Well, this isn’t going exactly how any of us drew it up. While the other three AFC East teams clearly seem to have had enough of the Pats utter dominance over the last decade plus and are putting all cards on the table, the Pats have stayed eerily quiet and I believe have missed out on some potential opportunities to re-sign/sign contributors for next year’s team.
Thoughts on the losses:
First off, everyone knows Darrelle Revis is irreplaceable, and the entire defensive scheme will be significantly altered without him. I truly felt Revis loved “the Patriot Way” and wanted to stay with the organization, but it is clear now he wanted to “go home”. There was no way the Patriots were going to go as high as 39 million guaranteed (rumored they only went to about 30). I guess DR likes Februarys off (maybe that’s also in the contract!), because until the Jets find a competent QB, they’ll be watching the playoffs eating Pizza and Doritos. Regardless, he was an integral part of the incredible run this year, and helped bring the fourth Superbowl to town, and for that, we should thank him.
It seems Brandon Browner and Revis were a package deal, because I truly felt, especially the way corners are getting paid this offseason (Kareem Jackson re-upping with Houston for 4 for 34, 20 guaranteed…? Byron Maxwell to Philly for 6 for 63…he’s good, but that good?) Browner was on a pretty reasonable deal. I expect some more zone coverage (and off man) this year, yes, but you have to play some press or tighter man or halfway capable Quarterbacks will torch you. Luckily, the AFC East has none of the above, but I’m more concerned with the Andrew Lucks and Ben Roethlisbergers of the world (sorry, but Peyton’s cooked…). There are no viable options to replace either player in free agency (I remember playing with Terrance Newman in Madden 2005 when he was good, he’s not the answer in 2015). I would hope/think Bill is exploring every trade option out there (read: Jason McCourty, brother of Devin, from the Titans), and focusing in on a few studs in the draft. I think Butler/Ryan/Arrington/Dennard are acceptable as 2-5 guys, but there is no surefire #1 there. Not even close. I would expect Butler, however, to take a big leap forward next year.
Shane Vereen had a good run as TB12’s pass catcher and was obviously a stud in the Superbowl, but for 3 years and a little over 12 million, it was time for him to cash in and for the Pats to move on. In the middle of this post, the Patriots reached an agreement with former Saint running back Travaris Cadet, who I admittedly know little about. He had 38 catches for 296 yards and a touchdown last year for Drew Brees. Perhaps in an expanded role we can really see what he has to offer. I still would also like to see what James White/Tyler Gaffney can bring to the table. Hopefully one of the three (or Brandon Bolden) will emerge as a legitimate third down option for Brady.
As looked like the case when I wrote my initial post, Big Vince Wilfork moved on. He’s heading to Houston for 2 years and 9 million (5 guaranteed). This one hurts. Emotions aside (adored by all, my favorite player for a decade, will still rock his jersey with pride) this deal seems pretty financially acceptable as well, does it not? He played almost 75% of the snaps last year at a very high level. No, he’s not the absolute dominant force he once was, but was he still the best defensive tackle on the team this year. Look for Siliga to take on a higher chunk of plays and hopefully further develop into a game changer of sorts.
Let’s get to some of the additions:
Re-signing FS Devin McCourty (5 years 47.5 million, 22 guaranteed): We locked up an elite free safety and homegrown talent for the next five years. Love Devin on/off the field. Hopefully he will be the glue to keep the secondary together post Revis/Browner. A true Pat. He got his as well. Win-win.
Signing TE Scott Chandler (terms of deal not yet disclosed): I really like this move. It seems every time we’ve played Buffalo over the last few years we have neutralized every receiving threat they have except for Chandler. First off, he’s a monster at 6’7 260, and teamed with Gronk, will eat the middle of the field and give Brady yet another big target in the red zone. I envision this being the end for Hooman, as he brings mostly blocking to the table and the extra O-lineman power set (Fleming especially, who excelled in the role) makes him redundant. I’m also looking forward to seeing whether or not Tim Wright can build a rapport with Brady this offseason and contribute on a more consistent basis next year.
Restructuring Danny Amendola’s deal: As I mentioned in my initial predictions post, there was no way that 6 million dollar cap figure was going to stick. His new deal is worth 12.75 million for three years, but after seeing all of the details, it seems like it’s going to be a one-year deal, as his 2016 cap hit is still 6 million with none of it guaranteed. Danny A really picked it up towards the end of the year, and one can make a strong argument we do not win, or even get to the Superbowl without him and his clutch contributions. I’m glad to see he’s back for another run.
Signing DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard (2 years, 11 million, 5.5 guarenteed): For me, this is definitely the most exciting move of the offseason. Sheard is a marked upgrade over Akeem Ayers, and finally gives Belichick/Patricia the flexibility to lower Ninkovich and Chandler Jones’ snap counts during the season. Sheard is 6’3, 265 and just 25 years old. He showed a great deal of promise his first two years with Cleveland (totaling 8.5, and 7 sacks respectively) but due to coaching changes and overall dysfunction of the Browns organization (if I played for them I’d probably need rehab too, Johnny) has seen his production fall off in the last two seasons. I’m excited to see what Belichick and Patricia have in store for opposing offenses with this exciting new chess piece.
Re-signing DT Alan Branch (2 years, max value 6.6 million): While the 6.6 looks a little pricey, a good chunk of that number is in bonuses and the second year in the contract is a team option. Overall though, I like the deal and I like what Branch brings to the table. He was huge in the Superbowl, and against run oriented teams like the Jets, and the Bills (McCoy), the massive Branch (6’6, listed at 325…looks closer to 350) will be an integral part of the defense next year and will be asked to take on a larger role without Vince Wilfork.
The Patriots also signed LB Jonathan Freeny, CB Chimdi Chekwa and WR Brandon Gibson, and re-signed LB Chris White, long snapper Tyler Ott and WR Brian Tyms. Collectively, these moves are underwhelming and mostly serve for depth/special teams purposes, but if the Pats can’t reach an agreement with a proven veteran WR, Tyms/Gibson could be in a position to make the team, and due to the lack of depth at corner (which I will elaborate on later) Chekwa has an opportunity as well. A fourth round pick in 2011 for Oakland out of Ohio State, he is still young but has not done much in his career to get excited about quite yet.
Overall, the offseason is far from over. I think we will continue to kick the tires on veteran wide receivers and corners and target interior offensive and defensive lines in the draft. I firmly believe this roster will be stronger next week than it is now, and exponentially stronger at the start of next season, through free agency, the draft, trades, and the oft-overlooked internal development. In Bill We Trust.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!