The New England Patriots have made headlines by spending big on a host of free agents early in the NFL offseason.
But are the new guys any good? By one estimation, the answer is a resounding "yes."
Pro Football Focus' "Improvement Index" tracks how much better each team got this season by their percent improvement of wins above replacement (WAR) from the beginning of the offseason (before the first player cuts in February) to now.
Guess which team has made the biggest leap since February?
The Patriots have improved their total WAR by nearly 8% per PFF, just ahead of the Washington Football Team -- which added quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Curtis Samuel, among others -- for the biggest jump in the NFL.
Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising considering the sheer volume of New England's additions. The team already has signed 12 players in free agency and re-signed five additional players, including quarterback Cam Newton.
The new guys can play, though: Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were the top two tight ends in free agency and combined for 12 touchdown receptions last season. Edge rusher Matthew Judon is a two-time Pro Bowler averaging 6.9 sacks per year. Wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne both racked up more than 650 receiving yards in 2020.
So, Bill Belichick clearly is loading up on both sides of the ball, taking advantage of the Patriots' ample cap space after the team's worst season since 2000.
But championships aren't won on paper, and there are plenty of cautionary tales about teams spending big in the offseason only to disappoint in the fall. (The 2011 "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles come to mind, as do the 2009 Patriots, who added Fred Taylor, Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden amid a busy offseason only to finish 10-6).
Will this crop of free agents find success in New England? The jury is still out -- especially since Belichick likely isn't done tinkering his squad.