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Patriots Post Draft Roster Projection…

…because a) everyone else is doing it and b) we are really scraping together things to actually write about in the sports world…

No need for further introduction, except for again, no one is “Way Out” at this time of year, so we are skipping that usual category.  Oh, and since we have no idea on who most of the undrafted free agents are at this point, we won’t really comment much about them…not until we get to see a little of them in the preseason anyway.  If there is a preseason, that is.

Offense:

QB (2):

Locks:  Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer

In:  None

Out:  Brian Lewerke, J’Mar Smith

Comments:  If not taking a quarterback, even late, in the draft doesn’t tell the world that the Pats are going with Stidham, I don’t know what else will do it.  There is a groundswell of support for starting Hoyer and giving the kid extra games to “be ready”, but why bother?  Just give the kid the job and let him run with it.  And if he sucks, STILL let him run with it.  Because then they may be able to play “Tank for Trevor (Lawrence)” or “Fail for (Justin) Fields”.  I doubt it will ever get to that point actually.  But we know what Brian Hoyer is.  And it ain’t an NFL starting QB.  So leave him with the headset and clipboard and let the kid sink or swim.  If the Patriot brain trust is apparently that confident in Stidham, shouldn’t the rest of us be also?

RB (5):

Locks:  Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris

In:  Rex Burkhead, Dan Vitale (FB)

Out:  Jakob Johnson (FB), J.J. Taylor

Comments:  Rex is a popular potential salary cap casualty, as previously noted.  But we think he sticks around as the Pats will presumably lean on the ground game more.  We gave three options for James Develin in the pre-draft projection, he could be released, put on Injured Reserve or the Physically Unable to Perform list.  Didn’t even think of “retire”.  Stupid.  That one should have been kind of obvious.  But that doesn’t lock in Vitale I don’t think.  Not yet anyway.  And it has nothing to do with Jakob potentially beating him out either.

WR (5):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu

In:  Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers

Out:  Marqise Lee, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross, Will Hastings, Sean Riley, Isaiah Zuber, Jeff Thomas

Comments:  No way the Pats let Sanu go as a cap casualty after they dealt a second rounder for him and he was useless last season.  Byrd is the frontrunner to return kicks, so he probably sticks.  Meyers had a good rapport with Stidham last preseason and showed some promise during the year.  Hard to believe the Pats give up on him now.  Lee seems like a flyer to see if he has anything left.  Thomas would have supposedly been drafted if he didn’t have off-field issues.  Sounds like a solid practice squad candidate to me.  Hastings is interesting because he changed positions in college to receiver from…kicker?  How does that happen?  Sorry Gunner.  Nice story last year.  But there are too many waaaaay better options this time around.

TE (3):

Locks:  Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene

In:  Matt LaCosse

Out:  Ryan Izzo, Rashod Berry, Jake Burt

Comments:  Think they keep the veteran LaCosse around to help bring the two draftees along.  Maybe Matty has shaken the injuries and actually has something to show.  They could keep Izzo for cheaper.  But since he has been largely hurt for his two seasons here and not necessarily good when out on the field, my guess is he can slide to the practice squad for the time being.

OL (9):

Locks:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG),

In:  Marcus Cannon (RT), Korey Cunningham (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G/C)

Out:  Michael Onwenu (G), Najee Toran (G), Justin Herron (T), Dustin Woodard (C)

Comments:  Could be some moving pieces here before the start of the year.  If the Pats and Thuney can’t hammer out an extension for some cap relief, he could be dangled.  Also, did you know that Cannon has the FIFTH highest cap charge on the books for 2020?  The team has about 2 million of cap room left and still need to sign all of their draft picks.  Sure, other guys could get released or they could restructure.  But if most of his 9.6 mil comes off in a cut, this may be an easy one.  Remember how bad he sucked last year?

It’s doubtful the Pats go this route, but I suppose you never know.  The four dudes that are “in” aren’t necessarily so.  But hard to believe that Cunningham and Eleumunor get axed, despite playing sparingly last season.  The team gave up picks to get them.  Then again, neither could play over the immortal (and royally horrific) Marshall Newhouse last season, so there is that.  They also gave Jermaine a 2.1 mil tender.  So maybe they have some hopes for him, in particular.  Cajuste and Froholdt were 2019 draftees that spent all year on injured lists.  Hard to see them not getting another chance.  Though I’d love to find a way to get Onwenu on the roster.  Because I think he ends up on it when the real season starts.  Just can’t find the space for him on this right now.

Next:  Defense and specialists.

So Where Do They Go From Here?

As promised at some point in the recent past, let’s have a really, really, really early look at where the New England Patriots could be headed next season.  Take a look at the players on the current roster and their status.  What I think might happen going into next season.  Some thoughts about what should happen.  And perhaps some chatter about what we in this space here WANT to happen.

I know, the 2019 NFL season isn’t even over, free agency doesn’t start for about two months and the draft is about three and a half months away.  But QB Tom Brady’s future has been speculated upon all season.  And there are about 20 other free agents that will need to be accounted for.  So it’s fun to think about, even at this early juncture.  Well, for me anyway…

But think about it.  Arguably the best player of all time could leave this organization.  Several other marquee players could jump ship as well.  The Pats could have some significant roster turnover next season and be led by a 2nd year quarterback who barely played his first season.  Although that storyline sounds eerily familiar, let’s not put Jarrett Stidham in Brady’s class yet, ok?  Despite some late season stories by beat writers that said Stidham was making “wow” throws in practice all season.  Let’s pump the brakes on all that please.

Seriously, however, not only is Brady a free agent with some significant other players, there could be some additional salary cap casualties involving older, high priced, consistently banged up players.

Also consider the way coach Bill Belichick likes to trade, especially during the draft, when you add it all up, it is going to be a FASCINATING offseason.  Even for non-Patriot fans, as they wait to see what happens with Brady, first and foremost.  And if it indeed is the end of an era for the organization.

Per usual when we do these things, let’s take a look by position, starting today with the offense:

Quarterback:

Under contract:  Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler

Free Agents:  Tom Brady

Comments:  The elephant in the room right off the bat.  Brady.  What happens?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Brady spent all year kind of whining.  His behavior appeared to be about the weapons he was given to work with throughout the year.  But you have to believe it was about the money too.  How they have made him work for his money with incentives, voidable contracts and all that.  And how, after all these years, they just wouldn’t give him a three year contract to play until his goal of 45 years old.  Not for top dollar, mind you.  But I am sure for decent money.  Maybe his attitude had to do with that he is sick of coach Bill Belichick and his methods.  And even offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as rumors had it later in the year.

Any way you slice it, Brady’s demeanor was different this year.  And it has led many to believe he will be gone as soon as he gets a chance.  For the first time in his career, he is a free agent.  So he will have that chance.

Recent rumors have indicated that he may have softened his stance however.  That he really doesn’t want to “start over” in a new city, system, etc.  If he felt that way it would be unsurprising.  But it also would be quite a sudden turn of events from what he portrayed all season.

That all being said, how much is any team across the league going to pay a 43 year old quarterback, despite being arguably the best player of ALL-TIME?  Sure, some bottom feeder could open the coffers to get Brady in and draw fans in.  Would Brady do something like that?  Hard to believe.  He has always been about winning and not the highest bidder.  And what would it feel like to him to just be an attraction?

Does Bill even want him back?  I am not so sure that is the case.  Not that Stidham is ready.  Or is even the long term answer.  But Bill may be ready to move on.  Especially if Brady doesn’t go to the offseason stuff like he used to and work with the young/new receivers to help ensure a more seamless transition into the real games?  But also…BECAUSE HE IS 43 YEARS OLD!  People seem to think this guy can go on forever.  There is simply no data for QBs to be successful at his age.  Not to mention the fact that Bill usually gets rid of guys “a year too early rather than a year too late”.  And everyone already assumes he had wanted to move on from Brady when Jimmy Garoppolo was ready to go.

Brady is not done.  He has declined, despite what a lot of people think.  But he is far from done.  But could he be next year?  Sure can.  If I was Bill, I wouldn’t hand him a 3 year contract either.  Doesn’t matter who he is.  If he would come back on a one year deal, would he be better than Stidham or a veteran stopgap such as Andy Dalton?  Damn right.  But Brady may not want to do that.

All of the above would probably be moot if owner Robert Kraft stepped in.  Don’t rule that out either.

No one knows what is going to happen.  I don’t know the right answer as to what should happen.  I am not sure what I even WANT to happen.  I could go either way.  Let Brady walk, root for him on another team, see if he can win, see if Bill can win with the replacement QB in New England, etc.  Or bring him back for at least one more year (if he will do it), surround him with better talent and make one more run at it.  After all, the last time Brady had this kind of crew at receiver, Randy Moss and Wes Welker came walking through that door the following year.

One thing is for sure:  I can’t wait for this to play out.  I am sure everyone else is in the same boat.

Next:  The remainder of the offense and specialists.

Closer Than We Thought?

The Boston Celtics have had a nice start to the 2019-2020 season.  Most fans of the team were ecstatic to be rid of that cancer, Kyrie Irving, and didn’t even care how they came out of the gates this year.  If we all went back to the underdog teams that coach Brad Stevens seemed to have a great deal of success with (IT!!), but didn’t win anything, I think after last season most of us would have taken that.  Not forever, mind you.  But this season for sure.

The players publicly continue to deny that Kyrie was a problem.  Yeah, they were there and lived through the experience.  Perhaps we should believe them when they say they have no ill will towards Irving.

Based on what seemingly everyone not connected with the team sees, it’s hard to really take the players’ words at face value.

I mean, the play on the court seems improved, even while key players such as Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart miss chunks of games.

Even the guys at the far end of the bench seem involved this season.  Everyone seems invested.  And happy for others’ success.  Seems to be a lot of camaraderie.  Something one rarely saw last season.  I know, everyone rooting for Tacko Fall hasn’t hurt.

A better example?  Celtic rookie Grant Williams has apparently been encouraged by the coaching staff to shoot three-pointers.  Big surprise, as Brad wants everyone shooting threes in general.  Don’t get me started on this philosophy though.  In any event, Grant started the year by missing his first twenty-five threes.  And he supposedly got a new nickname with every miss.  Then he finally hit one and the bench went berserk.  For a guy that plays like 15 minutes a game and shoots about 26% overall.

I am not sure that happens at any point last season.  Hard to fathom.

I know Grant plays hard when he is in there.  Despite what seems to be many limitations in his game at the professional level after being the SEC Player of the Year his last two years at Tennessee.  So maybe this makes him easy to root for.

But maybe they all just get along better as a whole?

Once again, I will tell you that I haven’t watched every minute of every game.  But you already knew that.

But from the action I have seen, the team is just looser overall.  Looser on the court, in interviews and everything that goes along with it.

Listen, Kyrie wasn’t the only guy subtracted from last years’ team.  Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Al Horford and Aron Baynes were also notable departures.  Guerschon Yabusele too!!  The Dancing Bear!!

Ok, forget Yabusele.  But also, does anyone really think the other 4 guys were a problem?  Morris can be a handful we’ve heard over the years and Rozier already has carved his own bust for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  But I’m not sure we can pin a ton of blame on them.  Horford was supposedly a “team leader”…though it makes you wonder why he apparently couldn’t help with any locker room sh%tshows.  Baynes is irrelevant, in my eyes anyway.

Just a different feel to this years’ squad.  HAS to be Kyrie, right?

That’s what I am going with.  Despite the fact that everyone from Danny Ainge to Stevens, to any of the players this year or last year continue to deny it.  I’m simply not buying it.

Now, the record this season, is this a mirage?  Can the team actually be a TRUE contender for the NBA Championship?

Let’s hold off on that for a second.

The record is nice and puts them in second place in the Eastern Conference as I write this.  But they are a loss or two away from sixth….with two-thirds of the season still remaining.

Playoff team?  No doubt?

Champion?  Ummmmm…

Similar to what we wrote about the Boston Bruins after a two month writing gap, I feel the exact same about the Celtics’ chances this season as I did before the season started.  Wouldn’t shock me if they got to the Eastern Conference Finals.  But I’d be hard pressed to think they can win a championship.

I will say there have been a few developments during this season within the team that has surprised me a bit.  For one, Brad Wanamaker has actually been useful.  If you recall, I said I would have kept Max Strus over Wanamaker.  Who?  Oops.

I’m a little surprised that the quartet in the middle has seemingly held their own as well.  I guess it is only three since we really can’t count Vincent Poirier because he never plays.  Regardless, Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams have seemed to get the job done in the middle.  Though I’d honestly like to see Williams play more.

That being said, “big man” can certainly be upgraded if the C’s truly think they can compete for a title.  More on this later.

I’ve also been very surprised at Smarts’ shot selection.  Oh wait, that’s false…no need to rehash this over and over.  But we’ve said it all along.  In addition to many others.  Smart is a valuable part of this team.  But for the love of God, PLEASE stop firing up shots at will.

I’m also not surprised that Stevens still tries to force feed us Semi Ojeleye.  Every once in a while that guy plays a good game and everyone lauds him as if he has turned a corner and can contribute regularly.  Then he goes out the next time and plays 20 plus minutes and looks terrible.  Please Brad, enough already.

I thought Carsen Edwards would make more of an impact.  No, I didn’t expect him to average 15 points a game off the bench.  But I expected him to be able to hit a few shots here and there, especially the open ones.  He really hasn’t even done that.  And that is why we find him down in Maine at this juncture.

But all in all, the team is probably about where I expected them to be.  And my long term expectations remain the same.

What can they do to actually make a real bid?

I’m not sure that’s realistically in the cards.  Will an established “Big Man” guarantee a championship?  Not so sure about that.  Depends on who that guy is.  We obviously know they don’t grow on trees…the studs anyway.

If the Celtics determined that was the proverbial “last piece of the puzzle”, they would have to give up something to get something.

Meaning…Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.

Are we ready to sign off on that?

I am not.

Kemba Walker isn’t going anywhere.  Smart and any of the kids (or current centers) do not have the value.  Picks?  Maybe.

Gordon Hayward?  Hmmmmmmm…methinks he would not be enough.  But an interesting conversation could take place here.

Gordo is once again hurt.  He honestly seems a little snakebitten with the whole injury thing while he wears a Celtic uniform.  Now he has some sort of foot issue that has been lingering for weeks.  And they don’t know what it is.

Now, Hayward has been very good this year when he has been on the floor.  Early on, it appeared he was back to what he was before that gruesome injury a couple of years ago.

But he is significantly older than Brown and Tatum.  Two players who ideally will be cornerstones of the Celtic franchise for years to come.  With Kemba also in tow for the next few years anyway.  AND Hayward has a player option for next season that he could decline in search of a multi-year commitment.

Does Gordo have value?  Would Brad Stevens consider dealing “his guy”?  I know, that’s Ainge’s department.  But you don’t think Stevens has any say?

I don’t think Hayward is going anywhere.  Nor Brown, nor Tatum, nor Kemba either of course.  None of the rest of the roster has enough value to deal for a big fish, even if combined with picks.  So I actually don’t think Ainge messes with the roster this season at all, to be honest.  Unless somehow something falls out of the sky.  I think they stay the course with who they have, hope the recent draft picks develop enough to be reliable bench options and then see what path they can take next summer to take the next step during the 2020-21 season.

It’s worth keeping an eye on, however.

If this Romeo Langford kid can stay healthy and shows he can play, then that may change some minds.  Those are big “ifs” from where we are now though.  He’s had about ten injuries this year himself.

But if we get to a point where everyone is healthy and the roster shakes out where they have Hayward, Brown, Tatum, Smart & Langford as reliable wing-type players along with Kemba playing main minutes at the point, there’s a chance one of the wings can be sacrificed to acquire a big.

If Hayward didn’t have such a tight connection to Stevens, wouldn’t he be the obvious choice to dangle here?  Along with other sweeteners?

Either way, enjoy the stress-free, non-Kyrie ride, along with the not so lofty playoff expectations that we all seem to have as we head into winter.  But stay tuned for sure.  It COULD get interesting as the trade deadline approaches sometime at the end of winter.

Don’t bet on it though.

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