Sunday 7: Expectations for Patriots will need to change — at least for one year

Ryan Hannable
March 29, 2020 - 6:00 am
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1. A lot of people have wondered what the Patriots’ plan is moving forward without Tom Brady. It isn’t a full rebuild since players like Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater have been re-signed, but looking at the roster now, and even what can be done between now and the start of the regular season, it’s hard to argue the team will be any better than it was last season when it fell to the Titans on Wild Card Weekend. We view 2020 as a bridge year to 2021 when the team will have upwards of $100 million in cap space and a chance to really reload. While the team can still compete for a playoff spot this coming season, it’s unlikely a Super Bowl berth is in the cards. This coming season may be about getting players the experience they need for the coming seasons, most notably quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Following the year, positions can be really be evaluated and the ones that need boosts can get that via free agency with all the money that will be available. Patience is going to be needed this season and all the games will matter. It won’t be about building to playing the best after Thanksgiving, it will be about doing whatever it takes to get a win each given Sunday. But, with the ability to spend big next offseason, it really should not be long for the Patriots to get back to what they were for the last 20 or so seasons.

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2. With Cam Newton still being available and no logical landing spot, some have wondered whether or not Bill Belichick would bring him in on a small contract? It’s an interesting question because in an ideal world Stidham would have another year to learn from a veteran starter, but would one year of Newton really be worth it? It’s not like the Patriots need a quarterback for the years to come because in their ideal world that would be Stidham. Newton’s offense would certainly not be anything close to what the Patriots and Josh McDaniels have established. Newton to New England really doesn’t make much sense.

3. Brady’s introductory conference call with Tampa Bay last week went as expected. He took the high road and really didn’t address any questions head-on about his decision to leave New England. Like he’s been for 20 years, he shied away from really saying anything negative about anyone or anything. Although he didn’t disagree directly, he seemed to go against what Robert Kraft had been saying to various media outlets that it really was Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots and if he wanted to stay things could have worked out. “I am not responsible for how other people will say certain things," Brady said, before praising Kraft for what he’s done for him over the years.

4. Relating to Stephen Gostkowski’s release last week, it was not a salary cap dump. Of his $3.5 million salary in 2020, $2 million was guaranteed and the release saved the team just under $1 million against the cap. It is worth noting if he signs with another team, the Patriots will get a credit for what that team pays him, but that will go towards the 2021 cap, not 2020. It was noteworthy Belichick released a statement praising Gostkowski following the move, as that is something he rarely does. It shows the amount of respect the coach has for the long-time kicker.

5. Want to know the impact Brady is already having in Tampa Bay? BetOnline released spreads on the Buccaneers’ 16 games and they are underdogs in only one — +5.5 at New Orleans. These odds have the game a pick ‘em when the Saints play at Tampa Bay and even a two-point favorite when the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs come to town. Imagine how many games they would be favored in if Brady had not signed there? These certainly will change as the season plays out, but right now the oddsmakers believe Brady will have a huge effect on his new team.

6. Reading the comments of the three Patriots players who departed for Miami via free agency (Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Ted Karras) it was clear Brian Flores was a major reason why. All three, especially Roberts and Van Noy, worked closely with him when he was with the Patriots and they were able to see first-hand what kind of coach he is. “My number one reason, like I keep saying, is Coach Flores," Roberts told reporters. While they still have a ways to go, it’s clear the Dolphins are going in the right direction.

7. The NFL Draft will go on as scheduled from April 23-25, but will be done as remotely as possible. There will be no fan gatherings in Las Vegas. There will actually be nothing in Vegas. It’s likely to be based out of the NFL Network studios. Now that it is officially happening in April, teams will continue to contact prospects via FaceTime or Skype since no in-person meetings are permitted. Don’t be surprised to hear a few names linked to the Patriots in the coming days and weeks.

Related: Winners Club NFL Mock Draft: Jordan Love might be in Patriots crosshairs