Patriots

#FridayBag: Farewell, Jimmy G Edition

#FridayBag: Farewell, Jimmy G Edition

Each week, Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi take your Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or #FridayBag as it’s come to be known. Giardi takes a bye during this bye week, but Curran and Perry aren’t sitting this one out. 

Got a question for the trio? Tweet it using the hashtag #FridayBag and they’ll do their best to answer it. On to this week’s edition:

TC: They wouldn’t have gotten anything. Every team would have known that Garoppolo was headed for free agency in early March. Why pay for something you can bid on later. It’s not a terrible question and maybe the Patriots could have gotten that second-rounder in February but that’s not a dice-roll worth playing, in my opinion.

TC: I don’t know where I’ve made Bill Belichick “look like a genius” in this. The Patriots had a bad hand. If they traded Garoppolo in the spring and Brady got hurt or dipped, they’d have been screwed. If they trade him now, they get a diminished return and kept him around as insurance they didn’t really need. If they auctioned him around the league, maybe they’d have gotten more but my sense on that is Belichick WANTS to see Garoppolo do well and felt he owed it to him to put him in a decent spot. Additionally, he didn’t want the attention that a “FOR SALE” sign hung on Jimmy would have attracted so he quietly sent him to SF. If they franchised him, they would have been on the hook for $25 million if/when Garoppolo signed the thing and the roster would have to be revamped in order to keep a trade chip when a QB-loaded draft was approaching. They have a bad hand because they were smart enough to draft Garoppolo and do a great job developing him but they were even smarter 18 years ago when they drafted Brady. You pay car insurance, right? If you don’t get in a crash by the time the year runs out, did you get fleeced? I mean, think of all the money you spent. Same thing.

TC: That was the perfect way to split the baby. Jimmy hates the cold though. It was a no-go.

TC: Hey Jeff, I would venture there was thought. But the level at which Brady is playing, the stickiness of trading the greatest quarterback ever while he’s still putting up numbers and the fact this team is still competing for a Super Bowl annually meant it never rose to the level of “serious thought.” Brady’s dip has been too slow in coming for the team to contemplate moving on to a promising but unknown quantity. 

PP: The Patriots are in need of defensive tackles at the moment so Vincent Valentine would be a nice addition if and when he's able to return off of IR. He is sticking around the Foxboro area during the bye week as he continues to rehab. If he returns, that might mean fewer reps for players like Lawrence Guy or Malcom Brown, who've been used extensively through the first half of the season. Valentine's presence may also allow someone like Deatrich Wise, who has played inside occasionally, to spend more time on the edge. 

As far as McClellin goes, who he replaces will depend on how the Patriots use him. If he's viewed as an additional edge piece, maybe he sees some of Cassius Marsh's workload. If he's going to play off the line, David Harris could see his recent bump in play slide back down. 

PP: It's already evolving, Steve! Bill Belichick acknowledged that because his team is thin on the defensive line, they used their linebackers to supplement that group against the Chargers. That meant more linebackers getting up the field and into the line of scrimmage. We'll have a piece on the creativity in the front-seven hitting NBCSportsBoston.com this weekend. It's interesting stuff, and it'll take you back to 2014. 

Now, just to get to all the specific players you mention . . . here are my takes, quickly: Kyle Van Noy has taken on the Hightower role as hybrid end/'backer, it seems; McClellin's return may allow him to play a similar role and could cut into some of the workloads that players such as David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers and Trevor Reilly have seen lately; Valentine isn't guaranteed to return, remember, since he's continuing to rehab and since the Patriots could opt to bring back Malcolm Mitchell instead. That hasn't been ruled out. Teams are only allowed to bring two players back off of IR, and McClellin should be the first. 

PP: It's close. Brady was 22 and (about) eight months old when he was drafted. He would have to play through his 44-year-old season (2021) to earn the "majority of my life in the NFL" thing. Pretty impressive considering quarterbacks between 2008 and 2014 had an average career length of less than three years, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

PP: Maybe, Mason, but I don't think so. The motivation will be there for Brady as long as he knows they're looking for the next guy. Which they are. The decision to draft Garoppolo was the just the air horn signaling the search was real.

PP: Real funny, Giardi! Just kidding. Of course, it's not him. His handle is @IllmissyouforeverJimJim10. Poor fella. First pick? I'd say the Browns get it for the second straight year. Just can't see them winning more than a couple by season's end. Think the Niners have the ability to win two or three, especially since their schedule includes the one-win Giants and the Watson-less, Watt-less, Mercilus-less Texans. 

PP: If there were, now would be the time to fill them. The bye week could be a valuable catch-up period, and so the fact that none of these are already in-house makes me think they won't be. 

PP: Yes. And keep an eye on the 2019 class while you're at it, Chris.


 

 

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

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 at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today. we're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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File Photo

Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."