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Patriots Post Draft Roster Projection…

…because a) everyone else is doing it and b) we are really scraping together things to actually write about in the sports world…

No need for further introduction, except for again, no one is “Way Out” at this time of year, so we are skipping that usual category.  Oh, and since we have no idea on who most of the undrafted free agents are at this point, we won’t really comment much about them…not until we get to see a little of them in the preseason anyway.  If there is a preseason, that is.

Offense:

QB (2):

Locks:  Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer

In:  None

Out:  Brian Lewerke, J’Mar Smith

Comments:  If not taking a quarterback, even late, in the draft doesn’t tell the world that the Pats are going with Stidham, I don’t know what else will do it.  There is a groundswell of support for starting Hoyer and giving the kid extra games to “be ready”, but why bother?  Just give the kid the job and let him run with it.  And if he sucks, STILL let him run with it.  Because then they may be able to play “Tank for Trevor (Lawrence)” or “Fail for (Justin) Fields”.  I doubt it will ever get to that point actually.  But we know what Brian Hoyer is.  And it ain’t an NFL starting QB.  So leave him with the headset and clipboard and let the kid sink or swim.  If the Patriot brain trust is apparently that confident in Stidham, shouldn’t the rest of us be also?

RB (5):

Locks:  Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris

In:  Rex Burkhead, Dan Vitale (FB)

Out:  Jakob Johnson (FB), J.J. Taylor

Comments:  Rex is a popular potential salary cap casualty, as previously noted.  But we think he sticks around as the Pats will presumably lean on the ground game more.  We gave three options for James Develin in the pre-draft projection, he could be released, put on Injured Reserve or the Physically Unable to Perform list.  Didn’t even think of “retire”.  Stupid.  That one should have been kind of obvious.  But that doesn’t lock in Vitale I don’t think.  Not yet anyway.  And it has nothing to do with Jakob potentially beating him out either.

WR (5):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu

In:  Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers

Out:  Marqise Lee, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross, Will Hastings, Sean Riley, Isaiah Zuber, Jeff Thomas

Comments:  No way the Pats let Sanu go as a cap casualty after they dealt a second rounder for him and he was useless last season.  Byrd is the frontrunner to return kicks, so he probably sticks.  Meyers had a good rapport with Stidham last preseason and showed some promise during the year.  Hard to believe the Pats give up on him now.  Lee seems like a flyer to see if he has anything left.  Thomas would have supposedly been drafted if he didn’t have off-field issues.  Sounds like a solid practice squad candidate to me.  Hastings is interesting because he changed positions in college to receiver from…kicker?  How does that happen?  Sorry Gunner.  Nice story last year.  But there are too many waaaaay better options this time around.

TE (3):

Locks:  Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene

In:  Matt LaCosse

Out:  Ryan Izzo, Rashod Berry, Jake Burt

Comments:  Think they keep the veteran LaCosse around to help bring the two draftees along.  Maybe Matty has shaken the injuries and actually has something to show.  They could keep Izzo for cheaper.  But since he has been largely hurt for his two seasons here and not necessarily good when out on the field, my guess is he can slide to the practice squad for the time being.

OL (9):

Locks:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG),

In:  Marcus Cannon (RT), Korey Cunningham (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G/C)

Out:  Michael Onwenu (G), Najee Toran (G), Justin Herron (T), Dustin Woodard (C)

Comments:  Could be some moving pieces here before the start of the year.  If the Pats and Thuney can’t hammer out an extension for some cap relief, he could be dangled.  Also, did you know that Cannon has the FIFTH highest cap charge on the books for 2020?  The team has about 2 million of cap room left and still need to sign all of their draft picks.  Sure, other guys could get released or they could restructure.  But if most of his 9.6 mil comes off in a cut, this may be an easy one.  Remember how bad he sucked last year?

It’s doubtful the Pats go this route, but I suppose you never know.  The four dudes that are “in” aren’t necessarily so.  But hard to believe that Cunningham and Eleumunor get axed, despite playing sparingly last season.  The team gave up picks to get them.  Then again, neither could play over the immortal (and royally horrific) Marshall Newhouse last season, so there is that.  They also gave Jermaine a 2.1 mil tender.  So maybe they have some hopes for him, in particular.  Cajuste and Froholdt were 2019 draftees that spent all year on injured lists.  Hard to see them not getting another chance.  Though I’d love to find a way to get Onwenu on the roster.  Because I think he ends up on it when the real season starts.  Just can’t find the space for him on this right now.

Next:  Defense and specialists.

Gronk…and the NFL Draft…

…well, let’s get these thoughts out there quickly, as the draft is almost here.

First on Gronk.

Similar to former QB (wow, that still seems weird to say!) Tom Brady, the Blowhard really wasn’t losing a whole lot of sleep on Rob Gronkowski’s status.

I mean, this is not even considering the nonsense Gronk has been into since he “retired”.  Wrestling, “acting”, pimping CBD oil, disastrous Fox pregame appearances…ugh…off the field, I’ve been wanting him to go away for quite some time.

None of that matters at all at this point, now that he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

How do we feel about him returning to the field now?  And not back in a Patriot uniform?

Glad you asked!!

I don’t care.

I really don’t.

Listen, I LOVED Gronk when he was playing here.  Didn’t necessarily love some of his antics off the field when he was playing, similar to what he has done during his year off.  But while he was laying his body on the line, making huge plays and helping the Pats win games and ultimately Super Bowls, I just dealt with the silliness like everyone else.

Could he have helped presumptive new QB Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?  Absolutely.  No question about it.

But let’s also face some facts.  He will be 31.  Seemingly not that old.  But he has taken an absolute beating over the years.  Amazing he has lasted this long, what with his back problems that started when he was in college and then the surgeries he has had as a pro.  Not to mention the other injuries he had, including the ones we probably never even knew about.

On a team that is retooling on the fly, with only one definitive other viable receiving option right now (a 34 year old, similarly banged up Julian Edelman), with Gronk once again facing double and triple teams (perhaps based on reputation as well), how enticing would a return to New England be for him?  And how effective would he be as a result?

In Tampa, he may be the third or fourth option.  More enticing for him for sure.  He also may be asked to not work as hard, as they have other capable tight ends on the roster.  Two for now, but at least one will be there in September.  The Pats have no other capable tight ends.  Hard to believe they will add anyone else there either.  A draft pick maybe.  But how reliable will that guy be this current season?

The beatings would continue if he came back here.

Let’s also face this:  Gronk was done with playing in New England.  And that’s ok.

Rumors have it that he was indeed dealt to Detroit for a first round pick before the 2018 season.  But threatened to retire.  So the deal never happened.

He only wanted to play with Brady.  So now he is unretiring to play with Brady.

And I am ok with that too.

I do wish, for the betterment of the team, that if Bill Belichick felt that trading Gronk for a first rounder was the best way to go, that it was allowed to happen.  But it wouldn’t have been the first time a higher up squashed something an underling wanted to do.  So be it.

I also don’t believe that Gronk is that unstoppable force anymore that he was throughout his career.  Injuries have taken their toll for sure.  Looked like throughout during the 2018 season anyway.  He will be an asset to the Bucs, no question.  And maybe win a game for them next season.  He will also most assuredly be better than any Patriot tight ends this year as well.  But it is hard to believe he will be an All-Pro again.  Time will tell.

Jason Witten took a year off and came back.  No great shakes in his return.  Yes, he is also much older than Gronk.  But I think we can draw some parallels.

I would have liked to have gotten more than a fourth round pick for him (while also trading a seventh rounder).  But he wasn’t playing for the Pats anyway.  Under any scenario.  And he could have unretired first, had his remaining salary go up against the cap to cause the Pats to have to frantically cut someone, trade someone or restructure one or more deals.

So there were a couple of sides to that story.

It seems to me that the end result made everyone happy.  We will just have to see how it plays out.  But I am not fretting the departure of Gronk.  Things will be ok.

Though I guess Bill would have taken that first rounder a couple of years ago over the fourth rounder now…

As for the draft, what will the Patriots do?

WHO THE HELL KNOWS?!

Haha…seriously though, what do I think?

Again, glad you asked!!

You’ve heard all the rumors:  Trade up for Tua, trade down for picks, trade picks into next year because the coronavirus will limit the offseason programs and perhaps even training camp itself, trade Joe Thuney, trade for O.J. Howard, take a quarterback high to compete for the job…etc.

Oh and “Bill never takes a running back in the first round”, then he takes Sony Michel in 2018.  And “Bill never takes a wide receiver in the first round”, then he takes N’Keal Harry in 2019.

We could go on all day.  The only thing that is certain is that Bill will take a guy that will really only be able to play special teams in the NFL in the 5th-6th round.  That doesn’t include the kicker that will likely be drafted in the middle rounds.

Nothing would surprise me.  Nothing.

Another hot take is that “releasing Cody Kessler is a real sign the Pats will definitely take a QB in the draft”.

It is??!

Why?

They have like 24 open roster spots.  They could go sign a Cam Newton or Jameis Winston eventually if they wanted to.  Or trade for Andy Dalton.  Or…gasp…re-sign Kessler eventually if nothing else materializes.  They could re-sign Kessler as a fourth arm, even if they do sign, trade or draft another dude.

But I don’t see them taking a QB as automatic.

If they take someone high, it may be an admission that the team does not believe that Stidham is the long term guy.  And what would that do for his confidence?

I could see them taking a QB late, a Danny Etling type.  Practice squad type guy to roll the dice on.  But I don’t see them trading up for anyone.  Or taking a guy relatively high.  Jake Fromm?  Perhaps.  But what is that, 4th-5th round?  Unlikely a threat to Stidham.

I really do think they are rolling with Stidham and Hoyer this season.  For better or for worse.

As for the actual picks, my opinion?  As it stands, the Patriots have 12 draft picks.  They will wheel and deal like they normally do.  Even with everyone drafting from home, fantasy football style.  Might not be as easy.  But I bet a lot of the legwork has been done already (e.g. the deal will likely happen only if a player is still available in that certain spot).

It will be fascinating to watch.  Mainly because it is the first “post-Tom Brady” draft.  Also because, well, there is nothing else going on in sports.

Specifics?  Best I can do is:

They WILL draft a kicker.

They MAY draft a QB, but mid to late rounds.

They WILL draft a lot of fat guys on the line, on both sides of it.

They MAY trade a pick or two into next years’ draft.

They WILL not trade up in the first round.

They MAY stand pat in the first round (instead of trading down) and take a non-skill position player.

They WILL entertain offers for G Joe Thuney, but won’t give him away.

They MAY make a real player deal or two (Howard?  Another veteran on the outs with another organization?)

That about sums it up.  About as an expert analysis as you will get East of Mel Kiper Jr.!

One last thing, there WILL be some technical difficulties during the draft.  May be minor, as the NFL did a trial run the other day to work out the kinks.

But seeing that this event is going to break television records apparently, would anyone be surprised if the hackers were heavily involved?  People are talking about coaches or team reps losing internet access, blue screens, miscommunications with Roger Goodell and issues along those lines.

Wouldn’t shock me to see a little porn being thrown up on the screen at some point during the telecast.

Just sayin’…

Are We Ready? Part II…

Continuing on with the offense, as promised (threatened?!):

RB (5):

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…

WR (5):

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??!

Ummmmm…no thanks…

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.

TE (2):

Locks:  None

In:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Out:  None

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.

OL (9):

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.

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