Some news and notes on this Monday:
1) ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look at contracts he felt were some of the worst in free agency and there were several from the Patriots he wasn’t thrilled with.
One of the players in question was wide receiver Nelson Agholor. He believes that while the Patriots needed an upgrade at the receiver position, the biggest problem he has with Agholor was his contract. After several inconsistent seasons, his biggest concern is that New England gave Agholor a deal that if things go wrong, they can’t get out of it.
From the article:
Look at the deal, though, and it’s clear the Patriots misread the market. Agholor’s two-year, $22 million deal isn’t very flexible. The Pats guaranteed him $16 million over two years. If Bill Belichick wants to get out of the contract after Year 1, the Patriots will be on the hook for Agholor’s $10 million signing bonus, his $1 million base salary in 2021, $5 million of his $9 million base salary in 2022 and up to $1 million in roster bonuses for the 2021 season. This is either a one-year deal for $16 million-plus or a two-year deal for $22 million-plus. That’s a lot for a guy who was on the minimum last season.
He’s comparing this to the deals the Dolphins and Steelers each gave Will Fuller and JuJu Smith-Schuster, respectively. Fuller, who he believes has a more productive track record, got $10.5 million for one season while Smith-Schuster received $8 million in his one-year deal to stay with the Steelers. While he feels Bill Belichick and his club normally read and foresee the market fairly well, they badly misread this one on Agholor.
ProFootballFocus also didn’t like this deal, calling it one of the “overrated” ones of the offseason.
2) The tight end position is an area Barnwell is also apparently not on board with. He’s not thrilled with the money the club paid Hunter Henry, who he points out has never played a full 16-game season.
From the article:
Anyone who has watched him knows that the Arkansas product has big-time potential, but he has yet to top 100 receiving yards in a single game as a pro or 700 yards in a single season. He now has the third-largest average annual salary of any tight end in football. The Pats are paying Henry like the player they’re hoping he becomes, not the player he’s been.
He’s also not impressed with the Jonnu Smith signing, pointing out that Smith averaged fewer than 30 receiving yards per game last season in what was his most productive seasons.
More from Barnwell:
Likewise, while Smith is impressive athletically and has improved as a blocker, he hasn’t been a top-tier tight end at any point in his career. He averaged fewer than 30 receiving yards per game last season in what was his most productive year as a pass-catcher. He emerged as a red zone threat, catching eight touchdowns inside the 20, but that is a huge outlier. He had eight receiving touchdowns on 73 catches across his first three seasons and then matched that total on 41 catches in Year 4. It’s tough to see him sustaining that sort of touchdown rate as a going concern.
However, while Barnwell may make some good points, the biggest problem each of these three players is going to have is going to be Cam Newton getting them the football. Everyone is aware of how last season played out and the Patriots are heading into this season with plenty of ammunition but without a weapon to potentially fire it. Barnwell can talk all he wants about whether or not these players will end up being a miscalculation, but if the issue at quarterback doesn’t at least work itself out, none of the names on the roster are going to matter if they don’t have anyone who can put the ball in their hands.
Kraft made some big investments this offseason.
3) As Mike Reiss pointed out on Sunday, after the Patriots offseason spending spree, owner Robert Kraft will have come close to matching the total in guaranteed money for each of the Patriots offseason deals to what he actually bought the team for 27 years ago.
Kraft purchased the team for $172 million back in 1994, which at the time was the highest price for an NFL franchise. Now here he is all these years later and, according to Forbes, the club is worth just over $4 billion.
Part of the reason behind that massive number has obviously been the success they’ve enjoyed after not having endured a single losing season since Belichick’s first year in 2000, along with having won 10 or more games in every season up until last year dating back to 2002. Finishing 7-9 last season clearly stung and as a result, the Patriots got aggressive and were active in free agency, with Kraft telling Albert Breer of SI that the limited salary cap this offseason gave the Patriots fewer teams competing for the top players.
“We had the second or third-most cap room at the start of free agency,” Kraft told Breer on Friday, with Breer noting that the Patriots were third, at $69 million. “This year, instead of having 10 or 12 teams competing for most of the top players, there were only two or three. And in my 27 years as owner, I’ve never had to come up with so much capital before.”
While Kraft may have talked about the money he spent, he compared it to investing in the stock market. The goal is to get back the most for the money you put in and he’s hoping that translates into wins.
“It’s like investing in the stock market,” said Kraft. “You take advantage of corrections and inefficiencies in the market when you can, and that’s what we did here. We’ll see. Nothing is guaranteed, and I’m very cognizant of that. But we’re not in the business to be in business. We’re in this business to win.”
4) I thought it was interesting when the Raiders made a massive commitment to Jon Gruden, prying him back into the coaching ranks after nine years away from the league by giving him a 10-year, $100 million deal back in 2018. Having been out of the game as long as he had, I wasn’t sure how that would turn out.
Anyone who remembers the early days of his career will likely recall that he made the Raiders a competitive club as a coach, with teams put together by the front office but Gruden couldn’t quite push them over the top. The closest he came was the 2001 season in what appeared to be a Super Bowl roster, but Gruden ended up facing an unbelievable amount of backlash after the Patriots knocked them out in the infamous “tuck rule” game. That led to Gruden being traded to the Buccaneers after that season.
Ironically enough, Gruden took the team the Buccaneers had put together, which then-coach Tony Dungy had previously squandered, and led them to a title the following year over his former club when Tampa Bay beat Oakland in the Super Bowl. That was a triumphant moment for Gruden and established what may have been a bit of an overrated reputation. He spent six more seasons with the team before being fired after the 2008 season.
What’s interesting now is that Gruden is starting to take a little bit of heat over the fact he’s brought in quite a few players who were supposed to be foundational players, yet he’s had to ship them all out of town and he’s having a tough time putting together a roster that can put the Raiders back among the AFC’s elite. As Breer pointed out in his Monday Morning column, in the three seasons prior to Gruden’s arrival, the Raiders went 25-24. Since bringing him back, he’s gone 19-29 and obviously, they’re still not exactly on the verge of greatness.
As a result, it appears that barring a huge improvement, he could be a coach on the hot seat after the 2021 season. The affinity the organization and ownership may have for Gruden may be strong, but that will likely only get him so far. Gruden seems to be a guy who changes his mind quite a bit, which has included rumors about moving on from his quarterback while later showing support. That’s not exactly the way to solidify the locker room and it feels like his days may be numbered if he doesn’t turn things around.
5) For anyone who follows the draft, this week will be a busy one when it comes to Pro Days, with the Patriots likely doing a bit of traveling this week to follow it as well.
Today kicks off the first with Florida State holding its Pro Day, with Iowa and Missouri also set to hold theirs. Alabama will hold one tomorrow as will Iowa State, Purdue and Nebraska. USC has one set for Wednesday, as does South Carolina, Mississippi State, Michigan State and Virginia. Penn State has theirs set for Thursday, as well as Tennessee, Western Michigan, Ole Miss and San Diego State. BYU and Michigan are the two notable ones for Friday, as well as Boston College, Virginia Tech, and South Dakota State.
For those who want to keep an eye to see if quarterback Mac Jones participates and how he performs, Alabama’s Pro Day is expected to air on the SEC Network tomorrow.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Hunter Henry John Gruden Jonnu Smith Las Vegas Raiders Nelson Agholor New England Patriots Robert Kraft