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New England Patriots News 3-22, AFC East Notes

New England Patriots News 3-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 22, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-22 and AFC East notes this week. 

The news of Tom Brady leaving for Tampa Bay has dominated the talk and the print media this week, they’ll be much more of that below, however, there was plenty of other news this week as the Patriots had an exodus of veterans jump ship. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

Kyle Van Noy: As we said last week, the Dolphins were expected to show a lot of interest in Van Noy, and they did, signing him to a four-year $51 million dollar contract. 

In Miami, he’ll be reunited with former Patriots’ coach Brian Flores, and his former coach knows how to utilize the versatile player the Dolphins hope can become a centerpiece of their front seven.  Van Noy can play the run off the edge, drop into coverage and also rush the passer from any position.  

Jamie Collins: Is rejoining his former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in Detroit. The Lions offered Collins a three-year deal worth $30 million. Collins had a career-high seven sacks and three interceptions last season for the Patriots. 

Joining Collins in Detroit are DL Danny Shelton, who signed a two-year, $8 million dollar contract. They also secured Duron Harmon who was, in essence, a salary dump by the Patriots. New England gave up Harmon and a 7th round draft pick for a Detroit 5th round pick. 

Ted Karras: Opted to bet on himself and signed with the Miami Dolphins on a one-year deal worth $4 million. The Patriots offered him a two-year deal with more overall cash but Karras looked at the current unsettled situation, especially with Brady and his OL coach Dante Scarnecchia retiring, he’ll have a good chance to start at center for Miami

Nate Ebner: The ace ST player is joining former Patriots STs/WR coach Joe Judge with the New York Giants on a one-year deal.  

Damiere Byrd: The Patriots signed the small (5’9, 180-pound) but fast wide receiver to a one-year deal. Byrd is coming off of a career-high 32 catch season for the Cardinals and has the ability to return kicks and punts. Byrd ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash while at South Carolina. 

Beau Allen: The Patriots replaced Danny Shelton with the big, 6’3, 327-pound defensive tackle who is known as a run-stuffing interior lineman. Allen spent the past two years with the Bucs  

Danny Vitale: The Patriots signed the big, bruising fullback who played for the Packers last year serving as a lead blocker and occasional pass catcher (7 receptions, 97 yards). The signing of Vitale doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of James Develin who suffered a season-ending (perhaps career-ending) neck injury last year.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. This week Derek and I went over the various comings and mostly goings of free agency. 

Trying to Make Sense of Brady’s Leaving:

For the first time in 27 years, the Patriots are now the team in the AFC East that is searching for their franchise quarterback. The Bills, for years, have been waiting for the next Jim Kelly, the Dolphins tried out numerous faces searching for Dan Marino’s heir apparent. The Jets? All the way back to Joe Namath. Now with Tom Brady leaving, there is a huge hole in the Patriots lineup.

For the past nearly three decades, the Patriots have had that stability, since they drafted Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Then when Mo Lewis leveled Bledsoe in the first game after 9/11, Brady stepped in and twenty years and nine Super Bowls later, the rest has been history.  That stability is now HIS-TOR-REE. And that is of their own choosing

They have 2nd year QB Jarrett Stidham, and honestly, nobody knows if he can be the guy or whether the Patriots even believe he can be. That’s what the other teams in the division have been dealing with for the past few decades…So, how the heck did we ever get here? 

But first and foremost, let’s get something clear and it seems like a lot of people on social media have it in error. Brady didn’t leave the Patriots. The Patriots forced him out the door. Now they can spin this however they want, but this relationship was broken to the point of no return last year.

Ian Rapoport from NFL Network said that the Patriots “likely would have done the contract” he signed with the Bucs, “though Tom Brady never came to them with his desire to return.” That’s a crock, sorry folks. They made it quite clear that they were not going to commit to Brady more than year-to-year. 

One of the people we spoke with is Tom’s long-time, good buddy Jay Flannelly. You can check out our conversation here: And we’ll get into the year-to-year thing shortly. But first, once the Patriots decided to go year to year, Brady was furious. He basically felt betrayed and that he was a lame-duck quarterback. He felt that after 20 years, he earned the security of a multi-year deal, even at age 42. 

After nothing was agreed upon by both parties in August, they gave Brady a raise and agreed to let him test free agency for the first time in his career this spring. Brady put his house on the market the next day. This was all very avoidable if, in fact, the team wanted Brady around past the 2019 season.  The sad fact is, they didn’t want him beyond 2019 unless it was at their terms and now they’re paying him $13.5 million dollars to play in Tampa Bay in 2020. 

And Tampa is paying him only what he asked of the Patriots last summer. Tom’s choice to leave? Really? No, this was their decision. 

One of the hallmarks of what made this team so great for the past two decades is that they invariably made sound decisions when it comes to the team. Bill Belichick is considered cold-blooded by some for his business first attitude and the fact that he doesn’t let emotions play into his decisions. That’s been their business model and it has obviously worked. 

But what about this decision? Do the Patriots have a better option at quarterback right now? Is there someone waiting in the wings that can handle this offense better, to where you’re paying Brady millions of dollars to stay away? 

This spring they didn’t even make an offer to Brady, the message was “go find an offer and bring it back to us.” To some bottom third of the roster player, that may be acceptable. To the QB who brought you to nine Super Bowls, that was a message that he wasn’t needed or wanted back. Then with the news that the DeAndre Hopkins trade was coming and how little Arizona gave up for him, Brady’s mind was made up. The Patriots weren’t going to make him an offer, nor would they be making another play to be all-in for another championship in 2020.

The Stefon Diggs trade was the icing on the cake. We spoke with someone that lives in Tampa, that Brady had dinner with Bill Gates, Derek Jeter and Jeffrey Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and that he made Jeter an offer to buy his mansion on Davis Island off of Tampa Bay. His decision was made…for him.

On Monday, he went to Robert Kraft’s home and told him that he was leaving. But the fact remains, he was ready to leave last August. There were reports that Belichick was shocked that Brady was signing with the Bucs. If they thought he was going to come back to them for one final negotiation, they were sadly mistaken. 

You could make a comparison between Brady’s last season and Rob Gronkowski’s. Both were unhappy and unnaturally moody in their final season. But the difference was, Gronkowski made the signature play at the end of the Super Bowl, hauling in a great catch that set up the Patriots for the game-winning touchdown. He was able to ride off into the sunset a champion. Brady’s last game ended badly with a Wildcard Loss to the Titans. 

Robert Kraft has come off awfully bad since the news broke. First, he called into a daily “hot take” show to claim that it was Brady’s decision to leave. That Brady wanted to leave… that take was a classic Red Sox move (hint, that isn’t a good look) by trying to deflect it back on #12 and then on Friday, he had another statement that was even worse, by throwing Belichick under the bus, in essence comparing Belichick or possibly his son Jonathan to a meddling mother-in-law that ruins a marriage. 

“Think about loving your wife and for whatever reason, there’s something — her father or mother – that makes life impossible for you and you have to move on but you don’t want to,” Kraft told NFL Network’s Mike Giardi. 

If Kraft had just said that the Patriots were sticking to their business model and the two sides were hopelessly deadlocked, while one can disagree with it, or even dislike it, but at least you can respect the decision. This wasn’t the case at all. Kraft first tried a couple of times to insist that all Brady had to do was to tell them he wanted to return and then tried to blame others as if he didn’t have the power to change it. That was a really bad look. 

We’ve heard rumors that Kraft has increasingly turned over more of the day-to-day operations to his son Jonathan, and may have admitted as much a few years ago, when Brady signed an extension. Kraft said he looked at the contract and then asked Jonathan what he thought. But that is a stretch …or was it?

Kraft spoke with Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston and tried to explain that the Patriots were waiting for Brady to signal that he wanted to return…What? After eight months of inactivity, they waited until the final few hours for Brady to signal he wanted to return? Bad, bad, bad. For a team steeped in making smart business decisions, this one rivals any of the stupid ones the Jets or Dolphins have made in the past 20 years.

The Patriots made their decision and have now taken a giant step back. They will no longer be an automatic favorite to go deep into the playoffs and compete for the Super Bowl. They’ve rejoined the pack. They’ll have to fight, claw, and scratch for every win and hopefully eke out a Wildcard berth. They won’t be favorites, nor should they be, to even win the division they’ve owned for 20 years. Honestly, wearing an analyst’s hat, it makes for a very compelling season. It should be fascinating to see how the entire team dynamic is going to work. Switching to a fan’s perspective, it sucks. But we knew it was coming sooner or later…and now it is sooner.

And so, Brady is moving on to a new team, a new coach, new teammates, and a new system. But what isn’t new is his burning desire to win. Everyone who’s had the pleasure to watch him work and interact on a very small scale down at Gillette can see that the fire still burns really bright in him. His coaches and teammates will soon see that too. He’s going to a good coach that knows how to get a lot out of his QBs, although he’s a bit of a deep passing guy. 

Brady loves nothing more than a challenge. That’s his personal bushido, he approaches things with the warrior mentality of everything is a challenge. Any perceived slight or negative criticism is, therefore, also a challenge. And he does feel slighted and challenged by the Patriots forcing him out the door. The Bucs defense may hold them back this year, their secondary was awful a year ago. But Brady and the offense? He’s going to light it the hell up in 2020 in Tampa.  Just sit back and watch.

Patriots Franchise Tag Joe Thuney:

The Patriots in a somewhat of a surprise move used the franchise tag designation on left guard Joe Thuney and the 27-year old signed it guaranteeing him…for now having the highest salary on the Patriots at $14.78 million for 2020 now that Tom Brady is a member of the Bucs.

Thuney has made $3.6 million in his three-year career, so this is a big pay increase for him. He was expected to price himself out of New England this spring as a free agent but the tag will keep him a member of the Patriots …for now. The team could still opt to trade him since they’d have an inordinate amount of cap space dedicated to their guards. 

The Patriots have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension with him or he’ll count the entire $14.78 million against the cap this year. 

Adrian Phillips, Will Ease Workload on Pat Chung:

The Patriots signed Safety Adrian Phillips, the free-agent All-Pro and Pro Bowler came from the Chargers where he had spent his entire six-year career.  Phillips signed a two-year deal worth $7.5 million with $3 million guaranteed. Phillips can earn a total of $4 million this year if he hits all of his incentives.

Besides being a Special Teams ace, he is a physical, downhill safety and will play in the box, defending the run and in coverage against tight ends. He missed significant time in 2019 with a broken forearm but this year, with Pat Chung, who fills the same role getting older, Phillips would help scale back Chung’s workload and would look to be his eventual replacement.

So, Phillips would replace Ebner’s presence in the kicking game and back up Chung and play a role at Strong Safety. But the salary dump of Harmon still leaves the team with a hole in Free Safety depth. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade for WR Stefon Diggs:

The Buffalo Bills are going to have an offense that will be tough to stop. They wasted no time in going after former Vikings WR Stefon Diggs during the early hours of “legal tampering” as free agency unfolded. 

While they paid a steep price for Diggs, a 1st, 5th, and 6th round picks in 2020 and a 4th rounder in 2021, he’s going to transform this offense into a very dangerous one. Buffalo now has speed, speed and quickness outside and it will be a case of “pick yer poison” while trying to defend Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley next year. 

Buffalo has three excellent wide receivers who give their QB a large target window due to their ability to get separation from defenders. For a QB that still has some accuracy issues in Josh Allen, this group will go a long way in alleviating that. 

Diggs is a very good #1 WR, Brown as the #2 and Beasley out of the slot gives Allen and Buffalo an excellent group of skill players. Coupled with a suffocating defense, Buffalo should be overwhelming favorites to run away with the division in 2020. 

Dolphins Going Conservative in FA? Not a Chance:

The Miami Dolphins had said that they were leaning towards being conservative in free agency, despite having a boatload of money to spend. But GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores were anything but, going after a ton of players that they coveted once free agency began.

Miami filled a bunch of holes in their roster as they quickly hit on the Patriots, poaching LB Kyle Van Noy, who should immediately become a centerpiece for their front seven. But their secondary got a huge boost from the signing of CB Byron Jones, formerly of the Cowboys to a deal worth a guaranteed $57 million. Jones, teamed with Xavien Howard gives Miami the most expensive CB duo in the league. Miami also brought in edge rusher Shaq Lawson, OL Ereck Flowers. They later added OL Ted Karras from the Patriots who should get the nod at the starting center in 2020. 

With three first-round draft picks in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, Miami is set to make a big splash there as well. A week into the process, the Fins are off and running. Conservative? Nope, but it is hard to disagree with anything they are doing so far. 

Jets Go Low Key in Early Free Agency:

The New York Jets, unlike Miami, DID go conservative in the first week of free agency, something they’ve not done in recent years. Probably the biggest signing the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets have made is slot corner, Brian Poole. While a needed, and solid signing, it isn’t the kind of splashy signing, we’ve seen from Gang Green under previous regimes. Although, those haven’t exactly worked out either. 

Poole is a solid player and a good signing, and while the Jets still need more help at corner, they didn’t spend a ton on him and he should pay immediate dividends. Another under the radar move GM Joe Douglas did was to sign C Connor McGovern. A definite position of need, McGovern is a solid, if unspectacular player but is an immediate upgrade over what they had last year. 

They gave McGovern good money, three years, $27 million with $18 million guaranteed but with the Broncos last year, he allowed one sack and just three QB hits. And he didn’t commit a single penalty last year. He’ll help keep the pressure off Sam Darnold up the middle in the A gap. Good moves by Gang Green

_______________

“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone-setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in almost every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.

“Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom’s success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone’s adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.

“Examples of Tom’s greatness are limitless, going back even before he was drafted. We witnessed how he prepared when he wasn’t playing, how he performed when he got his opportunity, what he did to continuously improve, his leadership, his mindset, the example he set, and, of course, the person he is. I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally.

“Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”  Bill Belichick on Tom Brady after he announced he would not be returning to New England. 

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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.

 


Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Offseason NFL Commentary NFL News Patriots Commentary Patriots News Patriots Rumors
Tags: 2020 NFL Free Agency Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Kyle Van Noy Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Robert Kraft Tampa Bay Bucs Tom Brady

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