New England Patriots: The Brady question looms large
Narratives in the NFL are always very interesting. After the New England Patriots lost to the Titans on Wildcard Weekend if you read the articles, and listened to the talking heads, you would have thought the Pats went 3-13 and not won a division title. I guess this is what happens when you are successful so much, if you slip, even a little, the buzzards start to circle.
Now I am sure if you speak to any Patriots fan they know there are holes on the offense that have to be addressed, and they may whisper that they have to resolve the Tom Brady question soon. What they will also say is the defense was great and only allowed more than 28 points once all year, which is pretty spectacular, and is something that should continue next season.
General Manager: Bill Belichick
Head Coach: Bill Belichick
What is there to be said about Belichick that hasn’t already been said. He is the best coach in the league and he isn’t a bad GM either. He has been the head coach of the Patriots for 20 seasons now and they have won 237 games, with just on losing season, his first. While he is in charge I would expect the Patriots to be in the playoff hunt, if not the Super Bowl conversation every year. However, it is silly to deny that this is a big offseason for the Pats in terms of understanding their long term plans, and whether they are going to act upon them.
Cap Space $46,974,319
$46 million seems like a lot, but when your Franchise QB isn’t under contract that number suddenly seems a lot smaller. To bolster their cap and take a run at some skill players they could cut Stephen Gostkowski and Marcus Cannon freeing up around $7 million. If they decided the Mohammed Sanu trade has not worked out they could save $6.5 million cutting him, although this seems unlikely right now. Other names to look out for include Rex Burkhead ($3m), Lawrence Guy ($3.6m), Jason McCourty ($4m) and Duron Harmon ($4.25m).
What we do know is with whatever cap the Patriots have available, offense will be the order of the day. I would expect either in free agency or the draft that wide receiver and tight end are targeted heavily. The team should also look to shore up the offensive line and the failings of Sony Michel this past season could leave them looking at a new running back as well.
Impending Free Agents
At present the Patriots have 19 players going to free agency, but as mentioned earlier only one will grab the headlines. Whatever the Patriots decide to do with Brady, it needs to be completed quickly, as this will then dictate the strategyfor the other players. I expect Brady to be back but I am not sure he takes the discount he has in the past, which may cause an issue. Two offensive linemen hitting free agency this year include Joe Thuney and Ted Karras. They were two of the better offensive linemen for the Patriots this season and it will be interesting to see whether the Patriots feel one or both of them are worth retaining.
Three big players on the 2019 defense could leave. Devin McCourty, Kyle Von Noy and Jamie Collins are all free agents, and if the Pats want to stay strong on defense, plans must be put in place, either to pay them or find a replacement. I would expect two to stay and one be allowed to walk.
Two other names to keep an eye on will be the special team specialists Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner. The Patriots special teams are the envy of many and those two are a big reason why.
Major Need: Offensive SKill players
If we assume that Brady is coming back and move on from the obvious need his departure would leave at tight end then the next biggest concern this offseason is skill payers on the offense. Last season the team lacked the playmaking prowess of Gronk. The team needs to boost its playmaking ability, especially at the pass catching positions. Although fans will point to N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Myers, with Edelman not getting any younger, and still no pass catcher at tight end the Patriots will need to strengthen here to give Brady a chance next season.
Minor Need: Linebacker/pass rusher
If the team lose both Van Noy and Collins to free agency they will need to look into the OLB pass rusher position as an area of need. If one comes back it won’t be the major need, but the Pats will want the defense to be strong again in 2020 and a pass rush is vital to this.
A former UKEndzone writer, Paul has been dragged out of an enforced retirement to give his thoughts on the NFL and anything else he can slide past the editorial team.
Paul is most famous (infamous?) as Mainz one half of Waxing Lyrical. alongside his Partner in Crime Neil Dutts Dutton.
Find him @Mainzey7 where all manner of sports are on the menu.
Image credit: USA Today