Will Tom Brady's seventh ring mean an expedited rebuild for Bill Belichick and the Patriots?

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Phil Perry
·5 min read
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Perry: Does Brady's latest conquest fast track the Foxboro rebuild? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It's worth asking: What does it mean for the Patriots that Tom Brady just won his seventh Super Bowl? 

More to the point: Will Sunday's result encourage Bill Belichick to expedite his team's roster rebuild?

It shouldn't. 

One game should not a roster-building strategy make. Even when that one game is the Super Bowl. Even when the quarterback who helped your franchise to six Lombardi Trophies just won his seventh elsewhere, surrounded by top-tier offensive talent. 

But if Brady's latest ring shouldn't impact Belichick's offseason course, if that's not sound process, does that mean it won't provide Belichick some modicum of motivation to set up his team to contend more quickly?

Human nature, after all, is what it is. For both.

Though Brady has continuously taken the high road publicly when asked about the Belichick-versus-Brady debate -- "I've never once in my life thought about that ... You need great coaches and you need great players," Brady told Westwood One's Jim Gray prior to the Super Bowl -- Bucs coach Bruce Arians may have shed some light on Brady's mindset this season when he spoke to Sports Illustrated.

"Tom is playing for his teammates right now," Arians told SI. "He wants those guys to experience what he's experienced six times. I think personally, too, he's making a statement. You know? It wasn't all Coach Belichick."

We don't know how Belichick feels having seen Brady covered in different-colored confetti. But we do know that Belichick is among the most competitive humans to have ever worked in professional football. Hard to imagine he'll have an appetite for going 7-9 again or worse in the name of rebuilding, particularly when there will be avenues for his team to be competitive rather quickly.

Curran: Brady's role in Bucs' turnaround can't be overstated

After saying he wanted to use 2020 as a year to "adjust" the Patriots' salary cap situation, Belichick's club is among the league leaders in cap space. There could be reinforcements on the way in the form of the team's eight opt-outs from last season, including key pieces like Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung. Plus, to augment the cap dollars he'll have to spend, Belichick will have seven picks in the top 160 in this year's draft, including No. 15 overall. 

Add in the fact that our Tom E. Curran has reported that Belichick is expected to be very aggressive this offseason in improving the team, and it seems like Brady's win over the Chiefs won't be what nudges Belichick to rebuild quickly. The season the Patriots had in 2020 and the resources now available to them probably provided all the nudging Belichick needed.

There's one more factor looming that could make this look like a team-building period on fast-forward come March. What will be available to Belichick at the most important position on his roster won't necessarily lend itself to a patience-is-a-virtue-so-swallow-hard-and-show-some three-year plan.

To do what, say, the Bills did with Josh Allen -- draft a young, promising quarterback and over time surround him with more and more talent as he develops -- would require the Patriots to be in range of a young, promising quarterback. 

While No. 15 overall is higher than Belichick is accustomed to being stationed, it may not be high enough to land any of the top-four prospects at the position in this year's class. Meanwhile, the free-agent class -- featuring the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky and Jameis Winston -- is underwhelming. 

So if Belichick wants to be competitive again quickly, that could mean a trade is in the offing. 

A number of accomplished veterans and intriguing reclamation-project types might be available. Everyone from Marcus Mariota to Carson Wentz to Jimmy Garoppolo to Derek Carr could be had, depending on how the dominoes fall. 

Perry: Does it make sense for the Pats to target Derek Carr?

Get one, achieve competent quarterback play, field a competitive team next season. Easy enough, right? 

The reality is that all of those names are likely too good to put the Patriots back below .500 next season, setting them up to draft a franchise passer down the line. And yet none are likely good enough to compete for a Super Bowl. Not without a lot of help.

The strategy could be to go with the bargain, then, and see if the rest of the roster can be stocked around a middling talent in order to make things interesting. 

Mariota, for instance, would only count $10 million against the cap in 2021. That'd leave the Patriots more than enough money to go after a high-priced receiver like Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay or Will Fuller. There would also be plenty left over for the Patriots to bring back some of their own key free agents and make some smart low-cost calls to vets who may feel the squeeze this offseason as teams around the league look to adapt to a cratering cap figure. 

That would be a long way off the Josh Allen-style rebuild. It would fall more in line with what the Chiefs did with Alex Smith in the mid-2010s. They took a veteran quarterback, did all they could to augment the situation around him, competed and went to the postseason. When the young passer they desired entered the draft, they sold out to get him.

Of course we're way ahead of ourselves now, but the point remains: The Patriots have money to outspend most of their competitors; they have a top-half-of-the-draft selection that should yield an early contributor; they don't have a clear path to a young quarterback worth patiently building around; and they have a coach and general manager who wants to win games.

The result could be a steady inflow of talent in the coming months and what looks like an urgent rebuild. If that's what ends up happening, it was probably going to look that way whether Brady won his seventh ring or not.