It’s that time of year again. Training camp opened up last week for the New England Patriots. Already there has been a somewhat surprising retirement and maybe some insight into a future surprise cut. But for now, the team has 90 players in camp, so let’s get right to it. The first roster projection of the year, right here:
Locks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Way Out: None
Comments: Jimmy Football will be the starting QB by the opening of the 2019 season. Yup, probably not a stretch here. Brady will be 42 before that season starts. And as much as he is on his special training regimen at his TB12 facilities, with his questionable trainer in Alex Guerrero and his range of products such as the concussion water (which apparently does not actually work, if you ask Giselle) and all that….the fact remains is that age 42 is age 42. You simply do not see many athletes performing at a high level at that age…in any sport. Brady did play at a high level at age 39 last season still, but as we have seen with guys like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, the end can come quick. People often forget that Brady had a 4 game “vacation” at the beginning of last year. He won’t have that this year.
This analysis isn’t to bash the legend, though I admit after I re-read it, it sure sounds like it. My apologies. Brady will be the unquestioned starter this season. And I expect it to be a pretty good season still for him, without a doubt. The point really to be made here is that although we have seen greatness for quite some time at this position, it could change in an instant. Of course we could say this about any football player at any position…any athlete in any sport actually. But I think the locals truly believe Brady when he says he can play until his mid-to-late 40s. I’m just here to drive the expectations of that crowd down. So is Bill Belichick. He clearly could have gotten top dollar for Jimmy G around the NFL draft in the spring but chose to keep him. Does Bill think he is the real deal and the franchise going forward? Perhaps. Maybe he just wants good QB insurance for this (presumably) long upcoming season. And then pulls a Matt Cassel and franchise tags Jimmy and then trades him before next season. I think Bill would have to be convinced that Brissett is the next big thing also and ready to step in when Tom eventually fades for that to happen. I don’t see it, but you never know…
Can’t forget about the old Madden curse either…with Brady on the cover this season. Just sayin’…
Locks: Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis
In: James Develin
Out: Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, Glenn Gronkowski
Way Out: LeShun Daniels
Comments: Last year I had Brandon Bolden as only one of two locks, simply because of his special teams value. He had also managed to not kill the team when they played him on offense as well. So that didn’t hurt. But he was brutal on offense last year, they have 63 guys that can play special teams this year, the team signed Gillislee and Burkhead to decent sized contracts to replace the departed Hall of Famer (according to some fans) LeGarrette Blount, among other things. Oh, and when Bolden was free to sign with anyone in the spring, no one really wanted him. So he’s out this year, but can easily be re-signed if needed, since again, no one really wants him. I can’t believe I just wrote that much about Brandon Bolden.
People want to make Lewis a surprise cut this year, but I am not sure that will happen. He undoubtedly will give them all he has for a half a season or so and then get hurt again. So things will take care of themselves there eventually. Gillislee and Burkhead will hopefully be more productive than Blount. I still don’t love James White. But he signed an extension as well and ideally will springboard off his fantastic Super Bowl performance. We shall see. Bill loves Develin. Maybe better use of that roster spot elsewhere, but I see them keeping the fullback. Foster is going to be on the fringe this year. The “other” Gronk is depth and expendable. And I don’t even know who Daniels is.
Speaking of Blount, I love how the team slapped that “May 9th tender” on him when they officially knew that they weren’t bringing him back. The tender allowed the Pats to count Blount as part of the compensatory draft pick formula when he signed elsewhere. And if he didn’t sign elsewhere after a certain date in July, he could only play for the Pats. No one has ever heard of this tender before. Probably people working in the league likely included. But the Pats are ALL business. Ask pretty much every veteran they let go of over the years when they had their replacements ready. Troy Brown was maybe the one exception, as they let him hang around for a year longer than they should have. But Troy spent most of that year on the PUP list. ALL business. Just be ready when that business involves Brady.
Locks: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell
In: Danny Amendola
Out: Austin Carr, Devin Lucien
Way Out: Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Tony Washington
Comments: Pretty much set in stone. The problem is that the team usually likes its backup receivers to play special teams. Mitchell and Amendola really don’t, other than Danny on returns. But hard to see them ditching Danny after he took yet another pay cut…and is pretty damn clutch. I believe they paid Carr and Hollister more dough than rookie free agents get, but there is simply no room. They may find their way onto the practice squad, along with Lucien. Maye and Washington just signed in the last few days. Should get plenty of time with Brissett in the early preseason games and they can tell their kids they played with the Patriots in their careers.
Locks: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen
Out: Matt Lengel, James O’Shaughnessy
Way Out: Jacob Hollister, Sam Cotton
Comments: The Pats gave Gronk some more money when they didn’t have to, so hopefully he is happy. And of course healthy. Those close to the team are also pointing at Allen as a surprise cut. I don’t see it…yet. But it also wouldn’t shock me if Belichick cut him and kept both Lengel and O’Shaughnessy. Let’s see how camp goes. My guess is they actually start the year with 3 TE’s, but play some roster shenanigans at the final cutdown to give themselves a better chance at keeping some kids elsewhere. Then they can bring back at least one of Lengel or O’Shaughnessy a couple of days after final cuts. If that even matters to you…
Locks: Nate Solder (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Antonio Garcia (T)
In: Ted Karras (G/C), Conor McDermott (T), Jamil Douglas (G)
Out: Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T), James Ferentz (C)
Way Out: Cole Croston (T), Andrew Jelks (T), Jason King (G), Max Rich (T)
Comments: A little more settled than the beginning of last year. The Pats were a disaster on the line at the end of 2015 and seemed to be throwing numerous bodies at the problem during last years’ camp. Almost no jobs were set in stone. Dante Scarnecchia was returning to coaching. Not the case this year. The starters are locked in. Although this does not mean it is a dominant line, at least it’s a start.
Seems to me that Garcia was taken in the 3rd round of this past draft to eventually slide into Solder’s spot once his contract runs out at the end of this season. Did you realize Solder has the second highest cap hit on the team this year behind Brady? Me neither. Anyway, Nate may get PAID next offseason. Garcia may take his place as a result. (Another reason to make a switch to a more mobile Garoppolo, by the way). In any event, he is locked in.
I feel like they will hang on to McDermott to start and then hopefully slide him onto the practice squad shortly after final cuts. A supposed project, he seems to have the physical characteristics they’d like to have at tackle. And took him in the 6th round as one of their mere four draft picks. Karras was a backup in the middle last year and I imagine he will fill the same role this year. Another backup guard seemed to be in order, so I took Douglas over King. Since Douglas spent some time on the practice squad last year I believe. That may be a spot for a veteran upgrade at some point.
There seems to be no room in this scenario for Fleming and Waddle, who were on the team all of last year. But as referenced with Bolden and the TE’s above, they may slide through unclaimed and be available for pickup at a moments notice. If not, I am sure no one really cares. Kind of like the last five guys on the outside looking in. Though a handful of those guys are sure to end up on the practice squad at some point.
Next: Defense and specialists
Preseason is over. Cuts are within hours. Hopefully this will get done before they happen. Since, you know, these projections seem to be the only thing the Blowhard feels like doing these days it appears. Anyway, 75 players remain, but now the Pats have TWO guys suspended for the first 4 games. So 55 players will be left at the end.
Locks: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Way Out: None
Suspended: Tom Brady
Nothing new to see here.
Locks: Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount
In: James White, James Develin, D.J. Foster
Out: Joey Iosefa, Tyler Gaffney
Way Out: None
Switched Foster and Gaffney after Foster’s performance in the last preseason game, despite the fumble. But again, anyone’s guess as to what happens here. I think White stinks and hopefully he will be cut. But probably not. Same goes for Bolden. Waiver activity is likely here.
Locks: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell
In: Keshawn Martin
Out: Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter, Aaron Dobson
Way Out: Devin Lucien
PUP: Danny Amendola
Moved Dobson down. Having the team shop him around the league this past week you would think means he is a goner. With Amendola still heading to PUP I believe, as well as Mitchell and Martin being banged up, maybe 4 is a little thin here. But of course Matthew Slater could play here in a pinch. One of the TE’s or one of the RB’s like Foster could play here as well. Plus, if Harper and/or Carter and/or Lucien slide through to the practice squad, that can cover them as well. Maybe they won’t throw much under Jimmy G anyway…who the hell knows?
Locks: Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett
In: A.J. Derby
Out: Clay Harbor
Way Out: Bryce Williams
Sticking with Derby here. Went through a bunch of possibilities last projection and they all remain in play. But another thought is cutting both Harbor and Derby and keeping extra offensive linemen…based on a bunch of those dudes being nicked up…not to mention ineffective.
Locks: Nate Solder (LT), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), David Andrews (C), LaAdrian Waddle (T), Marcus Cannon (RT), Josh Kline (G/C)
In: Jonathan Cooper (G), Ted Karras (G), Cameron Fleming (T)
Out: Chris Barker (G)
Way Out: Jon Halapio (G)
Added Fleming for at least for the short-term because of all the uncertainty on the line as a whole. All of a sudden Barker seemed to get some run in the 2 recent games, so maybe he factors in. They’ve had about 6 guys play right guard over the preseason, so again, who the hell knows?
Locks: Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers
In: Geneo Grissom
Way Out: None
Suspended: Rob Ninkovich
Nice work on the PED’s Rob. Ugh. Since the news came out, I have heard people say, “Rob has been such a solid citizen, this is so surprising…” How do we really know how “solid” Ninkovich has been? Sure, he has been versatile and a good team player over the years. But how do we know he hasn’t been doing ‘roids all along? No doubt the league is rife with players that use them regularly. Maybe he was one of them. And that’s how he took “the next step” from end of roster, part-time long snapper to important part of a championship defense. Just sayin’…anyway, the suspension actually doesn’t hurt anyone really, since Nink probably wouldn’t have played in those games due to injury. Doesn’t help the reputation however.
Locks: Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Vincent Valentine
In: Anthony Johnson
Out: Joe Vellano, Marcus Kuhn
Way Out: Woodrow Hamilton
Switched Johnson and Kuhn. Johnson has been extremely noticeable the entire preseason while Kuhn started hot and seemed to fade. Johnson is 7 years younger too, so that kind of counts for something.
Locks: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McLellin, Jonathan Freeny, Barkevious Mingo
Out: Rufus Johnson, Elandon Roberts, Kevin Snyder
Way Out: None
I wanted to find spots for Rufus and Elandon, but unless there is some other movement elsewhere (Brandon King, perhaps?), doesn’t look like we can fit them in.
Locks: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones
In: Justin Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc
Out: Jonathan Jones, Darryl Roberts
Way Out: None
Same here as well. Thought about trying to slide LeBlanc to the practice squad along with Jonathan and Darryl. Wouldn’t rule the team out from doing that.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
Out: Vinnie Sunseri
Way Out: None
Sunseri is terrible, I can’t even believe he made it past cuts to 75.
Locks: Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Brandon King (ST), Nate Ebner (ST)
In: Kamu Grugier-Hill (ST)
Way Out: None
Ok, so Grugier-Hill missed Game #3 because of illness, not long-term injury. Think Bill really loves him. But really, between Grugier-Hill, Slater, King, Ebner, Bolden, Freeny, perhaps Grissom and who knows who else…how many special teams guys can you really carry?
Practice squad stab: Gaffney, Carter, Harper, Lucien, Rufus Johnson, both Roberts’, Jonathan Jones, Snyder, Iosefa I suppose…but some of these dudes may be claimed by other teams when initially waived…and of course the team can claim some players waived by other teams. But you already knew all that…