Patriots

Bill Belichick's pros & cons of bringing Tom Brady back to Patriots

Bill Belichick's pros & cons of bringing Tom Brady back to Patriots

Trying to get inside Bill Belichick's head always a dangerous game... but here goes!

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Everyone is still waiting to see how Bill Belichick and the Patriots want to approach whatever comes next with Tom Brady. I believe there's a scenario in which Belichick would like to have Brady in the fold, continuing their two decades of unprecedented success. But I also believe there are very few people, not including Brady, who know exactly what that scenario is.

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It's an interesting exercise for us to try to wrap our heads around. What would be the pros and cons to bringing Brady back, if we were sitting in Belichick's chair? We've batted them around for months now, but let's do our best to lay them out here.

PRO: Compete with a known commodity

While Brady is doing things that quarterbacks haven't done into their 40s, and while it might be difficult to say when Brady's physical skills will decline to the point of being non-competitive, he's certainly not there yet. More than any other option, bringing Brady back to New England would give the Patriots more of a known commodity at the sport's most important position. 

If the Patriots want a skill set and a brain at quarterback that provides them the best chance to win their division -- and, if the situation is right, perhaps more -- then having Brady back makes sense. The defense is still plenty talented. The offense is a few pieces away from looking like a more successful unit.

Bringing back Brady in 2020 looks like the quickest way to maximize New England's win total. 

CON: Commit to a player in uncharted territory

Brady didn't land the multi-year commitment he was hoping for last offseason. For the past few seasons, Brady's contract has been tweaked with raises or incentives added as the Patriots have apparently taken a year-to-year approach with their now 42-year-old passer. 

What Brady is looking for in a new contract won't necessarily revolve around money, as our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran has reported. But Brady may want a longer-term commitment that will take him closer to his goal of playing until he's 45. That kind of term might be out there in offers from other teams.

Would the Patriots be willing to match? And in terms of dollars, would they be willing to get close to what other clubs might be offering? Would that be good business in their eyes?

PRO: Tone-setter in the organization

What Brady does in terms of influencing his teammates and encouraging them to sacrifice for the team is invaluable. He's a living legend, even in their locker room. There's a weight that comes with calling that person a teammate. No one wants to let Brady down.

There's pressure associated with that feeling, too, but the Patriots embrace the idea of being "comfortable with being uncomfortable." Brady's presence contributes to that. 

Working with Brady might make players uncomfortable, young ones in particular, but in the end, there's value in that. Brady's visible disappointment with the performance of the offense last season might've rubbed some in the organization the wrong way at times, but having him in the building would benefit any team's culture. 

CON: Delaying the inevitable

We've gone over some of the numbers in this space in the past, but the Patriots are scheduled to be one of the league's oldest teams again in 2020. Re-signing Brady, and surrounding him with experienced pieces that would complement him effectively, would prolong their stay near the top of the league's average-age list. 

That might not matter to Belichick. He's won Super Bowls with very experienced rosters. But it's worth wondering how sustainable that course of action might be from a team-building perspective.

Moves made last season -- trading a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu, making a significant financial commitment to Antonio Brown -- in order to improve in the short term will in different ways impact New England's ability to build for the future. Would they have to continue to extend themselves in that fashion if they were to keep Brady around?

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PRO: System consistency

One of the factors of Brady's free agency that we've analyzed ad nauseam this offseason is the fact that if he ends up elsewhere, he'd probably want to bring his offense with him. If he stays, one of the benefits of having him is the Patriots system would survive. Developed over 20 years, its breadth allows the Patriots to adjust their game plan for any situation, any opponent. Even the unexpected ones. 

Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels both have referenced over the years the fact that when a defense throws an unforeseen attack their way, they can dig into their collective memory and pull out a plan from five, 10, 15 years ago and see if it'll work. Without Brady, that goes away.

Yes, Jarrett Stidham has experience with the language and concepts of the Patriots offense. But Brady, in some ways, is the system. There will have to be adjustments made if he's gone, even if someone with some experience in Foxboro takes over.

CON: System disconnect

There is no doubt that some have an easier time than others grasping things in the New England offense. It's not impossible to pick up. Rookie wideout Malcolm Mitchell was a key contributor by the end of his first year in 2016. Brandin Cooks had a 1,000-yard season in his first season with the Patriots the following year.

But it can take time. If the Patriots do want to get younger, while also keeping Brady in the fold to remain as competitive as possible, that's tricky. It'd require young players to keep up with Brady mentally and perform under pressure.

It's a lot to ask. It was fascinating to see Miami move on from former Patriots receivers coach Chad O'Shea as their offensive coordinator because, reportedly, they felt the Patriots system O'Shea had implemented was too challenging for the rebuilding Dolphins to master. (The Dolphins, likely adding a quarterback in the draft, hired spread offense aficionado Chan Gailey to replace O'Shea.)

Will the Patriots ever feel similarly as their roster turns over? That they're getting diminishing returns from young players because the system asks too much of them?

Over the next few weeks, there will be no shortage of discussion as to what will be Belichick's best course of action with Brady. The number of factors involved are countless.

Still, at least we know that by mid-March we'll have a little more clarity on where the coach and his quarterback stand on a reunion.

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2020 NFL Draft: Scouting the top running backs

2020 NFL Draft: Scouting the top running backs

We'll be blunt: This isn't exactly the Golden Age of running backs.

Only one running back (Josh Jacobs) was a top-50 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and it's very likely that trend will continue in 2020.

Teams are more wary than ever of spending premium draft capital at a position with such injury risk, especially with a host of talented wide receivers and tight ends on the 2020 NFL Draft board.

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And yet: The running back position still is a great place to find value.

Just ask the Buffalo Bills, whose 2019 third-round selection, Devin Singletary, is now a high-upside starter. Or the New Orleans Saints, who snagged superstar Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 draft.

  • 2020 Draft Rankings: QB

The New England Patriots have taken a running back in back-to-back drafts -- Sony Michel in 2018 and Damien Harris in 2019 -- to complement James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden, so they don't necessarily have a backfield need.

But have you known Bill Belichick to pass up value? Let's check out the top 10 running back prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. D'Andre Swift

College: Georgia
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 196 carries, 1,218 yards, seven touchdowns (24 receptions, 216 yards, one touchdown)

The latest workhorse back to come out of Georgia, Swift is the most well-rounded runner of the 2020 class. He boasts top-end speed (4.48-second 40-yard dash) and a strong frame (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) but more importantly possesses patience and vision that should help make him a successful three-down back for whatever running back-needy team scoops him up.

Projected Round: First

2. Jonathan Taylor

College: Wisconsin
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 320 carries, 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns (26 receptions, 252 yards, five touchdowns)

Taylor put up monster numbers at Wisconsin, leading the Big Ten in rushing in three straight years and winning two Doak Walker Awards as the best running back in college football. His heavy workload (926 carries over three seasons) might make some teams wary, but Taylor has the tools to be a starting NFL running back out of the gate.

Projected Round: First or Second

3. J.K. Dobbins

College: Ohio State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 301 carries, 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns (23 receptions, 247 yards, two touchdowns)

Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2019 and broke Ohio State's single-season rushing record held by Eddie George with 2,003 yards. He's no George or Ezekiel Elliott, though, and will have to prove those numbers weren't just the byproduct of an explosive Buckeye offense as he tries to compete for a starting NFL job in 2020.

Projected Round: Second

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire

College: LSU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 215 carries, 1,414 yards, 16 touchdowns (55 receptions, 453 yards, one touchdown)

What Edwards-Helaire lacks in height (5-foot-8), he makes up for with exceptional balance and explosiveness, as evidenced by his 6.9 yards per touch for the national champion Tigers. His receiving ability (3.7 receptions per game in 2019) also should appeal to a club looking for a boost on offense, although there's a good chance he slips to the third round with so many elite wideouts on the board.

Projected Round: Second or Third

5. Cam Akers

College: Florida State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 231 carries, 1,144 yards, 14 touchdowns (30 receptions, 225 yards, four touchdowns)

A highly-touted recruit out of high school, Akers broke Dalvin Cook's freshman rushing record in 2017 and put up three seasons of solid production for an otherwise disappointing Seminoles team. Ball security is an issue (10 fumbles in three seasons), but Akers represents solid value in this second tier of backs.

Projected Round: Second or Third

6. Zack Moss

College: Utah
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 235 carries, 1,416 yards, 15 touchdowns (28 receptions, 388 yards, two touchdowns)

The cousin of former NFL wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss, Zack Moss is a bruiser whose physical running style could translate well to the NFL. Moss turns 23 in December and his 2018 knee injury is a potential red flag, but he has the potential to be a solid sleeper pick.

Projected Round: Third

7. Eno Benjamin

College: Arizona State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 253 carries, 1,083 yards, 10 touchdowns (42 receptions, 347 yards, two touchdowns)

Benjamin's production actually dipped last season after a 300-rush, 1,642-yard campaign for the Sun Devils in 2018. The Texas native has top-end elusiveness, though, and could be a serviceable change-of-pace back for an NFL team after averaging 8.3 yards per reception in 2019.

Projected Round: Fourth

8. Anthony McFarland

College: Maryland
Class: Sophomore
2019 stats: 114 carries, 614 yards, eight touchdowns (17 receptions, 126 yards, one touchdown)

McFarland is one of the fastest running backs in the 2020 draft (4.44-second 40-yard dash) but has been dogged by injuries, including a high ankle sprain that limited his production in 2019. If an NFL team is convinced he can get healthy, he's an enticing mid-round flyer.

Projected Round: Fourth

9. A.J. Dillon

College: Boston College
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 318 carries, 1,685 yards, 14 touchdowns (13 receptions, 195 yards, one touchdown)

Boston College's bell-cow back amassed 845 carries over three seasons, boasting impressive athleticism for someone with his 6-foot, 250-pound frame. Dillon doesn't have any standout traits, though, and likely will begin his NFL career as a backup.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

10. Ke'Shawn Vaughn

College: Vanderbilt (via Illinois)
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 198 carries, 1,028 yards, nine touchdowns (28 receptions, 270 yards, one touchdown)

Vaughn's best college season came in 2018, when he averaged 7.9 yards per carry (1,244 yards on 157 attempts) after transferring from Illinois to Vanderbilt. A regression in 2019 impacted his draft stock, but he still should go in the middle rounds after a decent showing at the Senior Bowl.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

Tom Brady on 2020 Patriots: 'They can do great, and they will do great'

Tom Brady on 2020 Patriots: 'They can do great, and they will do great'

Many New England Patriots fans will be keeping a close eye on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season after Tom Brady left in free agency to sign with the NFC South club.

And you can bet Brady likely will be keeping tabs on his former team, too. In fact, the subject of the Patriots' 2020 season came up Wednesday during Brady's candid, two-hour long interview with SiriusXM's Howard Stern.

Here's what Brady had to say about the Patriots' upcoming campaign without him:

The Patriots do have quite a challenge coming up. Not only did they lose the greatest quarterback of all-time in Brady, several important defensive players also departed New England as free agents, including linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick still has a lot of talent on this roster, however, and he's also fortunate the team owns 12 picks in this month's 2020 NFL Draft.

Oddsmakers also are confident in the Patriots' ability to extend their postseason appearance streak to 12 seasons. DraftKings Sportsbook currently gives the Pats -200 odds to reach the postseason, and they're also +100 favorites to win the AFC East for a 12th consecutive season. New England has the third-best odds to win the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.

Much of the Patriots' success in 2020 is expected to depend on the performance of Brady's replacement, and second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham is the favorite to assume that role. Stidham has a monumental challenge in front of him, but his teammates have had plenty of praise for his attitude, poise and other attributes throughout the offseason.