Patriot Free Agency (in)action?
Welp, since the New England Patriots have certainly stepped up their free agency activity since I had started this piece, or better yet, had INTENDED to start this piece, perhaps the title above is not entirely appropriate. Then again, since the transactions have been somewhat underwhelming to most, maybe the title is indeed accurate.
In any event, people love it when the organization jumps into free agency right from the beginning and doles out huge dollars to big names. However, don’t we all know that this very rarely happens? I suppose that since they went out and locked Stephon Gilmore up to big dough the first morning of free agency last year, people expected that again this offseason. Add in the fact that Tom Brady will be 41 at the start of next season and they traded Jimmy Garoppolo and have no youngster ready to step in to carry the organization to the next chapter in their history, fans may have expected the Pats to load up for the short-term.
But it never fails. Patriot fans are always upset if the team doesn’t go after the marquee players right out of the gate. Then Bill Belichick invariably leads them to another AFC Championship Game in the upcoming season. With whatever flotsam and jetsam he does end up signing or trading for during the free agency process. Will we ever learn?
Probably not. But I’m here to help with that.
I know, there is all sorts of drama apparently going on down in Foxborough now. Brady is doing that Facebook stuff hinting at unhappiness. Rob Gronkowski is also hinting at unhappiness, but he goes through Twitter. Belichick is taking more offseason heat than he ever has in New England, simply due to his decision not to play Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl. My guess is that most, if not all of this goes away before the season starts. But what do I know?
Here’s what I DO know. Patriot backers have been completely delusional about the four marquee free agents to have already departed the organization. They are completely panicking about losing any and all of these guys. I will proceed to tell you why that is stupid, individually, and in no particular order:
*Nate Solder. Holy crap, this is the worst. Ok, maybe we are going in order. Anyway, this region has been going nuts about losing Solder for a few weeks now. Local sports talk radio, in particular, has been adamant that the Patriots re-sign Solder. My question is: Why? Listen, Solder has been a reliable, if unspectacular, left tackle for 7 years here. They could have done a whole lot worse at that spot over the years. But they also could have done somewhat better. He was never an All-Pro. He was never even in the Pro Bowl. More importantly, how many times did you yell at your TV screen after someone blew by him and knocked down Brady? Or he committed a stupid penalty?
Ok, I am probably exaggerating the situation. But my point is, he was an average to maybe a smidge above average left tackle for the team for those 7 years. And now everyone wanted to lock him up to 13-15 million a year for several years?! Seems inexplicable to me. Always did. I said during my Super Bowl recap piece that I wouldn’t sign him for 10-11 mil a year. He got 15.5. For 4 years. With 35 mil guaranteed. Just insane to me.
Let’s also not forget that the Patriots more than likely intended all along to move on from Solder after this past season. They drafted two tackles last year. Antonio Garcia in the third round and Conor McDermott in the sixth. Undrafted Cole Croston beat out McDermott for a spot on the roster last fall. And Garcia ended up missing the season after developing a blood clot. But they still drafted two guys. And did not extend Solder’s contract at any point during the year (obviously). Was the writing not on the wall last preseason? Sure, McDermott is gone, Croston may not be ready and Garcia most assuredly is not after reportedly losing 40 pounds due to the blood clot. But it sure looks like the decision to move on from Solder had been made long ago.
And certainly, circumstances did change with Garcia getting the clot and all. I imagine the plan was for him to be the 3rd or 4th tackle last season and then more than likely take the starting left tackle job this year. He will likely need another year to get back to where he was. So if the timetable just gets pushed back a year, does that necessitate re-signing Solder to massive dollars for 4 more years? I say no.
The simple fact is that they should be able to replace Nate with someone else for a fraction of the cost. At close to the same performance level. If Garcia was the plan and he needs another year, can’t they figure it out for that one year? With the supposed “offensive line whisperer” Dante Scarnecchia still around to coach whoever that is up? I think they can. I know, Brady will be 41 and left tackle is an important position. But I’m sure they can figure it out at a much lower cost.
*Danny Amendola. Make no mistake, the Blowhard is a huge DA fan. And the Blowhard did not care much when Danny initially signed here before the 2013 season. He turned us around for sure. We LOVE his clutch play. The fact that he consistently took pay cuts to stay here. The fact that he became one of Brady’s most reliable weapons. All of that and then some.
But let’s be real here. If everyone is healthy, the Pats would probably slot Amendola at least 4th on the depth chart at wide receiver, behind Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Perhaps even behind Malcolm Mitchell as well. They also have guys like Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt lying around…as well as everyone’s new favorite all of a sudden…Riley McCarron. We won’t even count for the trade for Cordarrelle Patterson, which just happened as I type this I think.
Amendola’s snaps also no doubt have to be managed since he gets dinged up quite a bit. I just looked it up and was surprised to find he has only missed 11 games total in his five years as a Patriot. Feels like a lot more. Then again, he was never really healthy in Year One. And the games where he left and didn’t return probably add up to a fair share as well.
Just seems to me that Brady still has plenty of reliable weapons. Don’t blame Danny for taking the money at all. But the money saved here by the Pats is better spent elsewhere.
*Dion Lewis. Let’s take a look at Lewis’ career. Doesn’t play much in 2011-2012. Missed 2013 to injury. Out of football in 2014. Played two half, albeit productive, seasons in 2015-2016. Then has a career year in 2o17…in which he was mothballed for the first half of the season, probably, or at least possibly, to keep him healthy for the stretch run.
So the Pats were supposed to break the bank to keep him here? Many people thought so. I did not. Not for a running back. A fungible position here in New England.
I’m happy for Lewis. He deserves some sort of payday for his perseverance…and of course performance. But I’m glad it’s not here. I said all year that I liked what I saw from Rex Burkhead when he was healthy. And yeah, he was hurt a lot too. But with the re-signing of Rex and the addition of Jeremy Hill to add to James White and I would guess Mike Gillislee still, there is plenty enough remaining in the backfield at a reasonable cost.
*Malcolm Butler. I would say Patriot fans are still more fired up on why Butler didn’t play in the Super Bowl, and rightfully so. Seems as if his value did not decrease across the league, as interest in signing him was apparently fairly widespread. Including reported interest from the Detroit Lions, now coached by Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator of the runner-up Pats last year. Hmmmmmm. Butler didn’t say much when he signed. So we may never know the real reason why he didn’t play.
In any event, the second the Pats signed Gilmore last year, we all should have known Butler was done after this past season at the latest. So most rational Patriot fans did not throw a fit when he signed with Tennessee. Thankfully.
The Patriots have of course lost other guys since free agency started. But no one significant. Unless you count the loss of Johnson Bademosi as significant. I do not.
Next? We will take a snapshot of the roster as it currently stands. And despite all the hullabaloo, it’s really not all that bad.
Posted on March 19, 2018, in Uncategorized and tagged AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, contract, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Free agency, Left Tackle, Malcolm Butler, Money, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Super Bowl, Tom Brady. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.