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A Little Bit Of Everything…

Tying up the rest of the loose ends:

*Boston Bruins.  So the NHL trade deadline is rapidly approaching.  Some trades have already happened.  But things should head toward fast and furious in the coming days.

What will the Bruins do?

Last season, GM Don Sweeney went out and got Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, which admittedly was more than I thought he would do.  I mean, it wasn’t like getting Jon Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak, like he did one year.  You can argue the merits of handing Coyle a 6 year extension for huge bucks this season.  But the moves from last year worked out pretty well, I think we can say.

Unfortunately for Donnie Hockey, that hole on the right wing of David Krejci (and Jake DeBrusk) still exists.  Seems like it has existed for years.  And I guess it has…other than the Johansson stint.

In my opinion, that’s almost the only move to make.  The “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak is all set.  Wait, I still need to know where that moniker came from.  No one but people on the NHL Network seems to call them that.  I don’t ever remember hearing that nickname until the playoffs last spring.  Mostly out of Doc Emrick’s mouth.  Annoying…but whatever…

The gaggle of third and fourth liners the Bs have would probably suffice.  Coyle/Anders Bjork is a fine start to the third line.  Sean Kuraly/Par Lindholm/Chris Wagner/Joakim Nordstrom/Anyone is certainly acceptable as a fourth line.

Karson Kuhlman may very well be an NHL player.  But I am beginning to think that isn’t this year.  And I am totally done with the Danton Heinen Experiment.  On any line.

If you added some beef to the bottom six and a somewhat of a scoring RW to the second line, I think we are good.

Wait…defense anyone?  I am not sure they need it.  Well, no one will stop any kind of upgrade attempt of course.  But I think the 2nd line guy is more important.  The 9-10 guys in the mix now on D would seem to work.  Perhaps Jeremy Lauzon is the real deal.  Or perhaps he is being showcased for a trade.  He did just sign a cheap extension after all.  And you ain’t getting rid of that John Moore contract.

But if they stood pat on D, I actually wouldn’t mind.

Who to give up?  Anyone!  Maybe Sweens can soak someone into taking Heinen.  Or even better, “The Player Formerly Known As David Backes”.

Ummmmm…yeah, I know those ain’t happening.

But the time is now to make another run.  Patrice, Marchy, Z, Krejci, Tuuks, etc aren’t getting any younger.  As much as I would like to hang on to guys like Bjork, Kuhlman and Jack Studnicka and hope they develop, if the package is right, Donnie has to consider dealing those guys.

After all, guys like JFK, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Zboril, Anton Blidh, etc. have or will ever make it.  And those are “kids” that Sweeney had high hopes for.  Among many others.  So who is to say the likes of Kuhlman will either?

*Tom Brady.  Everyone sick of this talk yet?  Still a month away from free agency.  It will be an absolutely fascinating process once things start going down.  But I’m a little exhausted from it all at this point.

How much more can we talk about it?  Hasn’t every angle been covered thus far?

Is there really any NEW news?  Or just idiots like me speculating?  I say it’s the latter.

Wake me up on this one in a few weeks…

*Dustin Pedroia.  I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again:  PLEASE GO AWAY!!

The guy was a good player for a long time for the Boston Red Sox.  But he seems to be the only one that doesn’t realize that his career is over.  We keep hearing he has setback after setback.  And how he needs to “regroup and consider his options”.  We hear it seemingly hear it every day.  And will through Spring Training, most assuredly.

I appreciate his zeal to get back and play the game.  But that ship has sailed.

If it’s all about getting the 25 mil plus left on his deal, well that is all guaranteed, so he’s going to get it anyway.

Step aside Dustin.  It’s long past time.

*Kobe.  His death was certainly tragic.  As was his daughters’.  But so were the deaths of the other seven on board that helicopter.  I think the general public loses sight of that waaaaaaaaay too many times when it comes to celebrities.  But I am never going to win that fight, ssssssooooo…

As my man Colby recently posted, along with most assuredly several others, a little bit of a cloud still kind of hung over him as his career went on.  Yes, the rape accusations were 17 years ago.  But it’s funny how that all played out.  Charges dropped, case dismissed, civil suit being settled, Kobe buying his wife like a 4 million dollar ring while this was all going on…and everything else…how soon we all forget.

Listen.  There’s no argument about Kobe’s basketball ability and the fact he was one of the greatest of all time.  He also may have remade himself into a quality person as he got older.  Maybe he was a quality person all along but made at least that one mistake.  I don’t know.  I never knew the guy personally.

But that’s my problem with putting all these athletes and celebrities on a pedestal.  No one knows “how great a guy” that any of these people are.  Am I supposed to take other athletes’ or performers’ words for it?  Who knows about those people either?

Recognize his greatness in the sport.  But let’s not get carried away with some of the nonsense that has been spilling out about him “in tribute”.

That’s all I am saying.

*XFL.  There’s been a request to comment on this.  So here goes:

I have watched very little of the first two weeks.  But what I have seen is a lot of disorganization across the board.  Officials, coaches, players, etc.  And I haven’t exactly seen great football either.

That’s not much of an analysis.  And since I’ve only seen a fraction, it may be totally erroneous.

One thing is for sure though:  If teams are already firing coaches and team captains after the first week of games, that has to raise a red flag.  ONE GAME?  A little hard to believe.

Maybe Vince McMahon sent down the orders.  That’s a little scary to think about, no?

In any event, despite the Blowhards’ love for the game of football, we really haven’t been inspired to watch much of it.  That seems like a problem for the league if we aren’t the only ones.

I could probably sum up the lack of desire in two words:  “Matt McGloin”.

‘Nuff said.

*Super Bowl.  As we all know by now, the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl and Jimmy Garoppolo peed his pants in the 4th quarter of the game.  Does that mean that Jimmy Football now sucks and that he isn’t considered a franchise quarterback anymore?  I don’t have the answer to that as of yet.

What I do know is that if your coach does not trust you to with plenty of time left to move down the field at the end of the first half, then that could be a problem.

So maybe the jury is still out on Jimmy G?

No need to comment further as the game was over two weeks ago and I suppose we are all on to the XFL.  And…I passed on watching the halftime show and most of the commercials.  So I don’t have any intelligent analysis there.

I really just needed a few words on the game to wrap up the picks portion of the season.  As poor as they were, we still have to recap, right?

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  10-7

Season (against the spread):  136-131

Season (straight up):  171-96

What Are The Pats Doing?

What do you mean?  They are doing what they ALWAYS do.

To back up a little bit…so that Gronk piece last week was supposed to be an update on the New England Patriot free agency action.  Then he kind of threw a monkey wrench (wait, is it politically correct to use this term anymore?  Brief research indicates that it’s ok, but you never know these days.  But…I digress…) into that plan.

So the Pats are doing what they always do during the free agency period.  Eschew the bigger names and sign a bunch of depth-type guys and see who sticks.

What’s wrong with that?  Doesn’t that always seem to work?  For the most part anyway, I would say?

But the fans once again do not like it.  Talk radio hosts don’t either.  So yet again, we have to listen to everyone squawk about how “Bill never does anything” and “we need a receiver who can stretch the field” and all that crap.

Doesn’t anyone ever learn?

Sure, I suppose it would be nice to have had defensive end Trey Flowers return.  Or have the Patriots sign a high profile free agent from outside the organization such as linebacker C.J. Mosley or the “Honey Badger”, safety Tyrann Mathieu.  OR trade for another high profile guy such as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown.  Who doesn’t love a big splash?

But this is not how New England does business.  This is not how Bill Belichick has EVER done business.  No, we can’t count the acquisitions of Randy Moss or Corey Dillon back in the day.  Bill took advantage of disgruntled stars supposedly on the decline.  Beckham and Brown may have been disgruntled, but they don’t appear to be on the decline at all.  Not the same situation.

Maybe you can count the Adalius Thomas acquisition as an exception.  But you get the point:  it’s rare that Belichick signs off on these types of things.

So even though the re-signing of Brandon Bolden and the signing of Matt LaCosse may be the two biggest moves of the offseason thus far (Ok, it’s actually the trade for Michael Bennett.  But once again, you get my point), there is no reason to panic at this point.

Especially considering that we have about three and a half months before training camp even opens.  Not to mention a draft at the end of the month.

The draft?  Yeah, I know that is a crapshoot.  Especially for Bill and his crew.  But they have 6 picks in the first three rounds.  Gotta believe that a couple of those pan out.  Not to mention that the 12 picks they have overall will eventually turn into 16 this year (5 in the seventh round) and one or two next year.  So they can miss on a great deal on them actually.  Though we aren’t hoping for that of course.

I would guess the focus at the draft would be on tight end, receiver and fat guys on both sides of the ball.  Then again, the Pats won with THAT group of receivers last year, so maybe they just sign a couple more bums off the street to cover that.

But a TE in the first round?  Eminently possible.  Some would even say probable.  But knowing Bill he takes a safety or something.

In any event, this roster is far from being final.  Not to mention I really believe the team thinks Josh Gordon will contribute next season…for whatever that is worth.

As for the free agents they HAVE signed, I can’t say I have a tremendous problem with any of them.  I don’t particularly love Bolden.  But Bill is going to stockpile his special teamers whether we like it or not.  And since Bolden wasn’t here last year and the special team units kind of stunk, bringing him back can’t be awful.  “Safety” Terrence Brooks allegedly will help there too.  Nose Tackle Mike Pennel HAS to be better than either Malcolm Brown or Danny Shelton, right?  LaCosse won’t be Gronk.  But hopefully, he won’t be Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister either.  Bringing WR Phillip Dorsett, CB Jason McCourty, P Ryan Allen and DE/LB John Simon back won’t kill you.  We will see about new WRs Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris.

Then ask me again after the draft…where they may have to take a kicker now too, as Stephen Gostkowski and the team are apparently differing on the amount of compensation in the next potential deal.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Gostkowski can be shaky at times.  Seemingly during key times.  BUT when you look at the body of work, you have to acknowledge that he has been pretty damn good over the years.

Many people want Gostkowski gone.  But look at some of these kickers floating around the league.  Not good.  Be careful what you wish for.  One of those retreads may end up in Foxborough.  Then you’ll be begging for Stephen to come back.

Now, he should face competition from someone next year.  Say that every year.  Spending a low round pick on a kicker, I would not be adverse to.

While we are on free agents and Gronk and all, many people think Gronk “screwed” the Patriots by waiting so long to announce his retirement.  Because people felt that they could have spent his cap room on a guy like free agent TE Jared Cook.  Or free agent WR Adam Humphries.

But did he really screw them?

We are talking about Jared Cook here.  A 10 year NFL veteran…of 4 different teams.  Now a 5th with New Orleans.  Who has never broken 1,000 yards…or even 900.  Are we as fans really bitter on missing out on him?  I can’t see it.

We are also talking about Adam Humphries.  Now, Humphries is a young, ascending slot receiver…we think anyway.  Could be the next Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, etc.  But what if he isn’t?  On top of that, how would a big fat contract like the one he supposedly was offered look in the “room”, with Edelman still here making maybe half of what Humphries was making?  Can’t say that would be a positive, though the Pats have certainly dealt with distractions like that before and could have worked around it I’m sure.  But worth noting.

I have to tell you if Gronk “screwing them” is the popular thinking, why are we also not blaming guys like Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower for “screwing the Pats”?  Those guys’ inflated cap numbers are not commensurate with their play.  Hightower came out and said he wasn’t taking a pay cut…not sure if the Pats even asked.  Not sure about anyone asking Devin either, but I am betting if they did, he balked too.

Now, we know Bill loves those guys “in the room”.  But Stephon Gilmore restructured.  Maybe they should have considered it too?  Michael Bennett even restructured and made himself some more money in the process.  Maybe Devin and Dont’a could’ve too?  Just sayin’…

Tom Brady will likely restructure down the road as it’s unlikely he will keep that 27 mil cap charge for next season.  And if he really plans on playing until he’s 45, then an extension should be in order as well.

Bottom line?  They will work the cap any way they need to in order to make things work.  Like every other team does.

Speaking of Brady, how does everyone feel about Josh Rosen?  Rosen didn’t have much of a rookie year in Arizona last year.  But he’s young.  And a Top Ten pick from last year.  I know, Blake Bortles was taken third overall in 2014…so I guess Rosen’s draft slot doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot.  Not to mention the fact that I have no idea if the kid can actually play.  But the scenario is worth monitoring.

Don’t the Pats have to add a “real” quarterback this offseason?  I say yes.  But I guess this is where Bill usually says “no”.

By the way, Gronk’s agent flapping his gums about him potentially coming back?  I suppose it’s possible.  But I’m not betting on it…

New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense

Moving on to the defense…while being thankful the roster apparently has not changed in the last couple of days.  Cuz, you know, Bill likes to consistently churn the back-end of the roster and mess us all up.  Wait, I may be the only one who cares about the bottom of the roster.  Anyway, here goes:

DE (5):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Geneo Grissom

Out:  None

Way Out:  Caleb Kidder, Rob Ninkovich (retired)

Comments:  This is what I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Flowers and Grissom don’t appear to be stars in the making.”  Oops.  At least on Flowers.  Welp, I’ve been completely off before.  And most assuredly will be again.  Truth be told though, most people thought Flowers was on the fringe of the roster before the 2016 season.  Now he is the unquestioned top defensive end on the team.  So I wasn’t the only one.  There have been plenty of whispers about Ealy early in camp.  His attitude.  His fit on the team.  His “coachability”.  And he has been on the sidelines quite a bit, from all reports.  But the key phrase here is, “early in camp”.  I’m not taking him off the lock list…yet.  Rivers and Wise were two of their four draft picks.  Not likely to go anywhere.  And I am hearing Wise is running with the starters at this point.  Grissom takes Ninkovich’s spot.  It helps that he is a factor on special teams as well.  Most were surprised at Nink’s sudden retirement.  But maybe we shouldn’t have been.  He’s getting up there in age and also wasn’t the same difference maker last year as in previous years…you know, before the PED suspension.  Yup…

DT (4):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

In:  None

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta, Adam Butler

Comments:  Pretty much cut and dried here.  Branch re-signed on a nice deal.  Guy was signed to a fat deal himself, kind of out of nowhere.  May be a little push for Brown in his third year.  But the Pats like to rotate their big guys anyway.  Valentine showed enough last year to be locked in this year.  Hamilton and Kilgo may find themselves on the practice squad and therefore may surface on the active roster at some point this season.  And Augusta and Butler are “Way Out” for the simple reason that I’ve never heard of them.  Good enough for me.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, David Harris

In:  Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi

Out:  Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis

Comments:  When I started putting together this column last week, I actually had Harris as only “In” and not a lock.  Thought he may be that typical veteran who was a star elsewhere and then couldn’t adapt to the Patriots system/culture/etc.  Seemed to be a prime candidate for that.  Then I saw they gave him the green dot like 2 days into camp, leading the communication on the defense.  I know, that is “early in camp” too.  But I look at this development a little differently, right or wrong.  McClellin, Roberts and Van Noy all bring different skills to the table so I figured they all stick for now.  Langhi gets a nod here, simply because almost every year an undrafted free agent makes the squad out of the gate…and usually contributes.  He is the early pick simply because they gave him the most dough.  Freeny gets squeezed here, but wouldn’t shock me if he makes it, primarily for his special teams ability.  Bates is from Maine and that’s nice.  Ellis?  Yup, no idea who he is.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Cyrus Jones

Out:  Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  Here’s another thing I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Cyrus Jones HAS to be better than any of the teams’ third cornerbacks last year, doesn’t he?”  And I had Jonathan Jones as “Way Out”.  Oops.  And.  Oops.  But I can’t see them giving up on Cyrus after only one year.  Wouldn’t be unprecedented though.  Jonathan has been apparently playing the slot in camp.  Add in the fact he is, yup, a special teamer…that makes him a lock.  Seems to me they like Rowe a lot too.

As for Gilmore and Butler, that whole scenario in the spring still baffles me.  Butler has done everything the team asked since he came out of nowhere 3 seasons ago.  Played at an All-Pro level the last two years, playing for peanuts and didn’t utter much of a peep about that.  I mean, he knows how this organization operates.  But still.  Then New England gives Gilmore a huge deal right out of the gate as free agency opened.  Not typical Patriot behavior.  Don’t blame Butler at all from being pissed.  Wasn’t surprised there was the stuff about him working out a contract with the New Orleans Saints and hoping the Pats worked out a deal with them.  Nothing materialized with the Saints (or any other team, for that matter) and Butler is still here without a long-term deal.  And even since then, you haven’t heard much from him regarding all of it.  And now I think most expect Butler to play with a chip on his shoulder and help himself in free agency next year.  That will also benefit the Patriots of course.  But did the team play this out right?  Time will tell.  But hope Gilmore ain’t a colossal bust…

Coleman could I suppose be a back-end guy, but there’s no room.  Killings was I believe the 2nd highest paid undrafted free agent in the Pats pool, so maybe he gets on the practice squad and gets elevated at some point.  Likely & Thomas?  Maybe I should watch more college football, so I can know who some of these camp bodies are.

S (3):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  None

Out:  Jordan Richards

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore

Comments:  Richards probably actually gets one more chance behind the three no-doubters and makes the squad when they break camp.  Three safeties is kind of thin.  But the other guys?  You know what I am going to say.

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:  None

Comments:  Nothing really to say here.  Some are surprised Belichick did not bring another kicker to camp due to Gostkowski’s uneven year last year.  I’m not.  There are plenty of kickers “kicking” around (haha) and I’m sure Bill has one or two or three in mind if last year’s issues move forward into this year.  No sense in wasting another camp spot on a kicker.  Other than that, the six here are pretty obvious.

That’s about the size of it.  I’ll wait until later in camp to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists.  Actually, I’d say no one actually starts on the PUP list this year.  Only Hightower and Branch are currently on the preseason PUP list.  Hard to believe they will miss the first six weeks of the season, but I suppose you never know…

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