Denver received all the accolades on Day 1. How do you feel the Patriots’ free agency stacks up compared to the Broncos’?
Kyle: Because Denver was clearly ahead of New England prior to free agency, it appears that anything they do to strengthen themselves keeps them ahead. However, they are losing significant players as they add fresh faces. That is not nearly the case with the Pats. While the national media is crowing the “Kings of March” a bit of semi-deep digging shows that they may have fallen behind. Wesley Woodyard was their second leading tackler last year- he’s gone. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, he of a whopping 14 passes defended, gone. Am I the only one who did the math the Sunday night the Pats had their historic comeback against the Broncos- the ball moved down the field when DRC went out of the game? They have added Talib as a replacement for Cromartie, but they will have a tough time replacing Woodyard. A late wrinkle however, would make it look tipped the scales in Denver’s favor- signing Emmanuel Sanders. He makes the Eric Decker loss a wash. So while Mark Schlereth may be in heaven, I give a slight edge to New England.
Rick: These two teams have made a Cold War-esque arms race in trying to one up each other. I like the Broncos’ moves a little more than the Patriots because of their new defensive additions. T.J Ward is a hard hitting safety who can change a game, as we saw with his hit on Gronkowski. You pair DeMarcus Ware with Von Miller to create a good pass rushing unity. Talib got a lot of money, but he is still a good upgrade to DRC in Denver. Emmanuel Sanders isn’t Eric Decker, but his numbers will go up with Peyton Manning throwing him the football. Both of these teams made great moves and are neck-and-neck, but the Broncos get the slight check mark for me.
Jason: I don’t think there is any comparison here — New England’s free agency period has been better. For all of the headlines the Broncos generated in the first 24 hours, are they really that much better? They replaced one good CB with another. They added a pass-rusher and a safety to an extremely thin group, but replaced their second-best receiver with a highly unproven commodity. They lost a quality linebacker in Woodyard, and a few other pieces of that front 7 (Ayers, Phillips) are in limbo. It’s likely a net positive, but only marginally so. The Patriots dramatically upgraded two spots in the secondary, retained their leading receiver from last year and added a veteran insurance policy at the WR position. To this point, it’s a clear win for New England.
Derek: From an “it’s only March” perspective, the Patriots came out ahead in free-agency, no question. This question will only truly be answered on the field, but you have to like what the Patriots did this off-season. Both teams lost their top cornerback and replaced him with an upgrade. The key difference, though, is that Darrelle Revis is arguably THE best corner in the game, where Aqib Talib has proven himself to be on the brittle side and wasn’t there for the Patriots when they needed him most. Advantage: Patriots.
When you break down the other signings, there are certainly plusses to be had all around for both teams. However, Denver certainly suffered more in the defections category than the Patriots. The three key losses for the Patriots were Talib, Spikes, and Blount. All three of those have been replaced with an upgrade or a highly-serviceable alternative. Also, advantage: New England.
The key here for me, though, is how these moves shaped the overall outlook of team. Denver got better with its signings. New England morphed into an entirely new beast. With the addition of Revis and Browner to an already solid backfield of McCourty, Dennard, and Ryan, the Patriots now have the ability to go “Seattle Seahawks” on Peyton Manning. We all now know how that can turn out. With Mayo, Hightower, and Collins at linebacker, and Jones, Wilfork, Kelly, and Ninkovich on the line, there is not a single starting defender for the Patriots who I would not consider to be high-quality. Barring health, this New England defense is going to be GOOD. If Peyton Manning isn’t waking up in a cold sweat yet, don’t worry. He will be.