NFL Rumors: Why the Patriots had to trade up for Josh Uche

NFL Rumors: Why the Patriots had to trade up for Josh Uche

The New England Patriots spent their first three picks in the 2020 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. They notably nabbed Division II safety Kyle Dugger with their first pick in the draft at No. 37 overall, but they made another second-round pick as well.

With only a handful of picks left in Round 2, the Patriots traded up to select Michigan edge rusher Josh Uche. The hybrid linebacker/defensive end should have a chance to make an impact on the team's defense right away and will join 2019 third-round pick Chase Winovich, another Michigan man, on the edge.

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It wasn't a surprise to see the Patriots move up in the draft. After all, they had an abundance of picks on Days 2 and 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft. But there was a specific reason that the team decided to move up to the 60th pick to grab Uche, according to Andrew Callahan of The Boston Herald.

According to a league source, had the Patriots failed to trade up for Uche, he would have been taken by one of the teams that owned the next three picks after 60th overall; the Titans, Packers or Chiefs. Instead, late in the second round, the Pats shipped the 71st and 89th picks to Baltimore in exchange for No. 60 and a fourth-rounder.

That certainly explains why the Patriots felt the need to move up 11 spots. All of the three teams mentioned would've made sense as landing spots for Uche.

The Titans have a need for a potential long-term starter at rush linebacker across from former Boston College product Harold Landry. They signed Vic Beasley this offseason, but he has regressed since a 15.5-sack All-Pro campaign in 2016.

As for the Chiefs, Andy Reid loves to bolster the trenches and they still need a replacement for Justin Houston who was cut last offseason. The Chiefs have former Michigan pass rusher Frank Clark as their big name on the edge and spent a fifth-round pick on another Michigan edge player, Michael Danna. So, it stands to reason that they could've targeted Uche in the second round had he been available.

And finally, the Packers could've made sense for Uche as well. Preston and Za'Darius Smith are two solid starters, but the team doesn't have a lot of quality depth behind them after the departure of Kyler Fackrell in free agency. They spent a first-round pick in 2019 on Michigan's Rashan Gary -- another edge player -- so maybe they got a good look at Uche while scouting Gary and liked what they saw.

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Either way, the point is moot since the Patriots traded up to get Uche. And from the description of Uche provided by his former defensive coordinator at Michigan, Don Brown, it sounds like he'll fit in very well with the Patriots.

"He’s a football junkie. He wanted to know everything he could possibly know," Brown said, per Callahan. "Our strength coach did a really good job developing his hand quickness, and really, I thought was instrumental in helping us out. But Josh, he’ll do exactly what you tell him to do … and you know, some pass rushers they think they can win it all. He’ll do exactly what he’s supposed to do."

So basically, Uche is athletic, absorbs a lot of information, and likes to do his job. Maybe that's why Bill Belichick fell in love with him and felt comfortable moving up to acquire his services.

During his final season at Michigan, Uche logged 33 tackles and 7.5 sacks for the Wolverines. The Patriots will hope that he can make an immediate impact as a pass rusher in a rotational capacity, much like Winovich did as a rookie in 2019 (26 tackles, 5.5 sacks).

NFL Rumors: How Patriots stayed under salary cap with Cam Newton deal

NFL Rumors: How Patriots stayed under salary cap with Cam Newton deal

The New England Patriots entered last weekend with just $651,000 in cap space, the lowest amount of any NFL team.

So, how the heck were they able to sign a former NFL MVP?

It's a fair question after New England reportedly inked free-agent quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract Sunday. We discovered more details on Newton's deal Wednesday, per reports: He has a base salary of $1.05 million ($550,000 of which is guaranteed) with incentives that can bring his earnings up to $7.5 million.

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According to salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the Patriots have $263,489 in available cap space following Newton's signing. If you're wondering how Newton's deal cost New England less than $400,000 in cap space, Benzan would like to refer you to the "Rule of 51."

The "Rule of 51" in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement is pretty straightforward: During the offseason, only the players with the 51 largest cap hits for the season are counted toward the salary cap.

Newton's deal -- which carries a $1.14 million cap hit, per Benzan -- bumps practice squad defensive lineman Tashawn Bower out of the top 51, meaning his $750,000 deal currently doesn't count against the cap.

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So, the Patriots effectively replaced Bower's contract with that of Newton, a difference of just under $400,000.

The "Rule of 51" only applies to the offseason, so Bill Belichick may have to do more maneuvering before the regular season begins. But as Benzan recently pointed out, Newton's incentives could be classified as "not likely to be earned," which means they wouldn't count against New England's 2020 salary cap even if he reaches them.

In any case, it's remarkable (or "disgusting," if you ask Richard Sherman) that New England was able to land a three-time Pro Bowl QB like Newton for such a discount.

The 31-year-old was hampered by shoulder and foot injuries over the last two seasons, though, which apparently scared other teams away before the Patriots swooped in Sunday.

NFL rumors: Salary details of Cam Newton's Patriots contract revealed

NFL rumors: Salary details of Cam Newton's Patriots contract revealed

The New England Patriots aren't spending a whole lot of money to bring Cam Newton to Foxboro.

Reports surfaced Sunday night that the Patriots and the veteran quarterback had agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden contract worth up to $7.5 million. 

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Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Wednesday the financial breakdown of Newton's contract with the Patriots, including the base salary, guaranteed money and incentive totals.

The Patriots didn't have much salary cap space before this move. In fact, they recently had the lowest amount of available cap space in the entire league. So, for them to be able to acquire Newton and not have to spend a ton of money or cap space is pretty extraordinary.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Newton's contract is that the Patriots could franchise-tag the 31-year-old quarterback next offseason. It gives New England more options in the event Newton has a strong 2020 season.

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There's not a ton of risk with this move, and it could end up being one of the best roster additions of Bill Belichick's 20-year tenure in New England if Newton is able to stay healthy.

Newton is a former league MVP (2015) and has been one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch throughout his nine-year career. The last time he played close to a full season was 2018, when the former No. 1 overall draft pick threw for 3,395 yards with 24 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Newton also ran for 488 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns in those 14 games.

If he produces similar or better statistics in 2020, the Patriots should have a strong chance to extend their playoff appearance streak to 12 seasons.