Patriots Nation: Is the sky falling?
Result: AFC East Champion
2019 Regular season record: 12-4
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 7th 26.2 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 1st 14.1 PPG
2020 Draft First Pick: 23
Coach: Bill Belichick
The Offseason Scenario
It’s been a good couple of decades for Patriot fans, but is that era coming to a close with the departure of Tom Brady?
The short answer: maybe.
As we explored in the Sports are from Venus Podcast, Brady might or might not be washed up. He also might or might not be headed elsewhere to finish up his career. It’s impossible to really know, but the good news for Patriot Nation is that answers should become apparent sooner rather than later.
Brady’s current contract has a voidable 2020 season that turns into a pumpkin on March 18th. The financial burden of waiting past that date would be brutal (@$14 million cap hit regardless of his roster status, in addition to the new contract if he returns). So, one way or the other, that’s the day when we’ll know if he’ll be back under center in Foxboro. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. Brady might be the single biggest free agency domino of all time. Once’s that’s sorted, I think everything becomes much, much clearer.
Free Agent Frenzy
If Brady leaves, this is how the Patriots will deal with the quarterback position. Depending on which rumors you like the most, he could be headed to Vegas, Nashville, Tampa, San Francisco, or L.A. Personally, if he goes, I think it’s Tennessee and San Francisco that look the most intriguing. Both are Super Bowl ready rosters that can argue that a better decision maker under center was the missing piece.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Brady is looking for a payday. He’s looking for a ring, and if he leaves, it’s because he doesn’t think that he can get one with New England. If he stays, it’s all about retaining as much of that defense as possible, while upgrading New England’s offensive options, especially at tight end.
Cincinnati’s Tyler Eiffert us rumored to be available, as is Austin Hooper in Atlanta. Both are competent pass catching TE’s who will block, but there’s another guy that the Patriot’s OC would love to see in the red, white and blue next year. Chargers TE Hunter Henry. With Philip Rivers gone, this might be a rebuilding year for the Chargers, so retaining a free agent tight end might not be a super high priority. New England would love Henry’s size (6’5”, 250 lbs), route running and consistency.
One other message to New England’s brass. Matthew Slater is an unrestricted free agent this year. Lock him up now. He’s one of the most impactful special teams weapons that the league has ever seen. You simply can’t put a price on his ability to pin teams inside their own ten-yard line.
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches
The Patriots will have one of their earliest selections in the past ten seasons with this draft, picking 23rd overall, but it’s a high leverage one as well. With the Mohammed Sanu deal, they won’t have a second rounder to fall back on. This draft class is absolutely loaded with top-tier wide receivers, so there’s value to be had at a position of need. My instinct is that Belichick trades back for multiple picks or a proven performer instead of trying his luck yet again at finding a WR1 candidate in the draft. It’s an area of talent evaluation that the greatest coach in NFL history has struggled with.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.