The New England Patriots were getting busy on Monday, the first day that teams are allowed to begin negotiating with free agents.
First, the Pats agreed to a four-year, $50 million pact with up-and-coming tight end Jonnu Smith, then they struck a deal with disruptive defensive end Matthew Judon on a four-year $56 million contract, and they capped it off with a four-year, $24 million agreement with the emerald-coiffed defensive back Jalen Mills, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus represents both Smith and Mills and also informed ESPN that Smith’s deal includes $31.25 in guaranteed money and Mills has $9 million guaranteed. Judon’s deal includes $32 million in guarantees, sources told Schefter.
These three rapid-fire free agent signings—as well as the less notable signing of DT Davon Godchaux—are very uncharacteristic for the Patriots, and show a willingness by the team and front office to splurge in free agency to try and make New England an enticing landing spot once again.
It doesn’t hurt that the Pats came into the day as the league leaders in available cap space, and that all three of these players actually fill immediate holes for the Pats, who had a lot of those to fill after a 7-9 season.
Though these are all high-quality signings, especially Judon and Smith, the Patriots are still a long shot to be contenders, and sportsbooks didn’t see these signings as moving the needle for New England either, with their odds to win the Super Bowl still sitting at +4000 (888sport), though the Pats winning the AFC East crown, for which they still have +450 NFL odds, wouldn’t be the craziest thing.
Mills struggled with consistency while with the Philadelphia Eagles, but now that he’s in a more structured environment in New England, he should be a welcome addition to a secondary that could use some depth.
Though his green locks and GreenGoblin nickname don’t exactly mesh with the Patriots red, white, and blue, Mills should have no trouble knitting himself into New England’s secondary thanks to his versatility: He started his career as a capable corner who could play outside or as the nickel man, and last season started 15 games at strong safety.
Smith could be the most exciting young tight end in the NFL, with a ceiling that would put him up in the top three at his position. He is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in football, but last season he also proved he can hold his own when it comes to blocking as well.
A third-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2017, Smith put up career-highs in touchdowns (8), receiving yards (448), and receptions (41) last year. Considering that Patriots tight ends have combined for the fewest receptions (55), yards (673), targets (87) and touchdowns (87) in the league over the past two years, it was about time they got themselves some help at the position.
Smith’s penchant for red zone touchdowns (all of his scores came from inside the 20 last season) also gives the Patriots a viable red zone threat apart from quarterback Cam Newton’s running ability, which the team did not have last season, as evidenced by their NFL-low seven touchdown receptions in the red zone.
Judon arrives in Massachusetts after spending the last five years in Maryland as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, during the last of three of which he served as the team’s top pass-rushing talent. The Baton Rouge native has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and has amassed 30.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles over the last four years.
At 6’3” and 261 pounds, Judon is no joke coming off the edge, but it’s not just his physicality and imposing presence that makes him such a danger chasing down quarterbacks. Teammates and coaches have raved about the 28-year-old’s dedication to studying, training, and practicing to help hone his craft.
Judon will no doubt add a measure of fiery intensity and quality coming off the edge for New England’s front seven, Mills will likely serve as an important depth piece for a strong Patriots defensive secondary, and Smith is likely to not only be Newton’s top tight end option, but his busiest overall receiving option if they don’t make any moves at that position.
Seems like a pretty productive day at the office for the Patriots brass.