Playing a GM – Patriots offseason moves 2021

First time in the last decade the Patriots didn`t get into the playoffs. Ok, it is what it is. We didn’t have Brady, we had league high opt-outs before the season, we lost some key players in FA and we had some additional injuries.

The team has problems on both sides of the line of scrimmage, which wouldn’t be easy to solve in one offseason, but I try at least to fill the gaps and start some kind of rebuilding. I am sure with Belichick as HC/GM the team can manage to be in the playoff again within a year or 2 (maybe I am too optimistic, but I don’t think we are so deep as it sometimes looks). We still have some key players, some of the opt-outs will come back, we have the 15th pick on the draft and have almost $69M cap space.

In this post I try to put myself into the position of a GM‘s (let’s say now I will play Belichick the GM). Right, we all know that nobody can project what BB will do, but since I have nothing to lose, I can show you my thoughts. For the financial parts I used numbers from @patscap, overthecap.com and from spotrac.com. Ok, let’s start!

Basics:

Everything starts with the cap situation. We still don’t know what will be the exact cap number for the 2021 season, the only sure thing is, that it can’t be lower than $175M. Since @patscap uses this number as basic, I planned to do the same, but the latest news suggest that the final cap number could be a little bit higher, around $180M. Because I want to be optimistic and I hope owners will accept that extra $5M, I will calculate with this amount.

Every team has some numbers which can increase or decrease their cap space (cap space is the net amount of money which they can use to sign old or new players). Most of the time teams have carryovers from the previous season which we have to add to the cap number. In our case this number is an additional $19,57M. The next category we have to check is the stand of the LTBE/NLTBE incentives in the contracts. LTBE = Likely to be earn, NLTBE = Not likely to be earn. All LTBE incentives count for the actual year (means in our case, those were counted for 2020), but if a player misses some time (or even goes to IR) it can happen, that those LTBE levels won’t be reached. After those not reached LTBE incentives the team will get a credit in the next year (in our case credit will come for 2021). Every NLTBE incentives will be counted for the next season if they are reached during the actual season. Let’s show you a simple example. Julian Edelman had $500k incentives after every 10 catches counts from catch 60th. If we say the incentives after the 60th, 70th and 80th catches were LTBE incentives, then it means $1,5M were counted againts the 2020 cap. Yes, unfortunately Edelman got injured and had only 21 catches during the 2020 season. So we have 3 levels of LTBE incentives which were not reached. This means the Patriots will get back $1,5M in the 2021 season. So we have to check the stand of those LTBE/NLTBE incentives, because they could give the team extra cap space or they can lower it if some NLTBE were reached. In our case (based on @patscap´s numbers) the Patriots will get $5,51M back. Next category is the PPE (Proven Performance Escalator), which is for players who enter into their 4th season. There are three levels of qualifications (Article 7, Section 4 of the 2020 CBA governs the PPS), what I won’t explain long in this post, but I might write about it in the future. Short: it depends on the played snaps (percentage) during the season. What is important for us, that we have nobody in 2021 who will be eligible for extra money from the PPE (last year we had Deatrich Wise). There is usually some amount of dead money too. These dead money amounts are cap commitments after players who are not anymore with the team. Based on the data from spotrac.com, Patriots will have $863.689 in dead money. The last part of the basic numbers is the amount of salaries (this number contains the salaries of the 8 opt-out players as well). This number is – based again on @patscap´s estimations – $135.377.000. Ok, Miguel´s actual number is higher, but only because he counted a 1st round RFA tender ($4.873.000) for JC Jackson and an ERFA tender ($850.000) for Jacob Johnson, which I will bring in later. That’s all. Very easy, isn’t it? Ok, I am just joking. Let’s see the numbers in spreadsheets:

Ok, so this will be our starting point, before we make any trade/cut/restructure/etc. We have bit more than $68M, which is a very good amount compared to last year, when the team had at this point $37M less. Yes, Patriots had $31,8M at the same period of last year.

Let’s see a spreadsheet about the dead money:

Last year we had $7,7M dead money without Tom Brady´s $13,5M, which is another huge difference. Yes, the team got back money from the AB and Hernandez grievances, but even with those money they had far worse cap situation than they have now.

Estimated cap space 2021   $ 68.839.311,00

That is great, I am happy, because theoretically the team has a lot to spend. At the moment – based on the numbers from Spotrac.com – the Patriots has the 4th highest cap space after Jacksonville ($74,6M), Indianapolis ($73,7M) and Jets ($70,5M). But! We have to see every direction where this money should go. This $68M is not only for the rookies or the new signings, but we have lot of free agents as well. Some are more important, some are not so important, but a chunk of the money will and have to go to resign few of our own free agents.

Not a short list I have to admit, but this is how business is working. At the end of the list we have J.C. Jackson who will be a restricted free agent (RFA), which means the team can put a tender on him. It can be a first- or a second- or an original round tender. If another team wants the player they will offer him a contract, the Patriots has the opportunity to match that offer and retain the player for the same (or higher) money what the other team offered him. Or the team won´t match the offer and they will get a first or second round pick from the other team (in Jackson´s case there is no original round pick, since he was an UDFA). If no other team makes an offer for the player, the Patriots has to pay for an exact amount of money (see below). In Jacob Johnson´s situation, he is ERFA (exclusive restricted free agent). The team can offer him a new contract which has to reach the veteran minimum salary, which is $850.000 for Johnson because of the two years in the NFL.

As we can see the free agency could hit our Oline and Dline quite hard. Andrews and Thuney are cornerstone pieces in our Oline. Butler and Guy were the heart of the Dline. Additionally Wise could leave town as well, who was this year a valuable rotational player and in Simon and Calhoun the team could loose two of their rotational edge players too. Justin Bethel is an interesting name to watch, because our (I hope) future HOF special team captain, Slater made no decision if he will come back for one more year. He has actually one year left from his contract, but he won´t be younger and his body could already show problems after 13 seasons. So in a bad situation we could loose not just one but two Pro Bowler ST players.

We will come back to this names soon. Let’s roll. If a team wants to increase their cap space, they can cut or trade players. You cut/trade someone who won´t fit in your system anymore or because he is too expensive. There are other possibilities to lower the cap hit, since the team can extend or restructure a contract. Of course only if the player is ok with it. Take a look on the most expensive players in 2021:

Well, as we can see the 10 most expensive players would take more than 60% of the actual salary commitments. For some players I would pay the money without any hesitation, but there are few players where we should try to come to an agreement to lower those numbers. Cannon and Hightower might retire, so there would be no need to talk, the team could save there quite an amount of money. The other big question is what Edelman is planning. There were speculations about Edelman might follow Brady to the Bucs, but he posted some promising words on IG few days earlier, in which he mentioned, he is ready for the next year. If there is one player in our offense whose salary is untouchable, then it is Julian Edelman´s (ok, and Slater´s). McCourty wants to play one more year and at the moment I don´t see other player in the back end who can lead them on such a high level, than Devin does. Gilmore is still one of the top10 corners in the League, but I would try to lower his numbers.

If you cut or trade a player there would stay some amount of dead money, but usually you will have net saving at the end. In our next spreadsheet we will go through the list of the biggest net savings. I will decrease the net savings with $780.000 each, because I am presuming a player to takes their place on the top51 list.

Players with stars after their names are – based on overthecap.com´s database – players outside of the top51 list, so those numbers should not be lowered with $780.000. According – again – overthecap.com, Patriots has at the moment 62 players under contract for 2021.

We have one more thing to do, before we start our wannabe GM activity. Patriots has some draft picks, which will need a rookie pool. Every draft pick has an own cap number, so this is easy to calculate. After this step we will be able to determine our cap space and we will be set to launch our journey.

So ladies and gentlemans congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the first part of my post. Thank you that you are still with me here. Before we move on, let´s take a look on our cap space after we decreased it with the rookie pool.

Estimated cap space 2021 after rookie pool   $ 59.871.320,00

Let’s roll

This cap space is just temporary, because – as I mentioned before – we have some other opportunities to increase it before we start to spend money. I have a 7 points list about our to do´s.

1. Decide who has to be cut and cut them!

2. Are there any opportunities to resctructure some contracts?

3. Check who could be traded and trade them!

4. Decide whom to bring back from our own free agents!

5. Make clear at which positions do we need new players!

6. Decide if you want to fill the holes from FA or from Draft!

7. Make the calls!

1. Cuts (retirements):

It is never easy to cut players, but nobody told being a GM is always a pleasure job. Altough before we start with the cuts, unfortunately we will have 2 retirements.

  • Marcus Cannon, RT: His career start wasn’t the easiest because of his medical history, but then he became a reliable starter RT. His opt-out was 100% understandable, but that 1 year away from football was enough for him to make the decision to hang up his cleaths. His retirement means almost $6,3M plus.
  • Dont’a Hightower, LB: I don’t say it will happen for sure, but now I think he will retire as well. His absence was a sensible loss for the defense this year. He and Devin McCourty are the two leaders of the Patriots defense. He opted-out as well and he won´t return for 2021. With this move he will free up more than $9,1M in the cap.
  • Beau Allen, NT: He was the next NT plan for the Patriots, but he was injured and the team will be looking for another player who can fill the hole in the middle of the Dline. $2M extra to the cap space.
  • Matt LaCosse, TE: I must admit, I didn’t understand why BB signed him and why some people had high hopes for him (they might knew much more about him than I did), but he wasn’t really great and since we have Izzo and the two rookies (and actually we still need someone better than LaCosse) cutting him is an easy choice to make. Plus $1,3M.
  • Dan Vitale, FB: He came here to replace James Develin, but he opted-out and a German guy just stole the show this year. Additionally the team drafted Dalton Keene last year who could play FB as well. We don’t need more players for that position, the cut means extra $1,2M.
  • Akeem Spence, DL: Spence didn’t play too much this year and I think the team can replace him from FA or draft, so with this move we free up $1,1M.
  • Jacob Dolegala, QB: He is just a PS player, but we can find someone to replace him and there is time to reshuffle the QB room. Adds another $780.000 to the cap space.
  • Justin Rohrwasser, K: After his draft there were some waives around him and maybe these waives flushed him away. Unfortunately he didn’t live up with the 5th round expectations, which we could see when the team signed Robert Aguayo late in the year. His release will give us $660.000 plus.
  • Brandon Bolden, RB: First I wanted to keep him, but we have a good group and 4+1 RB would be enough for the final roster. Hard decision, because he is a valuable ST player too, but his cut will give us another $707,500.

That’s it. I won’t cut more people. You can argue with me if those players were the right ones or I might forgot to cut someone you wouldn´t want to see anymore, but cutting too many people would generate more holes and we already have some holes to fill. With these cuts/retirements we created $23,3M extra cap space.

2. Contract restructure:

I was thinking a lot who could be here a potential target, but I have only one name: Stephon Gilmore.

It is actually a contract extension, where we can lower the cap number for 2021. Gilmore wasn’t the same player like last year, but he is still an animal on the field. Yes he is over 30, but he still plays on a very high level. With him on the field plays J.C. Jackson better as well and with this two guys on the field we could have one of the best CB tandems in the NFL in 2021 again. It is not easy to predict what kind of money Gilmore is looking for, especially if he is rating himself higher than the team does. I would say Gilmore is not a top5 cornerback at the moment (yes, some of you want to kill me now), but he is in the top10 of his position. Why is it so important? Because this little difference could mean millions per year. The average yearly salary of the top5 is $17,9M. This number is a little different for the 5-10th place, $14,3M per year. Everybody in the top10 is younger than Gilmore except Patrick Peterson, who is at the same age and he is a free agent, so his numbers could help us to find Gilmore’s level. Unfortunately we can’t wait for Peterson. I would add 2 extra years to Gilmore’s contract and at the end it would be a 3 years / $42M deal, with $20M guaranteed. This move will lower Gilmore’s cap hit from $16,2M to $13,5M, so we can add $2,7M to our cap space.

3. Trade:

This will be very short. If Gilmore accepts our offer then I wouldn’t trade anyone. If he is not accepting it, then we can make a draft day trade, for example pairing him with our 15th pick and we can jump into the top 10. Or just trade him somewhere for a 2nd round pick. However I hope it won’t happen and he will sign the extension.

Ok, we reached the point where we have the most cap space. We made the cuts, restructured a contract, did everything to increase our space to sign new/old players. But before we start to spend our money, let’t take a look on our actual cap space:

Estimated cap space after cuts, retirements and contract restructure: $ 85.927.467,00

4. Sign back our own free agents:

If cutting players was hard, then deciding which players we should bring back is even harder. There could be players who are very important or playing really good, but they could be so good, that they find themself out of our price range. This will be the case at some of our players now. On the other hand there are players who don´t play such a role in the team to keep them or we could have an upgrade for the same amount of money. Although we have more than $85M cap space we can´t bring back everyone, because we still need to sign some guy from FA, but we have a really strong starting point.

Players I won´t bring back:

  • Joe Thuney, LG: Let’s start with the biggest name on our list. I love Thuney, as mentioned earlier he is one of our cornerstones in the offense. Playing great, durable, great teammate. But he will probably be looking for the big money and this means $14-15M per year. I know offense starts at the Oline, but this is too high and actually the Patriots is famous about OL developement and talent scouting. We already have Onwenu who could switch back to his original, college spot or we could let Wynn play LG, or we just bring someone on the board. Last year he didn’t want to sign the offers the Patriots gave him. I don’t know what kind of money was in those offers but I guess it should be at least $11-12M/year. I don’t think he will change his mind, even if in 2021 will be a bigger drop in the cap number and therefore less teams could afford his services. This is the hardest decision for me, I really tried to push him under the cap.
  • Rex Burkhead, RB: I really liked him, he played effective and gaves us some really nice moments, but I think our RB group is quite good without him. The Harris – Michel duo has potential, J.J. Taylor showed flashes and hopefully – spoiler alert – White will sign a new contract with us. I like this group enough, not to bring Burkhead back. In real life I can imagine that for a lower salary he will be back.
  • Cam Newton, QB: Altough he was not good in passing, he still made a good impression in me. He was a leader, he was committed to bring Pats as far as he can. The reason I won’t bring him back is the direction where the Patriots in this case will go on with the position. If Belichick would target Trey Lance from NDSU on the draft, I would bring back Newton for a one year contract as starter and mentor. They have similar style and it could be a great match. I personally am not so high on Lance and I will go on a different way, where not Cam is the ideal mentor. Anyway if he would come back in real life, I wouldn´t be sad, he earned one more year with better skill players around him.
  • Brian Hoyer, QB: It is a consensus, that he won’t come back. He was several times inactive and he is not the youngest. Some analysts see him as a coaching canditate. Stidham is still here, but we need a redo in the QB room.
  • John Simon, Edge: This wasn’t Simons‘ year, he was not the presence as in 2019. I would bring someone else instead of him.
  • Adam Butler, DT: Yes, he was the other hard decision to make, because he really showed his potential. He is not on the top DT level, but he could still grow and could be better. Unfortunately because of his ceiling he will get more money from other teams. Malcolm Brown was too expensive for Belichick with his 3year/$15M contract what he signed with the Saints and Butler is better than Brown (I know they are different type of players). I would say he could get around $7-9M per year somewhere else.
  • Jermaine Eluemunor, T: He saw some action during the season, but he didn’t left such an impression in me, that I want to resign him.
  • Damiere Byrd, WR: He had some flashes through the season (he was also well known for Newton, since they spent time together at the Panthers), but we already have few nr. 2-3 receivers on the roster. It can be that Belichick will bring him back for another year with a lower contract, but I won’t.
  • I will let the following 4 players go as well: Terrence Brooks, S; Brandon Copeland, LB; Donte Moncrief, WR; Quincy Adeboyejo, WR

Players I will bring back:

  • Jason McCourty, CB: My favourite player is his brother, Devin, who already declared he wants to be back next year. So I guess Jason will be ready to play one more year with his twin brother together. He lost a step, but he is still a valuable rotational player. I would give him a 1 year contract and $4M ($2M guaranteed).
  • James White, RB: He is in the same category for me like Edelman, I can’t imagine he is in a different jersey. Because of personal tragedy during the year he wasn’t the same like he usually is, but he is still the best third down/receiving back on the roster. I would like to see him back. 2 year/$6M ($2M guaranteed), where in the first year the cap number would be $2,5M.
  • Lawrence Guy, DL: I guess you already knew I will bring him back, when I let Butler go. Guy is just a perfect match fot our team. In the last 4 years he became the leader of our Dline. He is not the youngest, but still very important piece of the defense. I give him a 2 year contract for $7,5M ($2,5M guaranteed). Cap number for the first year is $3,5M.
  • David Andrews, C: There will be some other good centers available in free agency, but Andrews is our center and he will stay in Foxborough. We can’t let both starters go and Andrews is the cheaper choice. We will have new QB or QBs and I guess they will be very happy with a center who already knows the system. He will be only 29 when the season starts, which is not much for an Oliner. I will give him a 4 year contract for $28M ($14M guaranteed) and with a cap number of $6M for 2021.
  • Cody Davis, S: I will bring back Davis for one more year, because he was quite active in our special team (70%+ in 8 games) and he got few snaps in the defense too. His cap number is $1,4M.
  • Justin Bethel, CB: Another ST team member, the second best after Slater. I hope Slater will come back for his last year, but we still need leaders in this unit. I will keep him for two more years for $3M, cap hit for 2021 $1,5M.
  • Shilique Calhoun, DE: 2020 was his better year in New England, he got snaps during special team plays and registered 2 sacks in the defense. We could use him as rotational player two more years for $3M ($500.000 guaranteed), with a cap hit of $1,5M in 2021.
  • Nick Folk, K: I know some people have concerns with his kick power, but 2020 was his best year when he kicked field goals (28/26 = 92,9%) and he made 90% of his extra points (which was worse than his 100% in 2019). The competiton is already there (Aguayo), but I would retain him for the next two seasons for $5M ($1M guaranteed), with a cap hit of $2,5M in 2021.
  • Carl Davis, DT: Despite the fact Davis didn’t get much time in the defense I would keep him for one more year. He could be at least a safety option in the middle of the Dline. With a very little pay rise, I would give him $950.000.
  • James Ferentz, OL: Ferentz is not near to a starter level, but with 3 years already in New England he has the system knowledge and could be an option for the interior Oline if something happens. 1 year $850.000.
  • Deatrich Wise Jr, DL: Personally I am a fan of him since he was drafted or at least I am crossing my fingers for him. In 2020 he found some success, which was necessary for me to keep him around. He is a reliable rotational player as 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT. I will give him a 3 years contract for $9M ($3M guaranteed), with a cap hit of $2,5M in 2021.
  • Jacob Johnson, FB: Since I live and coach in Germany, I am a big supporter of him. It was really nice to see him growing into his role as a starter. He still has lot to learn, but he made key blocks during the year, he made his first TD as well. There is no question he will get the a new contract for $850.000.
  • J.C. Jackson, CB: Many of the analysts are arguing if he should get a first or a second round RFA tender. I am not on their side. If we are talking about young talents, there is always a risk that extending one year later could costs millions. Of course there is a possibility that Jackson won’t be so good again and he can’t repeat this 9 INT season, but I think he could be our future nr.1 corner. If we can keep Gilmore too, we will have one of the best cornerback tandem in the league, with one of the best slot corner (Jones). I am not sure what will happen after next year with our safety group, since McCourty and Chung are near to the end of their respected carrier, so we should keep at least the corner room together. I will be extatic with this scenario, so I am pulling the trigger. I give Jackson a 4 year contract for $52M ($25M guaranteed), with a cap hit of $12M for 2021. With this contract he will have a top10 yearly salary, even when I don’t think he is already there (rather top15). I would put my faith in him and hope he will be even better and he will prove me right.

That’s it ladies and gentleman, we signed 13 contracts which have a sum for the 2021 season of $40,05M. I don’t say we couldn’t bring back more of our own guys, but I tried to find the balance. We left some better guys go (Thuney, Butler), but we could retain Guy, Andrews, Jackson, therefore we still have a strong group of core players and young talents.

Estimated cap space after signing our own free agents back: $ 45.877.467,00

5. Defining the holes on our current roster:

With more than $45M cap space we have some luxury, because that number is higher than the starting point was one year ago. You are right, we have holes to fill, but with this amount we can look around more open minded than during the last few offseasons. We have 66 players under contract, check the spreadsheets:

Is our roster strong enough? Definitely not. Despite the fact we have 64 players under contract for the next season, there are several positions where we need more or less upgrade.

  • QB: Need for major upgrade. We have only Stidham under contract, which is not an ideal situation. Stidham was back up, saw only few snaps during the season and he didn’t do anything why we could think he is the future. FA or Draft? Some people say we need to sign a top tier QB or trade for someone. My concern with this is, that there is only one top tier QB who might be able to test the market, Dak Prescott from the Cowboys. I am not sure he will, because Jerry Jones can tag him or they could sign him with a long term contract before FA starts.  Even if he is available, his price tag would be way over $30M per year, which is too high for the Patriots. We could trade for Stafford (not anymore since he was traded to the Rams few hours ago) or Watson, but those trades would take away a lot of picks and/or salary wouldn’t be very low either. I won’t trade for middle class QB. From free agency we have some options. Cam could come back (but as I wrote earlier he won’t be my target), Fitzmagic could be a mentor type player, who could fulfill his destiny playing for every AFC East team. Brissett would be an ok signing too, since he knows the team and has a strong backup level. If we would go wild, there is Trubisky, who could turn his career in New England. I stay with the draft, pairing it with a mentor type veteran signing.
  • WR: Upgrade needed. We need a nr.1 wide receiver, who is reliable and can be a real treath for the opposing defenses. We have a very good group of nr. 2-3 receivers. Edelman hopefully will come back for one more season, Meyers proved he is a capable nr.2 guy and Harry will get one more chance to show his abilities. I don’t think he will be a nr.1, but he might be a good nr.2. After this group we have some role players, but nothing special. Signing a nr.1 from FA would take a lot of money (at least $15-17M per year), so we need to see where else we need veteran help. Drafting someone in the early rounds gives us another problem. Patriots playbook is not easy, we could see during the years that it is very challenging for young players. Do we want to risk another first or second round failure or are we ready to spend top dollars on FA?
  • RB (FB): One position where I have no worry. I will go with the guys we have.
  • TE: That is tricky. After Belichick drafted two TEs last year in the third round, I am not sure he would spend another 1st or 2nd day pick on this position. If yes, that should be Pitts in the first round or Freiermuth in the second. They could provide immediate help and could give the other guys some time to develope. Signing a TE from FA is not simple either. We would need a splash signing, someone from the top tier. I am just not sure if we have top tier tight end this year. Please, don’t kill me because of my opinion. Hunter Henry is the top dog this year, but he should play a full season first before I would give him $11-13M per year. Additionally he should have better numbers, than he has now. The other often mentioned player is Jonnu Smith from the Titans. His 2020 season was quite good. 8 TD, good YAC skill, but he is the same type of player what Asiasi could be. Same height, same weight, I guess Belichick wanted to have his own Smith. We could have Gerald Everett, who is the same again like Asiasi. We all know that TE is one of the hardest positions to learn, so we might see a second year jump from our two young tight ends.
  • OL: We will need a starter at LG or RT position, which depends on where Onwenu will play. We have some in house backup options, but we will try to find gems during the draft. This is one position where I am confident with the Patriots development program.
  • DL: Guy is a fantastic player for the Patriots (that is why we signed him back), but he won’t be younger. Wise is rather rotational player than starter, but still valuable piece. Our nr.1 NT now is … well we don’t have starter at NT position, which is a very important spot in Belichick´s 3-4 plays. I can see some addition here.
  • Edge: Winovich and Uche could give us two good edge players. Uche will be only in his second year (lot to learn), but Wino is quite good as rusher (he still needs to improve to be a 3 down option). There is room for upgrade, but with an offseason the youngsters could give us a good group here.
  • LB: Because Hightower´s retirement in this scenario, we need here veteran presence. This group is ok at the moment, but I am definitely expecting here 1-2 moves.
  • CB: Another group where I am satisfide whit the pool we have.
  • S: Chung and McCourty might play their last year in the league. The Patriots drafted Dugger, who could be a potential replacement for Chung or even for McCourty. Williams could play more safety, since he is not in a good position on the cornerback depth chart. Adrian Phillips another good player for the year. I won’t move big dollars for this position, maybe on the draft in the 4-5. round I would pick a project player if there is someone good.
  • K: We have Foles, no reason to worry.
  • P: If you have a Pro Bowler punter, you are in good hands.
  • LS: Cardona is good. Period.

As you can see the team has many spots to fill up with better players, but we have some groups which don’t really need upgrade. There will be positions where I would prefer experience over draft, but you will see some opposit cases as well. This could change from analyst to analyst. My first thought here is, that we have now too many holes to make really big money signings. I think the team should try to sign better players with mid range salary, which can give strong support for the new QB or QBs on the offense. In the defense the team should and I am sure they will upgrade the front 7.

6 & 7. Decide and pull the trigger:

First there is the free agency, the place to spend money in big way. Again, we have almost $46M, but please don’t forget, from this amount we should keep $4-5M for the in season moves. This will give us $41-42M to spend:

  • Jacoby Brissett, QB: Ooooh yess, I hear some of you are mad as hell. As I wrote earlier, I want to draft a QB and I want to sign a mentor type backup, who could be a starter for the first half of the season if this is necessary. Brissett is a well known name in New England, since the Patriots drafted him in the 3rd round in 2016. After just one season he was traded to the Colts in 2017, where he immediately played in 16 games. He didn’t do any top tier things, but he was a servicable starter and a good backup. Another thing which speaks for him, is how much the teammates loved him in Indianapolis, his attitude and his leadership. This is what the Patriots needs at the moment. I really hope his second stint will be better than his first in Foxborough and both sides will be happy about the signing. He will get a 2 years contract for $15M ($7,5M guaranteed), with a cap number of $7M in 2021.
  • Marvin Jones Jr, WR: He might not be the sexiest pick, but he could give the WR room veteran leadership and experience. The soon to be 31 year old receiver can play from the slot or outside, he will be a valuable piece in the offense. During the last two seasons he made 31 20+ yards plays and had 18 TDs. In 2020 he almost reached the 1.000 receiving yards, so he will get a 3 year $30M ($15M guaranteed) with a cap number of $9M for 2021.
  • Curtis Samuel, WR: Yes, another WR from free agency. This signing gives Belichick and McDaniels a swiss army knife type of a player. Samuel can run, he can catch, you can use him in different ways. He is a big play guy too, in 2020 he had 13 20+ yards plays. He isn’t a number 1 type guy, but he has so much to offer in a good system. He will be only 25 years old, which means he has many years left. We give him a long, 5 year contract with a value of $50M ($30M guaranteed) with a cap number of $8M in 2021.
  • Matt Feiler, RT: Feiler played as RT and LG, just as Onwenu, but Feilers best season came as right tackle, so we can move Onwenu back to his original spot and he can replace the departing Thuney. We give him a 2 year contract with $12M value ($6M guaranteed) with a cap number of $5M in 2021.
  • Avery Williamson, LB: As I mentioned earlier, the team needs a veteran ILB who can solidify the group. I took Williamson, because he is good against run, but he is able to play against the pass too. In 2019 he tore his ACL, but in 2020 he came back with a 100+ tackle season. Williamson is 6´1, 245 which is good for ILBs. In 2018 and 2019 he was part of the Jets, so Belichick could get an extended look on him. He will be 29 this year, we give him a 3 year $23M ($12M guaranteed) contract, which will count $7M against the cap in 2021.
  • DaQuan Jones, NT: We need someone who can fix the middle of the Dline, Jones can be that player. During the last 5 years he missed games only in 2017, every other year he had no major injuries, which makes this pick even better. Rushing the passer is not his best ability, he had 3 sacks in the last 3 years, but he is good against the run, he can eat up space and that is what we need now. He will get a 3 year $23M contract too, but with $15M guaranteed. For the 2021 season we can count with $7M cap number.

Hopefully after all these signings we still have some money for the season. The cap number of this 6 contracts in 2021 will be $43M, which will gives us almost $3M cap space remaining. That is an ok amount, since we will have more money after the final roster cuts, so we can concentrate on the Draft.

We still need a QB, a TE wouldn´t be bad either and an Edge/DE position is one to watch. Please don´t forget, if the team will make any trade with the picks, it will change the rookie pool and therefore our cap space too.

The draft is always full with questionmarks, you really don’t know if your pick will live up to your expectations. Good, the first few picks are usually really good, but we saw some 1/1 busts. And you can find real gems later (199th for example), but you need to evaluate the players and you hope those evaluations are correct. You buy the past success on free agency and you „buy“ the future success on draft. Neither is a sure thing.

  • 1/15, Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: I know it is quite unusual that the Patriots are not trading down or up in the first round, but I will stay put and will take Jones. Why him? The best 3 will be long gone and me personally am not so high on Lance. Yes he is very athletic and he didn’t throw an INT in 2019, but he has only one season experience on FCS level, so I am not sold on him. His predecessor, Wentz could be a good example for us, because he was picked high, but something is broken with him now. The level of competition and that one season didn’t convince me. Jones on the other hand is absolutely my type of player. First and foremost he stayed at Alabama and waited until his time was coming. He didn’t transfer to another college to get more reps, he waited and learned and when he got his chance after Tua´s injury in 2019 he grabbed his chance and never let it go. That is an A+++ thing for me, that shows me his mental thoughness and willingness. Beside he was extreme efficient with the throws, over 70% completion and he has skills which could be really good in the Pats system. Is he only a product of the system in Alabama? Man, come on. Tua had even better supporting cast, but Jones beat him in almost every statistical number. Were you high last year on Burrow? Jones matched him in almost every category. If Tua was a 1/1 candidate before his injury, then I can’t understand why Jones would be overdrafted at 15? Especially after the last few days at the Senior Bowl, where Jones was one of the best players on the field and therefore his status is even stronger than before. I think taking our future franchise player at 15 is not a bad thing.
  • 2/14, Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State: As I wrote earlier I am absolutely ok taking Freiermuth here. Asiasi and Keene showed us very little, even if the TE position is very hard to learn, but we need here someone who could give us a boost. We have a move TE in Asiasi, so we need a good big, bodied TE. Freiermuth is a Massachusetts guy, who played in nr. 87, he is 6´5 and 258. He won’t outrun every linebacker, but has the potential to be a Gronk-light. I’ve read some early mock draft and there were 1 or 2 where he was drafted in the late first round. I think because of his shoulder injury and surgery he will be available in the middle of the second round (or at least I hope) and the Patriots will jump on him.
  • 3/33: I won´‘t do any trades, just pick where the team has picks. Additionally at this early stage I will pick only for positions from now on. I guess BB will do some magic here to move up on the draft board, because there is a huge gap between 2/14 and 3/33. My target would be a defense line or edge player here.
  • 4/15: Edge, Dline or Oline
  • 1st 4th comp pick: one of the above mentioned positions or linebacker
  • 2nd 4th comp pick: safety (no draft without a safety) or cornerback
  • 5/14: safety, running back, cornerback, wide receiver
  • 6/2: safety, wide receiver
  • 6/11: offense line, linebacker
  • 7/15: bpa

Wow, we did it. Applause for everyone of us. As you can see I tried to fix the Oline, brought two veteran WR on the board and got another young TE. This whole package should help Jones to arrive into the NFL. This offense is now better than one year ago. In defense I took only two players from FA, but these two will bring us a lot of experience and I am sure with them in the team we could see some development on this side of the LOS too. For me this scenario would be a good path back to the playoffs. Let´s see how Belichick and the Patriots front office is thinking.

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2 thoughts on “Playing a GM – Patriots offseason moves 2021

    1. I used here the data from spotrac.com. I believe the team has dead money after those two players because they were drafted (where the contracts contains some guaranteed money), but they ended in the practice squad. So their original contracts are not valid anymore, but the team has to pay the guaranteed parts.

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