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Are We Ready?

Ready for what?

New England Patriot football post-Tom Brady.  That’s what.

Yup.  It’s here.  Or it will officially be in a few months.  But…are we ready?

I am.

After 20 years of Brady at the helm, is it time for someone different?

Not necessarily.  But that’s what both sides ultimately decided.  So that’s what we are getting.

Gonna feel a whole lot different in New England, no question.  Gonna be weird seeing Brady in a Buc uni, no question.  Wish him all the success in the world.  Thank you Tom for EVERYTHING.  Cannot be stated enough.  But best of luck in your new locale.

Brady’s gone and we have to live with it.  Can the Pats win a Super Bowl under Bill and another QB?  Can Tom win the whole thing in Tampa?  Or WILL they?  No idea, but I’m at least interested to see.  Not necessarily to prove one can win without the other though.  Who cares?  I don’t.  Together they gave us 6 Super Bowls in 20 years.  They both had a great deal to do with it.  But you know who’s else did?  Malcolm Butler.  Adam Vinatieri.  James White.  Danny Amendola.  The defensive backs of 2001:  Ty Law, Otis Smith, Lawyer Milloy & Willie “Big Play” Clay.  J.R. Redmond.  An unconscious (literally) David Patten.  Jermaine Wiggins.  Romeo Crennel.  Charlie Weis.  Dante Scarnecchia.  Josh McDaniels.  Julian Edelman.  Deion Branch.  Dee Ford lining up offside.  Billy Cundiff missing that chip shot…oops, the Pats lost the Super Bowl the game after that miss…nevermind.  But you get the point.  We could go on and on.  It was a lot of Bill and Tom.  But let’s not forget all the others that helped along the way.  So let’s root them both on going forward ok?  Unless we get a NE/TB super bowl.  Then we can pick a side.  But what are the odds of that happening?

So what’s next?

Glad you asked!!

In typical Blowhard fashion, let’s do a roster projection!!  Way too early of course.  The draft is a month or so away.  Still some free agents out there.  The country is still basically in lockdown.  But we can take a look now.  No harm in that.

Why not?  What the hell else is there to write about these days??

There are 67 players on the roster as we speak.  That means there are 23 spots remaining.  12 draft picks upcoming in the aforementioned draft, with perhaps a few vets sprinkled in with some undrafted free agents to fill out the 90 man camp roster.  If camp actually happens, that is.

Bottom line:  Lot’s of bodies still to come.

But these bodies will be low cost guys, no doubt about it.

The Patriots have very little salary cap space remaining.  Yes, the salary cap can be manipulated for sure.  But in 2020, with about 23 million tied up in dead money between Brady, Antonio Brown, Stephen Gostkowski, Michael Bennett and Duron Harmon alone, THIS may be the actual year they cannot manipulate anything.  The chickens do come home to roost sometimes.  I suppose 2020 is that time for the Pats.

I also read somewhere recently where the Patriots view 2020 not as a “bridge year”, mind you.  There are still plenty of good players remaining on the roster.  But it’s a year where the Pats “want to get younger and reset their finances”.  Think it was Tom E. Curran who said/wrote that, but if it was someone else, my apologies.

There are a few huge cap charges on the roster for this year where that player could sign an extension, be traded or cut or whatever else needs to happen to lower that specific cap charge.  Three players in particular.  But we will go over those players when we get to their positions.  And the bottom line is that I think nothing will be done with any of the three.  Not during this season anyway.

Taking all 12 draft picks they have seems like a stretch to me as well, despite having the 23 open spots.  They have 1 first, 4 thirds, 1 fourth, 3 sixth and 3 seventh round picks.  Wouldn’t shock me in the least bit if that first rounder was the first to go.  For a second this year and a first in 2021 perhaps.  Then Bill will turn that second rounder into 2 fifths and sixth.  Then 2 third rounders into a 2nd next year.  Etc.  We know how he does business.

All I’m saying is don’t expect any big names coming through the door from now until the start of the season…whether through trade, free agency or the draft.

Enough of the rambling.  Let’s get into the actual players, just like we normally do it each August.  We are skipping the “way out” category for now.  Because, let’s face it, no one is “way out” at this time of year.

Offense:

QB (2):

Locks:  Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer

In:  None

Out:  Cody Kessler

Comments:  Welp, as I was in the midst of writing this, Kessler was released.  So he’s definitely out.  But let’s leave him in this analysis because we will talk about adding a third QB here.

Forget about that third QB being Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, etc.  I mean, if you actually wanted any of these guys.  The Pats are rolling with Stidham.  And Hoyer as the “veteran backup”.  I guess Hoyer is lucky he knows the system.  Because just about anyone else would be a better backup.  Well, except Kessler apparently.

Those aforementioned established veterans would cost money…potentially lots of it.  A couple of them would cost draft capital and/or players in a trade.  As we said, the Pats don’t have a lot of cap room.  But we also don’t see them spending money on a Newton or a Winston even if they did.  Would they fit the system?  Is Newton truly healthy?  Can Winston take his head out of his arse?  Would either take a short money, “prove-it” type one year deal?  Do the Pats even want someone on a one year deal to quarterback the team?

Not sure about any of that.

We wouldn’t be shocked if the Pats drafted a QB, however.  But then again, do they want Stidham to have “real” competition?  And possibly lose confidence?  I don’t know.

The way it stands now, Stidham HAS to be the guy.  Hoyer’s agent is apparently telling anyone who will listen that his client was told he would be given the opportunity to win the starters’ job.  But…does he actually believe it?  Agent or client?  Or…ANYONE else??!

Sure, Hoyer could start the first couple of games to “ease” Stidham in.  I don’t see it though.  I have to believe they are rolling with “Stiddy” (as Devin McCourty has called him, not me).

Maybe a late round pick for the practice squad.  That’s about it.  But as I believe Bill Parcells once said, “I reserve the right to change my mind”.

Next:  The rest of the offense.

Dark…

…so the title was supposed to mean something different, what with the whole country (world?) seemingly shutting down due to the Coronavirus.

First the NBA

Then the NHL

PGA

NCAA

MLB

MLS

XFL

…and of course everything else right on down the list.  Including restaurants, bars, some stores, construction and all that kind of stuff locally.

People seem to be listening to the warnings to stay home.  Drove around a little last night in my town (gasp!) and it pretty much was a ghost town.

Damn Coronavirus!

So with absolutely no sports to talk about, what the hell is the Blowhard to do?

Do we shut down too?  Not sure what to talk about!  We all for damn sure know there is more than enough coverage about the virus itself, there needs to be nothing else said about it by me.  Not that I could even add anything intelligent about it anyway…we could help spread the news…or at least some misinformation about it.  But why bother?  Does anyone even know what to believe anymore?

I stopped reading coverage.  It’s all over the place.  So are the opinions…which I care even less about.

So I just stay home and stare at a blank TV screen.  Since there are no games…

But wait!

There is something left…NFL free agency.

Glad that was not delayed as well.  Folks were worried about “bad optics” with players getting gazillion dollar contracts during a worldwide health crisis.

Like those wouldn’t have happened anyway.

So why not just do it now?  Especially since sports fans need SOMETHING.  And maybe even non-sports fans need a little bit of this too…for a distraction.  Even if they hate the idea.

As for the local angle, which is really why we are here in the first place, things started off innocuously enough.

Devin McCourty re-signed.  As did Matthew Slater.  And Jason McCourty’s option was picked up.  Also, Adam Butler was tendered at a second round level, making him unlikely to go anywhere.

Although the money was kind of big for the first three, it’s not out of hand.  And it’s not long-term.  So I can live with that.

The Pats then franchised Joe Thuney.  SHOCKING.

Almost 15 mil for a guard.  When their other guard, Shaq Mason, makes like 10 mil.

That’s a LOT of dough for guards.  Thuney was supposedly good last year, according to those who actually grade offensive line play, and Mason has been good in the past (though not last year).  But the line sucked as a whole last season.  So this money is hard to justify.  I guess if they work out a long term deal with Thuney before the deadline in July (I think).  But Joe will still be 8 figures plus every year.

Besides, I thought Belichick only franchised kickers.  Both Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski were both franchised by the team…and I think both more than once.  Don’t fact-check me on this, however.

Then yesterday, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins both departed…well, they can’t officially “depart” until Wednesday when free agency actually starts.  But you get the idea.

They were the first defections.  That mattered anyway.

We thought Van Noy would get paid and walk…and he sure did get paid by the Dolphins.  Thought there was a chance Collins would be cheaper and would stay.  He had a great first half against bum teams, then slowly faded in the second half against better teams.  But he still got 3/30 from old friend Matt Patricia.  Good luck to all that out there in Detroit.

I guess that means Elandon Roberts will re-up at some point.  And that warms my heart.  Ummmmm…no it doesn’t.  He is simply not any good.  At either linebacker or fullback.  Despite what the beat writers want you to think.

We here at the Blowhard do not care about the rest of the Patriot free agents…if you haven’t heard that a million times in this space already.

That means you, Danny Shelton.  And you, Nate Ebner.  And most certainly you, Phillip Dorsett.

Welp, that is a bit of a lie.

Because we cared a smidge about one other guy.

Tom Brady.

Whodya think we were going to say silly, Ted Karras??!!

Yes Brady.  Yes we cared.  No we didn’t necessarily care if he was coming back to the Patriots.  We’ve said time and time again that we are not going to get all worked up about a 43 year old QB.  Despite the legend that he is.  The six Super Bowl rings that he led the Pats to.  The desire to see anyone play their whole career with one team.  The sadness or at least weirdness to see him in a different uniform and finish his career with a different team.

And all that.

But again, we root for the laundry here, and the player that wears that laundry as long as they wear it.  When they go to a different team, we don’t necessarily root for the player to fail (well, depends on who it is I guess…and where they end up…hello Johnny Damon on the Yankees, for example?).

We will NOT root for Brady to fail.  No matter who he goes to.  Even if it is the Jets (unlikely), Bills (probably not) or Dolphins (a chance perhaps?).  Or Steelers.  Or Broncos.  Or Giants.  Or anyone.

I will absolutely have none of that nonsense.

But my rooting interest is still the Patriots.  Simple as that.

Oh wait…in case you missed it, and I don’t know how the hell you may have, Brady announced on Instagram this morning that he will not be returning to the Pats.  There has been no contract agreed to with anyone else, as far as I can tell or have heard.  But he won’t be coming back here.

So the Brady watch is (kind of) over.  For all intents and purposes here anyway.

It will be interesting to see where he lands, no two ways about it.  But the most important part to a lot of us has already been revealed.

My sense all along was that Bill Belichick did not want Brady to come back.  Hell, he wanted Jimmy Football over Tom a few years back, we know that much.  He’s probably glad he was forced to keep Tom though, with the latest Super Bowl wins adding to the trophy case.  But still, it doesn’t change the fact that he wanted to move on from Brady a mere few years ago.

Jimmy Garoppolo is not coming back, however, as some rumors swirling the past few weeks would have you believe.

So who is next?

GREAT question.

Based on the Patriots’ current salary cap situation, wouldn’t it suggest they are riding or dying with Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?

I know, I know, cap space can be manipulated in many ways.  Trades and cuts and restructurings and all that can happen too.

But at this point, they have very little cap room.  And that has to be a factor for right this second.

Recent rumors have suggested the Pats may be interested in Teddy Bridgewater.  I have a hard time believing they will shell out a ton of dough there though, even if the cap space became available.  Plus, a whole lot of other teams are interested in Bridgewater.

Cam Newton?  Doubt that as well.

Andy Dalton as a stopgap?  Those were the earlier rumors.  But I’d rather just go with Stidham, to be honest.

Lesser “stopgaps” have already agreed to terms with other clubs:  Marcus Mariota, Chad Henne, Case Keenum, Chase Daniel…

Cody Kessler?  Please.

Outside the box QB?  Who no one is talking about?  That may be the best choice of all of the above?

At this point, unless a truly viable QB comes out of the woodwork, I say go with Stidham.

Right now.

But stay tuned…things should get a whole lot more interesting all around…

Pure Unadulterated Gibberish…

…some more random crap as I find the time to write something lucid…

*Tom Brady, Tom Brady, Tom Brady, Tom Brady, Tom Brady, TOM F’NG BRADY!!!!

Had enough yet?

As I noted last time, yes I sure have.  February is typically a slow sports month and Brady coverage during that time was everywhere.  Heading into March…no change.

I said, “wake me up in a few weeks”.  And it’s almost time.  The NFL CBA will be presumably ratified on March 12.  Then get ready for even more rampant rumors.

The rumors thus far?  Fun.  But how seriously do we take them?  Tampa, Miami and Indy?  Not seriously.  LA Chargers and Vegas Raiders?  Somewhat.  Dallas?  Intriguing…obviously depends on how the Dak Prescott negotiations/franchise tagging goes.  Tennessee?  Perhaps real…but the latest is that the Titans are using Brady to leverage Ryan Tannehill in their negotiations.  Brady won’t be happy with Mike Vrabel if that is true.  San Fran?  Hmmmmmm…GREAT speculation about Tom going home to the team he rooted for growing up.  And Billy Belichick getting Jimmy Football back.  I deem this extremely unlikely, however.

Pats?  Seems like the most realistic option still, to be honest.  They won’t offer even close to the most money if it comes to that.  That’s a no doubter.  But I think a lot of us think it’s hard to believe that Brady goes to a new organization and has to learn a new offense, or at least new teammates and tendencies and all that if Brady gets to “bring his offense with him”.  Probably be forced to go to all offseason activities, when he has avoided every one of these other than the mandatory ones in recent years here.  Plus, when push comes to shove, will Brady have the stones to leave?  Will Bill actually let him leave, also when push comes to shove?  Also, more importantly, will owner Robert Kraft let him leave?  That’s ALWAYS the wild card.

Nothing would shock me at this point.  I think Bill would let him go.  Robert?  Not so sure?  Brady?  He may just want the love and attention in his first foray into unrestricted free agency.  And in the end, he comes back to NE.  I wouldn’t rule that out at all.  That actually may be the leader in the clubhouse at this point.

Again, crazy enough, I don’t even care either way.  I am not going to worry about a 43 year old quarterback, even though it will be weird (sad?) seeing him in a different uniform.  But I root for the laundry overall, so I will root for the players that wear the laundry (See:  Betts, Mookie).  I will not wish for Brady to fail if he departs, let me get this straight.  I am extremely grateful that arguably the best player of all time played 20 years in New England.  But my allegiances are with the Patriots, not Brady himself, despite all the success he has led us to.  I suppose the six rings have influenced me a bit in my thinking.    But wouldn’t they for most people?

Since Brady is the biggest chip on the free agent market, even at his advanced age, he should be among the first dominos to fall…at least among the QBs.  8 days until the official tampering period starts.  10 until the gates officially open for business.

At this point, my interest is about back to being all in.  Can’t wait.

*All the above being said with being ok with Brady leaving, I’m pumping the brakes on former NFL third stringer Jordan Palmer coming out this week and saying current Pats backup Jarrett Stidham is going to be “a stud”.  And for all of us to “jump on that bandwagon”.

Yup.

More intrigue.

I would have liked to have seen Stidham more last year in a real game.  Looked like he had potential from his performance in the preseason (from whatever real stuff we can actually take from preseason action).  But, let’s hold off on those kinds of bold predictions…for now anyway.

Though Brady didn’t play much his first season either…just sayin’…

*Looks like Kyrie Irving wanted a new coach.

Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn Nets “mutually agreed to part ways” the other day.  Kind of out of nowhere.  Atkinson was probably not a Hall of Fame coach.  But coached a couple of bad teams before getting the Nets into the playoffs in his third year.  Not to mention had a hand in developing players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen during his tenure.

Sure, they were a smidge under .500 this year.  But they were also missing Irving for most of the season and Kevin Durant for the whole season.  Those two, in combination with the aforementioned four and others, would help vault you into competition, no?

So Atkinson gets the gate before he presumably would be able to see all that come to fruition next season.

Then when listening to GM Sean Marks’ rambling comments about “it was mutual between me and Kenny”, “the players had nothing to do with it”, “I would have loved for Kenny to coach Durant and Irving and all these guys” and all that nonsense…all it did was tell me that at least some players didn’t want him there.  And, as always, the finger naturally points to Irving.  And some reports are coming out that Kyrie prefers Tyronn Lue to coach the team.  Big surprise.

I don’t know if Atkinson can coach or not.  But this one completely feels like it has Irving’s fingerprints all over it.  And it again reminds me that I am so glad Kyrie is out of my town.

*Speaking of “my” town and the Nets, that overtime lineup Brad Stevens used against Brooklyn last week was awesome, right?!

In all fairness, Brad had his hands tied a bit…ok, actually, a LOT.  Jayson Tatum didn’t play because of illness.  Kemba Walker was just back from injury and was on a minutes limit.  Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward got hurt during the game and were unavailable.  And Marcus Smart took a couple of dumb fouls at the end of regulation and the beginning of OT and as a result fouled out of the ballgame.

There shouldn’t have even been overtime.  Smart fouling a dude on a three pointer with 0.2 seconds left was just colossally stupid.  As much as I love what Smart brings to the table each game, he still does stupid stuff like this, pushes refs, flops and takes waaaaay too many shots.  I guess we have to just deal with it.  In any event, it wasn’t all his fault, as the 51 points allowed in the fourth quarter and the blown 21 point lead was simply atrocious work by the team overall.

So, back to the OT lineup.  Daniel Theis, Carsen Edwards, Brad Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye and Javonte Green were your guys.  At least that is what I recall since I don’t even want to go back and confirm it was specifically all of them.

As much as I love myself some Danny Theis, this unit may have trouble beating an over-50 team at the local YMCA.

Hyperbole, I know.  But you get my point.

There needed to be some veteran depth bench moves made by GM Danny Ainge at the trade deadline a ways back.  And he didn’t get it done.  We’ve written about that.  But this just proves it.

As well as that Friday night atrocity against the Utah Jazz at home.  No Brown or Gordo.  And limited Kemba.  But when you are forced to throw Wanamaker out there in crunch time and watch him throw up wide open bricks, including an airball, then you should know you have a problem.

Wanamaker was something like -25 in 26 minutes.  That’s hard to do on a good team.

Sure, once everyone is healthy, the C’s should be competitive.  But not enough for a championship, in my opinion.

I am beginning to think that Ainge and Stevens knew this.  And didn’t want to overpay for anyone at the deadline.  See which, if any, of the kids pan out, see if Gordo opts out after this season…then make appropriate moves over the summer to form a REAL contender.

Wouldn’t make them bad guys or even wrong.

But frustrating, nonetheless…

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