When NFL free agency started, no one expected the New England Patriots to go on a massive, record-breaking spending spree. But that's what they did, surprising fans and analysts everywhere.
Team owner Robert Kraft wasn't asleep at the wheel, letting head coach and general manager Bill Belichick run wild like a kid who went on an Amazon shopping spree after guessing his dad's password. Even though there's a lot of risk involved, Kraft supported the plan to give out more guaranteed money than any other team had before, because he knows that's what it will take to get his team back on top.
"It's like investing in the stock market," Kraft told Peter King of NBC Sports. "You take advantage of corrections and inefficiencies in the market when you can, and that's what we did here. We'll see. Nothing is guaranteed, and I'm very cognizant of that. But we're not in the business to be in business. We're in this business to win."
Kraft taking advantage of unique market
In the span of just a few days, the Pats handed out over $160 million in guaranteed money. How big is that in context? Kraft bought the entire Patriots franchise for $172 million in 1994, barely more than he just spent on one free agent class.
The decision to spend that much wasn't just based on the team's lackluster 2020 record and the need for depth. Kraft said that a confluence of events allowed them to take advantage of a unique market.
"We had the second or third-most cap room at the start of free agency," Kraft told King. "This year, instead of having 10 or 12 teams competing for most of the top players, there were only two or three. And in my 27 years as owner, I've never had to come up with so much capital before."
The Pats had $69 million in salary cap space, the third-most in the NFL. With the salary cap shrinking for the first time in a decade, they had a lot of purchasing power and fewer competitors to sign the top free agents. Plus, those top free agents were of a higher caliber since other teams were forced to jettison players due to the smaller cap. It was the ideal situation for Kraft to go on an unprecedented spending spree.
It's clear that Kraft is feeling good about how he and Belichick have handed this unique offseason. Despite that — or maybe because of it — Kraft still tempered expectations, reiterating that it's all a crapshoot in the end.
“We’ll see,” Kraft told King. “I do remember we always made fun of the teams that spent a lot in the offseason. So we know nothing is guaranteed, and I’m very cognizant of that.”
One thing's for sure: no matter how it turns out, no one will be able to say they didn't try.
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