Way We Hear It: New England Patriots could move on from another offseason acquisition
Bill Belichick the coach has it tough enough this season with his team not playing terrific football, but Belichick the general manager might be part of the reason why.
The New England Patriots eschewed a more passive approach and their standing draft-building modus operandi for a more aggressive tact. They opted to acquire a slew of veterans to bolster what looked like a strong roster, which had some people talking 16-0 this season.
Foolish as that was even then, it’s clear now that many of those moves have not panned out to date. The Patriots already have moved on from one player they traded for in the offseason, and more such moves could be coming.
The Patriots opened their flurry of moves this offseason with a trade that appeared to be win-win. The Colts shipped tight end Dwayne Allen to New England in a swap of draft picks that moved the Patriots’ fourth-round pick (No. 137 overall) to Indy for Allen and the Colts’ sixth-rounder (No. 200 overall).
To date, the move has been an abject failure for the Patriots. Not only does Allen not have a catch this season, but his blocking — advertised as a potential strength — has not stood out consistently enough. In Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, Allen’s role was reduced significantly. He played only six snaps, with the Patriots opting to shift left tackle Nate Solder out as a third tight end more often. The Patriots also used James Develin as a fullback in the game.
Although the Patriots for years now have been a gameplan-specific team that has adjust its personnel and usage dramatically from one game to the next, we don’t see this as any kind of positive development for Allen. After struggling in OTAs badly with drops, Allen appeared to rebound in training camp and regain some of the coaches’ and Tom Brady’s faith.
But Allen has not rewarded the Patriots with much in the way of game contributions and soon could be fighting for his spot on the roster. We hear that’s not set in stone, as the team’s lack of depth at tight end has to be a factor. They have only injury-prone Rob Gronkowski and undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister at the position outside of Allen.
Still, there’s a feeling that Allen either could be a complete afterthought from this point on, barring some dramatic development, or he could be shipped out. Another of Belichick’s offseason additions, linebacker David Harris, was inactive Sunday and similarly has yet to show much in New England.
To be fair, the Colts whiffed on the pick they got for Allen, drafting USC offensive tackle Zach Banner. They cut him at the end of training camp, and Banner landed with the Giants. But some rookies selected in the handful of picks that followed — including Colts RB Marlon Mack, Giants RB Wayne Gallman, 49ers TE George Kittle, Chargers S Desmond King and others — have stood out early.
The Patriots used the 200th pick in a trade with the Tennessee Titans, and though additional manuevering Belichick ended up with the 83rd and 85th overall picks. They used those to draft defensive end Derek Rivers, who will miss the season with a torn ACL, and offensive tackle Antonio Garcia, who also will miss the year on the non-football injury list. It’s unfair to judge those picks as they have yet to play, but the next selection off the board was Kareem Hunt, who is the runaway favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
But so far, the Patriots’ desire to swap picks for vets — outside of the Brandin Cooks acquisition — has not bore the immediate fruit expected. The Allen move is just one of a number this offseason that to this point look like a miss that might not ever work out.