Morning sports update: Louis Riddick predicted Patriots’ free agent approach, notes common thread in Bill Belichick’s strategy

"This is a clinic of how to run free agency. It's an absolute clinic."

Bill Belichick and the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

The Bruins defeated the Penguins 2-1 on Tuesday, evening the score after Monday’s loss to Pittsburgh.

Also on Tuesday, the Celtics fell to the Jazz, 117-109. Boston is back today against the Cavaliers at 8 p.m.

The Patriots continued with the aggressive start to 2021 free agency on Tuesday, reportedly agreeing to terms with tight end Hunter Henry (a day after doing the same with fellow tight end Jonnu Smith).

The official new league year starts in the NFL today at 4 p.m., meaning that the Patriots’ plethora of reported signings will be able to formally put pen to paper.

The lead: NFL analyst Louis Riddick is one of only a few people who can claim to have essentially predicted the Patriots’ staggering start to free agency. While much of the discussion since New England’s spending spree began has centered on how out of character the aggressive approach has been from Bill Belichick, Riddick saw it coming.


“I would bet now he has — this year — I’ll bet he comes out firing this year in a way you haven’t seen in a long time,” said on the Bad Signals podcast in late February.

When asked to elaborate on his comment a few days later, Riddick pinpointed what he meant.

“You could just tell and you knew that come this offseason, given the fact that they have upwards of $70 million in cap space, he’s going to have some freedom to go out and get some of the parts that he needs,” Riddick explained.

Now, weeks later (and after a bevy of Patriots offseason additions), Riddick discussed what he’s seen from Belichick’s moves.

“I’d take it a step further as far as just being ‘a lot of moves,'” Riddick began. “I think these moves are all very, very strategic and really represent philosophically who Bill has always wanted to be from a team-building standpoint. He wants to attack you inside-out, make you defend the middle of the field first, from inside out.

Riddick has experience with Belichick, having played for the Browns during the ’90s. During his time there, Riddick got an impression of Belichick’s approach.


“I heard it over, and over, and over again in our meeting rooms back in Cleveland,” Riddick explained. “He went and got the people that allow him to do that like he could back in the heyday of New England. He wants to run 12-personnel — two tight ends, two wide receivers, and one running back — because of the mismatches it gives you, and the predicaments it puts defenses in.

“Jonnu Smith is one of those guys who can line up all over the place,” Riddick noted. “He can play running back, he can line up split-out wide, and he’s a guy who’s very good in situational football in the red area. Hunter Henry, an absolute first down producing machine on third down. Defensively, he wanted to stop the run, he gets Davon Godchaux. He wants more power on the edge, he has Matt Judon. He wanted more power to just punch people in the mouth on offense; have you ever seen Trent Brown? This guy is like a skyscraper, and he’s an absolute just rear-end kicker.”

Riddick isn’t surprised at the Patriots’ approach in the offseason.

“All he did was [say] ‘I’m going to build this thing the way I’ve always done it,'” added Riddick. “Inside out, front to back, and I’m going to get guys who are great at situational football, and who are versatile and mobile, and he’s executing it to a tee right now”


“Now it’s all on the quarterback,” Riddick concluded. “It’s all on Cam Newton, and whether they end up drafting somebody for the future. But right now as far as team building is concerned, this is a clinic of how to run free agency. It’s an absolute clinic.”

Trivia: Louis Riddick was a 9th round pick when he was drafted into the NFL. When did the NFL move to the standard seven-round draft system that it uses currently?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: The Patriots picked Willie McGinest fourth overall that year.

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One more look:

Trivia answer: 1994

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