Super Bowl 51 marked the fifth super bowl win in the Tom Brady, Bill Belichick tenure. The two are widely considered to be the greatest coach, player duo in NFL history. Nobody saw, not even the most die hard New England Patriots fan saw the team coming back from a 25 point deficit at halftime. But they did it: they did it. Tom Brady was fantastic for the Patriots, there is no other way to describe it. Not all of his throws were perfect, but they were close and in the end the Patriots somehow won. But their was a reason for New England being completely dominated in the first half. Whether it was their age finally showing, lack of athleticism to keep up with Atlanta, or even bad play calling from Josh Mcdaniels. The Patriots are the NFL's greatest dynasty. No other team has been able to stay this consistent for this long in the National Football league. The 2017 offseason will prove pivotal for the New England Patriots. Addressing needs and getting younger in the process will sure be needed in order to once again find success in the postseason.
Step One: Part ways with Danny Amendola
Danny Amendola's' career in New England has had the same narrative as his entire career. He's been an effective slot receiver but cannot seem to stay healthy. His $7 million dollar cap number is the fourth highest on the team. The team's top two receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan COMBINE to just total a bit over $8 million on the cap.
Step Two: Re-sign players you need & don't be afraid to lowball a few
The Patriots free agent class features players that played major roles in their postseason success the past three seasons. The two biggest names are Dont'a Hightower and Malcolm Butler. Hightower is well liked throughout the organization. The Patriots traded both Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins to the Browns and Cardinals in order to have cap space to re-sign Hightower. Expect Hightower to be signed to a large contract this offseason (4yr 40 mil; similar contract to Bobby Wagner). Assuming Amendola is released, the Patriots would have an estimated $61 million dollars left to spend. Malcom Butler has developed into a true number one corner in the NFL. His Super Bowl performance, outside of the embarrassing ankle breaker by Taylor Gabriel was pretty solid. We all know about his Super Bowl winning interception against Seattle. Butler reportedly wants to re-sign in New England and it wouldn't surprise me to see him do something most great Patriot players have done in the past and take less money (est. 4yr 20 mil; 12 mil guaranteed. $56 million left in cap space). Cameron Fleming and Barkevious Mingo were both solid depth players this season and should be brought back on team friendly deals. James Devlin is one of the best fullbacks in the league and should also be brought back for the long term (3yr 4.5 mil). Michael Floyd was impressive in his short time in New England. Has already stated he wants to come back and should be brought back for cheap (1yr 1mil prove it deal). The biggest questions are what will they do with Chris Long, Alan Branch, Jabaal Sheard, Logan Ryan, and Martellus Bennett, not to mention Legarrette Blount. Chris Long has publicly stated he loves New England. Should once again take very little money to come back in hopes of winning another championship (1yr 1.5 mil). Alan Branch and Martellus Bennett are both older players but played well this season. Bennett is the best run blocking tight end in the league and just imagine the possibilities of having a healthy Rob Gronkowski to pair next to him. Alan Branch is a mountain of a man who creates matchup problems for any opposing offensive coordinator. Both should be brought back on short term deals however given their age (Bennett 2yr 9 mil; Branch 2yr 6 mil). Re-signing the both would give New England an estimated $42 million in cap per overthecap.com. Jabaal Sheard was an absolute steal from Cleveland and should once again be brought back (3yr 12 mil). Legarrette Blount scored eighteen touchdowns but definitely showed signs of age. He shouldn't be brought back unless it comes cheap. Logan Ryan is the biggest question the Patriots will have to face. Logan has shown he can be a very productive number two corner. However the market for Ryan is expected to be high this offseason and with the emergence of Eric Rowe the Patriots can move on.
Re-signed: Dont'a Hightower, Malcolm Butler, Cameron Fleming, Barkevious Mingo, Michael Floyd, James Devlin, Chris Long, Alan Branch, Martellus Bennett, Jabaal Sheard.
Let Go: Logan Ryan, Legarrette Blount, Greg Scruggs, Brandon Bolden, Duron Harmon, Michael Williams, Matt Lengel, Justin Coleman, and Brandon King
Step Three: Add another playmaker
Julian Edelman is a fantastic slot option and Chris Hogan is a great number two. Rob Gronkowski however has not been able to stay healthy and like in the Super Bowl, the Patriots offense can look stagnant without a true number one wideout. Tom Brady had his best season statistically with Randy Moss in 2007. There is no receiver on the free agent market like Moss, but there are certainly some playmakers who could open up New England's offense even more, his name is Alshon Jeffery. Jeffrey is likely to become a free agent. If he was franchise tagged again his cap total would be around $17 million. The Bears have also seemed hesitant to give Jeffery money in the past and his injury/suspension plagued 2016 season indicated that they may let him walk. When healthy, Jeffrey plays like a top ten wideout. Signing him to a one year prove it type of deal, similar to Darrelle Revis back in the 2014 offseason (1yr 10 mil). If Jeffrey stays healthy, there's almost no way the New England offense can be stopped.
Step Four: Trade Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo's value will never be this high again. The quarterback class doesn't have one clear cut stud in it and given how desperate teams can be for quarterbacks it would be wise to trade him now. Chicago is the best fit for Garoppolo. The defense is solid and they have a great young running back in Jordan Howard. Trading a 2017 2nd, 3rd, and 2018 2nd rounder to New England should get the job done.
Step Five: Get more athletic and younger during the draft
This mock will be based off of Fanspeak and I will be using Matt Miller's big board. The Chicago picks will be based off of the players left on the board who fit the Patriots needs.
1(32): Tre'davious White CB, LSU
One of the most improved players in the country this past season. White posses the ball skills and length to be a successful 2nd/3rd corner at the next level. Would help replace the void left by Logan Ryan.
2(36): Christian Mccaffrey RB, Stanford
Is a natural fit in New England's offense. Is explosive with the ball in his hands and is versatile as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Could start day one.
2(32): Bucky Hodges TE, Virginia Tech
Will need some time learning an NFL route tree and needs to improve on a blocker. Posses NFL level attributes and looks to be a matchup nightmare. Given Rob Gronkowski's injury history it's time to start looking at tight end.
3(68): Pat Elflein C/G, Ohio State
Can play anywhere on the line and considering how bad the Patriots guards played in Super Bowl 51, competition at the position is surely needed.
3(96): Daeshon Hall DE, Texas A&M
The Patriots defensive line is their biggest need. Hall has the intangibles to be a great defensive linemen at the next level, was overshadowed by standout Myles Garrett at Texas A&M.
3(102): Ardarius Stewart WR, Alabama
Another playmaker for New England's receiving core.
4(130): Trey Hendrickson DE, Florida Atlantic
More competition for a defensive line that needs it. Really impressed at the East West shrine game a few weeks ago.
From the fifth round and on it's hard to project what positions teams with address so for the purpose of this mock I'm going to stop after four rounds.
Step 6: Keep on winningThe Patriots will be a fantastic NFL team for as long as Brady and Belichick are around.