Mark Mulville/Buffalo News
A busy few days for the Patriots as the free agency period kicks off at 4pm today. Yesterday, the Pats added TE depth in a trade for Dwayne Allen from the Colts and today they are looking to replace the likely opening at #2 CB as Logan Ryan gets a big payday with another team. The Pats are reportedly close to a big contract with former Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore. Nothing is finalized yet (it can’t be until after 4pm), but it appears Gilmore will get $14 million a year with the Pats and could be a very strong #2 CB. The report was from Adam Schefter on twitter.
Gilmore was the Bills first round pick out of South Carolina in 2012 and has been a good player for them. Some believe Gilmore had a down season in 2016, but by the numbers, he seemed to have a solid campaign. He finished the year with 48 tackles, 12 passes deflected, and 5 interceptions (a career high) in 15 games. In his 5-year career, Gilmore has 226 tackles, 4 forced fumbles and 14 interceptions. The biggest concern is that he has not played 16 games in a season since his rookie year. He missed 1 game last year, 4 in 2015, and 2 in 2014.
Overall, his numbers are good and he is considered to be a top-tier free agent this offseason. The price tag is definitely steep at $14 million a year, but many believe he is worth the money. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and the NFL Network described the price tag on twitter as “Hefty but worth it.”
To this point on Life of a Sportsaholic, I have written very little about the New England Patriots. It has been a conscious choice to avoid all deflategate and Tom Brady suspension news seeing as how every person in the sports world (and well beyond) has written ad nausea about the situation and their opinion on the 18-month process. I have plenty of opinions and as much as I try, many of them will probably emerge on this blog during this football season, but for now, I am putting aside all of that noise and focusing the the task at hand: the 2016 NFL season. Here is my very high-level initial look at this Patriots team.
The Patriots seem poised to have a strong season as they are basically every single year during the Bob Kraft/Bill Belichick regime. The offense looks solid to start the year despite the Tom Brady suspension (see, I couldn’t go 1 paragraph without mentioning it). Second year QB Jimmy Garoppolo is getting all the headlines, but many of the offensive skill players are returning this season. The offense is headlined by Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in the wide-receiving core, Rob Gronkowski at tight end, and LeGarrette Blount and James White in the backfield. The addition of WR Chris Hogan could be critical for the Patriots, because he adds another dimension to the passing game and makes it more difficult for opposing defenses to key-in only on Edelman and Gronk. In the same vein, tight end Martellus Bennett could play a big role in the red zone for the Patriots, potentially balancing the coverage on Gronk in those situations and also providing some injury protection for the oft hurt Gronk. I will be looking out for rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell who despite being slowed by an elbow injury, has looked very good for a young kid this training camp/preseason. He could have a big impact by mid-late season.
The Patriots defense is positioned to shine in 2016. They have playmakers at all levels of the defense, highlighted by their linebacker core (Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Jonathan Freeny) who are incredible athletic and not afraid to give someone a big pop. Up front they added former St Louis Rams DE Chris Long to replace Chandler Jones and have the impressive DE Jabaal Sheard opposite Long. In the middle Alan Branch and Malcolm Brown have the potential to be solid, but I need to see more to be convinced that Branch is committed after an undisclosed suspension this preseason. The secondary is solid with veterans Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty at safety and Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and rookie Cyrus Jones at CB. Jones is another guy to watch, because the rookie out of Alabama has looked good this preseason both in coverage and in the return game. With a potentially less powerful offense the first month of the season, the Patriots need their defense to step up and hold opponents down.
I’ll break down some of the positional strengths going forward and look at other story lines surrounding the team, but overall the Pats are set-up to be a strong postseason contender if they stay healthy and perform up to expectations (big ifs!). The opener is just 11 days away!