New England Patriots News 02-09, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 9, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-09 and AFC East notes this week.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Super Bowl, and the NFL:

Slow Time of Year at PFF?- With the annual Pro Football Focus (PFF) top 101 players for 2019, the NFL’s Defensive MVP, Stephon Gilmore ranked 22nd, which raised a few eyebrows, mostly locally but a few nationally as well. The author of the piece Sam Monson, who should be familiar around these parts further raised the hackles of local fans by ranking SF 49er CB Richard Sherman 13th overall. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but this was “more probable than not” designed to specifically generate conversation/outrage which will boost clicks. It has been a while since Monson was on Boston sports radio, so that should be remedied quickly as well. 

Halftime damnation – Nothing brings out the flakes, crazies, and loons more than a big national event. The Super Bowl also has its looney tunes and this year the #1 contestant was the latest “look at me” person who is suing the NFL for $867 trillion dollars for risking his eternal damnation and “his place in heaven.”

The activist, who, rather than change the channel, watched the entire Shakira/J-Lo halftime show and was outraged at the “porn” of it. I think what made it worse was that WEEI gave him exactly what he was looking for, a spot on the sports radio dial. Proof once again, that no stupid deed goes unpunished. 

Kyle Shanahan – The coach of the 49ers was taking an awful lot of heat for abandoning the running game similar to what he had done in Super Bowl LI with the Falcons against the Patriots. And there is certainly an argument to be made on that. Especially when they were at midfield late in the game.

However, the argument can also be made, that he called a perfect play when Emmanuel Sanders blew by the coverage and was easily open for a touchdown. If Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t overthrow him it is an easy touchdown. Even if it is slightly underthrown, Sanders is in a great position to either make the catch or draw a long pass interference penalty. 

In both games, the defenses for Shanahan’s teams wore down late. With the Falcons, the Patriots offense ran so many plays, they were completely gassed by the 4th quarter and by overtime, once the Patriots won the coin toss, there was little doubt that the Falcons were going to give up points. New England outscored them 31-0 down the stretch. Kansas City outscored them 21-0 in the 4th quarter with all three scores coming in a 5.5-minute span.

While Shanahan certainly deserves some of the blame there, for the ignoring of the running game and going away from Kittle and Deebo Samuels, if Jimmy G. connects with Sanders, we’re saying what a great call it was.  

Rob Gronkowski – The Patriots’ former tight end can’t stand being left out of the conversation for very long and is taking great delight in tweaking the fans with cryptic messages about returning to the team in 2020. And his latest comment on Tom Brady’s Instagram post where he was talking about 31 weeks to prepare before the next NFL season begins, Gronkowski responded.

The even more interesting and funny comment was from Snoop Dog who offered to play WR for Brady during his offseason workouts in response right below Gronk’s.

Tom Brady – The Patriots’ QB was the subject to a massive amount of rumors in recent weeks and we’ve barely scratched the surface. One story, by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, said that the Patriots would be willing to go to $30 million dollars to keep him in Foxboro. 

The Patriots were very upset that the information got out according to several local outlets including NBC Sports Boston, who reported it first. But the fact of the matter is, the Patriots dug themselves into this hole and have to reap what they sowed. Back in 2017, it was they who opted to go year-to-year with Brady in regards and his contract.

Brady Pt. 2 – I wrote a piece last week for SOFREP.com, which is a military news site on if the TB12 method of training would be of benefit to Special Forces soldiers, to help them prepare, perform, and recover faster and more efficiently. And if they can continue the work to keep themselves more pliable while deployed. I went to the TB12 Sports location in Foxboro and worked with the staff there as well as interviewed them and am a convert. Those principles are now part of my daily routine. Brady even commented on it from his Instagram account. You can read it here: 

Chandler Jones – The Patriots traded Jones back in 2016 and in an interview with Jeff Howe of The Athletic, he had some interesting things to say about the trade and his time with New England. 

“At the time, I didn’t understand,” Jones said. “That next year, they won the Super Bowl, so I did understand what was best for the team — saved money, and they actually went and won. There were no hard feelings at all. I understood it’s a business and it was what was best for the team.”

“The New England Patriots taught me pro football,” Jones added. “I feel like there’s no other organization you would have to have those guidelines in order to step into the world of football. As a young player, you learn on and off the field how to be a pro. There’s no other place where you would rather start your career than there, for sure.”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, this week, we spoke with Miguel Benzan aka @Patscap about the different scenarios facing the team this offseason. Please do check it out.  

Remaking the Tight Position:

The Patriots really need to revamp and retool the tight end position. After Rob Gronkowski’s retirement last spring, the Patriots thought they had addressed it enough to have good blocking and decent enough production in the passing game. They were wrong on that assumption. 

Ryan Izzo was supposed to be the answer for the blocking tight end to replace the departed Dwayne Allen. He had spent his rookie season on IR but 2019 was not a good one. His blocking was subpar and after he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss some time, he was a healthy scratch for the entire second half of the season. 

The team inked Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson in free agency with the hope that those two could combine to produce similar numbers to what Gronk had produced in 2018. Again, they were wrong. LaCosse disappointed and Watson played nearly the entire season with a partially torn Achilles tendon. 

What now? Watson is a free agent but he’s made it clear that he’s retiring. With the Combine coming up shortly, the team will be scouring the list of tight ends that will be working out in Indy. And free agency will be looming before that. One name that fans shouldn’t go crazy pining after is Gronkowski who continues to stir the pot (see above).

A couple of players at the Combine that would seem to be a fit at first glance with NE are Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney, LSU’s Thaddeus Moss, (son of Randy),  and Dayton’s Adam Trautman. More to those guys as the Combine and draft prep goes along.

Among the free agents hitting the market, the four biggest names are the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Hunter Henry of the Chargers, Eric Ebron of the Colts and Atlanta’s Austin Hooper, who is probably the best overall fit, but probably won’t be coming here. He’ll be commanding big bucks on the open market and I don’t see that happening for two reasons. A. the Patriots don’t have that much cash to spend and B. without the QB situation resolved, it is going to be hard to sell New England to an offensive weapon. 

One other free agent to keep an eye on is Greg Olsen. The 35-year old that played for the Panthers would be a short-term fix at his age but still could be a nice mentor to a young tight end if they opt for one in the draft this year. 

Salary Cap Relief… Where Can Some of the Money Come From:

The Patriots can use some help with the salary cap and if things work out for them, they’d get an additional $12.25 million dollars without cutting contracts to some veterans or having to rework the cap on others. 

As I mentioned earlier above, Miguel Benzan, @Patscap on Twitter was on our PatsFans podcast this week and we spoke about getting some relief and he mentioned two specific contracts that could give them some extra room. 

Antonio Brown was due a $9 million dollar signing bonus from the Patriots. After his actions that caused him to be released and his numerous meltdowns on social media and his arrest in Florida, it would seem that they’d at least have a good chance of recouping it back. And 9 million is nothing to sneeze at. 

Aaron Hernandez and a $3.25 million roster bonus question are still not resolved even seven years after his release and then his subsequent murder conviction. The Patriots and the Players’ Association are at odds over this “guaranteed” bonus installment which is ridiculous that it is still unresolved. 

Just these two moves alone would give the Patriots another $12.25 million in salary-cap space, which if it goes in their favor (and I have my doubts that it will), will give them a lot more flexibility in 2020. 

No AFC East Notes this week 

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 




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