One week of Patriots OTAs in the books.
One superstar receiver about to be traded.
One simple question posed on the Twittersphere.
Put 'em together and you get a Memorial Day Weekend edition of the Mailbag. Here's hoping everyone is able to enjoy a little downtime with their families while we remember those men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
To the 'Bag...
Good question, Michael. We had our buddy Albert Breer of The MMQB on Next Pats this week to discuss that very topic. His take? It's going to cost a second-rounder and maybe a little more. I think that's probably about right for a) someone at his age with his skill set, b) someone at his age with his injury history and c) his contract.
The issue for the Falcons, though, is leverage. The world knows Julio Jones is about to be dealt. The Atlanta cap situation needs to be resolved, and while the team could push money down the road on Jones or Grady Jarrett, that's just delaying the inevitable. Furthermore, Jones went on national television and said he was out.
Not great for the Falcons negotiating position in trade talks.
Plus, there are questions around the market for Jones. It might be less robust than you'd think. Teams like the Niners, Colts and Ravens -- all of whom could use a talented wideout and have some cap space -- need to save some money in order to pay their young stars. The Chargers have money but are pretty well-stocked at wideout. The Packers and Titans aren't quite as flush cap-wise and would have to perform some bookkeeping gymnastics to make a deal happen.
The Patriots make sense. They have money. They have a need. They have a young quarterback who'd be buoyed by better talent in the offensive huddle.
Here are a couple clubs who could turn this into a bidding war, potentially.
The Browns have some big names at wideout, but what would Jones do for their offense? Odell Beckham is coming off of injury. Jarvis Landry is closer to the end than the beginning. They have over $20 million in cap space. Even with potential big-money deals for Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and others awaiting them down the line... is the prospect of adding Jones right now too enticing to pass up?
Then there's the Chiefs. Rich get richer? Maybe. They lost Sammy Watkins this offseason via free agency and could use another wideout to help take advantage of the attention paid to Tyreek Hill. They're closer to being up against the cap (about $8 million in space), but it's not out of the realm of possibility for them to figure out a way to fit Jones' $15.3 million in salary for 2021.
I think the Patriots should be willing to give up a second-round pick and a little more for Jones. I think he'd help their offense that much. A second and a young player with promise on a low salary? A second and a third? A second and a future (2023) second? That's about where I'd cap it.
I think they'd still be in the market at the position. My belief is they would've liked to add a wideout during the draft, but when Christian Barmore slipped to Day 2, that obviously impacted their plans. It'd be worth keeping an eye on Jamison Crowder of the Jets. I'm not sure why they'd keep him on his salary after investing real draft capital into Elijah Moore of Ole Miss. Same position. More upside. Much cheaper.
Crowder would be tough to trade because of his $10 million in base salary so he could be released and free to sign elsewhere. If the Patriots want the kind of low-cut slot they've had in the past, he'd make sense.
Kyle Dugger is the obvious answer here, Paul. Going from Division 2 to the NFL, with an abbreviated offseason, Dugger still looked like he could be an impact player. But keep an eye on Josh Uche, too. I was told before the 2020 draft that Uche could have been a first-round pick had he been healthy enough to test at the combine. His numbers would've been that impressive. He slid to the second. Patriots scooped him up. He was efficient from a pass-rush win rate perspective last year and could be used all over Bill Belichick's front seven.
Yes, Ned. Collins was my comp for Uche soon after he was selected. Uche has watched a lot of Hightower going back to his days at Michigan, but I think he'd fit more as a "Will" off the ball who can play on the edge as well. He's not a Collins-level athlete, I don't think. But Collins was world-class in that regard. Still, I could see him in a similar role.
No guarantee. He actually made the best catch of Thursday's OTA when he laid out for a Cam Newton throw into the flat. The Patriots will want tight end depth behind Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. They like LaCosse, who played through injury two seasons ago and then opted out last year. His path to a roster spot could be rocky; third tight ends are typically expected to be big special-teams contributors. But he's not necessarily a lock to be gone.
The Patriots have parted with a second-round pick before the start of Year 2 before (Duke Dawson) so 2020 third-rounders Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene aren't necessarily locks for the roster. Just something to keep in mind after Belichick did all he could -- mainly shelling out big-time guaranteed money figures to Henry and Smith -- to guarantee that neither second-year player would see massive workloads in 2021.
The Patriots roster is built for a quarterback on a rookie deal at the moment. Even if Deshaun Watson didn't have serious allegations hanging over him, trading for that contract would be tough after all the money handed out by Robert Kraft this offseason. Watson's base salary for 2022 is $35 million. Don't see it. Until he proves he can't do it, Mac Jones is the quarterback of the future here.
I doubt it, Michael. The list of players who need to get in before either is lengthy. Very lengthy. My guess is if either got in down the line, it would be Revis because he was one of the best players on a Super Bowl-winning roster. Talib wasn't in Foxboro much longer than Revis was (one-and-a-half seasons) and doesn't have the ring Revis does.
There's going to be a real backlog of Patriots deserving to get in and I wonder if the rules would ever change for The Hall. More than one honoree per year? I actually like the way they do it now. But maybe they can waive the waiting period for folks like Dante Scarnecchia and Belichick (whenever he's done coaching) just to ensure they aren't inducted in the 2030s.
I gave our guy Tom E. Curran a hard time because his assessment of Mac Jones was that Jones was smaller -- shorter but also thinner -- than Curran thought he'd be. That, of course, was not the story on Jones headed into the draft. Even since going through his two pro days, it seems Jones has trimmed down. Is he too thin? No idea. But he's thinner than old pictures online would suggest.
I'd say N'Keal Harry's seat warmer is cranked up. Barring a very good camp, I'm not sure he's a top-three wideout. And at this point in time he's not a special-teams contributor. Hard to be a No. 4 or 5 without contributing in the kicking game. He had a quiet practice the other day, but there will be time for him to show something -- unless he's dealt away before then.
Yes. I wouldn't rule out that he's the guy for Week 1. Wouldn't bet my life on it. But if Cam Newton has a camp like the one he had last year, if Jones looks good, and if those practice performances carry over into preseason games -- something we didn't get last year -- I wouldn't be shocked to see Jones as the No. 1 quickly.
I think Josh McDaniels, depending on how Mac Jones plays, could get another head coaching job at some point in the near future. I think Jerod Mayo will be a head coach soon, too. If that's the case, if those two are gone before Belichick hangs up his whistle, then I think the next head coach will come from outside the building.
Great question. We've only seen one practice of Jones. Our first look at Garoppolo in a springtime practice? Not great. In the rain, he threw a pick to reserve linebacker Chris White and overall was not very accurate. By the next time we saw him? Much better. Generally speaking, quarterback progression is not linear.
So Jones -- though he was very solid on Thursday, in my opinion -- will likely have some dud practices in the near future. Just as Garoppolo did. As is always the case this time of year, it's good to remember that we're only allowed into a fraction of the practices held. And that the competitive reps are usually pretty few and far between. We'll still continue to pass along all we see, but what we see is far from the entirety of what's going on behind the scenes.
I like their chances, Kevin. It'll come down to who is willing to give the Falcons a more attractive package. Will the Patriots want Jones badly enough if they're in competition with the Browns or Chiefs or someone else? I think they might be. Belichick gave up a first-rounder to land Brandin Cooks years ago. He gave up a second for Mohamed Sanu.
Jones is better than both. More expensive than both. Older than both. But also better. In an offseason defined by his aggressiveness in acquiring talent, a push for Jones by Belichick would make sense.
Unfortunately for Rex Burkhead, Clare, that's a position where teams are more and more willing to roll the dice on a young player rather than pay for a veteran whose minimum-level salary still requires a real-money investment. That said, his professionalism and versatility, if healthy, would provide real value to a club. Whether he's with the Patriots or elsewhere.
I'd take Smith based almost purely on the guaranteed dollars he received -- which were more than what Henry got -- and his level of athleticism. He was one of the best in football at his position last year in terms of picking up yards after the catch. In an offense that I believe will rely heavily on YAC production, Smith could be very fantasy relevant.
Top three? Not sure. Top 10? Yes. But they're a top-10 defense in terms of points allowed almost every year. Seriously. They've been a top-10 defense every season since 2011. A "bold prediction" of mine prior to last season was that the streak would be broken. It wasn't. They were seventh. So maybe you're onto something, Jonathan. Maybe they can be a top-three unit. If they're healthy, I think they'll be among the league's best.
I think he'll be a matchup option for some bigger targets. He has good size. He's versatile. He'll align in different spots. He'll play some in the box. I think you may see him in the slot. I think you may see him out wide at times. But this is primarily a man-to-man defense. That means if you're a defensive back, for the most part, you're going to have an assignment and you're going to be expected to lock that assignment down. So his role will be matchup-based.
His acquisition is why I wonder a bit about Joejuan Williams' role defensively. Mills (6-0, 191) isn't nearly as tall as Williams (6-4, 211), but he has good size and can be used against some different types of targets compared to other Patriots defensive backs.
Bit of both, Brent. They'll adjust the offense a bit to the quarterback. But the foundation of what they want to be is what they were with Tom Brady. Because of that, I think you'll see a lot of the same concepts -- even if there are tweaks for Jones (RPOs, for instance) and Newton (quarterback running game).
What you don't have an extra $950 lying around, Cheech?