Starting last week when NFL free agency officially began, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has allowed coach Bill Belichick to sign 11 new starters and add 20 total free agents to a team that went 7-9 last season.
With the signings, Kraft has doled out more than $160 million in fully guaranteed money that could potentially grow to more than $172 million in guaranteed cash if incentives are met, which is the amount Kraft paid for the club when he bought it in 1994, as ESPN beat writer Mike Reiss pointed out.
For a team that is usually conservative during free agency, the spending spree is very out of character. But, as Kraft told Peter King for his “Football Morning In America” column, breaking the NFL record for guaranteed money spent on signings was actually a strategic approach.
“It’s like investing in the stock market,” Kraft said. “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. We had the second or third-most cap room at the start of free agency. 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.”
As we have seen time and again, the teams that spend the most in March rarely do well in January and February. Belichick, 68, and Kraft, 80, are certainly aware of that fact but they are hoping the Patriots, as they have been many times before, can prove to be the exception to the rule.
“I do remember we always made fun of the teams that spent a lot in the offseason,” Kraft said. “So we know nothing is guaranteed, and I’m very cognizant of that.”
In a separate interview with Sports Illustrated, Kraft discussed his feelings about Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl with the Tampa Buccaneers while the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
“Well, I was really happy for him,” Kraft told SI. “He’s a great guy and he gave us 20 wonderful years, and he made the choice to do what he wanted to do. Look, I wasn’t that happy to see him leave, but we gave him that opportunity to do it. And I want to say if we’re not going to win, and someone’s got to do it, I’m happy for him. He deserves it.”
Given all these storylines, it should be must-see TV when the Buccaneers and Brady head to Foxboro to take on Belichick and the new-look Patriots next season.