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Takin’ A Stab…

…so while the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins presumably wrap up their current playoff series’ this coming week, one way or the other, and me waiting to comment more on them until after they are complete, we thought we could stuff a New England Patriot roster projection right in the middle of all that to pass the time.

How’s that for a run-on sentence?!

Oh and the Red Sox?  They seem to be rounding back into form.  But then they will probably lose the upcoming series to the Orioles.  So let’s push them off for a bit as well.

In any event, projections don’t really mean much, especially at this time of year.  But we certainly do love to do them.  Even better once all the draft picks and other nobodies fill up the 90-man roster without anyone ever seeing (or really, hearing) what they are doing in practices over the spring/summer.  So let’s get right to it:

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham

In:  Brian Hoyer

Out:  Danny Etling

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Stidham would have to be really atrocious all spring and summer for him not to stick.  Hoyer’s 3 mil cap hit is stupid, but he will be around for insurance for one more year.  Could they cut him and leave him “on call”?  Perhaps.  But I don’t see it playing out that way.  Unless Stidham is the real deal.  Some people have been pointing out that the Pats did keep 4 quarterbacks one year of the Belichick regime.  But that 4th QB was Brady.  Etling is…and will not…be Brady.  Plus if they thought he could be they would have kept him on the roster last year.

RB (5):

Locks:  Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel, Damien Harris, James Develin (FB)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  Nick Brossette, Jakob Johnson (FB)

Comments:  Nothing to see here.  4 dudes from last season and a third rounder from this year.  Good enough.

WR (5):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry

In:  Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington, Demaryius Thomas

Out:  Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Damoun Patterson

Way Out:  Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers

Suspended:  Josh Gordon

Comments:  Could be the position most in flux.  Edelman and the first rounder Harry are locks of course.  Then what?  The coaches seem to love Dorsett.  Thomas signed for fairly big coin and may start the year on the PUP list, so he likely sticks…unless he turns out to be Chad Ochocinco, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker, Joey Galloway or the like.  Meaning, he can’t get the offense or is officially done.  Maybe Berrios or Harris beats out Ellington.  Maybe none of the three make it.  There seems to always be some buzz around Berrios, but for now, I’m going with the veteran.  If, for some unknown…and unbelievable…reason Gordon is reinstated, then he gets a spot over everyone but the top two.  Not going to count on that, however.

TE (3):

Locks:  None

In:  Matt LaCosse, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Ryan Izzo

Out:  Stephen Anderson

Way Out:  Andrew Beck

Comments:  Complete turnover.  Worse yet, no Gronk.  In any event, your guess is as good as mine.  LaCosse got signed to a decent deal.  But the club seems to like Izzo and Anderson.  Sefarian-Jenkins may be the guy with the most talent, but who really knows with him?  Rumors of Ben Watson are in the air.  And perhaps Gronk at midseason?  Doubt it.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if none of these guys were here for Opening Night, to be brutally honest.

OL (8):

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

In:  Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G), Ted Karras (G/C),

Out:  James Ferentz (C), Brian Schwenke (C), Cole Croston (T)

Way Out:  Calvin Anderson (T), Jake Eldrenkamp (C), Tyler Gauthier (C), Cedrick Lang (T), Dan Skipper (T), Tyree St. Louis (T)

Comments:  On the other hand, this group seems to be fairly set in stone.  If Wynn is healthy, they probably go with him to replace Trent Brown at left tackle.  The other starters are mainstays.  The two fourth rounders would seem to be in, along with Karras who is the backup center.  Maybe an undrafted free agent sneaks in there somewhere since one or five always seem to make the team.  But for now, this seems right.

Defense:

DE (6):

Locks:  Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich

In:  Keionta Davis, Derek Rivers

Out:  None

Way Out:  Nick Thurman

Comments:  Bennett goes without saying, but the rest of the group looks to shake out like this.  Wise shows flashes from time to time, Simon re-upped for decent cake and Chase is a third rounder so they all are no brainers.  Think they give Davis and Rivers one more year.  But their spots are anything but safe.

DT (4):

Locks:  Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Mike Pennel

In:  Byron Cowart

Out:  Ufomba Kamalu, David Parry

Way Out:  Trent Harris, Frank Herron

Comments:  Wouldn’t shock me if a fifth body made it, but for now looks to be these guys.  Hey, Danny Shelton is apparently available!  Ugh…

LB (4):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts

In:  None

Out:  Christian Sam

Way Out:  Shilique Calhoun, Terez Hall, Calvin Munson

Comments:  Looks like Hightower’s high cap number is irrelevant to the team.  Roberts still stinks, but they love him.  Sam is still on the outside looking in.  May be a place where any of the last three players could sneak in with a big camp.  But maybe I just wanted to say the word “Shilique” again?

CB (7):

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

In:  Keion Crossen

Out:  Ken Webster

Way Out:  D’Angelo Ross

Comments:  Loaded.  McCourty signed a pretty pricy 2 year deal, so he’s firmly in, as opposed to last year where he was firmly on the bubble.  Hard to believe they would cut bait with Dawson after lugging him around all last year.  Williams’ second round status this year locks him in.  Crossen could be in trouble, but he supposedly showed well last year, we don’t believe they would just toss him by the wayside at this point.  Jones played plenty of safety in the Super Bowl, so maybe that’s part of next seasons’ plan?

S (3):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  None

Out:  Obi Melifonwu

Way Out:  Malik Gant, A.J. Howard

Comments:  Harmon makes too much money (as does Devin, for that matter), but I don’t see them jettisoning him.  Some of the corners and special teamers can back up here, in my opinion.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Terrance Brooks (ST)

In:  None

Out:  Ryan Allen (P)

Way Out:  None

Comments:  A hunch on the punter.  Allen has been serviceable since he has been here.  And he had a helluva Super Bowl!  But they tried to replace him last year pretty much, by getting a dude with a big leg, trying to “hide” said dude by not punting him the entire preseason, yet he still was claimed by Buffalo at final cuts when they tried to get him through waivers to the practice squad.  Now they DRAFT one in the fifth round?  And Allen only signed for one year because “that’s what he (Allen) wanted”?  Seems like the writing is on the wall here.  The rest of the specialists…it’s almost like they have tenure here.  Yeah, Bolden left for a year, but you know Bill loves him.  And Brooks is new, but he was a kind of a “priority signing” if you will.

Final comments:  Yup, that’s 56 guys for a 53 man roster!!  I can add, I swear!  I thought it was pretty good narrowing things down as I went along position by position in order though.  I didn’t go back and adjust, because…I don’t have any real answers.  There will be injuries.  And trades.  That will pare things down.

But for the sake of accuracy, the three I would remove from above to have an actual 53-man projection would be both Keionta Davis and Derek Rivers at defensive end, to be honest.  They can move some linebackers around to cover the edge.  And it’s not like those guys have stood out in any way.  For the last cut, I considered Crossen, Hoyer (as discussed above), Ellington or one of the TEs.  But I’m taking the easy way out and putting Demaryius Thomas officially on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

I can do what I want I guess…but a lot can happen from now until September of course.  So again, this doesn’t really mean all that much in the end…

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What Are The Pats Doing?

What do you mean?  They are doing what they ALWAYS do.

To back up a little bit…so that Gronk piece last week was supposed to be an update on the New England Patriot free agency action.  Then he kind of threw a monkey wrench (wait, is it politically correct to use this term anymore?  Brief research indicates that it’s ok, but you never know these days.  But…I digress…) into that plan.

So the Pats are doing what they always do during the free agency period.  Eschew the bigger names and sign a bunch of depth-type guys and see who sticks.

What’s wrong with that?  Doesn’t that always seem to work?  For the most part anyway, I would say?

But the fans once again do not like it.  Talk radio hosts don’t either.  So yet again, we have to listen to everyone squawk about how “Bill never does anything” and “we need a receiver who can stretch the field” and all that crap.

Doesn’t anyone ever learn?

Sure, I suppose it would be nice to have had defensive end Trey Flowers return.  Or have the Patriots sign a high profile free agent from outside the organization such as linebacker C.J. Mosley or the “Honey Badger”, safety Tyrann Mathieu.  OR trade for another high profile guy such as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown.  Who doesn’t love a big splash?

But this is not how New England does business.  This is not how Bill Belichick has EVER done business.  No, we can’t count the acquisitions of Randy Moss or Corey Dillon back in the day.  Bill took advantage of disgruntled stars supposedly on the decline.  Beckham and Brown may have been disgruntled, but they don’t appear to be on the decline at all.  Not the same situation.

Maybe you can count the Adalius Thomas acquisition as an exception.  But you get the point:  it’s rare that Belichick signs off on these types of things.

So even though the re-signing of Brandon Bolden and the signing of Matt LaCosse may be the two biggest moves of the offseason thus far (Ok, it’s actually the trade for Michael Bennett.  But once again, you get my point), there is no reason to panic at this point.

Especially considering that we have about three and a half months before training camp even opens.  Not to mention a draft at the end of the month.

The draft?  Yeah, I know that is a crapshoot.  Especially for Bill and his crew.  But they have 6 picks in the first three rounds.  Gotta believe that a couple of those pan out.  Not to mention that the 12 picks they have overall will eventually turn into 16 this year (5 in the seventh round) and one or two next year.  So they can miss on a great deal on them actually.  Though we aren’t hoping for that of course.

I would guess the focus at the draft would be on tight end, receiver and fat guys on both sides of the ball.  Then again, the Pats won with THAT group of receivers last year, so maybe they just sign a couple more bums off the street to cover that.

But a TE in the first round?  Eminently possible.  Some would even say probable.  But knowing Bill he takes a safety or something.

In any event, this roster is far from being final.  Not to mention I really believe the team thinks Josh Gordon will contribute next season…for whatever that is worth.

As for the free agents they HAVE signed, I can’t say I have a tremendous problem with any of them.  I don’t particularly love Bolden.  But Bill is going to stockpile his special teamers whether we like it or not.  And since Bolden wasn’t here last year and the special team units kind of stunk, bringing him back can’t be awful.  “Safety” Terrence Brooks allegedly will help there too.  Nose Tackle Mike Pennel HAS to be better than either Malcolm Brown or Danny Shelton, right?  LaCosse won’t be Gronk.  But hopefully, he won’t be Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister either.  Bringing WR Phillip Dorsett, CB Jason McCourty, P Ryan Allen and DE/LB John Simon back won’t kill you.  We will see about new WRs Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris.

Then ask me again after the draft…where they may have to take a kicker now too, as Stephen Gostkowski and the team are apparently differing on the amount of compensation in the next potential deal.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Gostkowski can be shaky at times.  Seemingly during key times.  BUT when you look at the body of work, you have to acknowledge that he has been pretty damn good over the years.

Many people want Gostkowski gone.  But look at some of these kickers floating around the league.  Not good.  Be careful what you wish for.  One of those retreads may end up in Foxborough.  Then you’ll be begging for Stephen to come back.

Now, he should face competition from someone next year.  Say that every year.  Spending a low round pick on a kicker, I would not be adverse to.

While we are on free agents and Gronk and all, many people think Gronk “screwed” the Patriots by waiting so long to announce his retirement.  Because people felt that they could have spent his cap room on a guy like free agent TE Jared Cook.  Or free agent WR Adam Humphries.

But did he really screw them?

We are talking about Jared Cook here.  A 10 year NFL veteran…of 4 different teams.  Now a 5th with New Orleans.  Who has never broken 1,000 yards…or even 900.  Are we as fans really bitter on missing out on him?  I can’t see it.

We are also talking about Adam Humphries.  Now, Humphries is a young, ascending slot receiver…we think anyway.  Could be the next Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, etc.  But what if he isn’t?  On top of that, how would a big fat contract like the one he supposedly was offered look in the “room”, with Edelman still here making maybe half of what Humphries was making?  Can’t say that would be a positive, though the Pats have certainly dealt with distractions like that before and could have worked around it I’m sure.  But worth noting.

I have to tell you if Gronk “screwing them” is the popular thinking, why are we also not blaming guys like Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower for “screwing the Pats”?  Those guys’ inflated cap numbers are not commensurate with their play.  Hightower came out and said he wasn’t taking a pay cut…not sure if the Pats even asked.  Not sure about anyone asking Devin either, but I am betting if they did, he balked too.

Now, we know Bill loves those guys “in the room”.  But Stephon Gilmore restructured.  Maybe they should have considered it too?  Michael Bennett even restructured and made himself some more money in the process.  Maybe Devin and Dont’a could’ve too?  Just sayin’…

Tom Brady will likely restructure down the road as it’s unlikely he will keep that 27 mil cap charge for next season.  And if he really plans on playing until he’s 45, then an extension should be in order as well.

Bottom line?  They will work the cap any way they need to in order to make things work.  Like every other team does.

Speaking of Brady, how does everyone feel about Josh Rosen?  Rosen didn’t have much of a rookie year in Arizona last year.  But he’s young.  And a Top Ten pick from last year.  I know, Blake Bortles was taken third overall in 2014…so I guess Rosen’s draft slot doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot.  Not to mention the fact that I have no idea if the kid can actually play.  But the scenario is worth monitoring.

Don’t the Pats have to add a “real” quarterback this offseason?  I say yes.  But I guess this is where Bill usually says “no”.

By the way, Gronk’s agent flapping his gums about him potentially coming back?  I suppose it’s possible.  But I’m not betting on it…

Gronk…

…ok, so now we have an answer.  Rob Gronkowski is done.

As the weeks have gone on since the Super Bowl in early February, I honestly thought that there was a decent chance he would be back for at least one more year.  One more run at yet another Super Bowl.  I just figured the longer Gronk hadn’t made a decision, the better the chance that Tom Brady got in his ear and convinced him to come back.

I guess not.

But can you blame him?

Certainly not.

Gronk was a shell of himself last season.  We will never know specifics because it’s, you know, the Patriots.  But it appears that he was battling several different injuries during the year.  Of course, the beating he took over the years likely played some role in his reduced numbers as well.

So was all of that going to get any better?  Unlikely.  And he knew it.  WE knew it.  Some of us just didn’t want to admit it.

He’s walking away from the game while he can still…walk.  People talk about this kind of stuff all the time, but this would seem to apply to Gronk more than any other player, no?.  How many back surgeries has he had?  And all the various other operations?

Listen, any player is the proverbial “one hit away” from not only a career-ending injury but a possible life-altering one as well.  Based on Gronk’s lengthy medical history, could one say that he would be more susceptible to something like that?  Can’t discount that line of thinking.

On top of all the surgeries and all the rehab he has had to do throughout his career, spanning back to college as well, perhaps he also couldn’t bear to see himself become a lesser player?  Everyone loses skills as they age, but did Gronk want to become what someone like Antonio Gates has become?  Playing a handful of downs and catching significantly less passes with each passing season?  Not to mention becoming more of a blocker as New England seemingly is becoming more of a running team as other skill players such as Tom Brady and Julian Edelman age as well?

Can’t imagine any of those prospects were very appealing to Gronk, even if the team continued to win…and win Super Bowls at that.

I’m not sure we as fans would like the prospect of watching Gronk deteriorate on the field either.  It was tough enough to watch him last season.

So let’s celebrate the career of Rob Gronkowski and wish him well going forward.  He was perhaps the best tight end to ever play the game.  Definitely a Hall of Famer despite the truncated career, probably even a “first ballot” one.

I just personally hope we don’t now see him in something like the WWE, or some D-level movies or the like and watch him end up turning into some sort of laughingstock.

I suppose he doesn’t give a rat’s arse what we think though…

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