Quarterback is the most important position on the field and I will start my position by position analysis with the Quarterback position. Cam Newton is the starter until someone unseats him from that position. The Patriots rewarded Newton with an $8M contract, backup money. IMHO, they rewarded him for taking such a low salary last year. He was a good soldier that did and said everything right. Newton is well respected around the league by his peers. An example of this is the comments that Julio Jones made to Sterling Sharpe, stating he would like to play with Newton as his QB. His performance on the field was flat-out awful after he came back from COVID. Before he was stricken he performed pretty well and had the Patriots in every game. He has some severe mechanical flaws. It has been reported that he has worked out with a QB coach to try and correct those problems. This is going to be a run-first offense and Newton’s running ability, only makes this offense more of a threat. His weapon’s around him are much better than last year. He will have his choice of TE’s to throw to and two legitimate WR’s. If Newton can’t rebound from last year and makes the same mistakes (footwork, pre-snap reads, etc) then it is strictly his fault.
Jarret Stidham is currently the backup QB. I am not impressed by Stidham. He had the opportunity to grab the reigns and run with this team during pre-season. He failed and failed again when he did have the opportunity to play. I am encouraged that Stidham organized some off-season workouts in California, especially with the newly signed WR’s and TEs. I watched some limited videos from those workouts and I just didn’t like the way he throws. Stidham is going to have a hard time making the team.
Mac Jones, the savior of the franchise has according to limited reports looked good so far in OTA and rookie camp. One of his traits is that he is maniacal in his preparation. He is a film junky and started on his Patriots playbook the minute he got it. The story goes he got his playbook the day the team introduced him to the media. He was up until the wee hours of the morning studying it and called his QB coach at 5:30 AM to arrange a meeting with him later that morning when he arrived back. He had a party scheduled that night but got a throwing session in with his coach that afternoon. I hope that he can grasp the nuances of the intricate offense quickly enough to unseat Newton.
Brian Hoyer turned down other offers in hopes of re-signing with the Patriots. Hoyer is firmly entrenched in New England, living in the area year-round. Many believe that Hoyer will one day be a QB coach in the league. For the short term, he is going to be the mentor for Mac Jones, not Newton. Jones and Newton’s styles are too different. Hoyer may or may not make the final 53. His contract is Vet minimum at a little over $1M with only $100K guaranteed and no signing bonus. If he makes the 53 man roster and is on it for the 1st game, then his salary is guaranteed for the season. I could see a situation where Hoyer gets cut and is immediately signed to the coaching staff. He would also serve as a shadow roster QB in the case both players are hurt.
There will be plenty to watch over the pre-season practices and games. Getting Jones some realistic competition by scheduling two joint practices will help his development.
Morse’s Morsels Lots of talk about Julio Jones coming to New England. The Patriots don’t have a true #1 WR therefore, Jones is attractive to them. They have had initial internal discussions on the trade. Per a Mike Reiss report, Atlanta has had discussions with several teams. ESPN conducted mock trade offers, with Mike Reiss representing the Patriots. His offer was a 2022 2nd round pick and backup QB Jarret Stidham. To me, Stidham has no value at all. SF offered 2022 2nd and 4th rd picks and was awarded, Jones. I feel an offer of either N’Keal Harry or Sony Michel and 2022 2nd selection would get the job done. Some feel that Atlanta needs to take back some salary to make this deal happen. Atlanta is in cap jail and needs to make this deal. Atlanta wanted a 1st round pick in return at the draft time but no takers. Reports state that Atlanta now has one team that will offer a #1, but that must be a team that has little cap room and needs Atlanta to take a big chunk of the 2021 salary back. The Patriots will likely have Jones re-structure the 2021 contract to make some of the $15M into Signing Bonus and spread that among the three years remaining on his contract.
The Patriots have most of their draft picks signed and have nearly $15M in cap room. Including Michel, they would have enough room to sign their picks and fit Jones under the cap.
Transactions The Patriots waived FB Dan Vitale who opted out of play last season. The Patriots have only retained three players from those that opted out (LaCosse, Bolden, and Hightower). A corresponding transaction was the signing of TE Troy Fumagalli. Formerly of Denver, Fumagalli has 19 games of NFL experience. He is a former Wisconsin Badger and is 6’6” 248 lbs. Known as “9 Fingers”, he had a birth defect that required his index finger on his left hand to be amputated above the knuckle. He should be interesting to watch this Pre-season, especially with the emphasis on 12 Personnel.
The Patriots didn’t draft FB Ben Mason and have now cut their 2nd FB. Does this indicate that the Patriots are moving away from the 21 Personnel, (FB as the lead blocker, RB, 1 TE, and 2 WR) to a 12 Personnel (2 TE set, 1 RB, 2 WRs) formation?
The Patriots filled out the roster with veteran free agents rather than Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA) from the college ranks. One of the reasons is that there was a smaller than usual player pool. Usually, there are 1200 – 1400 players to choose from. This past draft only had about 600. The Patriots, as I projected, used the last three picks in the draft to select players they would have otherwise have signed as UDFAs. Safety Joshua Bledsoe, OL William Sherman, and WR Tre Nixon were the three draft picks.
Those veterans signed were: Wes Farnsworth an LS from Nevada who was in camp with Miami and Denver. The need for an LS is probably because the Patriots are carrying 3 K and a punter. That’s a lot of work for one LS in camp.
Former Patriot RB Tyler Gaffney gave up his quest to pursue a baseball career and is giving Football the last shot. Gaffney spent time on the Patriots Practice Squad and received two Super Bowl rings. He was a 2014 6th round pick by Carolina. He was claimed by the Patriots when Carolina tried to sneak Gaffney through waivers with an injury designation. The Patriots claimed him knowing he wouldn’t play that season. They kept him on the roster until the final cut when they could assign him to IR. He went on IR and Practice Squad for parts of the next two seasons, having never actually played a down or been active. In the 2016 Pre-season Gaffney was the star with 152 yards rushing and a TD. He is now 30 and a long shot to make the team. Mike Reiss pointed out that Gaffney still has eligibility left for the Practice Squad. It was also reported that Gaffney and JJ Taylor are the only RB’s in OTAs.
The third veteran signed is Safety Adrian Colbert. The 6’2” 205 lb. Free Safety was drafted in 2017 out of the University of Miami (FL) by the San Francisco 49ers. He is quick, running a 4.49 40 yard dash. He played in 14 games as a rookie for SF, starting 6 and ended up with 27 tackles. Last year for the Giants, he only had 13 tackles in 6 games with 2 starts. His nickname is the Punisher for his hard hits. This is a position of need as they only have 6 Safeties on the roster. Colbert is a vet that provides some depth and insurance in camp.
All three had no signing bonuses. In the year of the tight cap, The Patriots are again ahead of the curve and not spending (wasting) cap space.
Tre Nixon was not at the open OTA. I heard a report that Nixon was not missing or not participating like many veterans (per the Players Association request. A report attributed to Mike Reiss stated that Nixon has a knee issue.
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