Are you surprised?
When I was jotting down some notes over a week ago and intending to once again post…something, this title was supposed to mean something else. In reference to the NFL free agent signings and how the New England Patriots, per usual, were sitting on the sidelines, watching teams foolishly lavish ridiculous contracts on the bigger name players. While at the same time signing guys no one has ever heard of like Frank Kearse and Ramon Humber. As well as re-signing such “stalwarts” like Nate Ebner and James Develin. Nope, not surprising of course.
Then…Chandler Jones happened.
Then…Martellus Bennett happened.
(Were you expecting…”Chris Hogan happened” here too perhaps? Can’t do it…)
A couple of major moves for the team…in the first couple weeks of the free agency period, no less. I know, those were trades. But humor me, if you will.
I think most people who followed the team closely did expect the Jones move. I mean, how long have we been hearing that he, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler were all free agents after the 2016 season? Since before the 2015 season we have…well, except that Butler was added to the group this current offseason. Though he essentially clinched the Super Bowl win with his pick to finish the 2014 season, since he didn’t play much that year no one gave a crap he was going to be a free agent with all the others at that point. Funny how that works. For months, it was the “Big Three” that were going to be free after this year…Jones, Dont’a and Collins. Now, all of a sudden, it has kind of turned into a “Big Six”: Jones, Dont’a, Collins, Butler, Jabaal Sheard and…Logan Ryan! Logan Ryan? Ok, if you say so…he had a fairly decent year…much, much, much better than everyone expected when he got the job. Remember how putrid he was against third and fourth stringers in the 2015 preseason? It was bad. Then he got the job somehow and played all year with zero depth behind him. Thankfully, he held up well. But let’s hold off with putting him in the same sentence as those other guys.
Anyway, I think most people did expect the Jones move, as I said. Just not now, right smack dab in a busy part of the free agency period. Around the draft perhaps. Maybe closer to training camp. The timing just seemed to catch people by surprise…myself included.
But it is the right move. Look, I feel like out of that aforementioned “Big Six”, maybe only two of them are back with the team in 2017. TWO??!! Yup…Collins and Butler. With the insane amount of money being thrown at pass rushers this offseason…and really every year…Jones was gone one way or the other. No way the Pats pay him. Sheard was a GREAT pickup. At a bargain. Now that he is essentially the starter, if he has even a pretty good year he will get paid by someone after the season. I cannot see the Pats paying both Butler and Ryan. Maybe Justin Coleman or Darryl Roberts develops into the next Ryan. Or some other dude does…draft pick maybe. But if Ryan wants even SOME money, he won’t be here either.
That leaves Hightower, to me, as a bit of a wild card. A stud when healthy, but the problem is he always seems a little banged up. Will the Pats ante up for both him and Collins at the linebacker position? Rob Ninkovich, Duron Harmon and Alan Branch will also be free agents on the defensive side. They should come cheaper, but those will still be spots to fill. Sebastian Vollmer and Bennett will be offensive free agents as well. So will Aaron Dobs…ummmm, nevermind. But you get the point. Lot of players needing contracts after this year. Significant players at that. I have no idea if this Shea McClellin character can play. In Chicago, he apparently couldn’t. Maybe that changes here. What I do know is that he signed a 3 year deal for decent dough…and is listed as Hightower’s backup on the depth chart on Patriots.com. Hmmmmm…
I thought the return for Jones was decent enough. Apparently due to the Deflategate garbage, the team could not acquire a 1st round pick this year. So a 2nd is the highest they could get and they got it. It wasn’t like they would have gotten a high second round pick this year either. No bad teams were going to trade for probably only one year of Jones. They also got another underachiever in guard Jonathan Cooper, a high first round pick a few years back. Maybe he’s a stiff too, but similar to McClellin, it’s possible an organization/scheme/coach/etc. change would make an impact. We shall see. But it wasn’t like the Pats were going to get more for Jones, seeing the one year left on his deal and the megabucks that await him.
The Bennett deal came out of the woodwork as well. But as long as he doesn’t turn into this years version of last years Scott Chandler (on the field) or 2009’s version of Adalius Thomas (off the field), it’s of course another worthy gamble. Bennett comes with baggage, but thankfully New England has been fairly good over the years in getting players to “buy in” to the overall system…at least for short-term purposes. The longer those types of clowns stay, the better the odds of them becoming a problem (see: Thomas, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, et al). This is likely a one year experiment and even if it works perfect, it’s not like Bill is going to then re-up him to 5 years/50 million or anything anyway. And for essentially moving down 2 rounds in the draft (giving a 4th rounder, getting a 6th), no issue here with the move.
The rest of the moves? Who cares? Ok, that’s a little harsh. Cuz I was absolutely FIRED UP when I heard they signed Donald Brown. Ok, no I wasn’t. But whatever for running back. Dion Lewis came off the scrap heap last year, maybe it’s Brown this year. Or Tyler Gaffney. Or Joey Iosefa. Or a 5th round pick. Or all of those guys along with James White and Brandon Bolden. Could be anyone I say. You say they couldn’t run the ball late last season and that is a big reason why they didn’t take home another trophy. I say the offensive line was atrocious and that was more of a factor than who was in the backfield. I also say the return of Nate Solder and Dante Scarnecchia, the continued development of Tre’ Jackson, Shaq Mason and David Andrews (and Cooper?), the return to health of Vollmer, the drafting of a kid with real promise, the future signing of a veteran that still has something left and hopefully the subtraction of Marcus Cannon may quite possibly cure all of the OL and RB ills. Just a guess…
Cornerback is where I want to see some more investment. Still a thin group. Leonard Johnson, though the man can dance, apparently was not the answer. Would love to see a solid 2nd/3rd corner come in. And then another high draft pick. Maybe another wide receiver, but absolutely not through the draft. Never have any success with that position in the draft. I’m fine with the defensive line depth. I’m not saying Chris Long will completely replace Jones, but he won’t hurt. Add back Dominique Easley and Chris Jones and hopefully get something out of Trey Flowers. With all the rotating the Pats do, there should be enough good bodies here…with the addition of another draft pick or two here. I would have liked Akiem Hicks back, but…you can’t keep everyone.
I feel good about the rest of the roster at this point. The team has 70 players. They take 90 to camp. With the 20 spots left, a couple of decent draft picks and a couple more veteran signings I would say leaves the team in fairly good shape for 2016. Again no need to spend crazy.
I can unequivocally say I will not miss Brandon LaFell or Scott Chandler. Or Tavon Wilson or Sealver Siliga for that matter. Good riddance, especially to the first two.
Lastly, best of luck to Ebner in his quest to make the US Olympic rugby team. Here’s hoping he doesn’t get hurt though. Who else is going to try those mortar kicks for the team next season? Oh wait…it looks like Chris Hogan can punt too…forget it…
Posted on March 23, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged Chandler Jones, Chris Hogan, Dante Scarnecchia, Dont'a Hightower, Free agency, Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Martellus Bennett, Nate Ebner, New England Patriots, NFL, Rob Ninkovich, Super Bowl. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.