The New England Patriots sprung into action retooling the roster that lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game this week. First, they traded maligned defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for a second round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper. Then, they filled the void left on their defensive line by signing former Ram Chris Long to a one year and added former Bears linebacker Shea McClellin to a three-year deal. They also added depth to their skill positions by signing running back Donald Brown, and acquiring tight end Martellus Bennett from the Bears, along with a sixth-round pick, for a fourth-round pick.

The trade of Jones was a fairly by-the-book move for the Patriots, continuing their longtime practice of moving on from players before they’re due for a salary increase. The former 2012 first round pick is due to become a free agent next year, and after seeing Olivier Jordan and Malik Jackson sign for $17 million and $14 million annually, Jones’ expected price range shot up, with experts predicting he could exceed $20 million per year once he hits the market. Also, the Patriots have linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower also becoming free agents next year and knew they likely wouldn’t be able to sign all three of them. By trading him and adding long, they still maintain their depth along the defensive line, with the second pick in the 2008 draft expected to join Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom in backing up starting ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaar Sheard. Both Long and Mclellin are reclamation projects in their own ways, with Long missing 14 regular season games in the last two seasons, while the former Bear was a first round pick in 2012 who never lived up to his billing. With both being in positions where they do not have grand expectations to meet, both have the potential for a high reward at a minimal risk.

On the offensive side, the idea of team Rob Gronkowski with Bennett at tight end could potential give the Patriots their most explosive tandem at the position since Aaron Hernandez last wore pads. Bennett has eclipsed the 50 catch mark in each of the last four seasons and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, when he had personal highs in receptions (90), yardage (916) and touchdowns (six). While his catches dipped to a mere 53 last season, at age 29 he could become a steal for the low cost of a fourth round draft pick. Brown could have an integral role in the Pats backfield next season, as both LeGarrette Blount and Stephen Jackson are free agents, and only James White, Brandon Bolden and the recovering Dion Lewis are signed, with none having the longevity Brown has had over his seven year career with Indianapolis and San Diego. Finally, Cooper is a solid addition who can play guard and center. To add him as a depth piece to a rotation that already has Nate Soldier, Sebastian Vollmer, Bryan Stork, Tre’ Jackson, and Shaq Mason is a luxury for a team that had so many injuries to its line over the course of last season. Protection issues on the inside should not be an issue between Jackson, Mason and Cooper, provided all can stay healthy.

While the offseason may not be over, and the team does have plenty of picks in the April draft at its disposal, the moves made this week provide the Patriots with a strong start at its attempt to return the Super Bowl this coming season.

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