On a seemingly innocent mid-April day in the middle of the NFL offseason, when nobody’s minds are even close to thinking about football, Bill Belichick comes in and flips the script. Belichick and the Patriots made a few small yet ever-so notable moves today, many that could lead to bigger things in the near future.
With the draft soon upon us, just nine days away, teams need to start thinking about what to do with their current roster, and we all know that The Hoodie has been on that since February 6th. After little to no noise after the major Patriots stories faded away for a little while, the Patriots ramped them back up today, resuming fans’ speculation, especially with the Malcolm Butler situation.
Butler officially signed his RFA tender with New England today; the tender was a first-rounder with a salary of $3.91 million for the 2017 season. Now that Butler has signed the tender, that means that he will not be signing with the New Orleans Saints, also that New Orleans will not be handing over their 11th overall draft pick to the Patriots, that if the Patriots choose not to match. Earlier in the year, head coach Sean Payton essentially told the world that they wouldn’t be giving up that pick, but that doesn’t mean that Butler won’t be donning a Patriots uniform in 2017.
Butler signing the tender also means that New England can now trade Butler, if they choose to do so. The Patriots did say that they have no interest in trading him, but in New England, nothing is set in stone until it’s set in stone. And the Malcolm Butler saga is not yet set in stone. Butler did visit New Orleans earlier this year and left without signing an offer sheet, though, so nobody really knows what to expect. My gut feeling has been and still is that Butler will be a Patriot in 2017. That 11th overall pick would seemingly be what does it for New England, and the Saints don’t plan on handing it over, so I can’t see a deal happening. There is always the chance that a deal between the two teams does rise to the surface and the Patriots possibly get their 32nd overall pick back, something that Belichick could be interested in.
Therefore, if Butler fails to come to terms with another team, he will play with the Patriots in 2017, making that $3.91 million and then become an unrestricted free agent afterwards, resuming this entire process all over again. Thank the heavens he will be a UFA, though, making things much less difficult. Butler wants to be paid what he’s worth, and that’s certainly much more than $3.91 million.
On the offensive side of the football, New England did quite a bit today. First off, for the third straight season, WR Danny Amendola accepted to take a pay-cut to remain with the Patriots for at least another season. Amendola was scheduled to make a base salary of about $6 million this coming season, but it will now be slightly more than the $1.6 million he made last season, per Field Yates. Just one year ago, Amendola accepted a $4.4 million pay-cut, and went on to win another Super Bowl while taking less cash.
Amendola also took a pay-cut two seasons ago, making just $5 million. If you can’t already tell, Amendola enjoys being a Patriot. You can’t blame him, as he’s already a 2x Super Bowl champion with just a few years of New England experience under his belt. Rarely do you see a professional football player do anything even remotely close to what Amendola has done, but nonetheless, it’s great to see a player taking playoff wins over money, for once.
Tom Brady has the utmost trust in Amendola, and I think that’s why he’s stuck around for so long. Amendola may have a quiet regular season, but he always, always, always shows up in the playoffs, and always makes a clutch third down catch when a clutch third down catch is needed. Brady looks to either Edelman or Amendola in situations like so. Putting up with his injuries and his quiet first 16-games is so worth paying less than $2 million for dominant postseason performances time and time again.
Speaking of weapons for Tom Brady, the Patriots extended an offer sheet to RFA Bills running back Mike Gillislee today, worth two years and $6.4 million with $4 million guaranteed. Buffalo has five days to match New England’s offer. Buffalo first placed an original-round tender on Gillislee worth $1.7 million, therefore the Patriots will have to send their fifth-round pick to the Bills if they choose not to match the offer. In summary, Bill Belichick fleeced yet another team. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
If Buffalo chooses not to match the Patriots’ offer, which they aren’t expected to, according to Jeff Howe, this essentially means that LeGarrette Blount’s time with New England is over. The free agent running back, who scored a franchise-record 18 rushing touchdowns last season, will have to find a new home to give New England’s packed running back corps some room to breathe. In my opinion, Gillislee is a major upgrade over Blount. But, either way, New England is almost set in regards to their backfield at this point.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Patriots virtually stole Buffalo’s ‘trash’ from them, as they signed Chris Hogan to an offer sheet just last year, and he ended up having a breakout, Super Bowl-winning season with his new team. It brings myself and so many others such joy watching Belichick continuously and unknowingly deplete division rivals.
If LeGarrette Blount’s future with the Patriots wasn’t already basically decided, James White and the Patriots agreed to a 3-year deal today, as well. The Super Bowl hero is now set to be a Patriot for the next four seasons. New England hasn’t had such third down running back security since Kevin Faulk, so this is great to see. The best game of his Patriots career was easily Super Bowl 51, which must have shown Belichick and the Patriots something, rightfully so. White needed to step up when Blount was struggling throughout the game, and he did just that, becoming the fourth quarter/overtime hero.
This running back news then prompts the question, could Dion Lewis be traded? And, what’s Brandon Bolden’s future? As for Lewis, there’s a possibility that he could be traded, if the price is right. Where he’d go, I’m not sure, but anything is possible. His value is pretty damn high right now; I’d say go for it, if I’m Belichick. But, after all, there is probably a reason why I’m not Belichick. As for Bolden, I feel that the acquisition of Rex Burkhead did him in. Last season, Bolden was primarily a special teams back, and I’d have to guess that Burkhead will assume that ST role instead.
As for the offensive line, the Patriots waived G Tre Jackson. Jackson was a third-round pick back in 2015, and made nine starts in his rookie season with New England. Late in the season, he injured his knee, and never saw the field again after having surgery on it over that offseason. Jackson could have easily seen the field last season, but the emergence of guys like Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, David Andrews and Ted Karras kept him on the bench with his bum knee. The timing of this move shows that, naturally, the Patriots aren’t worried about life without him.
Last but also pretty much least, exclusive-rights free agent TE Matt Lengel signed his tender today. Lengel had about a week or so of stardom when he caught his first career NFL pass from Tom Brady in a blowout win over the Jets late in the 2016 season, creating a Cinderella story that we all love. Lengel will most likely be the third-string tight end behind Rob Gronkowski and new addition Dwayne Allen this upcoming season.
Both the Malcolm Butler and Mike Gillislee moves foreshadow bigger moves in the coming week or so, so be on the lookout for news surrounding those names before, during and after the draft. Will Butler remain a Patriot or fly down south to Louisiana? Will we ever see or hear from Blount again? Let these moves play out and those questions will soon be answered, for better or for worse.