Patriots

Patriots

It's been a funny punch line over the last few seasons, but this year, it's an undeniable trend: Bill Belichick's former assistants can't stop signing his former players.

We're less than a day into NFL free agency, and six members of the 2019 New England Patriots have agreed to terms with new teams.

As fate would have it, those six players all wound up on one of three clubs: the Miami Dolphins (center Ted Karras and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts), the Detroit Lions (linebacker Jamie Collins and defensive tackle Danny Shelton) and the New York Giants (safety/special teamer Nate Ebner).

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Guess who coaches those three teams? Three former Patriots assistants in Brian Flores (Miami), Matt Patricia (Detroit) and Joe Judge (New York).

In fact, once Tom Brady hashes things out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he'll be the only former Patriot to sign with a club that doesn't have a former New England assistant as head coach.

(Even the Bucs have a Patriots tie, though: General manager Jason Licht served two separate stints in the Patriots' personnel department.)

And we haven't even mentioned safety Duron Harmon, whom the Patriots reportedly traded to Patricia's Lions on Wednesday.

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Patricia has biggest culprit in stealing from his old boss: The Lions have a whopping 15 players on their roster who once played for the Patriots.

Of course, this is hardly is a new trend. Ex-Belichick assistants have been poaching his former players for years hoping to replicate some aspects of the "Patriot Way" that has brought six Super Bowls to New England over the last decade.

But that trend has ramped up over the last two seasons as Flores, Patricia and ex-Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans) joined the ranks of Belichick disciples in head coaching positions.

Here's a breakdown of free agents who left New England to sign with a former Patriots player or coach over the previous two offseasons:

2019

DE Trey Flowers (Detroit Lions)
CB Eric Rowe (Miami Dolphins)
TE Dwayne Allen (Miami Dolphins)

2018

CB Malcolm Butler (Tennessee Titans)
RB Dion Lewis (Tennessee Titans)
CB Johnson Bademosi (Houston Texans)
DT Ricky Jean-Francois (Detroit Lions)

When you include this year's group, that's 13 players over the last three seasons who have signed with teams coached by ex-Patriots in free agency.

Taking the Patriots' leftovers hasn't exactly been a successful model, though.

While Vrabel led the Titans to last season's AFC Championship Game, Patricia and Flores have yet to enjoy winning seasons, while Bill O'Brien hasn't made it out of the AFC Divisional Round since coming to Houston in 2014.