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MORSE: More Thoughts on a Busy Patriots Free Agency

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
March 21, 2023 at 9:05 am ET

MORSE: More Thoughts on a Busy Patriots Free Agency(PHOTO: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

We are now a full week into Free Agency and the Patriots have been busy.  Here is a follow-up to my previous article on the start of Free Agency.

The second day of Official Free Agency opened with the Patriots bringing back undersized LB Mack Wilson on a 1-year $2.2M contract.  By the end of the season, Wilson was strictly a special teams player.

The Patriots hosted two players in Miami LB Andrew Van Ginkel and Rams Safety Taylor Rapp.  I like Van Ginkel and think he would be an upgrade over Mack Wilson.  However, Rapp I have no interest in him because of his slow speed.

The Patriots signed Miami TE Mike Gesicki to a one-year, up to $9M contract.  At first glance, I was upset with this signing, especially because of the high cost.   The contract is actually heavily incentivized and not bad at all.

I then decided to compare Gesicki to Jakobi Meyers, looking at Gesicki as a wideout rather than a TE!   The Penn St alum, lined up in the slot on 228 plays last year and 453 in 2021.  Bill O’Brien recruited Gesicki to Penn State but left for Houston before Gesicki played a down for the Nittany Lions.  When O’Brien last coached here he had Gronk and Aaron Hernandez, with Hernandez as a move TE.  What if we look at Gesicki as a Wide Receiver rather than a TE?  Here is a comparison of Gesicki to Meyers against the Patriots standard for WR:

Height Weight Hand 40 yard Vert BJ 3-cone Bench SS
Gesicki 6’5″ + 247 lbs + 10 1/2 + 4.54 – 41 1/2 + 10′ 9″ + 6.76 + 22 + 4.10 +
Standard 6006 201 9 3/8 4.49 32″ 10′ 6.9 15 4.25
Meyers 6’2″ + 202 lbs 9 1/2 4.65 – 37″ + 9′ 10″ – 7.07 – 13 – 4.23 +

The + indicates the players exceeded the Patriots’ Standard for Wide Receiver and – is below the standard.  Gesecki exceeded the standard in 8 of 9 categories and that was in speed.  However, as compared to 6’5” 247lb TEs Gesicki has outstanding speed as the Standard for TEs is 4.75.  Meyers is plus in 3 categories and minus in three.  The bottom line here is that Gesicki is the replacement for Meyers and not JuJu Smith-Schuster.

These are Gesicki’s stats over the last three seasons.  Another note is that Gesicki has fumbled only twice.

G Rec Targets Yards Avg TD
22 17 32 52 362 11.3 5
21 17 73 112 780 10.7 2
20 15 52 85 703 13.3 6

Bill Belichick is enamored with Gesicki as he has spoken very highly of him on several occasions.

Chris Board LB/ST   Belichick said that Board presents a mismatch that many other players don’t present in the special teams game.

“He’s a very hard guy to match up against,” Belichick said. “He’s bigger than the players you referenced. The size matchup is a problem for the faster lighter guys. The speed matchup is a hard matchup for the bigger guys who don’t run as well as he does. He has a great combination of size and speed as well as experience, instincts, and techniques.

“It’s all of the above. There are really no weaknesses in the player. You’ve got to figure out how to deal with him. He’s seen everything. He’s seen everything.”

Board is listed at 6-foot-2, 229 pounds, which is noticeably bigger than Slater’s current size (6 feet, 205 pounds), and what Izzo’s size was during his playing days (5-foot-10, 225 pounds).

Belichick believes that Board looks and plays bigger than his size.

“He looks like he’s more like 245 pounds out there, to tell you the truth, but I don’t think he weighs that much. But he’s a thumper,” Belichick said. “He’s a very physical player. He runs well. He’s very instinctive. So it doesn’t matter who’s on him, it’s a tough matchup.

“If you start double-teaming then everybody else is singled. You might solve one problem but you might create multiple other ones, too. You have to figure out how to handle it. He creates a lot of problems and then it all kind of rolls downhill from there.”

Cody Davis re-signs On the surface, re-signing the 34-year-old Safety isn’t a big deal.  Davis led the team in special teams tackles in 2021.  His knee injury which knocked him out for the season after game 6, was a brutal blow to the Patriots’ special teams unit.  Davis played on all 5 special teams units.  He had 6 tackles in 6 games. Project that out for the remainder of the season and he would have led the team again.  Davis was also the Personal Protector of the punter.   This season, Davis will have competition to make the team as a Special Teams-only player with Matthew Slater re-signing and the Patriots signing Chris Board away from Detroit.

Dan Ekuale re-signed  I must have missed this re-signing and only noticed it in PatsCap’s salary cap accounting.  After being suspended 3 games to start the 2022 season, Ekuale had a pretty good year as a spot player.  His tackle total was only 14 and he had only 2 sacks from his DT position but he was able to put pressure on the QB from the DT/NT position.  Depth signing and a position the team may draft a player at.  We need better players than Ekuale and Carl Davis.  I hope this doesn’t prevent Bill Belichick from taking a DT in the draft.

The other shoe waiting to drop!  There are two wide receivers rumored to be available, Jerry Jeudy and DeAndre Hopkins.  Denver and Arizona’s asking price has been too high (1st round pick) but the market price has dropped as a result of the Brandin Cooks trade to Dallas.  Personally, I would rather have Jeudy.  I don’t like the size of the Hopkins contract and the fact he is a diva (doesn’t like to practice).  If we can get Jeudy for a 2nd and a player (Parker) I would do that.

Greg Bedard had an interesting article in Boston Sports Journal criticizing Bill Belichick for loading up on Special Teams players.  Granted last year’s special teams were amongst the worst the Patriots have had in 20 years.  However re-signing Slater, Cody Davis, Chris Board, and Mack Wilson while still having Brenden Schooler is a bit much.  That is 4 Special Teams only players.  Bedard also points out that Special Teams’ number of plays is way down to just 5% of the game snaps as opposed to 15% just 5 years ago.

Six Tuesday Patriots Thoughts: Hightower’s Retirement, Harris Landing in Buffalo Stings

About Mark Morse

Merrimack Valley native and lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. My earliest memories of the Patriots were attending as a child with my dad, the off-season practice at Phillips Academy. I was at the Patriots game at Harvard Stadium in 1970 where Bob “Harpo” Gladieux was called out of the stands by the stadium announcer over the PA to play in the game. Analyzing the draft since ESPN first started to televise it in 1980 and former writer for the Lowell Sun Newspaper.

Tags: 2023 Patriots Free Agency

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    Michael P. McGrath
    Michael P. McGrath
    1 year ago

    Bedard has a BB ax to grind. Best off ignoring him. A very strong case can be made that despite the other deficiencies that ST play cost this team a playoff spot. ALL areas of this team must improve.

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