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Patriots News 2-18, The Draft, Free Agency, and “The Dynasty”

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
February 18, 2024 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots News 2-18, The Draft, Free Agency, and “The Dynasty”(PHOTO: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 7 minutes

Good morning, and here is your Patriots news and notes for February 18.  The senselessness of the shooting in Kansas City at the Super Bowl parade really stands out. The people who went to celebrate the victory were tragically shot, caught between two groups of idiots who shot more than 20 people, including nine children. 

Kudos to the bystanders who tackled the shooters until police arrived and took them into custody. One woman lost her life in the tragedy. Two suspects have been arrested, both juveniles, and hopefully, they will charged as adults and face the most serious consequences for their actions. 

The docuseries “The Dynasty” is out on Apple TV and is a peek behind the curtain of the Patriots, and it begins in the 2001 season where it all began. The Jets’ Mo Lewis rocks Drew Bledsoe with a vicious but clean hit along the sideline. This opens the door for Tom Brady to finish up the game and take over the team in Bledsoe’s absence. 

But we now know that Brady never relinquished the job back to Bledsoe until the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, where Bledsoe came in for an injured Brady and led the Patriots to victory. But Brady came back to QB the team in the Super Bowl against the Rams, and the rest is history. 

However, I digress here, as I’ve jumped ahead too far. The most compelling part of this episode was Robert Kraft and his feelings about the game against the St. Louis Rams, “The Greatest Show on Turf,” in November of 2001. 

Bledsoe had healed by then, but Bill Belichick decided that Brady was going to remain the starter. It was a very tough decision, not because it was the wrong move (it was), but because Bledsoe was the face of the franchise, the $100 million dollar man. And the “5th Kraft son,” according to Kraft.

It came out later that Belichick believed that Brady had outplayed Bledsoe in TC and the preseason and wanted to make the move to Brady to begin the season. But his coaching staff convinced him to stick with Bledsoe. 

This game against the Rams in the regular season is where serious revisionist history takes place. The Patriots lost the game 24-17, but to those of us who watched the game and the players who played in it at the time, the game was a turning point. 

Matt Chatham, who played on that 2001 team, had this to say about the Rams game: 

“Rams game was a huge boost for us…the reimagining of that day is not based in reality. We were a 5-4 team facing the NFL’s best. We nearly beat Greatest Show on Turf—2 INTs, 1 for a TD, just couldn’t get it back on the final drive. BB was roundly praised around the NFL the next morn. With social media, we’d be talking about exactly that.” 

However, Kraft felt the opposite, saying Belichick “disappointed him” in losing the game. Many media and fans who were too young to remember that time frame have echoed similar sentiments. But it just isn’t true. After the game, Mike Martz, the coach of the Rams, said he thought New England was a Super Bowl-capable team on the rise. 

In the early episodes, Kraft is trying to paint himself in a good light, while Belichick, at least in my opinion, is being painted somewhat as a villain. Watch it yourself and enjoy it; it is some really good stuff.

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Christian Gonzalez: The team’s uber-talented CB was live on Instagram earlier this week when someone posted “Bo Nix to the Patriots.” Both Gonzalez and Nix played at Oregon, so there may be a little bit of bias there. However, Gonzalez threw his support for bringing the QB to New England in this season’s upcoming NFL Draft. Gonzalez jumped on the idea, posting on X, “Bo Nix to the Patriots! Let’s do it!

New Staff and Front Office: None of us know how the new front office and coaching staff are going to work out. The team could boom or bust. We won’t know the answer to that until the team takes the field together in September. 

But after many people have clamored for change, it is now here. So, we all have to wait and see and give the team the chance to work together and see what they can do. Panning the moves this early in the process before free agency and the draft is a fool’s errand. 

But one thing is for sure: They need to hit on both very well this year if they want to turn this team around quickly. It won’t be an overnight fix, but they can definitely shorten the process by hitting it out of the park. 

Eliot Wolf: On the subject of the front office, much has been written or stated that Wolf is performing all of the duties of a GM. But doesn’t have the title, and many want to know why.

Two words quickly come to mind. Rooney Rule. The Patriots have to interview at least two minority candidates for the job. And they have yet to do that… at least publicly; they haven’t announced any interviews.

The second reason is that they may be waiting to see how Wolf, Mayo, and company fare in free agency and the draft. 

DeMarcus Covington: The Patriots’ new defensive coordinator spoke about his excitement to attain the title of DC as: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do in this career.”

But he also spoke of new head coach Jerod Mayo and mentioned that he and Mayo have worked closely together for the past several years, “we see things the same way and challenge each other.”

Jeremy Springer: The new Special Teams coordinator gave an interview to Patriots.com last week and had some intriguing things to say. “We’ve got one play to do it right; if you want to control the vertical space, we’ve got to work together to control that vertical space, and we do it one play at a time.”

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: This week, we discussed the latest news from Foxboro in our PatsFans.com podcast.

Derek Havens and I discussed the new hires of the coaching staff and front office. We also gave our Super Bowl thoughts on how the game played out.  

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that Francis isn’t in is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens. Casper is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Francis’ numbers stand up well against Casper’s, yet he isn’t even in the team’s HOF. 

Area 51 News: Thoughts On Free Agency/Trades/Draft  —

The Patriots are flush with money, with Free Agency just around the corner. And the obvious position that everyone wants is Wide Receiver. And while it is fun to consider having a Tee Higgins or a Mike Evans in a Patriot uniform, I’d be surprised if either player suits up for a different team in 2024. I think the Bengals and Bucs will both keep their star WRs. 

That means that Michael Pittman will probably be in high demand when FA opens. And for a big possession WR who had 100 catches and 1,000 yards, it is a much deserved payday coming his way. But for the Patriots to snag him or any of the other FAs, they’re not only going to HAVE TO Pay but essentially overpay for them to come into this current situation. 

Other names to consider: Marquise Brown, Calvin Ridley, Gabe Davis, Michael Thomas, Darnell Mooney, Curtis Samuel, OBJ, and Tyler Boyd, among others. They may sign one of these and retain Kendrick Bourne. 

Looking at TEs in free agency, I think the top name available is Hunter Henry. However, if he doesn’t return, then Dalton Schultz and Gerald Everett are both FAs, and Pharaoh Brown, who I would resign. 

Their best bet is to land a WR and focus on keeping some of their own FAs. 

A Trade For Fields, Why I’m Not On Board

Now comes the latest rumor: trading for a QB instead of drafting one with the #3 pick. And that rumor centers around trading for the Bears Justin Fields. And all of that centers around the Bears, who have the #1 pick in the draft, going for Caleb Williams, who has been the name most bandied about to Chicago. 

The Bears asking price is not going to be cheap. Additional rumors have Chicago asking for a conditional 3rd Round pick that could bump up to a 1st rounder depending on how Fields plays. Pittsburgh has been slated as a likely pursuer of Fields, paying a 2nd-round pick and more. 

While there is no denying Fields’ athleticism and the upside he brings as a runner, his numbers (thus far) in his career passing game are inferior to those of Mac Jones. And that doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence moving forward. Here is a quick snapshot of their career numbers passing: 

Jones, 42 gms, 18-24 rec., 8918 yds (212.3 YPG), 66% comp., 46 TDs, 36 INTs

Fields, 40 gms, 10-28 rec., 6674 yds (166.9 YPG), 60% comp,. 40 TDs, 30 INTs

That doesn’t mean the Patriots do not believe that Fields can’t radically improve in 2024, and given his ability to run and create plays with his feet, it is a distinct possibility that the Patriots could opt for a trade. Derek Havens and I have discussed this several times on our podcast. But I’d pass on Fields… which means he’ll probably have a monster year with Pittsburgh…or Atlanta. 

Stick With The #3 Pick …And Draft a QB

If the Patriots stick with their top pick, #3 in the draft, they can select one of the top QBs in this year’s draft, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels. Williams has been the consensus #1 pick for quite some time, but I have questions about his maturity and mental toughness, but none with his physical tools, which are outstanding both running and passing.

Daniels has been widely mocked to the Patriots in the early draft posts. He’s steadily improved every year, and in 2023, had a monster season, winning the Heisman Trophy in the process. He threw for 3,812 and 40 TDs while rushing for 1,134 yards and adding 10 rushing TDs. With the #2 pick, Washington is widely thought to be considering Daniels. 

Drake Maye has been the one guy I’ve had my eye on since the fall as a potential QB for the Patriots. He has a prototypical build for a QB at 6’4, 229, possesses a cannon for an arm, and has above-average athleticism (9 rushing TDs in 2023). While he can rip a 100mph fastball in tight windows, he also shows a nice touch.  He’s the guy I’d really like to see in a Patriot uniform this summer. I’d add Jacoby Brissett in FA and draft Maye to develop for the future. 

But if they decide to go with Daniels at #3, one couldn’t argue with that logic either. Many people want the Patriots to take WR Marvin Harrison Jr or LT Joe Alt (right Murph?) with the #3 pick, and either one of those picks would be a homerun selection, although I don’t see that happening unless the team trades for or adds a franchise QB in free agency.   

I am excited to see how all of this plays out this spring. 

Weekly Picks See You in September: 

2023 Season    178—94

2022 Season:   178—92—2

2021 Season:   183—88—1

2020 Season:   169—86—1 

2019 Season:   162—93—1

______________

“Yeah, I went to Pizza 51. I got a mushroom and sausage pizza, how about that? And a salad just to make my chubbiness feel good,” Reid said.

Chiefs’ Head Coach Andy Reid, who is always quotable, on how he celebrated the Chiefs Super Bowl victory when he returned to Kansas City. The Chiefs are the first team since the 2003-2004 Patriots to repeat as SB champions. 

_______________

“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Apple and YouTube as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Caleb Williams Dont'a Hightower Drake Maye Jayden Daniels Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots 2024 draft The Dynasty Tom Brady

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