Tag Archives: 2019 Patriots offseason

New England Patriots News 4-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-21 and AFC East Notes.

We would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter today.

The Patriots began their offseason conditioning work this week in Gillette. While no one gets a look at what they do, the Patriots always put a premium on being one of the fittest teams in the league. The endurance that begins now and goes thru the July/August sprints up the hills carries the team to wins in December and January.

Keep this in mind; In 2016, 72 of the 256 NFL regular season games were won by a team that trailed in the 4th quarter. That doesn’t include the Super Bowl (28-3).

ICYMI: Our third attempt at predicting how the Patriots will draft, Mock Draft 3.0 was conducted last week with some trades thrown into the mix. You can recap it again here:  Mock Draft 2.0 an attempt on beefing up the weaker parts of the roster was our previous attempt. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we had ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. That can be heard here:

We will do one more pre-draft podcast where we’ll take a stab at predicting the entire first round of the draft and then see who the Patriots may target.

Quick Hitters:

Rob Gronkowski was back in the news and the Patriots released a video of the behind the scenes look at the Fenway Park celebration. Several players were warming up for the ceremonial first pitch and Gronk decided to stand in the batter’s box against Julian Edelman. He went farther though and used a Lombardi Trophy for bat and bunted a pitch, putting a huge dent in the back of the football of the trophy.

That video can be seen here: Classic Gronkowski…BTW the Patriots have no intentions of fixing the dent…It now has personality….Going out with a bang.

Benjamin Watson who was thought to be retiring is said to be considering a return to the NFL this season. After the birth of the twins he’s expecting, Watson may return to playing “in the right situation” according to Adam Schefter. While that probably means a return to the Saints, seeing Watson play one more season with the Patriots wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

Ben Watson catches a TD against the Bills on MNF in 2009.

Brandon Bolden signed a one-year deal to return to the Patriots and it is like coming home again for the veteran STs standout and backup RB. Bolden has always been one of the most popular players in the locker room and last year, the Patriots players made it clear to him when they saw him that his locker remained untouched.

Bolden remarked that his year in Miami was like “going away to college” but is happy to be back. “For some strange reason, every time I did something, I could hear Bill (Belichick) cussing me out like, ‘No, that’s not how we do it,’” Bolden said. “And I was like, ‘You’re right. I’ve got to do it the right way.’ I had great coaching… and it just carried me all through last year. Like, the entire time. I’m happy to be back, excited to get back to work. I missed this place.” And you were missed…especially on STs.

D’Qwell Jackson just wants his football back. The Colts linebacker who inadvertently started the entire Deflategate fiasco by intercepting a Brady pass in the AFC Championship Game and giving it to an equipment manager to keep, and then having this equipment guy turn the ball over to the NFL. Now Jackson has sent a letter to Tom Brady asking for his help getting his football back…. A hilarious bit here and definitely worth another watch.

Allen Bailey is a name to keep an eye on this spring. The former Chiefs DL is a free agent and came in to New England for a visit. Bailey is probably waiting to sign anywhere until after the draft to see where he’ll be asked to be a bigger piece of the puzzle. If the Patriots don’t get one of the top tier defensive linemen in the draft, don’t be shocked to see Bailey get an offer from New England.

Daniel Jones is reportedly getting a longer look by the Patriots??? CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote in his column this bit about New England allegedly liking Daniel Jones the more they think about it:

This could become a spot for Daniel Jones. The Duke QB is a polarizing prospect who hasn’t exactly wowed everyone he’s been around… I continue to hear the Patriots have taken a shine to him. Is he their pick at 32? I’m not so sure. Maybe the Patriots would move up a bit for him.” While they did have him in for a visit, moving up to pick Jones? Not buying into that.

NFL Schedule Release Means Super Overreaction Day:

With the NFL releasing the schedule on Wednesday night, we were once again reminded what an absolute sieve Park Avenue is, as their celebrated release show was rendered moot by an avalanche of schedule teasers, who took the thunder out of the NFL’s release. Operational Security is not high there. Hmmm, didn’t we mention that about 4 years ago? But we digress…

It is always fascinating to gauge fans’ reaction when the schedule is released, even though they’ve already known who the opponents are, just not how they play out. For Patriots fans, the mantra has gone from a worrisome lack of offensive weapons to many proclamations of the team running the table on the first 7-8 weeks of the schedule. What changed? Shouldn’t we wait for those predictions until at least the draft is over?

Even more predictable is the reaction from the fans from other teams, especially those fan bases from rivals (you know who they are). With the perpetual lament about how the Patriots make the playoffs every year only because the AFC East is so weak. Ugh.

It was refreshing to see a national NFL reporter Field Yates, put that ridiculous and overblown take in proper perspective. However, you can set your clock by these overreactions and depending upon the area code how it means completely different things, again depending on your point of view.

Tweet by Field Yates on AFC East

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. There was a report released by the Attorney General this week and depending upon which side of the aisle one sits on, the takes on that were so different, you would’ve thought they were two totally different reports. Signs of the times.  

Chris Hogan Now A Panther and Still a Misunderstood Player:

Not surprisingly Chris Hogan has moved on in free agency after three seasons with the Patriots. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers that is worth up to $2 million, a pretty modest figure, which highlights that the Patriots were ready to move on and try to get younger and more athletic at the position (we’ll see).

Hogan wasn’t brought here to be a #1 receiver, that isn’t who he is and never will be. He’s a complementary guy who can and has provided solid production if he’s part of a solid rotation of players on offense.  

And while no one will argue that Hogan had a frustrating year, his numbers were nearly the same in all three seasons with the Patriots.

Chris Hogan during 2018 mini-camp (SBalestrieri photo)

2016 – 15 games, 58 targets, 38 receptions, 680 yards 17.9 avg. 4 TDs

2016 had the Patriots loaded offensively. Julian Edelman had nearly 100 catches (98) and 1106 yards, Danny Amendola, Martellus Bennett, Gronkowski, Malcolm Mitchell, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield. Teams could pick their poison and Hogan often drew the lesser of the opposing team’s corners and feasted (see Pittsburgh AFCCG) with his stellar yards per reception.

2017 – 9 games, 59 targets, 34 receptions, 439 yards, 12.9 avg. 5 TDs

Hogan got off to a hot start in 2017 then was hurt and was never quite the same which made his yards per reception average drop by a large margin, although the one from the year before was unsustainable. Again, the Patriots had a plethora of pass catchers beginning with Brandin Cooks with 65 for over 1000 yards, Gronk returned healthy with a 69 catch 1000 yard season. Danny Amendola had 61 catches and the trio of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White out of the backfield had 118 catches.

2018 – 16 games, 55 targets, 35 receptions, 532 yards, 15.2 avg. 3 TDs

What a difference a year makes. Edelman was suspended for the first four games of the year. Gronkowski was hobbling all season, Cooks was gone and replaced by Josh Gordon who chipped in 40 catches. Amendola, Mitchell, and Cooks were gone, Phillip Dorsett chipped in with 32 catches. A mess of injuries in the summer decimated the WR position.

Despite struggling to gain separation, and often ignored, Hogan’s targets and catches remained almost identical to his first two years. But with the offense clicking at a much lower rate than the standard that we’ve become accustomed to, he was singled out often for criticism. Fair or not, it is what it is.

Hogan would be the first to say that he didn’t have a good year in 2018. That is who he is. But let’s not do the normal thing here and kick the guy on his way out the door. He was a key part of three Super Bowl teams in his three years here, winning two. And in the only one they lost he logged six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.

While a lot of people are excited about the signing of Demaryius Thomas, let us remind ourselves the Patriots are not getting the guy from five years ago. His numbers from last year combined with Denver and Houston: Now with the albeit unscientific method of giving Hogan 89 targets, the same as Thomas based on his 2018 numbers?
89 targets, 59 catches, 677 yards, 11.5 avg. 5 TDs
89 targets, 57 catches, 875 yards, 15.2 avg. 5 TDs. The bottom line, the Thomas from five years ago is a vastly better WR than Hogan. In 2019, I think Hogan is. Moving on.

Offensive Tackle, Not Defensive May Be the First Patriot Selection:

The Patriots have been rumored to be taking a DT early in the draft by several draft experts in many of the Mock Drafts over the internet. Including here…although we’d stop well short of declaring us here as “Draft Experts”, but the plethora of excellent prospects make that an attractive option.

But… after losing both starting left tackle Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle to free agency and having last season’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in training camp last summer, (those counting on DThomas, who suffered his in December should take note) the position is one of need.

There are several out there that warrant early round consideration, and while it may not be the sexy pick that we’re all wanting…and expecting, the Patriots have made it a habit to zig while everyone else zags… Trading up may involve a tackle but not the one we’re all expecting …just saying Stay tuned

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Poised to be Players at the Draft:

The Buffalo Bills are finally in an enviable position in the NFL Draft. Last season they found their franchise QB and still have the #9 pick as well as 10 picks in the draft. This draft is loaded with talent at exactly the places the Bills need to address the depth and holes in their roster. Tight End, wide receiver and the defensive line are all positions of need for Buffalo.

Holding the #9 pick, the Bills can scan the board and move down if desperate teams behind them are itching to move up for their own prospect. This is unchartered territory for the Bills and they should be in a great position to have themselves a great draft.

In other developments, the Bills will be planning a trip to Dallas for Thanksgiving. The Cowboys have traditionally been involved in Thanksgiving and this year the Bills will be on the nationally televised game from the Big D. That promises to be an intriguing matchup…at least in April.

Dolphins May Be Looking To Trade Back in Round 1:

The Miami Dolphins have the 13th pick in the upcoming draft and if the QB they want, if any of them are on the board that they like, they may move back to accumulate more draft capital and roll the dice with Ryan Fitzpatrick for 2019.

Therein lies the rub, there may be a QB that they like but are not enamored with, so the temptation is to settle. But history is an unkind barometer of teams who did just that. It will be intriguing to see who GM Chris Grier and new coach Brian Flores select.

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of suitors to move up in the draft, there always are. And the Dolphins could be the beneficiaries of some nice draft capital because of it.

Jets Bell Has Week 16 Tilt Against the Steelers Circled:

File this one under “Be Careful What You Ask For…You may get it. The New York Jets new running back Le’Veon Bell who the Jets signed to a big four-year deal with the Jets worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed after sitting out last season with Pittsburgh over a salary dispute. Bell wasted no time once the schedule was released to circle a Week 16 date with the Steelers.

Bell took to Twitter and posted a picture of himself running against the Jets. He did keep things light by posting “Jets Steelers, Sunday December 22nd. I got a feeling something miiight be a little different this time around…” While that is innocuous enough considering that in the picture he was running against the Jets, some people will take as something else and it immediately becomes bulletin board material.

That is usually the time of the year where Pittsburgh is trying to solidify playoff position and the Jets are hoping to find themselves in a familiar position. We’ll see.

________________

“Is it time for the Draft yet? So, how was your week?”

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.

New England Patriots 2019 Mock Draft 3.0 Trading Up Time

Steve Balestrieri
April 15, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

In our first two mocks, we went with the basic assumption that the Patriots would keep all 12 of their draft picks. But we all know, they’re not going to do that. So we’ll go with a commonly believed scenario that they try to trade up to get a playmaker that they sorely need.

Our first Mock Draft can be seen here: Our second Mock Draft is here:

I used the outstanding Fanspeak Your On the Clock draft simulator again this year. And once again depending upon the Big Board that you use (when it comes to draft prospects)…your results will differ enormously. So Let’s Go Drafting…

Patriots Mock Draft 3.0:

**** Trade**** New England packages #32 and #73 to Seattle for Pick #21

Round 1, Pick 21 – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa:  Fant was still around on the board and he may not have lasted until #32. T.J. Hockenson, the most complete tight end in the draft was taken at #12 by the Packers in this mock.

Fant is a very athletic 6’4, 249 tight end from Iowa who excels open spaces. His yards after contact and ability to stretch the seams will immediately make him a very coveted receiver in the offense.

He is a versatile player that can be moved around the formation outside, in the slot or as an H-back. Despite playing in a run-heavy Iowa offense, scored 18 touchdowns in his last two seasons. A standout basketball player, Fant has excellent jumping ability and agility (6.81 3-Cone Drill).

He needs to get bigger and stronger to become a better blocker in the running game but with Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the other side, he’ll have time to develop in that area. However, as a receiving threat, he should be an immediate impact player.

Round 2, Pick 56 – J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford: Arcega-Whiteside comes from an athletic family. He was born in Spain and both of his parents were basketball players. He brings very good size, 6’2, 225 to the WR position. He’s got a quick release off the line, very good hands and a large catch radius.

He had excellent production in 2018 with 63 catches, for 1059 yards (16.8-yard average) with 14 touchdowns. He posts up like a basketball forward in the red zone and is a very good target there, (28 TDs in three seasons).

He has good but not blinding speed at 4.48 but he’s best utilized in the possession game. He can move the sticks and gets better the closer the team gets to the red zone. He’s gotten better every year and should be a very nice pro receiver who can occasionally stretch the field.

Round 2, Pick 64 – Christian Miller, Edge, Alabama: Miller was just a one-year starter but nevertheless had a very productive final season for the Tide. He made 36 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He tips the scale at 6’3, 247 and is a very athletic edge player.

He has the long arms and above-average athleticism that coaches look for in edge players. He’s versatile and has a quick step off the snap either standing or with his hand on the ground. He has above average pursuit and can drop into coverage and cover backs in the flat.

He’ll need to get stronger at the NFL level to be a three-down edge player but he should immediately see snaps as a sub-package edge rusher with the Patriots defense.

Round 3, Pick 97 – Bobby Evans, T,  Oklahoma: Another surprise to still see him on the board at #97, Evans was a three-year starter for the Sooners, two at RT and then at LT in his final season. Evans plays with a bit of a mean, nasty streak and should immediately reap the benefits of playing for Dante Scarnecchia.

He’s considered a bit short at 6’4 for the position but has long arms and can solidly punch the chest of pass rushers to fend them off. While not considered overly athletic, he has the agility to get outside and pull on running plays.

He has excellent core strength and is very tough and will immediately vie for the swing tackle position with the ability to become a starter in short order.

Round 3, Pick 101 – Will Grier, QB, West Virginia: Grier is a developmental QB prospect for the Patriots offense. While he has marginal size, (6’2, 217, similar to Jimmy Garoppolo), and arm strength, he has a kind of “it factor” where he can galvanize the rest of his team. See the Oklahoma and Texas games where he led late comebacks.

Had very good numbers in 2018, 266-397 (67.0%), for 3864 yards with 37 TDs and 8 INTs in 11 games. He’s very accurate in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. He reads defenses well and is a good leader in the huddle and the locker room.

His mechanics can improve but he has a good body of work to work off of. He’ll immediately step into the #3 position and vie for the backup job in Year 1.

****Trade**** Patriots Trade Picks #134, #205, to the Seahawks for Pick #124

Round 4, Pick 124 – Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford: Smith is a big 6’5, 255 “Y” tight end from “Tight End U” who is good as an in-line blocker, played in a pro-style offense and can serve as a safety blanket underneath.

Smith will be able to step in and contribute in the running game right away as his blocking is good but will improve over time with improved technique and a bit more core strength. He has a wide catch radius with very good hands, but won’t be a threat to attack the seams. He’s more of a short, safety valve, ball control guy with the upside to improve.

Round 7, Pick 239 – Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State: Wren is an intriguing prospect with good size, 6’5, 318. In college, they played him over the nose but he may be a better fit as a pure defensive tackle.

He possesses freaky athleticism for a big man but he’s a project and may require a lot of work with Joe Kim who helped Patriots DL work on their hand usage. Has a lot of upside but may take a year or two to blossom.

Round 7, Pick 243 – Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson: Joseph is an undersized but productive inside linebacker who may have benefitted from playing in a loaded defensive front seven. He’s just 6’0, 233 but had 84 tackles, five TFL, and four sacks during the Tigers National Championship run.

He does have good instincts and showed good coverage, but he may have to carve out a role on STs to make the roster in 2019.

Round 7, Pick 246 – Penny Hart,  WR, Georgia State: Hart is a small, very small (5’8, 180) wide receiver who had excellent production at a lower level of competition. But got an invite to the Senior Bowl and looked uncoverable. He’s a very twitchy slot receiver who can return punts and kickoffs.

Round 7, Pick 252 – Saquon Hampton, S, Rutgers: Hampton is our requisite Rutgers pick as the Patriots address the safety position late in the game. He’s a natural leader and a team captain, something the Patriots look for, with good size at 6’1, 206. Said during an interview, he tries to emulate Patriots safety Devin McCourty. Sold. Welcome to New England.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on several apps as writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Trade for Beckham, While Possible, Isn’t Practical, Look Elsewhere

Steve Balestrieri
February 21, 2019 at 8:21 am ET

Ah, the doldrums of late February and early March. As soon as the Super Bowl is over, weather-weary New Englanders are ready for spring. We want to see flowers and green grass and leaves on the trees.

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want…” Mark Twain.

Such is the way with the New England Patriots every spring. The team that was constructed for the long-haul, for continued long-term success. We revel in it, and love to rub other fan bases’ noses in the fact that “this is how you build a team.” and then in late February – early March, the fan base collectively loses its mind and wants to throw caution to the wind.

Diva WRs? Gotta have ‘em, Can’t win without them… “We need anotha’ deep threat Mike!” “Brady’s getting old and needs weaponz!” And my new favorite, “They won’t win anotha’ Super Bowl scoring 13 points!”

Truthfully, all of the talk of the Patriots acquiring Antonio Brown is just that…talk. The Steelers would never send him to New England and with each passing Instagram post he makes, I’d want him less and less.

The talk of Odell Beckham Jr. is quite another. Chris Simms broke the news that the Patriots tried to trade for him in the spring of 2018. And I totally buy that. A look back to last year, they brought in a bevy of veterans and knew that Julian Edelman would be suspended for the first four games of the season.

Plus Beckham was on the back end of his deal, they could have had a one-year rental of a very talented player. They have done this recently like Brandin Cooks the year before and Darrelle Revis.

From a football perspective, Beckham would fit into the Patriots offense easily. He has that short-area quickness off the line, that allows him to get separation quite fast in the short area passing game. He is very good at aligning at different spots on the field and he can create big plays without having to complete low-percentage deep balls. He, along with Julian Edelman, would give Tom Brady a dynamic 1-2 punch at WR. And if Rob Gronkowski does return for one more season, the possibilities are endless.

Would Beckham fit in the locker room? That’s far from a given. Despite Beckham’s quotes about his love for Tom Brady, how will he react on a day where the running game is cooking and Michel et al carry the ball 30+ times?

And then there’s his contract. By signing an extension, the Giants locked him up for several years, where if they trade him, they’d eat his prorated signing bonus ($4 million in 2019 and $16 million overall). His cap hit for the Patriots would be $17 million, a $16,750,000 base salary and a $250,000 workout bonus.

While not excessive compared to other WRs, Edelman’s salarycap hit for 2019 is $4,541,688 or slightly more than a quarter of what they’d pay Beckham. And is a guy who was instrumental in already winning the team three Super Bowls, including the MVP in SB LIII just three weeks ago. How would that play out?

Bill Belichick has never wanted to pay big money for his wide receivers, they paid Randy Moss decent money (5 percent of their cap space) but when he insisted on getting big money was shipped out. Cooks was strictly a rental and as soon as he was due his payday was traded. Beckham’s cash is slightly less than 10 percent of the team’s cap space. Would Belichick go that high? His track record says no.

On the subject of cap space, the Patriots, according to our old buddy Miguel Benzan, aka @Patscap currently have $17,905,328 in space as of today. While we know they’re going to create some space by extending some players and releasing others, that would put them in a very bare situation …at least initially.

The Patriots generally like versatile players, guys that can play a position and contribute on Special Teams. Most of the diva WRs (shiny hood ornaments, shamelessly stolen from @footballfacts) are not.

Beckham’s talent is great, of that there is no doubt. But for the money they’ll spend on his salary, the team could sign two good WRs and guys who could also fit into the Patriots offense very well. And then there’s the draft. Belichick and Nick Caserio don’t have the greatest track record of drafting WRs. However, there is some talent out there in the early to mid rounds that would fit in very well.

So, do the Patriots need a “deep threat WR”? No, they don’t. That’s not how this offense operates to its maximum efficiency. While it is nice to have a guy who can stretch the field, they don’t need one. They’ve won six Super Bowls without a true deep threat #1.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.