Patriots

It's a 2nd-rounder ... so what? And four more takeaways from Mohamed Sanu trade

It's a 2nd-rounder ... so what? And four more takeaways from Mohamed Sanu trade

Mohamed Sanu is just what the Patriots needed. Is he all that they needed? The way they are playing defensively, probably.

Since 2012 when he entered the draft out of Rutgers fresh from a 115-catch season, he’s had Perfect Patriot written all over him. I thought he was a perfect fit for the offense back then (“This kid reeks to high heaven of David Givens-ness.") Nothing he’s done in his seven seasons in the NFL alter that.

He’s 6-2, 215, versatile, is happy to block, doesn’t drop the ball (one drop this year, one of the NFL’s most surehanded receivers since coming into the league) and can work inside (no receiver gave his QB a higher passer rating on in-breaking routes in 2018 than Sanu did for Matt Ryan). He isn’t fast. He doesn’t get in the end zone much. He’s a very good complementary wide receiver, not a game-breaker.

As for the Patriots giving up a second-rounder, I’ll get to that in the story. But I’d like to respectfully offer a pre-emptive, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..” on that front.

Here are five takeaways on the player who will likely stand as the team’s big 2019 trade deadline move.

TRICKLE DOWN HELPS

Julian Edelman’s been targeted 27 times over the past two games. He’s been targeted 68 times this season. For a guy that’s 33, he takes more physical punishment than just about any wideout in football and is the Patriots' most important offensive player not named Brady. Sanu can help lighten the load, especially on third down.

Both Edelman and Sanu can work between the numbers. Jakobi Meyers is showing a growing ability to do that as well. Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and N’Keal Harry are outside guys. The Patriots needed to become a little less predictable on third down and Sanu should help them do that. He’ll also help take the reliance away from James White. And he’ll make it so the urgency for Gordon and Harry to return is a little less urgent. One hope? Sanu doesn’t slow the progress of the glue-fingered Meyers.

WHAT SANU CAN DO FOR YOU

Coming into this season, Sanu was the fourth-best receiver in the league getting separation against press coverage according to Next Gen Stats. You’ll notice if you bang that link that Sanu was one of the first to respond to the tweet saying “7/11” as in always open. Last spring, Josh McDaniels noted that the team was better served getting Edelman more on the outside of the formation. "Julian plays a lot outside the formation," he said. "Does Julian do some of those things inside the formation? Absolutely he does. But he does a lot more on the outside in the running game and passing game. It's what he's become. There's a little bit of a difference based on the way we've used him than those other guys."

Sanu, according to Pro Football Focus, has the fourth-most yards from the slot position since 2016.

HE’LL MAKE THE QB SMILE

Tom Brady’s tepid embrace of the team’s offensive performances continued after the whacking of the Jets. Why? Production on third down and in the red zone. Since the first Jets game, the Patriots are 28 for 77 on third down. That’s 36 percent. And there are stretches – usually after teams out figure what kind of potion McDaniels is pouring down their throat – when the numbers dip even more.

Last night, the Patriots started 4 for 4 on third down and were 3 for 12 the rest of the way. In the first meeting against the Jets, the Patriots were 2 for 10 on their final 12 attempts. Don’t you, “Yeah but the score…” me! You don’t honestly think the Patriots aren’t trying to convert and keep their punter off the field?

As for the red zone, you can see how hard it is for the Patriots to scheme something up when they get in close to get somebody open. It’s a fact of post-Gronk life. They are 10 for 19 in the red zone over their past four games. They’d like to be better than that, especially when (presumably) better teams come calling. Sanu should help with that.

SO IT'S A 2? WHO CARES

I’m hearing a lot of, “Hmmmm…a second-rounder. Feels like a lot, Mike. No, yeah, really, feels like a looootttttt.”

A) The second-rounder will probably be about the 64th pick anyway.

B) If the receiver – and the offense in general – have the potential to be the Achilles' heel that prevents the Patriots from taking advantage of a historic season defensively (and it does), no price is too high.

C) The Patriots roll the dice in the second round anyway – which is probably why they took Tavon Wilson back in 2012 when Sanu was still on the board for them. Serves them right to have to spend a 2 on him now.

D) He isn’t a rental. He’s under contract for next season with a $6.4M salary. They are getting – potentially – 24 games out of him (plus playoffs), not eight. E) I’d rather see a season-and-a-half of Sanu than four years of Jordan Richards, Duke Dawson, you get the point. Always take the known NFL quantity.

MINDING THE BUSINESS

While a Falcon, Sanu was steadfast about not wanting his contract tinkered with. In July, when the Falcons were puzzling over how to pay Julio Jones, Sanu offered on Twitter that, “Ain’t no prices ever dropping over here this ain’t Walmart..” So what did it take for the Patriots to cram Sanu under the cap? Or what will it cost, since they are probably still trying to make it happen?

We’re going to find out, but Sanu’s deal called for him to make $3.529M over the rest of the season. It won’t be hard for the team to fashion a new deal for him, according to Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal. And if they can fire-sale Michael Bennett out of town, they can save some dough against the cap and – zing, zang – just like that it’s a clean move.

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Does Rob Gronkowski's latest announcement officially end comeback talk?

Does Rob Gronkowski's latest announcement officially end comeback talk?

If Rob Gronkowski wants to play for the New England Patriots in this year's postseason, he needs to apply for NFL reinstatement by Nov. 30.

But it turns out Gronkowski already has other postseason plans.

The retired tight end revealed early Tuesday morning -- hours before a "big announcement" scheduled for 9 a.m. ET -- that he'll host a "GRONK BEACH" music festival on Saturday, Feb. 1, in Miami Beach.

That's the day before Super Bowl LIV, which will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

The festival will feature big musical acts like Rick Ross, Flo Rida, DJ Carnage, Kaskade and Diplo and essentially be a six-hour-long beach party (1 p.m. to 7 p.m.), complete with "amazing food, drinks, beach performers, and more," according to the website.

Sounds like Gronkowski doesn't plan on playing a football game the following day.

"I may not be playing the game this year, but I will still be going to Miami and I'm going to be debuting my very own music festival and its Gronk Beach," Gronkowski said in a statement, via the Associated Press.

" ... Bring some wildness, some fun, to bring a music festival to Miami and not just on top of Miami, at the Super Bowl. It's really never been done like that before."

The 9-1 Patriots are the current betting favorites to win Super Bowl LIV, so if Gronkowski was mulling a return to New England, we doubt he would host an extravagant Super Bowl-themed bash that same weekend.

In an any event, if the Patriots reach their fourth consecutive Super Bowl next February, Gronk will be there -- as a very amped-up spectator.

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NFL playoff picture Week 11: Patriots, Ravens in exciting race for AFC's top seed

NFL playoff picture Week 11: Patriots, Ravens in exciting race for AFC's top seed

The New England Patriots protected their lead atop the AFC standings in Week 11 with a 17-10 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles, improving their record to 9-1.

The defending Super Bowl champs suffered their first loss in Week 9 with a lackluster 37-20 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, but they recovered nicely after a Week 10 bye to keep their grip on the conference's No. 1 seed. Tom Brady and Co.'s margin of error remains razor thin, though, because the Ravens have the tiebreaker advantage as a result of their head-to-head win two weeks ago.

If it wasn't already clear Baltimore is a legit Super Bowl contender, quarterback Lamar Jackson made it quite evident Sunday by leading a 41-7 trouncing of the Houston Texans.

Both the Patriots and Ravens have tough Week 12 matchups on deck. The Pats will host the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys, while the Ravens will face the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on the road.

The Texans dropped from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed as a result of Sunday's defeat, but they lead the Oakland Raiders for the second wild-card spot because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Raiders extended their win streak to three games with a 17-10 victory versus the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

The Colts earned a comfortable 33-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to move back into the AFC South lead.

The Kansas Chiefs now have sole possession of first place in the AFC West after beating the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night. The 7-4 Chiefs also passed Indianapolis and now are the No. 3 seed in the AFC.

The Buffalo Bills continued to ride a soft schedule to a potential wild card berth. Buffalo beat the Miami Dolphins 37-20 on Sunday.

The NFC race is going to be absolutely wild down the stretch. There are five teams with an 8-3 record or better, and the fight for the top two seeds -- which mean a first-round playoff bye -- will be a lot of fun to watch. The best game of Week 12 is a matchup between the Chiefs and Green Bay Packers on "Sunday Night Football" that will impact the playoff race in both conferences.

Here's the updated NFL playoff picture after Sunday's Week 11 games.

AFC
1. New England Patriots, 9-1 (AFC East leader)
2. Baltimore Ravens, 8-2 (AFC North leader)
3. Kansas City Chiefs, 7-4 (AFC West leader)
4. Indianapolis Colts, 6-4 (AFC South leader)
5. Buffalo Bills, 7-3 (First Wild Card)
6. Houston Texans, 6-4 (Second Wild Card)

In the Hunt
7. Oakland Raiders, 6-4
8. Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-5
9. Tennessee Titans, 5-5

NFC
1. San Francisco 49ers, 9-1 (NFC West leader)
2. Green Bay Packers, 8-2 (NFC North leader)
3. New Orleans Saints, 8-2 (NFC South leader)
4. Dallas Cowboys, 6-4 (NFC East leader)
5. Seattle Seahawks, 8-2 (First Wild Card)
6. Minnesota Vikings, 8-3 (Second Wild Card)

In the Hunt
7. Los Angeles Rams, 6-4
8. Philadelphia Eagles, 5-5
9. Carolina Panthers, 5-5

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