ESPN ranks Pats' roster surprisingly low despite offseason additions


According to one media outlet, the New England Patriots' money didn't buy them much in the way of talent.

The Patriots shelled out an NFL-record $159.6 million in guaranteed money this offseason, acquiring high-profile free agents like tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and defensive end Matthew Judon.

New England's aggressive spending suggested Bill Belichick was determined to get his team back in playoff contention after a disappointing 7-9 campaign and prove that he can succeed without Tom Brady.

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Indeed, many experts expect the Patriots to finish over .500 and compete for a playoff spot in 2021. But ESPN's Ben Linsey isn't as bullish on the Pats. Linsey recently ranked the strength of every NFL roster with the help of Pro Football Focus' player grades, and the Patriots' roster ranks ... 18th.

To no one's surprise, Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers topped the list, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs. But teams like the Denver Broncos (No. 11), Washington Football Team (No. 12) and Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints (No. 17) all out-ranked New England, as well.

Linsey's biggest issue with the Patriots' roster appears to be at wide receiver.

"The Patriots invested roughly $77.5 million in guaranteed money into their receiving corps this offseason, but they still are missing a true No. 1 wide receiver," Linsey wrote. "Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers are among the top names on the depth chart, and all three are best suited somewhere between No. 2 and No. 3 options in an ideal world."


Linsey has a point about New England's wide receivers, who could take a backseat to Henry and Smith in the passing game. These rankings also are heavily reliant on PFF's grades, which list Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty as "below average" players with 2020 player grades in the 60s.

So, Patriots fans may want to take up their beef with PFF. They also should find comfort in the fact that roster talent isn't always correlated with team success, as the early-2000s members of the Belichick-era dynasty can attest.

In fact, there's a good chance the Patriots finish with better than the NFL's 18th-best record this season -- especially if they use some of the new bulletin board material at their disposal.