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What’s Next?

For Robert Kraft?

Nope.

You guys can talk about Kraft on your own time.  Plenty of talk radio action on that, I am sure.

I know, he is the “flavor of the week”.  And I suppose his “situation” is newsworthy, to some degree.  To the degree of “what the F are you doing, you couldn’t have been more discreet about this?” anyway.  That’s how I see it.

Listen, whatever the old man wants to do on his own time is up to him as far as I’m concerned.  The guy was married for like 50 years for Chrissakes.  But more importantly, he has done a lot of good in his life.  Despite having plenty of money lining his own pockets.  If he wants to partake in some consensual “fun”, all the power to him.

Now, if Kraft were involved in any way of participating in human trafficking, then that is an entirely different story.  But I’m not aware of any evidence being turned up on that.  Yet anyway.

Other than that, why the hell are we even talking about it?  Kraft has suffered some embarrassment, that is for sure.  But I’m also sure he likely doesn’t give much of a rat’s arse.

That’s all…

In any event, the question posed in the title was supposed to reflect the upcoming free agency period for the New England Patriots.  I know, the Super Bowl pretty much just happened.  But the offseason movements are coming soon.  Time to get ready.

Let’s take a look at the roster as it currently stands.  That includes everyone that ended the year on the injured list and any of the practice squad guys that were signed to futures contracts.  As well as the guys who are due to become free agents.

We will talk a little about the salary cap.  I know, the NFL salary cap is fraudulent and can be manipulated any way you like.  But we will just go on theoretically what the cap implications could be.

Per usual, we will do it by position:

QB:

Under contract:  Tom Brady, Danny Etling

Unrestricted free agents:  None

In limbo:  Brian Hoyer

What I would do:  Hoyer is under contract, but in limbo I feel because he counts 3 million against the cap next season.  Hoyer is Brady’s good buddy, but do the Pats need to pay him that much to do nothing all year?  I mean, if Brady gets hurt and has to miss time, Hoyer can hold the fort in the regular season sure.  But the Pats ain’t winning a Super Bowl with Hoyer at the helm.  I’d slash his salary.  You would think he would be agreeable, especially since no one else in the league is handing him a starting job.  I know, do we want to tick off Brady over pinching pennies?  Maybe not.  But I think they should look into it.

Etling can stay…for now.  With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, it may be a good time to draft the ACTUAL QB of the future though.  And if Brady is serious about playing 3 or more years, maybe it’s time to extend him and drop his 27 million cap hit.  Maybe 2 more years, not 3 or 4.  But even if you do 4 more years and it’s basically throwing money away at the end, we could probably live with it since it’s Brady after all.  He’s earned it.

What the team will probably do:  Extend Brady, keep Hoyer at his current cap hit, keep Etling and yes, I’m thinking they take a QB this year with more upside than Etling and someone who has a real shot at being the franchise QB after Brady.  First rounder?  Doubtful.  But with several picks in Round 2 and 3, a spot there has to be considered a real possibility.

RB:

Under contract:  Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James White, James Develin (FB)

Unrestricted free agents:  Jeremy Hill

In limbo:  None

What I would do: Re-sign Hill if healthy after he tore his ACL in the first game of last season.  If not Hill, another comparable veteran back.  Same difference.  Someone that may have once been good and still maybe can be…but will be cheap.  Other than that, no need to do much else here.  Maybe draft a kid for the practice squad as well.

What the team will probably do:  Likely the same thing I would do.  Burkhead, Michel and White form a pretty good trio, when healthy.  That’s the biggest issue, health, specifically for Burkhead and Michel.  That’s why you need the extra back, preferably a veteran.  Maybe that kid too, but not another first rounder for sure.

WR:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, Darren Andrews, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson

Unrestricted free agents:  Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron

In limbo:  Josh Gordon (restricted free agent), Cody Hollister (exclusive rights free agent)

What I would do:  LOAD UP!!  All kidding aside, receiver is a huge need.  Stating the obvious, I know.  Just look at the names.  Edelman is under contract for only 2019 as well.  Perhaps a short extension is in order?  Berrios got some props last preseason, but I didn’t see it.  Andrews and D. Patterson?  Whatever.

3 bodies, at least, need to be brought in.  And good bodies at that.  Not Dorsett, Hogan or C. Patterson.  Look, if you wanted to bring Cordarrelle back as a #5 guy, I wouldn’t complain.  He can be that gadget guy again.  But not for the 3 mil he earned last year I would say.  Even bringing Gordon back as an extra piece wouldn’t bother me.  “Extra piece” cuz you sure as hell can’t count on him.

Golden Tate said “he would love to play for the Patriots”.  Of course he would.  He’s a free agent.  He’d love to play anywhere right now.  That being said, him as a #3 here?  Sign me up.  Someone like Danny Amendola at #4?  Sure.  But you need a #1/#2 to match with Edelman.  Odell Beckham Jr?  Hmmmmmmm…I’d consider it.  If any team can rein that jackwagon in, it’s the Patriots.  But someone of that ilk would be nice.

High draft picks?  I don’t know.  Rumors are that the team is meeting a whole slew of highly regarded college receivers at the NFL Combine going on now.  Meetings are nice.  But Belichick’s track record of drafting wide receivers is not.

Even though that with the drafting of Michel and the extension of Burkhead last year and how the team played a lot of ball control in the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl victory may lead to the conclusion that the Pats will continue to run the ball more as Brady gets older, they still need major upgrades at receiver to keep the offense rolling.  They don’t need Randy Moss, Part II.  But they need reliable dudes.

What the team will probably do:  There were rumors that the Pats pushed hard for Beckham at the trade deadline last season.  But it would still shock me if they went in that direction in the coming weeks.  Or Antonio Brown either, though there is pretty much zero chance the Steelers will send him to New England.

Tate?  Maybe.  But not if he wants too much money.

I’m thinking they will load up on bodies, like last summer, and see who sticks.  There is probably a good chance Dorsett and Cordarrelle will be back…unless someone wildly overpays for Patterson.  Seems unlikely, but you never know.  Dorsett they apparently are already talking to.  Hogan is likely gone, but we will probably be looking at another summer of Kenny Britt’s and Jordan Mathews’ and the like.

TE:

Under contract:  Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo

Unrestricted free agents:  None

In limbo:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

What I would do:  This is what I wrote last year, shortly after the free agency period had commenced:  “Comments:  I do believe we have to take Gronks’ retirement “threats” seriously.  Despite being a monster, he has taken quite a beating over his NFL career.  And despite all the back surgeries, there is no doubt that the back will always hang over his head at least a little.  I’m betting that throwing a little money at him will get him back into the fold mentally though.  Isn’t that always the case?

Speaking of money, I am absolutely stunned that Allen is still here.  5 mil against the cap next season.  Was he that good a blocker?  Is he just hanging around in case Gronk does retire?  I don’t see it.  That’s money better spent elsewhere.  I know Hollister and Tye aren’t appealing backup options if Allen departs.  But there has to be someone else out there that is.

Let’s make Gronk happy and find a young tight end somewhere.  Not an extremely pressing area of need (unless Gronk walks of course), but definitely a position to keep an eye on.”

Aren’t we in EXACTLY the same boat here?  Well, Tye is no longer on the roster, but you get the point.

Gronk had an off-year, with supposedly an Achilles injury to blame as well as…back problems.  My belief is that Brady can talk him into one more year if Gronk is up for it.  I can totally see that happening.  But we are still waiting to see if Gronk will retire, just like last year.

Allen’s salary is still an issue, though for 2019 he will be over 7.3 mil against the cap.  Outrageous.  Hollister is still unappealing as a backup and I am guessing that Anderson is too.

Izzo, a seventh rounder from last year, could perhaps be that kid they are looking for.  He spent all year on injured reserve, likely with some kind of bogus injury to “redshirt” him for the year, similar to Berrios.

I’d talk Gronk into one more year and cut bait with Allen.  Give Izzo a shot at a spot, but bring in some competition.  Draft one relatively high?  Perhaps.  I’d even take Allen back if he wants to play for like a million.  After Gronk, will any of the other TE, regardless of who they are, make any difference in this offense?

What the team will probably do:

The longer time goes by where Gronk doesn’t retire, the likelihood increases that he will be back.  I think Brady talks him into one more go-round.  Allen sticks too, believe it or not.  But maybe shaves some salary.  Hollister’s time may be up, but he, Izzo and Anderson battle for a spot.  Perhaps another Izzo type drafted late looking for future depth.

Wouldn’t put it past Bill to draft a TE high.  He’s done it before.  A lot of mock drafts have them taking one.  But that’s when Bill throws us a curve and takes a safety or a running back or something.

OL:

Under contract:  David Andrews (C), Marcus Cannon (T), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), Isaiah Wynn (T/G), Cole Croston (T), James Ferentz (C), Ted Karras (G/C), Brian Schwenke (C), Dan Skipper (T), Ryker Matthews (T), Jake Eldrenkamp (C)

Unrestricted free agents:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Ulrick John (T), Tony Adams (T)

In limbo:  Trent Brown (T)

What I would do:  Brown is in limbo because theoretically the Patriots can franchise or transition tag him.  I doubt that happens and I would let him walk anyway.  Someone is going to pay him huge bucks and he has his ring to boot.  Brown played well this year, but I am wary of giving an almost (over?) 400 lb. guy who had underachieved prior to last season an enormous (pun intended) amount of dough.  Wynn may be able to replace him.  But Brown replaced Nate Solder well enough after only playing right tackle his whole career previously.  So Dante Scarnecchia and company can replace Brown probably fairly easily…and cheaper.  Bring in a vet to compete with Wynn and then the loser should provide good depth on the line.

I may see if I can extend Thuney, as his contract is done after 2019.  Thuney and the other starters have been solid.  And the current backups don’t scare anyone.  However, even though the team has said since Day One that Wynn is a tackle, maybe he ends up at guard where many projected all along.  That would line him up to replace Thuney and then we are still left with getting that left tackle.

Otherwise, just keep bringing in big bodies and continue to improve the depth.  Cannon can be a weak link, but he’s locked in for decent dough for the next three years, so replacing him is probably a pipe dream at this point.

What the team will probably do:  Make Wynn the left tackle and bring in a lot of fringe vets and maybe a draft pick or three to find out who can provide depth.  It seems to be pretty cut and dried here.  I mean, look at some of the nobodies they already have signed for the upcoming year.

Next:  The Defense.

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Still Experimenting?

The New England Patriots escaped with a 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday.  That much we know.  And when we consider the circumstances (the week after a big win against conference leader Kansas City, road game, no Gronk, unfamiliar team from the other conference, with that team having played fairly well thus far this year, Sony Michel going down early, etc.), maybe no one should get worked up over how close the game was, how sloppy the Pats were or how bad the Pats defense looked (again)?

Maybe.

But one thing is hard to overlook.  As the schedule heads into November, the Patriots have historically “turned on the jets”, so to speak.  We all know how Bill Belichick & Company treat September as the proverbial “extended preseason”.  Then in October, they ramp things up and by the time November rolls around, they generally have become a well-oiled machine.  They look like a completely different team than the one that showed up in September.

Does anyone feel that way with this team?  The defense in particular?  The offense has been pretty damn good the last month or so, despite more interceptions than usual from Tom Brady.  And some fumbles.  And now heading into next week’s game against Buffalo with just James White and Kenjon Barner (who?) at running back.

But that defense…sigh…once again, there were opposing players running wide open all over the field.  As bad as Mitchell Trubisky was, he still threw for 333 yards to go along with his 81 rushing yards…including that ridiculous touchdown run where he ran like 60 yards on the field but like 8 yards on “paper”.  Ridiculous meaning the Pats should have dropped him for like a 20-yard loss.

The linebackers are slow and the big guys up front don’t seem to be getting to the quarterback and if they do, they can’t bring him down.  The secondary?  Yikes!  If they are trying to bring back Devin McCourty to his rookie year when he was a Pro Bowl cornerback and have him cover people now…welp, THAT ain’t workin’.  J.C. Jackson is getting some snaps…is that a good thing?  Not sure.  But he can’t be worse than Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty though, right?  I guess we shouldn’t worry, Duke Dawson has started practicing and is coming back soon!!

All kidding aside, this defense has given up a boatload of points this year and looks…bad.  So my question, are the Pats still experimenting and it’s taking longer than anyone would have hoped and thought?  Maybe we get a decent defense in December now and we just have to wait a little bit?

My guess?  Nope.  Maybe these players are not any good.  Maybe guys like Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and perhaps Patrick Chung are past their prime,  Adrian Clayborn sure is.  Maybe the young kids can play at some point.  But the ones that actually play do not seem ready (Jackson, Derek Rivers, Jones, Keionta Davis…and perhaps Deatrich Wise, though he appears to be injured).  I don’t know what happened to Malcom Brown.

What usually happens is that all of these guys fill a role.  Most of the defense is comprised of actual role players.  But they usually mesh better…and quicker.  I don’t get the feeling that things will continue to get better the rest of the year.  Not even to the recent years’ standards of “bend but don’t break”.   I’ve been wrong before, but they are running out of time…

Miami at Houston (-7.5)

The Texans have rebounded from their 0-3 start to win 4 straight and take over first place in the AFC North standings.  That may be more a reflection on how bad Jacksonville has been.  And how mediocre the division appears to be overall.  So seven weeks into the season, we still really don’t know how Houston is as a team.  Deshaun Watson does not appear to be all the way back.  But maybe the defense and running game can carry this squad until he is.  Then, they may actually become…dangerous.

I can tell you that the Miami Dolphins aren’t any good.  I know, they have the same record as the Texans.  I just have zero faith in Brock Osweiler…and Ryan Tannehill, if and when he comes back.  It also seems mystifying that the team is giving a young Kenyan Drake fewer carries than 153-year-old Frank Gore.  It should also be troubling to ‘Phins fans that Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola have the top two receiving yard totals on the team.  I know, Wilson is hurt now too.  Those guys may be decent receivers and good to have as part of the overall unit.  But they shouldn’t be leading ANY team in yards.

Houston 27, Miami 17.

Week (against the spread):  8-6

Week (straight up):  10-4

Season (against the spread):  54-53

Season (straight up):  66-41

Patriot Free Agency (in)action, Offense…

As promised (threatened?), we will provide a snapshot of the New England Patriots roster as it stands now.  Of course, there will be plenty of informative comments following each position group.  Define the word “informative” as you may, but I’ll feel good about them anyway.

For the record, we will say where the player came from if they are an addition and where they went if they jumped ship.  We will also note if they finished last season on the Patriots injured list (IR) or on the Patriot practice squad (PS).  Just cuz I want to be informative, as I said…yup…

Enough of the nonsense, let’s get to it:

QB:

Holdovers:  Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  None

In limbo:  None

Comments:  Everyone knows that Brady will be 41, Jimmy Football was traded for a bag of footballs and a tackling sled and that Hoyer stinks.  Not to mention that Jacoby Brissett was also traded last year for probably something less than Garoppolo.  Even though I keep hearing from some talking heads recently that Phillip Dorsett actually had a pretty good year “…when he played…he was actually open a lot, Brady either didn’t see him or just didn’t throw it to him…”  Ok, if you say so.  In any event…an obvious need at some point…and soon.

I’d take a QB fairly high in the draft.  Someone who the team thinks has potential to be that proverbial “next guy”.  Not taking one just to take one.  Brady (and his wife) were doing some whining on his little Facebook thing and some people took that to maybe mean he doesn’t plan on playing until he’s 125 like he has always said.  I don’t buy it.  It’ll all work out and he will be around for a while.  If they draft a dude now, they will have time to groom him.  It’s supposed to be a deep quarterback draft, but what do I know?

And no, I would pass on signing Matt Cassel or Matt Moore or any other Matt that is a veteran stiff…in case you were wondering.

Bottom line?  Still in pretty good shape here, wouldn’t you say?

RB:

Holdovers:  Rex Burkhead (re-signed), James Develin (FB), Mike Gillislee, James White

Arrivals:  Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati)

Departures:  Dion Lewis (Tennessee)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  We talked enough about Lewis yesterday.  Hill has regressed from his fantastic rookie year in 2014 for the Bengals.  But from what I understand, the Pats are on the hook for very little if he doesn’t pan out.  I feel like Gillislee deserves another shot and I want to see more Rex.  I feel ok with this collection…especially in this offense…and especially if they all keep Brandon Bolden off of the field.  Moving on…

WR:

Holdovers:  Kenny Britt, Brandin Cooks, Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman (IR), Chris Hogan, Cody Hollister (PS), Riley McCarron (PS), Malcolm Mitchell (IR)

Arrivals:  Cordarrelle Patterson (Oakland)

Departures:  Danny Amendola (Miami), Bernard Reedy (released)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  I’m not going to deny they will miss Amendola to some degree, especially when the chips are down.  But again, we went through all that yesterday.  I will also add that I am not sure that throwing multiple mediocre bodies at the end of the depth chart will help that cause.  But that’s me.

If the depth chart shows Cooks, Edelman, Hogan and Mitchell, assuming good health of course (a BIG assumption), do we really need Britt, Dorsett or Patterson?  Plus, McCarron has been getting a lot of love recently.  How many receivers can you carry?  What exactly are the first three bringing you anyway…especially if they are the 5th receiver on the depth chart?

That’s just it I suppose…depth.  Who knows where Edelman and Mitchell will be health-wise going forward?  I know, there appears to be little risk with the aforementioned three veterans, financially or otherwise.  And I know, Patterson is a dynamic kick returner.  Though I will agree with the talk radio chatter on Monday where it was pointed out that kick returns are a very small part of the game these days.

I have no inside info on the situation.  But I have a feeling there may be another shoe to drop here before camp opens.  There has been some smoke revolving around Cooks’ status for a couple of weeks now.  Cooks was up and down last year and my feeling is that he will improve in his second year in the system.  And none of those three vets mentioned appear to have the ability of Cooks.  But I suppose you never know…

TE:

Holdovers:  Dwayne Allen, Rob Gronkowski (we think?), Jacob Hollister, Will Tye (PS)

Arrivals:  None

Departures:  Martellus Bennett (IR, released)

In limbo:  None

Comments:  I do believe we have to take Gronks’ retirement “threats” seriously.  Despite being a monster, he has taken quite a beating over his NFL career.  And despite all the back surgeries, there is no doubt that the back will always hang over his head at least a little.  I’m betting that throwing a little money at him will get him back into the fold mentally though.  Isn’t that always the case?

Speaking of money, I am absolutely stunned that Allen is still here.  5 mil against the cap next season.  Was he that good a blocker?  Is he just hanging around in case Gronk does retire?  I don’t see it.  That’s money better spent elsewhere.  I know Hollister and Tye aren’t appealing backup options if Allen departs.  But there has to be someone else out there that is.

Let’s make Gronk happy and find a young tight end somewhere.  Not an extremely pressing area of need (unless Gronk walks of course), but definitely a position to keep an eye on.

OL:

Holdovers:  David Andrews (C), Marcus Cannon (T), Cole Croston (T), James Ferentz (C, PS), Antonio Garcia (T, IR), Andrew Jelks (T, IR), Ted Karras (G/C), Jason King (G, PS), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G)

Arrivals:  Matt Tobin (T) (Seattle)

Departures:  Nate Solder (T) (New York Giants)

In limbo:  Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Comments:  We ranted on Solder yesterday and I’m done talking about it.  The other four members of the line return.  It’s a solid, if unspectacular, group.  So obviously the focus is on finding a new left tackle.  And once again, I am not going to get worked up about it.  Dante Scarnecchia and the team should be able to figure it out.  Maybe it’s one of these guys above.  Maybe it’s a draft pick.  Maybe it’s someone released over the summer or early in camp.  Who knows?  Maybe I am being naive (or just plain stupid), but I am simply not concerned about it.

People are also seemingly terrified of losing Waddle and/or Fleming.  Seriously?  These guys were released in recent years.  Now they are all of a sudden irreplaceable?  Mystifying.

These guys are going to be alright next season without Solder.  I feel like that isn’t even going out on much of a limb, to be honest…

Next:  The Defense.

 

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