The New England Patriots have completely dominated the AFC over the past 5 years winning 4 of the past 5 AFC championships. With that being said, an aging team that is losing a lot of key players could result in the end of their unbelievable dominance. While the Patriots still have arguably the best head coach and quarterback in the history of the game, they have also had a lot of big time departures.
The first significant departure for the New England Patriots was the retirement of generational tight end Rob Gronkowski. While Gronkowski may have had a fairly injury prone career, when on the field he was arguably the most dominant tight end to ever play and required a double team from defenders every time he stepped on the field. This helped other receivers on the Patriots whether it is Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Philip Dorsett, or other receivers get open because of all the attention Gronkowski got from opposing defenses. Not only did he help his teammates get open, but he also was Tom Brady’s go to target with the game on the line.
Another exit that will prove to be very detrimental to the Patriots is the loss of All Pro offensive tackle Trent Brown. Trent Brown was a Pro Bowl left tackle and was vital to their pass protection because of his importance protecting Tom Brady’s blind side. According to ESPN, Trent Brown signed a 4 year $66 million deal with the Oakland Raiders including $36.75 million guaranteed. This was the wealthiest contract in NFL history which proves even further how important he was to the Patriots success on the offensive side of the ball.
Next, the Patriots lost their youngest and most promising pass rusher in Trey Flowers who signed the biggest contract this offseason with the Detroit Lions. Trey Flowers was extremely important to their pass rush coming off of a 57 tackle and 7.5 sack season per ESPN. Flowers bolting to reunite with former Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia is a complete nightmare for the Patriots. Although they replaced him with former Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, it does not completely makeup for the loss of a player with the potential and ability that Trey Flowers has.
Finally, the Patriots lost a big portion of their receiving core losing both Chris Hogan to the Carolina Panthers and Cordarrelle Patterson to the Chicago Bears. While these wide receivers are not the biggest names, they took a lot of snaps for the Patriots, especially Chris Hogan. Chris Hogan was the Patriots number 2 wide receiver behind Julian Edelman and saw a lot of targets his way. Despite the Patriots resigning Phillip Dorsett and signing Demaryius Thomas, their receiving core is still declining. With Josh Gordon still unsigned and considering his off the field issues on a yearly basis, the Patriots receiving core is in need of immediate help.
The most significant loss of them all, the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, means Julian Edelman will most likely see more double teams which is extremely detrimental to the Patriots passing game. They did sign tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, but he has nowhere near the impact that Gronkowski did. The loss of All Pro offensive tackle Trent Brown means more pressures on Tom Brady and most likely more hits on their star quarterback. This not only gives him less time to throw but also increases his chance of potentially getting injured. With the loss of key receivers in the passing game along with such an important piece to the offensive line, Tom Brady’s supporting cast is taking a major hit.
While the NFL draft could help the Patriots gain more assets, both their offense and defense is heading in the wrong direction. The Patriots losses completely outweigh the additions they’ve made. They lost two former pro bowlers along with other significant talent and have yet to add someone who makes a big impact. Overall, due to the lack of initiative to resign these key players from their past Super Bowl runs, the demise of the empire known as the New England Patriots is in sight.
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