Ever since Tom Brady took over as quarterback for the New England Patriots, coach Bill Belichick has been able to get away with whatever he wants.
That’s what happens when you have arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. New England has never been shy about moving on from a player, no matter how productive, knowing that as long as they have Brady, things will work out.
This offseason was no different, as the Patriots traded their best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, to the Arizona Cardinals.
New England’s run of dominance in the AFC East, however, is threatened by Brady’s four-game suspension to start the season.
The Buffalo News continues its look at the Bills’ opponents in 2016 with a closer look at the Patriots, who host Buffalo in Week Four, then visit Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week Eight:
Additions: DT Terrance Knighton (previously with Washington), TE Clay Harbor (Jacksonville), CB E.J. Biggers (Philadelphia), WR Nate Washington (Houston), WR Chris Hogan (Buffalo), LB Tony Steward (Buffalo), DE Chris Long (St. Louis), G Jonathan Cooper (via trade with Arizona), TE Martellus Bennett (Chicago).
Analysis: Cooper came over from Arizona as part of the trade for Jones. The Patriots are hoping the former first-round draft pick can resuscitate his career. … Hogan came over as a restricted free agent after the Bills elected not to match his contract offer. He should provide New England with a productive option out of the slot. … Long’s production dipped considerably the past couple of seasons with St. Louis, but he’ll be counted on to provide a pass rush in the absence of Jones. … Bennett should give the Patriots a secondary threat at tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski.
Subtractions: DT Akiem Hicks (signed with Chicago Bears), DT Sealver Siliga (Seattle), S Tavon Wilson (Detroit), WR Brandon LaFell (Cincinnati), WR Brian Tyms (Indianapolis), DT Dominique Easley (Los Angeles).
Analysis: The interior of the defense suffered heavy losses with the departures of Hicks, Sealver and Easley, who was a first-round bust out of Florida. LaFell and Tyms are interchangeable receivers who should be easily replaced. New England’s offseason gains more than outweigh their losses – a sign they’re gearing up for another Super Bowl run with Brady.
Draft report: Alabama CB Cyrus Jones (second round), North Carolina State G Joe Thuney (third round), North Carolina State QB Jacoby Brissett (third round), Nebraska DT Vincent Valentine (third round), Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell (fourth round).
Analysis: Jones played for Belichick’s buddy Nick Saban and should compete for the No. 3 cornerback job. … Brissett is more insurance for whenever life after Brady arrives. … Valentine is a project pick, even after the departures along the defensive line. … Mitchell has good burst and is tough, but it remains to be seen if he can earn playing time on a deep roster at receiver.
Returning Pro Bowlers: Brady, CB Malcom Butler, LB Jamie Collins, K Stephen Gostkowski, Gronkowski, WR Matthew Slater (special teams).
Biggest question: Can unproven backup Jimmy Garoppolo steer the ship the first month of the season while Brady is out? The opener on the road against Arizona will be tough, but after that New England has three home games against AFC opponents. If they can go 2-1 in those, once Brady returns things should be back to normal – with New England dominating the division.