Things are different for the Patriots this offseason. For the first time in 20 years, they’re facing a future without Tom Brady.
The legendary quarterback isn’t the only departure from the roster. “The Boogeymen” defense, which terrified opponents throughout 2019, will look dramatically different after Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins signed deals elsewhere. And there could be more where that came from.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got some answers. Ben Volin joined us for a live chat on Thursday. Here’s how it all played out. (Note: Questions and answers appear as submitted.)
Ben Volin: Hello everybody! I sincerely thank you for taking time to join me today. This has been a tough few weeks for everybody, and I hope everyone is staying healthy and figuring out how to stay sane during this craziness.
The NFL has been a nice diversion the past few weeks, and I suspect it will help get us through the next couple of months as well. Let’s talk today about Tom Brady, Patriots free agency, the plan at quarterback (I’m all in for Tua), and whatever else may be on your mind!
Do you think the Patriots will draft a quarterback? If so, who and where in the draft?
After the Patriots released Cody Kessler yesterday, they now have only two QBs on the roster -- Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. So they obviously need to add at least one more, and I definitely think it will come in the draft.
This does seem to be a good year to draft a QB. You've got several intriguing prospects in Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason.
I just published a column on bostonglobe.com stating why I think there is a very real possibility of the Patriots trading up to No. 3 from the Lions and drafting Tua. That would be my No. 1 option and would be a total home run for the Patriots.
Otherwise I would wait until the third round and draft Hurts or Fromm. Hurts has really intriguing potential as a dual threat, and I would love to see the Patriots draft a QB with great athleticism.
Whoever the Patriots draft, they can throw him out there with Stidham and let the best man win. Will make for a fun training camp.
Will the Patriots pursue Cam Newton if he is healthy?
I don't see Newton or any other mid-level veteran coming to New England (guys like Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston or Newton). I just think at this point the Patriots are looking at rebuilding over the next two years, and I don't think they want to spend money on a quarterback who most likely isn't part of the long-term plan.
I think the smart play for the Patriots is to see what they’ve got in Stidham and/or a draft pick over the next year or two. And if they hit, then they’ve got a good quarterback at super cheap money.
Can you shed any news as to why we don’t see much from Derek Rivers?
It has been a tough road for Rivers. First of all, third-round picks are 50-50 propositions at best, so it's not like the Patriots thought they were getting a blue-chip prospect. Then he tore his ACL in his rookie training camp, and hasn't been able to catch up every since. He has missed two of his three seasons with injuries, and I'm afraid we may never see him make much of an impact. He's in the last year of his contract, and he'll have a chance this year, but he looks like a long shot.
Do you expect the Patriots to make a trade to move up in the draft?
I do expect the Patriots to be very active with the draft. I would love to see them make a play for Tua at 3. But I would also bet that Belichick will try hard to get a second-round pick back, or at least close the gap between their top two picks at 23 and 87. The Patriots have a lot of late-round picks, but need more Day 1 and 2 picks.
The Patriots really need a volume of draft picks the next two years. The Patriots have punted on the draft the last several years, and they don’t have much of a pipeline right now. They need to start developing young players for the future.
Ben I believe a trade of the 23 rd pick plus Tunney and Hightower will land them the 23rd pick. It will also give them some cap relief. With as much as 100 mil in their pockets for next year why not do this and set up the future
I think you mean 23rd plus Thuney or Hightower would land them the 3rd pick? That's in regards to my column that the Patriots could make a big play for Tua.
I'm thinking maybe Thuney, 23 and a third-round pick might be enough to get it done for Tua. Obviously, the Dolphins, Panthers, Chargers and Jaguars can all offer the Lions more in terms of draft picks.
But the Lions don't have as much of a use for draft picks. Patricia and Quinn need to win NOW. The Patriots can offer them real veteran players that can help them win in 2020, like Thuney or Hightower. That's the Patriots' best chance at landing Tua.
And yes, the Patriots definitely need cap relief. They have less than $1 million in salary cap space right now, not enough to even sign their draft class. The more I think about it, the Patriots definitely need to trade Thuney. It would instantly free up nearly $15 million in cap space, and I think they could get a nice return for him in a trade.
Hi Ben, would the Patriots ever consider asking the Colts for permission to speak with Andrew Luck since Philip Rivers was signed? Seems like an opportunity. Thanks.
I'm sure the Patriots would love to ask the Colts, but it would never happen. First of all, the Colts have no reason to give up Luck's rights. If he decides he does want to play again (very doubtful), why wouldn't it be in Indy? Second, signing Rivers wouldn't prevent Luck from coming back to Indy. Rivers only signed for one year, and definitely isn't the future. The Colts would dump Rivers in a heartbeat if they could get Luck back.
It’s a shame that Luck retired so early. He was a great quarterback.
Please, for the life of me, explain why Coach Bill did not want Brady to remain a Patriot for the remainder of this playing days. ... What is Coach Bill seeing what I can’t? And why didn’t Bob Kraft support Brady here?
One of the reasons that the Patriots have been so successful over the last 20 years is that Belichick does not get emotional when it comes to roster decisions.
Most teams probably would have given Tom Brady an open invitation to play as long as he wants. But Belichick doesn't view Brady as the quarterback that won him six Super Bowls. He views him as a soon-to-be 43-year-old QB whose performance was down across the board last year.
I don’t blame Belichick and Kraft for making the decision. It’s not what have you done, but what will you do?
What do you think of the linebackers the Pats have left, other than Hightower, obviously?
Well, they have Ju'Whaun Bentley for two more years. That much we know. If we consider Chase Winovich and John Simon linebackers, then the position will still have good depth next year.
After that? The position is a major question mark. I think Donta Hightower will be back this year? But the Patriots do need to create cap space, and he has a big bullseye on his back with $9.5 million in cap savings.
But you can find linebackers in today’s NFL -- in the middle rounds of the draft, in the bargain areas of free agency, and so on. Of all the Patriots’ concerns right now, their ability to find a linebacker is not high on my list.
Ok, the obvious, who’s in the pipeline for the QB position?
I’m all in on Tua now. Bring me Tua! If not I would love to see an elite athlete like Jalen Hurts.
Has Belichick added any new coaches to his staff since last season? I see Dante Scarnecchia is still on Pats team website as their offensive line coach. Didn’t he retire a couple months ago?
Dante did retire, though he helped them out at the Combine (and was going to help out with pro days before coronavirus hit). I'm sure Belichick has an idea of who will be on his staff this fall, but the Patriots usually wait several months to announce it. I saw Troy Brown a few weeks ago and asked him if he was going to be the new receivers coach, and he just shrugged his shoulders.
One new voice is Jedd Fisch, a former offensive coach at UCLA, Michigan and the Jaguars who has been a friend of Belichick for a few years. He's a relatively young guy (41) who could bring a fresh perspective to the offense.
I assume Cameron Achord gets elevated from assistant special teams coach and takes Joe Judge's old job.
Most importantly, Belichick, McDaniels and Caserio are all back. The rest will fall into place.
How good can Stidham be? And why have the patriots drafted so poorly the last several years?
I'm intrigued to see what Stidham can do, though I'm not convinced that the Patriots aren't going to draft a kid and let them compete. I'm a little skeptical of the Stidham hype -- he was a fourth-round pick after all. And while I know that Kirk Cousins was a fourth rounder, and Brady was a sixth rounder, and the Patriots have great coaches, it's still pretty rare for a fourth-round QB to become a legit NFL starter.
The Patriots have not drafted so well the last few years, but I don’t think they have been any worse than other teams. The draft is a total crapshoot. No one has been able to figure it out, not even Belichick.
There seems to be tremendous value in rounds 2,3, and 4 of this draft. What are the odds that the Pats trade out for more picks? 80%?
I definitely think the Patriots will try to recoup a second round pick. And I think every draft has tremendous value in rounds 2, 3 and 4, not just this year -- if you pick the right player, of course.
But the contracts of those players are so cheap that if you hit on one, it’s a major bonus for your team for the next three years. And if the Patriots can hit on a QB in the second or third round, they’ll have a major advantage -- a starting QB on a dirt cheap contract for 4-5 years.
Why did the Patriots not go after any of the top or decent receivers/ tight ends on the Market? Was it the Cap ? Thanks
Now that Brady is gone I think the Patriots' need for free agent receivers has decreased significantly. With Brady, the Patriots needed experienced players. Now that he's gone, it's time to rebuild.
Why spend $10m per year on Austin Hooper when they can draft two young tight ends for a fraction of the cost? For the next couple of years, the Patriots should be all about building from within, not spending money recklessly on free agents (which almost never works out).
Why are you so enamored with Tagovailoa? And if they do trade up to #3 to grab him, what would they have to give up?
Because he's a potential superstar. And I would love to see the Patriots go bold at the QB position as they set out to replace Brady. Forget the value picks -- go big and get the guy that everyone wants.
And I think it’s realistic, because of Belichick’s relationship with Saban, and because the Lions hold the key with the No. 3 pick.
What happened to Damien Harris last year. Not much has changed in the backfield for next year, so do you expect him to see more action?
That was one of the more disappointing outcomes last season. I thought for sure Harris was going to be involved.
The Patriots often do sit their rookie running backs, though usually it's for the pass-catching role (James White, Shane Vereen) and not the first-down role. I think Harris was an insurance pickup in case Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead got injured, and both managed to stay healthy all season.
But Michel has not been anything special in his two seasons, and I do expect Harris to get more action this fall.
How do you rate / grade the Patriots FA pick ups? Who has the best opportunity to contribute next season?
Big fan of bringing back both McCourtys and Slater. If you're going to rebuild, you need leaders and "glue" guys for the locker room. I like the Thuney move, but will like it a lot more if they either trade him or sign him to an extension that lowers his cap number. Thuney is a real solid player, but keeping him at a $14.781 million salary cap number this year would be absurd.
Hoyer was obvious -- he'll be a mentor and coach in the QB room. The other moves are mostly roster filler. Most of them won't make the roster in the fall.
I think the Patriots will be making several big moves in the weeks ahead. They have less than $1m in cap space, so something has to give. I could see Thuney, Hightower and/or Gilmore being traded to create cap space and acquire more draft picks (and maybe get Tua!).
Hi Ben. Love the Pats coverage. How come Brady hasn’t taken more blame for his refusal to work with young players the last few years?
Thanks a lot. Brady definitely deserves blame last year for the pouting about the young receivers. And for skipping OTAs the last two years. That's why I don't blame the Patriots for wanting to move on. Every team but the Patriots last year could incorporate their young receivers. Brady was too stubborn, and the offense too complicated.
But Brady has built up plenty of goodwill for winning six Super Bowls and making the Patriots competitive year in and year out. Many people have a hard time saying anything bad about Brady.
Why do the patriots have so little cap space compared to other teams. Did someone screw up?
They didn't really screw up. A couple of things are happening:
1) They did play fast and loose with the cap the last few years, signing a lot of veteran players and pushing a lot of money into the future. The Patriots could have continued to kick more money down the road, but instead decided to pay the bill this year.
2) They have chosen to have this little cap space. That is to say, there are several moves they can and will make to create space. They just have chosen not to deal with it yet. They certainly didn't have to give Thuney the franchise tag, and perhaps they did it knowing full well that they would trade him. Maybe they know they're going to release Marcus Cannon, but they just haven't done it yet.
You’re never truly in cap jail in the NFL. There are always ways out. The Patriots, for whatever reason, just haven’t dug their way out yet. But they will, and it won’t prohibit them from being competitive and building the team back up again.
Do you recall if the Patriots had even slight interest in Josh Rosen two years ago? If so, do you think the Patriots could obtain Rosen from Miami for a 4th round pick?
I think the shine has definitely come off of Rosen. The Cardinals gave up on one season, and then Rosen couldn’t beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick last year in Miami. He’s so cheap (like $750k this year) that the Dolphins may as well just keep him as a No. 3 QB. If the Patriots were able to pry him away, I doubt he would be able to beat out Stidham for the job.
Probability of Pats dealing for 3rd pick and Tua? Read your article.
In my estimation, the one roadblock is the fact that the Patriots don't have good draft capital at all -- just the 23rd and 87th picks, plus a couple of compensatory third rounders.
The Dolphins have picks 5, 18 and 26. The Chargers, Panthers and Jags all draft in the top 10. They can each trump any Patriots offer when it comes to draft picks.
But what if the Lions don’t want draft picks -- they want real players? Patricia and Quinn need to win now. That’s where the Patriots could come in with the best offer. What if the Patriots gave them Thuney, plus picks 23 and 87? I don’t think it’s that crazy.
OK guys, that will just about wrap it up. Thank you to everyone who sent in a question today. Hope this was a nice little distraction from the realities of the outside world right now.
Good luck out there, everybody. Please stay safe and healthy.