Checking in on Patriots compensatory haul through two days of free agency

Checking in on Patriots compensatory haul through two days of free agency

We're through two days of free agency and the Patriots have yet to make a big splash. But their haul thus far goes beyond a few pass-catchers you'd never heard of prior to Thursday and a run-game staple on the defensive line.

There are those compensatory picks. There are always compensatory picks.

According to Nick Korte of, the Patriots are currently scheduled to land two comp picks in 2020 -- both third-rounders. Korte has Malcom Brown, Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Rowe's departures canceled out by New England's acquisition of Brandon Bolden, Mike Pennel and Terrence Brooks.


Should Patriots free agents like Chris Hogan, Stephen Gostkowski, Danny Shelton or LaAdrian Waddle sign elsewhere, the Patriots could end up with other later-round picks. Still, those two thirds represent one of the best compensatory pick packages in the league to this point. 

The Patriots, Eagles and Seahawks -- teams that have combined to win five of the last seven Super Bowls -- are among the teams atop the comp pick chart. That's not a coincidence. And last season's Super Bowl runner-up, the Rams, landed two third-round picks and two sevenths via the compensatory pick formula. 

With the rules on trading comp picks changing two years ago -- prior to that teams had to keep their compensatory selections -- they have more value than ever. And for a team like the Patriots, which has gotten older due in part to its willingness to deal away picks for veterans, that means more ammo. Whether the picks are used to maneuver up the draft, traded, or used to nab rookies, they offer real returns for teams that remain disciplined in their spending and don't cancel out their compensatory awards.

The Patriots have four compensatory picks in this year's draft, the maximum number for any team. (Only 32 picks are awarded every year.) Two are thirds. They could be used on players or to climb up the draft to get into an area of the draft -- perhaps higher in the second round? -- to improve their chances of landing impactful rookies. While having an older roster has worked out for them, they understand they need to start building up their next young core. They also have a sixth and a seventh-round comp pick that could somehow chip away at that goal.


Keeping those two thirds in 2020, though, could have a real impact on how the Patriots approach the rest of free agency. Even if they were to create enough cap space to ink a high-priced free agent (for instance, someone like Ndamukong Suh), would they if it meant potentially parting ways with a third? Seems unlikely. Even signing someone relatively expensive like Adam Humphries or Golden Tate would've preserved those thirds as both receivers are projected to land their teams fourth-round comp picks.

Lately the Patriots have gone out of their way to preserve their comp-pick awards by trading for players -- Trent Brown, Jason McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, Dwayne Allen, Cordarrelle Pattersion are all recent pick-for-player swaps they've executed -- as opposed to being big-time wheelers and dealers in free agency. They could also make plays for free agents who've been released since they don't count against the comp-pick formula. Potential fits like Justin Houston and Jordy Nelson would fall into that category.

To the smartest teams in the league, those compensatory picks matter. And it looks like the Patriots are going to end up protecting theirs again.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

When he heard the news that Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung were opting out of the 2020 season, Jerod Mayo had the same reaction most people did. 

"I was shocked, disappointed -- a bunch of emotions went through my head initially," said Mayo, who played alongside and is friends with both men.

"Then I took a step back and looked at each situation. These are personal decisions. Obviously, Hightower took a step back and examined his personal situation and so did Chung and I totally respect the decision. I know coach (Bill Belichick) already talked about it.”

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Speaking on a video conference call Friday morning, the Patriots inside linebackers coach said the leadership and play of both players will be missed but added that, “From a football standpoint, you just gotta treat it like an injury.”

“We’ve always had that 'next man up' mentality and that’s how we’re approaching it going forward,” said Mayo. “With that said, even though those guys have opted out, those guys will still continue to mentor some of the younger guys. Guys who haven’t played as much ball.

"And I can totally appreciate it. Hightower is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around and so is Chung. Those guys are not here with us this year on the field but they are still around.”

Mayo saluted the work the organization has done in getting the facility prepared for dealing with football during a pandemic. 

“The staff has done a fantastic job,” he said. “One thing I’ve always respected about this organization is they don’t just try to solve these complex problems in-house, they go out and ask other people what they’re doing. 

“When I walk around the building, I feel safe and I think the players do, as well,” Mayo continued. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Our operations people deserve a shout-out.

"This is such a fluid situation. Things change, whether it’s the CDC changing guidelines or any of that stuff. It changes so much and those guys have done a great job around the building so guys feel safe and coaches feel safe.”

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

For the better part of three months this offseason, there was no evidence to suggest that Jarrett Stidham wouldn't be The Next Guy in New England. 

The initial wave of free agency came and went. The draft came and went. Still, the 2019 fourth-round selection out of Auburn looked like the choice to replace Tom Brady. Bill Belichick hadn't brought in anyone else outside of Brian Hoyer and two undrafted rookies.

Sure, it was a lot to ask of a Day 3 draft choice who had taken zero snaps of consequence as a rookie. But it looked like the Patriots believed he could be their starter.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Then on June 29, news broke that the Patriots signed Cam Newton. Stidham was in Texas, visiting family, when he heard.

"Tom (Brady) deciding to go to Tampa, signing Cam and everything . . . it's just kind of a wild offseason," Stidham said. "But I would say my routine hasn't changed at all. My work ethic has kind of been the same throughout everything that's going on.

"I've just really tried to focus on being a good teammate and working as hard as I possibly can to really improve this offseason. It's been a wild ride this offseason, but happy to be back in the building with everybody and kind of get rolling here."

And happy to compete, he explained. 

Even with one of the most gifted quarterbacks in modern NFL history now present in the Patriots meetings, Stidham told reporters Friday he still feels as though that job -- the one that looked like his from the end of March through the end of June -- is up for grabs.

He didn't hesitate when asked if he believed he still had a chance to be named the starter with a good performance this summer.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"Absolutely," he said. "I think I'm definitely ready. I think I've put a lot of work in this offseason to really improve. Mentally, physically and really in a lot of different areas. But at the end of the day, I'm extremely excited to compete with Cam and Hoy as we go forward in training camp and get into the season and things like that.

"I'm really looking forward to the competition. I love competing in whatever it is so I'm really looking forward to it."

And then there was this answer, to a question about his relationship with Brady, where Stidham -- purposefully or not -- shed some light on the fact that he still likes his odds of being The Next Guy.

"I don't really look at it as replacing Tom Brady," he said. "I just want to be myself and I want to be a leader for this team and be the best teammate that I can be for this team. I don't really look at it that way."

Stidham even went so far as to say that he was "excited" when the Patriots signed Newton. Though the rest of the world saw the acquisition as an impediment to Stidham's promotion, he says he took a different approach. 

"What a great opportunity to compete with another great player," Stidham said. "To compete with Hoy and Cam. I was actually really, really excited for the opportunity ahead."

Maybe that's lip service. Maybe that's a young player trying to convince himself there's a real competition ahead. 

But at times on Friday's WebEx press conference, Stidham sounded like he believed he had a real crack to be the No. 1. Even with a superstar 6-foot-5, 245-pound former MVP who wears No. 1 now counting himself among Stidham's teammates.