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New England Patriots Free Agency Roundup, Part 4

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.

Defensive backs:

Players under contract:  Patrick Chung, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Jordan Richards, Eric Rowe

Free agents:  Malcolm Butler (restricted), Justin Coleman (exclusive rights), Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan

What I would do:  Take some of that cap space and lock up Butler.  Sure, you have a year to do it, but do it now.  The guy has done everything the team has asked.  And played at an extremely high level.  The cornerbacks behind him on the depth chart are…sketchy.  Even if Ryan stays, he is up and down.  I’m not ready to give up on Cyrus yet.  But he needs to get his head out of his arse next year.  Rowe?  We will see with a full offseason in the program.  Not enticing.  Pay Butler.

Ryan has improved since he’s been here.  I’d like to keep him.  But I’m not giving him #1 cornerback dollars.  Harmon can take a hike.  Should be able to find just about anyone that can play 30 yards off the line of scrimmage and pick off stupid throws.  Maybe that guy is Richards next year.  He was a 2nd round pick after all.  I’d get another decent body or two at corner though.

What I think will happen:  The Patriots don’t pay Butler until they absolutely have to.  Perhaps their hand is forced if someone makes him an offer and the Pats are forced to match.  I know the Pats have signed Chris Hogan and Wes Welker and probably others off the restricted free agent market before.  They have also made offers to plenty of players before, such as Emmanuel Sanders.  But I feel like the rest of the NFL is not as aggressive on restricted guys.  I could be wrong.  But I don’t know if I see anyone coming after Butler.  Haven’t heard ANY rumors about it either.  The silence could be a sign however.  Some team could swoop in under the radar.  Worth monitoring closely, either way.

Ryan gets overpaid by some stupid team.  As does Harmon.  The Pats eventually add some bodies.  But of course no one of significance.

Specialists:

Players under contract:  Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Nate Ebner (ST), Stephen Gostkowski (K), Matthew Slater (ST)

Free agents:  Brandon King (ST) (exclusive rights), Barkevious Mingo (ST)

What I would do:  Nothing.  I mean, what difference does it make?  Allen and Cardona seem more than capable at their jobs.  I’m not sure the Patriots need to go searching for upgrades there.  Gostkowski?  It’s time for some competition for the guy for sure.  But I’m not laying out big dollars in free agency for a kicker.  Not when I believe that all the money left on the last two years of Gostkowski’s contract is guaranteed.

Gostkowski has had a pretty good career.  He’s been borderline automatic since early in his career until this year.  Sure, he hasn’t made a ton of big kicks like his predecessor, Adam Vinatieri.  But he hasn’t had as many opportunities either.  His kickoffs, long and short, have been normally what you ask for.  And may have made a difference in this past Super Bowl.  I have a hunch that he had some sort of injury this year that wasn’t talked about.  Perhaps not.  But he deserves a chance to keep his job.  Bring in some kid to camp to push him.  But don’t spend in free agency.

The special teamers?  Whatever.  I’d have actually loved to see Bill use Mingo on defense to see what he could do.  Maybe just speed rush the passer.  They obviously thought he couldn’t do anything though, so they never put him in.  Slater and Ebner had a ton of tackles, but they are signed.  The rest of them…not worth worrying about too much.

What I think will happen:  Absolutely nothing noteworthy during the heat of free agency.

Next:  Another sport.  We are done here!!  Mercifully…

Patriots roster projection, v1.1

So I’ve been seriously slacking at this address lately.  It’s summer!  But…trying to get back on the horse.  New England Patriots preseason football starts tonight, so no better time to do it than now.  I had previously made a roster projection in early May, shortly after the draft.  Ergo, version 1.1 here.

There are 91 guys on the roster at this point.  At least that is my count.  Yup, there is only supposed to be 90.  But they have an exemption for U.S. Olympian rugby player (and safety) Nate Ebner.  Not sure when he is coming back, but I am keeping him in that status for now.  Plus, we all know Tom Brady is suspended for the first 4 games.  So instead of taking 53 guys for the final roster, I am taking 55.  Since the preseason PUP list is in effect, I’ll consider the regular season PUP list.  No practice squad or other lists at this time.  Sorry!  Let’s get to it…

QB (3):

Locks:  Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Suspended:  Tom Brady

Only change from v1 is Brady’s official suspension.  People are clamoring to add a veteran here.  I don’t see it, unless Jimmy Football and Brissett show complete incompetence in the preseason.  Or there is an injury.  But remember 2008?  Matt Cassel was absolutely inept in the preseason and then went 11-5 during the regular season.  These two need all the reps they can get and I think they will get them.  No sense in adding a vet unless there is an emergency.

RB (5):

Locks:  Brandon Bolden

In:  James White, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney

Out:  Donald Brown, Joey Iosefa, D.J. Foster

Way Out:  None

PUP:  Dion Lewis

Only change is the PUP for Lewis that creates a spot for Gaffney.  I have a feeling about Gaffney.  Not that he will be any good.  But the fact that they have kept him around so long.  I feel like he will get an opportunity because this is his 3rd year here.  Especially with no one else really standing out.  Bolden is only a lock because of special teams.  I have never been a huge White fan, but no one is pushing him.  Foster may have, but he has been hurt.  He could end up as an IR stash.  Brown has been hurt as well.  Don’t love Blount, but Belichick does.  All is quiet on Lewis’ status.  I’m going to assume they play it safe with him.  Still extremely hard to project where they will go here.

WR (4):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell

In:  Keshawn Martin

Out:  Chris Harper, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  DeAndre Carter

PUP:  Danny Amendola

Only change is DA to PUP.  Similar to Lewis, haven’t heard a ton on Amendola.  I personally would’ve started both Danny and Edelman on the PUP and “saved” them for the latter part of the season.  Since, you know, they both get hurt a lot.  But as Bill would say, “football players play”.  So we have Julian active.  Of course, Jimmy G needs people to throw to I guess.  Anyway, if they start Amendola on PUP, that could create a spot for, gulp, another Aaron Dobson stint.  I’m hoping not.  Nate Washington could’ve snuck in here too.  But it doesn’t reflect well when you vomit on the first day of camp and aren’t heard from since.

TE (3):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett

In:  Clay Harbor

Out:  Bear Pascoe, A.J. Derby

Way Out:  Bryce Williams, Steven Scheu

No changes to the active roster.  As for the guys cut, my biggest disappointment I think is that De’Runnya Wilson was never actually signed.  He was “way out” on my first projection, but it appears he really was “way, way, way out”.  Bryce Williams and Bear Pascoe have been subsequently signed instead, but methinks they are just camp bodies.  Hoping Gronk doesn’t play at all in the preseason and Bennett plays very little.  Michael Williams may have been my 3rd TE, but he ended up on IR with a torn ACL instead.  Derby has made some noise in camp, but not sure at this point it’s enough to unseat Harbor.  Seems like a good practice squad guy.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Bryan Stork (C), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), David Andrews (C)

In:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Marcus Cannon (T), Jonathan Cooper (G), Josh Kline (G/C)

Out:  Chris Barker (G), Cameron Fleming (T), Ted Karras (G)

Way Out:  Keavon Milton (G), Kyler Kerbyson (T), Jon Halapio (G)

PUP:  Sebastian Vollmer (RT), Tre’ Jackson (G)

Lots of moving pieces here.  Kerbyson and 2015 6th rounder Halapio have been signed since the last projection…but that hardly matters.  I can’t tell if Jackson is still on the preseason PUP.  But I know Vollmer is.  Leaving them there for now, since things have been quiet, especially on the big German.  Andrews and Waddle switch places, but they both make it anyway.  Kline gets back on the roster.  Cooper has been hurt and maybe he ends up on IR, giving Dante Scarnecchia and the organization a year to try to tap into his potential as a former #7 overall pick.  Right now, Thuney and Mason are the top guards, but that can change in a heartbeat.  Fleming and Barker have been fringe depth for a few years now.  Karras may be ticketed for the practice squad.  Long way to go before this settles.

DE (5):

Locks:  Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom

In:  Trey Flowers

Out:  Frank Kearse

Way Out:  None

Ninkovich should end up on the “short-term IR, designated to return” list with his torn triceps.  But he can’t be placed there until after the original 53-man roster is set.  Made me add Flowers back in and make Grissom a lock now though.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine

In:  Marcus Kuhn

Out:  Joe Vellano

Way Out:  Woodrow Hamilton, Anthony Johnson

Not much difference here from May.  Kuhn seems to be getting a lot of run in camp, so I am putting him on.  Anthony Johnson was signed over the summer, but not sure that affects anything.  Not much to talk about otherwise.

LB (5):

Locks:  Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McLellin

In:  Jonathan Freeny, Ramon Humber

Out:  Rufus Johnson, Elandon Roberts, Kevin Snyder

Way Out:  None

No changes with the guys who make the team.  Jon Bostic was traded and Tony Steward was cut.  I don’t know what happened to C.J. Johnson, but I don’t think anyone cares.  I moved Kamu Grugier-Hill to another position…because I can.  No one is holding out.  No one is hurt…yet.  Let’s just leave it at that.

CB (5):

Locks:  Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones

In:  Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts

Out:  E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Jones,

Way Out:  V’Angelo Bentley, Cre’Von LeBlanc

Roberts was the last guy I added to the roster.  He may lose his spot if Ebner is back.  Since he was a 7th rounder in 2015 and was on IR all last year, they may be able to stash him on the practice squad anyway.  Moved Jones from “Way out” to “Out”, but I may be the only one that cares about that.  I’ve heard his name mentioned a bit in camp and that’s why I did it.  If you do happen to care, that is…

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

In:  None

Out:  Brock Vereen, Vinnie Sunseri

Way Out:  Cedric Thompson

Sunseri was a summer signee, but seems to be another fringe guy.  Devonta Burns was another guy that apparently supposedly signed after the draft but didn’t (like my pal De’Runnya…yup, just looking for a way to say the name again!)…so he’s gone.  Pretty cut and dried here.

Specialists (7):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In: Kamu Grugier-Hill (ST)

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Exempt:  Nate Ebner (ST)

Seven specialists you say?!  Yup.  Slater, King and Ebner have rarely played their listed positions during their careers.  With Grugier-Hill seemingly on all four special teams units, it appears that will be the case with him too.  Cardona apparently will be able to play the season instead of “playing” for the U.S. Navy, so no need for a second long-snapper in Christian Yount.  So he was jettisoned a bit ago.  Nothing else exciting going on here.

That’ll do it for now.  Happy that football is starting.  Though it’s kind of a bummer that summer will be winding down.  Oh well.  At least there should be some actual football played tonight.  As opposed to the Hall of Fame Game that was supposed to be played this past Sunday.  Don’t get me going on that…

Roster projection…already? Part Two…

I told you yesterday the roster would be in flux.  The Patriots are clearly playing games with the Blowhard.  Shortly after I posted the first part of this projection, Danny Amendola did indeed restructure his contract (which now makes him a “lock”) and Joey Iosefa was released (he was “out” anyway).  Plus, they signed 8 undrafted free agents…where the original list was 9.  And one of the eight is TE Bryce Williams (“way out”, for completeness), who was not on the original list of 9.  It appears that they also did NOT sign an apparent “Blowhard” favorite, D’Runnya Wilson, either.  Oh well.  Let’s just blow through the rest of this before the roster changes again.

Onto the defense:

DE (4):

Locks:  Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard

In:  Geneo Grissom

Out:  Trey Flowers, Frank Kearse

Way Out:  None

Comments:  I’m assuming Long has something left.  This may be a bad assumption.  We’ve seen the “high-profile player on the downside of his career come to New England and not even make the team” guy here before.  The team did not exactly extend for him and he isn’t as old as some of the guys that fell into this category in prior years.  So I’m thinking he’s pretty safe…for now.  Nink and Sheard are no-brainers.  You could go in any direction for the 4th spot.  Flowers didn’t even come close to the field for the most part last year.  Grissom played some, and also some on special teams…but on one occasion let someone blow by him to get a punt blocked…so I am not sure that even matters.  Kearse is a 5 year veteran, who if I remember correctly, played like 79 snaps last YEAR.  Maybe it’s someone else by the onset of the season.  Maybe they keep more DT’s or LB’s and use them as ends.  I just went with Grissom at this point.

One thing I did notice is that Long, Ninkovich, Sheard and Kearse appear to be only signed through the end of this year.  Flowers and Grissom don’t appear to be stars in the making.  Chandler Jones is gone.  Not that we care too much…yet.  But 2017…yikes!!

DT (4):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine

In:  None

Out:  Joe Vellano, Marcus Kuhn

Way Out:  Woodrow Hamilton

Comments:  Looks pretty set in stone here with what they have now.  Not as many bodies as last year, seems a little thin to me.  Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley and Akiem Hicks are gone.  Vince Wilfork didn’t come back through that door.  Though Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton may be a reasonable facsimile…as long as he doesn’t come in at 5 bills.  Would’ve liked to have seen them keep Hicks, who seemed to thrive last year once he arrived.  It’s not like the Chicago Bears wildly overpaid him.  Still not sure what the deal is with Easley, but he is still a free agent, so maybe the team was right.  Valentine may have been a questionable pick according to the experts…but they kind of need him.  Vellano always seems to be on the fringe, like the Chris Barker of the D.  He may always be an option in-season.  Maybe they keep a Kuhn here because of the lack of bodies.

LB (5):

Locks:  Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McLellin

In:  Jonathan Freeny, Ramon Humber

Out:  Rufus Johnson, Jon Bostic, Tony Steward, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Elandon Roberts, Kevin Snyder

Way Out:  C.J. Johnson

Comments:  Freeny is probably a lock with the first three.  Bill and the staff seems to have a lot of confidence in him, based on how much he played last year.  And of course the special team abilities!  That’s what made me put Humber on over the rest.  Maybe Bostic developed in the time he has been here…adding in the full offseason.  After all, he was drafted 2 spots ahead of Collins in 2013, if that means anything to ya.  How many times did you hear that last year??  Johnson was a nice story early last season, but once he got that “illness”, they didn’t waste any time putting him on IR.  That should tell you something.  Steward was a 6th rounder on the Buffalo Bills last year, Grugier-Hill and Roberts were 6th rounders this year.  Snyder was signed in the playoffs last year after going undrafted before the season.  Seems like one of them would really have to stand out to make it beyond the practice squad this year.  Though Snyder went to Rutgers, so all bets are off there with the way Bill loves his Rutgers guys.

And…the hype-train may have already started with Grugier-Hill.  To wit, I borrow (steal?) the following quote from an article by Doug Kyed on NESN yesterday, “Kamu Grugier-Hill looks like a safety, plays like a linebacker and has the athleticism of a slot cornerback.  So, where will the sixth-round pick play for the New England Patriots?  The NFL needs to decide on a name for the position made popular by Arizona Cardinals safety/linebacker hybrid Deone Bucannon, whether that be “moneybacker,” “rover” or something else. The hybrid role is becoming more and more popular in the NFL, and Grugier-Hill seems to fit the bill perfectly.  For now, he’s listed as a linebacker on the Patriots’ roster.”  Fits the bill perfectly…of course!!!  I’m not blaming Kyed, by any means.  I’m sure he’s pumped to be quoted in the Blowhard.  I have heard this stuff elsewhere plenty of times since the draft, so I am sure he has too.  “Moneybacker.”  Sheeeesh.

CB (4):

Locks:  Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones

In:  Justin Coleman

Out:  Darryl Roberts, E.J. Biggers

Way Out:  V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc

Comments:  Cyrus Jones HAS to be better than any of the teams’ third cornerbacks last year, doesn’t he?  Tarell Brown, Bradley Fletcher, Coleman, Doug Johnson, Rashaan Melvin…I feel like I’m missing others, but you get the point.  I’m just hoping that Logan Ryan doesn’t remember that he is…Logan Ryan…and builds off his pretty good year last year.  I still wouldn’t pay him when he is a free agent after this year, but that’s me.

The Pats went with three corners in many games last year, so they could start this year the same way.  I don’t see it though.  Coleman did make a few plays, so we will see.  I keep hearing Roberts “flashed” in training camp last year from various writers.  But “flashing” in training camp does nothing for me.  Biggers is a long-time vet that is another special teamer, so we can’t rule him out.  I suppose we can’t rule any of the undrafted guys out here because of Butler’s rise.  But since I have no idea who they are, I will dismiss them at this point…until one of them “flashes” in camp, that is…

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

In:  None

Out:  Brock Vereen

Way Out:  Devonta Burns, Cedric Thompson

Comments:  Seems pretty cut and dried here too.  A couple of the specialists can play a little safety in a pinch.  Hopefully that doesn’t need to happen though.  Vereen and Thompson are mid-rounders that may be practice squad-types.  It appears that they never even signed the undrafted Burns, as I noted with the difference between initial reports and actual signings above.  But I am leaving him here anyway.  Because again, with the roster shuffling, he may actually be here next week.  Never can tell.

Specialists (6):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  Christian Yount (LS)

Comments:  I’ve expanded the specialist section even more this year.  Just had the first four last year.  Added Ebner and King.  These guys simply do not play defense at all.  If they do, many other options have been exhausted.  So that’s what these guys are, simply specialists.  You may even be able to put a guy like Humber here too.  Because if the linebackers stay healthy, he won’t play there.  But since the Pats’ linebackers never stay healthy, I left him at that position.

The only wild card here is if Cardona has Navy obligations which take him out of the region.  He had Navy obligations last year, but was able to play in all the games as he fulfilled them locally.  From what I have seen and heard, that may not be the case for the upcoming season.  I’m not convinced Yount would be the guy to actually replace him.  But he will be the guy getting the reps for now.  Since, you know, he is the only one actually here.

I suppose another wild card is if Ebner gets hurt playing for the U.S. Rugby team this spring/summer.  I have no issues with him playing.  He is a good special teamer, but not necessarily integral to the success of the 2016-17 team.  I just hope he doesn’t come back with more ideas and options for more “rugby kicks” for Bill.  I still blame those needless kicks turning the tide for the “ready to quit” Philadelphia Eagles team and the Chris Harper fumbled punt against Denver for preventing the Pats from getting home-field advantage in the playoffs and probably (definitely?) playing in another Super Bowl.  I’m not really that bitter though…no…not at all.

Anyway, that’s about it.  I’ll wait until August to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists.  As hinted at earlier and in the titles, projecting the 53-man roster at this point is really kind of silly.  But I did enjoy putting it together, I have to admit.  As pathetic as that may sound to some…

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