Now that Jimmy Garoppolo has been traded, now that Tom Brady is the only quarterback on the Patriots roster, the team must be comfortable rolling with its quadragenarian passer for the next handful of years. Right?
That's the assumption. But on Tuesday's conference call Bill Belichick hinted that Brady's spot as the team's starter isn't locked in for, say, the duration of his contract, which runs through 2019.
For someone in the late stages of his career, as Brady is, the evaluations have to be done on a year-to-year basis, Belichick explained.
"I’d say when a player gets to a certain point in his career, and that varies from player to player and position to position, but I look at those as at some point it becomes year-to-year," Belichick said. "So the expectations aren’t over a long period of time or longer window like they are with a player coming into the league where you look at a player’s growth in three-to-five years or two-to-four years or that type of a window where a player is young and improving and physically developing and gaining experience and skill and so forth.
"When you get players that have reached a certain point, then it’s their ability to maintain, although they can work to improve on little things and techniques and little skills like that. I’m not saying there aren’t things players can do to improve, but it’s more of a maintenance and maintaining that high level of play, their maximum level of play, wherever that level is that they’ve reached to sustain that."
Brady has maintained better than any quarterback in the history of the sport. But he won't be able to maintain forever. Belichick knows that, and he'll be gauging, as he does with every player, in order to shift course when necessary.
Belichick just doesn't know when that adjustment is coming. Safe to say that whenever it does, it will be at a later date than Belichick and his staff thought possible when they drafted Garoppolo back in 2014.
"Trying to predict [how an older player will maintain] is not something – I don’t think it’s easy. It’s not something I try to do a lot of," Belichick said. "I look at it as year-to-year. I learned that a long time ago, and I’d say that advice has served me well."
Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season.
Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder.
Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick.
Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury.
Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad.
Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.
The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues.
Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.
“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”
Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September.
Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:
Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout."