Actually, the Lions overpaying for a bunch of former Patriots is the opposite of Belichick's approach

Alex Reimer
March 12, 2019 - 12:16 pm

It’s tempting to say Matt Patricia is trying to emulate the Patriots by reportedly signing several of their former players before free agency even begins. But in fact, Patricia’s approach is the opposite of what Bill Belichick would do. The Patriots seldom overpay for veterans, which is all the Lions have accomplished so far.

Perhaps that’s being a bit harsh. Trey Flowers was widely ranked as one of the top free agents this year and should instantly upgrade Detroit’s defensive line. Patricia probably can’t afford another losing campaign, so it makes sense for him to go all-in this season. Those who lack long-term security almost always play the short game. 

But the Lions are taking a gamble on Flowers as a game-changing pass-rusher, considering he’s tallied just 21 sacks over four years. The X’s and O’s gurus will tell you the depressed sack totals are by design in the Patriots’ system, but at this point, there’s little evidence Flowers isn’t more than a product of Belichick’s scheme. There’s a long line of recent Patriots defensive standouts –– Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins, Patrick Chung –– who flamed out or underachieved once they got paid elsewhere. 

Though the official money totals aren’t out yet, Flowers will receive around $17 million per year, per CBS’ Jason La Canfora. Detroit also awarded Justin Coleman the most money ever given to a slot corner, agreeing to four-year, $36 million deal with him. As SB Nation points out, the Lions allowed 9.52 yards per attempt in the slot last season, so Coleman, who averaged 5.21 yards per attempt in the slot, should improve things.

But Belichick traded to Coleman to the Seahawks for a measly seventh-round pick just two years ago. And Pete Carroll, another excellent defensive evaluator, never gave Coleman extended reps. Two of the best defensive coaches of their generation giving up on a player should’ve given Patricia pause.

The Danny Amendola signing is the least risky, considering he’s only agreed to an one-year deal. Detroit needs another reliable target for Matthew Stafford and Amendola caught 74.7 percent of passes thrown in his direction last season. But the aging wideout also only found the end zone once and finished with just 575 receiving yards on 59 catches in 2018. 

After playing 15 games in each of the last two seasons, it’s also easy to imagine the injury riddled Amendola spending some time on the inactive list this year.

One of the reasons the Patriots are so successful is they know when to cut bait with veterans like Amendola, and how to find guys like Flowers (fourth-round pick) and Coleman (scrap heap acquisition) before they become overpaid. As CBS Boston’s Michael Hurley notes, New England paid Flowers just $4 million over these last four seasons. He’ll eclipse that total by Week 5 this season.

And if the Lions are hovering around .500, nobody will be surprised.