New Englanders have always been regarded as a little too parochial, what with the whole “Hub of the Universe” and “Athens of America” mindset.
The rest of the country’s been rolling its eyes at Boston for better than a century. And now that the football team is (prepare for haughty Boston statement of superiority) the greatest dynasty in NFL history led by the most accomplished coach-quarterback tandem there’s ever been or will be, we’ve also found a way to hijack America’s Pastime.
That’s my roundabout way of pointing out that, as free agency’s “legal tampering” period begins on Tuesday, the Patriots are going to be the sun around which the other planets orbit for the next few weeks and into the draft.
With more than $60 million in available cap space, they can shop hard.
Agents, knowing that the rest of the league doesn’t want to get beaten to the punch by New England, will freely drop intel that leaves us with reported lines like the “Patriots are interested” or “among teams inquiring” or “said to be thinking about.” What better way to convince a suitor to pony up more dough than to dangle the possibility he Patriots are going to take your client, thereby pissing off your owner and fanbase?
The Patriots also have two of the leading defensive free agents hitting the market, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and cornerback Logan Ryan. Throw in Duron Harmon, Jabaal Sheard and Alan Branch and, on offense, Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount, and there’s a fleet of New England products other teams may be chasing in part because of their roles in a successful program.
And we haven’t even gotten to Jimmy. Between the players about to be drafted and the ones in the league, Garoppolo is the most promising quarterback available. If he’s available. Which is a conversation over the past week that’s devoured hours of content on radio and TV and provided a few million social media takes. And counting.
If Garoppolo is available via trade, would the Bears want to sign Mike “Neverending Neck” Glennon to an absurdly high deal? No. But Chicago is poised to do just that...unless...Jimmy could come at a price.
Last year, the Patriots sat idle in the early days of free agency. The only guy they signed on Day One was Ramon Humber. No, I wouldn’t know him if I saw him either.
But within two weeks, they’d acquired Martellus Bennett, Chris Long, Shea McClellin, Chris Hogan and Donald Brown while trading Chandler Jones.
The Patriots do stuff. And they usually do it with a measure of stealth.
So far, New England’s been linked to Saints wideout Brandin Cooks and Boston Herald writer Karen Guregian has noted sources close to Adrian Peterson believe he’d consider a discount to play in New England. Brandon Marshall’s name was tossed out there in the flimsiest of ways as a possibility.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots kicked the tires on DeSean Jackson and would fully support that move. And Jackson – an annoying little guy early in his career who got sideways in Philly with Belichick pal Chip Kelly – may be ready at 30 to do the one-year career rehab that so many other great players go through with the Patriots.
Long story short, we’re going to have a lot to discuss the next few days. Sometimes it gets dizzying trying to keep up. Sometimes it gets maddening trying to discern between real and fake news. It always is painful trying to extract the Patriots plans.
But it beats following the Jaguars.