Friday Bag: Why would any team want to help the Patriots in a trade?

Friday Bag: Why would any team want to help the Patriots in a trade?

Every Friday, Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry answer your Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or Friday Bag as they call it.


Got a question for the trio? Hit them up on Twitter using the hashtag #FridayBag. Here's this week's installment:

TC: Sure. They have a few teams they can deal with. Some have former Pats executives in the mix - Detroit with Bob Quinn, Jon Robinson in Tennessee, Jason Licht in Tampa and Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta - but the Pats have also dealt with the Eagles and Cardinals since the start of the 2016 season. So there are teams out there. It's finding the right partner to dance with.  

TC: Hello Whiner,

I'm with you. The wonders of Jordan Richards elude me. He's a second-round pick and been here since 2015 and he's got 38 tackles in three seasons. He had three tackles last year. 

He's shown a level of capability this year as a box safety playing alongside linebackers and he can hit but he doesn't seem particularly adept at anything. Certainly nothing on the level of what someone would expect from a second-round pick. Maybe with Hightower down and a linebacker need he gets a little more run. Personally, I'd have preferred the team keep Kamu Grugier-Hill last year. 

TC: That's a good question, Harry. I'd say Gronk. Adam Butler. Lawrence Guy. And especially Danny Amendola. Nobody's made more clutch catches this year on necessary third downs. He's got 29 catches for 324 yards on 36 targets. He's also averaging 13.1 yards on 10 punt returns and the Patriots entered the season not knowing who would fill that punt return void. So I'll gola with Dola. 

PP: Our guy Shimon was so fired up for the Bag, he couldn't wait to get his questions in. Appreciate that kind of aggressiveness! Let's blow through these quickly...1) I still think if Roberts is healthy that the Patriots will use him over Harris. He's been ahead of Harris on the depth chart all season, and I could be wrong, but I find it a little hard to believe that after 19 snaps against the Falcons -- even though Harris performed well -- the Patriots would all of a sudden have a different perspective on what's best for them at that position. 2) Is there a chance? Sure. Eventually. If Gilmore proves himself to be a liability. But if he's healthy, he's playing. The Patriots aren't giving up on him after five games, especially since Week 5 was his best outing. 3) Allen's just not giving them much of anything right now, which is odd because he's by all accounts an intelligent person. I wonder if maybe there's a chance he's thinking a little too much, if at this point he's pressing, and if that's hindering him on the field. We know he's been a non-factor as a receiver, but his positive moments as a blocker have been relatively few and far between, too. Maybe he can use the upcoming bye to put some extra time in and approach his role as if he's starting with a clean slate.

PP: Thanks for checking in, Sean. We hit on a bunch of intriguing possibilities here, but I'll also mention a couple of names I didn't include in that piece, both of whom were players the Patriots practiced against this summer: Lerentee McCray of the Jags and Ufomba Kamalu of the Texans. We know the Patriots have a history of scooping up joint-practice opponents, and those are players who may not cost all that much in terms of compensation. You can find more details on McCray and Kamalu here.

PP: How McClellin fits into the equation will be interesting to watch play out. He has experience on the edge. He has experience off the line. That versatility may give him a leg up on Roberts or Hightower as the No. 2 behind Van Noy. In obvious running situations, I'd still give Roberts the nod, but McClellin is probably the best option in coverage when talking about those three. In all likelihood, they'll mix and match depending on the situation. McClellin's eligible to return off IR Week 10. 

PP: Drewski, I don't think that would make sense for the Seahawks. They'd be getting a backup tackle (which they could probably use) and a struggling tight end in exchange for one of the better tight ends in football. Graham isn't what he once was, but he's still more valuable than what they'd be getting in that exchange. Never say never when it comes to Bill Belichick accumulating tight ends, but I think focusing on the front seven is where the Patriots would go in a trade if they were to make one.

PP: Curran. 

PP: He could see more opportunities if Amendola's knee injury limits him moving forward, T. But as the fourth receiver on the depth chart he has to make plays when he has the chance, and he has to stay penalty-free. Tom Brady's been picked twice when targeting Dorsett in the last two weeks (one of which was wiped because of a roughing-the-passer penalty), and Dorsett picked up a block-in-the-back penalty early against the Falcons. He started the game last week (good!) but ended up playing only eight snaps (not as good!). I don't think a breakout game is imminent, but I wouldn't rule out a productive one. Baby steps.

MG: Combo plattering these two questions. Neither guy has played a down of football this season, and in Nink’s case, he hasn’t even tried to do anything since June with pads on. I don’t care how much you work out, how much time you spend lifting and running and doing agility drills, there’s being in shape and there’s being in football shape. There’s no comparison between the two. If they’re depending on either to make any kind of impact, let alone a big one, they’re screwed. 

MG: All depends on if Brady is truly sincere when he says he’s playing another 57 years. But can we talk about the difference between Brady, 40, and Matt Ryan, 32, reigning MVP of the league? Ryan had to make four or five throws when the game was still a game Sunday night and missed every single one of them. He wasn’t pressured on those occasions. He had his targets open. And that dude couldn’t put the ball where it needed to be. Contrast that with Brady. That wasn’t a Brady game. The Pats didn’t ask him to carry them. But in big spots, Tommy boy made every single flipping throw. It was glorious to watch.

As for Jimmy, the Pats want him here next year and beyond. We’ll see how it plays out. They control him contractually for the next two seasons if they want to use that tag. Michael Holley says they won’t do it next year. Michael Holley is wrong.

MG: The injury bummed me out too, Ed, and let’s face it, we all went into the season knowing Hightower was a high injury risk and was going to miss some games. But an entire season? Damn. They don’t have one player on the roster who can duplicate what he does. Hell, they don’t have three or four players on the roster that do what he does, but they’re going to have to figure out a way. Can’t say as I’m overly confident because Hightower has a penchant for making a bunch of unseen plays and then - BOOM - the big play, but I’m also smart enough to not write off Belichick and Patricia.

MG: Q!!!!!!! My impressions were that if you get him going side to side, Harris is in deep trouble, but when he’s able to go downhill, he’s still got a decent burst and power. I’m hopeful that the Pats give him a lot of snaps this weekend and we can see how it really works. I also am convinced the communication is better with Harris out there then it is with Elandon Roberts.

Anyone care to interpret this Rob Gronkowski tweet?

Anyone care to interpret this Rob Gronkowski tweet?

As he contemplates retirement to either become a wrestler or an action movie hero, Rob Gronkowski appears to be contemplating more than that.

OK, that's great. So, are you coming back to catch to touchdown passes from Tom Brady or not? 

Not quite as easy to translate as Gronk's famous "pay cut" tweet from spring 2016, is it?

The tweet doesn't shed much light on it and whether the retirement talk is for real or a "contract ploy", the Gronk question looms over the Patriots' offseason as much as the Malcolm Butler mystery. It's actually more impactful since Butler's days in Foxboro are over. Are Gronk's?

As NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran put it this week: 

They can’t just sit with their hands folded in their laps and wait until Gronk gets around to deciding. They need to know is he in or is he out? Or if he’s completely ambivalent, at which point, would trading him be a horrific idea?

"...your destiny will be not just be reached, it will just be starting." Hmmm. 



Patriots can't overlook needs on special teams

Patriots can't overlook needs on special teams

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent to that area, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we're looking at a spot where the Patriots are constantly looking to add: special teams. 



Lucky for us, and for anyone who cares about assessing special-teams performance, Rick Gosselin of the Talk of Fame Network (formerly of the Dallas Morning News) compiles kicking-game rankings every year. Gosselin calculates scores for every NFL team by ranking them in 22 special teams categories and assigning points to their standing. Fewer points the better. The Patriots, according to Gosselin, ranking third in the NFL this year (231.5 points), just behind the Chiefs (229.5) and a ways off from the runaway winner Rams (196.5). The Patriots were excellent in terms of covering kicks, achieving the best mark in football for opponent starting field position. They were the only team in the league that, on average, had teams starting drives behind their 25-yard line. The average starting field position for New England's offense, meanwhile, was middle of the road (18th in the NFL). Stephen Gostkowski was once again highly effective on kickoffs and on field goals, ranking fourth in the league in kicks made and kick percentage. He didn't miss from inside 40 yards, and he was perfect on kicks of 50 yards or more, including a career-high (in Mexico City) of 62 yards. The operation among Joe Cardona, Ryan Allen and Gostkowski was generally very good all season, but in the Super Bowl, they faltered on their first field goal attempt. Gostkowski then missed an extra point at the end of the first half. Allen finished the season strong, with several well-placed kicks inside the 20, but he finished the regular season with 23 kicks downed inside the 20 (tied for 26th in football) and his net per punt was 40.5 (22nd). 

Gostkowski, Brandon Bolden, Allen, Cardona, Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, Nicholas Grigsby, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones

Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Brandon King (restricted free agent), Marquis Flowers, Johnson Bademosi 


If you're looking purely at the three specialists here, the need isn't all that significant. People may want the Patriots to start sniffing around for a new kicker after Gostkowski hooked an extra point against the Eagles, but the reality is he's still one of the most accurate kickers in football, and his ability to place kickoffs is highly valued by the Patriots coaching staff. Cardona isn't going anywhere. Allen will also be back, in all likelihood. Belichick is a fan of some of the big-legged punters around the league, and Allen hasn't proven to be that kind of punter. But the fact that Allen was able to rebound from some eyebrow-raising punts early in the season to finish strong should have him back in 2018 without issue. The need here is in the kick-coverage and kick-returning areas. The Patriots are scheduled to have both of their returners (Amendola on punts and Lewis on kicks) hit free agency. Where will they end up? How much can Cyrus Jones take on after tearing his ACL last season? There are legitimate questions there. And when it comes to kick coverage, Belichick's two best players in that regard -- Slater and Ebner (coming off an ACL tear of his own) -- are slated to hit free agency. The Patriots have re-signed Bolden but other core kick-coverage players like Flowers, King and Bademosi are also scheduled to hit the market. Several could be back, but right now the core coverage units which served them so well in 2017 could have a significantly altered look next season. 


Arguably the best non-kicking, non-punting special-teamer in the game last season, Miami's Michael Thomas, is slated to be an unrestricted free agent. Arizona's Justin Bethel - in the top-10 in the league in terms of special teams tackles every year since 2012, according to Pro Football Focus - is also set to hit the market. Rontez Miles of the Jets and Nick Dzubnar of the Chargers, both among the league leaders in special-teams tackles, are restricted free agents. At kicker, there's plenty of experience out there. The Raiders have parted ways with Sebastian Janikowski. Graham Gano, praised by Belichick in the regular season before New England's matchup with Carolina, is a free agent. Same goes for Atlanta's Matt Bryant, Seattle's Blair Walsh, Washington's Dustin Hopkins, Tennessee's Ryan Succop and Philly's Caleb Sturgis. Punters available include Dustin Colquitt of the Chiefs, Houston's Shane Lechler and Cincy's Kevin Huber. 


Glad you asked! We've got multiple draftable punters coming out of the college ranks this year. Michael Dickson of Texas is already getting some Day 2 (!) draft buzz for his combination of power and control. An Australian Rules Football guy who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter last season, Dickson would be just the second punter taken inside the first three rounds in the past 10 years if it happens. Alabama's JK Scott (6-foot-6) and Bowling Green's Joseph Davidson (6-7) could also hear their names called on draft weekend. 


Davidson is left-footed and could pique Belichick's interest, but Allen's finish to the 2017 campaign should earn him the chance to pick up where he left off. The Patriots will surely be looking to bolster their kick-coverage and return units throughout the draft so don't discount a player's ability to perform in those phases when looking for potential Patriots fits. The quickest way to ensure immediate contributions here would be to re-sign players Slater, Amendola and King. Ebner could also be back following his ACL tear, which was relatively clean and uncomplicated. One late-season injury that could impact whether or not the Patriots make a move for a special-teamer in free agency was the one suffered by Jonathan Jones. It was of the non-contact variety on the Gillette Stadium turf. The severity of his injury is unclear, but if he won't be ready by the time the season begins, the Patriots would have to find someone who can handle his myriad duties in the kicking game. Bottom line: With everyone focused on the offensive and defensive holes on the Patriots roster that need to be addressed, there are others in the kicking game that will also require attention this offseason.