Blog Archives

So Where Do They Go From Here? Part III

So now, the defense.  There could be significant turnover here next season.  Not only with four starters being free agents, but also some depth pieces, a restricted free agent and a potential cap casualty or two perhaps?

Let’s get right to it:

Defensive end:

Under contract:  John Simon, Chase Winovich, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers, Nick Thurman (Futures), Tashawn Bower (Futures)

Free Agents:  Keionta Davis (Restricted), Eric Lee (Practice squad)

Comments:  Thin.  No other way to describe it.  Simon is a pretty good piece, but that is what I would describe him as…a piece.  Winovich showed some promise as a strict passing down pass rushing option.  But can he play on all downs?  I have generally liked what I have seen from Wise in the past.  But this year, every time he was on the field he seemed to commit a stupid penalty that always cost the team in a key spot.  I suppose for 880k in the last year of his contract, he could be back as a depth piece.  Rivers has missed a full two seasons over his three years in the league and didn’t do anything in the one he played.  Perhaps it is time to move on.  I bet you didn’t even know Eric Lee was back with the team this season in any capacity, did you?  You may remember that he flashed for a couple of games after being signed away from the Bills’ practice squad late in 2017.  Then quickly faded into obscurity and didn’t even make the 2018 team.  And no, I had no idea he was here either.  I would think upgrades at this position in the offseason would be in order.  But the Pats never like to have a strict pass rush guy that pins his ears back and gets a ton of sacks (Chandler Jones?), so I wouldn’t expect any big names.  Especially after how the Michael Bennett thing worked out this past season.

Defensive tackle:

Under contract:  Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart

Free Agents:  Danny Shelton, Adam Butler (Restricted)

Comments:  All of a sudden Danny Shelton “matters”, eh?  This guy was a healthy scratch down the stretch in 2018.  A quick fall from grace for the #12 overall pick in 2015.  Then he re-signed fairly late in the offseason, somewhat of an afterthought.  I suppose he had a decent year, but people are now worried about losing him?  Yeah, they are a little thin here as well.  But still.  Butler had a huge year, but it’s possible he could parlay that into big money elsewhere.  For people that analyze nose tackle play, Guy supposedly had a great year.  At a 5 mil cap hit next season in the last year of his contract, that probably makes him a candidate for an extension.  For a guy like me that doesn’t analyze nose tackle play, I saw the team have trouble against the run this season.  That tells me that the Pats could upgrade from ALL of these guys and not miss a beat.  But what the hell do I know?

Linebacker:

Under contract:  Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Terez Hall (Futures)

Free Agents:  Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Shilique Calhoun

Comments:  Speaking of “thin”, this position could take a big hit this offseason.  Of the four free agents that are listed above, I would say the guy most likely to return is Calhoun.  But who cares about him?  Someone will throw Van Noy a boatload of cash, so say goodbye to him.  Collins may turn his dominant first half against bum teams into some sort of decent contract as well.  And although Roberts did his job for the team and played fullback down the stretch, he made no bones about wanting to play more at LB.  I imagine he will try to find a team that will let him do that.  The Brady situation bears watching here as well.  Hightower had a great year and got selected for the Pro Bowl.  He played 15 games this year as well.  But he always seems dinged up, turns 30 in March and costs 11 mil plus against the cap in the final year of his contract next year.  He has been adamant in the recent past about not renegotiating his deals to lower the cap number.  And is the player worth an extension under these circumstances, despite his obvious talent and leadership?  My sense is that if Brady is gone and many other free agents leave, Dont’a could be a cap casualty himself as they remold the team.  If Brady returns and they kind of “load up” for one more run, Hightower will most assuredly return at the same cap number as well.

Cornerback:

Under contract:  Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross

Free Agents:  None

Comments:  Nothing to see here, though it would not shock me to see the team move on from the 5.5 mil cap hit of Jason McCourty and officially elevate Jackson to a starting position.  Especially if Jason’s brother Devin does not return, but more on that later.  While also creating more playing time for Williams.  Then fill in the back end through the draft or low end free agency.  Or maybe they can go get Duke Dawson or Keion Crossen back.  Side note:  congratulations to Gilmore on winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  If you showed up against DeVante Parker of Miami in the last game of the regular season, perhaps the playoffs would have gone in a different direction.  Guess the voting was already complete before that game.  And no, I’m not bitter.  At all.

Safety:

Under contract:  Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrance Brooks, Malik Gant, Obi Melifonwu (Futures), Adarius Pickett (Futures)

Free Agents:  Devin McCourty

Comments:  The last time Devin hit free agency, in 2015, the team told him to go out and get his contract and then come back to talk to them first before signing anything.  He did and the Pats reacted by signing him to a 5 year, 47.5 million dollar contract.  Seemed like a lot of dough, but hey, he was heading into his age-28 season, fully in his prime and was an invaluable member of the defense as well as the locker room.  Turned out to be the right move…and by a longshot.  This time around, will the Pats do the same thing?  Maybe.  But I don’t think he’s getting almost 10 mil per, heading into his age-33 season.  Leadership or no leadership.  There is a good chance he doesn’t return if he wants that money.  Though, he may not get that kind of offer elsewhere.  So this will be interesting to watch as well.

McCourty, Chung and Harmon have filled out a pretty solid safety crew for years now.  But I am also going to question the returns of the latter two.  Again, if Brady returns, they probably stick even at their almost 6 mil and 5.5 mil cap hits, respectively.  But if Brady goes?  All bets are off.  Chung’s cocaine charges were dropped, pending good behavior or something.  He was dinged up more than usual this season.  And looked susceptible more than he has since his return to New England.  Could he be judged expendable?  If the team starts some sort of “rebuilding” process, do they also need to spend that kind of money on a third safety in Harmon?  Though Harmon will be 29 as opposed to Chung, who, like McCourty, will also be heading into his age 33 season.  Brooks is cheap and mostly a special teamer, so he’s safe.  Just another interesting position to watch.

There you have it.  A lot of words over three pieces.  A lot of random thoughts.  A billion questions.  But not a whole helluva lot of answers.

Unfortunately, we won’t be getting pretty much any of those until mid-March…and then into the summer.

Can’t wait.  But that also means winter will be almost over and that may even excite me more than Brady’s status…

So Where Do They Go From Here? Part II

No need for any preamble here.  We will jump right into the “non-Brady” positions:

Running back:

Under contract:  Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Free Agents:  None

Comments:  Now that we have vomited up all those words on Brady, how much can we say here?  Well, in this section, not much.  All of these guys but Michel and Harris will be entering the final year of their contracts in 2020.  If Harris is ready to contribute after essentially a redshirt year (read:  learning how to pick up blitzes), then that could make Burkhead or (gasp!) White expendable.  I doubt it on White, but at a 4.6 mil cap hit, maybe he gets an extension.  Burkhead’s 4 mil cap hit could put him in jeopardy, but honestly, I’d find a way to keep them all around.  Remains to be seen how Develin recovers from his neck injury, so that could factor into any decision making at this position.  Michel isn’t going anywhere, despite his largely disappointing play to start his career.

Wide receiver:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohammed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (Futures), Devin Ross (Futures)

Free Agents:  Phillip Dorsett

Comments:  Bye bye Phil.  At least I hope.  But there is work to be done here.  Is there going to be space on the roster?  You have to figure Jules, Sanu and Harry are locks to return.  Despite Sanu’s ineffective play down the stretch.  Maybe the ankle injury was worse than we knew.  Maybe an offseason in the offense will help.  Hard to believe the Pats will give up on him.  Jules isn’t going anywhere.  Hope he heals up and they can lessen his load a bit next year.  Harry needs to take that next step.  Meyers may also get that chance.  There should be one more quality veteran added here as far as I am concerned though.  And I am not talking about the return of Gunner.

Tight end:

Under contract:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Free Agents:  Benjamin Watson

Comments:  Great career Ben and thank you for your service.  I will never forget you chasing down Champ Bailey in 2005.  But the only thing that needs to be said about this group is that they all should be flushed and the personnel has to be completely revamped here.  Will Rob Gronkowski come back for one more run?  It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing that nonsense.  But I will say I won’t rule it out.  Hopefully, he won’t do all that garbage leading up to any kind of announcement.  But after a year off, it would not shock me if he felt awesome and wanted to give it one more go.  I’m not banking on it, however.

Offensive line:

Under contract:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Korey Cunningham (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Najee Toran (Futures)

Free Agents:  Joe Thuney (LG), Ted Karras (C), James Ferentz (C), Marshall Newhouse (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G) (Restricted)

Comments:  A return to good health for Andrews will be a huge boost…if indeed that is the case.  I don’t know where he stands with that though.  From people who actually analyze offensive line play, Karras was “ok”.  But the main criticism was that he “couldn’t block at the second level”, which seems important…especially for Michel.  Since, you know…Michel can’t seem to gain any yards on his own.  Have to imagine Thuney will get megabucks elsewhere and since the team is already paying one guard (Mason) a lot of money for the next 4 seasons, it’s doubtful they pay a second guard even more.  Mason had his problems last season and hopefully, they were injury related as many have intimated.  Wynn was hurt for a great deal of the year, but maybe he finally plays a full season next year.  Perhaps that is at Thuney’s old position since that’s where many felt he belonged when he was drafted.

Cunningham was rarely active after being traded for late in the preseason.  Seems like a waste.  But maybe offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia knew he was a project and was preparing him (and Eluemunor?) for 2020 instead?  Maybe Froholdt and Cajuste learned something in their year off and can apply that on the field in 2020 as well?  Cannon was kind of putrid this season and at his high cap number could be a casualty.  Especially if any one of those jamokes can contribute something going forward.

The bottom line was that this group was not very good this year.  Whether help comes from one or two or three of these guys from within or the outside, this position will be crucial to address.  Especially if the aforementioned 43 year old QB returns.  Kind of goes without saying I suppose.

Specialists:

Under contract:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

Free Agents:  Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Nick Folk (K), Justin Bethel (ST)

Comments:  Slater will have a contract if he wants one.  Bethel maybe too.  Hell, Likely Ebner as well.  I will say that I’m really not too worried about the gunners in any way, shape or form.  I AM worried about the kicker position though.  Does Gostkowski’s hip heal enough in order to justify the 5 mil cap hit on technically the last year of his deal?  Folk actually kicked pretty well for a fraction of that.  Mike Nugent sucked for likely that same fraction.  And Kai Forbath didn’t inspire confidence in his one game.  4 kickers this year after only 3 the last 23 years…with one of those for only 8 games.  I ask the people that wanted Gostkowski gone the past few years, how you feeling now?  Perhaps there is an open competition next summer between Gostkowski (if he is ready to go), Folk and some kids, perhaps a draft pick?  We will see how that goes.  But we cannot have any more Mike Nugent’s running around Foxborough.  Not if the Patriots expect to compete.

Next:  The defense.

Still Waiting…

…for ANY significant move by the Boston Bruins this summer.

Wait, why the hell are we talking about the Bruins in August?

Easy.

The Red Sox are done…and we’ve covered them more than enough based on that fact alone.  The Celtics have done absolutely nothing of note since we last wrote about them about a month ago.  We chatted about the Patriots last week, but what more is to say about a team one week into the preseason schedule?  Nothing.  Well, Danny Etling just got released.  Guess he isn’t the next Julian Edelman.  Whatever…

And if you want me to comment on Tom Brady’s contract “extension” then you came to the wrong place.  Go hit the local radio airwaves if you want non-stop chatter about that.  Who cares if he is selling his house?  Furthermore, do people realize that going into next season Brady will be 43 YEARS OLD?!

Listen, the guy is a legend and likely the greatest NFL player of all time.  But if you are asking me to worry about a 43-year-old QB, you came to the wrong place.  I love the guy as much as anyone.  But we really don’t know how much he has left.  He could plummet as soon as this year.  After all, Bill Belichick has seemingly “loaded up” on the running game, defense and has like 10 mediocre (ie:  “blocking”) tight ends in camp now.  Oh, and not many receivers either.  Looks like he may be thinking ahead about Brady regressing, no?

In any event, SHOULDN’T you go “year to year” with a guy like that?  Yup.  And if he is pissed, well, I am sorry.  He could’ve battled the Pats harder over the years to get more money if that is the underlying issue.  And maybe he absolutely should have.  But since he didn’t, why are we talking about it now?

Some of the greats finished their careers on other teams.  Maybe Brady does too.  I really don’t think he will be going anywhere.  Highly doubt it.  But I am not sure the topic is even worth discussing at this point.  Let’s see how this season plays out at age 42 and then take it from there.

Ugh…I know, I just got caught up in it…

As for the B’s…well, despite the run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last season, as far as I am concerned, there is a great reason to be well, concerned.

Why?

I will tell you.  Did you think otherwise??!!

Here’s the first reason(s):  Maxime Lagace, Brendan Gaunce, Brett Ritchie, Par Lindholm, Pavel Shen…

These guys are the free agents brought in by the team since the start of the signing period.

Who??!!

You may be like, “well, they only lost Noel Acciari (replaceable) and Marcus Johansson (oft-injured and expensive)”, so they are basically bringing the whole team back that came within a game of winning the whole thing!”

And I will retort, “it was a huge f’ng mistake to bring back basically the entire team after actual championships for the 2019 Boston Red Sox and 2012 Boston Bruins, did we forget??  Complacency, fatigue, all that crap??”

But that isn’t even the biggest issue.

The B’s still have 2 kind of huge restricted free agents sitting out there in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Ok, nevermind.  The re-signing of Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton should offset that.

HAHAHAHAHAHA…just kidding my friends!!

I’m still not even sure why they re-signed Kampfer.  To a TWO year deal, to boot.  Assuming the two aforementioned d-men come back in the fold, Kampfer will then be at least the eighth defenseman.  Well, I guess ninth, now that they re-signed Clifton too?  Then they have some kids in Providence that seem to be on the cusp of the NHL, such as Urho Vaakanainen?  Maybe Jeremy Lauzon too, but perhaps not Jakub Zboril…

I don’t get it.

Maybe that means they are dangling some of the “top seven”?  McAvoy, I would doubt.  Carlo too.  No one wants John Moore’s contract.  Or Kevan Millar’s injury history.  Someone would take Zdeno Chara, despite his age, but he is going nowhere.  Matty Grzelcyk?  Sure.  But what happens if Torey Krug leaves after the upcoming season as a free agent?  Gryz may be a natural replacement…and far cheaper.

Trade Krug before he walks away for nothing?  Something I would strongly consider.  But all indications are that the team has no interest in that.  And Krug wants to be here.  So maybe he signs a “team-friendly” extension at some point.

There are a lot of capable D-men signed.  And let’s face it, Carlo and McAvoy will eventually sign as well.  Their options seem to be kind of limited.  I just read where Chaz can’t even sign an offer sheet with anyone.  Had no idea about that.  In any event, it’s nice to have depth.  But 10-11 deep?  I don’t know.  And please don’t give me, “well they used 12 defensemen last year…”  That has to be an aberration.  Plus, Urho and Zboril only played 2 games apiece, so really it was 10.

All that being said, they can keep all these D-men if they want.  It won’t hurt them, no question.

In net, expect a regression from Tuukka Rask.  Bet on it.  But at least he and Jaroslav Halak should form a pretty good one-two punch in goal…at least for the regular season.

Me?  This would appear to be a GREAT time to trade Tuuks (would be even better if the Bruins won the Cup, but alas…).  But we already know that ain’t happening.

Forwards?  Ugh…this is where the issues lie.

As noted above, the B’s signed a bunch of 4th liners/Providence type dudes.  Not scintillating to any degree.

Oh, and they made sure they gave Danton Heinen 2.8 per for the next 2 years.  Why?  You got me.  They love the guy though.  I guess he plays awesome defense.  Because he is less than mediocre on offense.  At least last year he was…and he got some run on the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand line.  Not good.

So we still have that Bergy/Marchy/David Pastrnak line.  All well and good.

But here we go with the second line issues again.  David Krejci centering Jake DeBrusk and…who?  I guess the leader in the clubhouse would have to be Karson Kuhlman.  Kid showed some flashes.  But are we ready to anoint him?

I think we can assume Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen make up 2/3 of the 3rd line.  With Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom starting out as the 4th line.  In my eyes anyway.

So who gets that last spot on the third line?

Would you believe David Backes and his 6 mil per year are still around?  I am absolutely astonished at this fact.  He should have been bought out the first day that was possible.  At this point, is a buyout still even an option?  The front office has led us to believe that he will not be bought out.  Why is this?

So Backes HAS to get that spot, no?  What, are they going to waive him (of course he will clear) and send him to Providence?  Healthy scratch every night?  No and no.

This absolutely pains me.  I understand that General Manager Don Sweeney probably doesn’t want to eat 3 mil the next two years against the cap (half of Backes’ salary, which is what I think would be the case on the buyout…but maybe I’m wrong).  And I get it, as they already have a smidge over 3 mil in dead cap money for the upcoming season tied to former greats Matt Beleskey and Dennis Seidenberg.  Actually, Seids was pretty good.  I just thought this wording was smooth!  And Beleskey did suck badly.  Anyway…

Then all these other guys apparently are out of luck.  Ritchie, Lindholm, Shen, Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, blah, blah, blah…I guess we don’t really care unless Bjork or Cehlarik or a guy like Jake Studnicka (a new “name” that has picked up some steam recently) can, you know, actually play.

I don’t know man…I would have loved to have seen a little turnover in the forward group.  A little more turnover overall actually.  There is limited cap room to sign McAvoy and Carlo.  Not only should Backes be gone, but one would figure there would be other trades to free up room.

But nothing…yet.  And I don’t feel like that other proverbial “shoe to drop” is going to happen.  I was absolutely convinced it would in June.  Doesn’t seem that way now.

It has been eerily quiet over there, however.  Does that mean that this could be a calm before the storm?  I truly do not think so.  But something has to give with those two D-men needing to re-up.

There is still some offseason left.  I won’t completely lambaste the front office at this point.  But it’s clear I am leaning that way.

Hope I’m wrong.  Goes without saying, I guess…

%d bloggers like this: