Is the dynasty over? Is it time to rebuild or re-tool? Is Thomas Brady returning? Is Jarrett Stidham the true heir to slytherin?
Many questions are swirling around New England like a snow squall building momentum the NFL off-season is rapidly approaching. With so many aspects to consider; coach retention or replacement, drafting, free agency, trades, player development, we’re going to break it up a little. We’ll do it Marvel style. We’ll preview some trade targets tonight, potential break out players, who may be leaving in free agency, who may be arriving, and what are some names to look for in the draft before we bring it all together like Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
If you’re feeling froggy and just NEEEEED some info on who may be leaving via free agency, ESPN’s Mike Reiss had a nice write up this week in his weekly column: Quick Hit Thoughts We’ll eventually add our own 2 cents on the matter, but that should hold you over until then.
One of the many things we need to consider when talking about trade targets is the current salary cap situation. Miguel from Boston Sports Journal is the single most knowledgeable person regarding the Patriots salary cap situation outside of Patriot’s Place… and I’m almost not willing to concede that there is someone more on top of things inside that building. He currently has the 2020 available cap space at $28,409,211, with a big chunk of change possibly being added dependent upon how Antonio Brown’s grievance goes.
Theres a lot of talk about the Patriots adding a stud, bonafide #1 wide receiver. That is easier said than done. Michael Thomas isn’t walking through that door. DeAndre Hopkins isn’t walking through that door. And Julio Jones isn’t on his way either.
Can improvements be made to the wide receiver group? Certainly. But I expect the front office is putting a lot more stock into Mohamed Sanu getting healthy and developing a better grasp on the offense, allowing him to play more fluidly, and they’re certainly expecting a 2nd year leap from 2019 first round draft pick N’Keal Harry who spent most of the year on I.R. before showing brief flashes the last few weeks.
That being said, those two, along with Julian Edelman are only three names. Expect the team to try and upgrade over Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers.
Now if we’re talking trades, what kind of assets do we have to negotiate with? Is there a Danny Ainge level treasure chest we’re dealing with that nobody knows about? The short answer is no, no there isn’t.
Adding in the projected compensatory pick awards (as per Nick Korte, THE go to source for Compensatory pick info), the Patriots will have 12 draft picks in this April’s draft, but 7 of those will come in the last 2 rounds.
That’s three EXCELLENT follows by the way on Twitter for Patriots fans:
Stick with me, I’ll show you the world
So now that we’ve got all that under way, what kind of players could be targeted in trade talks? Well, there really isn’t a position group that couldn’t use an upgrade. The closest really is the group of running backs. Rex Burkhead certainly feels like a potential cap casualty with former Bama back Damien Harris waiting in the wings. The cornerback room is certainly talented, but again, would it shock if Jason McCourty were allowed to leave, especially if twin brother Devin heads out of town?
Regardless, history tells us that the Patriots are fans of acquiring via trade players coming up on the last year of their deal, increasing the chances of recouping any traded away assets via the compensatory pick system. They also tend to lean towards former high draft picks that maybe didn’t pan out the way originally hoped for. The last characteristic to consider is, is there a player that performed exceptionally above expectation versus the Patriots? This is the Wes Welker criteria. A nobody who balled out against the Patriots, only to be acquired by Belichick where he was put into a position to truly excel.
With that in mind, we’ve got 19 names to keep in mind when thinking about who could need a realtor in Foxborough (or Sharon, or Attleboro, etc.) this summer.
Marcus Maye – Safety – New York Jets
Now, I didn’t say they were all going to happen. Maye fits the criteria of what the Pats would be looking for, and the team absolutely needs to add some new blood to the safety position. The Jets will need to invest heavily in retaining Jamal Adams. How much are they willing to spend at the position group as a whole? That answer may lead to Maye being on the move. Now would the Jets deal with the Patriots, that’s the question.
Daniel McCullers – Defensive Tackle – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers really excel at player development. With Javon Hargrave ahead of him on the depth chart, and Isaiah Buggs in the developmental pipeline the Steelers may be inclined to acquire a draft pick now rather than see McCullers leave next spring as a free agent. The burly lineman would add a layer of depth in case Danny Shelton stays, and a possible replacement if he leaves.
Jacob Martin – Edge Defender – Houston Texans
The ONLY player on this list who isn’t going into 2020 on a contract year. Jacob Martin was acquired by the Texans as part of the haul that came in for Ja’Deveon Clowney. Martin falls under the category of dudes that came out of nowhere against the Pats. He had 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the year. 3 of those tackles, and 1.5 of those sacks came on December 1st during a victory over New England. The sort of performance that catches a team’s eye. The Texans and Pats have made trades before, another could come this spring.
Jonathan Allen – Defensive End – Washington Redskins
The 2017 first round draft pick is likely someone who will have his 5th year option picked up, which would mean he isn’t going into a contract year. That being said the Redskins have a new regime, and may be willing to deal the end who doesn’t have eye popping pass rush stats, and has a Trey Flowers type game to him. Certainly worth a phone call to see what it’d cost to add him.
Ryan Anderson – Edge – Washington Redskins
Staying in our nation’s capital, Anderson, a former second rounder out of Alabama may be a cheaper alternative if you’re rebuffed on the Allen phone call. Not a superstar, it may just be that he needs a change of scenery to unlock the potential he showed back in college. At 6’2”, 258 pounds, he fits the Pats profile for a backer physically.
Leonard Floyd – Linebacker – Chicago Bears
Floyd’s production has steadily decreased since his rookie year. The Bears already have a boatload invested financially in the linebacker position with Khalil Mack. Then you have to account for Roquan Smith’s future deal, and the big deal they just handed out to safety Eddie Jackson and all of a sudden you have to think the Bear’s may shy away from handing out a new deal to Floyd.
Jarrad Davis – Linebacker- Detroit Lions
A strong 2018 season promised more to come in 2019. Alas that wasn’t to be for the young Detroit linebacker. As a Patricia disciple he’d likely move into the Patriots defense fairly easily. The last time the Pats acquired a Lions linebacker (Kyle Van Noy) it worked out pretty well. Seems like a good time to try again.
Tank McKinley – Edge Rusher – Atlanta Falcons
Up and down, that’s the best way to describe Tank’s tenure in Atlanta. He’s shown flashes, but never consistently put it together. The Falcons need whole sale changes on D, and sending McKinley out the door now is likely to occur, just a matter of to whom will he go.
Samson Ebukam – Edge Rusher – Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are about to be in Salary Cap hell, and that’s before they even try to extend Jalen Ramsey, or extend Dante Fowler, the player who moved ahead of Ebukam on the depth chart. Ebukam is the kind of roster “middle class” guy that is going to get squeezed in Los Angeles by the contracts of Goff, Gurley, Ramsey, and Donald, and is also the type of middle class guy that the Patriots have built their 6 championships upon.
Haason Reddick – Linebacker – Arizona Cardinals
The former first round pick out of Temple has never really developed in Arizona. By all accounts a bust it was thought last summer he may not even make the final 53 for the Cardinals. The 2019 season ended with him being a bench player for the non-playoff team. He certainly falls under the “flyer” category.
Solomon Thomas – Defensive Line – San Francisco 49ers
Thomas, he of a career 6 sacks, is the low man on the totem pole with the 49ers. At least as far as former first round picks along the defensive line goes. Its a long list: Deforest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, and Thomas. And for good measure, Dee Ford was their expensive 2019 off season acquisition. Thomas profiles as a big end who can kick inside for sub situations. As these rookie contracts are coming up, not everyone will be able to stick around.
Ethan Pocic – Interior Offensive Line – Seattle Seahawks
The second round pick has been snake bitten. The Seahawk’s strong suit has not been in developing offensive lineman, so they may be wary of giving up on Pocic, even going into a contract year, but he would provide nice insurance for David Andrews’ health concerns and Joe Thuney likely headed out the door via free agency.
Gerald Everett – Tight End – Los Angeles Rams
Anyone was going to be a disappointment following Gronk. Even still, but any measure the Patriots’ tight ends were below average this year. Improvement at the position likely won’t be drastic, George Kittle isn’t coming East. But Everett, who moved behind Tyler Higbee on the Rams’ depth chart may be an attractive target. Same as Ebukam, the Rams are gonna be squeezed out of some solid players.
OJ Howard – Tight End – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The former Alabama tight end has a been an oft-mentioned trade target for the Patriots since Gronk walked out the door. This may finally be the year it happens. His value is low enough at this point that it may be too good a deal to pass up. Still loaded with potential, Howard has flashed, but hasn’t become the consistent security blanket that Winston has needed.
Keenan Allen – Wide Receiver – Los Angeles Chargers
The biggest name, Allen would be a huge get for the Pats. Coming up on a contract year, and with the Chargers maybe moving into re-build mode. If Philip Rivers is leaving, or at the very least, if the Chargers draft an heir, they may move into a timeline where Mike Williams is their number one, and Keenan Allen could be on the move. Of all the #1 receivers out there, Allen feels most likely to be available.
Corey Davis – Wide Receiver – Tennessee Titans
Trading for Davis just FEELS like a Patriots move. With new surroundings he could be 2020’s DeVante Parker. Not so much a bust, he certainly hasn’t lived up to his top 10 draft position billing. With AJ Brown now the clear cut #1 in Nashville, combined with the Titans quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), and star running back (Derrick Henry) hitting free agency this spring (along with #1 CB Logan Ryan, and starting right tackle Jack Conklin), the Titans will have some tough financial decisions to make. The deeper the playoff run goes, the more the price goes up for each of these free agents on the open market. The Titans GM is Jon Robinson, a former member of New England’s front office. This is the under the radar trade that my rather abundant gut says is going to happen, and that will pay off big.
Kenny Stills – Wide Receiver – Houston Texans
The guy who was seemingly a throw in with the Laremy Tunsil trade was shown to be a valuable member of the Texans receiving group. A solid field stretcher, especially with Will Fuller IV always being hurt, and young Keke Coutee having his growth stunted. Stills may price himself out of Houston. If he could pick up the offense, his skill set would be a welcome addition in Foxborough.
John Ross – Wide Receiver – Cincinnati Bengals
A burner, the former first rounder flashed early in the 2019 season with AJ Green out with injury before he himself was lost for a large chunk of the year. The young Bengals may look to hang on to Ross considering they don’t have much else. Raw coming into the league, I’d question his ability to mesh with the offensive system, but if he could, he’d be the best deep threat the team has had in a while.
Alex Erickson – Wide Receiver – Cincinnati Bengals
The 6 foot tall white receiver who also returns punts set a career high in catches (43) and yards (529) this season playing with Andy Dalton and Ryan Finley. With a modest salary he would be the poor man’s version of Cole Beasley or Adam Humphries, both of whom the Patriots were known to have made overtures for last spring.
So those are some names to consider. Not always the flashiest, the Patriots have never been about the headlines, they’re usually about the happy endings (Pun intended). If I were a betting man, I’d say of these 4 of these guys find their way to Foxborough (and FYI, if we hit on 4 out these 19 names, that’d be HUGE), my money would be on: Corey Davis, Alex Erickson, Jacob Martin, and Gerald Everett.
But time will tell. We’re only just shy of 2 months away from the league new year. We’ll have plenty of time before then to review some potential draft and free agency targets, as well as who will be brought back amongst the team’s own free agents. So keep checking back as we try to give some food for thought
- by Jason Sullivan
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