New England Patriots: Post-Free Agency Needs on Offense
By Hal Bent
QUARTERBACK & SPECIAL TEAMS:
Newly Added/Retained: Brandon King (RFA), Brandon Bolden (UFA),
Need Level: Low
At quarterback the Patriots have Tom Brady–at age 40–coming off the greatest Super Bowl performance by a quarterback in NFL history. Brady has showed no sign of slowing down with age and continues to perform at a high level. Adding new weapons like Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Rex Burkhead along with a healthy Rob Gronkowski make for another season with an explosive offense in New England.
The surprise of the offseason has been that the Patriots have yet to use back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as a chip to recover draft capital. Garoppolo heads into the final year of his rookie deal with a game-and-a-half of great tape from his two starts to open the 2016 season. With a historically weak quarterback class in the draft, the Patriots saw teams again dip into the mediocrity of free agency with names like Mike Glennon, Brian Hoyer, Nick Foles, and Josh McCown getting paid ridiculous money.
Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, the Jets, Buffalo, the Rams, San Francisco and more are in need of a top quarterback but no one made an offer to pry Garoppolo from the Patriots. With quarterbacks like Mitch Trubisky (one-year college starter), Deshaun Watson (turnover machine and accuracy issues) Deshone Kizer (accuracy and ball security issues) and Patrick Mahomes (another Texas Tech washout?) who are basically middle-round draft picks in a regular draft class likely going in the first two rounds, it seems as if Garoppolo’s value increases each day.
The Patriots may be reluctant to deal Garoppolo for a number of reasons. First, he is capable of stepping in and running the New England offense without any change to the game plan as he showed last season. Second, teams may be reluctant to pay full value after the Brock Osweiler meltdown last season. Finally, the Patriots may not be ready to hand the back-up quarterback reins to Jacoby Brissett yet.
On special teams, the Patriots seem set with first-team All-Pro Matthew Slater and second-team All-Pro Nate Ebner. Brandon King was brought back and Jonathan Freeny should be back as well. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski needs to bounce back and competition may be brought in during training camp. Punter Ryan Allen and long-snapper Joe Cardona are both solid and should return.
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