Since 2000 when Bill Belichick was hired as the head coach of the New England Patriots, they have made a cadre of well known moves that have paid off for them including drafting QB Tom Brady in the 6th Round, trading for WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker, and keeping around key talent such as WR Troy Brown, DE/LB Willie McGinest, and LB Tedy Bruschi. As free agency is underway for the 2015 NFL season, let’s count down the top 10 free agent signings during the Bill Belichick era of the New England Patriots.
#10: CB Darrelle Revis
Despite coming to New England for just one season, it resulted in a Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks with Revis largely leading a very good secondary group. Revis helped lock down the right side for the Patriots and led the Patriots secondary with 16 pass deflections.
As the main shutdown cornerback for the Patriots, Revis was instrumental in a secondary that allowed 4 games under 200 yards passing over their final 7, including just 234 yards to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Credit to Boston.com
#9: DE Anthony Pleasant
A longtime veteran in the NFL, Pleasant came to New England in 2001 from the San Francisco 49ers. Despite being a starter for just 2 years and playing sparingly due to injuries in 2003, Pleasant helped create a structured environment with his leadership and was key to the Patriots run 2001. Mostly playing DE and sliding inside to DT at times, he garnered himself 6 Sacks, had 2 Interceptions, and finished the year with 43 tackles. In 2002, he finished with 3 more sacks and 35 tackles in just 11 starts.
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Largely known for his ‘dirty play’ style with the San Diego Chargers, Harrison came to New England in 2003 and was immediately instrumental in their Super Bowl runs of 2003 and 2004. The main factor that pushes Harrison down this list, despite playing for New England through 2008, is his injury history having mainly had an impact in his first two years before battling injuries almost annually. He’d bounce back briefly in 2006 and 2007, starting 21 games combined, but never quite recaptured his dominance as a fearful hitter and equally talented coverage safety.
Credit to PatsPulpit.com
#7: OG Joe Andruzzi
A lynchpin of the Patriots offensive line for just 5 seasons, Andruzzi came over from the Green Bay Packers where he sat behind a stout, solid group of veterans used to blocking for QB Brett Favre. Andruzzi locked up the RG role with the Patriots and would proceed to start 72 games including all 16 in the three years that the Patriots would win the Super Bowl (2001, 2003, and 2004). Despite largely being known for his family’s association with the events of 9/11, Andruzzi was a solid staple of an interior that helped running backs Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon run for over 1,000 yards.
Credit to BostonGlobe.com
#6: LB Rosevelt Colvin
After being a dominant force with the Chicago Bears, Colvin came to the Patriots in 2003 and initially struggled missing nearly all of 2003 due to injury and then being utilized as a pass rushing specialist in 2004 while accumulating 5 Sacks. Colvin managed to make a bold statement in 2005 and 2006, however, getting 15.5 Sacks combined over those two years before injuries would again catch up with him in 2007 and 2008.
Credit to TheGoal.com
#5: LB Roman Phifer
Following Belichick after a couple years with the New York Jets, Phifer had long proven himself as a solid LB in all facets of the game. He helped provide a Patriots team with some much needed veteran leadership in 2001 and found himself a key starter from 2001-2003 before injuries cut short his 2004 season to a specialized role in 13 games. Roman managed to display a knack for coverage including 5 pass deflections in 2001 and 2003 while being a stout tackler in the running game: 91, 107, 99, and 40 tackles combined.
Credit to USAToday.com
#4: DE Bobby Hamilton
Another player who came over to New England in 2000 from the New York Jets, Hamilton provided depth and a player with knowledge of Belichick’s system and how to play in it. Despite largely just being a special teamer with New York, Hamilton would be thrust into a starting role in 2000 and stay a key starter through the 2003 season. Despite largely being a run stuffer off the edge and helping provide depth at DT, Hamilton was instrumental in the Patriots initial run to the Super Bowl in 2001 accumulating 7 Sacks.
Credit to Washington’s CBSLocal.com
#3: WR David Patten
Initially proving himself as a deep threat with the Cleveland Browns in 2000, Patten joined the New England Patriots as another somewhat unheralded and unproven name in 2001. Patten would instantly be a fan favorite vertical threat, despite missing most of the 2003 season due to injury. Patten would be instrumental to the Super Bowl runs of 2001 and 2004 averaging 14.7 and 18.2 yards per catch during those years.
Credit to Boston.com
#2: LB/ST Larry Izzo
Some non-fans would probably quibble with this selection but Izzo was the captain of the Special Teams unit and even earned a Pro Bowl nomination in 2004 (his 2nd after 2000 with Miami). Izzo was an absolute beast on the coverage unit and helped the ‘third phase’ of the Patriots achieve notoriety as a force in the regular season and the playoffs. Izzo not only was the captain but was instrumental to the Patriots from 2001 through the 2008 season and served as a template for what to expect as Patriots fans watch multiple Pro Bowler Matthew Slater today.
Credit to NJ.com
#1: LB Mike Vrabel
Like there was really any doubt. Vrabel came over after struggling to find a fit in a very deeply talented LB core with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite this, Vrabel had flashed as a pass rush specialist with 7 Sacks despite not starting any games over 4 seasons. Upon landing with the Patriots, Vrabel not only became a starter on the outside but became an immediate force in every single facet of the game defensively. In his first four years with the Patriots in which they would win 3 Super Bowls, Vrabel had 22.5 Sacks, 5 Interceptions, 21 Passes Defended, and averaged 67 tackles a season.
Vrabel was a face of the defense for the Patriots through the 2008 NFL Season and alongside players such as Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest, he made the defense a tough hard hitting group good in coverage and rushing the quarterback every year.
Credit to Patriots.com