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What’s Next?

For Robert Kraft?

Nope.

You guys can talk about Kraft on your own time.  Plenty of talk radio action on that, I am sure.

I know, he is the “flavor of the week”.  And I suppose his “situation” is newsworthy, to some degree.  To the degree of “what the F are you doing, you couldn’t have been more discreet about this?” anyway.  That’s how I see it.

Listen, whatever the old man wants to do on his own time is up to him as far as I’m concerned.  The guy was married for like 50 years for Chrissakes.  But more importantly, he has done a lot of good in his life.  Despite having plenty of money lining his own pockets.  If he wants to partake in some consensual “fun”, all the power to him.

Now, if Kraft were involved in any way of participating in human trafficking, then that is an entirely different story.  But I’m not aware of any evidence being turned up on that.  Yet anyway.

Other than that, why the hell are we even talking about it?  Kraft has suffered some embarrassment, that is for sure.  But I’m also sure he likely doesn’t give much of a rat’s arse.

That’s all…

In any event, the question posed in the title was supposed to reflect the upcoming free agency period for the New England Patriots.  I know, the Super Bowl pretty much just happened.  But the offseason movements are coming soon.  Time to get ready.

Let’s take a look at the roster as it currently stands.  That includes everyone that ended the year on the injured list and any of the practice squad guys that were signed to futures contracts.  As well as the guys who are due to become free agents.

We will talk a little about the salary cap.  I know, the NFL salary cap is fraudulent and can be manipulated any way you like.  But we will just go on theoretically what the cap implications could be.

Per usual, we will do it by position:

QB:

Under contract:  Tom Brady, Danny Etling

Unrestricted free agents:  None

In limbo:  Brian Hoyer

What I would do:  Hoyer is under contract, but in limbo I feel because he counts 3 million against the cap next season.  Hoyer is Brady’s good buddy, but do the Pats need to pay him that much to do nothing all year?  I mean, if Brady gets hurt and has to miss time, Hoyer can hold the fort in the regular season sure.  But the Pats ain’t winning a Super Bowl with Hoyer at the helm.  I’d slash his salary.  You would think he would be agreeable, especially since no one else in the league is handing him a starting job.  I know, do we want to tick off Brady over pinching pennies?  Maybe not.  But I think they should look into it.

Etling can stay…for now.  With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, it may be a good time to draft the ACTUAL QB of the future though.  And if Brady is serious about playing 3 or more years, maybe it’s time to extend him and drop his 27 million cap hit.  Maybe 2 more years, not 3 or 4.  But even if you do 4 more years and it’s basically throwing money away at the end, we could probably live with it since it’s Brady after all.  He’s earned it.

What the team will probably do:  Extend Brady, keep Hoyer at his current cap hit, keep Etling and yes, I’m thinking they take a QB this year with more upside than Etling and someone who has a real shot at being the franchise QB after Brady.  First rounder?  Doubtful.  But with several picks in Round 2 and 3, a spot there has to be considered a real possibility.

RB:

Under contract:  Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James White, James Develin (FB)

Unrestricted free agents:  Jeremy Hill

In limbo:  None

What I would do: Re-sign Hill if healthy after he tore his ACL in the first game of last season.  If not Hill, another comparable veteran back.  Same difference.  Someone that may have once been good and still maybe can be…but will be cheap.  Other than that, no need to do much else here.  Maybe draft a kid for the practice squad as well.

What the team will probably do:  Likely the same thing I would do.  Burkhead, Michel and White form a pretty good trio, when healthy.  That’s the biggest issue, health, specifically for Burkhead and Michel.  That’s why you need the extra back, preferably a veteran.  Maybe that kid too, but not another first rounder for sure.

WR:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, Darren Andrews, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson

Unrestricted free agents:  Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron

In limbo:  Josh Gordon (restricted free agent), Cody Hollister (exclusive rights free agent)

What I would do:  LOAD UP!!  All kidding aside, receiver is a huge need.  Stating the obvious, I know.  Just look at the names.  Edelman is under contract for only 2019 as well.  Perhaps a short extension is in order?  Berrios got some props last preseason, but I didn’t see it.  Andrews and D. Patterson?  Whatever.

3 bodies, at least, need to be brought in.  And good bodies at that.  Not Dorsett, Hogan or C. Patterson.  Look, if you wanted to bring Cordarrelle back as a #5 guy, I wouldn’t complain.  He can be that gadget guy again.  But not for the 3 mil he earned last year I would say.  Even bringing Gordon back as an extra piece wouldn’t bother me.  “Extra piece” cuz you sure as hell can’t count on him.

Golden Tate said “he would love to play for the Patriots”.  Of course he would.  He’s a free agent.  He’d love to play anywhere right now.  That being said, him as a #3 here?  Sign me up.  Someone like Danny Amendola at #4?  Sure.  But you need a #1/#2 to match with Edelman.  Odell Beckham Jr?  Hmmmmmmm…I’d consider it.  If any team can rein that jackwagon in, it’s the Patriots.  But someone of that ilk would be nice.

High draft picks?  I don’t know.  Rumors are that the team is meeting a whole slew of highly regarded college receivers at the NFL Combine going on now.  Meetings are nice.  But Belichick’s track record of drafting wide receivers is not.

Even though that with the drafting of Michel and the extension of Burkhead last year and how the team played a lot of ball control in the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl victory may lead to the conclusion that the Pats will continue to run the ball more as Brady gets older, they still need major upgrades at receiver to keep the offense rolling.  They don’t need Randy Moss, Part II.  But they need reliable dudes.

What the team will probably do:  There were rumors that the Pats pushed hard for Beckham at the trade deadline last season.  But it would still shock me if they went in that direction in the coming weeks.  Or Antonio Brown either, though there is pretty much zero chance the Steelers will send him to New England.

Tate?  Maybe.  But not if he wants too much money.

I’m thinking they will load up on bodies, like last summer, and see who sticks.  There is probably a good chance Dorsett and Cordarrelle will be back…unless someone wildly overpays for Patterson.  Seems unlikely, but you never know.  Dorsett they apparently are already talking to.  Hogan is likely gone, but we will probably be looking at another summer of Kenny Britt’s and Jordan Mathews’ and the like.

TE:

Under contract:  Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo

Unrestricted free agents:  None

In limbo:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

What I would do:  This is what I wrote last year, shortly after the free agency period had commenced:  “Comments:  I do believe we have to take Gronks’ retirement “threats” seriously.  Despite being a monster, he has taken quite a beating over his NFL career.  And despite all the back surgeries, there is no doubt that the back will always hang over his head at least a little.  I’m betting that throwing a little money at him will get him back into the fold mentally though.  Isn’t that always the case?

Speaking of money, I am absolutely stunned that Allen is still here.  5 mil against the cap next season.  Was he that good a blocker?  Is he just hanging around in case Gronk does retire?  I don’t see it.  That’s money better spent elsewhere.  I know Hollister and Tye aren’t appealing backup options if Allen departs.  But there has to be someone else out there that is.

Let’s make Gronk happy and find a young tight end somewhere.  Not an extremely pressing area of need (unless Gronk walks of course), but definitely a position to keep an eye on.”

Aren’t we in EXACTLY the same boat here?  Well, Tye is no longer on the roster, but you get the point.

Gronk had an off-year, with supposedly an Achilles injury to blame as well as…back problems.  My belief is that Brady can talk him into one more year if Gronk is up for it.  I can totally see that happening.  But we are still waiting to see if Gronk will retire, just like last year.

Allen’s salary is still an issue, though for 2019 he will be over 7.3 mil against the cap.  Outrageous.  Hollister is still unappealing as a backup and I am guessing that Anderson is too.

Izzo, a seventh rounder from last year, could perhaps be that kid they are looking for.  He spent all year on injured reserve, likely with some kind of bogus injury to “redshirt” him for the year, similar to Berrios.

I’d talk Gronk into one more year and cut bait with Allen.  Give Izzo a shot at a spot, but bring in some competition.  Draft one relatively high?  Perhaps.  I’d even take Allen back if he wants to play for like a million.  After Gronk, will any of the other TE, regardless of who they are, make any difference in this offense?

What the team will probably do:

The longer time goes by where Gronk doesn’t retire, the likelihood increases that he will be back.  I think Brady talks him into one more go-round.  Allen sticks too, believe it or not.  But maybe shaves some salary.  Hollister’s time may be up, but he, Izzo and Anderson battle for a spot.  Perhaps another Izzo type drafted late looking for future depth.

Wouldn’t put it past Bill to draft a TE high.  He’s done it before.  A lot of mock drafts have them taking one.  But that’s when Bill throws us a curve and takes a safety or a running back or something.

OL:

Under contract:  David Andrews (C), Marcus Cannon (T), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), Isaiah Wynn (T/G), Cole Croston (T), James Ferentz (C), Ted Karras (G/C), Brian Schwenke (C), Dan Skipper (T), Ryker Matthews (T), Jake Eldrenkamp (C)

Unrestricted free agents:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Ulrick John (T), Tony Adams (T)

In limbo:  Trent Brown (T)

What I would do:  Brown is in limbo because theoretically the Patriots can franchise or transition tag him.  I doubt that happens and I would let him walk anyway.  Someone is going to pay him huge bucks and he has his ring to boot.  Brown played well this year, but I am wary of giving an almost (over?) 400 lb. guy who had underachieved prior to last season an enormous (pun intended) amount of dough.  Wynn may be able to replace him.  But Brown replaced Nate Solder well enough after only playing right tackle his whole career previously.  So Dante Scarnecchia and company can replace Brown probably fairly easily…and cheaper.  Bring in a vet to compete with Wynn and then the loser should provide good depth on the line.

I may see if I can extend Thuney, as his contract is done after 2019.  Thuney and the other starters have been solid.  And the current backups don’t scare anyone.  However, even though the team has said since Day One that Wynn is a tackle, maybe he ends up at guard where many projected all along.  That would line him up to replace Thuney and then we are still left with getting that left tackle.

Otherwise, just keep bringing in big bodies and continue to improve the depth.  Cannon can be a weak link, but he’s locked in for decent dough for the next three years, so replacing him is probably a pipe dream at this point.

What the team will probably do:  Make Wynn the left tackle and bring in a lot of fringe vets and maybe a draft pick or three to find out who can provide depth.  It seems to be pretty cut and dried here.  I mean, look at some of the nobodies they already have signed for the upcoming year.

Next:  The Defense.

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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

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