2020 NFL Offseason: New England Patriots

New England Patriots (Last Year: 12-4)

2020 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Cam Newton, QB Brian Hoyer, FB Dan Vitale, WR Marqise Lee, WR Damiere Byrd, DT Beau Allen, LB Brandon Copeland, S Adrian Phillips.
Early Draft Picks:
S Kyle Dugger, DE/LB Josh Uche, LB Anfernee Jennings, TE Devin Asiasi, TE Dalton Keene. Patriots Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Tom Brady, WR Phillip Dorsett, OT Marshall Newhouse, C Ted Karras, DT Danny Shelton, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Jamie Collins, LB Elandon Roberts, CB Justin Bethel, S Duron Harmon, S Nate Ebner, K Stephen Gostkowski.

2020 New England Patriots Offense:
It’s still difficult to believe, but Tom Brady is no longer a New England Patriot. The best quarterback in NFL history and the Patriots had a shocking breakup this offseason, prompting the six-time Super Bowl winner to move to Tampa Bay. Thus, it seemed as though the Patriots would begin their rebuilding process for the first time this century.

Up until June 28, it seemed as though New England would begin anew with Jarrett Stidham. The second-year pro had virtually no NFL experience heading into 2020, aside from a hideous pick-six thrown in a blowout victory against the Jets. The Patriots didn’t address the position in the 2020 NFL Draft, so it seemed as though Bill Belichick had something up his sleeve with Stidham. That, apparently, was not the case in the wake of the Cam Newton signing.

It was just five years ago that Newton won MVP while leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl. He hasn’t been the same since, however, due to a myriad of injuries. He played just two games in 2019, and he wasn’t 100 percent in either contest. There’s a good chance Newton will continue to be banged up, and thus will continue to be a mere shell of his former self. However, this is far from a guarantee. Newton has had a full year to recover from his injuries. It’s possible that he’ll be fully healthy heading into 2020, and if so, he could come close to performing on an MVP level once again.

Even if Newton is 100 percent, there’s still a major concern with the offense, and that would be the receiving corps. Newton’s best receiver, Julian Edelman, is now 34. Edelman was banged up last year, and given his age, he could deal with injuries more often moving forward. The Patriots will use N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu in three-receiver sets, which is an issue because neither player can separate from coverage. Harry has upside as a former first-round pick, but he was woeful as a rookie last year. Sanu, meanwhile, was an absurd trade target for a second-round pick.

Newton will also be throwing to a pair of third-round tight ends, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. It’s not quite Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but Asiasi is athletic and could emerge as a potent threat.

The Patriots also have some young players at running back. Former first-round pick Sony Michel struggled last year, but he had a knee issue prior to the start of the season. It could be possible that he’ll rebound in 2020. Damien Harris could do well, too, though he didn’t live up to expectations as a third-round rookie this past season. James White will continue to serve as the receiving threat out of the backfield.

The offensive line is the strength of the New England offense, and it’s not even close. Another former first-round choice, Isaiah Wynn, showed plenty of promise in his first year playing left tackle. Wynn and Marcus Cannon will once again form a talented tackle duo. Meanwhile, the interior is great, as Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are two of the better guards in the NFL. They’ll sandwich center David Andrews, who missed all of 2019 with blood clots in his lungs. Andrews has been cleared to play, and he doesn’t believe the blood clots will be a recurring issue.

2020 New England Patriots Defense:
Even with Tom Brady not playing up to his standards because of a poor receiving corps, the Patriots were able to win the AFC East last year, thanks mostly to their defense. Their stop unit didn’t surrender more than 14 points in a single game last year until Week 9, which was just unbelievable.

The strength of New England’s defense was the secondary, and that will continue to be the case. Stephon Gilmore is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. He turns 30 in September, but he should still have two or three more excellent seasons remaining. Jason McCourty, 33, will be the other starting corner, in all likelihood. McCourty was having an excellent 2019 campaign before he suffered a groin injury in November. He missed several games and didn’t play much when he returned, so that was a catalyst in New England’s slight defensive decline down the stretch. Jonathan Jones was terrific in the slot.

The secondary won’t be fully intact because the Patriots traded Duron Harmon to the Lions. That won’t be a big deal, however, because the Patriots managed to sign Adrian Phillips, who performed on a very high level for the Chargers last year, albeit in brief action because he played seven games in the wake of an injury. Phillips will start with Devin McCourty, one of the top safeties in the league.

While the defensive backfield will be very strong once again, there are some major questions at linebacker. The Patriots lost three players at the position this offseason: Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts. They didn’t do much to replace them, though they spent a second-day choice on Alabama’s Anfree Jennings, a versatile athlete who can play in the middle of the field or rush the quarterback on the edge. Another second-day pick, Kyle Dugger, is listed as a safety, but he can play linebacker in sub packages. They’ll join the two lone incumbents, Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley, in a group that will need to gel.

The edge rush will also be counting on some young players. In addition to Jennings, there’s also Chase Winovich, a third-round pick from 2019, and Josh Uche, a second-round selection from this past April. Winovich logged 5.5 sacks in 2019, but he could take a big step in his second season. Uche is a highly athletic player with plenty of upside, so he could contribute as a rookie.

Meanwhile, New England lost an interior defensive lineman, Danny Shelton, to the Lions as well. Shelton will be a big loss, as he performed on a high level last year. The Patriots will replace him with Beau Allen, who was a run-stopping specialist in Tampa Bay last year. Lawrence Guy, who figures to start next to Allen, plays similarly.

2020 New England Patriots Schedule and Intangibles:
Since 2003, the Patriots are 133-24 at home. They’ve been a near-perfect 57-9 as hosts in the past 68 games, with two losses coming against the Bills without Tom Brady. That said, New England lost a home playoff game to Tennessee.

The Stephen Gostkowski era is over. The Patriots have moved on from him by selecting kicker Justin Rohrwasser in the fifth round.

Jake Bailey was a middling punter last year, finishing 15th in net average.

New England had one of the top special teams units last season, especially when it came to defending returns.

The Patriots have some very difficult games in 2020, including battles against the Seahawks, Chiefs, 49ers and Ravens. There are some easy contests as well, so the slate seems rather even.

2020 New England Patriots Rookies:
Go here for the Patriots Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2020 New England Patriots Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2020 New England Patriots Analysis: The Patriots went 11-5 in 2008, which was the last time they didn’t have Tom Brady available for an entire regular season. They reached that record with Matt Cassel, so if Cam Newton is healthy, he’ll be a far better option than Cassel was. That said, Newton may not be 100 percent, and that 11-5 record was accomplished with Randy Moss and Wes Welker in the receiving corps anyway. New England has much more upside now with Newton at the helm, as he gives the team a shot to make a deep playoff run, thanks to the incredible defense and offensive line. Newton also has a low floor, however, so there’s still a chance that the Patriots finish around 7-9, which was the predicted record with Stidham as the assumed starter.

Projection: 11-5 (Tied 1st in AFC East)

2019 Projection: 11-5. 2019 Actual Result: 12-4.
2018 Projection: 14-2. 2018 Actual Result: 11-5.
2017 Projection: 14-2. 2017 Actual Result: 13-3.
2016 Projection: 12-4. 2016 Actual Result: 14-2.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Tom Brady era is over. The Patriots must now find a replacement for the best quarterback in NFL history, which is not going to be very easy. They could opt to select Jordan Love, Jake Fromm or Jacob Eason, but perhaps New England is considering a trade up if Tua Tagovailoa falls as a result of his injury concerns. If Tagovailoa falls past the Chargers, Bill Belichick may make a move to acquire his next franchise quarterback. Regardless of whether that happens or not, the Patriots will undoubtedly be seeking some help at receiver, as well as some future replacements for old defensive players.

2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It was a tale of two drafts for the Patriots. They made some sharp decisions, but other picks were far more dubious.

Beginning with the former, Kyle Dugger was a solid choice at No. 37, as he’s the sort of versatile play-making weapon Bill Belichick likes having in his defense. Anfernee Jennings, who is also very versatile, was a great bargain in the third frame. A couple of third-day choices are promising as well.

Conversely, the Patriots traded up twice in the third round to select a pair of tight ends who weren’t even the best players at their position. Even worse, a fifth-round selection was used on a kicker, who, again, wasn’t the top prospect at his position.

So, what happened? Call me crazy, but could this have had something to do with it?

Dogs are great pets, but they’re awful drafters. Belichick should’ve thought twice before entrusting half of his 2020 NFL Draft class to his canine.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

37. Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne – B+ Grade
The Patriots just broke a certain team’s heart. Kyle Dugger over the likes of Grant Delpit and Antoine Winfield might be a head-scratcher to some, but I’ve heard that some teams loved Kyle Dugger’s versatility. Dugger can play in so many spots, including linebacker, and that’s exactly what Bill Belichick is looking for. This isn’t an A+, but it’s a very solid selection.

60. Josh Uche, DE/LB, Michigan – C Grade
I like Josh Uche because he’s an explosive edge rusher who had a huge win rate when getting to the quarterback, but I don’t think it was worth moving up for him. In fact, the Patriots may have gotten him just by standing pat. This wasn’t a necessary move, but I like the player.

87. Anfernee Jennings, LB, Alabama – A- Grade
It can’t be a surprise that Bill Belichick selected a Nick Saban linebacker. The Patriots needed to address the linebacker situation with so many players at the position leaving in free agency. Jennings was someone I mocked at the beginning of the third round, so I like the value.

91. Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA – BELICHICK’S DOG Grade
Did Bill Belichick’s dog make this pick? I don’t get it. There were better tight ends available, and there were also many tight ends available, so why did Belichick’s dog feel the need to move up for Devin Asiasi? This is just a terrible move. Belichick, please make sure your dog doesn’t use your computer again.

101. Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech – BELICHICK’S DOG Grade
Someone, please, take out Bill Belichick’s dog! It can’t be allowed to make many more picks. This is just terrible. Once again, the Patriots traded up for a fifth- or sixth-round tight end. There are better players at the position available, so this selection would be bad enough if New England didn’t surrender resources to get it.

159. Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall – BELICHICK’S DOG Grade
What… If you’re going to draft a kicker in the fifth round, which is too early for a kicker, why not select the best kicker? And why pick a kicker over a potential starting quarterback. This is horrible. Bad dog! Bad!

182. Michael Onwenu, G, Michigan – B Grade
Michael Onwenu is a massive run-blocking offensive lineman (6-3, 344). He should help open up some running lanes for Sony Michel. He’s a decent pick at this spot.

195. Justin Herron, OT/G, Wake Forest – B+ Grade
No one should be shocked that Bill Belichick drafted an offensive lineman who happens to be versatile. Justin Herron is a good athlete with plenty of potential, so this might just be a steal.

204. Caash Malula, LB, Wyoming – BELICHICK’S DOG Grade
Caash Malula is not on my list anywhere, and I have more than 600 people on my list. I’m not even sure if he’s a real person. Nice try, Bill Belichick’s dog.

230. Dustin Woodard, C/G, Memphis – B Grade
Yet another versatile offensive lineman for the Patriots! I’m shocked. Anyway, Dustin Woodard was a stellar blocker for Memphis, but we’ll see if his play in the AAC translates to the NFL. This is a fine pick in the final round.


Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Patriots were considered the best team in the NFL when they beat up on terrible opponents early in the year. However, they suffered an epic collapse down the stretch, losing to the Dolphins and then suffering an ugly playoff defeat to Tennessee.

Offseason Moves:
  • Patriots sign QB Cam Newton
  • Patriots sign WR Marqise Lee
  • Patriots sign LB Brandon Copeland
  • Patriots sign QB Brian Hoyer
  • Patriots sign FB Dan Vitale
  • Patriots sign S Adrian Phillips
  • Patriots sign DT Beau Allen
  • Lions acquire S Duron Harmon from Patriots
  • Patriots sign WR Damiere Byrd

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Tom Brady is a free agent for the first time in his career. Even if the Patriots re-sign him, they’ll need to find a successor. Signed Cam Newton

    2. Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman is running on fumes, while N’Keal Harry can’t seem to separate. The Patriots must find a No. 1 receiver. Signed Damiere Byrd and Marqise Lee

    3. Tight End: Brady really missed Rob Gronkowski this past season. A much better tight end is needed.

    4. Two Safeties: The Patriots’ top defensive hole is at safety, where two new players will be needed if Devin McCourty decides to retire. If McCourty returns, Patrick Chung will need to be upgraded. Signed Adrian Phillips

    5. Defensive Tackle: New England hasn’t sported a strong pass-rushing presence in the interior of their defensive line for quite some time. Signed Beau Allen

    6. Guard: Joe Thuney has been a terrific blocker for Brady, but he’s now an impending free agent. Franchised Joe Thuney

    7. Linebacker: Jamie Collins is another impending free agent New England will have to re-sign or replace. Signed Brandon Copeland

    8. Edge Rusher: The Patriots could stand to improve their pass rush, as they’ll need to find someone to start across from Chase Winovich.

    9. Kicker: The Patriots have cut Stephen Gostkowski.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Age: 31.
      Signed with Patriots

      It’s hard to believe the Cam Newton era is over in Carolina. Newton was the MVP just five years ago, but his career has been derailed by numerous injuries. He hurt his shoulder in 2018 and then played two games last year and wasn’t healthy for either one of them because of a foot injury. Newton can still perform on an All-Pro level when healthy, but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever be 100 percent again. Still, he’s well worth taking a shot on because of his enormous upside and leadership.

    2. Adrian Phillips, S, Chargers. Age: 28.
      Signed with Patriots (2 years)

      Adrian Phillips played just seven games in 2019 because he broke his forearm in September. However, he was excellent upon his return from injury. Turning 28 in March, Phillips deserves a healthy deal.

    3. Dan Vitale, FB, Packers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Patriots

      Dan Vitale was a solid blocker for the Packers this past season.

    4. Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars. Age: 28. — Signed with Patriots
    5. Brandon Copeland, ILB, Jets. Age: 29. — Signed with Patriots
    6. Damiere Byrd, WR, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Patriots
    7. Brian Hoyer, QB, Colts. Age: 34. — Signed with Patriots

    New England Patriots Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. Age: 43.
      Signed with Buccaneers (2 years, $60 million)

      The greatest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady is a free agent for the first time in his career. He didn’t have a great 2019 campaign, but he was playing with terrible receivers. Brady can bounce back with a superior supporting cast.

    2. Devin McCourty, S, Patriots. Age: 33.
      Devin McCourty performed on an elite level once again last year. However, he has discussed the possibility of retirement before, and at the age of 33 (as of August), he could opt to hang up his cleats.

    3. Joe Thuney, G, Patriots. Age: 27.
      Franchised by Patriots

      Joe Thuney has developed quite well since being a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He has become an elite pass protector. Thuney can improve in run blocking, but he still deserves a massive contract.

    4. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Patriots. Age: 29.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Kyle Van Noy does everything for the Patriots, whether it’s rush the passer successfully, clamp down on the run or drop into coverage. It remains to be seen, however, if he could thrive outside of Bill Belichick’s system.

    5. Jamie Collins, LB, Patriots. Age: 30.
      Signed with Lions

      Jamie Collins was a lost soul in Cleveland, but he thrived once again when being coached by Bill Belichick. He turns 31 in October, so he could begin to regress soon.

    6. Danny Shelton, DT, Patriots. Age: 27.
      Signed with Lions (2 years, $8 million)

      Danny Shelton had always been a quality run stuffer, but he managed to improve in the pass-rushing department this past season.

    7. Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots. Age: 36.
      Stephen Gostkowski remarkably missed four extra points in four games last year. He’s not the same kicker he once was, but he could rebound.

    8. Ted Karras, C, Patriots. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year, $4 million)

      Ted Karras filled in well for the injured David Andrews at center. He’s young enough to keep improving his skill set.

    9. Marshall Newhouse, OT, Patriots. Age: 31.
      Marshall Newhouse has been one of the better backup tackles over the years, but that could change soon because he’ll turn 32 in September.

    10. Elandon Roberts, LB/FB, Patriots. Age: 26. — Signed with Dolphins
    11. Justin Bethel, CB/ST, Patriots. Age: 30.
    12. Nate Ebner, S/ST, Patriots. Age: 31. — Signed with Giants
    13. Matthew Slater, WR/ST, Patriots. Age: 34. — Re-signed with Patriots
    14. Phillip Dorsett, WR, Patriots. Age: 27. — Signed with Seahawks
    15. James Ferentz, C, Patriots. Age: 31.
    16. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Patriots. Age: 28.
    17. Nick Folk, K, Patriots. Age: 35.
    18. Jermaine Eluemunor (RFA), G, Patriots. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Patriots
    19. Ben Watson, TE, Patriots. Age: 39.
    20. Cody Kessler, QB, Patriots. Age: 27.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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