FOXBORO — The New England Patriots’ biggest splash this week may be the one that Bill Belichick made diving into the azure waters of Barbados.
It was an image captured and shared on social media to perhaps show just how much the greatest coach of all-time concerns himself with the current period of the NFL, but even still, the six-time Super Bowl champions do have a presence in free agency.
According to reports, the Patriots have taken care of three in-house signings and boosted their special teams, sticking to their longstanding script without breaking the bank in the hours leading up to free agency, which began on Wednesday.
New England reached deals and resigned cornerback Jason McCourty, outside linebacker and defensive end John Simon, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, as well as signed former Patriot and special teams contributor Brandon Bolden.
Dorsett and the team agreed to a one-year deal Wednesday night, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The 26-year-old Dorsett saw his playing time decrease in the wake of the Patriots acquiring Josh Gordon and again increase as Gordon was suspended by the NFL. Dorsett will have another year to prove his worth before he will return to free agency next year.
A two-year member of the Patriots after being acquired in a trade from the Indianapolis Colts, Dorsett had 32 receptions for 290 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, in which he played in all 16 games while making two starts. He also had five receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns in the postseason.
Dorsett is the fifth receiver on the Patriots’ roster with Julian Edelman, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson and primary special teams contributor Matthew Slater.
Jason McCourty, the twin brother of Devin McCourty, agreed to a two-year deal prior to the kickoff of free agency during the NFL’s legal tampering period.
McCourty, who started 12 games, played 80 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season and was one of four defensive players to play every snap in the Super Bowl. None were bigger than his touchdown-saving play on Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks.
McCourty ranked as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-best corner last season, playing opposite All-Pro Stephon Gilmore. McCourty, who will be 32 next season, finished with 70 tackles, one interception and broke up 10 passes during the regular season. He added four pass breakups and 10 tackles in the playoffs.
With his return, the Patriots will have a great deal of continuity in the defensive backfield. In fact, as long as Jon Jones doesn’t get signed away (the Patriots used a second-round tender and will get a team’s second-round pick if he was to sign elsewhere), they will have their top six corners return — Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson, McCourty and Jones (presumably).
At this point, the only departure from the defensive backfield will be Eric Rowe. Rowe plans to sign with the Miami Dolphins, per reports, after missing the majority of the Patriots’ 2018 season.
Simon, a 28-year-old pass rusher, was brought into One Patriot Place last September after he was cut by the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the month. He played in 11 games of the Patriots’ final 13 games (active every game after Week 9) including a pair of starts. Simon finished with 17 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and two tackles for loss.
He was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, previously playing for Baltimore, Houston and Indianapolis. Simon provides the Patriots some pass-rushing depth as they brace for life without Trey Flowers.
Bolden, and his amplified music choices, return to the confines of Gillette Stadium with a two-year deal after one season with the Miami Dolphins. He was cut by the Patriots last preseason after six years with the team.
First and foremost, Bolden’s return will help out on special teams, an issue for the Patriots last year prior to making mid-season acquisitions to solidify it.
Bolden also gives the Pats another running back, not a position they are in dire need of, but one that New England saw become a need last season as they were depleted with short-term injuries. Bolden only rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns last year, but 61 of those yards and both touchdowns came against New England in the ‘Miami Miracle’.
Another key special teams contributor, Slater had his 2019 option picked up by the Patriots. He earned a $400,000 roster bonus on Wednesday.
The Patriots have yet to receive word on the return of Rob Gronkowski, but they will have needs when it comes to additional receivers, defensive tackle, a tight end and perhaps another offensive tackle to help fill the void of losing Trent Brown to the Oakland Raiders.