LOS ANGELES -- We're in Hollywood, so let's try our hand at a little screenwriting, shall we? Here's a look at a script for a Patriots offseason plan that has a few twists, an explosion or two ... and even a role for Dolph Lundgren if he's available.
Scoop up Bill O'Brien
There's a theme here. And if we were giving this script a title, it might be something along the lines of, "Honey, I blew up Mac Jones."
Time to accelerate the growth of the young play-caller to see if he can make the type of leap Joe Burrow made as a second-year signal-caller en route to Super Bowl LVI.
Adding Bill O'Brien to the coaching staff would be a coup for Jones and the Patriots offense. Not only is he fluent in the language of the Patriots offense, but he's described as an upper-echelon teacher. That's what Jones needs.
Adam Gase could end up getting the gig. Perhaps Nick Caley or Mick Lombardi end up being promoted to the role of offensive coordinator. Maybe Joe Judge is the de facto OC. But O'Brien makes too much sense as the top option.
Tag and trade J.C. Jackson
The Patriots are in a bit of a pickle with their top corner.
They could give him the franchise tag and put him in position to play for a big long-term deal next offseason. But it's pricey to take that route, with a tag that would cost in the range of $17 million guaranteed.
They could offer him a longer-term contract, but it would be unlikely that he accepts until he sees what's out there for him on the market. And odds are, what's out there for him on the market will be more than what the Patriots are willing to pay. He may not get all the way to Jalen Ramsey territory at $20 million per year, but he could be in that area code.
What should the Patriots do, then? Tagging and trading Jackson could end up being the best way to go.
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Tag-and-trade deals that have gone down lately have yielded high-end draft choices for clubs looking to part with stars. Yannick Ngakoue was sent to the Vikings for a second and a fifth. Jadeveon Clowney went to Seattle for two players and a third. Frank Clark went to Kansas City with a third round pick and Seattle got a first, a third and a future second. Dee Ford went from Kansas City to San Francisco for a second.
Even though the Patriots have a variety of ways to create cap room this offseason, having Jackson play on the tag might be too rich for their blood. Of course his departure would mean a glaring hole at the corner spot, but perhaps the team could find his replacement with the pick they get in return. Or perhaps they could use that pick, pair it with their No. 21 overall selection and move up in the draft for a top-end cover man.
Re-signing Devin McCourty in order to maintain some consistency and leadership on the back end, would be advisable in this scenario. McCourty continues to hit speeds that he's hit the last few years in workouts and has the kind of institutional knowledge that would help shepherd along whoever takes Jackson's place.
Sign Allen Robinson
Here's your explosion. Robinson should still be in his prime at just 28 years old, and he'll be looking for a fresh start this offseason after putting together a disappointing statistical season on the franchise tag in Chicago in 2021.
Why not New England?
With the money saved by not bringing Jackson back in this plan, there would be plenty of room left over for a move like this one. Plus, because Robinson put together career-lows in catches per game (3.2), yards per game (34.2), touchdowns (1) and yards per catch (10.8) last season with rookie quarterback Justin Fields behind center, he should be available at a relatively low rate compared to other No. 1 wideouts. He may be looking to play on a one-year prove-it deal to help him hit free-agency once more before he hits 30.
Even if he wants a longer-term contract, something like what Robert Woods received -- guaranteed money for three years and cap hits in the first two that would be under $10 million ($8.4 million and $5.9 million) -- would be manageable for the Patriots.
Robinson will have a number of suitors, but perhaps a reunion with college coach Bill O'Brien (the two worked together at Penn State) and a pairing with Mac Jones (more accurate than any quarterback Robinson has played with as a pro) would entice him to make his way to Foxboro as a free agent.
We've seen receivers who look to be on the downside of their careers -- Odell Beckham Jr. is a great recent example -- go off in the right situation. Maybe that would happen with a marriage between Robinson and the Patriots.
Draft Bernhard Raimann
Here's where Dolph Lundgren steps in. We may have to invest in some CGI to make sure we have what looks like a young Lundgren, but we can iron out those details later.
The point is, the Patriots could be in the market for a ready-to-go offensive tackle in this year's draft if free-agent-to-be Trent Brown ends up walking. Brown has said many times he feels as though New England is the right place for him, but he's a veteran tackle who provides a quality standard of play when healthy and that comes at a price.
The Patriots may be willing to ante up, but if they're looking for places to invest elsewhere -- corner, receiver, linebacker -- then perhaps a move away from Brown, who's missed 19 games the last two seasons, would be reasonable.
In steps Raimann (in this script). He could be Bill Belichick's new Sebastian Vollmer, only an Austrian version. Still relatively new to the game, Raimann began his playing career as a 240-pound tight end. Now he tips the scales at over 300 pounds at 6-foot-7, and he's widely considered one of the best tackles in the class, even with plenty of room to grow from a technique standpoint.
Though he had his ups and downs at last week's Senior Bowl, the Patriots won't have to worry about Raimann's work ethic. He graduated from Central Michigan with a 3.8 GPA, with an actuarial science and statistics double major with a mathematics minor. He entered into an accelerated program for a master's degree in applied statistics and analytics, according to the Associated Press. He's already a mauling run-blocker, which the Patriots will like on the right side. And with some coaching he's athletic enough to find his way as a pass-protector.
This move would allow Michael Onwenu to step in as the full-time left guard should the Patriots opt to let Ted Karras find work elsewhere as a free agent this offseason. Karras, however, was highly effective last season and could be a candidate to re-sign.
Add a low-cut slot receiver
Notice there's not a lot in the way of defensive additions in this story thus far. That's by design.
It's an offensive league these days. And while a team like the Rams have shown that you can spend on that side of the ball and be sniffing the game's ultimate prize, they also poured incredible resources into their offense. The Bengals are really the better model given where the Patriots are in the timeline of their rebuild: Add around the quarterback, watch the team flourish.
That would be the hope for Belichick's club, at least. Finding out whether or not Jones is a true franchise quarterback early on his rookie deal should be the priority, and adding a go-to presence on the interior would help him in that regard.
Having a one-on-one winner on the outside (like Robinson) feels like the more pressing issue because it would force teams to respect the boundary and openings down the field, thereby creating room for a grinding Patriots rushing attack. But a security blanket on the inside -- for whom Dante Scarnecchia and longtime NFL exec Joe Banner have argued -- would go a long way in helping Jones take another step forward.
While a free agent like Braxton Berrios might make sense, there are a number of slot types available in this year's class who would be less costly. Whether that's a Senior Bowl standout like Khalil Shakir from Boise State or Calvin Austin from Memphis, or whether it's Alabama's Slade Bolden (Jones' former teammate), Utah's Britain Covey or UCLA's Kyle Phillips (who played for Belichick pal Chip Kelly), there are a variety of options on Day 2 or 3 of draft weekend.
Jakobi Meyers could still play on the interior in this situation, but adding a low-cut and shifty slot would allow Meyers to be used in a variety of alignments with the similarly-versatile Kendrick Bourne.
Defensively, if you're looking for additional storylines to go with this offseason script, the Patriots could use the pick acquired in a tag-and-trade with Jackson to replace him. If it's a second-round pick they get in return, maybe Florida's Kaiir Elam -- a long press corner with over 1,000 snaps in the SEC under his belt -- would make sense.
There are also linebackers who will be available on Day 2 (like Senior Bowlers Darrian Beavers from Cincinnati or Chad Muma from Wyoming) who have size and athleticism the Patriots would appreciate.
But in order for them to make a Bengalorian quantum leap in 2022, giving Jones the tools he needs to flourish seems like a plotline worth pursuing.