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Gronk…and the NFL Draft…

…well, let’s get these thoughts out there quickly, as the draft is almost here.

First on Gronk.

Similar to former QB (wow, that still seems weird to say!) Tom Brady, the Blowhard really wasn’t losing a whole lot of sleep on Rob Gronkowski’s status.

I mean, this is not even considering the nonsense Gronk has been into since he “retired”.  Wrestling, “acting”, pimping CBD oil, disastrous Fox pregame appearances…ugh…off the field, I’ve been wanting him to go away for quite some time.

None of that matters at all at this point, now that he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

How do we feel about him returning to the field now?  And not back in a Patriot uniform?

Glad you asked!!

I don’t care.

I really don’t.

Listen, I LOVED Gronk when he was playing here.  Didn’t necessarily love some of his antics off the field when he was playing, similar to what he has done during his year off.  But while he was laying his body on the line, making huge plays and helping the Pats win games and ultimately Super Bowls, I just dealt with the silliness like everyone else.

Could he have helped presumptive new QB Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?  Absolutely.  No question about it.

But let’s also face some facts.  He will be 31.  Seemingly not that old.  But he has taken an absolute beating over the years.  Amazing he has lasted this long, what with his back problems that started when he was in college and then the surgeries he has had as a pro.  Not to mention the other injuries he had, including the ones we probably never even knew about.

On a team that is retooling on the fly, with only one definitive other viable receiving option right now (a 34 year old, similarly banged up Julian Edelman), with Gronk once again facing double and triple teams (perhaps based on reputation as well), how enticing would a return to New England be for him?  And how effective would he be as a result?

In Tampa, he may be the third or fourth option.  More enticing for him for sure.  He also may be asked to not work as hard, as they have other capable tight ends on the roster.  Two for now, but at least one will be there in September.  The Pats have no other capable tight ends.  Hard to believe they will add anyone else there either.  A draft pick maybe.  But how reliable will that guy be this current season?

The beatings would continue if he came back here.

Let’s also face this:  Gronk was done with playing in New England.  And that’s ok.

Rumors have it that he was indeed dealt to Detroit for a first round pick before the 2018 season.  But threatened to retire.  So the deal never happened.

He only wanted to play with Brady.  So now he is unretiring to play with Brady.

And I am ok with that too.

I do wish, for the betterment of the team, that if Bill Belichick felt that trading Gronk for a first rounder was the best way to go, that it was allowed to happen.  But it wouldn’t have been the first time a higher up squashed something an underling wanted to do.  So be it.

I also don’t believe that Gronk is that unstoppable force anymore that he was throughout his career.  Injuries have taken their toll for sure.  Looked like throughout during the 2018 season anyway.  He will be an asset to the Bucs, no question.  And maybe win a game for them next season.  He will also most assuredly be better than any Patriot tight ends this year as well.  But it is hard to believe he will be an All-Pro again.  Time will tell.

Jason Witten took a year off and came back.  No great shakes in his return.  Yes, he is also much older than Gronk.  But I think we can draw some parallels.

I would have liked to have gotten more than a fourth round pick for him (while also trading a seventh rounder).  But he wasn’t playing for the Pats anyway.  Under any scenario.  And he could have unretired first, had his remaining salary go up against the cap to cause the Pats to have to frantically cut someone, trade someone or restructure one or more deals.

So there were a couple of sides to that story.

It seems to me that the end result made everyone happy.  We will just have to see how it plays out.  But I am not fretting the departure of Gronk.  Things will be ok.

Though I guess Bill would have taken that first rounder a couple of years ago over the fourth rounder now…

As for the draft, what will the Patriots do?

WHO THE HELL KNOWS?!

Haha…seriously though, what do I think?

Again, glad you asked!!

You’ve heard all the rumors:  Trade up for Tua, trade down for picks, trade picks into next year because the coronavirus will limit the offseason programs and perhaps even training camp itself, trade Joe Thuney, trade for O.J. Howard, take a quarterback high to compete for the job…etc.

Oh and “Bill never takes a running back in the first round”, then he takes Sony Michel in 2018.  And “Bill never takes a wide receiver in the first round”, then he takes N’Keal Harry in 2019.

We could go on all day.  The only thing that is certain is that Bill will take a guy that will really only be able to play special teams in the NFL in the 5th-6th round.  That doesn’t include the kicker that will likely be drafted in the middle rounds.

Nothing would surprise me.  Nothing.

Another hot take is that “releasing Cody Kessler is a real sign the Pats will definitely take a QB in the draft”.

It is??!

Why?

They have like 24 open roster spots.  They could go sign a Cam Newton or Jameis Winston eventually if they wanted to.  Or trade for Andy Dalton.  Or…gasp…re-sign Kessler eventually if nothing else materializes.  They could re-sign Kessler as a fourth arm, even if they do sign, trade or draft another dude.

But I don’t see them taking a QB as automatic.

If they take someone high, it may be an admission that the team does not believe that Stidham is the long term guy.  And what would that do for his confidence?

I could see them taking a QB late, a Danny Etling type.  Practice squad type guy to roll the dice on.  But I don’t see them trading up for anyone.  Or taking a guy relatively high.  Jake Fromm?  Perhaps.  But what is that, 4th-5th round?  Unlikely a threat to Stidham.

I really do think they are rolling with Stidham and Hoyer this season.  For better or for worse.

As for the actual picks, my opinion?  As it stands, the Patriots have 12 draft picks.  They will wheel and deal like they normally do.  Even with everyone drafting from home, fantasy football style.  Might not be as easy.  But I bet a lot of the legwork has been done already (e.g. the deal will likely happen only if a player is still available in that certain spot).

It will be fascinating to watch.  Mainly because it is the first “post-Tom Brady” draft.  Also because, well, there is nothing else going on in sports.

Specifics?  Best I can do is:

They WILL draft a kicker.

They MAY draft a QB, but mid to late rounds.

They WILL draft a lot of fat guys on the line, on both sides of it.

They MAY trade a pick or two into next years’ draft.

They WILL not trade up in the first round.

They MAY stand pat in the first round (instead of trading down) and take a non-skill position player.

They WILL entertain offers for G Joe Thuney, but won’t give him away.

They MAY make a real player deal or two (Howard?  Another veteran on the outs with another organization?)

That about sums it up.  About as an expert analysis as you will get East of Mel Kiper Jr.!

One last thing, there WILL be some technical difficulties during the draft.  May be minor, as the NFL did a trial run the other day to work out the kinks.

But seeing that this event is going to break television records apparently, would anyone be surprised if the hackers were heavily involved?  People are talking about coaches or team reps losing internet access, blue screens, miscommunications with Roger Goodell and issues along those lines.

Wouldn’t shock me to see a little porn being thrown up on the screen at some point during the telecast.

Just sayin’…

So Where Do They Go From Here? Part II

No need for any preamble here.  We will jump right into the “non-Brady” positions:

Running back:

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.

Wide receiver:

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.

Tight end:

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.

Offensive line:

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.

Specialists:

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.

Not Satisfied…

…some quick Patriot thoughts:

*Tom Brady.

Brady sounded like a broken man in his post-game press conference.

Seriously?!

The team is 9-1.  And he has to be that sour?

This has been a huge topic on talk radio this week.  And for good reason.

How can he be so upset when the team has a .900 winning percentage?  He’s always been about winning, why is he so miserable when they have won all but one of their games?

Yes, the offense has not played all that well.  Yes, there is no Antonio Brown (more on him later), or Gronk (ditto), or Josh Gordon (the “in his prime” version anyway).  Yes, the kids don’t really know what they are doing.  Yes, Sony Michel drops an easy pass per game.  Yes, the offensive line is putrid.  Etc.

BUT THEY ARE 9-1!!

I think it’s more than ok for Brady to be frustrated.  But he just has never been like this publicly.  And it doesn’t really sit well with people, including me.  That’s why he is taking some heat from the talk radio yahoos this week.  It is kind of deserved.

And yeah, I hate to bash the player that has given us so many memories over the years.  But it’s kind of disheartening for me to see.  Brady can certainly still get it done.  I suppose he can act however he wants to now based on all of the goodwill he has built up over the years.  But some of the criticism he has taken this year has been valid.  After all, he has worked with lesser pieces in the offense in the past.  I have no doubt about this.  And this point really hasn’t been brought up by anyone in recent weeks.

Brady used to build relationships with players in the offseason program.  You don’t think he would have more trust in guys like Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry if they had a ton of reps over the spring and summer?

But all of a sudden he thinks the offseason isn’t that important anymore?  I guess anyway.  He used to swear by those camps to improve everyone all around.  But now they don’t matter?

I don’t know what the answer is.  We all want Brady, coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the rest of them to figure out this offense.  But with that putrid offensive line in front of Brady, how can it be fixed?  That is the crux of the offense’s problem.  Not the young wide receivers inexperience.  My opinion anyway.

But with Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett possibly missing this Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys due to injury, Brady better start having some trust in Meyers and Harry.  He will have to.

*Brady, Part II.

The more I think of it, the more I would be intrigued if, not only Brady played until age 45 or 50.  But if he actually went somewhere else to finish his career.

Listen, I am not about to run Brady out of town.  And my thought here is actually unrelated to his attitude after Sunday’s game.

It’s just been something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  Since, after all, his contract is up and there has been a lot of chatter about what happens to Brady after this season.

He will be 43 years old.  And presumably still be a great starting quarterback in the NFL.  And he is still great, no question about it.  The circumstances around him have prevented him from really showing it, to be honest.

But…he will be 43 years old.  I’ve said it before and I will say it yet again:  There is simply no data from the past to project what he will do next season.  Or beyond.

It will be fascinating to see what happens.

But I am not going to lie.  ESPECIALLY if the Patriots win their 7th Super Bowl this season, I may be interested in seeing Brady elsewhere next year to see what he can do.  And to see what Belichick can do here, with Jarrett Stidham or someone else behind center.

The famous line is that Joe Montana finished his career outside of San Francisco.  Why can’t it happen to Brady?

I don’t know.  But I do know I will be giving it a lot more thought over the rest of the season.  And probably go back and forth at least a hundred times on it.

*Antonio Brown.

I don’t see any way he comes back to the Patriots, despite all the rumblings this week about it.  And apparently with Brady’s desire to bring him back.

Hard for me to believe owner Robert Kraft will let this happen.

Sure, the offense could use a player of his caliber.  And if he does somehow end up back on the team, I will continue to root for the team.

But do you really want him back, at all costs?  I would say I do not.

*Gronk.

Ugh.  Enough big guy.  ENOUGH!

I will forever be grateful for Rob Gronkowski’s contributions to the Patriots over the years.  And his antics here, while a little subdued because of the Patriots’ culture, were often humorous.

But now?

Annoying.

Sure, I would have taken him back in a heartbeat.  But did anyone really actually believe he was coming back this season?

No way.  And I am not sure he will come back next season.

But enough of the nonsense please dude.  And I don’t even care about his beach party, wrestling plans, acting aspirations or even about his work on Fox.

Done with it.

But what I am not done with?  Gronk following Brady to another NFL city next season?

Now, wouldn’t THAT be something?

*Isaiah Wynn.

Or…Jesus Christ?

People have been waiting for the return of Wynn and acting like it will solve ALL of the offense’s problems.

Really??

He has played, what, TWO games in the NFL?  How can we expect him to all of a sudden be an All-Pro and “stabilize the line”?

Listen, he cannot be any worse than Marshall Newhouse.  That would be seemingly impossible.

But I don’t think one guy will save the line.  The rest of the guys have been pretty wretched all year long.

Another thing:  how bad must Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor be?  They couldn’t even beat out Newhouse.

One more thing:  I’m expecting to still see Newhouse on the field plenty Sunday.  No, not because Wynn will get hurt again, though we can never rule out that possibility.  But because should we expect Wynn to be ready for a full game after being on the shelf for most of the season?  I think not.

Anyway, on to the games, the Thursday night one anyway:

Indianapolis at Houston (-3.5)

The Texans were blasted by Baltimore Sunday, while the Colts blitzed the Jags.  I think both were aberrations.  Houston can’t be as bad as they looked and the Colts aren’t as good as they looked.  Just can’t be.  In any event, they are both 6-4 and fighting for control of the AFC South, so it should be a good game.  A close one too.  I’m looking for the roles to be reversed from four days ago though.  I know, who the hell knows on Thursday Night Football though?  Hopefully, there will not be any helmet swinging anyway.

Houston 24, Indianapolis 20.  

Week (against the spread):  6-8

Week (straight up):  10-4

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  5-6  

Season (against the spread):  80-82

Season (straight up):  106-56

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