We've reached one of the slow points of the NFL offseason.
The OTAs are over and training camps don't start until July. Therefore, unveiling the "top players in the league rankings" (and other such lists) is a good way to pass the time and stir up some healthy debate.
Pro Football Focus released its Top 50 NFL players entering 2019 list Thursday, and three New England Patriots stars made the cut. Here's the list:
50. Shaq Mason, OG
14. Stephon Gilmore, CB
2. Tom Brady, QB
Brady is the top quarterback and No. 1 offensive player on PFF's ranking. The only player ahead of him is Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald. Gilmore is the top-ranked cornerback on the PFF list, which makes sense after he was named to the league's All-Pro team in 2018. The veteran defensive back also gave a fantastic performance in the Patriots' Super Bowl LIII win over the Rams, during which he had a late interception in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory. Mason at No. 50 is a deserved ranking as well. He had a tremendous 2018 season and cemented his place among the league's elite offensive guards.
Julian Edelman's absence from the list was pretty interesting. The 33-year-old is the most clutch wide receiver in the league, evidenced by his Super Bowl LIII MVP performance (among other stellar playoff games). He managed to tally 74 receptions for 850 yards and six touchdowns in 2018 despite missing four games due to suspension.
These individual honors are nice, but the Patriots' mantra always has been about the team. It's one reason why they've won six Super Bowl championships since 2000, and it's also why they're among the favorites to claim a seventh next season.
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Regardless of whether Tom Brady stays or goes, the New England Patriots may lose two key players who protected the quarterback in 2019.
Offensive guard Joe Thuney and center Ted Karras both are set to be free agents on March 18. And according to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, both offensive linemen could command serious money on the open market.
Here's Howe on Thuney:
Joe Thuney’s market has predictably exploded. One observer estimated Thuney could command $14-15 million annually.
Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowler ($14.1 million) and Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Zack Martin ($14 million) are the only guards making $14 million or more per year. Thuney has played his way into that conversation, though: The 27-year-old was a second-team All-Pro in 2019 and had Pro Football Focus' fifth-highest overall grade among all NFL guards.
In fact, PFF ranks Thuney as the league's eighth-best non-quarterback free agent and tops our list of free-agent offensive lineman in 2020.
Karras isn't on that level but still should get paid handsomely, per Howe:
Ted Karras’ market has also been hot. With the number of interested teams, he could corral upwards of $10 million annually.
Karras started 15 games at center for New England after David Andrews went on injured reserve due to a blood clot issue. He finished as PFF's 20th-ranked center in 2019 and would join just seven NFL centers making more than $10 million per year.
Stephon Gilmore is the only Patriot under contract making north of $10 million per year, so it seems unlikely New England would spend to keep both Thuney and Karras, especially if the team wants to re-sign Brady.
That means whoever replaces Dante Scarnecchia as Patriots offensive line coach will need to work with at least one new starter in 2020.
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Rumors and speculation are flying with NFL free agency just a few weeks away, and the one player everyone is focusing on is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady's contract expires next month, giving him the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback has spent his entire 20-year career in New England with unprecedented success, including a record six Super Bowl titles and multiple league MVP awards.
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It's not often a quarterback of Brady's stature and talent -- yes, he's still a really good player -- hits the open market. A couple teams that need (or could need) a new quarterback include the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers, among others. All of these teams could take the next step as a franchise with a quarterback like Brady leading the offense.
While it's still too early to definitively know where Brady will be playing in Week 1 of the 2020 season, oddsmakers have weighed in at various sportsbooks with betting lines that are always changing based on the latest reports and information.
Speaking of reports, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington said Thursday that Brady is “looking forward to” free agency. Darlington also added that he’d be “stunned” if Brady stayed in New England.
Here's a look at DraftKings Sportsbook's current Brady odds. The Patriots remain the favorites, but not by the same margin they were a few weeks ago.
Brady isn't the only important free agent the Patriots must consider re-signing. A couple key veterans on defense, including safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jamie Collins, also need new contracts. It's safe to say the Patriots will have plenty to do over the next month as they figure out what their roster will look like next season and well into the future.