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Are We Ready? Part II…

Continuing on with the offense, as promised (threatened?!):

RB (5):

Locks:  Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris

In:  Rex Burkhead, Dan Vitale (FB)

Out:  James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Comments:  Much less interesting than the quarterback position.  Michel was not very good last year.  But neither was the offensive line.  Hopefully, they both improve.  Because he will likely get most of the touches again.

Not to mention that I believe that with Stidham at QB, the Pats will try to run the ball even more.  Rely more on that and the defense to win games.  I believe Belichick has wanted to do that since drafting Michel.  To protect against Brady getting old at first.  Now to lessen the burden on a young QB.

Harris is primed for a bigger role this year after he spent his rookie season redshirting.  Not unusual for a young back to go this route, just ask White.

Rex is a popular potential salary cap casualty pick by a lot of people.  But, like a lot of guys on this roster (White included), I think the team sticks with them in the final year of their contracts.  Again, I don’t expect this roster to look much different once training camps open in July (presumably).  Other than new, cheap faces.  So I don’t think any of the popular “they can cut him to create cap space” guys are going anywhere.  Plus Rex is pretty good when healthy.  I know, good health is kind of a problem for him.  But still…

Don’t be surprised if Harris was groomed to take White’s role.  Similar to White being groomed to take Shane Vereen’s role.  Could White be traded to open up that door as soon as this season?  Possible.  But I don’t see it.  They will probably just let him walk after the year.  Like what they did with Vereen.  Plus, no one knows how capable Harris is yet anyway.  And Bill LOVES those compensatory picks.

Develin is a coaches favorite.  But the way I see it, Vitale’s signing means that Dev is not ready.  Neck injuries are kind of serious folks.  Maybe he starts on PUP.  Maybe he goes on IR for another year.  Maybe he gets released.  Maybe the Pats carry two fullbacks?  Maybe Vitale is just here until Develin is deemed fully healthy so that Michel has his security blanket back?

I can’t believe I just wrote this much on the fullback position…

WR (5):

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

In:  Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers

Out:  Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross

Comments:  Many people all of a sudden want to trade Jules to Tampa to be with his buddy.  But the Bucs have Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.  I think Tom will be ok.  And then I hear during this writing about rumors of Jules to…Detroit??!

Ummmmm…no thanks…

Jules should be good for Stidham.  And maybe Jarrett won’t feel the need to target him 400 times, so that can keep Edelman healthy…for a while anyway.  I get it, Julian was the most reliable receiver for Brady last year.  By far.  So Tom kept looking for him.  And it worked for a long time.  But man, did Jules take a beating last season.  Let’s keep him around to help the kid.  But let’s also develop a couple of other guys so that Edelman is able to stay on the field.

This is where Harry and Meyers, in particular, come in.  They need to develop a rapport with Jarrett.  Meyers had one in the preseason last season.  But that was the preseason.  I do think that’s what keeps him on this years’ roster, however.

Harry HAS to work.  And since he won’t have a QB that hates him now (presumably), maybe N’Keal can take the next step.

Gunner seemed to be a desperation roster add last year during final cuts, in order to mainly return punts…but now that Sanu is here, it’s not necessary to keep him.  Sanu can return pun…oh wait, that’s how he got hurt last season when he got here and then was useless after.  Nevermind.  But although Gunner was game, he took his own beating.  And while he may be a nice practice squad guy, the Pats should do better.

That’s where Byrd comes in.  Maybe he can return all kicks.  And add some speed.  And be more useful than Phillip Dorsett.  Is that too much to ask?

As for Sanu, people want to cut him as well for salary cap purposes.  As bad as he was down the stretch last year, I am going to give him somewhat of a pass because of the injury.  He IS a proven receiver in this league.  If healthy, he should be a good receiver for this team.  Especially if Harry can establish himself and put Sanu in the #3 role at best.

TE (2):

Locks:  None

In:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Out:  None

Comments:  A draft pick or three here would seem to be in order.  Gronk ain’t walking through that door, my friends.  Best of luck in professional wrestling (sigh…).  Aaron Hernandez ain’t walking through that door either, and thank the Lord for that.  No Ben Coates, Russ Francis or even Marv Cook.  Sorry.

Funny thing is, these two dudes may stick.  LaCosse was never healthy last year.  Maybe he is halfway decent.  Izzo was supposedly hurt last season as well.  And we know he was hurt the year before.  So the team has invested 2 years in him already.

And…they are cheap.

People want the team to bring in a big name here.  That won’t happen.  It’ll be these two and a mid-round pick.  I can almost smell it.

For better or for worse…and I don’t really have anything better to say here.

OL (9):

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

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

Out:  Najee Toran (G)

Comments:  That line looks pretty good on paper.  But will they all be there on Opening Day?

Thuney was surprisingly franchise tagged.  Some say he could be moved if there is no progress on an extension to lower the cap hit.  Andrews claims he is 100% but is he?  Cannon is one of those popular salary cap cuts.  And why not keep Thuney and try to trade Mason?

My guess?  They will all be here at their current cap numbers.

Thuney will pocket his almost 15 mil…did you see how long it took him to sign the tender?  The Pats won’t trade him, as they need the O-Line to be strong for the first year of the Stidham era.  And Thuney won’t sign an extension.  He will want his first huge long-term contract.  Especially since he has already has two Super Bowl rings.  The Pats won’t give him one…not yet anyway.  And Joe may want to see how that first year of the new era actually goes before committing long term to the franchise.

Andrews hopefully is healthy, Wynn hopefully stays healthy, as will Cannon…and even Mason, as there were indications he was bad last season because he was hurt.

No Dante Scarnecchia?  Might be a problem.  But he didn’t matter last season.  So maybe he won’t matter this year.  Hate to say that.  But could be true.

The 4 “In” dudes were drafted last season or acquired for picks right before the season.  I feel like they all will get another year to see if they are useful.  Eluemunor for sure, since they actually tendered him at 2.133 million as a restricted free agent (what?!).  The other 3 are still making 6 figures.

Maybe not though, as they all could get pushed by this years’ draft picks.  No harm in throwing some more bodies into the mix and see who is left standing in the end.

Next:  Defense and specialists.

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…

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