As we get closer to the 2016 Draft, let us reflect on the successful offseason for the New England Patriots.
The offseason started off slow with a lot of people expecting Belichick to give big money for a running back, like C.J. Spiller or Matt Forte, but as we once again learned, he doesn’t do that. Then there’s the retirement of Jerrod Mayo, and release of Brandon Lafell and Scott Chandler followed by signing Chris Long and Terrance Knighton, along with many others. My main focus though, will be the trade of Chandler Jones for an offensive lineman and a second round draft pick and how the Patriots should move forward with the draft. A trade which seemingly came out of nowhere, but a deeper look into the trade may prove it was the best move for the Patriots this offseason.
After what was arguably his best season to date, recording 44 combined tackles, 12.5 sacks, and 1 interception (his first career interception), Chandler Jones was due an extension with a boat load of money. Although Jones had a fantastic season, he has been fairly inconsistent over the past 4 years. He’s actually only had 2 great seasons, averaging 12 sacks and 61.5 combined tackles. The other two seasons he’s averaged only 6 sacks and 44 combined tackles. Jones posted some pretty good numbers in his first 4 years of the NFL, but his stats weren’t the reason he was traded, it was salary. Jones is currently under a 4-year contract worth just over $8 million.
After 2 great seasons its fair to say Jones would have asked for a lot of money when his contract expires in 2017. The issue being the Patriots must also resign: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler in the 2017 offseason, who will also ask for a lot of money in 2017. It is obvious the Patriots could not sign all four of these players, so they got rid of who would presumably be the most expensive, Chandler Jones. The Patriots now have more cap space to move around between these three key players.
Butler has already shown interest in staying with the Patriots, but of course Butler will be expecting a large amount of money. Butler is currently making $600k a year which is significantly less than your typical number 1 or 2 cornerback, so Butler has a right to ask for more money. Collins is under a 4-year $3.761 million contract which will keep him with the Patriots through the 2016 season and Hightower is also under a 4-year contract worth $7.724 million, also keeping him until 2017.
A lot of people believe the Chandler Jones trade came out of nowhere, but I personally was expecting him to go, but not until next season. I assumed the Patriots would keep him through next season and not resign him when he became a free agent. Realistically, trading him was a much better option because the Patriots got something in return. What they got was guard, Jonathan Cooper and Arizona’s second round draft pick (61st overall). This was a smart move for the Patriots because not only did their offensive line suck last year, but there was definitely room for improvement. The Patriots also don’t have a first round pick because it was taken away after Deflategate, and they need to make some important draft decisions to fill some important holes on the depth chart.
The Patriots have three big needs for the draft this season: offensive lineman, defensive end, and cornerback. The Patriots have cornerbacks, but their top two cornerbacks- Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan-both have contracts that will expire at the end of the 2017 season. Looking forward it would be best for the Patriots to draft a cornerback now in preparation for the possibility they have to replace either one of those players. Offensive lineman is probably the most important to fill of these three needs because the line last year was not able to protect Brady as well as it needed to. The Patriots have already acquired Jonathan Cooper, but they could still use more depth at the position.The defensive end is probably the least important of these three needs. The Patriots do not necessarily need an other defensive end; they just need a backup in case someone gets injured. They have picked up Chris Long who will hopefully serve a valuable addition to the Patriots defense.
The decisions made by Bill Belichick and the Patriots so far have been great as usual because the Patriots have made some improvements on offense as well as defense. For example, they signed free agent wide receiver Nate Washington and acquired Martellus Bennett. Bennett is a tight end who was traded to the Patriots by the bears, and the Patriots hope he can be the replacement for Aaron Hernandez that they have been searching for since 2013. The Patriots have also extended the contracts of both Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady.
This offseason has been much more eventful than usual for the New England Patriots, and those moves have resulted in some big changes. Changes that will hopefully lead to another Super Bowl. The Patriots have a lot to look forward to this season, especially on defense where they will learn how their new pieces fit into the scheme. Even though the Patriots do not have Chandler Jones, it was important for them to part ways with him when looking towards the future of the organization. As we get closer to the start of the season I anticipate it more each day