Free agency officially begins on March 14th, and the New England Patriots will certainly be active trying to improve their team. However, free agent signings don’t always go according to plan. By now, all Patriots know about the ill-fated signings of players like Adalius Thomas and Leigh Bodden’s second tenure with New England. But what does the typical low of free agency look like for the Patriots? Earlier this week we looked at the best recent Patriot free agents. Now, let’s dig into the worst New England Patriots free agent signings by year.
The Patriots use the Buffalo Bills the same way major league baseball teams use their minor league affiliates. New England looks for Bills players that play well, and bring them over to Foxboro. Unfortunately, sometimes those promotions don’t pan out.
Gillislee began his 2017 season by scoring three touchdowns in Week One, but it was all downhill after that. The first-year Patriot struggled converting on short-yardage situations and wasn’t utilized in the passing game. Eventually, Dion Lewis stole the starting job, and Gillislee was a healthy scratch for the majority of the seasons second half.
There reason to believe Gillislee could turn it around in 2018. His skill set wasn’t properly utilized, and giving up on him after one season would be a bad move. With Lewis and running back Rex Burkhead free agents, New England should hold on to Gillislee at least through the preseason. With a little luck, he can work his way off this list by next season.
The 2016 Patriots were all too familiar with what Terrance Knighton could do defensively. He was a key part of the 2013 Denver Broncos defense which shut down quarterback Tom Brady and the offense in the 2013 AFC Championship Game. New England had lost Akiem Hicks in free agency and longtime nose tackle Vince Wilfork the year prior, so Knighton seemed like a natural fit.
The Patriots didn’t give Knighton a big contract, but he still counted as two million dollars against the salary cap. This investment could not have gone worse for New England. Knighton was buried on the depth chart throughout training camp, and only saw defensive snaps in the fourth quarter of preseason games. Knighton’s Patriots tenure would end after being released prior to the 75-man roster cuts.
Remember those two weeks where Wayne was a Patriot? The move was viewed as blasphemous when it first happened. Wayne, the longtime Indianapolis Colt, signed on with the Patriots and seemed to fill a huge need. The 2015 Patriots didn’t have the best receiving core, and Wayne looked like he wanted one more ride with a true champion contender.
New England was happy to have him aboard, and gave him a $450,000 signing bonus. However, two weeks later, Wayne decided enough was enough. After just one preseason game, Wayne decided there wasn’t any gas left in his tank and decided to hang the cleats up for good. New England could have gotten the same exact contribution to the team by lighting $450,000 on fire.
Of the players that saw at least three weeks on the 2015 Patriots, tight end Scott Chandler was the most disappointing. Chandler came over from Patriots North, AKA the Buffalo Bills, and was supposed to be the perfect complement to Rob Gronkowski. Chandler had success playing against the Patriots, and in theory that success would have made him and Gronkowski a dangerous duo.
Instead, Chandler was a flop. He struggled in blocking and didn’t play nearly as big as his 6’7”, 270 pound frame would suggest. Drops plagued his season, and when he was basically useless after suffering a knee injury late in the season. Chandler finished his season with just 23 receptions for 259 yards and four touchdowns.
The fact that this signing was the worst of 2014 just goes to show how great that off-season was. As previously mentioned, the Patriots brought in several players that played large roles in that Super Bowl 49 win. The only player that didn’t was longtime New Orleans Saint Will Smith.
Like Knighton and Wayne, Smith just didn’t have anything left in the tank. New England kicked the tires on an old free agent, and it didn’t pan out. Unlike Knighton and Smith, this contract had no ramifications against the Patriots. Smith came over on a veterans minimum contract, so his release didn’t hurt the Patriots in any financial way. If every off-season was like the 2014 off-season, the Patriots would probably go 19-0 every year.
Shockingly, the Patriots signed a free agent away from the Buffalo Bills. The 2013 Patriots were notoriously thin at wide receiver, and they tried to alleviate this problem by signing Jones to a three year, $3.71 million dollar contract.
This signing didn’t pan out, and Jones never played a snap with the Patriots. However, this signing can’t be blamed on Jones or the Patriots, but rather on a terrible case of poor health. Jones suffered from kidney disease, which forced him out of the league. He was released prior to training camp, and soon retired. Jones did show some potential on the Bills, and certainly could have contributed to that 2013 Patriots team.
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