Lastly, everybody else:
Locks: John Simon, Chase Winovich
In: Derek Rivers
Out: Deatrich Wise, Keionta Davis, Nick Thurman, Tashawn Bower
Comments: Wishful thinking on Wise I guess. Rivers perhaps too. With Wise, it’s probably time for him to go. He still looks like he can add value, but they haven’t played him much. And when they do, he always commits at least one dumb penalty. As for Rivers, he has played one season out of his three thus far. Two full years on injured reserve. I only added him here because while we have seen enough of Wise on the field, we really haven’t with Rivers. Can he play? Who the hell knows?
Truth be told, this position could use a major upgrade, so they both probably won’t be here when the smoke clears. And it probably won’t matter.
I’m not sure I even want Winovich to play full time either. He looks to me like a situational pass rusher and core special teamer. But what do I know?
I’d use a few draft picks here for sure.
Locks: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Beau Allen
In: Byron Cowart
Comments: I don’t know a single thing about Allen. He has to be as good as Danny Shelton though, no? Well, the 2019 version. Not the 2018 healthy scratch one. Again, I am not sure why we will miss Shelton anyway. When did he become a key loss? It’s not exactly like the Pats were real stout against the run last year.
In a normal year, Guy may be a candidate for an extension and a lower cap number. But again, I don’t think the Pats are doing that with anyone this offseason. Everyone who watched tape swore that Guy was awesome…and has been since he has joined the Pats. I’ll take their word for it. Again, how were they against the run last season? Sigh…
Expect a draft pick or two here as well.
Locks: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley
In: Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Terez Hall
Comments: Calhoun I guess plays some “edge” and is a special teamer. Copeland comes from the Jets, which automatically makes me question him. Hall is getting some buzz here in the spring as a guy that could make some noise. That should make Hall himself nervous. Too early for that kind of hype.
Hightower is one of the three aforementioned players with huge cap hits that could be addressed. But similar to Devin McCourty last season, we think Dont’a gets all his money on this contract and plays this year as is. Leadership, team transition, call it what you want. Hightower has won Super Bowls and will probably be seeking one last big fat contract before he is done. He was allowed to shop himself last time he hit free agency (a la Devin), but nothing apparently materialized and he ended up back in NE. Maybe he took a discount last time. But not next time. Bill will gladly take the compensatory pick next year when Dont’a walks.
Big year for Bentley. Let’s see if he can get back to what he showed in his rookie season before his injury. Because he was no great shakes last year.
Draft picks are sure to be had here as well.
And at least Elandon Roberts is gone.
Locks: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
Out: D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins
Comments: Some buzz about trading Gilmore now…who is the last of the three I mentioned earlier (Hightower, Thuney) that would be normal candidates for extension or trade to get the cap number down on a team that would seem to be transitioning. Steph has another year besides this one left on his deal and after he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, no doubt will be looking for a HUGE payday in his next deal. At age 29 right now, he is unlikely to get it here. I expect him to be here this year at the current cap number. Then I would absolutely not rule out a trade next offseason, even if this season goes way better than expected.
Pretty solid cornerback group otherwise. Keeping Jason McCourty at his inflated option price probably helped keep his brother Devin. But in today’s NFL, with its emphasis on passing, you would seem to need a slew of good corners. So having Jason around won’t hurt them.
Jones plays well out of the slot and Jackson is still young and improving. He may be the #2 guy this year anyway.
I don’t see the Pats giving up on last years’ second rounder Williams. Although, they gave up on the previous years’ second rounder, Duke Dawson, fairly quickly. And Joejuan got busted for drugs earlier in the offseason. So that can’t help. But since the drugs were weed, he’s probably safe.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Terrance Brooks
In: Obi Melifonwu, Adrian Phillips
Out: Adarius Pickett, Malik Gant
Comments: Somewhat surprising Devin got as much dough as he did…but it was only for two years, so I am ok with it. Especially under the circumstances. Meaning, his leadership matters. And, more importantly, a LOT of contracts are coming off the books in the next couple of years.
In fact, while we are talking about it, the Pats only have 12 players under contract in 2022. 8 are 1 million-ish and under. Joejuan is about 2 and N’Keal about 3. Only Jonathan Jones at about 8 and Mason at about 10 are significant outlays that year.
Anyway, back to the safeties. Still old. How much does Chung have left? He took a beating last season. Moreso than he usually takes. Phillips (allegedly) and Brooks are glorified special teamers. Maybe Obi-Wan Kenobi too (and I’ve never even seen any of the Star Wars…impressive, no??!! Ok, ummm…).
Expecting some draftees here as well.
Locks: ????? ?????????? (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)
In: Cody Davis (ST)
Comments: Welp, they will eventually need a kicker. So…that position has to kind of has to be a lock, no? I’m thinking inexpensive, mid-round pick. With Nick Folk (still unsigned) on speed dial. No one is talking about it now either. But can we rule out a return for long-time kicker…Stephen Gostkowski…at some point? Haha…did you think I was going to say Adam Vinatieri?! Nah. He may come back to the Colts, but I am thinking his time has come for the old age home. He won’t be here, for sure.
What if Gostkowski has a clean bill of health late in camp or at least early in the season? And doesn’t have a job by then? Would he come back for presumably short money? I’d keep an eye on that for sure.
The rest of the guys…blah, blah, blah. Have to have a requisite number of core special teamers, don’t you?
That concludes our waaaaaaay too early look at the roster. Probably about 60% accurate from who will break camp with the team in August/September. But always a fun exercise to do…even in April. Again, since there isn’t much of anything better to do…
Next: We are done…I wouldn’t have the energy I don’t think anyway…
Continuing on with the offense, as promised (threatened?!):
Locks: Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris
In: Rex Burkhead, Dan Vitale (FB)
Out: James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)
Comments: Much less interesting than the quarterback position. Michel was not very good last year. But neither was the offensive line. Hopefully, they both improve. Because he will likely get most of the touches again.
Not to mention that I believe that with Stidham at QB, the Pats will try to run the ball even more. Rely more on that and the defense to win games. I believe Belichick has wanted to do that since drafting Michel. To protect against Brady getting old at first. Now to lessen the burden on a young QB.
Harris is primed for a bigger role this year after he spent his rookie season redshirting. Not unusual for a young back to go this route, just ask White.
Rex is a popular potential salary cap casualty pick by a lot of people. But, like a lot of guys on this roster (White included), I think the team sticks with them in the final year of their contracts. Again, I don’t expect this roster to look much different once training camps open in July (presumably). Other than new, cheap faces. So I don’t think any of the popular “they can cut him to create cap space” guys are going anywhere. Plus Rex is pretty good when healthy. I know, good health is kind of a problem for him. But still…
Don’t be surprised if Harris was groomed to take White’s role. Similar to White being groomed to take Shane Vereen’s role. Could White be traded to open up that door as soon as this season? Possible. But I don’t see it. They will probably just let him walk after the year. Like what they did with Vereen. Plus, no one knows how capable Harris is yet anyway. And Bill LOVES those compensatory picks.
Develin is a coaches favorite. But the way I see it, Vitale’s signing means that Dev is not ready. Neck injuries are kind of serious folks. Maybe he starts on PUP. Maybe he goes on IR for another year. Maybe he gets released. Maybe the Pats carry two fullbacks? Maybe Vitale is just here until Develin is deemed fully healthy so that Michel has his security blanket back?
I can’t believe I just wrote this much on the fullback position…
Locks: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu
In: Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross
Comments: Many people all of a sudden want to trade Jules to Tampa to be with his buddy. But the Bucs have Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. I think Tom will be ok. And then I hear during this writing about rumors of Jules to…Detroit??!
Jules should be good for Stidham. And maybe Jarrett won’t feel the need to target him 400 times, so that can keep Edelman healthy…for a while anyway. I get it, Julian was the most reliable receiver for Brady last year. By far. So Tom kept looking for him. And it worked for a long time. But man, did Jules take a beating last season. Let’s keep him around to help the kid. But let’s also develop a couple of other guys so that Edelman is able to stay on the field.
This is where Harry and Meyers, in particular, come in. They need to develop a rapport with Jarrett. Meyers had one in the preseason last season. But that was the preseason. I do think that’s what keeps him on this years’ roster, however.
Harry HAS to work. And since he won’t have a QB that hates him now (presumably), maybe N’Keal can take the next step.
Gunner seemed to be a desperation roster add last year during final cuts, in order to mainly return punts…but now that Sanu is here, it’s not necessary to keep him. Sanu can return pun…oh wait, that’s how he got hurt last season when he got here and then was useless after. Nevermind. But although Gunner was game, he took his own beating. And while he may be a nice practice squad guy, the Pats should do better.
That’s where Byrd comes in. Maybe he can return all kicks. And add some speed. And be more useful than Phillip Dorsett. Is that too much to ask?
As for Sanu, people want to cut him as well for salary cap purposes. As bad as he was down the stretch last year, I am going to give him somewhat of a pass because of the injury. He IS a proven receiver in this league. If healthy, he should be a good receiver for this team. Especially if Harry can establish himself and put Sanu in the #3 role at best.
In: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
Comments: A draft pick or three here would seem to be in order. Gronk ain’t walking through that door, my friends. Best of luck in professional wrestling (sigh…). Aaron Hernandez ain’t walking through that door either, and thank the Lord for that. No Ben Coates, Russ Francis or even Marv Cook. Sorry.
Funny thing is, these two dudes may stick. LaCosse was never healthy last year. Maybe he is halfway decent. Izzo was supposedly hurt last season as well. And we know he was hurt the year before. So the team has invested 2 years in him already.
And…they are cheap.
People want the team to bring in a big name here. That won’t happen. It’ll be these two and a mid-round pick. I can almost smell it.
For better or for worse…and I don’t really have anything better to say here.
Locks: Isaiah Wynn (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)
In: Korey Cunningham (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G/C)
Out: Najee Toran (G)
Comments: That line looks pretty good on paper. But will they all be there on Opening Day?
Thuney was surprisingly franchise tagged. Some say he could be moved if there is no progress on an extension to lower the cap hit. Andrews claims he is 100% but is he? Cannon is one of those popular salary cap cuts. And why not keep Thuney and try to trade Mason?
My guess? They will all be here at their current cap numbers.
Thuney will pocket his almost 15 mil…did you see how long it took him to sign the tender? The Pats won’t trade him, as they need the O-Line to be strong for the first year of the Stidham era. And Thuney won’t sign an extension. He will want his first huge long-term contract. Especially since he has already has two Super Bowl rings. The Pats won’t give him one…not yet anyway. And Joe may want to see how that first year of the new era actually goes before committing long term to the franchise.
Andrews hopefully is healthy, Wynn hopefully stays healthy, as will Cannon…and even Mason, as there were indications he was bad last season because he was hurt.
No Dante Scarnecchia? Might be a problem. But he didn’t matter last season. So maybe he won’t matter this year. Hate to say that. But could be true.
The 4 “In” dudes were drafted last season or acquired for picks right before the season. I feel like they all will get another year to see if they are useful. Eluemunor for sure, since they actually tendered him at 2.133 million as a restricted free agent (what?!). The other 3 are still making 6 figures.
Maybe not though, as they all could get pushed by this years’ draft picks. No harm in throwing some more bodies into the mix and see who is left standing in the end.
Next: Defense and specialists.
Ready for what?
New England Patriot football post-Tom Brady. That’s what.
Yup. It’s here. Or it will officially be in a few months. But…are we ready?
After 20 years of Brady at the helm, is it time for someone different?
Not necessarily. But that’s what both sides ultimately decided. So that’s what we are getting.
Gonna feel a whole lot different in New England, no question. Gonna be weird seeing Brady in a Buc uni, no question. Wish him all the success in the world. Thank you Tom for EVERYTHING. Cannot be stated enough. But best of luck in your new locale.
Brady’s gone and we have to live with it. Can the Pats win a Super Bowl under Bill and another QB? Can Tom win the whole thing in Tampa? Or WILL they? No idea, but I’m at least interested to see. Not necessarily to prove one can win without the other though. Who cares? I don’t. Together they gave us 6 Super Bowls in 20 years. They both had a great deal to do with it. But you know who’s else did? Malcolm Butler. Adam Vinatieri. James White. Danny Amendola. The defensive backs of 2001: Ty Law, Otis Smith, Lawyer Milloy & Willie “Big Play” Clay. J.R. Redmond. An unconscious (literally) David Patten. Jermaine Wiggins. Romeo Crennel. Charlie Weis. Dante Scarnecchia. Josh McDaniels. Julian Edelman. Deion Branch. Dee Ford lining up offside. Billy Cundiff missing that chip shot…oops, the Pats lost the Super Bowl the game after that miss…nevermind. But you get the point. We could go on and on. It was a lot of Bill and Tom. But let’s not forget all the others that helped along the way. So let’s root them both on going forward ok? Unless we get a NE/TB super bowl. Then we can pick a side. But what are the odds of that happening?
So what’s next?
Glad you asked!!
In typical Blowhard fashion, let’s do a roster projection!! Way too early of course. The draft is a month or so away. Still some free agents out there. The country is still basically in lockdown. But we can take a look now. No harm in that.
Why not? What the hell else is there to write about these days??
There are 67 players on the roster as we speak. That means there are 23 spots remaining. 12 draft picks upcoming in the aforementioned draft, with perhaps a few vets sprinkled in with some undrafted free agents to fill out the 90 man camp roster. If camp actually happens, that is.
Bottom line: Lot’s of bodies still to come.
But these bodies will be low cost guys, no doubt about it.
The Patriots have very little salary cap space remaining. Yes, the salary cap can be manipulated for sure. But in 2020, with about 23 million tied up in dead money between Brady, Antonio Brown, Stephen Gostkowski, Michael Bennett and Duron Harmon alone, THIS may be the actual year they cannot manipulate anything. The chickens do come home to roost sometimes. I suppose 2020 is that time for the Pats.
I also read somewhere recently where the Patriots view 2020 not as a “bridge year”, mind you. There are still plenty of good players remaining on the roster. But it’s a year where the Pats “want to get younger and reset their finances”. Think it was Tom E. Curran who said/wrote that, but if it was someone else, my apologies.
There are a few huge cap charges on the roster for this year where that player could sign an extension, be traded or cut or whatever else needs to happen to lower that specific cap charge. Three players in particular. But we will go over those players when we get to their positions. And the bottom line is that I think nothing will be done with any of the three. Not during this season anyway.
Taking all 12 draft picks they have seems like a stretch to me as well, despite having the 23 open spots. They have 1 first, 4 thirds, 1 fourth, 3 sixth and 3 seventh round picks. Wouldn’t shock me in the least bit if that first rounder was the first to go. For a second this year and a first in 2021 perhaps. Then Bill will turn that second rounder into 2 fifths and sixth. Then 2 third rounders into a 2nd next year. Etc. We know how he does business.
All I’m saying is don’t expect any big names coming through the door from now until the start of the season…whether through trade, free agency or the draft.
Enough of the rambling. Let’s get into the actual players, just like we normally do it each August. We are skipping the “way out” category for now. Because, let’s face it, no one is “way out” at this time of year.
Locks: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
Out: Cody Kessler
Comments: Welp, as I was in the midst of writing this, Kessler was released. So he’s definitely out. But let’s leave him in this analysis because we will talk about adding a third QB here.
Forget about that third QB being Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, etc. I mean, if you actually wanted any of these guys. The Pats are rolling with Stidham. And Hoyer as the “veteran backup”. I guess Hoyer is lucky he knows the system. Because just about anyone else would be a better backup. Well, except Kessler apparently.
Those aforementioned established veterans would cost money…potentially lots of it. A couple of them would cost draft capital and/or players in a trade. As we said, the Pats don’t have a lot of cap room. But we also don’t see them spending money on a Newton or a Winston even if they did. Would they fit the system? Is Newton truly healthy? Can Winston take his head out of his arse? Would either take a short money, “prove-it” type one year deal? Do the Pats even want someone on a one year deal to quarterback the team?
Not sure about any of that.
We wouldn’t be shocked if the Pats drafted a QB, however. But then again, do they want Stidham to have “real” competition? And possibly lose confidence? I don’t know.
The way it stands now, Stidham HAS to be the guy. Hoyer’s agent is apparently telling anyone who will listen that his client was told he would be given the opportunity to win the starters’ job. But…does he actually believe it? Agent or client? Or…ANYONE else??!
Sure, Hoyer could start the first couple of games to “ease” Stidham in. I don’t see it though. I have to believe they are rolling with “Stiddy” (as Devin McCourty has called him, not me).
Maybe a late round pick for the practice squad. That’s about it. But as I believe Bill Parcells once said, “I reserve the right to change my mind”.
Next: The rest of the offense.