Robert Kraft admitted he felt “horrible” following the Patriots' 7-9 2020 season, which was the worst in New England since 2000. The Patriots owners’ feeling about the team on Wednesday was certainly a lot different.
After spending close to $160 million in guaranteed money in free agency, Kraft told the local media he’s excited about the upcoming season. Of course, he also knows there’s still a lot of work to be done. Among the many topics Kraft touched on Wednesday, the most important one surrounded the team’s quarterback position.
Kraft admitted he always hoped Tom Brady would retire as a Patriot. Brady’s decision to sign with Tampa Bay ultimately shaped two franchises, with the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl and the Patriots heading back to the drawing board. Kraft said the team’s spending in free agency had nothing to do with Brady, but with correcting a dismal 2020 season.
"I love Tom Brady and he's great, but he's moved on," Kraft said. "What happened here last year was not something to our liking, and we had to make the corrections... To be frank, no (it wasn’t about Brady). This was about doing right for our team.”
The Patriots signed 13 free agents and re-signed another eight players. Bill Belichick and his staff reinforced positions on both sides of the ball. That includes completely revamping the wide receiver and tight end position. Whoever starts at quarterback will clearly have more weapons to throw to, but the big question is who will be starting for the Patriots in Week 1.
Kraft wouldn’t tip the team’s hand, but made a few things clear. He puts his full trust in Belichick when it comes to getting the Patriots on the right track. He also truly likes Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham and thinks both players deserve to have a chance to show what they can do at the quarterback position.
Kraft’s kind words about Newton and Stidham weren’t completely surprising. Newton had a rough 2020 season, but his weapons were lacking, didn’t have a full offseason in Foxboro and also missed time due to Covid-19. Stidham had a promising first training camp in 2019, but struggled with an injury last summer and has never started a game.
“In fairness to Cam, I'm not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year and then he got COVID. There were a lot of things that happened,” Kraft said. “I don't know if Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot. So we have to wait and see what happens. And we still have the draft so there are a lot of things that can occur.”
The Patriots gave Newton a one-year extension, so unless Stidham is the answer, the Pats are still searching for a long-term answer at the game’s most important position. If the Patriots don’t acquire a quarterback via trade, they’ll be looking at the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Pats might have to make a big deal to trade up to acquire one of the top five quarterbacks. Kraft said every scenario is on the table.
“We all know long term, we have to find a way — either Jarrett Stidham or someone new we bring in. this isn’t something where you get algebraic formulas. Think of all the personnel wizards who passed on six rounds for Tom Brady in 2000? No one knows what’s going to happen. We have to balance everything. Look, the quarterback is the most important position on the team. We know that… One way or another, we have to get that position solidified.”
Kraft did give an honest assessment of the Patriots recent draft struggles. The owner said, “I don't feel we've done the greatest job the last few years. I hope, and I believe, I've seen a different approach this year.”
As it pertains to Brady, Kraft said “I would have loved for him to have retired as a Patriot,” but felt it was the ring thing to allow the quarterback to choose his own path. It still remains to be seen who ultimately replaces Brady as the team’s long-term quarterback. Whatever direction the Patriots go, Kraft says he trusts the man in charge.
“In the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team and put the right players in a position to succeed,” Kraft said. “Over the last couple of decades, he’s done OK.”