First off, I would like to thank Pete for allowing me to write for BBS. I hope you guys enjoy reading my blogs as much as I enjoy writing them.
OK, enough of the soft stuff. Let’s get down to business.
It’s that time of the year again when us Pats fans (including myself) begin to wonder what in the name of Tom Brady is going on here? It’s the offseason. I remember it like it was yesterday. Pulling my hair out (please don’t try it at home, Rogaine ain’t cheap) when I found out Denver was prying Talib away from us last offseason. I had a pit in my stomach accompanied by head splitting migraine-inducing visions of the previous AFC Championship game when Peyton Manning carved up our overwhelmed secondary with ease on the way to his third Superbowl appearance. (ehem…43-8…Hi John Elway). I immediately sprinted to my car en route to the liquor store, when our prayers were answered by Adam Schefter’s tweet, which broke the news that the Pats were going to make a real push to sign Darrelle Revis. The rest, as you know, is history. The moral of the story is that we all need to relax. Bill has a plan. There is a reason for the last fifteen years it has been a matter of when and not if we clinch the division. It’s the same deal this year. The Bills have gone out and traded for Lesean McCoy, the Jets for Brandon Marshall, and the Dolphins seem to be a legitimate potential suitor for Ndamukong Suh. In the meantime, the Pats have franchise tagged Gostkowski instead of McCourty, increasing the chance Devin plays elsewhere next season and declined to pick up 11-year Patriot great Vince Wilfork’s option for next season, which I am still emotionally not over. It seems as though the sky is falling again. Stop. Let’s all take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember one month and five days ago Tom, Bill, and co. won their 4th Superbowl in fifteen years. That being said, here is my take on some key issues that need to be addressed this offseason including some potential free agent targets for the Pats.
Our guys/our free agents
Jerod Mayo- Very confident the Pats and Jerod can work out a restructure that benefits both sides. I would guess it would be a low initial number, but with the opportunity to get back some of that number in bonuses and incentives. The fact of the matter is, he’s played in 12 games total the last two years and a 10 million dollar cap hit for a guy coming off two season ending surgeries is just too high. The Pats know what they have with Mayo and it is especially important to keep him around for leadership purposes now that Big Vince is most likely gone.
Danny Amendola- I know Danny turned it on towards the end of the regular season, and flat out came up HUGE in the playoffs (especially the Superbowl), there is no way he is coming back at a cap number of just over 6 million. I’m sure the Patriots are open to a restructure but I would not be surprised if they cut bait either. I think he is replaceable, and upgradeable. I know Andre Johnson is the sexier name, and I would love for it to happen, but I don’t see the price being right. As for Percy Harvin, I don’t think Bill or Tom want the potential baggage and headache that may come along as well. I’m keeping my eye on three cheaper veteran guys, Brian Hartline, Eddie Royal, and newly ex-Colt Reggie Wayne. These guys would be cheaper and Hartline is just a year removed from 76 catches and 1016 yards in 2013, and 74 for 1083 respectively in 2012 as well. He just strikes me as a Patriots guy that Tom would form a quick bond with. Royal has a history with Josh McDaniels, after playing under him in Denver, and was very productive (62 catches, 778 yards, 7 tds) in San Diego last year for Philip Rivers. Also, I’m not ready to 100% give up on Aaron Dobson, and investing big $ in a wideout does that very thing.
Shane Vareen/Steven Ridley- I don’t see either returning next year, but for different reasons. Ridley is going to have to sign a one-year “prove it” deal because of the ACL injury, and I don’t think signing with the Pats is in his best interest. We all know the Pats have a running back by committee week to week and Ridley would start the season decidedly behind Blount for early down carries. On the other hand, Vareen may simply command too much money on the open market. I could see the Colts or Jaguars throwing boatloads of money to sign him (perfect toy for Andrew Luck, bye bye Boom Herron/Trent Richardson, etc.) and I don’t think the Pats will even flinch. We will see what the Patriots think of 2014 4th round pick James White, who took a red-shirt year (similar to Vareen his rookie year), and 2014 6th rounder claimed from Carolina, Tyler Gaffney. Two likely cheaper veteran alternatives to Vareen I have my eye on are Pierre Thomas, ex-Saint, and Reggie Bush, who we are all familiar with. Thomas has soft hands and has been a favorite of Drew Brees for years, and as long as he’s healthy, Bush can still break that big play. I would like to see either of these guys in Pats blue if Vareen moves on.
Darrelle Revis- I truly think (hope?) he’ll be back. I think he got a taste of winning and wants more. Bill knows how valuable he is. I think we pony up and give him a big deal. I estimate 5 years (the first three guaranteed) and an average of about 16 million per. Make it happen.
Devin McCourty- I really hope we can bring McCourty back. The fact of the matter is, however, that Revis is the #1 priority, and all it will take is one team to “wow” Devin and that’s it. Bill has a price in mind (I would guess 4 years around 8 something mill a year) and I don’t believe he will go past it. I don’t see any real free agents as fits and the draft class is supposedly weak at safety. If McCourty isn’t back, I envision Duron Harmon getting the first crack at free safety to start the season, but I could also see Logan Ryan getting some looks there as well. Let’s hope it does not get to that point though.
Dan Connolly- Captain Connolly was the glue of the O-Line in 2014. The results were catastrophic in every game he missed. He helped calm down Solder on the left side, and was a calming influence, especially in the early going, for Stork. If he decides to play again, (could retire) I think it will be with the Pats for a cheap, one-year deal. I also think we will draft (probably in the top 3 rounds) his eventual replacement/someone who could push for his job next season.
Akeem Ayers- Great midseason pickup for GM Bill. In 9 games for the Pats, Ayers recorded 4 sacks and an interception, doing most of the damage while Chandler Jones was sidelined with his hip injury. I hope we do our best in retaining Ayers, as he provides good depth behind not only our linebackers, but can also be that 3rd down edge rusher we seem to look for every year. I don’t see us breaking the bank for Ayers, but think we will be competitive in bringing him back. Similar to Will Smith last season (who had nothing left), I can see us also kicking the tires on two veteran pass rushers, recently released from the Raiders LaMarr Woodley, and Dwight Freeney, who was actually still pretty productive in a limited role for San Diego last year (3.5 sacks, 22 QB hits).
Alan Branch- With the release of Wilfork (does not feel right typing those words), space eating defensive tackle jumps to the top of the Pats’ needs. I fully expect Siliga to further improve in an even greater role next year and I can see the Branch back again as well. He was essential during the end of year, and was very stout in the Superbowl. Guys like Terrance Knighton from Denver and Nick Fairley from Detroit are likely out of our price range. Someone to keep an eye on however, would be Randy Starks from Miami. Starks (2x pro bowler, 2010,2012) could be a cap casualty in the coming days and he would come fairly cheap. He could play either end in the 3-4, or tackle in the 4-3 and would bring a veteran presence on an otherwise mostly young defensive line.
Overall, the Patriots need to allocate most of their resources to re-signing their own players. I don’t envision any huge splashes for other free agents, more so value deals for veterans, but I would love to be wrong. Regardless, by week 16 (at the latest), as long as Brady is quarterbacking and BB is coaching the AFC East should be a wrap. Same story. Rinse. Repeat.
Thanks for reading.