacks, in the 2022 Draft.
Moves like this by Belichick make me doubt he will sign a top-tier corner. Suppose he is investing this much youth into the cornerback position, with more potentially to come. In that case, I find it highly unlikely that he will look through monetary negotiations. If you can’t already tell, the common theme of Belichick’s roster management is youth. He seems to be investing more and more into the younger guys than the older guys across the league.
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