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New England Patriots News 01-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
January 10, 2021 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 01-10, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 8 minutes

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-10 and AFC East notes this week. 

What a crazy week it has been, and now we’re all trying to catch our breath and enjoy the first round (Wildcard Weekend) of the NFL playoffs. Feels strange not seeing the Patriots involved in it. 

Have you checked out our team news feature for all 32 teams yet? It is a great resource to keep up with what is going on all across the NFL. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Jake Bailey, Gunner Olszewski: Congratulations on both STs players making the 2020 NFL All-Pro team. In addition, Matthew Slater made the 2nd team All-Pro team.  Bailey’s net yardage (45.6 yards) was the second-best mark in NFL History. Olszewski was handling both punts and kickoffs and wasn’t being productive through the first ten games of the season. 

But after the team moved Donte Moncrief to KO returns and allowed Olszewski to just return punts, he flourished and finished the season with a stellar 17.3 yards per punt return on the season. 

Nick Caserio: Houston finally got its man, and Nick Caserio is the Texans’ next GM. And for those who are already posting Photoshopped pics of Deshaun Watson in a Patriots’ uniform? Caserio made it clear, he isn’t going anywhere. “I say from afar the respect and admiration that I have for him as a player and what he’s done for this organization is significant. He’s our quarterback.”

Did You Know?… On today’s date in 2009, the Patriots lost the Wild Card Game to the Baltimore Ravens 33-14. The Ravens raced out to a 24-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back. On the first play from scrimmage, Ray Rice raced 83 yards for a TD and the tone was set. Rice finished with 159 yards on 22 carries with two TDs. Joe Flacco completed just 4-10 passes for 34 yards with an INT. Tom Brady was picked off three times in the loss. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I recorded a podcast on Saturday to look at what’s next for the team. 

Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Who Stays, Who Goes? Looking at the Patriots Own Free Agents: 

The Patriots have a lot of decisions to make this off-season and when a team goes 7-9, one can expect that those changes will be many. Those decisions will come in free agency, and the draft to be sure, as well as their opt-outs as some will return, others will find themselves out. But first, as I’m sure Bill Belichick and his staff are doing right now are deciding on their course of action in regards to their own free agents and there is a slew of decisions to be made right there. 

  • QB Cam Newton
  • G Joe Thuney 
  • CB J.C. Jackson (RFA)
  • CB Jason McCourty 
  • RB James White
  • DL Lawrence Guy
  • DL Adam Butler 
  • C David Andrews
  • DE Deatrich Wise
  • RB Rex Burkhead
  • DE John Simon 
  • G Jermaine Eluemunor
  • S Terrence Brooks
  • WR Damiere Byrd
  • S Cody Davis
  • OLB Shilique Calhoun
  • CB Justin Bethel
  • QB Brian Hoyer
  • K Nick Folk
  • OLB Brandon Copeland
  • DT Carl Davis
  • C James Ferentz
  • FB Jakob Johnson
  • WR Devin Smith  
  • G Marcus Martin
  • CB Dee Virgin (RFA)

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Cam Newton was a polarizing figure among Patriots fans in 2020. However, Bill Belichick was uncharacteristically gushing in his praise for Newton’s intelligence, leadership, and lockerroom presence all season long.

Would a better cast of characters in the Patriots supporting cast around him have improved his dreadful numbers in 2020? Of course, but there remain big questions about his decision-making and mechanics. And what will the market be for his services this spring? The feeling here is while there remains a decent chance of his returning as a bridge QB, he will be elsewhere in 2021. The same with Bryan Hoyer, who could find himself remaining with the team as a coach, but not as a player. 

Joe Thuney has been remarkably durable in his career, not missing a game in his five years. But at 28, his time to cash in is here. And he will. The Patriots put the franchise tag on him in 2020 but won’t do so again. He’ll command big money on the market and is going to get paid, but not in New England. One area that the Patriots have done well on is drafting on the offensive line. Thuney moves on.

J.C. Jackson is a restricted free agent and could be one of their priorities this spring. Jackson was a UDFA but will probably garner a 1st or 2nd round tender.  He’ll return but with a heavily padded bank account. 

David Andrews was also a UDFA and has been excellent for the team being an extremely valuable member of the OL. While Thuney will be gone, the feeling here is that the team and Andrews will find a way to work things out and he remains. 

The feeling is that the McCourty twins’ mother will be wearing a split jersey again in 2021. A versatile defender that can play corner or safety, could return, especially if the team decides to trade Stephon Gilmore this spring as many are speculating, McCourty could find himself in a veteran role, but the feeling here is he’ll move on. 

Lawrence Guy is at the age where some of the big DL begin to break down, and he was banged up with a variety of injuries this year but his value to the team, especially given how thin the DL was this season. The team will reward him with a short-term but very fair deal.  

James White and Rex Burkhead have been very productive, obviously White for longer, but their production has contributed greatly to the team’s success. White went through a trying personal year. The feeling here is he’ll want to play closer to home in FL, imagine how many wins Tampa may have had with a pass-catching back like White in the lineup. He’s gone, but the team will bring back Burkhead for another go around. 

With a clean sweep of the DL which needs a lot of help, we believe neither Deatrich Wise nor Adam Butler returns in 2021. Butler had a stretch for a few weeks where he showed his potential and that will probably parlay into a nice payday. Wise had a decent year in 2020, but the feeling his chances of leaving are better than 50/50. Ditto for Carl Davis. Clean sweep it is.

John Simon is an interesting case. He has been a steady but unspectacular performer for the defense on the edge. But 2020 was down year for him, he uncharacteristically had issues setting the edge. It is 50/50 for him but we think he’ll return. 

The feeling is that OLB Brandon Copeland and Shalique Calhoun will return in 2021. Neither will break the bank but Copeland was playing well when he was injured and Calhoun is one of those middle-class subpackage/STs players Belichick likes. 

Bill Belichick loves his STs players and invests heavily (to a degree) there, much to the consternation of a certain night sports radio talking head. Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis, and Justin Bethel are all free agents. All are valuable and contributed, albeit in different ways. But Brooks is as good as gone in 2021. Bethel and Matthew Slater combined as one of the best gunner tandems in the league. 

Somebody may pony up more money than NE to have a Slater-esque veteran on their STs. Slightly less than 50/50 on Bethel returning is the feeling. Davis was mentioned by Belichick in his presser after the Jets game (hmm). We like him returning and with Brandon Bolden (opt-out) coming back, the STs are in good shape. 

We feel with Thuney probably leaving this spring, the team will try to keep James Ferentz and Jermaine Eluemenor in the fold. But neither will earn a ton of cash. 

Damiere Byrd had career-best numbers in catches and yards and played in nearly 90 percent of the offense’s snaps. With a better QB and a complementary role for him, he’ll be brought back. 

The Patriots signed Dan Vitale last year but he opted out. But Jakob Johnson filled in quite nicely thank you. Was he James Develin? No, but neither is Vitale. Johnson will return. 

Nick Folk had an outstanding season in 2020 and gave the Patriots very steady kicking. His range is limited right now, but his accuracy has been excellent. While the team is preparing for the possibility that Folk retires, and has two young kickers signed, if he wants back in 2021, they will oblige. 

This leaves WR Devin Smith, G Marcus Martin, and CB Dee Virgin. None of the three will break the bank. The Patriots will probably move on from Smith who was a 2nd round pick by the Jets back in 2015. As for Martin and Virgin… they will probably be brought back in some capacity, but we honestly know very little about either.

NFL Schedule Week 17 2020, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. 

Last Week:     12-4

Season Total: 169-86-1

Last Season:  162-93-1

Wildcard Weekend:


Buffalo over Indianapolis
Seattle over LA Rams
Tampa Bay over Washington

Sunday –

Tennessee over Baltimore
New Orleans over Chicago
Pittsburgh over Cleveland

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Expected to Make Josh Allen One of the Top Paid QBs:

The Buffalo Bills are expected to approach QB Josh Allen’s agent about a long-term contract extension in the offseason that could make him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league,’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday.

With a big win on Saturday (this was written on Friday night) he will only increase his bargaining position moving forward. But make no mistake, Allen had an outstanding 2020 season with 37 TD passes, passing for over 4500 yards, while only throwing 10 INTs with a completion percentage of over 68 percent. 

The Bills would be smart to lock Allen up now as he’s only 24. After running a Buffalo offense that set team records this year, the needle looks like it will only keep pointing upward. 

Dolphins Chasing Watson Too? Interesting Development:

It isn’t just Patriots fans clamoring for Texans QB Deshaun Watson. While there is no truth to the speculation, but fans are openly calling for the Miami Dolphins to make a play for Watson. 

It is strange since just last spring the team spent the #6 pick on Tua Tavigailoa but fans are fickle and want a Super Bowl immediately. Sometimes things take time to develop, just look at the piece above about Josh Allen. 

Tua has a long way to go, but Watson isn’t going anywhere, as Nick Caserio said in his presser. Given that Tua will have a full offseason to sharpen his skills on the offense, the impression he’ll be a much better QB for Miami in 2021. But what happened to that defense in Week 17? Their problems were certainly more than Tua on that day (sounds faintly familiar…no?). 

Jets Interviewing Bieniemy, Saleh For Their Next Head Coach :

The New York Jets have kicked off their coaching search with two of the best names out there, Chiefs’ Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy and 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh. The Jets reportedly conducted a virtual interview with ex-Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. 

“I’m going to stick to what I know, and that’s attacking it like I would a draft, almost like you’re drafting a coach,” Jets GM Joe Douglas said. “You have your critical factors, you have your position specifics, you basically create your criteria and your reports based on that.”

The Jets have also submitted requests to interview Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll, Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus, and Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley, as well as Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith.


“We worked hard throughout the course of the year to improve, to try to move to a higher level, which we did – again, still fell short of where we wanted to be, I’m not saying that – but I appreciate everybody’s effort and we all learned a lot. I certainly learned a lot as a coach. I had to coach and do things that I’ve never done before, do things differently, and I learned a lot about our players. This was a very educational year from all the social justice meetings and things that we had in the spring which carried over into the season. I think our team did a great job of that. We had great leadership from Jason [McCourty], Devin [McCourty], Matt [Slater], and many others – Brandon King, guys that are involved in just many, many different aspects of that. But, most importantly, just bringing the awareness within the team for each other and us getting to know each other and appreciate each other’s background, story, and thoughts. And that was very, again, educational for me, as well as everybody else. I think we all benefitted from it, and again, things that we’ve done this year that will help us going forward. That would certainly fall into that category – probably at the top of that category.”

Bill Belichick on comments about the 2020 season before taking questions on January 4. 


“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 Stitcher as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

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Patriots Off Season Roster Thoughts and Mark’s Morsels

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: 2021 Patriots Offseason Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton James White Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Stephon Gilmore

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