After the Patriots went 7-9 in the first year of the post-Tom Brady era, the franchise elected to do something different in the offseason.
New England also brought back offensive tackle Trent Brown, acquiring him from the Raiders for a fifth-round pick.
The flurry of deals was uncharacteristic of how the team has operated for many years under Bill Belichick, the team’s head coach and de facto General Manager.
Jones was thought of by some as a potential top-five pick. But the Patriots didn’t have to use any extra draft capital to select the former Alabama quarterback, waiting to pick him at their own spot at No. 15 overall.
After a training camp quarterback competition, the Patriots elected to release Cam Newton and make Jones an unquestioned QB1. It’s only been a season, but Jones looks the part so far, having completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 picks as a rookie.
And now the Patriots are back in the postseason after compiling a 10-7 record.
For Belichick’s shrewd deals and acquisitions, he is PFT’s 2021 executive of the year.
Judon has been one of the year’s most effective free agent signings, recording 12.5 sacks in his first year as a Patriot. Kyle Van Noy, who New England also brought back in free agency, is second on the team with 5.0.
Henry was especially effective as a red zone target, catching a team-high nine touchdowns. Kendrick Bourne signed a three-year, $15 million deal and was second on the team with five TD receptions.
As for rookies, second-round defensive tackle Christian Barmore played in all 17 games, recording 46 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. And fourth-round running back Rhamondre Stevenson finished second on the team with 606 yards rushing with five touchdowns.
There were other contenders for executive of the year. Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst made several moves to keep Green Bay at the top of the NFC for the second year in a row — including trading for receiver Randall Cobb and picking up cornerback Rasul Douglas. And Bucs G.M. Jason Licht helped bring back all of Tampa Bay’s starters and key role players from the team’s Super Bowl victory last year.
But after significantly re-tooling the roster to bring New England back to the postseason, Belichick gets the nod.