MORSE: Patriots Team Priorities as We Head into the Draft; Stanley Morgan for Hall of Fame
The Patriots have finished the 1st phase of Free Agency and have improved their roster significantly. It is time to re-assess the teams’ priorities as it applies to the draft.
Let’s start with the players the Patriots wanted to bring back. The Patriots have re-signed OC James Ferentz, DTs Carl Davis and Dan Ekuale, LBs Mack Wilson and Raekwon McMillan, DB Jonathan Jones, and S Jabrill Peppers, and then made offers to their two Restricted Free Agents Yodny Cajuste and Myles Bryant. The Patriots released and then re-signed Jalen Mills to a one-year contract. As of right now, they have the entire defensive backfield back from last season until Devin McCourty makes his retirement official. He signed a contract extension which will help the Patriots’ salary cap, but he is going to retire. So finding a Free Safety replacement is the 1st Patriots priority.
The Patriots have some flexibility in finding a replacement for McCourty. They have three options, #1 move Jonathan Jones to Free Safety. I personally like this idea the best. Playing a single high safety requires speed and Jon Jones has that. He is also a very good open-field tackler. Jones is short and has trouble with bigger WRs. Moving Jones to Safety changes the priority to get a #1 shutdown CB in the draft. #2 Move Jalen Mills to Fee Safety. I hate this option. I don’t think Mills is fast enough and if the Patriots were to move him to FS and he was a success, why would they reduce his contract to one year? The #3 option is Safety by committee. This could be an interesting scenario with 3 in-the-box safeties in the game with them being interchangeable. My big concern here will they be fast enough.
Matthew Slater is coming back for a 16th season and will be 38 during the season. The Patriots also re-signed Special Team players LS Joe Cardona and Ace Cody Davis.
The Patriots decided to let Jakobi Meyers walk away and sign with Las Vegas by presenting him with a non-competitive offer. Word has it that the Raiders and Patriots were the only two teams to offer Meyers a contract. I was sad to see Meyers go. I wanted the Patriots to keep him and show the rest of the team that you can develop under the tutelage of the Patriots coaches and be rewarded for your contribution with a competitive contract. Meyers led the WRs in catches the last two seasons and was Mac Jones’s go-to guy.
That hole was quickly filled with the acquisition of Juju Smith-Schuster. JSS had a little better stats in 2023 playing for Kansas City. His contract numbers are reasonable with a lot of it tied up in Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) incentives.
The Pats followed that up with the trade of TE Jonnu Smith to Atlanta for a 7th-round pick (#245) in this year’s draft. The reason they got so little in return was that his $17.2M Salary Cap hit went with him. This was strictly a salary cap dump and an admission that he was a bust from the 2021 Free Agent class.
The Patriots didn’t wait long to replace him with TE Mike Gesicki from Miami. Initially, I didn’t like the signing because I thought they paid too much. However, the one-year ($9M) contract is loaded with incentives that will make the team and player happy to achieve. Gesicki is a superior athlete and doesn’t play the true TE role, much like Travis Kelce in KC. He is a move TE that played 228 snaps in the slot in 2023. He was unhappy with the Miami Offense under Mike McDaniel and asked to be traded early in the season. In 2021 he played 453 snaps in the slot. What if we look at Gesicki as the replacement for Meyers rather than Smith-Schuster?
When comparing Gesicki’s athletic measurement against Jakobi Meyers as a WR rather than TE, he meets or exceeds Patriots standards in 10 of 11 categories. The only one he was deficient in was speed as he ran a 4.54 40. Patriots like their WR to run 4.49. When compared to Jakobi Meyers who runs a 4.65, Gesicki is fast. He is a matchup nightmare. Gesicki also has some history with Bill O’Brien. O’Brien was the Head Coach of Penn State and he recruited Gesicki to play there. Unfortunately, O’Brien left to coach the Houston Texans and never actually coached Gesicki. I would also like to add that O’Brien had tremendous success the last time he was coaching here with a two-TE setup of Gronk as the in-line TE and Aaron Hernandez as the move TE. I could see this type of play returning to the Patriots’ offense.
To fill the void left by James White, the Patriots added RB James Robinson from the NY Jets. Robinson was traded from Jacksonville to New York when they had a rash of injuries to the RB corp. Robinson never really caught on in New York, probably because of their poor O-Line play. He can make all the catches as his 49 catches for 344 yards as a rookie indicates. In 2020, he had 1431 yards from scrimmage in just 14 games. That is the most by an Undrafted rookie in league history. Robinson has been nagged by injuries. In 2021 he tore his Achilles in week 16. Through diligence nad hard work, he was ready for the start of camp in 2022. He was brought along slowly, splitting time with Travis Etienne. At just 24 years old (25 in season) the 5’9” runningback is worth taking a chance on.
The Offensive line was addressed with some unspectacular low-level signings. First, the Patriots retained starting RT Connor McDermott with a very reasonable contract. They went out and got Calvin Anderson who started the last 7 games of the year at LT for the Denver Broncos. Then they signed veteran Reilly Reiff, a former first-round pick that played 8 games for Chicago and was credited with solidifying the Oline and being a great influence in the locker room. Both Anderson and Reiff have the flexibility to play both Tackle positions. Pro Football Focus grades the play of the Offensive Line and here is how the Patriots’ OTs ranks
Overall Rank Pass Block Run Block
Brown 43 76.1 59.5
McDermott 46 53.7 79.8
Anderson 48 66.1 59.3
Reiff 51 67 59.1
Trent Brown played uninspired last season. He looked like he didn’t want to be there. Also, he accumulated way too many penalties, especially pre-snap motion. It looked like a lack of focus and discipline. I would be happy to see his $10M contract off the books and see him moved off the team.
Special Teams added three more players. Chris Board LB from Detroit is a special teams ace. Belichick has a soft spot for ST players and he calls Board one of the best. In his words, Board is a matchup nightmare. Punter Corliss Waitman became available from Denver last week and the Patriots grabbed him. He was middle of the road, ranked 19th in the league, but Jake Bailey was dead last in the league. Waitman had a 46-yard average but that may have been aided by kicking at altitude. Don’t be surprised if Belichick, with 11 draft picks, takes a kicker and punter in the draft. The third new member is ILB Olakunle Fatukasi, a former Rutgers player who made the Tampa Bay 53-man roster last season and played in 13 games with 6 tackles.
What is your #1 priority? Given how I think the draft will fall out in the 1st round through 13 picks is that the top OTs and CBs will be off the board. Chris Gonzalez and Joey Porter are both over 6 feet tall and above 190 lbs. The rest of the top CBs are under 171 lbs. No 1st round CB playing at under 171 lbs has been successful. Porter is a human pterodactyl with an 80 7/8” wingspan. Add that to the 37 ½” vertical leap and he will knock away a lot of passes.. If either one is available, I would be tempted to take him and have a solid shutdown corner for the next 5 years.
I also don’t think the prime OTs will be available at #14. I believe they will have to wait and hope one is available when their turn comes up again.
That leaves WR as a priority and need. However, I don’t want to take a WR at #14 and will offer to trade back. I have my eye on a rising OT in Anton Harrison Oklahoma. In my trade-back scenario, I offer #14, #76, and Trent Brown to TB for #19, #50 and #83 then take Harrison. I want to trade back into the 1st round and offer 2nd round picks #46 and #50. It actually works to the detriment of the Patriots as they lose the point differential 840 to 780. But I want to take BC WR Zay Flowers. I think they would have to jump ahead of the NY Giants as they seem interested in Flowers. This way I have addressed two of the three main needs.
I end up with a top-notch OT, two WRs, two CBs, two TEs, an edge player, a QB, C, and K. We need the TEs because both our TEs are Free Agents next season. Nick Folk is a dinosaur and I can’t believe he is still kicking. David Andrews is not getting any younger. A third QB is needed for camp and as an emergency backup on the PS. The edge player has potential as an ILB and is sideline-to-sideline fast. Can’t draft enough DBs. One of the CBs will move to FS and back up whoever is the starter. The other will have a chance to start at LCB.
I would bring in a P, DT, OT, OG TE, and another WR in the UDFA class and give it a full and open competition to make the 53-man roster.
Trade for a WR
Doesn’t look like that is going to happen. The cost of trading for Deandre Hopkins is too much and I don’t even want him on the team. I think he is cancer in the locker room and a Diva. He doesn’t want to practice. We don’t need that type of player on the team. New Denver coach Sean Payton has stated they are not trading either Jerry Jeudy or Cortland Sutton. So it looks like we need to build through the draft.
Off-Season Schedule for Patriots
1st Day of Off-Season Program – Apr 17th
May 12-14 (est)
May 25, 30-31
Jun 2, 5-6
Dead Zone (No Patriots Activity)
Jun 15 – July 16
Why is Stanley Morgan not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
|Yards per reception:||19.2|
Yes, that is 19.2 Yards Per Catch for his entire career. No player in the Hall of Fame has equal or better than that stat. Is it his fault that the teams he played on in New England were not good enough to win Super Bowls? The Patriots in the 13 years Morgan played for them, only had two losing seasons. His 72 TDs are more than many of his contemporaries that are in the Hall of Fame.
The criteria to get into the Hall of Fame are not being evenly handled. Both Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers are in the Hall of Fame but the Bears only had two winning seasons in their careers. There is no reason that Morgan is not in the Hall of Fame. He needs an advocate on the committee to get him elected. The Veterans committee might be the place to start.
Posted Under: Patriots News