Sports Sunday

Should Patriots have followed Titans' aggressive offseason approach?

The Titans have spent a ton of money to add veterans players this offseason.

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The New England Patriots entered NFL free agency with more than $100 million in salary cap space to spend and some glaring weaknesses on their roster.

They've made a couple good moves so far, but most of them involve re-signing their own free agents, such as wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, offensive tackle Mike Onwenu and edge rusher Josh Uche. The best additions from outside the organization include wide receiver K.J. Osborn and running back Antonio Gibson. These are all solid moves, but they're not exactly going to move the needle, either.

The Patriots roster has a severe lack of high-end talent and very little has been done this offseason to change that.

The Tennessee Titans have taken the opposite approach this offseason. They paid huge money -- $92 million ($50 million guaranteed) over four years -- to sign the top wide receiver on the market in Calvin Ridley. The Patriots made a strong offer for Ridley but it didn't rise to the Titans' level. Tennessee also acquired star cornerback L'Jarius Sneed from the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2025 third-round pick and a swap of seventh-round selections.

It's a move the Patriots could have explored, and they do need another cornerback to play alongside 2023 first-round pick Christian Gonzalez. The Titans added running back Tony Pollard and center Lloyd Cushenberry in free agency, too.

Should the Patriots have followed the Titans' approach to the offseason and spent huge money for players?

It was the subject of an intense debate during NBC Sports Boston's Sports Sunday featuring Michael Felger and the Boston Sports Journal's Greg Bedard.

Check out the video above to watch Felger and Bedard's full debate.

"Calvin Ridley's money got ridiculous. I talked to an NFL source a few days ago who said that the rest of the NFL is laughing at that contract," Bedard said. "His $50 million guaranteed is second all-time to Tyreek Hill (among wideouts). So they didn't go as far as the Titans did. OK, let's see if they go and trade for a top wide receiver. I think they should do that at some point and we'll see whether they do.

"Now Sneed, you could say, OK, they should do that -- the third round pick and the contract are fine. But a lot of these teams -- the Patriots know that they have a No. 1 cornerback in Christian Gonzalez. A lot of teams don't go for two top cornerbacks. They figure it out. They draft the next guy. Why are the Chiefs getting rid of Sneed for a pick that they could basically get with a comp pick if they just let him play out his contract? It's because there were cap issues and teams know they don't need two No. 1 cornerbacks.

"But here's the other thing, Mike talks about it like signing these guys, there's no ramifications. Sign a big free agent class, there's nothing wrong because you could just do X, Y and Z.

"How'd that work for the dream team Eagles? How'd that work for the New England Patriots the past two seasons when half of their signings didn't work out? You can go that route, but you better be right because there are ramifications down the road for your team if it doesn't work out. It's just not a freebie."

Felger responded that, despite spending a ton of money in free agency back in 2021, the Patriots' cap situation has still been pretty healthy over the last two years.

"So they spent their face off in 2021 and in the last two years they've had the most cap space in the league," Felger noted. "How did that spending (impact them)? The only thing it did is make the owner reluctant to keep spending money, but the cap was fine. Their cap has been fine the whole time."

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Bedard's counter was that the team suffered on the field due to bad free agent signings, and that building a winner via free agency is typically not the best path.

"(How about) the football team? That's all anybody cares about, Mike," Bedard said. "How did it work out for the football team? How did it work out for the dream team Eagles? Any team that spends big and free agency, it doesn't work. Now, look, Ran Carthon might be the best GM we've ever seen. Maybe he knocks it out of the park and he does exactly what you're talking about with the Titans, but history tells us you do not do that. It does not work out well for your football team, not just the bottom line."

Felger still wasn't letting Bedard off the hook.

"Once again, if the Patriots were signing free agents this offseason, you wouldn't be ripping them, you out there wouldn't be ripping them, no one would be ripping them," he said. "But now that they're not signing them, all of a sudden teams that sign free agents are stupid. Got it. Let's just wait to see what they do and then tailor our commentary accordingly. That's really hard."

There's a lot of offseason remaining, and the Patriots still have a league-leading $50 million in cap space, per OverTheCap. They have the flexibility to make upgrades in the trade market, whether it's for a wide receiver or someone else. The upcoming draft, during which the Patriots will have the No. 3 and No. 34 overall picks, also will have a major impact on their success for the next three-plus years.

New England's offseason has been fairly quiet so far. But it's not over yet, so it makes sense to wait a few more months before making a final judgement on it.'s Lance Zierlein joins Phil Perry on the Next Pats podcast to explain why the Patriots are 'in great hands' with Eliot Wolf and his new front office staff.
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