While Danny Amendola has made clutch play after clutch play for the Patriots in their past two runs to the Super Bowl, his time with New England might very well be up.
Currently, Amendola is due to make 6.5 million in 2017, and he ranks fourth out of all Patriots in terms of cap hit, counting 7.8 million against the cap. Trailing only Brady (14M), Nate Solder (11.2M), and Devin McCourty (10.9M), Amendola is scheduled to count more against the cap than fellow receivers Julian Edelman (5.8M) and Chris Hogan (3M), not to mention Rob Gronkowski (6.8M). Because of this, there is a 0% chance Amendola remains on the roster with his current contract, so the Patriots can choose to either restructure his contract or release him.
Amendola has restructured his contract the past two offseason’s, so it remains to be seen if he would be willing to take a pay cut for the third straight year. Following a first restructure in March of 2015 that took 2.3 million off his deal, Amendola made about 2.7 million for the 2015 season, and after another restructure in May of last year that cut his salary by 4.4 million, Amendola made just 1.5 million in 2016.
Coming off their fifth Super Bowl victory, the New England Patriots are in tremendous shape cap-wise, as they have right around 62 million dollars in cap space heading into the 2017 offseason. This cap room gives the Patriots incredible financial flexibility, and lets Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and co be as aggressive as they please in free agency. Of course, the Patriots do have several important free agents of their own that need new contracts, with many of them falling on the defensive side of the ball, including essential pieces in Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler (although Butler is a restricted free agent), so lets take a look at the Patriots defensive free agents.
- Age: 26
- Projected contract (via Spotrac): 4 years, 40 million
- Other notable free agent inside linebackers: Lawrence Timmons, Malcolm Smith, D’Qwell Jackson
In nearly every Patriot fans mind, locking up defensive captain Dont’a Hightower is the Patriots #1 priority entering free agency, and if Jeff Howe is correct, it appears the Patriots organization feels the same way. Yesterday, Howe, on 98.5 the Sports Hub, said, “[The Patriots] definitely want to keep [Hightower]. He is their priority”. That is a good sign, but this situation does not appear to be one in which Hightower would be willing to take a home-town discount to remain in New England. Howe went on to say, “Hightower wants to stay, but the Patriots aren’t going to be able to really skimp on his contract. They’re going to have to pay him top dollar.”
Hightower will surely be looking for a contract that exceeds the one former teammate Jamie Collins signed with Cleveland in January. The Brown inked Collins to a four year, 50 million dollar deal, with 26.4 million of that guaranteed, so it seems like any contract discussion with Hightower will probably begin at that figure and work its way up. I see Hightower signing a contract in the range of 4-5 years for 60 or so million dollars, with at least 30 million of that guaranteed; those amounts are nearly exactly the same as the ones in the contract Luke Kuechly, the NFL’s premier inside linebacker, signed prior to the 2015 season for 5 years, 62 million, and 35 million guaranteed. Luckily, the Patriots have the financial flexibility to make this sort of contract work without compromising the rest of the roster, so I would be really surprised if Belichick let Hightower leave New England.
Similar to the contract discussions with Devin McCourty two offseason’s ago, I think Hightower is the type of player Belichick and the Patriots will do whatever it takes to keep in a Patriot uniform, whether it be by a long-term extension or via the franchise tag, which would cost the Patriots about 15 million to retain Hightower and would allow the two sides another year to negotiate a new contract.
Coming off their fifth Super Bowl victory, the New England Patriots are in tremendous shape cap-wise, as they have right around 62 million dollars in cap space heading into the 2017 offseason. This cap room gives the Patriots incredible financial flexibility, and lets Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and co be as aggressive as they please in free agency. Of course, the Patriots do have several important free agents of their own that need new contracts, and while the majority of those names fall on the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots still have a couple question marks regarding free agents on the offensive side of the ball. Lets take a look at those notable free agents-to-be.
- Age: 30
- Projected contract (via Spotrac): 3 years, 18 million (6 million average annual salary)
- Other notable free agent tight end: Jared Cook, Jack Doyle
In a very weak free agent class at tight end, Bennett’s first priority for this offseason is probably getting paid. This narrative is definitely aided by Bennett’s comments following the Super Bowl, in which he jubilantly declared “You know they overpay Super Bowl Champions!” (he did later clarified on Twitter that he was joking, but I don’t know about that). Another quote from Bennett that is rather indicative of what he is thinking regarding his upcoming free agency is, “You come to New England to win, not for the checks.” The pessimist in me thinks that because Bennett got his ring, he is now looking for the major payday that comes following winning the Super Bowl. While it is impossible to tell where Bennett will end up, it sure seems like he is looking to cash in, and it also seems like the Patriots will not be the team to give him the hefty contract he seeks, despite growing concerns over the long-term health of Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski counts nearly 30 million against the cap in the next three seasons, so it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Patriots dole out a contract with an average annual value of around 6 million dollars to another tight end. That just seems like too high of a price for Gronk insurance, especially when considering the stacked pool of tight ends in the 2017 draft, with players like OJ Howard, David Njoku, and Evan Engram all drawing comparisons to current elite NFL tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed.
- Age: 30
- Projected contract (via Spotrac): 3 years, 13 million (4.4 million average annual salary)
- Other notable free agent running backs: Leveon Bell, Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy
Blount is an incredibly interesting case to consider. Last offseason, he essentially had no interest whatsoever on the free agent market, and ended up signing with the Patriots on April 12th, 34 days after free agency opened. The Patriots were able to resign Blount for a base salary of just 1 million, an absolute steal considering the season he had in 2016, in which he led all RB’s in touchdowns and finished 8th in rushing yards in the NFL. Because of his success this season, Blount figures to garner far more interest in free agency this season, but the Patriots will most likely not be one of the teams in pursuit. Combine Blount’s age (30) with the lack of value Belichick places on the running back position in free agency (especially aging backs) and the current backfield situation with both James White and Dion Lewis returning in 2017, and it sure seems like unless Blount is willing to take a rather large pay-cut, his time in New England is done.
Develin resigned with the Patriots last offseason on a one year deal worth up to 750,000 with incentives, and it seems like a similar, albeit slightly more lucrative, contract should be enough for Develin to remain a Patriot. Currently, there are only 6 fullbacks in the NFL that count more than a million against their team’s salary caps, with the highest paid fullbacks in the league, Anthony Sherman and Ryan Hewitt, earning around 2.3 million in average annual salary. With arguably the three best fullbacks in the league hitting free agency in 2017 (Juszczyk, DiMarco, and Develin), it would not be surprising if those numbers are surpassed, so Develin’s potential contract is probably going to rely mostly on the type of contracts Juszczyk and DiMarco sign. Despite this, it certainly appears likely Develin will end up in New England again because of the importance he has in the Patriots running game.
- Age: 27
- Other notable free agent wide receivers: Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon
Floyd has been vocal about his desire to return to New England, saying in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, “I love it here. I hope to be back in Foxborough. I hope that I can make that happen, for sure.’’ Floyd was inactive for both the Super Bowl and AFC Championship Game due to a crowded depth chart at receiver, with the coaching staff opting for Malcolm Mitchell over Floyd. However, because of the good possibility that Danny Amendola will be cut, seeing as he counts nearly 8 million against the 2017, Floyd might have a spot in the receiving corps in 2017. Floyd has shown his ability to be a productive NFL receiver, as he has racked up at least 800 yards every year since his rookie year (not including this season), highlighted by his 1,041 yard sophomore season. With his value severely diminished due to his DUI arrest, it appears a return to New England for Floyd is likely.
With Miami losing today to Pittsburgh, we now know that it will be the Houston Texans coming to town to take on the top-seeded New England Patriots on Saturday night. While the Patriots did beat Houston 27-0 back in Week 3, it is hard to look at that game and find much insight into what either team plans to do this time around due to how greatly the Patriots have changed.
As a refresher, Jacoby Brissett was the starting quarterback, Rob Gronkowski had yet to be placed on IR and was making his season debut, Jamie Collins and Jonathan Freeny led the Patriots in tackles, Kyle Van Noy was a Lion, Rob Ninkovich was still suspended, and Dion Lewis and Dont’a Hightower were sidelined with injury. That being said, here is a in-depth overview of the Texans and their roster, position by position, so you can get to know the Patriots first playoff opponent!
The Patriots locked up the top seed in the AFC Sunday with a 35-14 dispatching of the Dolphins, giving New England home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, an essential piece to the Patriots Super Bowl puzzle. The win was the Patriots 14th on the season, and while much of that success has been (rightfully) credited to the incredible resurgence on defense, a large component of this triumphant 2016 campaign has been the renewed balance between running and passing offensively. We know that Tom Brady has the ability to drop back and pass 50 times without much help from the run game and still will the Patriots to a win (see Divisional Round, 2014), but we have also seen just how vulnerable the Patriots become when Brady is asked to win the game by himself (see, 2016 AFC Championship Game). The lack of balance was one of the biggest factor that contributed to New England’s early exit last January, which is why instilling a consistent balance between run and pass will prove to be crucial as we head into the postseason.
Last season, according to Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com, the Patriots had their worst run/pass ratio in recent years, passing the ball 62% of the time and rushing on only 38% of plays. Coincidentally, the Patriots rushing attack ranked 30th in the NFL, which allowed teams like the Broncos to drop numbers off the ball and flood Brady’s passing lanes, without needing to give much thought to the run game. Granted, part of the lack of success running the football can be attributed to losing LeGarrette Blount to a hip injury in Week 14, but even with him, the rushing attack was still on pace to finish near the bottom in rush yards. The Patriots called upon the corpse of Steven Jackson and special-teamer Brandon Bolden to take the bulk of the carries in the AFC Championship Game, and as well as know, it did not go well.
It was yet another game in which the Patriots were able to cruise from start to finish, as they racked up their 13th win and moved one step closer to acquiring the #1 seed in the AFC. A 14-2 record and the #1 seed appears very likely, which is an incredible achievement for any team, yet the accomplishment probably won’t elicit more than a casual shrug of approval out of the majority of Patriot Nation, along with some snide remark about how they really should have been 15-1. We have been blessed as Patriot fans to witness the greatest run of any team in the history of the NFL, yet it is still important to appreciate just how they are able to reach the level of play we have seen this year. With that being said, let’s take a look back at the (masterful) 2016 offseason and how it managed to rebuild and retool the Patriots, setting them up for the success they are currently achieving.
Belichick the GM was nearly perfect on his moves this offseason, with his first acquisition being the signing of Chris Hogan away from the Buffalo Bills on a front-loaded 3 year, 12 million dollar offer sheet that the Bills were simply unable to match. Hogan, who never had more than 450 yards in this first three seasons in the NFL, has racked up 653 yards on 34 catches to go along with a league-leading 19.2 yards per catch in 2016. Hogan has brought a viable, consistent deep threat to a Patriot offense that had lacked one since the day Randy Moss last put on a Patriot uniform. That is not to say Hogan in anyway resembles Moss and his capabilities, but what Hogan is able to do for the offense by stretching the field and not allowing the opposing secondary to key on the underneath crossing routes fills a role the Patriots have not had since the Moss days.