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MORSE: Offense After Free Agency Spree, Kraft Disses Belichick, Pro Day Results

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
7 months ago at 11:39 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Offense After Free Agency Spree, Kraft Disses Belichick, Pro Day ResultsPhilip G. Pavely - USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots Free Agent splurge has filled in a lot of the holes in the Patriots Offensive roster.  This has re-shaped the roster and before we hit the draft (30 Days), we have addressed a lot of the team’s needs.

Offensive Line

Let’s start with the Trent Brown trade.  Brown’s best season in the NFL was when he played for Dante Scarnecchia and the Patriots.  He got paid after that but was relatively ineffective due to issues he ended up experiencing in Las Vegas, which included injuries and COVID.   He re-negotiated his contract to a one-year deal.  Acquiring Brown freed up Marcus Cannon to be traded to Houston.  It made for small gains as far as draft picks were concerned, with the club swapping places with Houston in rounds four and six.   This was essentially the equivalent of getting a 5th round pick.  It just so happens that the Patriots gave up a 5th in 2022 (and received a 7th in 2022 in return) in the Brown trade.  I like the move up in both rounds for a player they were going to cut for salary cap reasons (despite the fact they had a large war-chest to sign players).

This frees up Michael Onwenu to slide over to left guard, replacing Joe Thuney.

Ted Karras left for one year down in Miami, to start as their center. The Patriots, believing David Andrews was going to sign elsewhere, quickly snapped up Karras as an experienced OC at a low-cost, one-year contract.  They followed this up with the surprising re-signing of David Andrews.  The team is much better running the ball when Andrews has been at center.  The Captain signed a very reasonable contract (4 years, $18.75M) with the 1st year cap hit is just $1.75M.  Most of the Patriots’ deals are back-loaded.  The Patriots hard-lined the deal with Andrews probably because it is such a good year for OC in the draft.  I can’t remember another year when there were so many quality OC in the draft.  The Karras signing is not a waste.  The Patriots needed a quality backup G/C.  Karras could easily slide into the LG position if Owenu can’t move to the left side.  Ferentz is still on the market, but he is 32 and was picked up mid-way through the season from the scrap heap.

Quarterback

Cam Newton was signed just before the start of Free Agency.  He signed what is basically considered a backup QB contract.  This was a smart move by the Patriots.  It gave them a “name” QB that is still very popular amongst his peers in the league.  Jimmy Garrapolo was considered as option A for the Pats, but I am not sold on Jimmy G and his large contract.  SF has stated many times that Jimmy G is their man, despite the likelihood they will select a QB with the 3rd pick in the draft.  They gave up a King’s ransom in the trade with Miami.

Newton may be a bridge quarterback to a potential rookie draftee.  Newton played well before he contracted COVID.  He knows the offense and will be more comfortable with a complete offseason.  He will have better weapons in WR and TEs.  Their solid offensive line will again generate a strong running game.  Yes, Newton has a lot of flaws.  It’s up to him to correct them or he will be out of the league.  This is his last chance.

Wide Receiver

On the first day of legalized tampering, the Players’ agents of a couple of surprising players announced they had signed with the PatriotsNelson Agholor had a career year last season with Las Vegas (48 catches, 896 yards, 8 TD’s).  However, Agholor has a reputation for dropping a lot of passes over his career.  His 18.7 YPC was one of the tops in the league.  He definitely gives the Pats a deep threat.  Agholor is an advanced route runner, good after the catch, very polished, and an explosive playmaker.  He consistently gets separation with a quick release off the line.   He is not a burner and is just 6’ tall.  However, he drops too many passes.

Next was the signing of San Francisco 49ers WR Kendrick Bourne.  Bourne is 6’1”, 190 lbs., and a former Undrafted Free Agent from Eastern Washington.   He was the #2 receiver to Cooper Kupp at E. Washington.  Bourne is a very complimentary WR.  He runs good routes and can separate.  However, he may be no better than Jakobi Meyers, and may not catch as many passes as he is targeted than Meyers.  At best he is another #2 receiver.  Bourne is very well-liked in the clubhouse and has shown a bit of his leadership capability in the video from the recent California workouts organized by Jarret Stidham.

Tight Ends

This has been a problem ever since Gronk left.  The Patriots had the least productive TEs in the league.  That’s not a problem anymore.  The Patriots went out and spent the money on the two top TE’s available.  Jonnu Smith from the Titans was the first to sign.  He is vastly talented out of Florida International.  He is 6’3” 248 and runs well as evident by his draft combine 40 time of 4.62.  He will turn 26 this season.

Then, to top off the TE signings, the Patriots acquired Hunter Henry from Los Angeles Chargers.  I didn’t see this coming after they had signed Smith.  Neither did the rest of the NFL.  The Patriots now have both of the top TE’s available.  They are numbers 3 and 4 respectively of the highest-paid TE in the league.  I can see a Baltimore Ravens-type offense, where they deploy 3 TEs and a dominating running game.

Runningback

Another surprise was the re-signing of James White to a one-year contract.  I can’t believe White couldn’t do better on the open market.  Yes, he had a subpar year for him last season.  He also had the family crisis of the automobile accident that killed his father and nearly did the same to his mother.  I, for one, am glad to see him back.  He is a leader on this team.

Kicker

The re-signing of K Nick Folk went under the radar.  I expected Folk to get multiple offers after a very good season last year.  This signing prompted the Pats to release 5th round draft pick Justin Rohrwasser.  He ended up as a  flat-out mistake by Belichick.

All in all, the Patriots Offense is much improved from last season.  I am excited to see what Josh McDaniels can do with all these new puzzle pieces.  The two TE offense will keep opponents off balance.  If they play small, then the Pats can overwhelm them.  Play big and they have the mismatches they can exploit.  The one issue is the QB.

Robert Kraft Disses Belichick 

In a video press conference, Kraft’s annual report with reporters during the NFL Owners meetings, Kraft said “In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe, I’ve seen a different approach this year,” according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.

I take this as a dig to Belichick the GM, for poor drafts that have to lead up to supplement the team with high-priced (overpriced and usually underperforming) Free Agents.  Is this the start of a schism between owner and coach/GM/All-Knowing Bill Belichick?  I concur that Belichick the GM has been performing poorly and that if he was rated by his Draft performance he would be fired by almost all teams in the NFL.

Belichick has always gone rogue.  The Patriots under Belichick do not participate with either of the Scouting Services Systems (National and BLESTO).  Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, and Washington Redskins are the only teams that do not participate in one or the other services.

Belichick, when he came in as Head Coach/ GM set a very rigid, but consistent evaluation system in place.  This was modeled after the system he and GM Mike Lombardi instituted in Cleveland.  This is outlined in Michael Holley’s book “War Room”.  It’s a fascinating read, especially around Draft time.

The Patriots, it was revealed in the book, have only 75 players or so, on their draft board.  Most players don’t meet their requirements.  For instance, their extensive background checks find the players that do extensive film work outside of practice.  These players get high marks in the scouting evaluation.  I will tell you that one of the top 4 QB’s in the draft has a bad reputation for being the “last one in, and the first one out” of practices and meetings.  That’s the exact opposite of what Belichick is looking for.

Another key attribute the Patriots rely on is the 3-cone drill.  If their skill players (WR, DB’s) aren’t running under 7.0, they won’t be considered.

In last year’s draft, Belichick was criticized for relying on his own eyewitness evaluation of the Senior Bowl.  He traded out of the 1st round and selected Kyle Dugger a safety from Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school, and then taking Josh Uche from Michigan.  Dugger was the star of the Senior Bowl practices as both he and Uche played in the game.  Belichick was criticized for not listening to his scouts.  I loved the Dugger pick and applauded the selection.  I had him plugged in as the Patriots pick in several mock drafts leading up to the actual event.    I actually think Dugger had a remarkable year considering there was no rookie, mini, or OTAs before camp.  He caught on very quickly as evident by the amount of playing time he got early in the season.

Pro Day Results

Florida

TE Kyle Pitts  6’5” 248lbs, 4.44 40  Think Mike Evans or Megatron from the TE position.  A once in a generation type of talent.

Alabama

CB Patrick Surtain 6’ 2” 208, 4.42 40

QB Mac Jones 4.79 40

Western Michigan

WR Dwayne Eskeridge 5’ 8.6 190 lbs, 4.38 40, 6.96 3 cone

Mississippi

WR Elijah Moore 5’ 9.4 178 lbs, 4.35 40, 6.66 3 cone

Penn State

DE Jayson Oweh 6’ 4.7 257 lbs, 4.39 40, 6.84 3 cone

LB Micah Parsons 6’ 3.1 246 lbs, 4.39 40, 6.94 3 cone

Michigan

FB Ben Mason 6’ 2.6 246 lbs, 4.73 40, 29 reps @ 225lbs, 6.96 3-cone.  If he was moved to ILB, his numbers would be 2-3 best!  Compared to Zaven Collins, his speed, quickness, and strength are better.  We know he likes to hit people.

CB Ambry Thomas 5’ 11.7 191 lbs, 4.37 40

Louisville

WR Dez Fitzpatrick 6’ 1.6 208 lbs, 4.43 40, 7.09 3 cone

WR Tutu Atwell 5’ 8.7 155 lbs, 4.42 40, 6.89 3-cone … too slight won’t hold up over the middle.

Texas A&M

DL Bobby Brown 6’ 4” 320 lbs, 4.98 40

Ohio State

LB Pete Werner 6’ 2.7 238 lbs, 4.58 40, worked at S also

QB Justin Fields 6’ 2.6 227 lbs, 4.44 40

Don’t forget to check out the Draft Contest in the Draft Section of the Forum.  The Draft Contest is being sponsored by Matt Miller’s NFL Draft Scout.

Matt Miller
https://www.thedraftscout.com


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2021 Patriots Draft New England Patriots


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