Category Archives: Patriots 2020 offseason

Today in Patriots History: Billy Johnson

John Morgan
February 19, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

Billy Johnson is a player unfamiliar to most fans of the Patriots. That obscurity is unfortunately better than his side of the story. Johnson is one of many former players who are unfamiliar with their daily surroundings. Alzheimer’s robbed him of his memory. The toll of concussions and CTE pay an unforgiving price for these men and loved ones left to care for them.

Happy 77th birthday to Billy Johnson
Born February 19, 1943 in Stanton, Nebraska
Patriots safety, 1966-1970; uniform #47

The hard hitter was a rover back on three major Nebraska Cornhuskers bowl teams. Mike Holovak said Johnson “loves to tackle, and pound for pound is one of the best hitters in the league”. Four injuries (cheek, eye, knee and leg) limited Johnson to six games in 1967. He returned and had a big day in crucial late season game against Houston. Johnson returned five punts for 126 yards, including returns of 52 and 36 yards setting up scores. The 18-7 victory pulled the Pats within 1½ games of the eventual division champion Oilers and earned Johnson the game ball for his role.

Concussion awareness in that era was nearly non-existent. Johnson has lost much of himself to Alzheimer’s. He is participating in a concussion study at Boston University and has also pledged his brain for research. His wife Terri states “he is childlike now” and that she feels as though “I’ve lost my partner”.

 

Other February 19 Patriot birthdays

Happy 42nd birthday to Chidi Iwuoma
Born February 19, 1978; from Pasadena, California
Patriot CB, 2006; uniform #29
Signed as a free agent on October 4, 2006

Bill Belichick signed Chidi Iwuoma for his special teams play and depth to an injury depleted secondary. The Cal-Berkeley product had 80 career special team tackles, including 19 in 2005 as a co-captain for Pittsburgh. Six years of that play had slowed down the 5-foot-9-inch, 184-pound defensive back by the time he arrived in Foxboro. The Pats cut Iwuoma just four weeks later despite making two more ST tackles. He now works as a scout with the Steelers.

 

Happy 71st birthday to Clark Hoss
Born February 1949 in Portland, Oregon
Patriot TE, 1972 offseason
Pats seventh round (165th overall) selection of the 1972 draft, from Oregon State

The Patriots traded the 6’8 Hoss to Cleveland on July 31, 1972. He spent two seasons with the Eagles and one in the WFL. Clark Hoss then went back to his alma mater where he had graduated nine years earlier. From 1976 to 2013 Clark Hoss taught social studies and coached football and basketball at West Linn High School in Oregon. He and his wife now operate a beautiful bed and breakfast in northwestern wine country.

Clark Hoss

 

More players born on this date with a New England connection

Dwight Freeney, 40 (1980)
Born in Hartford; from Bloomfield, Connecticut
The seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end was the 11th overall pick of the 2002 draft by the Colts, from Syracuse. Freeney had 125.5 sacks and 128 tackles for a loss over his 16 year career.

Anthony Firkser, 25 (1995)
Harvard
Tennessee just re-signed the exclusive rights free agent. The tight end has 33 receptions and two touchdowns in two seasons with the Titans.

Jim Crocicchia, 56 (1964)
Waterbury, Connecticut
Jim was a replacement quarterback during the 1987 strike for the Giants. He also spent one season in the Arena Football League.

Tony Manfreda (1904-1988)
Born in Meriden, CT; Sanborn Seminary in Kingston, NH; Holy Cross
The halfback played briefly with the Newark Tornadoes, who finished the 1930 NFL season with a record of 1-10-1. He holds the Holy Cross record for longest kickoff return from a 1929 game between the Crusaders and Boston University.

 

Today in Patriots History: Demolition of Foxboro Stadium

John Morgan
February 18, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

On February 18, 2002 the demolition of Foxboro Stadium commenced. One month earlier the last game at the old stadium occured. Clutch field goals by Adam Vinatieri in a blinding snowstorm resulted in the Patriots defeating Oakland. That historic playoff game is known as the Snow Bowl in New England; to everybody else it is the Tuck Rule Game.

Construction began on June 15, 2000 for CMGI Field. The internet incubator had a penchant for backing the wrong horse. For example they operated companies like Alta Vista (rather than Google) and uBid (instead of eBay). The stock price dropped from $160 to $40. This caused the dot com to bail from the naming right in order to stop the financial bleeding. Boston based Gillette filled that void by purchasing the naming rights.

Schaefer Stadium

Schaefer Stadium demolished

Foxboro Stadium demolished
June 1, 2002: the demolition of Foxboro Stadium is completed.

 

Roland James

Happy 62nd birthday to Roland James
Born February 19, 1958; from Jamestown, Ohio
Patriot strong safety, 1980-1990; uniform #38
Pats first round (14th overall) selection of the 1980 draft, from Tennessee

Roland James played in 145 games with 122 starts for the Patriots. His 29 career interceptions is tied with Ron Hall and Fred Marion for third most in franchise history. James also returned punts as a rookie. He averaged 10.0 yards per return and took one kick back 75 yards for a touchdown in a 34-21 victory over the Jets. Roland James was an obvious choice as a member of the Patriots All-Decade Team of the 1980s.

Since retiring from pro football Roland remained in New England. He coached the Sharon High School football team and over the years has opened his home to more than 25 foster children. James is active in local charities and is now the Director of Youth Services in Somerville.

 

Brian Waters

Happy 43rd birthday to Brian Waters
Born February 18, 1977 in Waxahachie, Texas
Patriot guard, 2011; uniform #54
Signed as a veteran free agent on September 4, 2011

The offensive line went through a major transition in 2011. A replacement was needed at right guard due to the retirement of Stephen Neal. Back injuries caused Sebastian Vollmer to miss the beginning of the season. A broken ankle resulted in Dan Koppen spending the year on injured reserve. The last minute addition of Brian Waters to a two year contract was a shrewd move. At age 34 he had an excellent season, leading to his sixth Pro Bowl.

New England Patriots sign guard Brian Waters | Adam Schefter

Perennial Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters and the Patriots reached an agreement that will give New England the help it has been seeking at right guard.

Waters, who worked out for the Patriots on Saturday, reached an agreement Sunday, the team announced. He signed a two-year deal that could be worth up to $5.5 million, according to sources.

New England continued making some of the biggest moves around the league on cutdown weekend. It cut safety Brandon Meriweather and running back Sammy Morris, and now has reached a deal with Waters, a long time standout in Kansas City.

Any veteran on an opening-day roster has his salary guaranteed for the season.

The fact that New England did a deal now with Waters rather than waiting until after the regular season begins indicates they have big plans for him this season.

New England has spent this summer stockpiling veterans who have made their mark around the league. Waters joins Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis among others.

The following year Waters refused to report to training camp. The reason stated was a desire to continue playing only if he could be close to his family in Texas. He would sit out the entire 2012 season with Dan Connolly sliding over to guard, and Ryan Wendell taking over as center. The Pats released Waters on April 30, 2013. From 2000 to 2013 Waters played in 186 games, plus six postseason contests.

 

More February 18 Birthdays

Happy 36th birthday to Mike Richardson
Born February 18, 1984; from Warner Robins, Georgia
Patriot CB, 2007-2008; uniform #35
Pats sixth round (202nd overall) selection of the 2007 draft, from Notre Dame

Mike Richardson spent his rookie season on injured reserve due to a hand injury. He began 2008 on the practice squad before appearing in ten games. The Pats released Richardson midway through training camp in 2019. He later spent time with the Chiefs and Colts, getting on the field for 22 NFL games.

 

Happy 75th birthday to Preston Johnson
Born February 18, 1945; from Boston
Patriot RB, 1968; uniform #48

The 6’2, 215 pound running back went to Boston English High School and Florida A&M. Preston Johnson was playing for the Lowell Giants in the Atlantic Coast Football League when the Patriots signed him, appearing in three games in 1968. He then returned to the ACFL with the Quincy Giants and Hartford Knights from 1969-1971.

 

Practice Squad and Training Camp Players

Happy 25th birthday to Tashawn Bower
Born February 18, 1995; from Kenilworth, New Jersey
Patriot DE, 2019-present; uniform #90
Signed to the practice squad on November 21, 2019

Tashawn Bower was signed as an undrafted rookie from LSU by Minnesota in 2017. He played in seven games for the Vikings over two seasons, then missed most of 2019 due to an achilles injury. The Pats re-signed Bower to a reserve/future contract on January 7.

 

Happy 29th birthday to Robert Thomas
Born February 18, 1991 in Muskogee, Oklahoma
Patriot NT, 2015 practice squad
Signed as a free agent on November 12, 2015

Robert Thomas was with the Patriots for less than a month when Miami signed him off the Pats practice squad to their 53 man roster. He has played in 26 games with four NFL teams, and was last with Buffalo for their 2019 training camp.

 

Happy 32nd birthday to Mason Brodine
Born February 18, 1988 in Elm Creek, Nebraska
Patriot TE, 2015 offseason
Signed as a free agent on August 6, 2015

The 6’7 270 pounder was with the Raiders and Rams from 2011 to 2015. He spent 2014 on injured reserve and lasted just four days with the Pats, making that his final stop in the NFL.

 

Other pro football players born on this date with a New England connection:

Doug Mackie, 63 (1957)
Born in Malden; from Saugus, Massachusetts
The offensive tackle from Ohio State was initially with the Giants in 1982. Mackie then played in the USFL for three seasons, blocking for Herschel Walker and Brian Sipe. Atlanta was the final stop of his pro football career in 1987.

Joe Pivarnick (1912-1976)
Born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut
Joe went to Notre Dame and then played on the line for the Eagles in the thirties.

Today in Patriots History: Stanley Morgan

John Morgan
February 17, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

February 17 is highlighted by the birth dates of Stanley Morgan, Sony Michel, Bryan Cox and Ron Meyer.

Stanley Morgan

Happy 65th birthday to Stanley Morgan
Born February 17, 1955 in Easley, South Carolina
Patriot WR, 1977-1989; uniform #86
Pats 1st round (25th overall) selection of the 1977 draft, from Tennessee

Stanley Morgan is one of the greatest players in the history of the New England Patriots. His 534 career receptions was a franchise record that would last for 17 seasons. The ‘Stanley Steamer’ had 67 career receptions, another club record that would rank first for 28 years. His 10,352 yards receiving is all-time best in team history. Morgan had 38 100-yard games, still to this day ten more than any other Patriot. What is even more remarkable is that Stanley Morgan did this in a run oriented offense, long before rule changes made things easier in the passing game.

Number 86 averaged 19.2 yards per catch over his career, and NFL record for players with at least 500 receptions. In his first six seasons Morgan averaged 22.6 yards per catch, leading the league in that category three straight times. Nobody in NFL history has ever come close to that type of production over any six year period.

In 2007 highly respected Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated came to the conclusion that Stanley Morgan deserved to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I wonder if part of the reason he is overlooked is because it took so long for the Patriots themselves to honor him. Morgan was not inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame until 2007, 18 long years after he last played for the Pats. By comparison the University of Tennessee placed him in their Hall four years after he last played for the Vols.

Since retiring Stanley Morgan moved to Memphis, the hometown of his wife. He works for Federal Express in their international department.

 

Sony Michel

Happy 25th birthday to Sony Michel
Born February 17, 1995; from Plantation, Florida
Patriot RB, 2018-present; uniform #26
Pats first round (31st overall) selection of the 2018 draft, from Georgia

Sony Michel has rushed for over 900 yards in both of his two seasons with the Patriots, with 13 touchdowns. He excelled in the 2018 postseason, culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams. In those three games Michel ran for 336 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

For more on his background please check out the following:
Lead from the Back: The Sony Michel story | patriots.com

 

Bryan Cox

Happy 52nd birthday to Bryan Cox
Born February 17, 1968 in St. Louis, Missouri
Patriot LB, 2001; uniform #51
Signed as a veteran free agent on July 31, 2001

Bryan Cox had the last word against Peyton Manning

Bryan Cox was 33 years old when the Patriots signed him late in the 2001 offseason. The ten year veteran had a reputation of being a mean, fearsome and aggressive defender. A very memorable play came at a critical juncture of the 2001 season. In week three the Pats were 0-2 and Tom Brady was making his first NFL start. Peyton manning threw a short pass to Jerome Pathon. Cox delivered an absolutely devastating hit on the wide receiver. The play visibly energized the Patriots, who went on to upset the Colts that day by the score of 44-13 – and the rest is history.

You can see the hit at the 13:25 mark on the video below.

Bryan Cox after Super Bowl 36

From 2006 to 2016 Bryan Cox worked as a defensive line coach with several teams. His final stop was with Atlanta in Super Bowl 51 against the Patriots.

 

Ron Meyer

Happy birthday to Ron Meyer, who would have been 79 today
Born February 17, 1941 in Westerville, Ohio
Patriot head coach, 1982-1984
Hired on January 15, 1982

The eighth head coach in franchise history is one of two to never have a losing record with the Patriots. He was hired to replace Ron Erhardt, who had gone 2-14 in 1981. In the strike-shortened 1982 season the Pats made the playoffs with a 5-4 record and Meyer was named AFC Coach of the Year.

Ron Meyer has some unique tidbits as part of his legacy. He was the head coach who turned SMU into a football powerhouse – and was also the reason the program received the NCAA death penalty for recruiting violations. Meyer was the head coach for the Snow Plow Game, when parolee Mark Henderson nearly caused Don Shula to have a stroke. As awesome as that maneuver was for fans of the Patriots, perhaps his greatest contribution to the franchise was hiring a young coach on his SMU staff by the name of Dante Scarnecchia.

Meyer may be one of the only head coaches in NFL history to be fired in midseason with a winning record. That happened after he fired his defensive coordinator following a 44-24 loss without telling his boss. It was the final straw for GM Patrick Sullivan, who was not informed of the decision and heard about it second hand. Previously Sullivan had overruled Meyer on several trades he wanted to make, which included John Hannah, Julius Adams, Tony Collins, Mosi Tatupu and other key players.

 

Tiquan Underwood his hair

Happy 33rd birthday to Tiquan Underwood
Born February 17, 1987 in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Patriot WR, 2011; uniform #10
Signed as a free agent August 29, 2011

Jacksonville selected the Rutgers product in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. The Pats picked him up after being waived by the Jaguars for depth and special teams. The 2011 Patriots had a less than ideal mixture at wide receiver. Three players were on the wrong side of 30 (Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Johnson) and Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater were strictly special teams players. The Pats worked around that lack of depth by primarily using two tight end formations (and waiting too long to throw in the towel on Ochocinco).

Tiquan Underwood

Tiquan Underwood played in ten regular season games and two playoff games as the Pats in 2011, with three receptions. The media attempted to make a big story about the Pats cutting him just before Super Bowl 46, replacing him with Rutgers teammate Alex Silvestro. He was picked up by Tampa Bay in 2012, reuniting with his college coach Greg Schiano. Underwood had 52 receptions and six touchdowns in two seasons for the Bucs. He is now back at Rutgers as their wide receivers coach.

 

Happy 67th birthday to John Lee
Born February 17, 1953 in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
Patriot DE, 1981; uniform #66
Claimed off waivers from San Diego on November 16, 1981

John Lee started in four games for the Patriots at the end of the forgettable 1981 season. He played in 54 NFL games from 1976-1981, all the rest with the Chargers.

 

Offseason, practice squad and locals

Jake Kumerow, 28 (1992)
2017 Practice Squad
The wide receiver has spent the last two seasons in Green Bay, appearing in 19 games.

LeQuan Lewis, 31 (1989)
2013 Offseason and Training Camp
From 2012 to 2014 the cornerback played for the Cowboys, Bucs and Jets.

Mark Didio, 51 (1969)
University of Connecticut
The wide receiver played briefly with the Steelers in 1992. He is now Vice President of Global Specialty Sales at Melissa and Doug, an american manufacturer of children’s toys.

Arthur Forst (1891-1963)
Born in Derby, Connecticut
‘Dutch’ played for the Hartford Blues and Providence Steam Roller back in the twenties.

 

Today in Patriots History: Ross O’Hanley

John Morgan
February 16, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

Today in Patriots History
Ross ‘Rocky’ O’Hanley

 

Happy birthday to Ross O’Hanley, who would have been 81 today.
Born February 16, 1939 in Everett, Massachusetts.
Patriot safety, 1960-1965; uniform #25.

Ross O’Hanley was an original Boston Patriot. He rose from being an undrafted rookie to the starting safety on opening day. O’Hanley was named to the 1960 All-AFL Team, the equivalent of being a first team All-Pro today. With the exception of seven 1961 games missed due to military obligations he played in every game for the first six years of the franchise. His fifteen career interceptions still place him in the top twenty in Patriots history to this day.

Ross O'Hanley

In 1963 the Patriots played their first postseason game. This was in the days before tiebreakers. The Pats and Bills finished with identical records, and would compete a week after the regular season ended to determine the AFL East champion. Though it doesn’t sound like much now it was a big deal back then. The winner would play the following week for the league championship.

O’Hanley was part of a suffocating defense that led the way to victory that day. The safety intercepted Daryle Lamonica twice, one coming on Buffalo’s best drive of the first half. Although the Pats offense kept getting bogged down and settling for field goals, the defense made up for it. The D was near perfect, with the Patriots up 16-0 at halftime. By the time the game was over the Pats forced six Buffalo turnovers and won 26-8. It was the first division title in franchise history.

Ross O'Hanley

From the Boston Patriots 1965 Media Guide:

An original Patriot, Ross has been regular safety for the Patriots since their inception in 1960 save for a service hitch which required Ross to do duty during the Berlin crisis. He was All-League as a rookie in 1960. A quarterback at Everett’s Christopher Columbus High, Ross was shifted to defensive back at Boston College where he played under Pat’s Coach, Mike Holovak. At B.C. he won the 1960 Tom Scanlon trophy for combining topnotch football ability with qualities of loyalty and sportsmanship. Ross worked as an account executive for the Commonwealth National Bank.

Ross O'Hanley

Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame: Ross O’Hanley

January 15, 1960; from BC’s newspaper The Heights:

O’Hanley Perfect Choice For Tom Scanlon Memorial Award

“For Merit In Character, Scholarship, Football”

The Tom Scanlon Memorial Trophy award was presented to Ross O’Hanley at the Varsity Club banquet Sunday night by John B. Morris, president of the club.

Everyone who has enough interest in football to be reading this article knows that Ross typifies the good football player. This is no small statement to make about a defensive standout, who usually escapes the ordinary sports fan’s notice. The Holy Cross Stadium this year echoed cheers of “Stop ’em Ross” and applause resounding the enthusiastic support usually reserved for colorful offensive players was heaped on Ross.

Not everyone knows the amazing academic schedule Ross kept besides playing football. Yet these are the reasons he was chosen.

He is on the Dean’s List in the College of Business Administration with an 85 average. He is a member of the Executive Seminar, the Marketing Club, the Robert Bellarmine Government Academy, and is chairman of senior academic convocations. He also serves as assistant coach for a Pop Warner football team in Everett.

O’Hanley who played freshman football without the inspiration of financial assistance, hails from Christopher Columbus High School Everett. He is one of the few football players who commute.

In his speech, Ross emphasized the “mistaken notion that a student should not play a college sport unless he is receiving financial aid.” His reason for playing merely, “I like the game.” He attributed to parents, coaches, teachers, and friends a share in the award for inspiring him with a desire to play football and study.

 

1960 Boston Patriots at training camp in Concord

 

O’Hanley sadly died on April 2, 1972 from a brain tumor at the young age of 33 after he displayed CTE symptoms.

 

Jerod Mayo Retires

February 16, 2016: linebacker Jerod Mayo retires at the age of 29.

Mayo was the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowler. In 2010 he led the NFL in tackles and was a first team All Pro. After retiring Mayo worked with Optum, the technology division of United Health Care. He rejoined the Pats in 2019 as the team’s inside linebackers coach.

New England Patriots LB Jerod Mayo Retires | SI.com

Patriots’ Jerod Mayo announces his retirement | The Boston Globe

 

The 300 pound Ironman Triathlete

Happy 59th birthday to Darryl Haley.
Born February 16, 1961; from Los Angeles.
Patriot RT, 1982-1986; uniform #68.
Pats 2nd round (55th overall) selection of the 1982 draft, from Utah.

In 1982 the Patriots traded down in the second round. Dropping from #29 to #41 the Pats selected future Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. As part of that deal with San Francisco the Patriots received another second round pick which was used on Darryl Haley.

Darryl Haley

In his first two seasons Haley was used extensively on special teams, starting only two games when Bob Cryder was injured. In 1984 Cryder was traded to Seattle, and Haley started all 16 games for the Pats. However he missed the entire 1985 season due to colitis and Steve Moore took over as the starting right tackle. Haley filled in as the starter for six games in 1986 when Moore went down with a knee injury. The following year the Patriots traded Haley to Tampa Bay for a fourth round draft pick. Haley played in 57 games with 24 starts for New England. He finished his NFL career with Green Bay in 1988, having played in 79 regular season games and three playoff games.

After retiring from the NFL Haley sought another venue to quench his competitive fire. He became the first person to finish a triathlon that weighed over 300 pounds. Haley has worked as a corporate trainer and technology marketing strategist. He opened a bed and breakfast in 2001 and is an advocate for our national parks and monuments. Haley also has a passion for music and uses that as a way to help veterans and children.

 

Other February 16 Events

Happy 28th birthday to Marquis Flowers.
Born February 16, 1992 in Independence, Missouri.
Patriot LB, 2017; uniform #59.
Acquired on August 29, 2017 via trade from Cincinnati.

The Patriots received Flowers from Cincinnati in exchange for New England’s 2018 7th round (249th overall) draft pick. Marquis Flowers had 30 tackles (23 solo) with 3½ sacks, 5 tackles for a loss, and 4 quarterback hits in 1987. The outside linebacker was on the field for 27% of the defensive snaps and 46% of the special team plays. He also appeared in all three 2017 postseason games. In the 35-14 division round victory over Tennessee Flowers had four solo tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and one quarterback hit.​

Marquis Flowers

 

Happy 55th birthday to Todd Whitten.
Born February 16, 1965 in Dallas.
Patriot QB, 1987; uniform #15.

Todd Whitten was a 22-year old who got on the field for the final replacement player game in the ’87 strike season. The Texas Tech graduate has been coaching football at various levels for over thirty years. Whitten was head coach at Sam Houston State for five years. He just received a six year extension as head coach at Tarleton State, a division two school in Texas.

 

One other February 16 New England pro football player connections

Ralph Marston
Born and raised in Malden. Marston went to Boston University and briefly played QB for the 1929 Boston Bulldogs, in the NFL’s eighth year of existence.

 

Today in Patriots History: Art Modell fires Bill Belichick

John Morgan
February 15, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

Today in Patriots History
Art Modell fires Bill Belichick

On February 15, 1996 Art Modell fired Bill Belichick.

Conventional wisdom is that the Browns fired Belichick but that is not factually correct. Six days prior to his termination the NFL owners approved the franchise’s move to Baltimore. The league also announced an agreement with Cleveland that would keep the Browns name and history in the city for a new team to begin play by 1999. Technically Belichick was fired by a Baltimore franchise that had yet to be named the Ravens.

Regardless of the timeline, Cleveland never embraced BB – and the Browns seem to have suffered from the Curse of Belichick ever since. While it is true (and often repeated) that the Browns had a losing record under Belichick, fans and sports writers should dig a bit deeper before jumping to conclusions.

Nick Saban was Bill Belichick's first hire in Cleveland

Belichick inherited an aging three-win team with bad contracts, placing it in a very poor salary cap position. Two years later QB Bernie Kosar had become insubordinate, freelancing and changing plays to the detriment of the team and contrary to the game plan. Owner Art Modell and all the coaches were unanimous in the decision to cut Kosar. Everyone knew cutting a local product that was well liked by both the fans and press would be difficult. Then when Modell was bombarded with questions by the media he shriveled and hung Belichick out to dry for releasing the fan favorite.

Those circumstances plus an injury to Vinny Testaverde led to a third mediocre season: 6-10, 7-9, 7-9. One year later the Browns went 11-5, and defeated Bill Parcells and the Patriots in the playoffs. Year Five began with a 3-point loss at Foxboro, followed by three solid victories – by a cumulative score of 71-30. At that one-quarter point of the 1995 season the Browns were considered to be one of the top two or three teams in the NFL.

Rather than waiting until the season was finished, Modell inexplicably announced the team would relocate for the 1996 season. It was unchartered territory for any head coach to navigate. With an unprecedented amount of distractions the Browns won just two more games.

Bill Belichick in Cleveland

The Browns are now on their 12th head coach since Belichick. In that time they have made it to the playoffs once, losing in the wild card round. Since resuming operations in 1999 the Browns have a record of 96-224-1. The last Cleveland head coach to win a playoff game was Belichick, in 1994 – before many NFL fans were born.

Art Modell fired not one, but two of the greatest coaches in football history: Belichick and Paul Brown. That alone should permanently exclude him from any consideration for the Hall of Fame.

The silver lining is that Bill Belichick learned valuable lessons from his time in Cleveland. In order to avoid a repeat scenario he walked away from the Jets and instead became head coach of the Patriots. The Bernie Kosar situation taught him how to transition from a fan favorite to a better option at quarterback. And the move to Baltimore was a lesson on how to maintain focus and ‘ignore the noise’ outside the locker room.

 

February 15 Birthdays

Happy 63rd birthday to Marc Wilson
Born February 15, 1957; from Shoreline, Washington
Patriot QB, 1989-1990; uniform #15
Signed as a veteran free agent on March 22, 1989

Oakland drafted Marc Wilson fifteenth overall in 1980, from BYU. In 1982 he led the team to four 4th quarter comebacks and in ’85 he had an 11-2 record as the starting quarterback. However he made more top-ten appearances in sacks and interceptions than passing yards or touchdowns. At age 32 he was simply a stop gap and part of a carousel at quarterback until the Pats would eventually draft Drew Bledsoe. Wilson played in thirty games for the Pats, going 1-9 as a starter with nine touchdowns and 16 picks.

Marc WilsonMarc Wilson stats

 

Happy birthday to Tom Hennessey, who would have been 78 today
Born February 15, 1942; from Brookline (1942-2012)
Patriot CB, 1965-1966; uniform #30

Tom Hennessey played with the semi-pro Boston Sweepers for one year after graduating from Holy Cross. That led to a tryout for the Patriots, and playing pro football at Fenway Park just a few miles from where he grew up. Hennessey was an overachiever, and after two seasons banging heads with guys forty pounds heavier he decided to step away from football. He never missed a single game in his two seasons with the Pats, recording eight interceptions. He went on to a 28-year career in the Boston public school system and also served on Brookline’s Board of Selectman and School Committee.

Tom Hennessey
Oct 31, 1965: Tom Hennessey intercepts a pass intended for Lance Alworth in a 22-6 victory at San Diego.

The obituary below is well worth the read:
Tom Hennessey: Brookline’s humble sports hero

 

Other players born on this date with a New England connection

Brian Brennan, 58 (1962)
Boston College
Gerard Phelan was the player that caught Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary. Brian Brennan was the other BC wide receiver, that went on to play nine seasons in the NFL. Brennan played in 132 NFL games, mostly with Cleveland. He had 334 receptions with 20 touchdowns, plus 24 more catches and four TD in the postseason. Since then Brennan has worked in the financial industry and is now a Managing Director at Key Bank.

Mule Werwaiss (1905-1965)
Born in New Haven; Dean Academy, Franklin MA
Elbert Werwaiss played nine games as a tackle for the 1926 Hartford Blues.

Bill Kovacsy (1901-1980)
Born in Bridgeport, CT
Offensive lineman for his hometown Hammond Pros.

Dan Ahern (1898-1963)
Born and raised in Manchester NH; Manchester Central High School
Another lineman, Ahern was a Georgetown grad who played for the Washington Senators.

Charlie Clark (1898-1960)
Born in Somerville; Milton Academy; Harvard
Clark is the only person from Milton Academy to make it to the NFL. He played for the Chicago Cardinals in 1924.

Paul Dufault, 56 (1964)
Born in Bridgeport; Spaulding HS, Rochester NH; University of New Hampshire
The center played with the raiders briefly in the eighties. He is one of only two NFL players from Spaulding High School.

 

Today in Patriots History: Drew Bledsoe

John Morgan
February 14, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

Today in Patriots History
Drew Bledsoe

Happy birthday to Drew Bledsoe. The Patriots Hall of Fame quarterback was the face of the franchise from 1993 to 2000. His strong arm resulted in clutch plays and 17 fourth quarter comebacks. Bledsoe led the Pats to the playoffs four times in his first six seasons and their first super bowl appearance in eleven years. More importantly he gave fans hope and excitement after the dark period between those two AFC championships.

 

 

Happy 48th birthday to Drew Bledsoe
Born February 14, 1972 in Ellensburg, Washington
Patriot QB, 1993-2001; uniform #11
Pats first round (first overall) selection of the 1993 draft, from Washington State

 

 

Drew Bledsoe broke franchise passing records for attempts, completions and yards. With no running game behind him Bledsoe threw 691 passes in 1994, an NFL record that stood for 18 years. That same season he set NFL records for pass attempts and completions in a single game, an epic battle against the Vikings. That victory was the beginning of a seven game winning streak that pushed the Patriots into the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

 

It seems unfathomable now, but there was a time when people genuinely believed the Patriots should draft Rick Mirer over Bledsoe. Thankfully the Pats selected the kid from Walla Walla over the Notre Dame hype machine. Bledsoe is one of only two players to complete 400 passes in a single season in the 20th century and one of only five from that time period to pass for over 4,500 yards in a season. The most important aspect about Drew was that he made New England fans proud of the Patriots, rejuvenating a region after some embarrassing times – and creating excitement about the team that would result in their staying put and not moving away.

 

 

Other Patriot February 11 Birthdays and Events, Part One

 

Happy 34th birthday to Rich Ohrnberger
Born February 14, 1986 in East Meadow, New York
Patriot guard, 2009-2010; uniform #68, #62, #60
Pats fourth round (123rd overall) selection of the 2009 draft, from Penn State

“If you have ever seen your butthole you can’t say it was an accident; there are just too many steps involved for it to happen by accident.”
– Rich Ohrnberger

The Patriots originally signed Rich Ohrnberger as a backup that could eventually replace Stephen Neal. He began 2009 on the practice squad and later appeared in three games. Rich had an opportunity in 2010 when Logan Mankins held out in a contract dispute but Dan Connolly took over at left guard instead, with Ryan Wendell getting 11 starts. Ohrnberger struggled in preseason action and was on the field for just two games that year. He was waived at the end of the 2011 season after spending the year on injured reserve due to a concussion.

Ohrnberger spent one season with Arizona and two with San Diego, appearing in a total of 39 NFL games. He is known for his offbeat humor, such as doing handstands in the shower room. The reason for that he stated was because it was ‘the best way to get the undercarriage completely clean’. Today Ohrnberger works as a radio host on Fox Sports Radio and is a color analyst for San Diego State football games.

“I’ve had both shoulders operated on, part of a clavicle bone removed, spent a season on IR because of a concussion, ruptured my MCL, and had back surgery. That’s the abbreviated list. Football is about dealing with pain. It’s unavoidable, but it wears you down.”

“I don’t know Andrew Luck, but he isn’t a coward, he loves football, and he isn’t giving up because rehabilitating injuries is ‘too hard.’ Everyone has their steak and bourbon moment eventually. His was in front of the world, and he handled it with class and poise.”
– Rich Ohrnberger on the harsh realities of being a professional football, responding to those who criticized Andrew Luck for retiring.

 

Other Patriot February 11 Birthdays and Events, Part Two

 

Happy birthday to Clive Rush, who would have been 89 today
Born February 14, 1931 in De Graff, Ohio (1931-1980)
Patriot head coach, 1969-1970

Clive Rush was the offensive coordinator for the Jets when Joe Namath was named player of the year, and the Jets stunned Baltimore by winning what would later be known as Super Bowl III. That game led Billy Sullivan to hire Rush rather than his other candidate, the defensive coordinator from the Colts: Chuck Noll.

His tenure began on an ominous note, nearly being electrocuted to death (see the Feb 12 entry). From there it went downhill, with horrible trades (Nick Buoniconti, Leroy Mitchell) with virtually zero value in return. Rush was also a tightwad that resulted in good players being cut. One such money saving confrontation resulted in another infamous Patriots incident. Rush cut players just before the game was about to start over a salary dispute. The problem with that he now needed players for the kickoff. Rush had the public announcer page Bob Gladieux to come to the locker room, quickly sign a contract and get on the field.

In another instance Rush came up with the idea of the Black Power Defense, apparently a hat tip to what was happening in the USA in 1969. Clive bragged that he would be the first coach in NFL history with eleven black players on the field at the same time. Problem was that he neglected to notice that he did not have enough African American players on his defensive roster to make that happen.

1970: Clive Rush and Mike Ballou

Rush was paranoid about many things, such as opponents listening to locker room conversations with hidden microphones. That fear led him to another iconic moment in Houston. When returning from a game at the Astrodome he convinced himself that the driver was taking him on the scenic route in order to increase the fare. Rush vehemently complained and ordered the driver to stop. He then got off the bus and wandered into the middle of the street. Holding his hand up Rush commanded oncoming traffic to stop and waved the bus through a one-way street: the wrong way.

 

Other Patriot February 11 Birthdays and Events, Part Three

 

Happy 57th birthday to Jeff Dellenbach
Born February 14, 1963 in Wausau, Wisconsin
Patriot OL, 1995-1996; uniform #66
Signed as a veteran free agent on March 6, 1995

Jeff Dellenbach played with Miami for ten years, replacing Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson in 1987. He appeared in 17 games with the Pats, and played in 211 games over the course of his fifteen year NFL career. Dellenbach hurt his back and was replaced in the starting lineup by Dave Wohlabaugh. When Dellenbach was ready to return Bill Parcells liked the play of the 23 year old enough that he waived Dellenbach on September 10, 1996. Late that season the Packers signed Dellenbach for veteran depth on their line, and the Wisconsin native ended up winning a ring in Green Bay’s super bowl victory over the Patriots.

Dellenbach had a bit role in the 1994 movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective as one of the Miami Dolphins players. Since retiring he worked as an assistant offensive line coach for Miami from 2003-2005, and as a high school football coach in south Florida. Dellenbach now runs a football camp for high school student athletes and a charitable organization for severely ill and injured children.

 

Happy 51st birthday to Harry Colon
Born February 14, 1969 in Kansas City
Patriot safety, 1991; uniform #40
Pats eighth round (196th overall) selection of the 1991 draft, from Missouri

Harry Colon started 14 games as a rookie during Dick MacPherson’s first season as head coach in Foxborough. He played in the NFL from ’91 to ’97 and is now a high school head football coach in Houston.

 

Happy birthday to Phil Bennett, who would have been 85 today
Born February 14, 1935 (1935-2002)
Patriot LB, 1960; uniform #52

Not much info on this original Patriots thanks to another pro football player with the same name. He was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 1957, from the University of Miami. Our Mr. Bennett played in two games for the Pats in their inaugural 1960 season.

 

Happy birthday to Willis Perkins, who would have been 86 today
Born February 14, 1934 in Columbus, Texas (1934-1989)
Patriot defensive end  and guard, 1961-1962

The lineman from Texas Southern only played in one game with the Pats, but did win an AFL championship with the Houston Oilers. Perkins was one of many great players from Texas Southern at that time that went on to play in the NFL despite not being in a power conference. Other from that era include Patriot WR Charlie Frazier, Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, Warren Wells, Winston Hill, Art Strahan, and more.

 

Some other pro football players born on this date with a New England connection:

Tom McNamara (1896-1943)
Lifelong resident of Clinton, MA; Tufts University
Tom was an NFL guard and fullback from 1923-1926.

Patrick Ramsey, 41 (1979)
Draft Pick Trade
In 2002 the Pats traded a third and seventh round pick in order to move up from #32 to #21 in the first round. The Patriots used that selection on TE Daniel Graham. Washington selected QB Patrick Ramsey at #32; he went 10-14 as a starting QB.

Jason Phillips, 34 (1986)
Draft Pick Trade
His draft pick (#137, fifth round in 2009) was traded by Philadelphia to New England in exchange for CB Ellis Hobbs. The Pats then traded that same pick to San Diego for two draft picks, which they used on OL Rich Ohrnberger and LS Jake Ingram.

 

Today in Patriots History: Bethel Johnson

John Morgan
February 11, 2020 at 5:50 am ET

Today in Patriots History

Bethel Johnson

 

The New England Patriots kick returner, wide receiver and two time Super Bowl champion turns 41 today. Johnson is best remembered for an electrifying 41 yard touchdown reception in a freezing cold playoff game against Tennessee.

Happy 41st birthday to Bethel Johnson
Born February 11, 1979 in Dallas
Patriot KR and WR, 2003-2005; uniform #81
Pats 2nd round (45th overall) selection of the 2003 draft, from Texas A&M

Bethel Johnson grew up in the Dallas suburb of Corsicana, then traveled a couple hours south to Texas A&M. As a member of the Aggies he set what was then a school record for receptions and receiving yards. He and Ty Warren were teammates at College Station.

Johnson had modest numbers as a member of the Patriots. In 39 regular season games he made seven starts, with 30 receptions for 450 yards and four touchdowns. His performance on kickoff returns was superior, averaging 25.1 yards on 102 returns with two touchdowns.

 

Those numbers back up a case for Bethel Johnson being a major draft bust when considering how early he was selected. The question that is not asked though is why did the Patriots use a second round pick on Johnson, when they already had two young receivers (David Givens, Deion Branch) and a pair of solid veterans (Troy Brown, David Patten)? Considering the competition it is no wonder Johnson saw limited playing time.

 

That is not to say that Bethel Johnson did not have any memorable moments for Pats fans. In 2003 he returned a kickoff 92 yards against the Colts as time in the first half expired, giving the Patriots a 24-10 lead. That was the same game that ended with Willie McGinest stonewalling Edgerrin James on 4th-and-1 for a 38-34 victory. Then in the 2003 postseason versus Tennessee Johnson had another clutch performance. In the freezing cold he hauled in a 41 yard pass for a touchdown to give the Pats an early lead. Then on 3rd-and-13 Johnson took a screen pass and managed to gain 14 yards, leading to New England’s second touchdown.

 

The Patriots went undefeated in Bethel Johnson’s six postseason games.

As a rookie Johnson made it a point to put money away and plan for the future. He is now back in Texas working as a financial adviser.

“I got into this about three years ago, because I wanted to help our guys in this industry to stop going broke and help guys understand how money works. I look at it as, ‘These guys are my brothers.’ Whether they played before me, or after me, we’re all in the same fraternity. The last thing you want to read is that a player’s money was mismanaged by someone who took advantage of them. I understand what players go through, because I was one of those guys, but I was different in how I saw money. I wasn’t a big spender.”

“I got my signing bonus and said, ‘Listen, I may never see this money again, so I want this to last me the rest of my life. What I don’t want to do is go back to being broke.’ That was the game plan.”

 

Other February 10 Patriots birthdays

Happy 23rd birthday to Damien Harris
Born February 11, 1997 in Richmond, Kentucky
Patriot RB, 2019-present; uniform #37
Pats third round (87th overall) selection of the 2019 draft, from Alabama

2019 was a redshirt season for Damien Harris. He was out with a hamstring injury for three games and was a healthy scratch fifteen times. His playing time was limited to brief appearances in two games against the Jets. In week three Harris was on the field for five special team snaps, and in week seven he had four carries for twelve yards while getting off the bench for five plays. Even when the Patriots were thin at running back due to Rex Burkhead’s injury Harris was invisible.

 

Happy birthday to Dick Klein, who would have been 86 today
1934-2005; born in Pana, Illinois
Patriot OT and DT, 1961-1962; uniform #62
Signed as a veteran free agent on August 4, 1961

Richard James ‘Sleepy’ Klein began his pro football career as a draft pick by the Chicago Bears in 1955. He played in 24 games over two seasons with the Boston Patriots. In 1962 Klein and Charlie Long were both named to the AFL All-Star team at offensive tackle. In his post-football career Dick Klein owned and operated his own business selling municipal and industrial chemicals.

1961 Boston Patriots

 

Happy 66th birthday to Ricky Feacher
Born February 11, 1954 in Crystal River, Florida
Patriot WR, 1976; uniform #83
Pats tenth round (270th overall) selection of the 1976 draft, from Mississippi Valley State

Ricky Feacher made the initial roster as a rookie in 1976, appearing in the first three games of the season. He had two receptions for 38 yards and returned ten kickoffs. Unfortunately he also fumbled the ball three times, although he was at least able to recover two of those miscues. Chuck Fairbanks released Feacher the day after a week three game turnover filled game against Pittsburgh. Cleveland picked Feacher up two weeks later and he would go on to play nine seasons with the Browns.

 

Other Feb 11 birthdays with a New England connection

Dennis Gaubatz, 80 (1940)
Pats 25th round (199th overall) selection of the 1963 AFL draft
The Patriots took a late round flyer on the linebacker from LSU. Gaubatz opted to sign with Detroit, who had drafted him in the eighth round of the NFL draft. He was a seven year starter in the NFL and played for the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Max Bullough, 28 (1992)
Grandson of Patriot coach Hank Bullough
Linebacker with the Texans from 2014-2016.

Alex Clement (1904-1970)
Born in Plymouth MA; Chicopee High School; Phillips Exeter; Williams College
Frankford Yellow Jackets wingback in the twenties.

Sam Young (1905-1991)
Providence Steam Roller
Halfback played briefly during the 1927 season.

 

Building the 2020 Patriots Roster, Where are the Biggest Needs?

Steve Balestrieri
January 17, 2020 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots have a lot of work to do in the offseason and although the new league year doesn’t begin until March, their 2020 season starts now. They have to replace another coordinator (STs/WR coach Joe Judge) and perhaps their college scouting director (Monti Ossenfort) who is being interviewed for the open Cleveland Browns GM position.

Then there are a slew of the team’s free agents to decide upon. We’ll get to those in good time as we’ll take a look at where the team needs are. And a lot of what drives the train is always money. The Patriots have about $49 million to spend. It sounds like a lot. It is not. Especially when considering if the Patriots cut ties with Tom Brady is will cost them $13.5 million in dead money and a new contract will not come cheaply. 

So, let’s take a dive into the roster by position …as currently constructed and see where they’re at.

Quarterback: 

Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
*Free agent: Tom Brady 

The Elephant in the room and all of the ridiculous (and it IS as ridiculous as it is maddening) drivel about non-existent homes in Greenwich, his luxury suite at Gillette and the amateur psychologists who became overnight experts at reading body language and hidden meaning in every word of his have gotten out of control.

Our feeling here hasn’t changed. We feel that Brady will return given that the Patriots don’t really want to ear $13.5 million bucks. Plus, there isn’t anyone on the roster that is a no-brainer to take over. Stidham may well be that guy, but we don’t know and haven’t seen him take a meaningful snap in months.  So until Bill Belichick or Brady comes out and definitely says he’s not returning, we’re going under the assumption he’ll be back.

Running Back:

Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris, Fullbacks James Develin, Jakob Johnson 

Here is where things can get interesting. The team is set here at running back. In fact they’re a little too deep. They could add $4 million in cap space by releasing Rex Burkhead. However, Burkhead was their most productive back down the stretch, as he was a year ago. But injuries always seem to cut into his season and the team just spent a good draft pick on Damien Harris. Burkhead is a guy to keep an eye on. 

Develin had a neck injury and those can be tough to come back from. Don’t be shocked if they add another fullback this spring.

Wide Receiver: 

Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (future), Devin Ross (future)
*Free agent: Phillip Dorsett

The need for a speedy, reliable wide receiver here is critical. Edelman is going to be 34, Sanu will get all spring/summer to acclimate into the offense. Meyers and Harry will be fine. A lot of their issues had to do with overthinking things and that will be rectified in Year  2. Look for them to try to sign a fast, veteran outside wide receiver, possibly two and cut their ties with Dorsett. 

Tight End: 

Matt LaCosse Ryan Izzo
*Free agent: Ben Watson 

The most critical need of the Patriots, of the offense and the team overall. The offense really lacked a viable target down the seams all season.  Look for Ben Watson to retire and the team to double-dip here. Look for the team to sign a veteran free agent (Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry?) or try to swing a trade for an established veteran (O.J. Howard attempt again). And then address the need again with a young guy in the draft. 

Offensive Line:  

Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Najee Toran (future)
*Free agents: James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse, Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor (RFA) 

Another area of need. We heard through the grapevine that Marcus Cannon won’t be returning. If he doesn’t it will free up $5.8 million in cap space, despite him signing an extension last summer. Coupled with the unlikely scenario of Joe Thuney returning means the offensive line has a lot of work to do. 

Yodny Cajuste didn’t take a snap in either a game or practice last year. So, expecting him to just jump in and start is a very long shot. Is Froholdt going to be ready? Doubtful too. Look for the Patriots to bring back Karras and Eluemunor for sure and then address tackle and guard in either free agency or the draft. 

Defensive Line:  

Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman (future), Tashawn Bower (future)
*Free agents: Danny Shelton, Adam Butler (RFA), Keionta Davis (ERFA) 

Look for the team to attempt to bring back Shelton and Butler. But they’d still need at least another big run stuffer and a defensive end that can rush the QB. 

Linebacker:  

Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Brandon King, Terez Hall (future)
*Free agents: Shilique Calhoun, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy 

Winovich should be in line for a big uptick in snaps this season. He’s more of a pass rusher than a coverage guy and I’d expect he’ll be tasked with filling the big shoes of Van Noy. I don’t expect Van Noy back this year, he’s in line for a big payday. I do expect them to make a push to bring back both Collins and Roberts. 

Calhoun may come back and flashed some potential. Rivers is going to have to have a big spring or he may not even be around for training camp.  Retooling Hightower’s contract could free up some space.

Cornerback: 

Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, D’Angelo Ross 

The Patriots are in great shape here. With Gilmore, Jackson, and Jones, they have three starting corners who excel at their position. Williams played sparingly in his rookie season and could be ready for a big uptick in snaps. That could put McCourty on the block. If the team were to release him, they’d save an additional $3.8 million.  Also, reworking Gilmore’s contract could free up some cap space

Safety: 

Patrick Chung Duron Harmon Terrence Brooks Obi Melifonwu (future) Malik Gant Adarius Pickett (future)
*Free agent: Devin McCourty 

Big decisions loom here. McCourty arguably had the best season of his career in 2019 and would normally be ready for a big payday. But he’s 33 and with both he and Chung are getting older, the team needs to begin to address the future. Harmon has ostensibly been a starter for several years. Gant flashed a bit in camp last year while Brooks played well. I’d expect they’ll try to bring back McCourty for one more year, but it is time to bring in some younger players and get them groomed for down the road.  

Special Teams:  

K Stephen Gostkowski P Jake Bailey LS Joe Cardona
*Free agents: Nick Folk, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Justin Bethel 

I don’t see the team bringing Folk back and I think they’ll bring in another kicker for competition with Gostkowski this summer. Matthew Slater is the gold standard for special teams players. I expect the team to bring him back and to make an effort to bring back both Ebner and Bethel.

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

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

Patriots Free Agents Will Demand Several Important Decisions

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm ET

A look at the Patriots impending free agents shows that the team will be forced to make several very important decisions moving forward. There are several key players, especially on the defense that will require the team to decide whether to bring back those players or not once the new league year begins in March. 

The biggest question the Patriots have right now is are they all-in for another big push for a 7th Super Bowl, or is this a rebuilding year, where they break it down and start anew. Much of that answer will have to do with the first name on the list.

If he returns then it would most certainly mean that they’re planning on retooling for another run. The team has already lost STs/WR coach Joe Judge who is the new head coach of the New York Giants. That is the first big domino to fall.

First, here is a look at the Patriots free agents in 2020: 

Tom Brady
Devin McCourty
Kyle Van Noy
Matthew Slater
Phillip Dorsett
Nate Ebner
Jamie Collins
Danny Shelton
Nick Folk
Marshall Newhouse
Joe Thuney
Ben Watson
Shilique Calhoun
James Ferentz
Ted Karras
Elandon Roberts

Three players will be restricted free agents:
Keionta Davis
Jermaine Eluemunor
Adam Butler

Obviously, a lot hinges on Brady’s status. Are the Patriots going to bring him back for one more year? From a monetary standpoint, it would be beneficial to do so, if Brady leaves, the Patriots are on the hook for $13.5 million. Can the two sides work out fair compensation for both parties, but still allow them to retool and add enough weapons? 

This is the big one. Because if Brady returns (and we think he will), then they may feel they only lack a player or two to make another run. While they start the new year with seemingly plenty of cap space, a new Brady contract will eat a lot of that up. If they decide to move on from Brady, does this mean Jarrett Stidham is the man? And if so, does the offense change too? Interesting times ahead.

So who goes? I think that Kyle Van Noy will command a lot of cash in free agency and has earned his payday, with 6.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and a team-leading 58 QB pressures. No one else had more than 33. I think he’s gone. 

Joe Thuney will be one of the most sought-after guards in free agency.  He earned 2nd team All-Pro and has never missed a game…he’s gone too as he’ll get a big payday.

Jamie Collins came back to NE on a one-year prove-it type deal and he had an outstanding start to the season. While he finished quietly, what he showed early this season should earn him a healthy payday. His type of athleticism can’t be taught. 

Phillip Dorsett is a popular guy in the locker room, but after a very nice start to the season, he disappeared down the stretch with three catches in the final five games of the season and had only 29 catches on the year. I’d be surprised if he comes back.

Ben Watson came out of retirement to play for the Patriots one more time this season. He was released early but brought back and handled it the way he always has, with class. One of the nicest people to play the game, he had a disappointing season but still led all NE tight ends in receptions. He is likely to retire again, judging from his postgame comments. 

One of the toughest calls to make will be with Devin McCourty, a team leader on and off the field, McCourty had arguably his best season with the Patriots in 2019. His age and the amount of money it will take to bring him back will make it a difficult proposition. It may get compounded by if the team decides to cut ties with his brother Jason. I think they’ll try to work out a deal with him to stay for one more year. But if one of his former coaches wows him with a big-money deal, who knows?

Danny Shelton went from a healthy scratch late in the 2018 season to one of the team’s most important defensive linemen. He and Lawrence Guy were outstanding this season in the interior as run stuffers. 

Matthew Slater is a borderline Hall of Famer for Special Teams, a team captain and a huge veteran presence in the locker room. Any signs of aging in this 12th season at age 34? Not a bit. He was a 1st team All-Pro this year. It would be a huge surprise not to see Slater back in 2020. 

Elandon Roberts’ snaps went to a career-low defensively this season but if anything he’s improved his stock with the team. With James Develin and Jakob Johnson on IR, Roberts stepped up and played fullback and did a very commendable job. Belichick loves versatile guys who put the team first. 

Nate Ebner is a Belichick guy, a tough as nails STs guy, one of the better STs guys in the league… Will he back? Belichick wore his rugby jersey at joint TC practice with the Saints a few years ago…any questions?

Nick Folk stepped in (twice) for the Patriots this year with Stephen Gostkowski on IR and played pretty well. The only FG he missed was blocked. Gostkowski’s status may have a play in this, but the feeling is here, they’ll move on but keep his number just in case.

Marshall Newhouse started nine games this season, eight at LT for Isaiah Wynn, one for Marcus Cannon at RT. He’s played for seven teams in his career and is now 31. We’ll have to see how the Patriots feel about the return of Yodny Cajuste but the feeling here is they’ll let Newhouse walk. 

Ted Karras filled in for David Andrews all year at center, when the veteran suffered from blood clots in his lungs. Can Andrews even return to football this year? I think Karras returns and will battle for a guard spot if Thuney leaves and Andrews returns or is the team’s center if he doesn’t. James Ferentz is a backup interior lineman and won’t break the bank to get to return. He did make two starts this year inside. It will be interesting to see how Hjalte Froholdt works out. 

Shalique Calhoun is a situational pass rusher and he played in 15 games this year, at times pretty well. If the money’s right, he’ll be back. Ditto for Keionta Davis who spent the entire season on IR.

Adam Butler should be brought back. He notched six sacks, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss and five passes knocked down as an interior situational pass rusher. Great depth guy who can step up when needed. 

Jermaine Eluemunor is an interior OL who the Patriots traded a 4th round draft pick for this summer. He only played a handful of snaps this year and was a healthy scratch for most of the season. It shouldn’t break the bank for him as well. 

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

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