So now we are over a week into free agency. As you know, most of the huge money across the league flies out in the first couple of days. There are still some very desirable stragglers, but most of the big-ticket dudes sign right away. The Patriots, as you also know, made some unexpected moves. Of course, we will cover everything that has happened thus far in this post and the one that follows. Thank you for listening.
Arriving: Dwayne Allen, Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead
Returning: James Develin, Michael Williams, Matt Lengel
Departing: Martellus Bennett
In limbo: LeGarrette Blount, Cameron Fleming
Who cares?: Brandon Bolden, Michael Floyd, Greg Scruggs
Worth mentioning: Jimmy Garoppolo, Danny Amendola
First, the trades:
*Allen from the Colts, along with a 6th round pick, for a 4th rounder. This was the first shoe to drop for the Patriots in the free agency period. A gamebreaker, by no means. But we all knew Bennett was going to chase the green once he got to free agency. He got his ring, now it was time to get paid. No problem with that, good for him. Highly doubtful the Pats were going to throw a ton of money at him anyway. So they got someone else for just dropping down a couple of rounds in the draft. Belichick was going to turn that 4th rounder into a 6th and a 7th or something like that anyway. May as well get a useful player while we are at it.
In any event, even though Allen isn’t Bennett, it appears to be a move worth making. His contract extension signed before last season is kind of silly for what he has(n’t) done in the NFL…3 more years at roughly 17.5 million left. But he is supposed to be a pretty good blocker and also a nice red-zone target. So can’t complain much here. Besides, hopefully Gronk stays healthy for 19 games this year. Yeah…
*Cooks from New Orleans, along with a 4th round pick, for 1st and 3rd rounders. Always have to wonder when a stud 23-year-old receiver, who in 3 years in the league has two 1,000 yard seasons already, gets dealt. Why did the Saints want to unload this dude? Yeah, he supposedly whined about not getting any targets in a blowout win last season. But what stud wide receiver DOESN’T do that sort of thing?
Is there another reason he was available that we don’t know about? Maybe. Perhaps he was impressive in putting up those stats indoors with Drew Brees his QB in a pass-first offense. And can’t transition to cold weather or something. I don’t know. But I don’t care. The first rounder given up was last in the round. I’d rather have the guy that has proven he can play in the NFL a bit anyway instead. The third rounder given up? Bill would have just taken some random dude from Rutgers. No big loss. The fourth rounder acquired looks like it will be given up due to the last remaining piece of the Deflategate penalty. But Bill would’ve just taken another guy from Rutgers there too…so I’m not losing sleep over that either. I’m all-in on this one.
*Rex Burkhead? I’m not doing cartwheels. But it seems like a solid move. I’ll tell you one thing…if this means Bolden is gone, I MAY do some cartwheels. I asked for an upgrade at backup RB. Rex could be that guy. Looks like he can contribute a helluva lot more offensively than Bolden can. That’s enough for me. I can’t imagine the team picked him up to be the lead back. I’ll feel a little differently if that is the case. Let’s see what the dough is…
*Williams/Lengel. Can’t hurt. That’s about all I need to spend on these guys.
*Blount. He will be back. I feel it. Jamaal Charles, Latavius Murray and Adrian Peterson are still out there. Along with plenty of other flotsam and jetsam. But I don’t see it. If Blount thought he was going to cash in because of the 1,100 yards and all those TD’s, he was mistaken. He knows the system, Bill loves him and all that. He will eventually take a small deal to return, much to my dismay.
*Fleming. He’s restricted. No one else is paying him 1.8 mil. He will eventually be officially in the fold.
*Floyd. I would’ve taken a flier if no other moves were made at the position. Despite the fact he has some jail time to serve. But Cooks’ acquisition has closed this door.
*Amendola. Love this guy. Hated him when he first got here. Several big catches, great attitude, team player…and then some…eventually won me over. Has a cap hit of almost 8 mil next year though. I’m sure he would restructure (again), but it may be over. Cooks, Edelman, Hogan, Mitchell ahead of him on the depth chart. If Bill keeps a 5th, he’s a special teamer…or just uses Matthew Slater there. Only 4 are usually active on game day. All the injuries. Belichick loves his depth elsewhere more than he does at this position. We will see what happens and I’d love to keep him. But the signs are there…and it doesn’t look good.
*Garoppolo. I’ve changed my mind. I now believe that those reports of the Pats not trading him for ANYTHING are true. He stays. But the Pats already have thrown a few surprises at us already. So watch him go.
Here’s what I believe now though: Jimmy Football stays this year. Tom Brady is owed 1 million cash in 2017, 15 mil cash in both of 2018 & 2019. With all of the cap room available still in 2017 (even after a few more signings to go), I believe the Patriots rework Brady’s contract this offseason. Use a ton of cap space in 2017 for Brady, then add some bogus years to spread things out. And pay him a ton of cash in 2017 & maybe 2018. Have it all work out where it is essentially a 2 year deal, with the majority of the cap hit occurring in 2017.
Then the Pats franchise Jimmy in 2018. Yup. If Brady’s cap hit is huge in 2017 and low in 2018, they can afford to do this. Instead of you know, spending and/or having cap hits of like 50 million on 2 QB’s in 2018.
I may have confused anyone that actually reads this with all that crap above. Bottom line? Brady is the QB for the next two years. Jimmy takes over in 2019, when Brady will be 42. Will Tom still be able to play at a high level at age 42? Perhaps. But do you think Bill is going to bet on that? It’s never been done. Bill is going to err on the side of caution here.
Now…get ready for a Garoppolo trade next week…
NFL free agency begins Thursday afternoon at 4:00 pm. Of course there is some sort of “legal tampering” period that starts Tuesday. But let’s ignore that for now. The following is one man’s thoughts on what’s going on with the players that ended the 2016 season on the Patriots’ roster, by position.
Players under contract: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Devin Lucien, Malcolm Mitchell
Free agents: Michael Floyd
What I would do: There’s a good chance I wouldn’t do anything to the group that ended the year on the team. The top 4 of the group (Edelman, Hogan, Mitchell and Amendola) have earned the complete trust of Tom Brady. This alone is huge. They run the right routes, make the right reads, have decent hands, make the tough catches and are completely comfortable in the system. And all that. Amendola gets banged up a lot and that would most likely necessitate carrying a 5th receiver (please no Matthew Slater here). But these four seem to be a reliable crew in general. Amendola would have to adjust his almost 8 million cap hit…and all indications are that he is amenable to that. The other 3 have salaries that the team could live with.
That 5th receiver could be Floyd. I’d be ok with that. He likely will have to take one of those 1 year “prove it” deals that people love to talk about…and the Patriots like to give out. At probably cheap money too. Why not take a chance? He’s got talent…and a head start in the system already. There have been some rumors that the Pats have interest in New Orleans’ Brandin Cooks. Wouldn’t argue with that either. Not sure why he is even on the market, but that’s their problem I guess. Lucien, a 7th rounder from last year, would not seem to be able to crack this group. Maybe sticks on the practice squad again.
No reason to go too crazy finding other receivers to fit in here right at the start of free agency for sure.
What I think will happen: Belichick doesn’t love dressing 5 receivers for games, unless they make an impact on regular special teams units. Edelman and Amendola do returns, but none of the other guys above are a factor there. But if Amendola takes that pay cut and returns, I think Bill adds either Floyd or another “traditional” receiver. That also could come through the draft though. Maybe they eventually make a trade for a Cooks or the like. But this is another position that will be low priority in free agency for the team.
Players under contract: Rob Gronkowski, Rob Housler,
Free agents: Martellus Bennett, Matt Lengel (exclusive rights), Greg Scruggs, Michael Williams (?)
What I would do: Bennett was a good soldier this year. Kept his attitude in line. You know he played hurt for a great deal of the season. It’s a crime he and Gronk were not together, healthy, for a 16 game season. That would have been fun to watch. Bennett has his ring now and wants big money in free agency. He will probably get it too. If the dough is out of hand, I’d let him go. I’d let him go regardless actually. Because he is the type of guy that if he signs here for less than he believe he deserves, and he already has a ring, he could revert to his past ways where he is kind of a headache. No thanks.
That being said, having a TE of Bennett’s caliber is something I think the team should pursue. Gronk is Gronk. But with another back surgery in the books. The Pats should chase another TE that is in the upper tier. Maybe buy low on someone like they did with Martellus last year. Housler, Lengel, Scruggs and Williams don’t fit that bill. I don’t even know if Williams is still here. He spent all of last year on injured reserve and is still listed on their roster. But not on the salary cap page from what I can see. But that really doesn’t matter I suppose. Anyway, maybe that upper tier TE comes in the draft. But I’d look hard for one in free agency.
What I think will happen: Bennett walks. The team signs a couple of backup TE’s in the mold of a Clay Harbor or something. A veteran with seemingly more to offer than the 4 “other” TE’s above, but not as good as Bennett. Then work on getting another quality TE in the draft…which is supposed to be TE-rich.
Players under contract: David Andrews (C), Chris Barker (G), Marcus Cannon (T), Jamil Douglas (C), Chase Farris (T), Tre’ Jackson (G), Ted Karras (G), Shaq Mason (G), Nate Solder (T), Joe Thuney (G), LaAdrian Waddle (T)
Free agents: Cameron Fleming (T) (restricted)
What I would do: The line was exposed a bit in the playoffs. Maybe it’s because the middle is full of young guys. Maybe it’s because Cannon isn’t actually as good as he apparently played this year. Maybe it’s because Nate Solder isn’t as good as people think he is, period. Maybe it’s because it was Dante Scarnecchia’s first year back in the saddle and he is still working on some things with the unit.
The line seemingly played pretty well this year before the playoffs, so maybe the weaknesses showing up there can be fixed in the offseason…plus with more experience for the interior guys. I’d work on getting better depth in free agency for one thing. The team carried only 8 guys for most of the year…with Waddle mostly inactive and Fleming playing a lot of tight end when injuries hit. I haven’t done any research, but I would say Belichick usually has 10 or so guys on the active roster. Maybe he felt he didn’t need that this year with the line staying intact for most of the year. And also with Douglas, Farris and Barker on the practice squad for most of the year too.
Even with Jackson returning from injury, none of the backup guys seem to inspire confidence. I’d spend some time in free agency finding a better veteran backup swing tackle and a better veteran backup interior guy that can play both guard and center. I’d also restructure Solder’s gruesome 11 mil cap hit. The Pats will have plenty of cap space to do what they want. But that number (currently second on the team overall) just doesn’t look right.
What I think will happen: Nothing. Maybe Solder gets an extension to shrink his cap number. But I think these are most of the characters you see next year. Certainly the starters. Solder and Cannon, with his fat extension signed during last season, will be the tackles. Thuney was a third rounder from last year that they love and he played something like all but 4 snaps the entire season. He’s going nowhere. Andrews seems entrenched. If anything, maybe Mason gets pushed. But by Jackson or Barker (since he can’t spend an 18th consecutive year on the practice squad I would bet), not by a vet they have signed. They will probably bring in some big bodies at the middle to end of the draft. But I doubt they sign any veterans. Not in the first wave of free agency anyway. I can tell you that Sebastian Vollmer ain’t coming back either. So long Sea Bass!!
Next: Onto the defense.
…on the New England Patriots of course. But maybe I’ll sprinkle some other tidbits in from around the league. I know…exciting!! Let’s do this:
*Nice game from Jimmy G Sunday night. I’m not going to get carried away about it though. Jimmy made a few bad decisions still. Though admittedly the offensive line left him a little harried more than once. Great to see him use his legs a little bit. Completed 73% of his passes as well, though also was helped out by some spectacular catches. Even got himself a three yard reception on a tipped ball.
But the coaches kept things conservative at times. In other words, waaaaaay too much LeGarrette Blount. Didn’t trust Garoppolo fully it seemed. I suppose with good reason, seeing it was his first NFL start and basically his first significant action in a real game. So I really shouldn’t complain about that. But the fumbles. Gross. Maybe one was Brandon Bolden’s fault, but they gave it to Jimmy. Still…they can’t happen. All in all though, very happy with the effort.
*I was never bothered by all the nonsense about Tom Brady “not helping Jimmy during the preseason” talk. Maybe he wasn’t. I’m not sure I would want to “train” my replacement either. What mattered to me was that the coaches were most assuredly helping Garoppolo. And they were the ones that were going to draw up the game plans in Weeks 1-4 that would help the team win and presumably play to Jimmy’s strengths. Isn’t that all that matters?
*Chris Hogan was wide open. But it was cool to see Garoppolo hit him in stride on the opening touchdown. As legendary as Brady is, that is not something you have seen a ton of from him on the deep stuff. Sorry if that offends anyone. But true.
*After watching football all day Sunday and then Jimmy Football’s performance at night, it appears Jimmy could be a rich man next year. Assuming he plays at least half-decent the next three games. I don’t think I need to say it, but there are some less than mediocre QBs in the NFL this year. Case in point: I am watching Case Keenum vs. Blaine Gabbert right now. Keenum is…brutal. What does that say about #1 overall pick Jared Goff…who looks fantastic in street clothes, complete with the earpiece, clipboard and all that on the sideline. Jeesh, not only couldn’t he beat out that stiff Keenum, he apparently couldn’t beat out backup Sean Mannion. I know he’s a kid and all, but…
*Going back to Blount and fumbles…his fumble almost cost them the game. Up 17-7 with the ball in the 3rd quarter, that was about the worst time to drop the ball. Once Arizona marched down and scored, I thought that was it. Credit the Pats of course for not folding the tents up.
But…can’t they do better than Blount at RB? And I’m not talking about James White, though he did play well, as much as it pains me to admit. Not as a runner though. I will never buy into White for that. And I am certainly not talking about Bolden. As I said earlier, the official scorer gave that fumble to Garropolo. But seeing that Bolden didn’t play (from what I could tell) in the backfield after that…maybe the coaches actually gave him the fumble.
Blount did have a nice run on the TD. I thought his 13 yard run on the 3rd and 11 late was a little overrated, since absolutely no one expected them to run, especially with him. At least that’s the way I saw it based on the type of defense being played. On the other runs, there seemed to be too many runs straight into the line. Yes, the line was makeshift. But even if it wasn’t, do you think Blount would’ve made something of many of the handoffs? Me neither. There has to be better options out there, even on the waiver wire. Bishop Sankey from the practice squad perhaps?. But we know Bill loves his Blount. So things are unlikely to change.
*Malcolm Mitchell dropped the first pass thrown to him. It was high, but it seemed like he should’ve had it. Then he made some pretty good plays the rest of the game. I will say, it took me only about one half of a football game to like him more than Aaron Dobson. Well, Dobson had a fairly decent rookie year. Let’s hope Mitchell doesn’t go down the same path. I’m just so happy Dobson isn’t here.
*Miami’s defense of course concerns me next week, especially if the Pats roll out that same offensive line. But the game overall doesn’t concern me that much because they have guys like Kenny Stills that get behind the defense and drop like 80 yard TD bombs. And…the QB is still Ryan Tannehill. Sure he had a late 4th quarter drive to almost beat the Seahawks. But then he took a sack to end the game. OK, there was little hope of the Dolphins driving 82 yards in like 30 seconds. But until Tannehill proves he is better, I’m not buying in on him either.
*Oooh, Colin Kaepernick is in the game now. Listen, he can do what he wants during the National Anthem. I just hope he is actually doing something to impact change OFF the field, if those are his true intentions. He may well be doing so. I’ve just never heard anything about it. That’s about as political as I will ever get. I just have always despised him ON the field. Quite simply because he always has been kind of a jackass. He had a nice run the first year he played. But has been terrible since then. And now he cannot beat out the immortal Blaine Gabbert. Talk to me if you ever get good again.
*I didn’t much like Danny Amendola when he first got to New England. But he grew on me after the initial year and last night was just another reason to stay on the bandwagon. Seems like he didn’t play much early. He was returning punts, which was a surprise to me. I am hoping to keep him and Julian Edelman off those returns this year so they don’t get hurt. Let Cyrus Jones and others do it…and use Danny and Julian only in emergencies. Amendola had of course spent the whole preseason on the PUP list. So it wasn’t ideal to see him back there Sunday. Anyway, after apparently seeing limited action at receiver early on, he then came out and made some big catches in the 4th quarter. Gotta tip your cap to him. I am anyway…
*I didn’t much like Jim Gray as a reporter/announcer/interviewer/etc…ever. I wish Brady would stop using him as his personal interviewer. Talk about a clown.
*MY head still hurts from all those headshots Cam Newton was taking last Thursday against the Broncos.
*Terrance Williams…really? Cutting inside with little time left and no timeouts? Even Dez Bryant was smart enough to know you should’ve easily stepped out-of-bounds there.
*Another banner week for kickers. How can there not be 32 good kickers in this entire world? Just 32 is all we need. A lot of people don’t like the money the Patriots are paying Stephen Gostkowski. Comparatively speaking, it’s not a lot. But I’d do it for him or Justin Tucker or any reliable one. Because there just aren’t that many.
*The Pats D better work on their tackling this week in practice. A couple of atrocious plays there.
I think this may be all I have at this point. Oh wait, glad to see the Colts did nothing to improve their defense this past offseason. Glad to see the Chargers are still the Chargers. The Browns still stink. And seeing that the Saints still don’t have any defense either, didn’t Jack del Rio kind of HAVE to go for two there? Ok, I wouldn’t have…and…now I’m done…