Free agency officially begins on March 14th, and it’s anyone’s guess what the New England Patriots will do. By now, everyone knows how beneficial free agency can be for the Patriots. Some of their best players in history like Rodney Harrison and Rob Ninkovich initially joined the team as free agents. However, cases like those aren’t the norm. Let’s take a look back on the best Patriots free agent signings by year to set a reasonable expectation of what to expect.

The Best New England Patriots Free Agent Signings By Year

2017: Stephon Gilmore

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and Bill Belichick stealing talented players from the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots made a highly un-Patriot move in 2017, signing Gilmore to a massive contract on the first day of free agency. The five-year, $65 million dollar contract was the highest ever for a Patriots defensive player in team history.

After a rough opening month, Gilmore’s season turned around in a big way. He became the lockdown corner he was paid to be and was among the best in the game by the end of the year. There weren’t many in the league better at taking away the opposing teams top receiver, and Gilmore’s great play was a large reason New England had the number one scoring defense in the NFL after Week Five.

Gilmore saved his best play for the playoffs. He was targeted four times in the AFC Divisional Round against the Tennessee Titans. He didn’t allow a single completion and broke up two of the four targets. Gilmore also clinched a trip to Super Bowl LII, making a phenomenal pass breakup on fourth down against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Patriots defense as a whole was terrible in the Super Bowl, but Gilmore played another fantastic game. Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffrey dominated the first quarter of the game but was completely erased after Gilmore began shadowing him in coverage. The Eagles probably would have put up 60 points were it not for Gilmore.

2016: Chris Hogan

Restricted free agents are people too! After short stints with the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, and Miami Dolphins, Hogan found a home in Buffalo. Hogan hauled in 77 passes for 876 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons as the team’s third receiver.

The Patriots snatched him away from the Bills and Hogan immediately made an impact. Hogan caught 38 passes for 680 yards, for a league-leading 17.9 yards per reception. Like Gilmore, he also made his biggest impact in the playoffs. Hogan suffered an injury in the AFC Divisional Game against the Houston Texans, but not before catching four passes for 95 yards. One week later, Hogan was the hero of the AFC Championship Game, recording nine receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Injuries plagued his second Patriots season, but he was still productive nonetheless. In nine games, Hogan caught 34 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns. He was playing through an injury for the majority of the playoffs but was finally 100 percent for the Super Bowl. Hogan continued his postseason heroics by catching six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

2015: Jabaal Sheard

After an underrated four years with the Cleveland Browns, Sheard came over to the Patriots on a two-year deal. While he underwhelmed in 2016, his 2015 season couldn’t have gone better for New England. Sheard finished his season with eight sacks and was arguably the best pass rusher on a team stacked full of them.

Sheard’s 2016 wasn’t as good as his 2015, but he still performed well enough to earn a three-year, $25.5 million dollar deal with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2017 off-season. Sheard’s monster contract helped net the Patriots a fourth-round compensatory pick in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

2014: Darrelle Revis

The 2014 off-season was one of the best in Patriots history. New England brought in several big players, including cornerback Brandon Browner, safety Patrick Chung, and wide receiver Brandon LaFell. However, the best move was getting acquiring cornerback Revis.

Before Revis, New England hadn’t had a true shutdown corner since the days of Ty Law. Sure, they had Aqib Talib for a season and a half, but he suffered injuries in both the 2012 and 2013 AFC Championship Games. Revis stayed healthy for the entire 2014 season. A different Patriots cornerback made the season-defining play, but the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl without Revis’ lockdown performance.

2013: Danny Amendola

Amendola’s Patriots career has been quite an interesting one. After failing to sign Wes Welker to a long-term deal in the 2012 off-season, New England went all-in on Amendola the following year. New England signed the former St. Louis Ram to a five-year, $31 million dollar deal to effectively replace Welker.

It’s strange to look back on it now, but Amendola looked like a bad deal in 2013 and most of 2014. Amendola tore his groin in his Patriots debut, allowing Julian Edelman to steal his starting spot. Now known for his postseason heroics, Amendola ended his 2013 season on a very sour note. The first-year Patriot was only targeted once in the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, and he dropped the pass. Special teamer Matt Slater received more targets than Amendola.

However, Amendola transformed from free agent bust to New England legend in the 2014 postseason. He was famously on the receiving end of the double pass against the Baltimore Ravens, but he did a lot more than that. He finished his night with five receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns and was an essential piece to the Patriots eventual 35-31 victory.

New England knew they had something special with Amendola, and changed how they used him. In the regular season, Amendola would typically only see the field on third down and key situations in the game. By doing this, they kept Amendola healthy for the playoffs, where he would annually dominate. Amendola is currently coming off arguably the best postseason run of his career. With Edelman absent, Amendola posted 26 receptions for 384 yards and two touchdowns as Tom Brady’s go-to receiver.

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