By Sterling Pingree
Thoughts and musings concerning the New England Patriots from an eventful beginning of the new NFL league year.
- The loss of Danny Amendola hit harder than I think most Patriots fans thought it would. It’s interesting to think about the discussion that has been had over the last 3 off seasons surrounding Amendola’s willingness to take pay cuts to stay in New England. If he didn’t take a pay cut in any one of those seasons he probably would have been cut. What would the reaction have been if Danny Amendola was cut last off season? Coming off of a Super Bowl win, where Dola scored a touchdown and the game tying 2-point conversation, it would have been difficult to accept but I think framed as a cap casualty it wouldn’t have hit fans as hard as the news that he signed with the Dolphins did this past week. Coming off of one of the great three-game playoff stretches in team history where he shined in the absence of Edelman and in the second half comeback in the AFC championship game, without Gronkowski, Amendola was finally viewed as a star. Dola’s stock will never be higher than it is right now and he took advantage of it.
The other thing that harmed the perception of this decision was that there was no inclination that Amendola would go anywhere else. It hadn’t been reported anywhere that he was drawing interest from other teams or that he even had the inclination to play somewhere else. What is interesting is that all along the narrative revolved around Amendola taking multiple pay cuts to stay in New England was a sign that he would take a discount to stay a Patriot. When he signed in Miami for 2-years and $12 million, the narrative changed and stayed the same. His taking a pay cut three years in a row now represented that he had lost money staying in New England the last 3 years and that now was the time to cash in. The lesson as always is that experts are right even when they’re wrong.
- Good for Nate Solder, he had been a great Patriot and he cashed in, becoming the highest paid offensive lineman ever. It would have been tough for the Patriots to match where his market went and for a guy who has played more games than he has left, this was the only real decision to make.
- It’s funny to think that the Patriots let Dion Lewis walk because 4 years and roughly $20 million was too rich for their blood. It doesn’t seem like much in a day and age where Kirk Cousins got $28 million a year, fully guaranteed, but it speaks to how running backs are viewed in the 2018 NFL. We were all raised watching teams win around backs like Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris and Jim Brown but now you don’t necessarily need that marquee tailback to win a Super Bowl. Think about this, the feature back of 3 out of the last 4 Super Bowl champions was LeGarrette Blount and for the second year in a row he just signed a 1-year deal, (with Detroit.) Lewis is now one of the 10 highest paid backs in the NFL. I don’t think that it was the annual money that the Patriots balked at, but the fact that Tennessee was willing to give him that for 4 years.
- I love the Adrian Clayborn signing, especially at 2-years and $12 million. Would you rather pay that for Amendola, who will turn 33 in November, or Clayborn who is coming off of a 9.5 sack season and turns 30 in July? Take into account that the Patriots could generate zero pass rush in last year’s Super Bowl. (I realize it was this calendar year and took place not two months ago, but I feel better now that it’s a new league year calling Super Bowl LII “last year”.) After the high level of activity early in free agency last year by the Patriots, this year seems subdued by comparison, but last year is actually the aberration. Belichick’s strategy has long been that he would play the waiting game in free agency, while other teams overpaid for talent, Bill would wait and nab guys like Clayborn for far less than a guy like Suh will command. What is the difference between Adrian Clayborn and Ndamukong Suh? Probably about the same difference between Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum.
- Jeremy Hill, look out, Belichick has brought in an LSU running back. The Patriots have had good luck with Tiger backs in the past: Kevin Faulk and Stevan Ridley. Hill will split carries out of the back field which should keep him healthier throughout the season. Hill is a low risk high reward guy who could contribute to the offense, but if he doesn’t, you still have Rex Burkhead and James White. Mike Gillislee is still on the roster and I would be surprised if for the first time since 2014 that the Patriots take a running back in the draft.
- The Patriots traded for Jason McCourty on Thursday, identical twin brother of Patriots safety Devin McCourty. I love this move for so many reasons. It gives the Pats cornerback depth and I always like it when twins play together. Nobody loves twins more than Bill Belichick as the team now features TWO SETS OF TWINS! Cody and Jake Hollister were already on the roster, (Cody spent all of last year on the practice squad) and now the McCourty’s. What is Bill Belichick’s plan? He has a set of twins on each side of the ball now, I can’t imagine the possibilities, but I’m sure Ernie Adams already has.
- What is still out on the market that could be a fit in New England? Thankfully, with the Clayborn signing, that should end the “Suh to the Patriots” rumors. I was hoping against hope that the Patriots would land Tyrann Mathieu and not just as a Patriots fan but as a football fan. Mathieu is a unique player and Belichick would use him in ways that other teams most definitely would not. Also, Mathieu signing a one-year deal in Houston is a little scary if you’re a Pats fan because of what that Texans defense could be if it’s healthy.
- It was reported late in the day on Saturday, that Patriots captain Matthew Slater had visited with the Steelers on Friday. A couple interesting note here; that this hadn’t been reported on Friday, most of these things are known as they are happening. I think there was a lot of surprise that Slater is taking meetings with other teams. The belief in the people I’ve talked to was that if Slater wanted to keep playing, it would almost automatically be in New England. With the emotional losses to the fan base this week of Danny Amendola and Nate Solder, the unthinkable departure of Matthew Slater, to the Steelers no less, would be another major blow to the fans perception of what is happening with the team. Slater as a special teams captain has been a pro bowl pick and a special teams captain for the last 7 years, losing that kind of leadership would signal a slight shift in the direction of the franchise.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.Com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.