Nothing really more to say here, so…the rest:
Locks: John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Nick Thurman, Tashawn Bower, Nick Coe, Trevor Hill
Comments: Rivers is another guy on the fringe. I feel like he gets one more shot, especially with only two guys in this particular category. Then again, some of the linebackers will play this role, so it’s not really two. Simon is decent but is probably not getting any better. That’s why we are hoping that Chase takes another step forward this season. And not just cuz we want to see his hair. I think time has run out on Wise, however. But somehow, he always seems to stick when his roster spot seems in jeopardy. So we cannot even rule him completely out at this point.
Locks: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Beau Allen
In: Byron Cowart
Out: Bill Murray, Courtney Wallace Jr.
Comments: Seems like not drafting a defensive tackle almost gives Cowart the last spot here. Let’s just hope Allen is good. The local press loves Guy and Butler has his moments. But it’s not that impressive of a group, let’s be real.
Locks: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche
In: Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland
Out: Terez Hall, Cassh Maluia, Kyahva Tezino, De’Jon Harris
Comments: Big year for Bentley as we noted in the last piece. And we believe that Uche and Jennings will see plenty of action out of the gate. It would be nice if Hightower continues playing most of the games. Always seemingly banged up, Dont’a has actually played 15 of the 16 games in the last two seasons. You’d think he’d want to be out there in a contract year, so hopefully the trend continues. It’d better. This group is full of a whole lot of unknowns and perhaps special team types like Calhoun. And Copeland came from the Jets, so how good can he be?
Locks: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
Out: D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins, Miles Bryant
Comments: Really about as cut and dried as you can get. No questions here. People are floating Gilmore’s name as a potential trade candidate, but I don’t see it. He does make a ton of dough and as a result of him being the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, he probably wants more. After this season I could see the Pats moving on from him in some fashion. But if they want to win games this year, the secondary is going to have to be a big part of the game plan. And ditching Gilmore won’t help that.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Kyle Duggar
In: Adrian Phillips, Terrance Brooks
Out: Adarius Pickett, Malik Gant
Comments: Brooks has been the odd man out on several projections I have seen thus far. But Bill loves his special teamers. So I think he sticks. Not to mention that Chung took a beating last season, Duggar is unproven and we will see about Phillips. Duggar may not even play much on defense this season if I had to take a stab. Just a hunch. I would guess he needs some transition time as he heads from Division II to the NFL. Maybe it won’t be a long and/or hard transition. We will have to wait and see on that. But he will return plenty of punts though, so he’s going to have that going for him. As long as Edelman isn’t doing that, it works for me. Oh yeah, and as long as Sanu is never, ever, ever back there again either.
Locks: Justin Rohrwasser (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)
Out: Cody Davis (ST)
Comments: Davis will find himself on the roster to begin the year as well. They gave him a fat 1.5 mil, so he kind of is earmarked for it, no? I just had to leave him off for the number’s sake right now. You know how it works…players get hurt and traded and some turn out to be useless. Then an undrafted guy or three make some noise in camp and they can’t slip through to the practice squad. Or they may actually be pretty good or at least can fill a niche role on the squad on Opening Day. And as a result, everyone’s projections look stupid. Rumor has it that Davis is a pretty good special teams guy, so there will always be room for him on Bill’s roster. I mean, can you ever have enough guys that play solely special teams?
So that is that, another fun exercise for guys like me only probably. With the season months away and training camp not even close, this projection means about as much as all the others out there. Zero. Nada. Absolutely nothing. But that’s ok.
Bottom line, let’s just hope there is a season in 2020.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
Continuing on…defense AND specialists, that is. Can’t forget how important the special teamers are to the Patriot organization!!
And, in case you forgot, there’s this: For the record, we will say where the player came from if they are an addition and where they went if they jumped ship. We will also note if they finished last season on the Patriots injured list (IR) or on the Patriot practice squad (PS).
Holdovers: Keionta Davis (IR), Trey Flowers, Eric Lee, Derek Rivers (IR), Deatrich Wise
Arrivals: Adrian Clayborn (Atlanta)
In limbo: None
Comments: Seems a little bizarre we start this section with someone named Keionta Davis, eh? The danger of going in alphabetical order I suppose. Anyway, it would seem that even with the addition of Clayborn, the expected return of Rivers and the hope of growth from Year One to Year Two for Wise, this group still may not be saved. Lee had spurts at the end of last season. But there’s also probably a good reason he spent the year on the Buffalo Bills practice squad.
In addition to not really knowing if Rivers can actually play, or whether Wise will get better, I cannot say I am too bullish on the Clayborn move. I mean, it appears this won’t cost the team much, per usual. But on the surface, it’s fair to question how a player can get 6 sacks in one game and then 3.5 total in the other 15. Maybe he didn’t play all 16, but I’m not even going to look it up. You get the point. Clayborn certainly cannot hurt. But there still needs to be an infusion of talent here this offseason. And I’m not sure where they are going to get it. The free agent list I am looking at is…weak. The draft? Sure, but any studs here will be long gone by the time the Pats even pick in the first round.
Let’s hope they figure out something here as well. Oh, and Flowers is a free agent after this season. He may not necessarily be a stud, but he is the best they have. May want to figure something out with him too, while they are at it.
Holdovers: Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine (IR)
Arrivals: Danny Shelton (Cleveland)
Departures: Alan Branch (released)
In limbo: Ricky Jean Francois
Comments: There’s a lot of NFL bodies here now, but how good really are they? Shelton apparently can play the run, but not the pass. I’m still not sure what to make of Brown, and he’s been around a few years now. I’m not exactly sure what Guy did last year, after signing that fat free agent contract last year. Butler still likely remains a project and we probably can say the same thing about Valentine, to be honest.
Branch would help…well, the 2016 Branch and not the one that loitered around last year. I suppose that’s the risk you take with guys like that though. Francois really isn’t in limbo, as he said he wasn’t re-signing with the Pats. I think he was babbling about going to a team with a better scheme fit like Chris Long did after the 2016 season. Francois isn’t even as good as Long, so I am not sure what he was talking about. He was lucky to have a job. He was only here because Branch didn’t feel like playing. Whatever…best of luck Ricky Jean.
Here’s hoping they do some more work here too. But not as much as the place that needs the most work…
Holdovers: Dont’a Hightower (IR), Harvey Langi (IR), Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy
Departures: Shea McClellin (IR-released), Trevor Reilly (PS-not re-signed)
In limbo: Marquis Flowers, James Harrison
Comments: If only Hightower could ever stay healthy, this group would…still suck badly. Holy crap. I haven’t seen a worse collection of stiffs at one position…maybe ever. Ok, that’s hyperbole. I’m sure if I just analyzed the position groups of the Cleveland Browns over the last two years I would find worse. But the message is clear: This is the area of greatest need.
The team loves Van Noy and that’s really kind of inexplicable. Roberts is terrible and everyone else listed may be worse than terrible. I’m not sure what the Patriots’ plan is here. This should have been the first thing addressed. And they haven’t added anyone. The draft? Sure. But again, picking late in each round and having several needs…how many impact players can they get from there?
I don’t know if Preston Brown made a gazillion tackles for the Bills over the years because there were simply too many players running free past their defensive line. But that would have seemed to have been a guy to target. Especially after he publicly said he would love to come here like some other former Bills (Hogan, Gilmore, Gillislee). And the fact that he signed with the Bengals for a mere 4 million for 1 year. 25 years old too. I’m not sure why the Pats didn’t sniff him out a bit and why he signed for next to nothing. I guess I am missing something, but on the surface, I don’t understand the lack of interest. No one is really talking about it locally, so maybe it’s just me.
But the fact remains that they need several capable bodies here. And there is no way Brown would have hurt. At this point, can adding anyone hurt?
Holdovers: Stephon Gilmore, Cyrus Jones (IR), Jonathan Jones (IR), Ryan Lewis (PS), Eric Rowe, Jomal Wiltz (PS)
Arrivals: Jason McCourty (Cleveland)
Departures: Johnson Bademosi (Houston), Malcolm Butler (Tennessee)
In limbo: None
Comments: Believe it or not, the Pats may be all set here. Gilmore came on later in the year. McCourty may not be an All-Pro, or even technically as good as Butler, but he should be solid, by all accounts. I can probably live with Rowe and Jonathan Jones as backups. And as much as I hate to say it, let’s give Cyrus one more chance. I’m not expecting much, but you never know. Lewis has been getting some love here as well, but I have no idea about him. Adding a body here, of course, would not hurt. But the needs are more pressing elsewhere.
Holdovers: Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, David Jones (PS), Devin McCourty, Jordan Richards, Damarius Travis (PS)
In limbo: None
Comments: Same here as the cornerbacks I would say. Devin struggled some and likely isn’t worth the money he gets paid. But you could do a lot worse than the trio of him, Chung and Harmon. I would be very disappointed to see Richards on the team next year. He is flat-out awful. But we are splitting hairs if we are complaining about the 4th safety.
Holdovers: Ryan Allen (P), Brandon Bolden (re-signed), Joe Cardona (LS), Nate Ebner (ST, re-signed), Stephen Gostkowski (K), Nicholas Grigsby (ST), Geneo Grissom (ST), Brandon King (ST, re-signed), Matthew Slater (ST, re-signed)
In limbo: None
My favorite group! Once again, the Pats carry more special-teams only guys than anyone else. This HAS to be a fact, right? Slater apparently re-signed as I write this and with the team bringing back Ebner, Bolden and King, well, the gang’s all here! Cardona had a bad snap and Allen a worse hold in the Super Bowl, but I cannot complain too much about those two otherwise.
The key question here is: Is this the year they bring in competition for Gostkowski? One year left on his deal, with a 5 mil cap hit, which I think is all guaranteed. But although he seemed to get back on track last year during the regular season, his playoff performance left a lot to be desired…again. Even with the aforementioned bad snap, he still should have hit that 26-yarder…blindfolded. And another stray extra point. I don’t know, maybe make him fight for his job this training camp?
It won’t happen, but we can hope, right? I suppose that since kickers generally are all of a sudden pretty average in the NFL, especially since they moved the extra point back, they may as well hang on to Gostkowski. But how about even attempting an upgrade?
That pretty much sums everything up. I’m not anticipating many more moves before the draft. We can all be somewhat disappointed at that. But looking at the free agent list, there does appear to be plenty of swill out there, so how many more of those guys can really help? Guess we gotta hope the draft class is strong…