Watching Tom Brady win the Super Bowl must have caused Bill Belichick to reach some sort of breaking point, because free agency has started off this week with the Patriots doing something they almost never do: They're spending money and they're spending a lot of it.
Although free agency hasn't technically started -- that won't happen until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET -- the Patriots have been busy taking advantage of the legal tampering period, which started at 12 p.m. ET on Monday. In the time since the tampering period started, the Patriots have spent more than $270 million on contracts and although they likely won't end up paying out all of that money, they will end up paying out all the guaranteed money in each deal and the total of the guarantees is now up to more than $150 million, which makes the Patriots just the sixth team in NFL history to hand out more than $100 million in guaranteed money.
Let's take a quick look at the players the Patriots have agreed to terms with since the start of the tampering period:
- Hunter Henry got a three-year, $37.5 million deal with $25 million guaranteed
- Jonnu Smith agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with $31.25 million guaranteed
- Davon Godchaux got a two-year, $16 million deal with $9 million guaranteed
- Matthew Judon is getting a four-year, $56 million deal with $32 million guaranteed
- Jalen Mills agreed to a four-year, $24 million deal with $9 million guaranteed
- Henry Anderson got a two-year, $11 million deal
- Kendrick Bourne is getting a three-year, $22.5 million deal
- Nelson Agholor agreed to a two-year, $26 million deal
- Deatrich Wise re-signed with a four-year, $30 million deal that included $10 million in guaranteed money.
The one problem with going on a spending spree like this is that it has never translated to a Super Bowl win, which means the Patriots are going to have to defy NFL history if they want to take home a Lombardi Trophy. According to contractual stats from ESPN, the Patriots are the sixth team in NFL history to hand out more than $100 million in free agency and here's the ugly part for New England: None of the five prior teams even won a playoff game, let alone the Super Bowl, in the year where they spent big.
Here are the five teams besides the Patriots who spent more than $100 million in guaranteed money during free agency.
Guaranteed money given to free agents: $107 million
During the 2016 offseason, the Giants went wild by giving out huge contracts to guys like Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison. The Giants' big investment did translate to some success on the field as they went 11-5 and earned a wild-card berth just one year after going 6-10. However, the team lost to the Packers in the opening round of the postseason in a game that's mostly remembered due to the fact that Odell Beckham and a few other players flew to Miami for a boat trip in the week leading up to the game.
Guaranteed money given to free agents: $102 million
During Matt Nagy's first year with the team, the Bears made a lot of big moves during the offseason. Not only did they sign Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, but they also traded for Khalil Mack, who was given a contract extension. Although the Bears would win the NFC North with a 12-4 record, they got knocked out of the playoffs in the wild card round after Cody Parkey -- who was signed as a free agent in 2018 -- double-doinked a field goal in a 16-15 loss to the Eagles.
Guaranteed money given to free agents in 2018: $100.5 million
Guaranteed money given to free agents in 2019: $131.4 million
Although Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan handed out $100.5 million in guaranteed money in 2018, he definitely wasn't able to buy any success as the team finished 4-12 that year. Maccagnan followed that up in 2019 by spending even more money, but then the Jets fired him after letting him make all of their free agents decisions (They also let him run the draft that year before firing him in May). Although the Jets were slightly better in 2019 (7-9), they still didn't finish the season with a winning record. Some of Maccagnan's biggest whiffs in free agency included signing Trumaine Johnson in 2018 and adding Le'Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley in 2019.
Guaranteed money given to free agents: $147.2 million
The Dolphins made a huge splash in free agency last year when they signed Kyle Van Noy, Byron Jones, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Jordan Howard, Byron Jones, Ted Karras, Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, Elandon Roberts, Clayton Fejedelem and Ereck Flowers. The gamble paid off as the Dolphins improved from 5-11 in 2019 to 10-6 in 2020. However, like the other four teams, Miami didn't win a playoff game.
So what does this tell us about spending big in free agency?
For one, these five teams have mostly proven that going on a monstrous spending spree can work to turn your team around quickly, so that's definitely an a good thing for the Patriots. Not only did four of the five teams improve upon their record during the regular season, but they added an average of 3.8 wins per year from the prior season. However, the five teams ended up winning a total of zero playoff games and that's where things are going to have to change if the Patriots want to prove that you can buy a Super Bowl.
Of course, the Patriots are coached by Belichick and if any coach in the NFL can do something that's never been done before, it's him.