Welcome to How to Fix the Patriots!
This week we unveil five steps that the Pats can take to return to the Super Bowl. We kicked off this series on Monday with an offensive solution that could have helped them survive the Titans in the playoffs, then turned to their pass defense on Tuesday and walked back on the attack to reload the tight ends on Wednesday.
Today we explain why making a big splash in a free agency would be the wrong way to tackle the wide receiver’s gap.
Is it tempting.
Back up a Brink’s truck in A.J. Green driveway.
Or that of Amari Cooper. Or Emmanuel Sanders’. Or throw money at a large, free agent wide receiver and pray that he can solve the passing problems of the Patriots on his own.
After all, the Pats get some cash out of season.
The intention is that they keep between $ 30- $ 40 million in cap space in the new competition year, depending on how negotiations are going with Tom Brady, player incentives and a few other factors. However, those figures do not take into account the possible new signatures of Brady, Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy or Joe Thuney, among others. By retaining only two of those four, more than half of the team space can easily be eaten.
They must also be given priority. It is best to park the Brink truck in the park.
The Patriots could also follow the journey to supplement their receiver room. But that seems unlikely. Before N’Keal Harry, Bill Belichick had taken only one wideout in the first three rounds of the design since 2010; a silent recognition of the impossible challenge that newcomers initially encounter in Foxboro.
Like most teams, investing in established veterans is the smart game here for the Pats. Amidst their most critical offseason in years, this is the best game. And there is a way to solve their most urgent problem without breaking the cover sheet.
Let’s start internally.
Julian Edelman turns 34 in May. Mohamed Sanu is on the wrong side of 30 and comes as a pro from one of his worst seasons. Harry completely flopped like a rookie.
The receiving corps of the Pats was and remains one of the least threatening in the competition. One addition without an agent will not suddenly turn them into a defensive nightmare.
Moreover, Green turns 32 in July. He has actually missed half a season in two of the last three years. He has been open with his desire to be paid as a top flight, leaving him safely in the $ 15 million per year range and out of the Patriots’ reach.
Even if that drops to around $ 12 million, Green’s injury history can put the team at a significant risk (only two players currently count more than $ 10 million against the cap), and his deal can still tie them in for cash at the pursuit of other free agents. And that is only if Green, a top 10 player in this upcoming free agent class, agrees to lower his asking price.
Cooper is certainly not going there and Sanders, who has received $ 10 million this season, can sign for more soon.
Bottom line: Another big swing in a big name without losing another salary is not the move. The Pats took their hacks with Harry, Sanu and Antonio Brown. Those were three strikes, so they should be out of the market.
Last October, the Pats Sanu, who is going to earn $ 6 million this season, acquired a second round. They exchanged a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks in 2017, when Cooks earned only $ 1.5 million. Ten years earlier, they shipped a second rounder to Miami for Wes Welker and then added Randy Moss at the expense of a fourth rounder and a team-friendly deal.
This is their sweet spot.
Trade goals by 2020 should include recipients with another full year for their contracts, such as Sanu. Most players who are still on their rookie deals would minimize both the financial hit and the trade costs. Of course, cheap, young, productive players are the most valuable resource in any competition.
So forget about fantasizing about every deal involving top players that fit into that mold, such as Chris Godwin, a free agent in 2021.
But what about Dede Westbrook? Or Chris Conley? Play under clear number 1 option D.J. Chark, both Jaguars wide-outs will come on the market in 2021 and will earn less than $ 3 million and $ 1 million next year respectively. Last season, both would have been easily ranked as the second leading recipient of the Pats, as Westbrook caught 66 passes and Conley received a total of 775 receiving yards.
Another free agent to consider in 2021 could be Taywan Taylor, who demonstrated considerable potential in Tennessee before being treated for the Browns last August and turned out to be a zero on the field. Perhaps Cleveland would say goodbye to the 24-year-old, who is a season away from placing 37 receptions for 446 yards with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback. The same can be asked of the Rams and Josh Reynolds, also 24, who ended less than 13 months ago with 402 yards and five touchdowns.
Odell Beckham Jr. want to be bigger with the Browns? The 4-year, $ 60 million remains of his contract would match or probably exceed what Green will demand, but also offer significant control over a player whose stock is likely to be as low as after a fairly underwhelming year. He would distort defensive coverage if not a player on the roster.
The five steps of the Patriots back to the Super Bowl: No. 5 – repair short-yardage
The five steps of the Patriots back to the Super Bowl: No. 4 – Maintain the best pass defense of the NFL
The five steps from the Patriots back to the Super Bowl: No. 3 – aim for tight ends at the end
The Pats can send some salary to also absorb Beckham’s deal.
Otherwise, Damerie Byrd (Arizona), Demarcus Robinson (Kansas City) and Breshad Perriman (Tampa Bay) are reasonable options for free agents from March. Playing for receiver-rich teams, all caught more passes than Phillip Dorsett did.
In April, the Pats must also plunge into one of the deepest recipe classes in modern history, even if a rookie is unlikely to contribute early and will not appeal to Brady. Because it is not the intention to lure Brady back. It’s about building a real title candidate, not just a play-off team, in 2020.
In that sense, it is reasonable to hope that Sanu will be better next season. Harry should be too. It would be unreasonable to think that they can take this position to a new level themselves.
But there is no doubt that their respective increases combined with more reasonably priced veterans could get the job done.