Well, that didn’t take long. Within 24 hours of the legal tampering period beginning, the New England Patriots lost a reliable left tackle, a dynamic running back, one of the most clutch receivers in Patriots history, and a Super Bowl hero. Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Butler all agreed to deals with new teams, ending their time in New England and sending shockwaves across the region. While there was an expectation that these players might not return, hearing the news all within a day was a blow to Patriots fans.
- Nate Solder w/ the Giants – $62 million over four years with $34.9 million guaranteed
- Dion Lewis w/ the Titans – $23 million over four years with $11.5 million guaranteed
- Danny Amendola w/ the Dolphins – $12 million over two years with $8.25 million guaranteed
- Malcolm Butler w/ the Titans – $61 million over five years with $30 million guaranteed
Losing all of these players is a tough pill to swallow. Solder was a stalwart on the line, and while he was not always perfect, he was a reliable, high character leader that the team will miss. Dion Lewis was one of the most dynamic players the New England fans have seen over the past two decades. He was one of the most important players on the Patriots offense last season because of his ability to run and catch the football. His production will not be easily replaced.
Danny “Playoff” Amendola became a fan favorite during his time in New England. He started out as a disappointment to many, as he came in right after the departure of Wes Welker and was deemed to be Welker’s “replacement”. When he didn’t put up Welker-esque numbers, fans became frustrated with the former Ram. However, his legend grew as the Patriots offense improved and Amendola became known for his grit and ability to deliver clutch plays. He had crucial catches in a number of the Patriots most important games, such as Super Bowl 49, Super Bowl 51, and just this past AFC Championship Game. He will be missed as a player and a leader on the team.
Malcolm Butler had a down year in 2017, but that does not mean that the Patriots are improved by seeing him walk. While the West Alabama star became a household name because of his Super Bowl 49 heroics, he elevated his status with his incredible determination and fight over the past few seasons. His career in New England ended in one of the strangest moments in Patriots history as he was benched in Super Bowl 52 and forced to watch, along with the entire New England fan base, as the Patriots secondary couldn’t make a stop to save their lives. It was one of the strangest career arcs that any sports fan has ever seen.
Despite the fact that the Patriots lost all of these players, fans need to understand something: there was NO way that New England was going to re-sign any of these players. Now it seems odd that I say that because just a week ago I was predicting that they would likely retain one to two of them. However, that was before we all became witness to the absurd amount of money being thrown around in free agency this year. It’s looked like the MLB offseason where players start raking in money. While Nate Solder is valuable, the Patriots could not and would not make him the highest paid tackle in the league. Lewis’ contract was not the highest running back contract given this offseason, but it was still much higher than New England would have ever paid considering their track record with running backs.
Danny Amendola took pay cuts before the previous three seasons in New England, so there was no chance that the Patriots were going to suddenly pay their fourth receiver $6 million a year. Malcolm Butler was gone as well, as the signing of Stephon Gilmore, last season made it unlikely that the Patriots were going to sink $120 million (or ~$60 million guaranteed) into just their cornerbacks.
Now, none of this is to attack these players for taking the money. While we would all love to see them remain in New England, we have to respect and understand their decision to take the massive contracts thrown their way, particularly Solder who has the health of his young son to consider, and Amendola who has already taken pay cuts and deserves to cash in before his career ends.
The Patriots are not suddenly a bottom-of-the-barrel team. However, losing these players will be significant, and it will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle the next few days of free agency as the money begins to drop back down to reasonable levels.
Until next time – B$