Sunday 7: Why Patriots can afford to lose Trent Brown via free agency


1. One of the biggest decisions the Patriots will face over the next several weeks is who they want to retain, and who they want to let go via free agency. Offensive tackle Trent Brown is one of the bigger names they will have to make a decision with, but it appears likely they will move on after one season. Brown was solid after being traded from the 49ers during last year’s draft, playing in all 16 games and doing a good job protecting Tom Brady’s backside. But, there are a number of factors why it makes sense to move on. No. 1, he may not have been nearly as good as many think. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown was the 30th ranked tackle in the league. For reference, Nate Solder was 26th. And No. 2, there seems to be a capable replacement waiting in the wings. Last year's first-round pick Isaiah Wynn spent the entire season on injured reserve and it appeared when he was on the field last summer, many expected him to be the left tackle of the future. “He’s in every meeting,” offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said to in December. “He’s not physically able to do things, but he is a bright kid. We hope for the best. We hope he can really help us. … I am anxious to get out there with him in the spring and start again.” Not to mention, the Patriots can likely get somewhat close to the same production with Wynn for potentially an eighth of the cost. Because of all this, particularly having Wynn with a year in the system, don’t be alarmed if the Patriots don’t make a real effort to try and keep Brown.

2. Robert Kraft being charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution obviously is a very bad look, especially with it being part of a human trafficking sting, but there have been a great deal of overreactions when it comes to potential punishment from the NFL. Kraft is subject to the NFL’s personal conduct policy, which makes it likely if he is found guilty he will face a penalty from the league, but it will likely be nowhere close to what some have suggested — having power turned over to Jonathan (his son), being banned from the league, or even having the Patriots lose draft picks. The most likely scenario, if he is found to be in violation of the league’s policy, will be similar to Colts owner Jim Irsay when he was charged with DUI in 2014. Irsay was suspended the first six games of the 2014 season and was fined $500,000.

3. With the NFL officially releasing its compensatory picks on Friday, the Patriots now know for sure they will have six picks in the first 101 overall. Also, their 12 total picks are the most in the league. This is a big deal, as they can use them all and get six quality players, or they have the potential to use some of those picks, and later ones, to move up and get an even better player than they would otherwise. With a few glaring needs on the roster that need to be filled immediately, we would not be surprised at all to see Bill Belichick use a few of these picks to potential move up into the middle of the first round to steal a player he really likes, which he’s done a few times in the past.

4. One of the least-talked about free agents to be for the Patriots is running back Jeremy Hill, who tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Texans. Hill was very impressive over the summer and in the preseason, especially in short-yardage, which the Patriots had issues with all season. Coming off the injury, he likely will only get a one-year deal, and this may make some sense for the Patriots. Even with Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead already under contract, Hill could come back on a team-friendly deal.

5. With Devin McCourty officially announcing he will return in 2019, it seems to only make sense for the Patriots to retain his twin brother, Jason as well. It appeared Belichick seemed to like how their chemistry fed off on the rest of the secondary, and also how they helped mentor some of the younger defensive players. Devin may be asked to restructure, while Jason may have to take less than he did this past year, but if that happens the Patriots likely will welcome both back with open arms.

6. Wednesday is the official start of the NFL combine in Indianapolis. We’ll have much more on the prospects as the week goes on, but the first few days offer coaches and general managers from around the league to speak at podiums for the assembled media. As usual, no members of the Patriots are on the schedule, but there are several names to keep an eye on as it relates to the Patriots. Former assistants Brian Flores (Miami) and Matt Patricia (Detroit) are scheduled to speak Wednesday morning, while Mike Vrabel (Tennessee) and Bill O’Brien (Houston) are in the afternoon. Also, the Antonio Brown/Odell Beckham Jr. rumors will likely be addressed with Kevin Colbert of the Steelers, and Pat Shurmur and Dave Gentleman of the Giants also speaking Wednesday morning.

7. Another thing to keep an eye on besides the prospects is some potential additions to the Patriots coaching staff. Last year, Bret Bielema was spotted with members of the Patriots brass in Indianapolis and then went onto serve as a consultant on staff during the year. With a few coaching spots still not revealed, perhaps we could get a better idea on who these new faces will be in the coming days.