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…so the title was supposed to mean something different, what with the whole country (world?) seemingly shutting down due to the Coronavirus.

First the NBA

Then the NHL

PGA

NCAA

MLB

MLS

XFL

…and of course everything else right on down the list.  Including restaurants, bars, some stores, construction and all that kind of stuff locally.

People seem to be listening to the warnings to stay home.  Drove around a little last night in my town (gasp!) and it pretty much was a ghost town.

Damn Coronavirus!

So with absolutely no sports to talk about, what the hell is the Blowhard to do?

Do we shut down too?  Not sure what to talk about!  We all for damn sure know there is more than enough coverage about the virus itself, there needs to be nothing else said about it by me.  Not that I could even add anything intelligent about it anyway…we could help spread the news…or at least some misinformation about it.  But why bother?  Does anyone even know what to believe anymore?

I stopped reading coverage.  It’s all over the place.  So are the opinions…which I care even less about.

So I just stay home and stare at a blank TV screen.  Since there are no games…

But wait!

There is something left…NFL free agency.

Glad that was not delayed as well.  Folks were worried about “bad optics” with players getting gazillion dollar contracts during a worldwide health crisis.

Like those wouldn’t have happened anyway.

So why not just do it now?  Especially since sports fans need SOMETHING.  And maybe even non-sports fans need a little bit of this too…for a distraction.  Even if they hate the idea.

As for the local angle, which is really why we are here in the first place, things started off innocuously enough.

Devin McCourty re-signed.  As did Matthew Slater.  And Jason McCourty’s option was picked up.  Also, Adam Butler was tendered at a second round level, making him unlikely to go anywhere.

Although the money was kind of big for the first three, it’s not out of hand.  And it’s not long-term.  So I can live with that.

The Pats then franchised Joe Thuney.  SHOCKING.

Almost 15 mil for a guard.  When their other guard, Shaq Mason, makes like 10 mil.

That’s a LOT of dough for guards.  Thuney was supposedly good last year, according to those who actually grade offensive line play, and Mason has been good in the past (though not last year).  But the line sucked as a whole last season.  So this money is hard to justify.  I guess if they work out a long term deal with Thuney before the deadline in July (I think).  But Joe will still be 8 figures plus every year.

Besides, I thought Belichick only franchised kickers.  Both Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski were both franchised by the team…and I think both more than once.  Don’t fact-check me on this, however.

Then yesterday, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins both departed…well, they can’t officially “depart” until Wednesday when free agency actually starts.  But you get the idea.

They were the first defections.  That mattered anyway.

We thought Van Noy would get paid and walk…and he sure did get paid by the Dolphins.  Thought there was a chance Collins would be cheaper and would stay.  He had a great first half against bum teams, then slowly faded in the second half against better teams.  But he still got 3/30 from old friend Matt Patricia.  Good luck to all that out there in Detroit.

I guess that means Elandon Roberts will re-up at some point.  And that warms my heart.  Ummmmm…no it doesn’t.  He is simply not any good.  At either linebacker or fullback.  Despite what the beat writers want you to think.

We here at the Blowhard do not care about the rest of the Patriot free agents…if you haven’t heard that a million times in this space already.

That means you, Danny Shelton.  And you, Nate Ebner.  And most certainly you, Phillip Dorsett.

Welp, that is a bit of a lie.

Because we cared a smidge about one other guy.

Tom Brady.

Whodya think we were going to say silly, Ted Karras??!!

Yes Brady.  Yes we cared.  No we didn’t necessarily care if he was coming back to the Patriots.  We’ve said time and time again that we are not going to get all worked up about a 43 year old QB.  Despite the legend that he is.  The six Super Bowl rings that he led the Pats to.  The desire to see anyone play their whole career with one team.  The sadness or at least weirdness to see him in a different uniform and finish his career with a different team.

And all that.

But again, we root for the laundry here, and the player that wears that laundry as long as they wear it.  When they go to a different team, we don’t necessarily root for the player to fail (well, depends on who it is I guess…and where they end up…hello Johnny Damon on the Yankees, for example?).

We will NOT root for Brady to fail.  No matter who he goes to.  Even if it is the Jets (unlikely), Bills (probably not) or Dolphins (a chance perhaps?).  Or Steelers.  Or Broncos.  Or Giants.  Or anyone.

I will absolutely have none of that nonsense.

But my rooting interest is still the Patriots.  Simple as that.

Oh wait…in case you missed it, and I don’t know how the hell you may have, Brady announced on Instagram this morning that he will not be returning to the Pats.  There has been no contract agreed to with anyone else, as far as I can tell or have heard.  But he won’t be coming back here.

So the Brady watch is (kind of) over.  For all intents and purposes here anyway.

It will be interesting to see where he lands, no two ways about it.  But the most important part to a lot of us has already been revealed.

My sense all along was that Bill Belichick did not want Brady to come back.  Hell, he wanted Jimmy Football over Tom a few years back, we know that much.  He’s probably glad he was forced to keep Tom though, with the latest Super Bowl wins adding to the trophy case.  But still, it doesn’t change the fact that he wanted to move on from Brady a mere few years ago.

Jimmy Garoppolo is not coming back, however, as some rumors swirling the past few weeks would have you believe.

So who is next?

GREAT question.

Based on the Patriots’ current salary cap situation, wouldn’t it suggest they are riding or dying with Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?

I know, I know, cap space can be manipulated in many ways.  Trades and cuts and restructurings and all that can happen too.

But at this point, they have very little cap room.  And that has to be a factor for right this second.

Recent rumors have suggested the Pats may be interested in Teddy Bridgewater.  I have a hard time believing they will shell out a ton of dough there though, even if the cap space became available.  Plus, a whole lot of other teams are interested in Bridgewater.

Cam Newton?  Doubt that as well.

Andy Dalton as a stopgap?  Those were the earlier rumors.  But I’d rather just go with Stidham, to be honest.

Lesser “stopgaps” have already agreed to terms with other clubs:  Marcus Mariota, Chad Henne, Case Keenum, Chase Daniel…

Cody Kessler?  Please.

Outside the box QB?  Who no one is talking about?  That may be the best choice of all of the above?

At this point, unless a truly viable QB comes out of the woodwork, I say go with Stidham.

Right now.

But stay tuned…things should get a whole lot more interesting all around…

Pure Unadulterated Gibberish…Conclusion…

Continuing on with more nonsense from the piece the other day…

*While we were talking about trade deadlines for the Celtics, we are less than impressed with the Danny Ainge’s winter partner, Boston Bruins GM Donnie Sweeney’s performance.

Donnie Hockey was able to unload Danton Heinen and his putrid contract (that Sweeney gave Heinen of course).  But Ondrej Kase?  Nick Ritchie?

Underwhelming.

Yeah, they both have “term” left on their contracts.  Love how “term” has become a hot word at each NHL trading deadline in recent years.  But a first round pick for Kase?

I guess unloading David Backes in that deal was a positive too…but the Bs are still on the hook for 3 mil of his dough.

And Kase doesn’t exactly have a storied NHL history, except for being injured.  Haven’t seen him do much since he’s been here either…other than him getting sent to the box for embellishment on Saturday night.

Sure it’s only been a handful of games.  But Kase isn’t what I envisioned for a second line right wing.  The pundits seem to love the deal and him in particular, so I guess I’ll have to give it time.  What else can I do?

Ritchie…whatever.  Heinen is gone and that makes his deal an overall plus.  But he’s miscast on the second line, I can tell you that much.

The Bruins needed scoring and they simply didn’t get it.  With Jake DeBrusk in a long funk and the Bruin power play scuffling a bit in recent games, the lack of scoring punch has been exacerbated perhaps.

I suppose nothing will matter if Tuukka plays like he has been for the most part recently…giving up some nice softies.

The Bs will be alright.  But how far “alright” takes a team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen.  At least they didn’t give up any of their highly touted kids.  Though a lot of their most recent highly touted kids haven’t exactly panned out…so there’s that.

Especially if they suffer from the “President’s Trophy Curse.”  Also especially, if the Tampa Bay Lightning are on a mission to avenge the first round sweep last season after winning the President’s Trophy last year and setting records in the process.  With or without Steven Stamkos.

*NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION SOCCER!!!  Started Saturday.  I’m excited!!  Are you??!!

Wait a minute, no I’m not.

And guess what?  They played to a tie in their opener.

Shocker.

*XFL.  Still no interest.

Moving on.

*The Patriots have OTHER free agents besides Tom Brady?

GO FIGURE!!

We kind of went through it all 6 weeks ago or so.  But we will take another look as the onset of free agency is upon us.

It goes without saying that I don’t think anyone really cares about the likes of Phillip Dorsett, Elandon Roberts and Shilique Calhoun.  Or even Danny Shelton, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner or Justin Bethel.  I’d say the same about Ted Karras.

At least I feel that way.

After Brady, the key four are Joe Thuney, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Devin McCourty.  Love to have them all back.  And I may actually pay Van Noy.  And slightly overpay McCourty for his leadership.

I have a hard time seeing any of that though.  Especially if Brady leaves.  The Pats may let them ALL walk as part of a total rebuild.

Thuney for sure is gone.  He will command huge dollars.  And the Pats already paid their other guard, Shaq Mason, huge dollars.  Even though the offensive line was fairly putrid overall last season, the feeling here is that they can plug in another serviceable guard for a fraction of Thuney’s cost.

I’d be wary of handing Collins another huge contract.  He wanted one the first time around here.  Got dealt for pennies on the dollar.  Then signed a huge deal with Cleveland.  And didn’t seem to make much of an impact.  He was dominant on a cheap contract early last year.  But the competition was weak.  He sort of disappeared as the schedule got tougher.

I really would consider paying Van Noy.  He fits well in the system and has turned into a very good player.  But at 16 mil plus, will the Pats pay him?  I have my doubts.

If anyone gets overpaid, it’s Devin.  But how much is too much?  He was extremely overpaid in his last deal.  He is getting up there in age.  Who is going to open the vault for him?  His leadership is invaluable, but how much is that worth?  His brother Jason is due 5.5 mil, a ton for him.  The Pats are supposed to keep him at that number.  But what if they don’t?

I do feel like Devin and the Pats work something out.  Maybe at the expense of all the other free agents.  But maybe for the leadership, it will be worth it.

That all being said, it still comes down to Brady.  If he walks, this team could possibly look entirely different next season.  Even if Brady stays it will look different.  But it could be drastic if he goes.

Fun times indeed!

*Last but not least, YOUR BOSTON RED SOX!!

Speaking of fun times!!

This honestly will be a whole nutha column upcoming.

But the Chris Sale situation last week was fun, wasn’t it?

Look, I am not a doctor, but the guy is still going to need Tommy John surgery at some point, no?  So why are they messing around?  Just do it, get him recovered and back for…I guess 2022.  He honestly should have had it last year.  All reports seem to indicate that anyway.

Ownership and Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom can call it what they want.  But this year is some sort of bridge year, right?

The offense should still be fine.  But the pitching staff?  Gross.  Especially if Sale eventually is shut down…which EVERYBODY expects.

Eduardo Rodriguez had an awesome year last year.  But would anyone be surprised if he goes something like 13-11, 4.28 this year?  I won’t.

Counting on Nathan Eovaldi to be a key guy?  Not a great idea.

And the nickel and diming the Sox brass just did to Rafael Devers?  In case you missed it, the team “came to an agreement” with all of their pre-arbitration players on contracts.  Like 20 of them or something.

The Sox “renewed” Devers’ contract.

Big difference.

Yes, the Red Sox are completely within their rights to renew contracts when they can’t come to an agreement otherwise.

But to do it to one of your best players?  Stupid.

If Raffy was asking for 10 million this year, ok.  But I am betting he wasn’t.  Probably more than the almost 700k he got.  But seeing as how all these players have to kind of “pay their dues” before they get PAID, I am betting it wasn’t an outrageous ask.  Something should have been able to have been worked out with his agent.

Again, stupid.  Great way to alienate your players.

Just ask Mookie Betts.

Just like Betts, and especially if he keeps trending up, Devers is going to remember this one.

Guaranteed.

Again, more on the Sox coming up.

But who is excited about the upcoming season?

Not many, I am afraid…

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…

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