1. When word came out of Tom Brady flying cross country with Robert Kraft last week, everyone jumped to what happened with Kraft the week before, but maybe there was a football-related reason — a new contract. Think back to 2013 when Brady had a three-year extension added to his deal. Initial conversations for that began on a plane ride from Boston to Los Angeles with the Patriots owner. Kraft went into detail of the flight with Peter King at the time. “I had been talking to him off and on for maybe 18 months, about how I wanted him to finish his career here, and about how we both have to be smart about it,” Kraft told King. “I just really want him to end his career a Patriot. I presented an idea to him that I thought could work for both sides.” There’s been a ton of speculation of Brady getting an extension this offseason as his current deal expires at the end of the year, in addition to his cap hit being $27 million. The vast majority of Brady’s extensions have come prior to free agency, so the timeline certainly matches up. Certainly this is something to keep eye on as the new league year quickly approaches.
2. On Saturday, it was reported Dwayne Allen will be released after two seasons with the team. This isn’t a surprise at all considering his cap hit will be close to $7 million in 2019. The report notes there is a chance he could come back at a lesser salary, but he is now a free agent. Some might say this means Rob Gronkowski is returning, but it’s unlikely they are directly connected. Expect the Patriots to draft at least one tight end and don’t sleep on Ryan Izzo, a rookie who spent last year on injured reserve, as he’s known for his blocking ability, which is very similar to Allen.
3. Speaking of drafting a tight end, we’re all in on Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson. He’s one of the few tight ends who is both a dominant blocker, as well as a dynamic pass-catcher. This past fall he had 49 catches for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Noah Fant, who also played at Iowa, impressed more on Saturday with his measurables, especially his 40-time. But other than that, Hockenson may be the better selection. His passion for the game and his coaches was apparent when speaking to the media on Friday when he got emotional when discussing the impact of his coaches, Kirk and Brian Ferentz, at Iowa. This certainly will be music to Bill Belichick’s ears, as he goes way back with Kirk and Brian served on the Patriots’ staff. If available in the early-to-mid 20s, don’t put it past the Patriots trading up a few spots to make sure they land him.
4. There was a lot of buzz at the combine about Trey Flowers and the Dolphins potentially being a good landing spot for the defensive end. It is worth noting they only have roughly $15 million in cap space, which is less than the Patriots. Of course, they have a number of moves they can make to free up money by releasing players, but the overall point is it isn’t like they have endless amounts of money to throw around. Another team to keep an eye on is the Lions, as Matt Patricia knows how to use Flowers best. If the Patriots really do feel they are in danger of losing him, they have the opportunity to place the franchise tag on him, but that would cost $17 million and that is likely higher than they would be willing to go. From this viewpoint, if Miami or Detroit offers Flowers more money, he likely will leave New England.
5. The wide receiver market will be a tough one for the Patriots to navigate. With not too many big names available, the good ones will likely get overpaid and that isn’t how the Patriots usually operate. Unless things change, it would be a surprise to see them be able to land Golden Tate or Adam Humphries because of the money they will be offered. Their hands are also tied considering Julian Edelman has a base salary of just $2 million. Some might say just load up via the draft, but in the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have never selected a wide out higher than No. 36 overall (Chad Jackson in 2006).
6. Overall, the quarterbacks class is said to be not as strong as in years past. Many believe there are only two or three franchise quarterbacks in this class, but those players would have been the fifth or sixth ranked QBs in recent years. Based off this, we do not expect the Patriots to select a quarterback in April. As we’ve said before, the Patriots do not necessarily need to draft a QB this year and only should if they feel they truly believe a player can be Brady’s eventual replacement.
7. This coming week will be a bit of a breather for the NFL with everyone regrouping from the combine before free agency officially begins March 13. Although, this coming Tuesday is the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. While free agency officially begins March 13, the tampering period begins March 11 and usually a lot of the signings are reported during this timeframe, which makes 4 p.m on March 13 when the official league year begins essentially meaningless.