…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.
Locks: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
NFL free agency begins Thursday afternoon at 4:00 pm. Of course there is some sort of “legal tampering” period that starts Tuesday. But let’s ignore that for now. The following is one man’s thoughts on what’s going on with the players that ended the 2016 season on the Patriots’ roster, by position.
Players under contract: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Devin Lucien, Malcolm Mitchell
Free agents: Michael Floyd
What I would do: There’s a good chance I wouldn’t do anything to the group that ended the year on the team. The top 4 of the group (Edelman, Hogan, Mitchell and Amendola) have earned the complete trust of Tom Brady. This alone is huge. They run the right routes, make the right reads, have decent hands, make the tough catches and are completely comfortable in the system. And all that. Amendola gets banged up a lot and that would most likely necessitate carrying a 5th receiver (please no Matthew Slater here). But these four seem to be a reliable crew in general. Amendola would have to adjust his almost 8 million cap hit…and all indications are that he is amenable to that. The other 3 have salaries that the team could live with.
That 5th receiver could be Floyd. I’d be ok with that. He likely will have to take one of those 1 year “prove it” deals that people love to talk about…and the Patriots like to give out. At probably cheap money too. Why not take a chance? He’s got talent…and a head start in the system already. There have been some rumors that the Pats have interest in New Orleans’ Brandin Cooks. Wouldn’t argue with that either. Not sure why he is even on the market, but that’s their problem I guess. Lucien, a 7th rounder from last year, would not seem to be able to crack this group. Maybe sticks on the practice squad again.
No reason to go too crazy finding other receivers to fit in here right at the start of free agency for sure.
What I think will happen: Belichick doesn’t love dressing 5 receivers for games, unless they make an impact on regular special teams units. Edelman and Amendola do returns, but none of the other guys above are a factor there. But if Amendola takes that pay cut and returns, I think Bill adds either Floyd or another “traditional” receiver. That also could come through the draft though. Maybe they eventually make a trade for a Cooks or the like. But this is another position that will be low priority in free agency for the team.
Players under contract: Rob Gronkowski, Rob Housler,
Free agents: Martellus Bennett, Matt Lengel (exclusive rights), Greg Scruggs, Michael Williams (?)
What I would do: Bennett was a good soldier this year. Kept his attitude in line. You know he played hurt for a great deal of the season. It’s a crime he and Gronk were not together, healthy, for a 16 game season. That would have been fun to watch. Bennett has his ring now and wants big money in free agency. He will probably get it too. If the dough is out of hand, I’d let him go. I’d let him go regardless actually. Because he is the type of guy that if he signs here for less than he believe he deserves, and he already has a ring, he could revert to his past ways where he is kind of a headache. No thanks.
That being said, having a TE of Bennett’s caliber is something I think the team should pursue. Gronk is Gronk. But with another back surgery in the books. The Pats should chase another TE that is in the upper tier. Maybe buy low on someone like they did with Martellus last year. Housler, Lengel, Scruggs and Williams don’t fit that bill. I don’t even know if Williams is still here. He spent all of last year on injured reserve and is still listed on their roster. But not on the salary cap page from what I can see. But that really doesn’t matter I suppose. Anyway, maybe that upper tier TE comes in the draft. But I’d look hard for one in free agency.
What I think will happen: Bennett walks. The team signs a couple of backup TE’s in the mold of a Clay Harbor or something. A veteran with seemingly more to offer than the 4 “other” TE’s above, but not as good as Bennett. Then work on getting another quality TE in the draft…which is supposed to be TE-rich.
Players under contract: David Andrews (C), Chris Barker (G), Marcus Cannon (T), Jamil Douglas (C), Chase Farris (T), Tre’ Jackson (G), Ted Karras (G), Shaq Mason (G), Nate Solder (T), Joe Thuney (G), LaAdrian Waddle (T)
Free agents: Cameron Fleming (T) (restricted)
What I would do: The line was exposed a bit in the playoffs. Maybe it’s because the middle is full of young guys. Maybe it’s because Cannon isn’t actually as good as he apparently played this year. Maybe it’s because Nate Solder isn’t as good as people think he is, period. Maybe it’s because it was Dante Scarnecchia’s first year back in the saddle and he is still working on some things with the unit.
The line seemingly played pretty well this year before the playoffs, so maybe the weaknesses showing up there can be fixed in the offseason…plus with more experience for the interior guys. I’d work on getting better depth in free agency for one thing. The team carried only 8 guys for most of the year…with Waddle mostly inactive and Fleming playing a lot of tight end when injuries hit. I haven’t done any research, but I would say Belichick usually has 10 or so guys on the active roster. Maybe he felt he didn’t need that this year with the line staying intact for most of the year. And also with Douglas, Farris and Barker on the practice squad for most of the year too.
Even with Jackson returning from injury, none of the backup guys seem to inspire confidence. I’d spend some time in free agency finding a better veteran backup swing tackle and a better veteran backup interior guy that can play both guard and center. I’d also restructure Solder’s gruesome 11 mil cap hit. The Pats will have plenty of cap space to do what they want. But that number (currently second on the team overall) just doesn’t look right.
What I think will happen: Nothing. Maybe Solder gets an extension to shrink his cap number. But I think these are most of the characters you see next year. Certainly the starters. Solder and Cannon, with his fat extension signed during last season, will be the tackles. Thuney was a third rounder from last year that they love and he played something like all but 4 snaps the entire season. He’s going nowhere. Andrews seems entrenched. If anything, maybe Mason gets pushed. But by Jackson or Barker (since he can’t spend an 18th consecutive year on the practice squad I would bet), not by a vet they have signed. They will probably bring in some big bodies at the middle to end of the draft. But I doubt they sign any veterans. Not in the first wave of free agency anyway. I can tell you that Sebastian Vollmer ain’t coming back either. So long Sea Bass!!
Next: Onto the defense.
…since everyone else is doing it. Kinda early for me though really. Since I haven’t seen any practices or any preseason games (yes, I watch them!), I don’t know the difference between Cameron Fleming and Darius Fleming or who the hell guys like Wilson Van Hooser or L.T. Tuipulotu are. Plus there are always are a couple of undrafted guys that come out of nowhere (see Kenbrell Thompkins), guys that are highly touted for what they do on the practice field but are stiffs (see Zach Sudfeld) or guys that get cut from other teams at the end of camp being added (perhaps Benjarvus Green-Ellis coming back this year?). Among other circumstances, including 4 games worth of injuries to factor into. But here goes anyway…the players marked with (L) I would consider a lock at this point:
QB: Tom Brady (L), Jimmy Garoppolo (L), Ryan Mallett:
Billy B has cut high picks before, but as bad as the reports about Jimmy have been, doubtful it will be him this year. I’m hesitant to make Mallett a lock for a couple of reasons. First, the Patriots rarely carry 3 QB’s. Second, I still feel like they could make a trade involving him at some point during the preseason…if he shows well.
RB: Stevan Ridley (L), Shane Vereen (L), James White (L), Brandon Bolden:
People that think Ridley is going to get cut are delusional. He still can’t catch, but he remains the best back on the roster. If he doesn’t fumble (BIG “if”, I know), he could have another year like 2012. There is no “big” back likely to make the roster either. Maybe Bolden, but he is not a threat for main back duties. Bolden makes it here because of special teams and he has some RB ability. But if someone like Green-Ellis becomes available, I wonder if Bolden is gone. Also if one of the undrafted kids (Roy Finch, Stephen Houston or 1st year player Jonas Gray) shows well. There is a lot of love for James White, but I am not going to get too excited yet. We’ve been there before. Vereen will play a ton, but he will also get hurt. You can pretty much count on that.
WR: Julian Edelman (L), Danny Amendola (L), Kenbrell Thompkins (L), Josh Boyce (L), Matthew Slater (L), Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson:
Yup, there is room for all 7. Especially since Slater doesn’t really count. Have to put him somewhere though. Don’t have Dobson as a lock for the simple reason that I would not be shocked to see him start the year on the PUP list. Would allow them some more room for another body. Plus, if I’m not mistaken, he had his surgery later than expected and would give him more recovery time. Amendola will get one more chance to prove dependable. I believe he can be cut after this season with no salary cap implications, so this is kind of make or break for him. One of the reasons Boyce sticks too. Hard to believe they would axe him after a year too. Don’t know which way to go on LaFell. They gave him a big bonus, but you have to wonder why a team with no WRs (Carolina) would let him walk. Jeremy Gallon was drafted, but he likely ends up staying on PUP or the practice squad.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (L), Michael Hoomanawanui (L), James Develin:
Hoo-man is dinged up I guess, but he really is the only other suitable choice behind Gronk. Feel like Develin makes it as TE/FB combo. But there are a couple of young TE’s in Asa Watson and Justin Jones that have some promise…they say anyway. If the Pats feel like they cannot sneak these guys onto the practice squad, maybe one of them takes Develin’s spot. DJ Williams is also lurking, but feel like they could re-sign him quickly if needed. Hasn’t been a lot of demand for his services.
OL: Nate Solder (L), Logan Mankins (L), Ryan Wendell (L), Dan Connolly (L), Sebastian Vollmer (L), Marcus Cannon (L), Cameron Fleming (L), Jon Halapio (L), Joe Kline (L), Bryan Stork (L):
Again, room for all 10 exists. No one knows what’s wrong with Stork, but he is injured and has missed some practices. People are quick to write off Wendell and Connolly, but these guys have been around and have positional flexibility. There is room under the cap for them. The 3 draftees (Stork, Fleming, Halapio) may have promise, but probably aren’t ready. Cannon has impressed at times and Kline showed well last year. But I feel like Wendell and Connolly both stick, especially now that Stork is “behind”. Chris Barker was carried for all 16 games last year and if they want to make a spot for him, then maybe one of them goes. But my sense is that if Barker showed them anything last year, they wouldn’t have drafted 3 linemen this year. With injuries though, all 11 could stick somehow.
Defense and specialists to follow…