It’s the only missing piece of the puzzle, a skill-player with the frame to win the ball in the air and burn a #1 corner outside the numbers. In 2014, Brandon LaFell did his best to fill the void, finding success out wide when Brady had the protection to allow such routes to develop.
See Lafell’s Touchdown vs. Baltimore in the 2014 Divisional Round for proof.
But in the 2015 season, New England’s lack of vertical production was painfully obvious. And without Julian Edelman to divert defensive attention the second half of the year, the Pats attacking tendencies were easy to anticipate.
Cue the free-agency fantasies! The dreams of Patriot acquisitions who will provide a Randy Moss-esque spark to the downfield passing game. After all, TB12 is proven to launch it 60 plus yards without hesitation, here’s hoping he gets a chance to do so successfully in 2016.
PSA for any and all high-school recruits with NFL dreams… Want to get noticed by Bill Belichick? Make a bee-line for New Brunswick, New Jersey- home of Rutgers University and a program churning out Patriots talent with inconceivable consistency.
Currently New England boasts four Scarlet Knight alumni on the roster, and all of them on the defensive side of the ball, benefitting from “what coach Schiano did at Rutgers in terms of the way he ran the program…” said Belichick on WEEI, “…those players that lasted with him and did well with him knew how to work, knew how to prepare, were team oriented, were unselfish, understood situational football and having to make adjustments in games and weekly based on what the other team was doing. Communication on the defensive side of the ball, not just doing your job, but making sure everybody is playing together as a team and that it's coordinated, everyone understands how the people around them need to be in sync for the defense to work well.”
Well Mohamed Sanu? He began as a safety for Rutgers, under the coach Schiano tutelage that the hoodie is so attracted towards.
It’s a match made in football heaven. At 6’2”, Sanu has lined up outside, in the slot and even in the backfield. He has the adaptability Josh McDaniels and Belichick look for in a wide-receiver, and is even known to run the ball between the trenches now-and-again.
And with his defensive experience who knows? He might even pull a Troy Brown and play both sides of the ball if New England is in an injury bind.
I’ll admit this one’s a stretch but crazier things have happened in New England. And considering the state of the Chicago Bears- with an OC Adam Gase bailing for the Miami head coaching job- Chicago allowing Jeffery to walk and thus save the millions is a real possibility.
Jeffery is a “big-body target,” the kind New England needs on the outside to match Rob Gronkowski down the seam. Jeffery runs a 4.48 and is a frequent target in the red-zone for his ability to turn and body a defender in close quarters. Sure Edelman and Amendola are reliable red-zone options, but when it comes to chucking it up and letting your skill-players win the jump-ball, Brady could use Jeffery’s hops.
Of course the acquisition of an outside playmaker is all dependent on the money New England is willing/able to provide. As it stands, Danny is due $5 million in 2016, a gross overpayment despite Amendola’s production.
Belichick will no doubt ask ‘Dola to restructure, but if a new deal falls through, the Pats may have no choice but to release him. A move worth 2.7 million in “cutting-costs.”
Without question, the Patriots will look to keep Amendola and rightfully so. But, as is always the case, the loyalty of a player to a franchise pales in comparison to the capital they could seek in free-agency. And with Danny’s recent success, he could cash-in two or three-fold what the Pats are willing to pay if he goes elsewhere.
No matter the case, it’s sure to be a spring and summer of skill-position shake-up in Foxboro.
Here’s to happy hunting.
By Cam Mellin