The Patriots have returned to bargain shopping following last year’s wild spending spree. And while some fans and pundits might be pushing the panic button amid New England’s quiet start to free agency, Robert Kraft is focused on the long game.
Two weeks into free agency, the Patriots have prioritized re-signing core veterans, adding affordable depth and, surprisingly, reuniting with Malcolm Butler. Along the way, New England’s AFC rivals — especially those in the AFC West — have generated headlines with flashy signings and trades.
But Kraft, despite clear frustration over the Patriots’ recent lack of postseason success, doesn’t seem worried about how Bill Belichick is constructing his roster.
“Well, I think we have a lot of young players that are coming into their own,” Kraft said Tuesday in response to a question from ESPN’s Mike Reiss at the 2022 NFL Annual Meeting. “I don’t think free agency is over. I know the big spending … remember, we have a salary cap. So, there’s only so much we can do in that area.
“I do think that we have an opportunity to pick people up right along the way, right down to the final cuts. That’s, to me, when free agency is over. And I’ve seen it other years. People get all excited with the headlines now, but in the end, it’s what happens throughout the entire year.”
Kraft is a big fan of quarterback Mac Jones, who looked like a potential franchise quarterback during his rookie season. And the Patriots owner is especially encouraged by the early returns from the 2021 draft class, which also included running back Rhamondre Stevenson and defensive lineman Christian Barmore.
“I’m happy that we, I think, we had a great draft last year and it made up for what happened the previous four years or so,” he told reporters, via Reiss. “And I look forward to hopefully having a great draft his year. That’s the only way you can build your team long-term and consistently.”
Time will tell whether the Patriots resume the upward trajectory they were on in 2021 before a late-season collapse. If they can continue hitting on draft picks and finding quality value in free agency, a return to annual contention remains realistic despite Tom Brady no longer being under center.