Well Patriots fans, this has been a different year hasn’t it? No Tom Brady, no Gronk, no Hightower, no Chung, and for the first time in 20 years, no expectations. As a die-hard Patriots fan, ever since last night’s blowout loss to the Rams, people keep asking me if the Patriots are ‘done and need to just rebuild‘. Well, the answer to that is quite simple, NO.
How Josh is this possible? Let me explain. The New England Patriots are expected to have a whopping $70.6M dollars in cap space entering the 2021 off-season. Take into consideration, most of the defense is young and under contract and there are other options to create even more room. The following players, if cut or traded, could save the team a good amount of cap space as well. Stephon Gilmore ($8.9M), Marcus Cannon ($2.5M), Sony Michel ($1.8M), and even longtime WR, Julian Edelman could clear out $2.6M in cap room. You also have guys like Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung that could clear some room as well; but I think those guys stick around due to the fact they are team leaders and can really help lead the young guys on the defense. Don’t forget the Patriots will also have tons of draft capital to play with. They’re expected to receive a 3rd, 4th and two 6th round compensatory picks, due to the losses of QB Tom Brady, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Jamie Collins, and C Ted Karras. Let’s also not forget eight Patriot players (Hightower, Chung, Cannon, Bolden, etc) opted out before the season, due to COVID-19 concerns. That’s a lot of ammo for Belichick to go into the off season with.
But Josh he sucks at drafting!!! Okay I’ll give you that, he has struggled with drafting, especially in the early rounds. But he does do well trading those picks for players who need a change of scenery (Kyle Van Noy, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Corey Dillon, among many others) and, he does do well drafting in the later rounds or even with undrafted players (Tom Brady, JC Jackson, Mike Owenu, Matthew Slater, Rob Ninkovich, James White, Trey Flowers, Julian Edelman, Marcus Cannon and even more recently Jakobi Meyers). Yes, I’m missing a few, but that’s part of my point. All is not lost with the Patriots heading into next year. Let’s not forget – TOM BRADY LEFT! Even though he was on a decline and was essentially a liability most of last year, that’s a huge change after being the face of the franchise for the last 20 years. Okay, so now I know you all want to know, ‘if they get rid of Gilmore, Cannon, Michel, and Patriots legend Julian Edelman, how in the hell do you replace all those guys?’ I got you covered.
So lets assume they do make all those moves and the Patriots end up with around $85M dollars in cap space heading into the off-season. In my opinion, the Patriots biggest upcoming free agent is CB JC Jackson – especially if they cut ties with Stephon Gilmore. Jackson is a restricted free agent, which means the Patriots can tender him and match any offer. I feel that Jackson would command around $10M a year, in which the Patriots would happily match. Marcus Cannon is an easy replacement as rookie Mike Owenu has done a great job all year filling in and makes Cannon an easy cap-casualty. Center David Andrews is also a free agent and the Patriots have reportedly already talked a extension with him – so it appears he’ll be there for the future. RB Sony Michel has been replaced by Damien Harris and since Michel can’t seem to stay healthy, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Patriots to move on from him. Let me clarify: I DO NOT THINK JULIAN EDELMAN WILL BE TRADED OR MOVED; even though it would save them some money. The wide receivers available in the 2021 free agent class consists of: Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, AJ Green, TY Hilton, Sammy Watkins, Will Fuller, Marvin Jones Jr, Juju Smith-Shuster among others. Could the Patriots take a chunk of that cap space and get one of those guys? Absolutely, a low-risk flier on a player such as Green or Hilton would be worth the risk and paying an Allen Robinson, Smith-Schuster or even Will Fuller would be worth the risk. So lets do some math shall we? Let’s assume the Patriots re-sign Center David Andrews, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, DE John Simon, WR Damiere Byrd, Kicker Nick Folk, FB Jakob Johnson, and LB Terez Hall. Based on what all of these players contracts are expected to look like, this would leave the Patriots with about $50M-ish left in cap room. Then lets say they give WR Allen Robinson $13M a year and sign a tight end like Jonnu Smith to $7M a year. That leaves them with about $30M. But wait, who is the quarterback? Well – Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston and Jacoby Brissett are rumored to be available. With it unlikely that Stafford or Ryan would fit under the cap, I personally think Jimmy Garoppolo would fit the best due to the obvious connection since he was with the Patriots just a few years ago and Belichick loves him. Remember when he tried to trade Brady to keep Jimmy G until owner Robert Kraft jumped in? So, lets say Jimmy G commands $25M, $20M in base salary and then that would leave New England with roughly $10M left to play with. According to OverTheCap, the Patriots 2021 draft class would cost about $8.7M to sign. Let’s also assume the Patriots draft a replacement for guard Joe Thuney, who I think leaves after this year. Yes, I didn’t forget, but there is no way the Patriots are paying another guard top dollar after Shaq Mason’s huge extension a few years back. That would leave New England with just $1.3M. How do you fix that? Well, what does every team do when that happens? RESTRUCTURE CONTRACTS OF CURRENT PLAYERS. Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Shaq Mason, Devin McCourty and even Julian Edelman’s contracts can all easily be restructured to create more cap room to sign other players and fill out the roster.
This would have New England enter the season with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB which would be an upgrade over Cam Newton. Then the weapons Jimmy G would have would be RB’s Damien Harris, James White, JJ Taylor and pass catchers Allen Robinson, Julian Edelman, Jonnu Smith, Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. That’s enough weapons to appease any quarterback; and with an already solid offensive line in place, this offense would be ready to take a huge step forward. The Patriots could even draft a future QB in the draft in the early or even middle rounds (Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask, Mac Jones, among many others). Don’t forget, they can add more depth to the offensive and defensive lines as well as more pass catchers and play makers on defense during the draft as well. Everything you just read is just one way the Patriots could approach this off season and moves they could make. There are many more ways they could attack. All I’m saying Patriots fans is this, don’t give up just because we had one bad year. We had opt-outs, players missing games due to COVID, a QB that came in late and didn’t understand the system, and a lot of young defensive players playing tons of snaps on defense. Young studs on defense, such as Chase Winovich, Adam Butler, and Josh Uche should excite Patriots fans, as it does me. 2020 has been a rough year for everyone and the Patriots might have had an off-year, but I promise you one thing – the Patriots will be back and ready to contend in 2021; and that is bad news for the NFL. Belichick got this team to 6-7 even with all these issues so what do you think he’ll do with money to spend and an actual offseason and training camp. The good ole days will be back soon Patriots fans and the rest of the NFL should be very very worried.