No need for any preamble here. We will jump right into the “non-Brady” positions:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As promised at some point in the recent past, let’s have a really, really, really early look at where the New England Patriots could be headed next season. Take a look at the players on the current roster and their status. What I think might happen going into next season. Some thoughts about what should happen. And perhaps some chatter about what we in this space here WANT to happen.
I know, the 2019 NFL season isn’t even over, free agency doesn’t start for about two months and the draft is about three and a half months away. But QB Tom Brady’s future has been speculated upon all season. And there are about 20 other free agents that will need to be accounted for. So it’s fun to think about, even at this early juncture. Well, for me anyway…
But think about it. Arguably the best player of all time could leave this organization. Several other marquee players could jump ship as well. The Pats could have some significant roster turnover next season and be led by a 2nd year quarterback who barely played his first season. Although that storyline sounds eerily familiar, let’s not put Jarrett Stidham in Brady’s class yet, ok? Despite some late season stories by beat writers that said Stidham was making “wow” throws in practice all season. Let’s pump the brakes on all that please.
Seriously, however, not only is Brady a free agent with some significant other players, there could be some additional salary cap casualties involving older, high priced, consistently banged up players.
Also consider the way coach Bill Belichick likes to trade, especially during the draft, when you add it all up, it is going to be a FASCINATING offseason. Even for non-Patriot fans, as they wait to see what happens with Brady, first and foremost. And if it indeed is the end of an era for the organization.
Per usual when we do these things, let’s take a look by position, starting today with the offense:
Under contract: Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
Free Agents: Tom Brady
Comments: The elephant in the room right off the bat. Brady. What happens? Your guess is as good as mine. Brady spent all year kind of whining. His behavior appeared to be about the weapons he was given to work with throughout the year. But you have to believe it was about the money too. How they have made him work for his money with incentives, voidable contracts and all that. And how, after all these years, they just wouldn’t give him a three year contract to play until his goal of 45 years old. Not for top dollar, mind you. But I am sure for decent money. Maybe his attitude had to do with that he is sick of coach Bill Belichick and his methods. And even offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as rumors had it later in the year.
Any way you slice it, Brady’s demeanor was different this year. And it has led many to believe he will be gone as soon as he gets a chance. For the first time in his career, he is a free agent. So he will have that chance.
Recent rumors have indicated that he may have softened his stance however. That he really doesn’t want to “start over” in a new city, system, etc. If he felt that way it would be unsurprising. But it also would be quite a sudden turn of events from what he portrayed all season.
That all being said, how much is any team across the league going to pay a 43 year old quarterback, despite being arguably the best player of ALL-TIME? Sure, some bottom feeder could open the coffers to get Brady in and draw fans in. Would Brady do something like that? Hard to believe. He has always been about winning and not the highest bidder. And what would it feel like to him to just be an attraction?
Does Bill even want him back? I am not so sure that is the case. Not that Stidham is ready. Or is even the long term answer. But Bill may be ready to move on. Especially if Brady doesn’t go to the offseason stuff like he used to and work with the young/new receivers to help ensure a more seamless transition into the real games? But also…BECAUSE HE IS 43 YEARS OLD! People seem to think this guy can go on forever. There is simply no data for QBs to be successful at his age. Not to mention the fact that Bill usually gets rid of guys “a year too early rather than a year too late”. And everyone already assumes he had wanted to move on from Brady when Jimmy Garoppolo was ready to go.
Brady is not done. He has declined, despite what a lot of people think. But he is far from done. But could he be next year? Sure can. If I was Bill, I wouldn’t hand him a 3 year contract either. Doesn’t matter who he is. If he would come back on a one year deal, would he be better than Stidham or a veteran stopgap such as Andy Dalton? Damn right. But Brady may not want to do that.
All of the above would probably be moot if owner Robert Kraft stepped in. Don’t rule that out either.
No one knows what is going to happen. I don’t know the right answer as to what should happen. I am not sure what I even WANT to happen. I could go either way. Let Brady walk, root for him on another team, see if he can win, see if Bill can win with the replacement QB in New England, etc. Or bring him back for at least one more year (if he will do it), surround him with better talent and make one more run at it. After all, the last time Brady had this kind of crew at receiver, Randy Moss and Wes Welker came walking through that door the following year.
One thing is for sure: I can’t wait for this to play out. I am sure everyone else is in the same boat.
Next: The remainder of the offense and specialists.