Patriots

As Trent Brown departs for Oakland, remember: Patriots wanted Isaiah Wynn at tackle last year

As Trent Brown departs for Oakland, remember: Patriots wanted Isaiah Wynn at tackle last year

Less than a year later after acquiring Trent Brown on the cheap — New England got its starting left tackle in 2018 by moving from pick No. 95 to No. 143 in a deal with San Francisco last year — they're looking at facing life after Brown, who will be the highest-paid tackle in free agency this offseason.

Brown has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $66 million deal with $36.75M guaranteed with the Raiders, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Things weren't always easy for Brown as a member of the Patriots, but he parlayed his one season with the team to a big-time contract. 

So what's next for the Patriots at that spot? The most logical answer would be for Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia and Josh McDaniels to lean on their first first-round pick from last spring.

When Isaiah Wynn was drafted with the No. 23 overall selection last year, many figured he projected as a guard at the NFL level because he stands at 6-foot-3 with 33.5-inch arms.

But not long after Wynn was drafted, Scarnecchia scoffed at the notion that Wynn couldn't play tackle because of his length.

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"That [expletive] is way overrated," he told reporters back in May.

The 71-year-old offensive line coach added: "He's played left tackle in the best conference in America. Played it pretty good. We're going to take a look at it, and see how it goes."

Wynn saw snaps at left and right tackle in training camp practices, and he played nine snaps at right tackle in a preseason game against the Eagles before tearing his Achilles. And therein lies the source of some uncertainty if the Patriots want to make Wynn the next in line to protect Tom Brady's blind side. 

Can the team trust a red-shirted rookie with one of the most valuable positions on the field? And can they trust a player whose effectiveness is largely dependent on his agility when that player is a year removed from a torn Achilles?

Unless they want to spend another top-end pick on a tackle in this year's draft — and there are several expected to go in the first round — their options are relatively limited.

If they went that route in the draft, then they could be effectively blocking Wynn from contributing through his first two years as a pro. The guard spots — manned by the well-compensated Shaq Mason and the incredibly durable Joe Thuney — are spoken for, as is Marcus Cannon's gig at right tackle.

Depth on the offensive line is critical, of course, and no one knows that better than the Patriots. So there's value in having the type of super-sub Wynn could be, thanks to his experience at the University of Georgia playing both guard and tackle. But that's something the Patriots typically try to find in players like Cole Croston (who has practiced at guard and tackle), Ted Karras (who plays all three spots on the interior) or LaAdrian Waddle (a free agent who has experience at right and left tackle). Not a first-rounder. 

Will Wynn definitely work out at left tackle? Impossible to say. Just as it was impossible to say last year when Brown — who played primarily right tackle in San Francisco — ended up being the choice a year ago. But the Patriots owe it to themselves to trust their initial assessment and try out Wynn on the edge. 

He's far from a sure thing. But right now — given the cost of keeping Brown, what little is available in free agency and the state of the offensive line as currently constituted — he's looking like their best bet.

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Patriots' Julian Edelman sounds eager to move on from Tom Brady questions

Patriots' Julian Edelman sounds eager to move on from Tom Brady questions

Julian Edelman and Tom Brady were inseperable for much of the past decade, so it's fair to wonder how the New England Patriots wide reciever feels about losing his longtime quarterback to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It's also fair of Edelman to want to put the Brady era behind him.

The veteran wide receiver gamely fielded questions about Brady in a video conference Monday but seemed intent on spinning the narrative forward rather than harping on the QB's absence.

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"Obviously it's a little different (not having Brady around), but you've got to move on and understand this is a business," Edelman said. "You wish him well. That's when you instantly start thinking about what you have to do to prepare yourself to go out and contribute and help the team for the upcoming year.

"We've played a lot of ball together. I love him to death, but the train keeps moving, as it will when I'm not playing here or something. I mean, it always keeps going. So, we've got to worry about the people we have here."

Edelman and Brady won three Super Bowls together during their 11 seasons as teammates, and Brady was instrumental in Edelman's rise from converted college quarterback to Super Bowl MVP.

But reports have indicated the 34-year-old wide receiver is motivated to prove he's not just a product of his quarterback, and that motivation peeked through Monday.

"There's a lot of guys that are passionate for football," Edelman said. "Of course Tom has a passion that's a very big one. But he's moved on and he's somewhere else.

"We're worried about the passion of the players that are on this team right now, and I can tell you right now, there's a lot of guys that are very passionate and very hungry."

One of those players is new quarterback Cam Newton, who's expected to replace Brady as the Patriots' starter. Edelman and Newton linked up for workouts earlier this summer, so if he lamented the loss of his former QB, he didn't do so for long.

Patriots' Josh McDaniels raises notable strategy concern of games without fans

Patriots' Josh McDaniels raises notable strategy concern of games without fans

Bill Belichick isn't the only New England Patriots coach who leaves no stone unturned.

Among the many adjustments the Patriots will have to make this season, they may have to play games in empty stadiums, as the continued spread of COVID-19 could prevent fans from attending games in 2020.

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked Friday how a fan-less atmosphere may change how he runs the offense, and he gave a pretty revealing answer.

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"If it's quieter, I think there's some things you probably have to protect," McDaniels told reporters in a video conference. "You can't change your language. It's like, if we know English, we can't teach them Spanish before Week 1.

"I think you probably will self-scout yourself a little bit more with the television copy (of the game film), because they have the mics all over the place. So, you have to be careful (about) how much of what you're saying is easily detectable. I think it's more about protecting yourself and not giving everything away week after week."

McDaniels makes a good point: A quiet stadium without fans means teams could eavesdrop on opposing offensive coordinators to listen to their play calls, either during the game or while watching the television replay on film.

Under normal circumstances, offensive coordinators usually cover their mouths with their play sheets to prevent teams from reading their lips, but that precaution might not be enough if an in-stadium microphone picks up what they're saying anyway.

It's unclear how McDaniels and other coordinators will guard themselves against this potential subterfuge, but it's no surprise that Bill Belichick's longtime coordinator is considering all scenarios entering an unprecedented season.