Tag Archives: New England Patriots

Who’s to Blame for Butler’s Beef?

If you’re a Patriots fan and you don’t live under a rock, you’ve heard the name Malcolm Butler.

The once undrafted rookie turned Super Bowl 49 hero with a goal-line interception to seal a victory against the Seattle Seahawks is a moment engraved in NFL history forever. Literally, that’s one of those plays that will be remembered when people talk about the history of the NFL; a moment that will capture the Patriots dynasty.

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After Super Bowl 49, the Patriots dropped their top 3 cornerbacks (at the time Darelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington) and it seemed that the new #1 cornerback for the Patriots was… Malcolm Butler. A kid who wasn’t on the roster to start the season before. A player many confused for Colts CB Darius Butler during their playoff run. Crazy talk!

Yet, in the past two years Butler has surpassed expectations and played like a Top 10 cornerback in the league. He isn’t the best at any one thing, but his mindset to give 110% on each snap is what keeps him in discussion as a top CB in the league. So what’s the issue?

Again, unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard that Malcolm Butler is upset with his current contract situation. Because he is playing under a rookie deal, he makes jack squat. This offseason Butler is a restricted free agent, meaning teams can attempt to sign him, but the Patriots can match any contract offer he receives AND has the final say if he were to stay or leave the team. The free agent tender means this: the Patriots get to chose the worth of the player. They slapped a first-round tender on Malcolm Butler, meaning that, as long as he signs the contract, he gets paid 3.9 million dollars to play for the Patriots this year. If another team wishes to give him a long term offer, and Malcolm as well as the Patriots let him walk to this new team, they must give the Patriots their FIRST ROUND PICK this draft. Whoa, talk about a hefty load.

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Essentially, it means this: The Patriots are completely in the driver’s seat. It would take an absolutely crazy team to give up 10’s of millions of dollars per year for Malcolm Butler along with a first-round caliber player in the draft this year.

Why is Butler mad? The dude wants to get paid. Honestly, you can’t blame him for being upset. He is 27 years old, in his prime in the NFL, and made 500,000 last year. That’s nice and all, until you realize he could be making somewhere around 12 million per year on another roster, if not more. For reference, Logan Ryan (the cornerback playing BEHIND Butler for New England the past few years) signed a contract for 10 million per year over the next few years. Further, a cornerback’s shelf-life and opportunity to make money is not long. To make matters worse, the Patriots just brought in another top cornerback in Stephon Gillmore and are paying him 65 million over 5 years.

Before you get mad at Butler, understand it’s a business. You likely wouldn’t be happy with such a significant paycut either when your coworker makes vastly more and you know you could make more money elsewhere. Here’s the catch: Butler doesn’t necessarily want to leave New England. He loves it here. He just wants to get paid fairly.

And you can’t get mad at New England either. Tendering Butler early in the offseason allowed them to still have a huge budget to spend and splurge on the roster like they have. It’s not like anyone is going to pursue Butler with the huge price it will cost. It’s like using coupons – when it’s right in your face why the hell wouldn’t you save the money? No-brainer.

What can be done about this? Like I said, New England is in the driver’s seat. Butler can refuse to sign the tender, which means he would not play next year. Yet, he would still be a restricted free agent next offseason, repeating the process. A restricted free agent has to play at least 8 games on the active roster in an NFL season to get out of the restricted contract. Butler can try and convince other teams to sign him, but that will be hard.

Signing a player to that much money and giving up a first rounder if another team signs him is just too much of a bold move. First rounders are precious in the NFL. A team could try and trade for him, but that doesn’t make sense on the Patriots end. If you’re the Patriots, what trade could be better than a team’s first round pick AND not having to trade away any assets on the Patriots end? Lastly, Butler can play his ass off next season and be a free agent next offseason, which is likely to happen.

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The Saints have been linked as a potential candidate for Butler. They may just sign him and give up their first round pick (#11). They received the Patriots first round pick (#32) in a trade for Brandin Cooks. Still, that seems like an idiotic move. The #11 pick is likely a day-one impact starter in most drafts.

I have three notes on this dilemma that I couldn’t find a place for anywhere else.

For starters, this draft is speculated to be loaded with talented defensive players, especially at the defensive back position. This only forces more leverage into the hands of the Patriots. Why would anyone give up so much when they can likely find a starting defensive back in the draft?

Secondly, the Patriots could easily be doing this with the intent of figuring out Butler’s market value (along with saving money this year). They just did something similar with Dont’a Hightower. Playing patient and figuring out a player’s value, especially in this instance where Butler has no place to go, seems to pay off by saving every possible penny.

Lastly, this doesn’t mean that Butler won’t stay in New England. The Patriots aren’t cheap with money: they’re smart with money. There’s a difference. Although they find ways to save money wherever they can, the Patriots also have no problem giving player’s more money through bonuses when they deem it appropriate. Remember a similar situation happened with offensive lineman Logan Mankins in 2011, who was tired of being franchise tagged instead of a long-term deal.

The Patriots will likely pay Butler, they have the money to, and he’s a game-changer for their team. Loading up on defense for the end of Brady’s reign and the transition to a new QB in the next few years seems like a smart move.

 

 

 

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Foxboro’s Free Agent Frenzy

What in the world is going on in Foxboro?

This offseason the Patriots took a new approach in comparison to their patient small-changes offseason we’ve come to expect each year. Usually, a big name splash is rare for the Patriots, and accumulating draft picks seems like the right idea. So what the hell is going on in the mind of Bill Belichick?

With 60 million to spend starting the offseason and plenty of players hitting free agency, here’s what has happened thus far in free agency.

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1. The Patriots re-signed smaller name marquee players Alan Branch, James Develin and Duron Harmon to smaller deals.

These moves are actually huge. The impact both have on defense don’t always show up on the stat chart, but it shows in-game. Alan Branch has been monumental in the trenches, stopping the run with his big body allowing linebackers to press other holes easily and mentoring the youngsters on a very fresh defensive line has been huge. Coined as Uncle Phil, Branch signed a two-year deal and will likely finish his career with the Patriots continuing to be an important piece to the defensive puzzle.

Harmon is equally as important on defense. Aside from late-game interceptions to seal big games, Harmon’s role has to be one of Belichick and Matt Patricia’s most important pieces. His uncanny ability to cover the deep threat helps alleviate the cornerbacks and most importantly lets Safety Devin McCourty play whatever and wherever he needs to on the field. Harmon is a huge asset to the multi-purposed McCourty. He signed a four year deal with the Patriots.

James Develin is a non stat-sheet guy who needs no introduction. His presence is felt when in-game from pass and run protection. He is easily one of the best fullbacks in the game, and re-signing him to a multi-year deal on a small cost is a no-brainer for Bill Belichick.

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2. The Patriots traded for Tight End Dwayne Allen (Colts) and Defensive End Kony Ealy (Panthers).

These are again smaller moves that will turn out to be huge. Getting Dwayne Allen will help replace the star Martellus Bennett, which is certainly a down-grade but is still a very safe move. Having Allen is a great source for a number 2 Tight end in double TE sets, something the Patriots love, and having a number 2 TE who is probably greater than half of the starting TE’s in the league. He is a huge asset in the blocking game, which is great for Old Man Brady’s protection (along with a re-vamped offensive line and FB James Devellin).

When Rob Gronkowski inevitably gets hurt during the season, we have a solid option at Tight End. The only year guaranteed on his contract is 2017, so if Allen turns out to be terrible, we can re-start the “safe #2 TE” option all over again.

Kony Ealy I know little about. He’s 25, played DE for the Panthers, and from what I know is a big-bodied lineman who is good at stopping the run. This is a great asset, especially pairing with the youngster Trey Flowers who is also a big bodied run-stopper at Defensive End. One thing that has caused us trouble in the past was outside running by opposing teams (see Falcons RBs in the SuperBowl; Le’veon Bell when healthy). If the interior run defense remains stellar, there’s little a team can do against us in the run (a statement we haven’t heard in a LONG time).

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3. Patriots sign defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and Pro-Bowl cornerback Stephon Gillmore.

I’ll get the shorter statement out of the way first – Lawrence Guy is a big-bodied interior lineman with the ability to stuff run-gaps and has versatility to play anywhere on the line. In short, Lawrence is just a Guy. Expect him to be a rotational big-man, and with a four year 20 million dollar contract, he may be ushered in as a starter along Malcolm Brown come Alan Branch’s retirement in two years.

Stephon Gillmore is a situation that both excites me and scares me, the kind that has me chewing my nails down a little too much. Okay that was gross, but seriously, this is perplexing. Bill Belichick gave 40 million guaranteed to the Bills ex-cornerback who is a CB #1 in the league, but is coming off his worst year with tons of physicality penalties and streakiness. This is stranger when you recall that absolute star cornerback and New England favorite Malcolm Butler is due for a big payday – around the same amount they payed Gillmore.

My interpretation is this: Gillmore will be a great #2 corner this year (think of Talib & Chris Harris in Denver type situation) with Butler. If Butler sadly cannot reach a deal with the Patriots, which seems incoming as the situation is now reminiscent of Jaime Collins last year, Gillmore will be a solid #1 cornerback as well. Gillmore has played in the league longer than Butler, so he seems older, but in reality they’re both 26. Maybe his streakiness last year can be attested to lost motivation in a Rex Ryan dumpster-fire season.

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4. The Patriots trade draft picks for star wideout Brandin Cooks.

There isn’t much I can say here without feeling like I’m just hyping up the Patriots. This is huge. This trade is monumental for the legacy of the Patriots. Cooks got frustrated playing on the Saints as a decoy every game while rookie Michael Thomas ate up yards and catches on the other end of the field. He wanted out plain & simple.

Cooks isn’t chump change my friends. He’s one of three players to record 75+ catches, 1000+ receiving yards, and at least 8 touchdowns in both last year and the year before that. The other guys? Oh, just Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. No big deal. Cooks has the potential to turn into a top 5 receiver in the league unquestionably as a Patriots player.

He’s on a three year deal, costing only one million this year and bumping up to 8 and 9 million respectively the last two years. We’re getting a star for the cost of much less to usher out the greatest quarterback ever. Alongside Edelman, Hogan, Gronkowski, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Mitchell, Dwayne Allen, James White, and Danny Amendola – this has the potential to be one of the most explosive offensives ever.

There are question marks though. Cooks will have to share targets just like he did in the Saints organization. The difference? The Patriots are a winning team with a culture of putting egos and selfishness down to reach a common goal. Plenty of players who were deemed locker room poison far worse than Cooks was in NO have bought into the system and came out on top. I think this could happen here.

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5. The Patriots re-sign defense’s centerpiece Dont’a Hightower to a 4 year extension

This one is huge! All of the moves made above simply wouldn’t matter nearly as much if we were without Dont’a Hightower. Hightower signed late in free agency, as he wanted to test his market value before making a commitment. There was no real worry that Hightower would go to a different team, he loves New England too much. Other teams were just a bargaining chip move. Hightower is the perfect piece that makes Belichick’s defense work so well. The problem for him is that his size, injury history, and unique skillset make it tough for him to fit in other defensive schemes, which lowered his value.

Still, Hightower is the MVP for our defense. His size can help to rotate him to many positions on the field wherever Belichick needs him, in whatever scheme we chose to run on any given day. 4-3 Middle Linebacker? Sure. 4-3 Outside backer? No problem. 3-4 Pass-rusher? He’s up for it. 4-3 Defensive end? The list goes on… By the time Hightower’s new contract is up he will be 31. He will be the last great front 7 star in the history of Bill Belichick – a GREAT list to be a part of.

There’s no disputing what is going on here. Bill Belichick sees the window of success is closing. There’s not a lot of time left with Tom Brady, now 40 years old, on the roster. Only two years before Peyton Manning’s embarrassing ride off into the sunset, he put up his best numbers ever. Father time can catch up unexpectedly. Similarly, there’s little time left for Belichick to coach in his age. Once those two leave, the dynasty is over. Plain and simple.

Spending now increases the chances of getting another ring – perhaps two. We’ve done a lot more with a lot less on the field. It’s clear that both Bill and Brady have more to put on the field. With a re-vamped defense AND a better and younger defense – expect the Super Bowl winners to be favorites yet again.

 

Free Agency -Who Should the Patriots Sign?

As the NFL Free Agent Period is about to commence, the New England Patriots have a lot of work to do to maintain their dominance in the division, conference, and league. Overall, the biggest signings the Patriots can do involve players that already were on the roster last season. If the Patriots can retain Butler and Hightower and a combination of Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan (if not both of them), this has been a successful offseason.

But to make this post interesting, I have to find some other players that would fit the Patriots well. I can’t really see Butler and Hightower departing from New England, so I’m going to work with the assumption that they are re-signed in this scenario. Here’s some free agents worth signing for the Patriots.

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DE Dwight Freeney (Falcons) – One thing we could use a helping hand with is the pass rush. The pass rush hasn’t been necessarily bad, but guys like Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long are free agents and will likely be playing for a new team next season. You have to imagine DE Trey Flowers is ready to be an ever-down pass rusher on one side; comprising the other side of a couple guys is probably the best move. Working with the assumption that veteran Rob Ninkovich and third-year Geneo Grissom can fill the other side, getting a fresh face in there isn’t a bad idea. Freeney came off a good season with the Falcons, and he’s going to want to win a SuperBowl as soon as possible since his career is on the back-9. Look, if you’re not going to commit to the runner-up, it probably means you want to go to the winner. I think it’s a solid move.

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WR Brandon Marshall (Jets) – What seems like a fairly unrealistic and unnecessary move is actually a likely move. Marshall is all about winning, but he’s never won. He requested to be let go from the Jets just a week back, he’s looking to play for a winner. Maybe he’s picking up advice from ex-teammate Martellus Bennett. Further, it seems both Marshall and the Patriots are showing mutual interest. As long as the money is right, this move seems like a no-brainer.

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CB Captain Munnerlyn (Vikings) – If we happen to lose Logan Ryan in free agency (which seems likely), then finding someone who can play the nickel spot exceptionally seems like a great idea. Captain Munnerlyn is coming off a down year, so his stock is likely low, and I’m sure he’d like to play for a championship squad. Further, it might be a good idea to bring in veteran presence with a young cornerback crew.

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TE Luke Willson (Seahawks) – This one is interesting. Willson lost his starting spot when Jimmy Graham came to Seattle, and he probably would like to be a starter somewhere else (and likely could). Still, New England learned a couple things from last year: it’s nice to have the two-TE set, and it’s REALLY nice to have a safe option when Rob Gronkowski goes down from injury. The inevitable Gronk going down usually kills our chances each year, but when Marty Bennett was in town there was no issue. Getting a guy who can play as a starter AND serve as a second option is crucial here. Willson can catch the ball, but I’m unsure of his skills as a blocking tight-end. As we know, Seattle is atrocious at protecting the quarterback. I could be wrongly accusing him, maybe he’s a good blocker when he’s on a team that utilizes their offensive line and practices the importance of blocking. Still, perhaps obtaining Willson and getting a strong blocking tight-end and rotating them would be nice, but that’s also predictable.

Free Agency will be starting at the end of the week, and many of these guys will start moving fast. There’s no telling what can happen, but the Patriots should acquire some fresh faces with the incoming threat of loosing a lot of players from last year’s Championship team.

 

 

Who Should the Patriots Keep? Part II

Our article series continues with who the New England Patriots should keep and let go for next season.

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Alan Branch – Branch has become an important piece in the Patriots front four during his time in New England. To me, his ability to rush and take on double teams is essential and I don’t think there’s another DT on the team who can do it. Hopefully he isn’t offered a lot of money elsewhere, but as a veteran tackle at a role player position I highly doubt it. Belichick likes him enough to pay him fairly. Stays.

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Chris Long – Chris Long was fun to have this season, providing depth with an adequate pass rush attack. Still, Long isn’t important or memorable enough to keep, especially with a budding Trey Flowers waiting to take on the pass-rush role full-time. If I were New England, I’d thank Long for his time and work and kindly show him the door. Leaves.

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Logan Ryan – Like him or hate him, Logan Ryan proved himself as a solid #2 cornerback in the NFL this season. He’s come a long way, but he finally has an opportunity to make some serious dough in the NFL. If I were him I’d look for the money, so I can’t blame him for leaving, but I really hope he stays. I believe the Patriots also think of Ryan as important for the defense, but it’s likely based on free agency climate that this Super Bowl Champion #2 corner gets offered a large amount of money. Leaves.

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James Develin – A literal cornerstone for the Patriots. In a league that has completely dismissed the Fullback position, Bill Belichick has found a way to make the position crucial for his offense to function. Now, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, because we DO function without him, but notice how much smoother things flow with Develin healthy. There’s literally no way he plays on another team next year. He’s too valuable and the position is so underutilized that signing Develin to a luxurious fullback deal is still a steal. Stays.

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Jabaal Sheard – See: Chris Long. Sheard didn’t step up to the plate this season like expected, as he was given a chance to take over the D-line and instead was used situationally. With a young stud on one side of the line and Rob Ninkovich on the other, I doubt Sheard is spoken to by New England for negotiations. Leaves.

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Michael Floyd – It’s a no-brainer for Floyd to stay on the Patriots, but honestly, I’m not even sure we will want him. Floyd was inactive in the playoffs, which proves he was really only brought in for depth during the playoffs. This doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t return with a bigger role after learning the basics of the system and playing with Tom Brady. His value must be low after his DUI, so this one is a true toss-up if you ask me. Leaves.

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Duron Harmon – This guy is the true underrated player of the Patriots. Harmon’s always making big plays in big moments, and he’s always the next man up when we use three safeties. He’s great in coverage, and could easily be a starter somewhere and begin to make a name for himself. I really hope he stays, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a team that needs safety depth gives him money. Leaves.

Breaking Down Patriots Free Agents

Now that the Super Bowl has been decided, it’s time for free agency. The time of the year where every team is looking to build up their rosters, and the current Super Bowl winner is just looking to hold onto what they have.

As for the Patriots this year, it’s a big free agency year. The Patriots traded away Chandler Jones and Jaime Collins, two players that are sure to reel in a lot of cash. Although the Patriots have around 60 million dollars of cap room, it’s going to be tough to re-sign everyone they would like to keep. Let’s look at some players and my predictions.

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Malcolm Butler – Malcolm Butler is a restricted free agent, which means that the Patriots can counter any offer that is made for him. In these situations, restricted free agents are likely to stay with the team. I doubt this one goes any different. Mac loves New England, and New England loves him. Belichick has proven that he can succeed without a top-dollar cornerback, but I don’t see this being a factor here. Malcolm will be playing in New England next year. Stays.

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Martellus Bennett – Martellus Bennett, in his one year with the Patriots, helped bring back the dual TE threat, became a more important player when Gronkowski went down for the season, and has embraced the Patriot way like few other first-year players have. I have little doubt Bennett loves the Patriots, and I have little doubt that the Patriots would love to have him back. Sadly, things aren’t this simple. Put plainly, Martellus is going to get offered a fat wad of cash, and this is likely his last big paycheck in the NFL. He’s already stated that there’s more to his life than just football, as he has a budding children’s book company. Expect a team with a lot of money and few weapons to shell out until they reel him in. Gone.

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LeGarrette Blount – The scenario here is the same as Martellus Bennett’s. This dude loves the Patriots, and the Patriots love him. He was crucial to the success of the Super Bowl season, and there’s little doubt in my mind that another team is going to offer him a lot of money. Still, I see this one going the other way. Blount knows what it’s like leaving the Patriots, I doubt he wants to play in another jersey for the rest of his career. Stays.

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Dont’a Hightower – If there’s a world where the Patriots absolutely nose dive next season and become the laughing stock of the league, Donta Hightower is still playing linebacker for the Patriots. That’s how crucial he is to this team’s success. There’s no way he isn’t on the roster next season. Belichick will pay this man, he values linebackers highly. Stays.

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Sebastian Vollmer – This one’s a no brainer. The starting tackle lost his spot while injured all season to the emergence of Marcus Cannon, who was re-signed during the season. There’s not a lot of purpose in re-signing this veteran while the Tackle position is one that needs no improvement for the Patriots. Gone.

Stay tuned next week for Part II!

The Juice on Jimmy

After a sweet Super Bowl victory against the Atlanta Falcons, the dust is beginning to settle for the cast of Super Bowl 51 Champion New England Patriots.

On the roster there’s a lot of questions and a lot of people to retain. Defensive studs like Donta Hightower, Jabaal Sheard, and Malcolm Butler are all free agents. Safety-blanket tight end Martellus Bennett is likely gone via the highest bidder as well. Yet, the most talked about story lies within the fate of New England’s backup quarterback Jimmy Garapollo.

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Garapollo started 2 games at the beginning of the season during Tom Brady’s suspension; narrowly escaping with a win against the always-dangerous Arizona Cardinals to start the season and later smoked out the Miami Dolphins before getting injured for the remainder of Brady’s suspension. Jimmy G looked like an absolute stud on the field even though every fan had their doubts before his first start. It became clear Jimmy was the future QB of the Patriots if and when Brady decides to retire.

But then the Patriots announced they were shopping him around. In fact, they’re looking for a first round draft pick for the young quarterback. There’s a lot of opinions here as to what the Patriots actually should do, and every option has a case as to why it’d be good and why it would be a bad decision. Let’s begin.

First, let’s look at if Garapollo was to actually be traded. I’m working with the assumption New England gets a first round pick like they have vocalized, but it’s just as likely they could receive a package of lesser-round picks instead and be just as happy.

Jimmy’s Likely Trade Destinations:

Cleveland Browns – Let’s be real, Cleveland owes us one. Trading away star linebacker Jaime Collins for a mere third round pick was a steal. They should be willing to be a little thankful if a trade is pursued. Cleveland has two first round picks in this years draft, including the first overall and the number 12 pick. It’ll be hard to part with the first, so the 12th overall pick for Jimmy Garapollo seems to be the kind of reward the Patriots would love to walk away with. It’s kind of a win-win-win scenario, right? The Patriots get another first round pick, the Browns KEEP their first overall pick AND get a very young and NFL proven quarterback in a very QB-weak draft.

Lastly, Garapollo gets to be the starter on a team with a lot of young talent and a locker room with energy that could lead to the next Oakland Raiders situation (quote me on that – playoff team soon!). As Michael Scott once said, everyone loves a win-win-win.

San Fransisco 49ers – I truthfully don’t believe this trade will actually happen. Coach Kyle Shanahan is looking for some sort of rebound after a devastating Super Bowl loss, so maybe he will call the people that just embarrassed him and try to snag their backup QB? For this to work, the 49ers will have to part with their 2nd overall draft pick, which just seems absurd. A Top 5 pick is precious, it’ll be tough to sell this trade in the 49ers office. For the Patriots, a 2nd overall pick would be fantastic, but it just doesn’t seem realistic.

Lastly, this is the worst option for ol’ Jimmy G. The 49ers offense has nothing. Zip. Nada. Instead, look for Clemson QB Deshaun Watson to get drafted here, even if I think they should go with a less-attractive pick like defensive lineman Jonathan Allen.

Chicago Bears – The Chicago option is very interesting. Because I don’t personally believe a team with a top-5 first round pick is actually willing to part with said pick, I doubt this will happen (see above). The Patriots could receive a package of later round picks, and I think the Bears would probably pull the trigger on that seeing as they are notorious for not having a franchise quarterback.

Personally, Jimmy to the Chicago Bears is my favorite option of the three because it is likely the best option for Jimmy Garapollo to succeed. The Bears have a top wideout with Alshon Jeffrey (if they retain him), a breakout running-back in Jordan Howard, and a surprisingly stellar offensive line. They could easily spread the field and be able to attack with an already solid running game and an actual threat as a passer. It’s an exciting option to fantasize about.

If the Patriots stick to needing a first-round pick option, then knock it off the table. The Bears simply can’t give up the #3 overall pick for a QB who’s only played a handful of games.

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Jimmy Garapollo Stays With the Patriots

It’s possible the Patriots don’t receive the trade offer they’re looking for and instead hold Jimmy for the final year of his contract. This option is attractive for Jimmy because he gets to stay on a winning franchise and learn from the greats, and it’s attractive for the Patriots because they get to keep a starting-caliber quarterback as a backup option. In case Brady goes down or somehow declines (although he seems to get better with age like a fine wine), they have Jimmy G waiting to take over the game.

Once the season is over, they need to figure out if they want to let him walk, franchise tag him, or sign him. Weighing those three options seems like something to discuss in another article a year from now if they pursue this course.

The dominoes will begin to fall very soon for every team in the NFL. This deal is likely one of the bigger roster moves of the offseason, so the final decision is impactful on where every other free agent and trade ends up. Perhaps next Tuesday we will have an answer.

The Choke’s on You, Atlanta

Super Bowl LI was one for the record books, thanks to the greatest comeback in NFL history. Or was it the biggest choke job the World has ever seen? After trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field time and time again, ultimately leading them to a 34-28 overtime victory. Brady easily solidified himself as the greatest quarterback to ever walk the planet, but was it solely because of his performance or are the Falcons to blame as well?

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Brady played out of his mind, throwing for a Super Bowl record 466 yards and two touchdowns. Accompanying Brady in the backfield was Patriots running back, James White, who caught 14 balls tallying 110 yards and 3 total touchdowns.

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On the other side of the ball, Dont’a Hightower made one of the biggest plays of the night, as he strip sacked Matt Ryan, leading to a 25 yard touchdown drive. When it came to crunch time each and every player on the Patriots roster made the plays they were supposed to make. The same could not be said for the Falcons.

With a 28-12 lead in the third quarter, the Falcons essentially had the game in the bag. With the game in hand the Falcons continued to drop back and pass, ignoring the fact that they had been averaging 6.8 yards per carry. With 9 minutes left in the third, the Falcons faced a 3rd and 1 from their own 36 yard line. Idiotically the Falcons decided to pass, leading to the Dont’a Hightower strip sack. This moment seemed to change the whole momentum of the game. Brady then drove down the field and capitalized on the opportunity, pulling the game to just one possession.

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The dumb play calls did not stop there. On the ensuing drive, Julio Jones made a circus catch to bring the Falcons within field goal range at the New England 22 yard line with about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. A field goal would have essentially sealed the deal. The Pats stopped Atlanta on first down, tackling Devonta Freeman behind the line of scrimmage. This led to a 2nd and 11 situation. Again the Falcons decided to pass the ball and as Ryan stepped back to pass, Trey Flowers bodied his way through the line to sack the quarterback for a 12 yard loss, pushing the Falcons back to the 35 yard line and almost out of field goal range. Freeman had been averaging 6.8 yards per carry and a run during that situation would have made the most sense. The Falcons then faced a 3rd and 23 in a clear passing down and again the Falcons choked, committing a holding penalty that pushed the Falcons back even further. The Falcons were then forced to punt the ball away and the rest was history.

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The New England Patriots were outmatched and outplayed for the first three quarters but when it came down to it, their experience and championship pedigree propelled them to become Super Bowl Champions once more. The Patriots performed when it meant the most but the Falcons crumbled under the bright lights. There is no doubt that the Patriots deserved this victory but it is evident that the Atlanta Falcons let this game slip through their hands.