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New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense

Moving on to the defense…while being thankful the roster apparently has not changed in the last couple of days.  Cuz, you know, Bill likes to consistently churn the back-end of the roster and mess us all up.  Wait, I may be the only one who cares about the bottom of the roster.  Anyway, here goes:

DE (5):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Geneo Grissom

Out:  None

Way Out:  Caleb Kidder, Rob Ninkovich (retired)

Comments:  This is what I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Flowers and Grissom don’t appear to be stars in the making.”  Oops.  At least on Flowers.  Welp, I’ve been completely off before.  And most assuredly will be again.  Truth be told though, most people thought Flowers was on the fringe of the roster before the 2016 season.  Now he is the unquestioned top defensive end on the team.  So I wasn’t the only one.  There have been plenty of whispers about Ealy early in camp.  His attitude.  His fit on the team.  His “coachability”.  And he has been on the sidelines quite a bit, from all reports.  But the key phrase here is, “early in camp”.  I’m not taking him off the lock list…yet.  Rivers and Wise were two of their four draft picks.  Not likely to go anywhere.  And I am hearing Wise is running with the starters at this point.  Grissom takes Ninkovich’s spot.  It helps that he is a factor on special teams as well.  Most were surprised at Nink’s sudden retirement.  But maybe we shouldn’t have been.  He’s getting up there in age and also wasn’t the same difference maker last year as in previous years…you know, before the PED suspension.  Yup…

DT (4):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

In:  None

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta, Adam Butler

Comments:  Pretty much cut and dried here.  Branch re-signed on a nice deal.  Guy was signed to a fat deal himself, kind of out of nowhere.  May be a little push for Brown in his third year.  But the Pats like to rotate their big guys anyway.  Valentine showed enough last year to be locked in this year.  Hamilton and Kilgo may find themselves on the practice squad and therefore may surface on the active roster at some point this season.  And Augusta and Butler are “Way Out” for the simple reason that I’ve never heard of them.  Good enough for me.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, David Harris

In:  Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi

Out:  Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis

Comments:  When I started putting together this column last week, I actually had Harris as only “In” and not a lock.  Thought he may be that typical veteran who was a star elsewhere and then couldn’t adapt to the Patriots system/culture/etc.  Seemed to be a prime candidate for that.  Then I saw they gave him the green dot like 2 days into camp, leading the communication on the defense.  I know, that is “early in camp” too.  But I look at this development a little differently, right or wrong.  McClellin, Roberts and Van Noy all bring different skills to the table so I figured they all stick for now.  Langhi gets a nod here, simply because almost every year an undrafted free agent makes the squad out of the gate…and usually contributes.  He is the early pick simply because they gave him the most dough.  Freeny gets squeezed here, but wouldn’t shock me if he makes it, primarily for his special teams ability.  Bates is from Maine and that’s nice.  Ellis?  Yup, no idea who he is.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Cyrus Jones

Out:  Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  Here’s another thing I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Cyrus Jones HAS to be better than any of the teams’ third cornerbacks last year, doesn’t he?”  And I had Jonathan Jones as “Way Out”.  Oops.  And.  Oops.  But I can’t see them giving up on Cyrus after only one year.  Wouldn’t be unprecedented though.  Jonathan has been apparently playing the slot in camp.  Add in the fact he is, yup, a special teamer…that makes him a lock.  Seems to me they like Rowe a lot too.

As for Gilmore and Butler, that whole scenario in the spring still baffles me.  Butler has done everything the team asked since he came out of nowhere 3 seasons ago.  Played at an All-Pro level the last two years, playing for peanuts and didn’t utter much of a peep about that.  I mean, he knows how this organization operates.  But still.  Then New England gives Gilmore a huge deal right out of the gate as free agency opened.  Not typical Patriot behavior.  Don’t blame Butler at all from being pissed.  Wasn’t surprised there was the stuff about him working out a contract with the New Orleans Saints and hoping the Pats worked out a deal with them.  Nothing materialized with the Saints (or any other team, for that matter) and Butler is still here without a long-term deal.  And even since then, you haven’t heard much from him regarding all of it.  And now I think most expect Butler to play with a chip on his shoulder and help himself in free agency next year.  That will also benefit the Patriots of course.  But did the team play this out right?  Time will tell.  But hope Gilmore ain’t a colossal bust…

Coleman could I suppose be a back-end guy, but there’s no room.  Killings was I believe the 2nd highest paid undrafted free agent in the Pats pool, so maybe he gets on the practice squad and gets elevated at some point.  Likely & Thomas?  Maybe I should watch more college football, so I can know who some of these camp bodies are.

S (3):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  None

Out:  Jordan Richards

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore

Comments:  Richards probably actually gets one more chance behind the three no-doubters and makes the squad when they break camp.  Three safeties is kind of thin.  But the other guys?  You know what I am going to say.

Specialists (6):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Nothing really to say here.  Some are surprised Belichick did not bring another kicker to camp due to Gostkowski’s uneven year last year.  I’m not.  There are plenty of kickers “kicking” around (haha) and I’m sure Bill has one or two or three in mind if last year’s issues move forward into this year.  No sense in wasting another camp spot on a kicker.  Other than that, the six here are pretty obvious.

That’s about the size of it.  I’ll wait until later in camp to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists.  Actually, I’d say no one actually starts on the PUP list this year.  Only Hightower and Branch are currently on the preseason PUP list.  Hard to believe they will miss the first six weeks of the season, but I suppose you never know…

New England Patriots Roster Projection-Offense

It’s that time of year again.  Training camp opened up last week for the New England Patriots.  Already there has been a somewhat surprising retirement and maybe some insight into a future surprise cut.  But for now, the team has 90 players in camp, so let’s get right to it.  The first roster projection of the year, right here:

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Jimmy Football will be the starting QB by the opening of the 2019 season.  Yup, probably not a stretch here.  Brady will be 42 before that season starts.  And as much as he is on his special training regimen at his TB12 facilities, with his questionable trainer in Alex Guerrero and his range of products such as the concussion water (which apparently does not actually work, if you ask Giselle) and all that….the fact remains is that age 42 is age 42.  You simply do not see many athletes performing at a high level at that age…in any sport.  Brady did play at a high level at age 39 last season still, but as we have seen with guys like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, the end can come quick.  People often forget that Brady had a 4 game “vacation” at the beginning of last year.  He won’t have that this year.

This analysis isn’t to bash the legend, though I admit after I re-read it, it sure sounds like it.  My apologies.  Brady will be the unquestioned starter this season.  And I expect it to be a pretty good season still for him, without a doubt.  The point really to be made here is that although we have seen greatness for quite some time at this position, it could change in an instant.  Of course we could say this about any football player at any position…any athlete in any sport actually.  But I think the locals truly believe Brady when he says he can play until his mid-to-late 40s.  I’m just here to drive the expectations of that crowd down.  So is Bill Belichick.  He clearly could have gotten top dollar for Jimmy G around the NFL draft in the spring but chose to keep him.  Does Bill think he is the real deal and the franchise going forward?  Perhaps.  Maybe he just wants good QB insurance for this (presumably) long upcoming season.  And then pulls a Matt Cassel and franchise tags Jimmy and then trades him before next season.  I think Bill would have to be convinced that Brissett is the next big thing also and ready to step in when Tom eventually fades for that to happen.  I don’t see it, but you never know…

Can’t forget about the old Madden curse either…with Brady on the cover this season.  Just sayin’…

RB (5):

Locks:  Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis

In:  James Develin

Out:  Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, Glenn Gronkowski

Way Out:  LeShun Daniels

Comments:  Last year I had Brandon Bolden as only one of two locks, simply because of his special teams value.  He had also managed to not kill the team when they played him on offense as well.  So that didn’t hurt.  But he was brutal on offense last year, they have 63 guys that can play special teams this year, the team signed Gillislee and Burkhead to decent sized contracts to replace the departed Hall of Famer (according to some fans) LeGarrette Blount, among other things.  Oh, and when Bolden was free to sign with anyone in the spring, no one really wanted him.  So he’s out this year, but can easily be re-signed if needed, since again, no one really wants him.  I can’t believe I just wrote that much about Brandon Bolden.

People want to make Lewis a surprise cut this year, but I am not sure that will happen.  He undoubtedly will give them all he has for a half a season or so and then get hurt again.  So things will take care of themselves there eventually.  Gillislee and Burkhead will hopefully be more productive than Blount.  I still don’t love James White.  But he signed an extension as well and ideally will springboard off his fantastic Super Bowl performance.  We shall see.  Bill loves Develin.  Maybe better use of that roster spot elsewhere, but I see them keeping the fullback.  Foster is going to be on the fringe this year.  The “other” Gronk is depth and expendable.  And I don’t even know who Daniels is.

Speaking of Blount, I love how the team slapped that “May 9th tender” on him when they officially knew that they weren’t bringing him back.  The tender allowed the Pats to count Blount as part of the compensatory draft pick formula when he signed elsewhere.  And if he didn’t sign elsewhere after a certain date in July, he could only play for the Pats.  No one has ever heard of this tender before.  Probably people working in the league likely included.  But the Pats are ALL business.  Ask pretty much every veteran they let go of over the years when they had their replacements ready.  Troy Brown was maybe the one exception, as they let him hang around for a year longer than they should have.  But Troy spent most of that year on the PUP list.  ALL business.  Just be ready when that business involves Brady.

WR (5):

Locks:  Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell

In:  Danny Amendola

Out:  Austin Carr, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Tony Washington

Comments:  Pretty much set in stone.  The problem is that the team usually likes its backup receivers to play special teams.  Mitchell and Amendola really don’t, other than Danny on returns.  But hard to see them ditching Danny after he took yet another pay cut…and is pretty damn clutch.  I believe they paid Carr and Hollister more dough than rookie free agents get, but there is simply no room.  They may find their way onto the practice squad, along with Lucien.  Maye and Washington just signed in the last few days.  Should get plenty of time with Brissett in the early preseason games and they can tell their kids they played with the Patriots in their careers.

TE (2):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

In:  None

Out:  Matt Lengel, James O’Shaughnessy

Way Out:  Jacob Hollister, Sam Cotton

Comments:  The Pats gave Gronk some more money when they didn’t have to, so hopefully he is happy.  And of course healthy.  Those close to the team are also pointing at Allen as a surprise cut.  I don’t see it…yet.  But it also wouldn’t shock me if Belichick cut him and kept both Lengel and O’Shaughnessy.  Let’s see how camp goes.  My guess is they actually start the year with 3 TE’s, but play some roster shenanigans at the final cutdown to give themselves a better chance at keeping some kids elsewhere.  Then they can bring back at least one of Lengel or O’Shaughnessy a couple of days after final cuts.  If that even matters to you…

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Antonio Garcia (T)

In:  Ted Karras (G/C), Conor McDermott (T), Jamil Douglas (G)

Out:  Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T), James Ferentz (C)

Way Out:  Cole Croston (T), Andrew Jelks (T), Jason King (G), Max Rich (T)

Comments:  A little more settled than the beginning of last year.  The Pats were a disaster on the line at the end of 2015 and seemed to be throwing numerous bodies at the problem during last years’ camp.  Almost no jobs were set in stone.  Dante Scarnecchia was returning to coaching.  Not the case this year.  The starters are locked in.  Although this does not mean it is a dominant line, at least it’s a start.

Seems to me that Garcia was taken in the 3rd round of this past draft to eventually slide into Solder’s spot once his contract runs out at the end of this season.  Did you realize Solder has the second highest cap hit on the team this year behind Brady?  Me neither.  Anyway, Nate may get PAID next offseason.  Garcia may take his place as a result.  (Another reason to make a switch to a more mobile Garoppolo, by the way).  In any event, he is locked in.

I feel like they will hang on to McDermott to start and then hopefully slide him onto the practice squad shortly after final cuts.  A supposed project, he seems to have the physical characteristics they’d like to have at tackle.  And took him in the 6th round as one of their mere four draft picks.  Karras was a backup in the middle last year and I imagine he will fill the same role this year.  Another backup guard seemed to be in order, so I took Douglas over King.  Since Douglas spent some time on the practice squad last year I believe.  That may be a spot for a veteran upgrade at some point.

There seems to be no room in this scenario for Fleming and Waddle, who were on the team all of last year.  But as referenced with Bolden and the TE’s above, they may slide through unclaimed and be available for pickup at a moments notice.  If not, I am sure no one really cares.  Kind of like the last five guys on the outside looking in.  Though a handful of those guys are sure to end up on the practice squad at some point.

Next:  Defense and specialists

What to do…

…as far as what moves the Boston Red Sox should make coming up to the Major League Baseball non-waiver trading deadline on Monday.

What, you thought Eduardo Nunez was enough?

I didn’t.  Actually, I don’t even really want Nunez here.  It’s not like he’s going to make a huge difference, for one.  I don’t care how hot the Sox brass tells me he has been in recent weeks.  There’s a bigger reason I don’t particularly want him here…and we will get to that.  Since the Sox didn’t give up really anything for him (Gregory Santos?  Shaun Anderson?), I suppose it can’t hurt to have him around though.  I mean, with Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge, Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero still hanging around on the team or close down the road in Pawtucket, it can’t ever hurt to have more utility infielders than you can handle, right?  Oh wait, Nunez and Holt are All-Stars…nevermind…

Anyway, my view of what the Red Sox should do prior to the trading deadline will be much different from what actually happens.  Why?  Because I’d actually consider selling.  And with the Sox in first place, there is no way the organization will do that.  They will be buyers.

But this team is more than another 1B/DH bat and a reliever or two away from winning a championship.  In my opinion anyway.  Sure, the American League is mediocre.  Apparently it is Houston and everyone else at this point.  So the Sox brass will surely say, “we get in the playoffs and anything can happen”.  And they are probably right.

However, they won’t be the only team trying to improve themselves before Monday.  In fact, the Yankees, Twins, Royals, Mariners and Rays have themselves made deals already.  None of them would probably considered blockbusters, but those players should help all those clubs.  In addition, I don’t believe the Indians have hit their stride as of yet.  Maybe the Royals too, though their pitching is suspect, to be kind.

Then you have the National League.  Which looks like the Dodgers and Nationals.  Oh, and the Cubs.  The Cubbies have been heating up and I expect them to continue to.

So you’ve got the competition being one reason I don’t believe the Sox are winning anything.  Then you have the team itself.  Which, other than a select few, is underachieving.  Or are they?  We think Xander Bogaerts is underachieving.  But maybe he is what he is…a decent shortstop with little power, but will hit around .300 every year.  Seems to me the way he is trending.  Mookie Betts has some numbers, but it feels like he should be more.  Jackie Bradley Jr. is definitely what he is and no more…great defensive outfielder with some power.  But not really feared when he has the bat in his hands.  Andrew Benintendi has had a fairly good year…but he ain’t there yet.  You could do worse for catchers but they aren’t world beaters.  Etc.

Bottom line is that this lineup isn’t scaring anyone.  Hard to believe basically just subtracting David Ortiz from the equation caused this much of a drop off, but…

Now, the pitching.  Chris Sale has been otherworldly.  But he has faded down the stretch in his career.  And does anyone really expect him to keep up this pace?  David Price?  Ugh…more on him in a moment.  Rick Porcello apologists like to point to the fact that the Sox offense hasn’t scored while he was on the mound in like 10 of his starts.  But they conveniently forget his mid 4 ERA.  And the fact he won a lot of games in 2016 because he got like 16 runs a game to support him…therefore always pitching with a huge lead and…no pressure.  And…how many bombs has he given up this year?  Eduardo Rodriguez…can he be trusted?  Drew Pomeranz has been better than expected.  But does anyone expect him to have continued good health the rest of the way?

By the way, the rest of the starters behind them?  Some combination of Brian Johnson, Doug Fister, Kyle Kendrick or Hector Velasquez.  Yikes!  Wait, no Henry Owens?  Nope.  He walked 60 guys in 69 innings in Pawtucket before getting DEMOTED to Portland (AA).  He’s walked 23 in 20.2 innings down there.  With a 5.23 ERA.  In 5 starts.  Yup, about 4 innings a start.  A former can’t miss prospect…that clearly missed.  Par for the course it seems with the Sox organization.  Sure guys have come up and played well.  But they have seemingly had so many “can’t miss” guys over they years that they refuse to trade and then they just suck in the end.  Subject for a different day.

Lastly, the bullpen.  Craig Kimbrel has been as awesome in his role as Sale has been in his.  But that’s about it as far as bullpen arms that inspire confidence.  I’m not even going through the rest of the jamokes that have rotated out there all year.  The bullpen has been surprisingly good this season, I will admit, even with Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes being your other late inning guys.  And sometimes Heath Hembree.  But…c’mon.  I don’t want those guys anywhere near the mound late in games when the pressure mounts as the playoff race heats up.  Maybe Carson Smith is coming back…wait, I doubt that.  Tyler Thorn…nevermind.

So combine all of the above with what I wrote yesterday…about clubhouse turmoil and an inept manager…and I’m selling at the deadline.  It’s really hard for me to root for this team now.  They are pretty much unlikable from top to bottom.  A big part of me doesn’t even care what happens the rest of this year.  I’m almost onto the Patriots already and they just opened camp.  Depressing, but true.

In any event, once again, they will not sell and probably none of what is proposed here will happen in real life.  But just for sh%ts and giggles, this is what has been going through my mind this week on the moves I would like to make.  If not at the deadline, then maybe the offseason.  In no particular order:

*Trade David Price.  Yes because he is an arseclown, whiner and all of that.  But also because his elbow may well explode at some point.  We all know he may need Tommy John surgery at some point.  If he blows out his elbow here in September and isn’t around the club all of 2018 and then opts out of his contract and gets out of Dodge, that may be a win-win situation as well.  But perhaps they can cut all that off and get something for him now.

Impossible you say?  Maybe not.  If teams treat him like he has one year and change left on his contract and is sure to opt out when he can, maybe someone will jump.  Maybe a team with World Series aspirations and deep pockets will do it anyway.  Perhaps the Dodgers will bail the Sox out again?  Clayton Kershaw is out for several weeks now.  Hmmmmmm…the Nationals with Stephen Strasburg out, supposedly only for one start, but…the Cubs, with their rotation struggling a bit (and knowing Jake Arrieta is probably coming off the books after this year).

Price wants to be moved, that much is clear.  Would the Sox consider it?  Would anyone bite?  I do not think it will happen.  But it IS certainly possible to move that contract.  More than people think.  That’s what I believe anyway.

*Keep Rafael Devers in the majors and give him the majority of starts at 3B.  With Nunez here I doubt he plays much and I believe he will be shipped back to Pawtucket soon enough.  Too bad.  What have they got to lose by playing him?  Well, if he produces like Yoan Moncada did last year, maybe it’s a mistake.  But you know who was absolutely putrid in 95 plate appearances in 2016 down the stretch?  Aaron Judge.  .179 average, .608 OPS and 42 of his 69 outs were K’s.  I’m not saying Devers will be Judge next year if he gets major league experience this year.  But it may be in the teams’ best interest long-term if Devers takes his lumps in the majors the rest of 2017.

*Release Mitch Moreland and Chris Young.  Recall Sam Travis and…gulp…Rusney Castillo.  Maybe you can trade Moreland and/or Young to a contender for some fungo bats and used baseballs.  And if Moreland has truly sucked the last month or so because his toe is broken, then maybe just put him on the DL.  But I have no use for these two really.  Young’s contract is up after this year, and he isn’t really good.  Add to the fact that this veteran was apparently one of Price’s biggest backers in the Eck thing…see ya.  Let’s see if Travis can hit in the bigs.  Let’s also see if Rusney can be salvaged.  He seems to have been playing well in AAA and supposedly can play all the OF positions still.  Why the hell not?

*Release Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval.  Oops…already done.  So there are a few positives.

*Release Doug Fister.  Kind of obvious.  But I’m covering everything.

*Give Brian Johnson Price’s rotation spot through the rest of the year.  This guy throws junk and I’m not convinced he will ever make it.  But he has shown some flashes.  Not sure what he has left to prove in the minors.  He’s 26 years old.  Let’s see what he can do.  And if he’s truly part of the future.

*Fire John Farrell.  Another obvious one.  Nothing more needs to be said here.

*Trade Hanley Ramirez.  Good luck.  A guy that really doesn’t care.  Or that cares once in a blue moon.  Maybe they can sell his contract to Japan or something.  Or to Manny’s Korean team.

*Trade Xander Bogaerts.  WHAT?!  Ok, it’s not that simple.  And it’s something that should be investigated in the offseason and not over the next few days.

I have no real particular issue with X.  Disappointed with his progress, or lack thereof.  Maybe the reason for his poor performance lately is the ball he took off the hand.  But how do we explain before that?  His numbers are down across the board this year…since the All-Star Game in 2016, to be exact.

He will be 25 on October 1st.  Still plenty of time to tap into that talent he supposedly has.  But what do we have so far?  A .300ish hitter with doubles power who plays a decent, if unspectacular shortstop?  If that is what he ultimately is, will he be worth all the money that Scott Boras will want in his first big contract?  Nope.

I’d rather give a boatload of money to Betts.  Perhaps Andrew Benintendi earns some money down the road too.  And Devers…if he pans out of course.  Bradley Jr.?  Sure, but he should come cheaper.  If not?  Work on moving him and put either Betts or Benintendi in center.  That conversation can come later however.

One huge thing to consider is that the Sox need some power.  How will they get it?  Seems like a trade is the only way.  Have to give up something to get something.  If teams are still enamored by Bogaerts’ potential, doesn’t that make him a prime candidate to go?  Especially considering all of the above.

Taking a look at the current 40-man roster, who is untouchable?  Sale, Betts, Devers (for now), probably Benintendi and Kimbrel.  Who else?  Bogaerts is probably next on the list.  Someone like him may be able to be packaged with a little more to get that proven power bat…whoever that may be.  Everyone always points to Giancarlo Stanton, since Miami is always selling players off and he has a huge deal.  But there may be someone else available for the right price that we don’t know about.

I’m not trying to run X out-of-town.  But, you have to admit, something like that may make sense.

That’s about it on the suggestions.  What, nothing about Dustin Pedroia?  After yesterday’s piece?  Yeah, trouble is, I love him on the field.  Not to mention he will be 34 in August.  And is a 10/5 guy.  Not sure he will waive his rights to not be traded.  Or if the Sox can get any value for him anyway.  Looks like he is here to stay.  Maybe he will eventually grow up though…

 

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