Saturday, August 18, 2018
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Postmortem

Now you know why I give these things at least a few days to percolate. You never know what quick, and even desperate, moves a team will make after watching its season end in a loss. For the New England Patriots, it was upping offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ cash number on his contract and, presumably, promising him the job to take over for Bill Belichick when he retires. Probably after next season.

With their offensive coordinator still in-house and a line of succession set up (allegedly, mainly by me, but plenty of other people are catching on. They can’t officially say it or put it in a contract because of the Rooney Rule, but it’s happening), what’s next for New England in what could be the final season of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick marriage of convenience?

WHO WILL BE THE NEXT DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR?

The early rumor after Matt Patricia officially stepped into the head coaching spot for the Detroit Lions is Ohio State defensive coordinator and featured star of the most messed up college coaching search in America, Greg Schiano, would move up to New England and cover for whatever nefarious crimes he sees while he’s there. It’s what he’s good at.

Instead, probably because Schiano is a complete piece of shit, he announced he was “staying at Ohio State.” Which means, of course, the Patriots backed out of hiring him.

The most obvious in-house candidate is linebackers coach Brian Flores. Flores has been with New England in some capacity his entire coaching career. If Belichick has seen fit to keep him around since 2004, there’s no reason not to hand him the keys to the defense. I’d definitely hire him before I’d let Schiano into the facility. Or even within 50 yards of the building if the restraining order holds up.

WHO WILL BE THE QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE?

A few years ago Belichick picked his next QB in Jimmy Garoppolo, but something went wrong with that plan; Tom Brady remained incredible. The Patriots faced a perfect storm situation this season when Garoppolo’s contract was coming due and Brady wanted him off the team (according to ESPN), so he was dealt for a second round pick to the San Francisco 49ers. Now he’s their quarterback of the present and everybody in the bay area is pumped.

Anyone thinking about New England’s prospects if Brady retires, gets hurt, or goes off the quarterback cliff, are significantly less so.

The cliff is coming. I thought it might be this year and I even made a bold prediction for it. It didn’t happen in 2017, but all that does is make it more likely it will happen in 2018. Brady and the Pats are playing Russian Roulette with his QB skills at this point. Brady says he’ll be back in 2018 and he will, but will he bring his arm and talent with him? We won’t know until September.

This is one of the deepest fields of (at least perceived) first round talent at quarterback in the NFL draft since 1983. As many as six guys could be picked in the first round and five probably will, by my count. Usually, the Patriots like to trade out of the first round to stock up on picks, but I’m not sure they can afford to do that this time if they like one of these guys.

The Pats pick at No. 31 and have two second round picks, Nos. 43 and 63 by virtue of the Garoppolo trade so the ammunition is there to move up to the high 20s if they want to pull the trigger on a  guy like Josh Allen. They could sit pat and probably grab Lamar Jackson at 31 or 43 and see how that goes. McDaniels is the guy that’s going to coach this dude for the next three to 10 to maybe 15 years, so if he likes him (and he liked Tim Tebow, don’t forget), it could happen.

With the Ohio State connection between Urban Meyer and Belichick, they could even wait and maybe give J.T. Barrett a look in the third or fifth rounds. A guy like Logan Woodside from Toledo could be there in the fifth round and has more passing talent than Jacoby Brissett, a guy the Patriots drafted a couple of rounds earlier a few years ago. Regardless, they must take a quarterback to develop here and the more pro-ready the better. Brady may retire next off-season too.

PENDING FREE AGENTS

As of right now, New England has all of $13.935 million available in salary cap next season, so there are plenty of hard decisions to be made. Multiple key free agents are shaking loose and the Patriots just simply don’t have the financial ammo to keep any of them.

Left tackle Nate Solder, cornerback Malcolm Butler, running back Dion Lewis, outside linebacker Marquis Flowers and wide receiever/punt returner Danny Amendola are all set to become free agents with no real money available to re-sign any of them. Butler is obviously gone after the whole Super Bowl benching fiasco. Solder should be one of the bigger free agents to hit the market and Dion Lewis will be looking for a team to be a featured back.

Luxuries like James Harrison, Rex Burkhead and Ricky Jean Francois will likely all be in the wind.

If anything, this makes New England’s draft picks even more valuable to them and probably precludes any trade up scenario. If one of the top QB prospects doesn’t fall right to them at 31 or 43, they might just roll the dice with Brady and Brian Hoyer again. It worked this past season.

If Rob Gronkowski does retire like he’s reportedly considering, it would be a talent disaster, but it would add $6.9 million back to the cap. Cutting Martellus Bennett will add $6.187 million so go ahead and mark that down. It’s happening.

Releasing Chris Hogan would open up $3.281 million, Dwayne Allen $5 million and Patrick Chung $3 million. Kenny Britt and Phillip Dorsett could hit the streets too. Britt would free up $1,45 million and Dorsett $1.54 million. With Cooks back and a healthy Julian Edleman and Malcolm Mitchell, none of those wideouts are precious and certainly not worth the cap space.

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