Friday Bag: Does Belichick consult his staff before making a big trade?

Friday Bag: Does Belichick consult his staff before making a big trade?

FOXBORO -- Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, have at the first Bag of the post-Jamie Collins Era . . .

TC: He most definitely doesn’t go with “gut,” Tom. He’s very methodical in the way he makes decisions. He’ll have his own observations, probably talk with Ernie Adams and Nick Caserio at length about big picture things, talk to Matt Patricia about pros and cons of altering a role, cutting playing time, waiting things out, talk to Brian Flores as to the down-to-down, day-to-day, meeting-to-meeting tenor of things, and then he’ll wait. And when all the information is gathered and something occurs that cinches the bag shut, the decision is made without a second’s hesitation.

TC: Absolutely is Denver, Kyle. And they really need that challenge, I think, as a checkpoint to where the team is as it heads toward the playoffs. Highest importance on that game in December.

TC: I don’t know if it’s Eric Rowe, Justin Coleman or Logan Ryan but it is a spot that’s up for grabs the team would like to see sealed up. There are also unique skills to each of the three players. Ryan is the strongest and – if you ask me – the best though when he gets down on himself he struggles. Rowe has great size and – while he’s not been impressive – he hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster. And I think Coleman may be the fastest and intriguing but he isn’t very smooth like Ryan can be and his frenetic style when the ball’s in the air can be a flag-attracter. Long story short, I think Ryan resurfaces.

TC: Blended these questions together. It’s something I wrote about earlier in the week. Here’s what I had to say then.

Is there danger in this decision? Hell yes. As much as with any move since the release of Lawyer Milloy on the eve of the season in 2003. 

Even if it wasn’t the intention, Collins looks like a scapegoat now. That won’t be lost on the rest of the defense. More than that, Collins is a quiet kid, well-liked by teammates who -- while never shocked at personnel triggers pulled -- aren’t reacting with a shrug of the shoulders. 

Dont'a Hightower is upset about the release of Collins, who he lockered next to and is personally close with. Clearly, the Patriots’ decision can be viewed as “choosing” Hightower as the player they want in their defense for the long haul while Collins was expendable. How’s that sit with Hightower when Collins is so publicly rebuked by this personnel decision?

TC: I do. Somebody has to be covering at the linebacker level in place of the coverage snaps Collins takes away. Expand that to the safeties as well.

TC: No. But I do think, at this juncture, he’s very attuned to the legacy he leaves and “the way he’s remembered.” I’m sure that he’d like to be one day enshrined in Canton, Ohio and – at the same time – have everyone in Canton, Mass.,(or any other New England town) unequivocally adore him. There’s a lot to appreciate. In half-assed summation: He kept the team in New England, built a stadium without the aid of public money, hired Bill Belichick and got out of the way in order to let him deliver what’s turned out to be the greatest run of sustained success the NFL has ever seen. He also has been one of the region’s great philanthropists. He probably wonders, “What’s not to like? What else can I do?” And that’s where the hard-to-pinpoint but very real vagaries of New Englanders opinions arise. We’re cynical. So we don’t forget that in keeping the Patriots in Massachusetts he almost delivered them to Connecticut as well. And that the camera-seeking Kraft we knew in the mid-90s, the guy who was always looking for some of the credit, was a real thing. And that he’s the one who shepherded Roger Goodell to a seat of power and that – despite his maneuvering with Goodell and other owners – the Patriots still got played for fools in DeflateGate. We eat our own. And Kraft should know that as well as anyone. He’s not going to be universally loved and celebrated in real time. And I think that hurts him. Long answer.  

TC: Not that seem apparent to me, Harry. That “age is just a number” adage I do believe is very true. You can slow down the effects relative to others based on how committed you want to be to maintaining. What I think Brady has really understood is that the key to his maintaining is in diet and unconventional training that emphasizes flexibility, core strength, hydration and recovery. To broadly describe it. And he lives it. He doesn’t dabble in it.

PP: Doney, I'll refer you to Tom's answer above. Think there's always some risk of that with a move like this, but I'll add two things: 1) The defense will have to get worse and the team will have to begin losing games before anyone doubts the head coach, in my opinion. If they remain near the top of the league in terms of points allowed and the continue to rattle off wins, the Collins deal won't be the source of long-term player unrest. Winning cures all, as they say. 2) This is different from the Milloy deal in that Bill Belichick is now Bill Freakin' Belichick. He's a Hall of Famer, the architect of the longest-running stretch of success in league history, the guy who has made shocking deals in the past and come out on the other side -- more often than not -- without a scratch. He was none of those things when Milloy was dealt. Nowadays, he's coaching players who knew he was one of the best of all time back when they were in middle school. As a result, I think there's more of an acknowledgement that "Coach knows best" in the locker room when something like this happens.

PP: None of the above. I think the first guy up to receive the bulk of the work with Collins out will be Elandon Roberts. He's been tremendous against the run, and as much as this is a pass-first league now, stopping opposing running games will continue to be a weekly priority for Belichick and Patricia. Roberts may have some physical limitations in coverage due to his size (6-feet, 235), but he's been where he's expected to be in the passing game, limiting yards after the catch with his sound tackling. Until Mingo proves he's a better option in the passing game (his speed and pass-rush ability will get him on the field eventually, in my opinion), Roberts will probably see the biggest bump in work with Collins gone. Van Noy still has a long way to go to learn the system and right now looks like a depth option. 

PP: If you want to hear Tom at his coolest, check out the end of this week's podcast. Reaches levels of coolness to which AC Slater could only aspire. "Get yourselves out on that party train!"

PP: What makes it tough for Cyrus Jones is that there isn't just one player he has to beat out in order to earn the seemingly up-for-grabs No. 2 corner job. There's three: Ryan, Rowe and Coleman. What's most surprising about Jones' lack of playing time is that he hasn't been able to contribute as a returner. Caserio admitted that his return ability gave him a boost in value and made him a worthwhile add as the team's second-round pick. The timing seemed perfect as his presence would keep Edelman and Amendola from taking unnecessary hits in the kicking game. Both Edelman and Amendola have been productive in that phase, but each shot they take is one more than they would have had Jones seized the return roles for punts and kicks. 

PP: Nothing to worry about here, Sarge. He has dealt with some injuries (most recently a hamstring) that have limited his production. Two-tight-end sets have also reduced the need for three and four-receiver packages. Mitchell is clearly behind Edelman and Hogan on the depth chart, and Amendola could be worked in more frequently as the season progresses and the moments become more important. For all those reasons, there just hasn't been much in the way of opportunity for Mitchell, but he has fared relatively well for a rookie in this offense. Should injuries impact others at that position group, I don't think the team would hesitate to play him when he's healthy. 

PP: To have all those things fall into place? Odds on that seem relatively low. But the one that would be most interesting to see would be a McDaniels/Garoppolo reunion if McDaniels does in fact opt to take a job elsewhere next season. Ideal scenario for both. As such, how much would McDaniels -- and the front office brass at his next gig -- be willing to give up for a known commodity in the prime of his career behind center? We're a long way from there, but would be fun to track.

PP: If Lewis can be anything close to what he was at the beginning of last season, he could cut into Blount's workload, but I don't think it would stifle Blount's momentum. If anything, I think it Blount would welcome his buddy's return. The 250-pounder is on pace for a career-high 322 carries this season and could probably benefit from being managed more carefully down the stretch. Unclear how Lewis will impact the offense because so much relies on how quickly he will be able to change direction on a knee that has now been surgically repaired twice in the last year. What made him so valuable last year was not only his ability to make people miss, but also his ability to play in all situations. He was a true all-purpose back who could catch the ball out of the backfield as well as run between the tackles. The Patriots have mixed Blount into the passing game (and James White into the running game) to become less predictable this season, but Lewis gives the team a different dynamic when healthy.

Eric Ebron signs two-year deal with Colts

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Eric Ebron signs two-year deal with Colts

Former Lions tight end Eric Ebron is signing a two-year deal worth $15 million with the Colts, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Ebron was rumored to be a potential target for the Patriots, especially after new Pats running back Jeremy Hill tried recruiting him to the team.

The 24-year-old had 53 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns a season ago with Detroit. 


Patriots release Shea McClellin

File Photo

Patriots release Shea McClellin

Shea McClellin will be blocking kicks for somebody else next season. 

The Patriots announced Monday they've released the veteran linebacker, ending his tenure with the team after two seasons.  ESPN's Field Yates broke the news.

The Pats signed McClellin to a three-year deal prior to the 2016 season, but that was the only season in which he played for the team. McClellin missed all of last season due to injury. Prior to coming to New England, McClellin played four seasons with the Bears, who chose him 19th overall in 2012. 

McClellin's biggest contribution with the Pats came when he blocked a Justin Tucker kick in Week 14 of the 2016 season against the Ravens.