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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.

New England Patriots Roster Projection-Offense

Training camp opened up this week for the New England Patriots.  Led off by another informative Bill Belichick press conference…not.  He’s never telling us why he didn’t play Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl last year.  But I don’t mind people still asking.

I will also tell ya…this whole thing about badmouthing the taskmaster Belichick is laughable.  Sure, he isn’t perfect.  Butler, trading Jimmy Garoppolo for 25 cents on the dollar and we could list several more probably.  You’re bound to make some mistakes over 18 years.  Have we forgotten all the good he has done too?

Even more, he had Jimmy Football set up to lead the Pats for the next decade or so…once Tommy Boy finally decides to decline, that is.  And at 41, it may come sooner than people, or even he, is ready to accept.

Sure, the thought of trading Brady is hard to stomach.  But the end will come.  And at his age, there is a very good chance it could come quick.  So what’s wrong with having someone good ready to go next?  Tommy Boy didn’t like it though.  And got owner Robert Kraft to side with him.  But why is Bill the bad guy here?

Same with the Rob Gronkowski trade rumors.  Gronk may be the best tight end of all-time.  But he’s hinting at retirement and gets hurt a ton.  So why wouldn’t Belichick try to get some value for the guy in a trade while he can?  Certainly can investigate it.  I would.  I may not actually do it.  But, based on the circumstances, it’s smart to see what was out there.  So why was Bill the bad guy here too?

In any event, even if none of these zipperheads get along, with the players not going to voluntary workouts and all that nonsense that people were flipping out about this summer, I am not sure it will matter in the end.  Unless Brady pulls a Brett Favre in his age-41 season with the Vikings.

Moving on, the team has 90 players in camp, so let’s get to why we are here.  The Pats made a few roster moves this week, so I included them…since I already had the players lined up.  The first roster projection of the year, right here:

Offense:

QB (2):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

In:  None

Out:  Danny Etling

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Unless you think the seventh-rounder Etling is the 2018 version of the 2000 Brady that was drafted in the sixth round and you want to put him on the team.  I don’t.  I see practice squad written all over him.  Plus Bill usually keeps only 2 quarterbacks anyway.  Hoyer is a safe backup.  It would be hard to believe Etling could beat him out this summer to take the backup job.  I don’t see it anyway.  But who saw Brady take the backup job back in 2001?  I suppose at least he had a full year in the system, something Etling obviously doesn’t have.

RB (4):

Locks:  Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel, James Develin

In:  None

Out:  Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, Ralph Webb

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Burkhead signed a decent sized three-year deal, so it looks like he heads in as the lead back.  Until Michel replaces him.  Likely due to injury.  White is the third down guy.  The team loves Develin.  The locks are pretty easy.

A pretty solid fall for Gillislee.  He was the man last year early and didn’t take advantage of his opportunities.  Lost the job to Dion Lewis and now it looks like he will lose his entire fat paycheck this year.  Hill is nice to take a flyer on.  But as a 4th back…you can find those anywhere.  Unless someone gets hurt, I expect him to be gone, with the team going with more depth at other positions.  I’d normally have Webb as ‘Way Out”, but I think they gave him a nice signing bonus as an undrafted free agent.  Has to count for something I guess.

WR (5):

Locks:  Chris Hogan

In:  Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson

Out:  Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron

Way Out:  Devin Lucien

Suspended:  Julian Edelman

PUP/IR/Traded/Released:  Malcolm Mitchell

Released:  Cody Hollister

Comments:  Welp, this is one fine mess!  Hogan is the only lock, with Edelman suspended the first four games for PED use.  Matthews would seem to be the closest to another lock.  But he could be one of those guys that never find a rapport with Brady, despite having success elsewhere.  Patterson will be kept for kick returns and gadget plays.  Dorsett would seem to be buoyed by having a full year in the system, and a full training camp this year.  Remember, Jacoby Brissett was traded for Dorsett like 5 days before the season last year.  I have no idea if he can actually play, but he would seem to have a leg up on others this year now based on the above.  And…people that watch film said he got open a ton last year, just Brady never threw to him, for whatever that’s worth.  I wasn’t bullish on Britt initially.  But I read something recently that the team likes him as the #3 guy during Jules’ suspension.  Guess that means he is on the team.

Berrios may have a chance.  But I see the practice squad in his future.  Speaking of the practice squad, McCarron was on it for all of last year I believe.  And there was some buzz about him in the spring too.  Then the Pats signed Matthews, traded for Patterson and drafted Berrios.  So much for that buzz.  Lucien spent some time on the practice squad last year, I think maybe the whole year too, after getting drafted in the seventh round in 2017.  But they thought so much of him that they let him walk, only to re-sign him like two days ago.  Hollister was another long-term practice squad dude from last year.  But he had some sort of “non-football” injury I guess and they just dumped him.

Mitchell is kind of a sad story.  Football one anyway.  We all know he was at like a fourth-grade reading level in college and then took action to improve and is now an author.  But he can’t stay on the field in the sport.  Too bad.  He showed promise in 2016.  But then missed all of 2017.  And now may miss all of 2018.  The talk is they are trying to trade him, but good luck with that.  Who knows what will happen, but the end result is that he won’t be on the roster this year any way you slice it.

TE (2):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski

In:  Dwayne Allen

Out:  Jacob Hollister, Troy Niklas, Will Tye, Ryan Izzo

Way Out:  Shane Wimann

Comments:  Gronk…of course.  But I battled with the rest.  Allen’s salary and production would seem to make him a natural cut.  But he stuck around all last year.  So will he again?  Someone still has to beat him out.  Maybe Hollister takes a step up?  Maybe Niklas lives up to his draft position of several years back?  It won’t be Tye or Izzo.  Izzo seems like a practice squad guy as a seventh rounder this year.  Tye seems fungible.  It sure as hell won’t be Wimann, who I’ve never heard of…and I expect you haven’t either.  Maybe they keep three TE’s too.  I don’t know how many people really pay attention to backup TE battles.  But if you do, this could be a good one.  It’s Allen for now, until further notice.

OL (9):

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

In:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Matt Tobin (T), Luke Bowanko (C/G)

Out:  Ted Karras (G/C), James Ferentz (C), Cole Croston (T), Jason King (G), Ulrick John (T)

Way Out:  Nate Theaker (G)

Retired:  Andrew Jelks (T)

Comments:  Seems like Big Trent is going to get first crack at replacing the overrated and overpaid (especially now) Nate Solder.  But they may cycle through a few guys in camp before it’s over.  Waddle is back.  Tobin and John were brought in to presumably battle.  Some people insist that first rounder Wynn can play tackle.  And then there is Croston, who spent all of last year on the active roster and barely played.  So there may be some drama here yet.  The “ins and outs” may change weekly, or even daily, at that position.

Karras has seemed to be a capable backup along the interior.  But then again, he was cut last year out of camp.  And then they brought in Bowanko this offseason.  Karras’ time may be officially up now.  Ferentz and King seem to be fringe players.  No one has ever heard of Theaker.  Jelks was getting some buzz in the spring…even though he had missed 3 straight years of football.  So much for that buzz.  But he probably made the right decision by retiring.

Going back to the starters, other than left tackle, the line appears set.  But I think we should watch out for one thing.  A Shaq Mason trade.  What?  Yup.  We know Bill ain’t paying Shaq big money next year.  The market for guards went up with a huge contract or two this past offseason.  Does Bill preemptive strike and unload him for value in camp?  Maybe.  What it would also do is open a spot for Wynn at guard, where most think he will end up anyway.  Something to consider.  I think there may be a few candidates for trade on defense as well.  But we will get to that in due time.

Next:  Defense and Specialists

Playing catch-up…

…so it’s been a bit since I have had something to say.  But it’s not like I haven’t thought of anything.  So here are some of the things that have been rolling around in my head.  Warning, this may take a while (ie:  meaning, more than one part).  I apologize profusely for that…and also if some of the topics are a smidge dated….which…they will be.  I’ll try to mix in the old with some new though.  But I am making zero guarantees on that.  Anyway, once again, in no particular order:

*Bruins re-sign Kevan Miller, 4 years, 10 million.  This one has been sticking in my craw since the news broke.  I know, it broke a while ago.  You’ve heard all the displeasure already a million times over.  In fact, out of the whole universe, I only know ONE person who likes this deal (that’s you, Magoon, hope you’re reading!!).  Ok, maybe it doesn’t cover the whole universe.  But I think you get the point.  And of course, I still feel the need to comment.

Both numbers above are stupid.  There’s simply no other way to put it.  Why did the B’s feel the need to lock up a 3rd pairing D-man for 4 years?  Miller’s salary shot up from 800k/year to 2.5 mil/year.  Seems like overkill.  Wait…IT IS overkill!  Somehow, the dude was a plus-15 last year.  But if you watched any of the games, you know that stat is inexplicable.  Miller actually does have some use, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just too much money to pay an “end of the roster” guy.  When you consider the 4/11 that Sween-dogga gave to Quaider last year, the stupidity of this deal is amplified.  Why do you need both of these guys…for that many years and at those prices?  These are the types of contracts that got Peter Chiarelli into cap trouble…overpaying the likes of Chris Kelly, Soup Campbell and Paisy…

Now, I’m waiting for other shoes to drop.  Yup, plural in “shoes”, not singular.  Sweeney said they “would find a contract for Torey Krug.”  I see at least 4/20 in his future.  And whither Loui?  Donnie Hockey reportedly has had some “productive discussions” with Eriksson’s agent.  I see like 7/45 there.  Ugh…let’s bring the whole band that missed the playoffs two years in row back together!  Especially the putrid defense!

No confidence in Bruins management.  But I suppose we should wait to see how the entire offseason pans out before we make a final judgement heading into next season.  It will likely be hard to do though.

*Speaking of hockey, why is 98.5 The Sports Hub broadcasting live the Stanley Cup Finals between Pittsburgh and San Jose?  Is anyone in the Boston area really interested?  I have watched most of the series on TV.  But hearing it on radio would really not appeal to me.  I should check the ratings.  Hard to believe they are any good.  Maybe there’s still a lot of Jumbo Joe Thornton fans still in the area…

*New England Patriots mandatory minicamp kicked off today.  Everyone apparently showed up.  This is not necessarily news.  But I think some of the local talking heads WANTED a no-show or two.  That would certainly spice up radio talk for sure.  But did anyone really expect a holdout to happen?

I didn’t…at least not yet.  Holding out of this camp would seem to me to not accomplish much.  I know Vince Wilfork did not attend these types of camps years ago and as a result got himself a new contract.  But wouldn’t not showing up to “actual” camp in mid-July have a greater impact?  It would seem that way to me anyway.  But what do I know?

Sure, the Pats have a few candidates…if they were so inclined.  Gronk, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins for three.  People want to point to Dont’a Hightower, but he’s taking home close to 8 mil this year, so I doubt that.  And please, no Logan Ryan here.  Butler missed some voluntary workouts a couple of weeks ago.  Today, he said it was because of a “big misunderstanding”.  Whatever.  Maybe it was a message, maybe not.  Who cares at this point?

Gronk could have a case.  But he signed his contract a while back knowing the risks.  The team took a risk because he is injury-prone.  And he took a risk because he most assuredly left money on the table.  He has outperformed the contract, but them’s the breaks.  Butler and Collins will get paid next year at the latest, by the Pats or someone else.  Sure, they could get hurt seriously this upcoming year and jeopardize that big payday.  But you think they may have insured themselves against that with a fat policy perhaps, as athletes typically do?  I have no idea if they did that, but it’s worth noting.

These guys all seem to be “team players” for the most part, so I am not sure there will be any fireworks come July.  It would also behoove the Pats to extend a guy or two…or three, or four…before the season, so they can keep as many of the 2016 free agents as possible.  They won’t be able to keep everyone.  But I’m surprised that not even one of the key defensive dudes has not been adjusted yet.

Regardless, I think people need to relax a little when it comes to this stuff.  Again, the team simply can’t keep everyone after this year.  But they will keep a lot of them.  The Patriots have been somewhat unfairly criticized over the years for not paying guys.  They pay plenty of money to plenty of people.  A lot of these contracts will work out.  It will just be on their timetable, that’s all.

And let’s face it.  As long as they come back for the playoffs, isn’t that the only thing that matters?  Logan Mankins held out in 2010 and the team went 6-1 without him.  Then he came back anyway, since he didn’t want to lose an accrued year toward free agency.  A handful of players can hold out for the Pats this year and they will still cruise to the division title.  Not to worry.

*COPA AMERICA!!!!  Who’s fired up for tonight’s game against Costa Rica??!!  (I mean, besides you, Barry?!)  What the hell is “Copa America” anyway?  Ok, I just looked it up and apparently it has been played since 1916 with this being the 45th event.  That’s how much I know.  Oh, and for some reason it is being played in the United States this time, despite never (NEVER!!) being hosted outside of South America in its history.  So my question to you (or at least “out loud”) is:

Why in the world would you take a South American tournament that is 100 years old and then decide to play it in the United States…where soccer (FUTBOL!!) still has not left an indelible mark?

Sorry, that is true.  Soccer is still just not that important in the States.  It has grown, sure.  Gradually, yes, but there still has been growth.  But you can’t tell me it even ranks up there in the U.S. with the clear “4th” major sport…hockey.

In my admittedly rudimentary research, it looks like they planned to have the tourney in the States because “the market, stadiums, money, etc.” were in the U.S.  Ummmmm, ok.  Whatever floats your boat.

Well, as the host country, the U.S. team nabbed a spot automatically.  Good thing for that.  Isn’t this the same team that was (is?) in danger of not even securing a spot in the 2018 World Cup?  I don’t think the Opening Round loss to Colombia is going to help that.

Maybe that’s why the tourney was here…give them an extra chance to qualify.  But I’m not going to look that up to see if that is even possible.  Because my quota of soccer research has been met.  But it was a lot of fun!  Ummmmm…

 

 

 

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