Patriots

Pro Football Focus' highest-graded Patriots player in 2019 might surprise you

Pro Football Focus' highest-graded Patriots player in 2019 might surprise you

The New England Patriots have received excellent performances from many players en route to an 8-1 start to the 2019 season, but one player stands out above the rest in Pro Football Focus' individual grades.

Which Patriots player has PFF graded the highest through 10 weeks? No, it's not Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Jamie Collins or Stephon Gilmore. It's cornerback Jonathan Jones, who has excelled in just about every facet of the defense in 2019.

Here's what PFF wrote about Jones in their recent recap of every team's highest-graded player entering Week 11:

CB JONATHAN JONES, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – 88.8

Stephon Gilmore is the household name in New England, but it’s Jones that leads the team in overall grade entering Week 11. He also leads all cornerbacks in overall grade (88.8) while ranking third in run-defense grade (81.6) and tied for second in coverage grade (88.7).

How much does Jones impact winning? The Patriots have a 21-3 record (.875 win percentage), including the playoffs, when Jones plays 50 percent or more of their defensive snaps in a game. He didn't play 50 percent of New England's defensive snaps in its Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Jones was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He's tallied 35 tackles with two forced fumbles and five passes defensed in nine games this season. Jones' stellar play is a big reason why the Patriots defense ranks No. 2 in passing yards allowed per game, No. 1 in pass yards allowed per attempt, No. 1 in opposing QB rating and No. 1 in interceptions through 10 weeks.

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Tedy Bruschi gives his prediction on where Tom Brady will play next season

Tedy Bruschi gives his prediction on where Tom Brady will play next season

It's hard to fathom Tom Brady playing for an NFL team not named the New England Patriots, but it's a possibility with the 42-year-old quarterback's contract expiring in March.

Brady and the Patriots could come to an agreement on a new deal before that point, but he does have the ability for the first time in his career to test the open market as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

One of Brady's former teammates, Tedy Bruschi, was asked to predict on Wednesday's episode of "NFL Live" on ESPN where the six-time Super Bowl champion will play in the 2020 season. The former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN NFL analyst predicted Brady will return to Foxboro.

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Check out his take in the video below.

For what it's worth, DraftKings has pegged the Patriots as -335 betting favorites to be the team Brady plays for in Week 1 next season.

Many other players, both active and retired, have weighed in on Brady's future.

Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu hopes Brady takes his talents to the NFC. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward also is hoping Brady leaves the Patriots because "he's terrorized the AFC enough." But perhaps the most interesting take on Brady's future came from San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana. The Hall of Fame quarterback's advice for Brady was to not leave the Patriots. He stressed that transitioning to a new team is not an easy task.

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Steelers star has the least surprising take on Tom Brady's free agency

Steelers star has the least surprising take on Tom Brady's free agency

Ask anyone associated with the New England Patriots, and they'll tell you Tom Brady should stay put.

Ask any Patriots opponent, and they'll tell you Brady should leave -- and never come back.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" from Radio Row in Miami on Wednesday and was asked where he thinks Brady may sign in free agency this offseason.

His answer shouldn't surprise you.

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"I hope not with New England anymore," Heyward said. " ... Let the NFC deal with him for a while. That'd be nice. He's terrorized the AFC enough."

Heyward would know. Brady's Patriots trounced his Steelers 33-3 in Week 1 of the 2019 season and have beaten Pittsburgh in six of their last seven meetings, including playoffs.

New England also has reached the Super Bowl in four of the previous six seasons and made the AFC Championship Game in eight of the last nine seasons, annually crushing the postseason dreams of AFC rivals like the Steelers, who won 10 or more games in four straight seasons from 2014 to 2017 but never reached the Super Bowl in that span.

So, you can see why Heyward (and Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu) would appreciate Brady getting out of his hair.

Unfortunately for the AFC, that doesn't look likely: The Patriots are the odds-on favorite to re-sign the 42-year-old QB in free agency, followed by three AFC teams: the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.

But Heyward still appreciates Brady's greatness, even if the 20-year veteran doesn't grant his wish.

"I think he understands the game at a different level," Heyward said of Brady. He knows when to hit you with pace. He knows when to make you feel uncomfortable, and he's gonna exploit you."

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