Patriots, Bucs among those making biggest waves so far

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FILE - New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, talks to head coach Bill Belichick as their team warms up before an NFL football game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., in this Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, file photo. Belichick never was one to spent wildly in free agency. But after watching Tom Brady celebrate another Super Bowl in another city, Belichick and his boss, Robert Kraft, had seen enough. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

Bill Belichick never was one to spend wildly in free agency. Watching Tom Brady win another Super Bowl in another city sure changed that.

The New England Patriots doled out $175 million in guarantees in the first 48 hours of free agency following a 7-9 stumble in 2020 that ended their two-decade dominance of the AFC.

The jaw-dropping spending spree netted tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne for an offense that went from proficient to pitiful without Brady under center.

The Pats also traded for a left tackle and got Kyle Van Noy back in what amounted to a stunning about-face for a franchise whose fans relished poking fun at the big spenders trying, usually in vain, to catch up as the Patriots piled on the points and parades.

After watching Brady, at 43, throw TD passes like he was 23 again, then nonchalantly toss his seventh Lombardi Trophy over the Hillsborough River waters during the Buccaneers’ celebration of their dismantling of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, Belichick — and his boss, Robert Kraft — had seen enough.

Following the signing, re-signing or acquisition of nearly two dozen players last week, Belichick issued the following statement:

“We are excited about the additions to our roster so far this year. Whether by trade, free agency or re-signings, the group brings a good mix of offense, defense and special teams. It was great to see them in the building, including some familiar faces, and we are all looking forward to continue building toward the upcoming season.”

Drab and droll as usual, sure. But there’s nothing common about the Patriots’ offseason maneuvering. With the makeover continuing with 10 picks in next month's draft, the rest of the NFL is about to see just how much Belichick and Kraft hate losing.