For all the hubbub that came out of that, I think the bigger issue of late hasn't been how much the Patriots are spending, but where they are spending that money. And I think, if you want to look at one example from free agency in 2009, you can examine how the Patriots got in trouble at receiver in the first place.
The team let Jabar Gaffney walk, then tried to throw numbers at the void -- Bringing in Greg Lewis (via trade) and Joey Galloway (via free-agency) to replace their old No. 3. Gaffney got a four-year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million. Lewis was slated to make $650,000 in 2009, and Galloway was set to make $1.75 million, two salaries that add up to $2.4 million.
Now, they didn't wind up spending that much. Lewis was cut before playing a game, and Galloway collected just over $1 million ($600K signing bonus, approx. $431,250 of his base salary). But all they got for that were the seven catches and 67 yards Galloway posted, and were left in the lurch with the reinforcements brought to replace Gaffney gone.
And as for any of you who think Patriots' cast-offs all drift into irrelevance when they leave here ... Gaffney caught 54 balls for 732 yards -- trailing only Brandon Marshall in those categories on the team -- and two touchdowns in Denver.
What this shows you is that, at least in this case, it wasn't spending or not spending money -- It was how those funds were allocated. No, the Patriots didn't have to make the kind of long-term commitment to Galloway or Lewis they would've had to make to Gaffney, but the price he came at for Denver, in retrospect, looks like a bargain.