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A Little Bit Of Everything…

Tying up the rest of the loose ends:

*Boston Bruins.  So the NHL trade deadline is rapidly approaching.  Some trades have already happened.  But things should head toward fast and furious in the coming days.

What will the Bruins do?

Last season, GM Don Sweeney went out and got Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, which admittedly was more than I thought he would do.  I mean, it wasn’t like getting Jon Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak, like he did one year.  You can argue the merits of handing Coyle a 6 year extension for huge bucks this season.  But the moves from last year worked out pretty well, I think we can say.

Unfortunately for Donnie Hockey, that hole on the right wing of David Krejci (and Jake DeBrusk) still exists.  Seems like it has existed for years.  And I guess it has…other than the Johansson stint.

In my opinion, that’s almost the only move to make.  The “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak is all set.  Wait, I still need to know where that moniker came from.  No one but people on the NHL Network seems to call them that.  I don’t ever remember hearing that nickname until the playoffs last spring.  Mostly out of Doc Emrick’s mouth.  Annoying…but whatever…

The gaggle of third and fourth liners the Bs have would probably suffice.  Coyle/Anders Bjork is a fine start to the third line.  Sean Kuraly/Par Lindholm/Chris Wagner/Joakim Nordstrom/Anyone is certainly acceptable as a fourth line.

Karson Kuhlman may very well be an NHL player.  But I am beginning to think that isn’t this year.  And I am totally done with the Danton Heinen Experiment.  On any line.

If you added some beef to the bottom six and a somewhat of a scoring RW to the second line, I think we are good.

Wait…defense anyone?  I am not sure they need it.  Well, no one will stop any kind of upgrade attempt of course.  But I think the 2nd line guy is more important.  The 9-10 guys in the mix now on D would seem to work.  Perhaps Jeremy Lauzon is the real deal.  Or perhaps he is being showcased for a trade.  He did just sign a cheap extension after all.  And you ain’t getting rid of that John Moore contract.

But if they stood pat on D, I actually wouldn’t mind.

Who to give up?  Anyone!  Maybe Sweens can soak someone into taking Heinen.  Or even better, “The Player Formerly Known As David Backes”.

Ummmmm…yeah, I know those ain’t happening.

But the time is now to make another run.  Patrice, Marchy, Z, Krejci, Tuuks, etc aren’t getting any younger.  As much as I would like to hang on to guys like Bjork, Kuhlman and Jack Studnicka and hope they develop, if the package is right, Donnie has to consider dealing those guys.

After all, guys like JFK, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Zboril, Anton Blidh, etc. have or will ever make it.  And those are “kids” that Sweeney had high hopes for.  Among many others.  So who is to say the likes of Kuhlman will either?

*Tom Brady.  Everyone sick of this talk yet?  Still a month away from free agency.  It will be an absolutely fascinating process once things start going down.  But I’m a little exhausted from it all at this point.

How much more can we talk about it?  Hasn’t every angle been covered thus far?

Is there really any NEW news?  Or just idiots like me speculating?  I say it’s the latter.

Wake me up on this one in a few weeks…

*Dustin Pedroia.  I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again:  PLEASE GO AWAY!!

The guy was a good player for a long time for the Boston Red Sox.  But he seems to be the only one that doesn’t realize that his career is over.  We keep hearing he has setback after setback.  And how he needs to “regroup and consider his options”.  We hear it seemingly hear it every day.  And will through Spring Training, most assuredly.

I appreciate his zeal to get back and play the game.  But that ship has sailed.

If it’s all about getting the 25 mil plus left on his deal, well that is all guaranteed, so he’s going to get it anyway.

Step aside Dustin.  It’s long past time.

*Kobe.  His death was certainly tragic.  As was his daughters’.  But so were the deaths of the other seven on board that helicopter.  I think the general public loses sight of that waaaaaaaaay too many times when it comes to celebrities.  But I am never going to win that fight, ssssssooooo…

As my man Colby recently posted, along with most assuredly several others, a little bit of a cloud still kind of hung over him as his career went on.  Yes, the rape accusations were 17 years ago.  But it’s funny how that all played out.  Charges dropped, case dismissed, civil suit being settled, Kobe buying his wife like a 4 million dollar ring while this was all going on…and everything else…how soon we all forget.

Listen.  There’s no argument about Kobe’s basketball ability and the fact he was one of the greatest of all time.  He also may have remade himself into a quality person as he got older.  Maybe he was a quality person all along but made at least that one mistake.  I don’t know.  I never knew the guy personally.

But that’s my problem with putting all these athletes and celebrities on a pedestal.  No one knows “how great a guy” that any of these people are.  Am I supposed to take other athletes’ or performers’ words for it?  Who knows about those people either?

Recognize his greatness in the sport.  But let’s not get carried away with some of the nonsense that has been spilling out about him “in tribute”.

That’s all I am saying.

*XFL.  There’s been a request to comment on this.  So here goes:

I have watched very little of the first two weeks.  But what I have seen is a lot of disorganization across the board.  Officials, coaches, players, etc.  And I haven’t exactly seen great football either.

That’s not much of an analysis.  And since I’ve only seen a fraction, it may be totally erroneous.

One thing is for sure though:  If teams are already firing coaches and team captains after the first week of games, that has to raise a red flag.  ONE GAME?  A little hard to believe.

Maybe Vince McMahon sent down the orders.  That’s a little scary to think about, no?

In any event, despite the Blowhards’ love for the game of football, we really haven’t been inspired to watch much of it.  That seems like a problem for the league if we aren’t the only ones.

I could probably sum up the lack of desire in two words:  “Matt McGloin”.

‘Nuff said.

*Super Bowl.  As we all know by now, the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl and Jimmy Garoppolo peed his pants in the 4th quarter of the game.  Does that mean that Jimmy Football now sucks and that he isn’t considered a franchise quarterback anymore?  I don’t have the answer to that as of yet.

What I do know is that if your coach does not trust you to with plenty of time left to move down the field at the end of the first half, then that could be a problem.

So maybe the jury is still out on Jimmy G?

No need to comment further as the game was over two weeks ago and I suppose we are all on to the XFL.  And…I passed on watching the halftime show and most of the commercials.  So I don’t have any intelligent analysis there.

I really just needed a few words on the game to wrap up the picks portion of the season.  As poor as they were, we still have to recap, right?

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  10-7

Season (against the spread):  136-131

Season (straight up):  171-96

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.

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