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Patriots Post Draft Roster Projection…Conclusion…

Nothing really more to say here, so…the rest:

Defense:

DE (2):

Locks:  John Simon, Chase Winovich

In:  None

Out:  Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Nick Thurman, Tashawn Bower, Nick Coe, Trevor Hill

Comments:  Rivers is another guy on the fringe.  I feel like he gets one more shot, especially with only two guys in this particular category.  Then again, some of the linebackers will play this role, so it’s not really two.  Simon is decent but is probably not getting any better.  That’s why we are hoping that Chase takes another step forward this season.  And not just cuz we want to see his hair.  I think time has run out on Wise, however.  But somehow, he always seems to stick when his roster spot seems in jeopardy.  So we cannot even rule him completely out at this point.

DT (4):

Locks:  Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Beau Allen

In:  Byron Cowart

Out:  Bill Murray, Courtney Wallace Jr.

Comments:  Seems like not drafting a defensive tackle almost gives Cowart the last spot here.  Let’s just hope Allen is good.  The local press loves Guy and Butler has his moments.  But it’s not that impressive of a group, let’s be real.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche

In:  Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland

Out:  Terez Hall, Cassh Maluia, Kyahva Tezino, De’Jon Harris

Comments:  Big year for Bentley as we noted in the last piece.  And we believe that Uche and Jennings will see plenty of action out of the gate.  It would be nice if Hightower continues playing most of the games.  Always seemingly banged up, Dont’a has actually played 15 of the 16 games in the last two seasons.  You’d think he’d want to be out there in a contract year, so hopefully the trend continues.  It’d better.  This group is full of a whole lot of unknowns and perhaps special team types like Calhoun.  And Copeland came from the Jets, so how good can he be?

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams

In:  None

Out:  D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins, Miles Bryant

Comments:  Really about as cut and dried as you can get.  No questions here.  People are floating Gilmore’s name as a potential trade candidate, but I don’t see it.  He does make a ton of dough and as a result of him being the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, he probably wants more.  After this season I could see the Pats moving on from him in some fashion.  But if they want to win games this year, the secondary is going to have to be a big part of the game plan.  And ditching Gilmore won’t help that.

S (5):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Kyle Duggar

In:  Adrian Phillips, Terrance Brooks

Out:  Adarius Pickett, Malik Gant

Comments:  Brooks has been the odd man out on several projections I have seen thus far.  But Bill loves his special teamers.  So I think he sticks.  Not to mention that Chung took a beating last season, Duggar is unproven and we will see about Phillips.  Duggar may not even play much on defense this season if I had to take a stab.  Just a hunch.  I would guess he needs some transition time as he heads from Division II to the NFL.  Maybe it won’t be a long and/or hard transition.  We will have to wait and see on that.  But he will return plenty of punts though, so he’s going to have that going for him.  As long as Edelman isn’t doing that, it works for me.  Oh yeah, and as long as Sanu is never, ever, ever back there again either.

Specialists (7):

Locks:  Justin Rohrwasser (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  None

Out:  Cody Davis (ST)

Comments:  Davis will find himself on the roster to begin the year as well.  They gave him a fat 1.5 mil, so he kind of is earmarked for it, no?  I just had to leave him off for the number’s sake right now.  You know how it works…players get hurt and traded and some turn out to be useless.  Then an undrafted guy or three make some noise in camp and they can’t slip through to the practice squad.  Or they may actually be pretty good or at least can fill a niche role on the squad on Opening Day.  And as a result, everyone’s projections look stupid.  Rumor has it that Davis is a pretty good special teams guy, so there will always be room for him on Bill’s roster.  I mean, can you ever have enough guys that play solely special teams?

So that is that, another fun exercise for guys like me only probably.  With the season months away and training camp not even close, this projection means about as much as all the others out there.  Zero.  Nada.  Absolutely nothing.  But that’s ok.

Bottom line, let’s just hope there is a season in 2020.

Are We Ready? Part III…

Lastly, everybody else:

Defense:

DE (3):

Locks:  John Simon, Chase Winovich

In:  Derek Rivers

Out: Deatrich Wise, Keionta Davis, Nick Thurman, Tashawn Bower

Comments:  Wishful thinking on Wise I guess.  Rivers perhaps too.  With Wise, it’s probably time for him to go.  He still looks like he can add value, but they haven’t played him much.  And when they do, he always commits at least one dumb penalty.  As for Rivers, he has played one season out of his three thus far.  Two full years on injured reserve.  I only added him here because while we have seen enough of Wise on the field, we really haven’t with Rivers.  Can he play?  Who the hell knows?

Truth be told, this position could use a major upgrade, so they both probably won’t be here when the smoke clears.  And it probably won’t matter.

I’m not sure I even want Winovich to play full time either.  He looks to me like a situational pass rusher and core special teamer.  But what do I know?

I’d use a few draft picks here for sure.

DT (4):

Locks:  Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Beau Allen

In:  Byron Cowart

Out:  None

Comments:  I don’t know a single thing about Allen.  He has to be as good as Danny Shelton though, no?  Well, the 2019 version.  Not the 2018 healthy scratch one.  Again, I am not sure why we will miss Shelton anyway.  When did he become a key loss?  It’s not exactly like the Pats were real stout against the run last year.

In a normal year, Guy may be a candidate for an extension and a lower cap number.  But again, I don’t think the Pats are doing that with anyone this offseason.  Everyone who watched tape swore that Guy was awesome…and has been since he has joined the Pats.  I’ll take their word for it.  Again, how were they against the run last season?  Sigh…

Expect a draft pick or two here as well.

LB (5):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley

In:  Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland, Terez Hall

Out:  None

Comments:  Calhoun I guess plays some “edge” and is a special teamer.  Copeland comes from the Jets, which automatically makes me question him.  Hall is getting some buzz here in the spring as a guy that could make some noise.  That should make Hall himself nervous.  Too early for that kind of hype.

Hightower is one of the three aforementioned players with huge cap hits that could be addressed.  But similar to Devin McCourty last season, we think Dont’a gets all his money on this contract and plays this year as is.  Leadership, team transition, call it what you want.  Hightower has won Super Bowls and will probably be seeking one last big fat contract before he is done.  He was allowed to shop himself last time he hit free agency (a la Devin), but nothing apparently materialized and he ended up back in NE.  Maybe he took a discount last time.  But not next time.  Bill will gladly take the compensatory pick next year when Dont’a walks.

Big year for Bentley.  Let’s see if he can get back to what he showed in his rookie season before his injury.  Because he was no great shakes last year.

Draft picks are sure to be had here as well.

And at least Elandon Roberts is gone.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams

In:  None

Out:  D’Angelo Ross, Lenzy Pipkins

Comments:  Some buzz about trading Gilmore now…who is the last of the three I mentioned earlier (Hightower, Thuney) that would be normal candidates for extension or trade to get the cap number down on a team that would seem to be transitioning.  Steph has another year besides this one left on his deal and after he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, no doubt will be looking for a HUGE payday in his next deal.  At age 29 right now, he is unlikely to get it here.  I expect him to be here this year at the current cap number.  Then I would absolutely not rule out a trade next offseason, even if this season goes way better than expected.

Pretty solid cornerback group otherwise.  Keeping Jason McCourty at his inflated option price probably helped keep his brother Devin.  But in today’s NFL, with its emphasis on passing, you would seem to need a slew of good corners.  So having Jason around won’t hurt them.

Jones plays well out of the slot and Jackson is still young and improving.  He may be the #2 guy this year anyway.

I don’t see the Pats giving up on last years’ second rounder Williams.  Although, they gave up on the previous years’ second rounder, Duke Dawson, fairly quickly.  And Joejuan got busted for drugs earlier in the offseason.  So that can’t help.  But since the drugs were weed, he’s probably safe.

S (5):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Terrance Brooks

In: Obi Melifonwu, Adrian Phillips

Out:  Adarius Pickett, Malik Gant

Comments:  Somewhat surprising Devin got as much dough as he did…but it was only for two years, so I am ok with it.  Especially under the circumstances.  Meaning, his leadership matters.  And, more importantly, a LOT of contracts are coming off the books in the next couple of years.

In fact, while we are talking about it, the Pats only have 12 players under contract in 2022.  8 are 1 million-ish and under.  Joejuan is about 2 and N’Keal about 3.  Only Jonathan Jones at about 8 and Mason at about 10 are significant outlays that year.

Interesting.

Anyway, back to the safeties.  Still old.  How much does Chung have left?  He took a beating last season.  Moreso than he usually takes.  Phillips (allegedly) and Brooks are glorified special teamers.  Maybe Obi-Wan Kenobi too (and I’ve never even seen any of the Star Wars…impressive, no??!!  Ok, ummm…).

Expecting some draftees here as well.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  ????? ?????????? (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  Cody Davis (ST)

Out:  None

Comments:  Welp, they will eventually need a kicker.  So…that position has to kind of has to be a lock, no?  I’m thinking inexpensive, mid-round pick.  With Nick Folk (still unsigned) on speed dial.  No one is talking about it now either.  But can we rule out a return for long-time kicker…Stephen Gostkowski…at some point?  Haha…did you think I was going to say Adam Vinatieri?!  Nah.  He may come back to the Colts, but I am thinking his time has come for the old age home.  He won’t be here, for sure.

What if Gostkowski has a clean bill of health late in camp or at least early in the season?  And doesn’t have a job by then?  Would he come back for presumably short money?  I’d keep an eye on that for sure.

The rest of the guys…blah, blah, blah.  Have to have a requisite number of core special teamers, don’t you?

That concludes our waaaaaaay too early look at the roster.  Probably about 60% accurate from who will break camp with the team in August/September.  But always a fun exercise to do…even in April.  Again, since there isn’t much of anything better to do…

Next:  We are done…I wouldn’t have the energy I don’t think anyway…

So Where Do They Go From Here? Part III

So now, the defense.  There could be significant turnover here next season.  Not only with four starters being free agents, but also some depth pieces, a restricted free agent and a potential cap casualty or two perhaps?

Let’s get right to it:

Defensive end:

Under contract:  John Simon, Chase Winovich, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers, Nick Thurman (Futures), Tashawn Bower (Futures)

Free Agents:  Keionta Davis (Restricted), Eric Lee (Practice squad)

Comments:  Thin.  No other way to describe it.  Simon is a pretty good piece, but that is what I would describe him as…a piece.  Winovich showed some promise as a strict passing down pass rushing option.  But can he play on all downs?  I have generally liked what I have seen from Wise in the past.  But this year, every time he was on the field he seemed to commit a stupid penalty that always cost the team in a key spot.  I suppose for 880k in the last year of his contract, he could be back as a depth piece.  Rivers has missed a full two seasons over his three years in the league and didn’t do anything in the one he played.  Perhaps it is time to move on.  I bet you didn’t even know Eric Lee was back with the team this season in any capacity, did you?  You may remember that he flashed for a couple of games after being signed away from the Bills’ practice squad late in 2017.  Then quickly faded into obscurity and didn’t even make the 2018 team.  And no, I had no idea he was here either.  I would think upgrades at this position in the offseason would be in order.  But the Pats never like to have a strict pass rush guy that pins his ears back and gets a ton of sacks (Chandler Jones?), so I wouldn’t expect any big names.  Especially after how the Michael Bennett thing worked out this past season.

Defensive tackle:

Under contract:  Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart

Free Agents:  Danny Shelton, Adam Butler (Restricted)

Comments:  All of a sudden Danny Shelton “matters”, eh?  This guy was a healthy scratch down the stretch in 2018.  A quick fall from grace for the #12 overall pick in 2015.  Then he re-signed fairly late in the offseason, somewhat of an afterthought.  I suppose he had a decent year, but people are now worried about losing him?  Yeah, they are a little thin here as well.  But still.  Butler had a huge year, but it’s possible he could parlay that into big money elsewhere.  For people that analyze nose tackle play, Guy supposedly had a great year.  At a 5 mil cap hit next season in the last year of his contract, that probably makes him a candidate for an extension.  For a guy like me that doesn’t analyze nose tackle play, I saw the team have trouble against the run this season.  That tells me that the Pats could upgrade from ALL of these guys and not miss a beat.  But what the hell do I know?

Linebacker:

Under contract:  Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Terez Hall (Futures)

Free Agents:  Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Shilique Calhoun

Comments:  Speaking of “thin”, this position could take a big hit this offseason.  Of the four free agents that are listed above, I would say the guy most likely to return is Calhoun.  But who cares about him?  Someone will throw Van Noy a boatload of cash, so say goodbye to him.  Collins may turn his dominant first half against bum teams into some sort of decent contract as well.  And although Roberts did his job for the team and played fullback down the stretch, he made no bones about wanting to play more at LB.  I imagine he will try to find a team that will let him do that.  The Brady situation bears watching here as well.  Hightower had a great year and got selected for the Pro Bowl.  He played 15 games this year as well.  But he always seems dinged up, turns 30 in March and costs 11 mil plus against the cap in the final year of his contract next year.  He has been adamant in the recent past about not renegotiating his deals to lower the cap number.  And is the player worth an extension under these circumstances, despite his obvious talent and leadership?  My sense is that if Brady is gone and many other free agents leave, Dont’a could be a cap casualty himself as they remold the team.  If Brady returns and they kind of “load up” for one more run, Hightower will most assuredly return at the same cap number as well.

Cornerback:

Under contract:  Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross

Free Agents:  None

Comments:  Nothing to see here, though it would not shock me to see the team move on from the 5.5 mil cap hit of Jason McCourty and officially elevate Jackson to a starting position.  Especially if Jason’s brother Devin does not return, but more on that later.  While also creating more playing time for Williams.  Then fill in the back end through the draft or low end free agency.  Or maybe they can go get Duke Dawson or Keion Crossen back.  Side note:  congratulations to Gilmore on winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  If you showed up against DeVante Parker of Miami in the last game of the regular season, perhaps the playoffs would have gone in a different direction.  Guess the voting was already complete before that game.  And no, I’m not bitter.  At all.

Safety:

Under contract:  Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrance Brooks, Malik Gant, Obi Melifonwu (Futures), Adarius Pickett (Futures)

Free Agents:  Devin McCourty

Comments:  The last time Devin hit free agency, in 2015, the team told him to go out and get his contract and then come back to talk to them first before signing anything.  He did and the Pats reacted by signing him to a 5 year, 47.5 million dollar contract.  Seemed like a lot of dough, but hey, he was heading into his age-28 season, fully in his prime and was an invaluable member of the defense as well as the locker room.  Turned out to be the right move…and by a longshot.  This time around, will the Pats do the same thing?  Maybe.  But I don’t think he’s getting almost 10 mil per, heading into his age-33 season.  Leadership or no leadership.  There is a good chance he doesn’t return if he wants that money.  Though, he may not get that kind of offer elsewhere.  So this will be interesting to watch as well.

McCourty, Chung and Harmon have filled out a pretty solid safety crew for years now.  But I am also going to question the returns of the latter two.  Again, if Brady returns, they probably stick even at their almost 6 mil and 5.5 mil cap hits, respectively.  But if Brady goes?  All bets are off.  Chung’s cocaine charges were dropped, pending good behavior or something.  He was dinged up more than usual this season.  And looked susceptible more than he has since his return to New England.  Could he be judged expendable?  If the team starts some sort of “rebuilding” process, do they also need to spend that kind of money on a third safety in Harmon?  Though Harmon will be 29 as opposed to Chung, who, like McCourty, will also be heading into his age 33 season.  Brooks is cheap and mostly a special teamer, so he’s safe.  Just another interesting position to watch.

There you have it.  A lot of words over three pieces.  A lot of random thoughts.  A billion questions.  But not a whole helluva lot of answers.

Unfortunately, we won’t be getting pretty much any of those until mid-March…and then into the summer.

Can’t wait.  But that also means winter will be almost over and that may even excite me more than Brady’s status…

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