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New England Patriot Free Agency Review – Offense

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.

The rest:

*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.

*Scruggs.  Who?

*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…

Jimmy G time!!

Since the season starts (for the Pats) starts in about a half hour (as I start typing this), here’s some random observations…basically since the team started camp.  No rhyme or reason, no particular order, completely all over the place.  But no, no more roster projections.  I can promise you that.

*The starting offensive line tonight appears to be Cameron Fleming/Joe Thuney/David Andrews/Ted Karras/Marcus Cannon…YIIIIIIIIKKKKKKKEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!

*The Patriots have re-signed some of their upcoming free agents recently:  Matthew Slater, Jonathan Freeny & Rob Ninkovich, to be specific.  I do love Ninkovich, despite him being an idiot and getting suspended for PEDs.  Have an “expert” check the labels next time Nink.  But if I had to pick three of the impending free agents to re-sign, these wouldn’t be the first three.  Devin McCourty restructured today apparently too.  I HOPE all of this means they have created some decent cap room and are locking up Jamie Collins for several years.

*The rest of the impending free agents?  I’m not worried about Malcolm Butler next offseason.  He’s restricted.  If they sign Collins, they can franchise tag Dont’a Hightower.  Jabal Sheard?  Would love to keep him, but I bet they let him go, especially after some other team throws a ton of dough at him…assuming he has a good year of course.  Logan Ryan & Duron Harmon?  Replaceable.  Martellus Bennett?  A luxury this year.  Sebastian Vollmer?  Injury-prone, seems likely if he wants to stay, he will have to take a huge pay cut.  Point being?  Sign Collins ASAP and the rest should fall into place.

*Yes, the Julian Edelman “losing Brady is like one of your friends going to jail” comment is silly.  He was on the same team with Aaron Hernandez at one point, no?

*If Jimmy Garoppolo is truly is affected by the Tom Brady banner hanging at Gillette Stadium, is he the person we want quarterbacking the team?

*Jacoby Brissett looked pretty good in the preseason.  But if Jimmy Football struggles out of the gate, do people really think he will be better?  At least now?  Not so sure about that.

*Gronk has a bad hammy.  Uh oh.

*Brady is keeping sharp by throwing to Gisele.  That should work.

*Surprised DJ Foster is inactive.  Thought they may go short passing game tonight.  Wouldn’t be shocked if they showed a bit of no-huddle.  Running game is average, at best.  Line is potentially brutal.  Foster could help there.  Maybe we will see some Brandon Bolden out there in his place.  Yuck.

*People were surprised that Cre’von LeBlanc and Kamu Grugier-Hill were left off the final roster.  I was.  But do we really think that these guy will end up being superstars elsewhere?  Doubtful.

*Gametime.  Moving on.  Prediction?  Ugh.  I think the Pats will show better than most think.  But the obstacles are too great.  Arizona, 24-17.

Patriots roster projection, v1.1

So I’ve been seriously slacking at this address lately.  It’s summer!  But…trying to get back on the horse.  New England Patriots preseason football starts tonight, so no better time to do it than now.  I had previously made a roster projection in early May, shortly after the draft.  Ergo, version 1.1 here.

There are 91 guys on the roster at this point.  At least that is my count.  Yup, there is only supposed to be 90.  But they have an exemption for U.S. Olympian rugby player (and safety) Nate Ebner.  Not sure when he is coming back, but I am keeping him in that status for now.  Plus, we all know Tom Brady is suspended for the first 4 games.  So instead of taking 53 guys for the final roster, I am taking 55.  Since the preseason PUP list is in effect, I’ll consider the regular season PUP list.  No practice squad or other lists at this time.  Sorry!  Let’s get to it…

QB (3):

Locks:  Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Suspended:  Tom Brady

Only change from v1 is Brady’s official suspension.  People are clamoring to add a veteran here.  I don’t see it, unless Jimmy Football and Brissett show complete incompetence in the preseason.  Or there is an injury.  But remember 2008?  Matt Cassel was absolutely inept in the preseason and then went 11-5 during the regular season.  These two need all the reps they can get and I think they will get them.  No sense in adding a vet unless there is an emergency.

RB (5):

Locks:  Brandon Bolden

In:  James White, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney

Out:  Donald Brown, Joey Iosefa, D.J. Foster

Way Out:  None

PUP:  Dion Lewis

Only change is the PUP for Lewis that creates a spot for Gaffney.  I have a feeling about Gaffney.  Not that he will be any good.  But the fact that they have kept him around so long.  I feel like he will get an opportunity because this is his 3rd year here.  Especially with no one else really standing out.  Bolden is only a lock because of special teams.  I have never been a huge White fan, but no one is pushing him.  Foster may have, but he has been hurt.  He could end up as an IR stash.  Brown has been hurt as well.  Don’t love Blount, but Belichick does.  All is quiet on Lewis’ status.  I’m going to assume they play it safe with him.  Still extremely hard to project where they will go here.

WR (4):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell

In:  Keshawn Martin

Out:  Chris Harper, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  DeAndre Carter

PUP:  Danny Amendola

Only change is DA to PUP.  Similar to Lewis, haven’t heard a ton on Amendola.  I personally would’ve started both Danny and Edelman on the PUP and “saved” them for the latter part of the season.  Since, you know, they both get hurt a lot.  But as Bill would say, “football players play”.  So we have Julian active.  Of course, Jimmy G needs people to throw to I guess.  Anyway, if they start Amendola on PUP, that could create a spot for, gulp, another Aaron Dobson stint.  I’m hoping not.  Nate Washington could’ve snuck in here too.  But it doesn’t reflect well when you vomit on the first day of camp and aren’t heard from since.

TE (3):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett

In:  Clay Harbor

Out:  Bear Pascoe, A.J. Derby

Way Out:  Bryce Williams, Steven Scheu

No changes to the active roster.  As for the guys cut, my biggest disappointment I think is that De’Runnya Wilson was never actually signed.  He was “way out” on my first projection, but it appears he really was “way, way, way out”.  Bryce Williams and Bear Pascoe have been subsequently signed instead, but methinks they are just camp bodies.  Hoping Gronk doesn’t play at all in the preseason and Bennett plays very little.  Michael Williams may have been my 3rd TE, but he ended up on IR with a torn ACL instead.  Derby has made some noise in camp, but not sure at this point it’s enough to unseat Harbor.  Seems like a good practice squad guy.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Bryan Stork (C), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), David Andrews (C)

In:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Marcus Cannon (T), Jonathan Cooper (G), Josh Kline (G/C)

Out:  Chris Barker (G), Cameron Fleming (T), Ted Karras (G)

Way Out:  Keavon Milton (G), Kyler Kerbyson (T), Jon Halapio (G)

PUP:  Sebastian Vollmer (RT), Tre’ Jackson (G)

Lots of moving pieces here.  Kerbyson and 2015 6th rounder Halapio have been signed since the last projection…but that hardly matters.  I can’t tell if Jackson is still on the preseason PUP.  But I know Vollmer is.  Leaving them there for now, since things have been quiet, especially on the big German.  Andrews and Waddle switch places, but they both make it anyway.  Kline gets back on the roster.  Cooper has been hurt and maybe he ends up on IR, giving Dante Scarnecchia and the organization a year to try to tap into his potential as a former #7 overall pick.  Right now, Thuney and Mason are the top guards, but that can change in a heartbeat.  Fleming and Barker have been fringe depth for a few years now.  Karras may be ticketed for the practice squad.  Long way to go before this settles.

DE (5):

Locks:  Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom

In:  Trey Flowers

Out:  Frank Kearse

Way Out:  None

Ninkovich should end up on the “short-term IR, designated to return” list with his torn triceps.  But he can’t be placed there until after the original 53-man roster is set.  Made me add Flowers back in and make Grissom a lock now though.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine

In:  Marcus Kuhn

Out:  Joe Vellano

Way Out:  Woodrow Hamilton, Anthony Johnson

Not much difference here from May.  Kuhn seems to be getting a lot of run in camp, so I am putting him on.  Anthony Johnson was signed over the summer, but not sure that affects anything.  Not much to talk about otherwise.

LB (5):

Locks:  Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McLellin

In:  Jonathan Freeny, Ramon Humber

Out:  Rufus Johnson, Elandon Roberts, Kevin Snyder

Way Out:  None

No changes with the guys who make the team.  Jon Bostic was traded and Tony Steward was cut.  I don’t know what happened to C.J. Johnson, but I don’t think anyone cares.  I moved Kamu Grugier-Hill to another position…because I can.  No one is holding out.  No one is hurt…yet.  Let’s just leave it at that.

CB (5):

Locks:  Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones

In:  Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts

Out:  E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Jones,

Way Out:  V’Angelo Bentley, Cre’Von LeBlanc

Roberts was the last guy I added to the roster.  He may lose his spot if Ebner is back.  Since he was a 7th rounder in 2015 and was on IR all last year, they may be able to stash him on the practice squad anyway.  Moved Jones from “Way out” to “Out”, but I may be the only one that cares about that.  I’ve heard his name mentioned a bit in camp and that’s why I did it.  If you do happen to care, that is…

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

In:  None

Out:  Brock Vereen, Vinnie Sunseri

Way Out:  Cedric Thompson

Sunseri was a summer signee, but seems to be another fringe guy.  Devonta Burns was another guy that apparently supposedly signed after the draft but didn’t (like my pal De’Runnya…yup, just looking for a way to say the name again!)…so he’s gone.  Pretty cut and dried here.

Specialists (7):

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

In: Kamu Grugier-Hill (ST)

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Exempt:  Nate Ebner (ST)

Seven specialists you say?!  Yup.  Slater, King and Ebner have rarely played their listed positions during their careers.  With Grugier-Hill seemingly on all four special teams units, it appears that will be the case with him too.  Cardona apparently will be able to play the season instead of “playing” for the U.S. Navy, so no need for a second long-snapper in Christian Yount.  So he was jettisoned a bit ago.  Nothing else exciting going on here.

That’ll do it for now.  Happy that football is starting.  Though it’s kind of a bummer that summer will be winding down.  Oh well.  At least there should be some actual football played tonight.  As opposed to the Hall of Fame Game that was supposed to be played this past Sunday.  Don’t get me going on that…

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