PFF analysis shows Patriots having one of NFL’s worst free agencies


The Patriots are off to a slow start in free agency, and other NFL teams are leaving them behind.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

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To be fair to the New England Patriots, there’s still a lot of time — and a whole NFL Draft — between now and Week 1 of the 2022 season to improve their roster.

But so far this free agency, the Patriots haven’t seemed too pressed about making big upgrades, signing just two new players (cornerback Terrance Mitchell and running back Ty Montgomery) in addition to re-signing veterans like Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, James White, Nick Folk, and Brian Hoyer.

On the other hand, they’ve arguably lost their best defensive player (JC Jackson) and a number of key contributors (eg Ted Karras and Brandon Bolden) while trading away arguably their best offensive lineman (Shaq Mason). That doesn’t even account for other key players that could sign elsewhere, like starting right tackle Trent Brown.

If you feel like the Patriots are moving in reverse so far this offseason, you’re not wrong.

Pro Football Focus’s latest Improvement Index for the free-agency period lists New England as having the fourth-worst offseason in the NFL at this point based on how many wins above replacement (WAR) they’ve gained — or lost — by their moves.

Through Friday morning, the index has the Patriots suffering a 7.51 drop in WAR based on their offseason moves compared to where they were at the end of the season.

That slots them one spot behind the Green Bay Packers (6.71 drop in WAR), who just lost Davante Adams to ex-Patriots coach Josh McDaniels and the Las Vegas Raiders in a blockbuster trade, and barely better than the Chicago Bears (-8.08) , Indianapolis Colts (-12.66), and Seattle Seahawks (-17.63), who each traded away important players to retool or rebuild entirely.

By contrast, all of New England’s divisional opponents — the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets — saw net improvements in their projected outlook coming out of free agency. On top of that, three of the top four teams in percentage WAR improvement are in the AFC, including McDaniels’s Raiders. That’s a rough sign for a Patriots team trying to move beyond the wild-card round next year.

Obviously, they can close that gap a bit as they sign more players. Once Deshaun Watson finally announces where he’s going to play, signings should pick back up significantly. Plus, other productive veterans might still hit the open market as cap casualties, giving the Patriots a chance to scoop up talent without hurting their compensatory pick formula.

PFF insider Doug Kyed suggested in his Friday mailbag the Patriots might check in with recently released receiver Julio Jones as well as new free agent Cole Beasley as options to boost the receiving corps. However, asking about those players doesn’t mean New England will sign them.

“I understand Patriots fans are getting impatient,” Kyed said. “I would simply say don’t hold your breath for anything major. If they do pull off a big trade or signing, then it will be a pleasant surprise.”

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