Patriots

Patriots 3 & Out: Who was the best free agent addition this offseason?

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Patriots 3 & Out: Who was the best free agent addition this offseason?

The countdown to the Patriots' Week 1 matchup against the Steelers is on! (OK, fine, there are still 100 days until the Super Bowl champs begin play in the NFL's centennial season, so it's a long countdown, but still...)

Between OTA's, minicamps, free agent signings, and potential contract extensions, there's no offseason for Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry. So every Friday, they're going to tackle three Patriots-related questions. It could be issues facing the 2019 team, it could be league-wide debates, or it could be something a little more off-the-wall. Here we go for the inaugural edition of 3 & Out...

QUESTION 1: The most impactful free agent acquisition the Patriots made will be...

Curran: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

The Patriots didn’t grab a big-ticket free agent you can easily put your chips on but they have a gaggle of guys who — if things break right — could be major contributors.

Most of them are on defense. Jamie Collins. Michael Bennett. Mike Pennel (I believe Senator Phil Perry already has several Mike Pennel jerseys on order). But I’m going with the former Buc, Jet and Jaguar with the injury history long as your arm.

Why him? Opportunity. Gronk’s gone, but the attractiveness of throwing to a big body down the seam will never go away. ASJ, a 26-year-old taken in the second round of the 2014 draft, has the size, athleticism and body control to somewhat replicate Gronk as a receiver. Are we talking Gronkian numbers? No. But when ASJ finishes with 58 catches for 877 yards and eight touchdowns, remember who told you he would. 

Perry: Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. You know me too well.

My only question is, if you knew where I was headed with this . . . why not go in that direction to begin with and make me squirm to come up with something different? I feel like you would've enjoyed that.

In any event, I appreciate you leaving me the correct choice here. Very kind of you. Pennel has to be the answer if you're playing the odds.

Which free-agent addition has a better chance than Pennel to start Week 1? He's coming off a strong year with the Jets. He received a $500,000 signing bonus. He has a well-defined role as a first- and second-down run-stuffer, and was a pretty obvious fit here as soon as he hit the market. Plus, he plays a position where the Patriots just lost Malcom Brown and where the next best options to start alongside Lawrence Guy are Danny Shelton and David Parry.

Seferian-Jenkins, meanwhile, signed a deal that gives him $50,000 guaranteed. I agree with you that the tight end's ceiling, in terms of overall impact, is higher than Pennel's. But, to me, Pennel looks like a starter from Day 1. I'm not positive Seferian-Jenkins makes the team.

If I was picking a tight end, I'd actually go with Ben Watson. Again, Watson's ceiling may not be as high. But follow the money. He got $600,000 guaranteed — and that was after the Patriots found out he was going to miss a quarter of the season. I can envision Watson having a real role down the stretch in December and January. With Seferian-Jenkins, the picture is a little less clear.

QUESTION 2: What’s been the goatiest play for the Patriots since 2001?

Curran: Despite the success – or maybe because of the success – there are actually a number of candidates for this one. 

In high stakes games between evenly-matched teams, a failure to execute is going to stick out and stick with people. Some large gaffes get lost on the wind — the failed hookup between Tom Brady and Troy Brown in the 2006 AFC Championship which would have given the Patriots first-and-10 at midfield with 2:30 left is an example. Another is rookie Patrick Chung calling for a fake punt in the Patriots 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Jets which led to a touchdown.

But this really comes down to two would-be Super Bowl clinching catches not made: Wes Welker’s in the 2011 Super Bowl and Asante Samuel’s in the 2007 Super Bowl.

And I’m going with Welker’s. Was it a difficult catch? Yes. Was it a bad throw? No. It’s where it needed to be given the gap between the corners in the area and the approaching safety, Kenny Phillips. The pushback to put the lion’s share of the missed connection on Brady is predictable. People both locally and nationally begrudge the amount of praise he gets.

Why? I don’t know. Fatigue? But anyone saying that incompletion was Brady’s “fault” isn’t clear on football geometry. The ball was where it had to be. And Welker had both hands around it. Not the case with Asante. 

Perry: I have a hard time choosing between the two "goatiest" you mention.

Two drops. Welker is a receiver. Should've had it. Samuel is a corner. You don't excuse the stone hands . . . but you get it; he played on that side of the ball for a reason.

There's little doubt in my mind, though, that the Samuel play had a lower degree of difficulty. The ball was in front of him. He had to jump, but wasn't exactly fully-extended. He put up big interception numbers during his career. Welker and his three-foot wingspan trying to make a leaping back-shoulder catch is a lower-percentage play, in my view.

All that said, neither is my choice. I'm going to go with the Helmet Catch.

The reception itself was remarkable and flukey, but the Patriots had multiple opportunities to stop it before it ever came to be. Jarvis Green had Eli Manning. Richard Seymour had Manning's jersey in his grasp. Samuel stopped his feet during Manning's scramble. Rodney Harrison was there to break up the play and didn't. Historically David Tyree's mini-miracle isn't looked at as a "goat" moment for anyone on that Patriots defense. The focus lands more on the improbability of the play and what the Giants pulled off that night. But I think that it can safely be deemed "goaty," with multiple parties deserving some percentage of the blame.

QUESTION 3: The best alternate uniform for the Patriots would be…  

Curran: We’ve seen the all-white and all-blue color rush. Liked ‘em.

I didn’t love the Patriots traditional uniforms when I was a kid, but seeing them in the snow in 2009 and on Thanksgiving in 2004… I think it changed my mind.

But I think I’d most like to see a blood red, Pat Patriot color rush uniform. I’d like to see that. Yes, I would.

Perry: What an absolutely horrifying thought. I'm calling the police. The only answer is the Pat Patriot red jerseys WITH THE WHITE PANTS. Those were money.

Unfortunately there are some rules when it comes to helmets that complicate things. For safety reasons, the league wants players using only one helmet every year. (Unless you're Tom Brady, and your old helmet has been grandfathered into the rules, and you test out different helmets during a given season for the moment when the league forces you to settle on a new-age helmet once and for all.)

Patriots helmets are gray. Therein lies the issue. The full effect of Pat Patriot is really only complemented by a white lid.

My solution? Paint. Paint the gray helmets white. Peel the Flying Elvis decals off. Slap Pat Patriot on. When the game is over, remove the paint. Replace the decals. Good to go.

Is this totally unrealistic? Probably. Would it be an unreasonable number of man hours for the equipment staff? Certainly. Would be pretty sweet, though.

Tom's rebuttal: DAFUQ?!? That changes everything!

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Patriots fans may bristle at Chris Jones' reaction to Chiefs extension

Patriots fans may bristle at Chris Jones' reaction to Chiefs extension

Did the 2001 New England Patriots believe they were launching a dynasty after winning Super Bowl XXXVI? Probably not.

But the defending Super Bowl champions appear a bit more confident.

Days after signing quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the richest contract in North American sports, the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to a four-year, $85 million contract extension with defensive tackle Chris Jones, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.

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So, how did Jones celebrate his new deal with Kansas City? By declaring an apparent continuation of the Chiefs' "dynasty."

Jones has every reason to be confident in his team, which kept its core intact after winning Super Bowl LIV and is the current Super Bowl LV favorite.

But Patriots fans who watched Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lead New England to six championships over two decades might view Jones' "dynasty" talk as premature.

After all, no team has won back-to-back titles since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, and no team aside from New England and Seattle (2013 and 2014) has even reached the Super Bowl in back-to-back years since 2000.

And after signing Cam Newton, the Patriots may believe their own dynasty isn't dead yet despite Brady's departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

History won't stop Jones and the Chiefs from setting lofty goals, however, as Mahomes said recently he's eyeing Brady's record of six Super Bowl titles. Better get started soon.

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Did Pats just become Cam Newton's team? | Listen and subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Hypocrisy for Patriots fans to root for Tom Brady, but not Cam Newton

Hypocrisy for Patriots fans to root for Tom Brady, but not Cam Newton

If you rooted for Tom Brady and don’t root for Cam Newton, you are a hypocrite. 

In 2014, the Patriots started the season 2-2 and after a humiliating loss on Monday Night Football in Kansas City, some idiot — that would be me — declared that the Pats had lost their soul.

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Of course, I was wrong, as the greatest quarterback ever went on to the lead the Pats to their fourth Super Bowl win with a big assist from Malcolm Butler. 

That was Part 2 of the "Tom Brady: Me Against the World" trilogy.

Of course, the original was getting drafted as a sixth-round pick out of Michigan. Part 3 was Deflategate when Brady won his fifth Super Bowl after he was suspended for four games.

For the purpose of this writing, we focus on Part 2 because some thought Brady’s best days were behind him. (Many feel the same about Cam Newton now.) Even Bill Belichick said Tom was getting older and the plans for his successor in Jimmy Garoppolo were laid out before us ... and Brady.  

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Did Pats just become Cam Newton's team? | Listen and subscribe | Watch on YouTube

But once again, Brady defied the odds and forced Belichick to trade Jimmy G. to San Francisco. Needing to prove he still had "it," Brady reinvented himself and became a physical specimen, defying Father Time.

Can Cam Newton do the same? He is not as old now as Brady was then, but this guy was left for dead by the rest of the NFL and has even more to prove than Brady ever did.

If you backed Tom Brady, how can you not do the same for Cam?

Look, I love Tom Brady the football player. Off the field, I think he’s lost his mind, but there has been no better player in the history of sports than TB12. (See Tom, I used your logo. Happy?)

However, right now I am in Cam’s corner like I was in Brady’s when he was a Patriot. And you should be too.