To say this has been an interesting offseason, unlike any we've experienced in recent history, may be a dramatic understatement. We have see the tumultuous mystery surrounding the availability or unavailability of Jimmy Garoppolo. We have see the confusion and frustration around the future of Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. We've seen trades and free agent interest of some of the biggest names in the sport. And it's still just the middle of April.
Given all of the potential rumors we've heard, I felt like was time to step back and take a real look at what the Patriots roster currently looks like. Some players currently on the team have been almost forgotten with the headline grabbing additions that have been made over the last month. This roster is far from complete, and with nearly $20M left in cap space, there is plenty of room to move around and add to this already dynamic roster. So here is my breakdown of the Patriots roster, as it currently stands, with notes and ideas regarding the potential roles players may have, their short and long term futures with the team, and how it will all fit together come September.
(An * marks someone that I believe would be on the 53 man roster if the season started today, subject to change, of course, with free agent moves and the draft.) QB
No position on this team is deeper than this. All three have starting experience. All three have won games they weren't expected to and have done so in impressive fashion. The future of each of them is also a great mystery. The Patriots could certainly look to add another quarterback in order to either prepare for post-Garoppolo or to lighten the load of each of the quarterbacks come summer, and the Pats interest in Nathan Peterman could indicate such.
Tom Brady* - The god amongst men returns for his 18th year. It isn't hard to imagine this year going even better than last year's given the health of key players and the addition of several new playmakers. As long as Brady wants to keep playing, and can keep playing, it is hard to envision anyone else leading this team.
Jimmy Garoppolo* - The International Man of Mystery has been one of the biggest rollercoaster headlines of the offseason. At one point he was as good as gone, with the Browns willing to give up a king's ransom and potentially the 1st pick in the draft. Now all teams have given up public hope of acquiring him as the Patriots supposedly deem him the future of the franchise and untradeable. I have no idea what Jimmy's Patriots future holds, and I don't believe anyone outside of Belichick knows for sure either.
Jacoby Brissett* - The forgotten man behind two of the biggest quarterback names in the NFL this offseason. Brissett showed toughness, poise, and skill last year, being thrown into the starting role as a rookie with a significant injury. Given that small sample size, and the praise we've heard echoed by numerous Patriots players and coaches, it is hard not to feel optimistic about Brissett's future.
At the moment the running backs corps feels like it's lacking something. This group could certainly get the job done, and if Blount were to return everyone would be returning from last year, with the addition of Burkhead. The Patriots will need a stable running game in order to prolong Brady's career and keep the offense as balanced as it can be. The Patriots have been doing their homework on a variety of RBs including Adrian Peterson, Damien Williams, and Mike Gillislee, even after the addition of Burkhead, indicating they are still looking to improve the unit. I'm cautiously optimistic about this group, though I'd look for another addition to be made here via the draft, trade, or free agency.
Rex Burkhead* - The Patriots are paying Burkhead like he's going to be the bellcow of this backfield, and he very well could be that guy. While we only saw a limited sample size last year, he showed that he has the ability to shine. Being a factor in the pass game as well as the run game is a welcome aspect of the Patriots typical power back. While Burkhead is a relative wildcard, there should be some optimism for what he can do in this offense.
James White* - White should've been co-MVP with Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. He was that good when it mattered. Going into the final year of his deal, we can expect Belichick to hold nothing back with him. He has learned the offense and has been able to contribute on the ground and through the air. Hopefully he continues his ascent this season and gives us something to gaze upon in amazement.
Dion Lewis* - Lewis' 2016 was a disappointment. Not only for the fans and team but for himself. A setback in his knee caused him to miss the majority of the season and contribute in a limited role once he did return. Hopefully a full offseason healthy will return Lewis to the player we saw downright embarrass defensive players in 2015.
Brandon Bolden* - This re-signing was one that seemed surprising at first, but then inevitable in hindsight. Bolden's market was small, at best, and his greatest value was with the Patriots who had plenty of cap space and open roster spots. Put two and two together and it resulted in him coming back for a chance to compete for a roster spot. Now exclusively a special teams player after being phased out of the offense last year, his best shot on the roster is to continue to grow in that role and beat out younger players.
DJ Foster - Foster had a lot of buzz going into last year, only to be kept on the practice squad or sideline most of the year. His athleticism is undeniable, but his role has yet to be clearly defined. Is he a returner? A wide receiver? A running back? All three? Hopefully a full offseason with the team and a year of learning and training will put him in a better position to contribute to the team this year. I'd imagine another year on the practice squad being the likely outcome.
Develin once again proved his worth as both a special teams contributor and battering ram for running backs last year. With the fullback position still a regular piece of the offense, it is hard to see neither of these players making the team. Develin has Brady's outspoken trust and Glenn Gronk provides an interesting project for the Patriots to develop. While it's possible to add another body here for the summer, I don't see it as a priority need.
James Develin* - Develin was a player that steadily improved as the season went on. At the end of the year he was a regular part of the offense and bowling over linebackers like only he can. I expect him to remain an important part of this offense going forward.
Glenn Gronkowski - It will be interesting to see what the Patriots have in mind for Baby Gronk. Will he add weight to be more of a bruising fullback? Will he focus more on special teams contributions? Or will he develop into a passing threat in a move tight end role? He's no Gronk, but he needs to develop a niche on this team or it will be hard to find a roster spot for him.
I, for one, feel as if the tight end position needs to be as deep as it can possibly get. We are all aware of Gronk's injury history, and Dwayne Allen hasn't been the gold standard of health either. This makes the third tight end a priority in my eyes. We have seen what happens when tight ends go down in this offense. It isn't pretty. While Gronk and Allen could go on to have outstanding years, playing all 16 games, I'm not getting my hopes up. This is why I believe the third tight end position could be upgraded via the draft given the deep tight end pool.
Rob Gronkowski* - A man amongst boys on the field. Ask him to do it and he'll do it 110% with a smile on his face. Hopefully he has the benefit of a full offseason of training like last year where he was able to start off hot and provide a threat unlike any other in the NFL.
Dwayne Allen* - Allen has had a reputation of underperforming in Indianapolis, though you could blame a number of factors for that. The Patriots added him with a plan in place for how to best utilize him, and it will hard not to see him succeeding in some capacity with the offense surrounding him. Hopefully he can continue to improve as a blocker while providing a reliable option in the passing game.
Matt Lengel* - Lengel impressed me at times last year. Was he perfect? Not at all. I saw him whiff on quite a few blocks. But I also saw him reach linebackers in the second level on extended runs, run crisp routes, and look like a good athlete out there. Now that he has a full offseason with the team, there's a chance we get to see why New England nabbed him off the Bengals practice squad.
Rob Housler - A somewhat rare veteran futures contract signee. The last notable player to sign one of those was Dion Lewis, and we know how that has turned out so far. Housler has been through a lot. With only 13 receptions over the last 3 years, his playing time while bouncing around the league has been limited. He is a move tight end with good speed, but his hands were part of the reason why he fell from grace in Cleveland. Hopefully time off and being in a new offense can respark his career.
Michael Williams* - Michael Williams has been, and likely will continue to be, an offensive lineman playing tight end. His services in the passing game consist of taking the eyes of one linebacker off of an actual receiving threat. In the blocking game he has been able to work as a sixth lineman, and a decent one at that. His main competition will likely be the likes of Cameron Fleming, and not Matt Lengel, for a roster spot come summer.
Another position of depth on the Patriots, but that depth could be short lived. Amendola is still currently the fifth highest cap hit on the team as a 31 year old wide receiver that has only played two full seasons since 2009. That will not be the case come the start of the season, whether it be his accepting a pay cut or being released. Edelman will be 31 at the end of May and will be a free agent next year. Cooks has a fifth year option coming up here that the Patriots may sign to bring him back next year for somewhere around $8-8.5M, otherwise he too is a free agent. That leaves Mitchell and Hogan, both great pieces of this offense, but hardly enough to field an offense around. The Patriots could look to draft another option here, to potentially replace Amendola, or they could sit around and hope next year whatever solution they have in mind works out. Michael Floyd is still a free agent and could also be waiting in the wings should the Patriots feel they need to add another WR to the team.
Julian Edelman* - Incredelman. The Squirrel. Minitron. Whatever you call him, Edelman is as Patriot as a Patriots player can be. His value is beyond compare. His effort is never questioned. And his clutch moments will forever resonate in The Hall at Patriots Place. The biggest question is: how much longer can he do this? He'll be 31 this season, in a contract year. I would be shocked if him retiring a Patriot wasn't in the minds of both parties, but he has to be able to keep doing what he does best. This year is a big year for him. Now with Cooks on board he hopefully won't need to carry the team as much and put more and more wear on his body.
Brandin Cooks* - The Patriots offense struggled heavily against man coverage once Gronk went down. The Patriots wide receivers were shifty and quick, but not always track stars. This allowed defenses to press the line, play man, and force Brady to throw perfect passes on every play and no offense can operate at 100% this way. This is where Cooks comes in. The guy can fly down the field and strike fear in cornerbacks' eyes. Teams would be wise not to risk him getting behind their defense, which in turn helps out everyone else on this offense.
Chris Hogan* - Hogan surprised many last year. He became the deep threat not many thought he could be. He regularly came down with 20+ yard bombs from Brady and opened up the field more than any receiver had down of late. Another year with the offense and Hogan's rise should continue as long as he can stay healthy.
Malcolm Mitchell* - The rookie sensation dominated the end of the regular season. Highlight plays, phenomenal catches, and key first downs elevated him to stardom quickly. That all came after dislocating his elbow in a gruesome collision with the ground. The sophomore slump may be difficult for him to overcome if he's limited in his snaps, but I think his work ethic and determination will allow him to continue to improve as he steps into his second year.
Danny Amendola* - There is only one certainty with Amendola: he won't be playing for the Patriots this year with a nearly $8M cap hit. Once again he proved his worth in the postseason, catching numerous must-have passes for critical gains. His clutch play has helped win two Super Bowls for the Patriots, and that cannot go unnoticed. The issue has been his play in the regular season, where last year he played in 12 games and had only 23 receptions, his lowest since 2011 where he only played in part of one game. If the Patriots and Amendola can reach an agreement for a pay cut this could be Dola's swan song year given his injury history and falling spot on the depth chart.
Devin Lucien - Currently the tallest wide receiver on the roster at 6'2". The possession receiver with decent speed was a welcome sight at the end of the 7th round last year. He has a long way to go to crack the 53 man roster, but another year on the practice squad could help him a lot with his future with the Patriots.
DeAndrew White - A journeyman player now entering his third NFL season. With the 49ers he had some positive moments and even played in four games, providing some kick return experience. He's a long shot at the moment, but someone who may make some wow plays this summer.
Signing Marcus Cannon, the phoenix who had been reborn through Dante Scarnecchia, during the season last year proved to be a brilliant move as he would have commanded a huge contract in free agency. Locking him up for the future has the right tackle position settled for now. The concern is at left tackle. Nate Solder enters his final year in his contract and there has been little to no buzz surrounding an extension. With no heir apparent on the roster, the left tackle position needs to be addressed somehow this year, whether it be a Solder extension or drafting a future replacement who can learn in a swing tackle role this year.
Nate Solder* - Solder has been a solid, if inconsistent, blind side protector of Tom Brady of late. After overcoming not only his own cancer diagnosis, but also his child's, Solder worked his way back to form last year. One possibility with him that has been floating around Patriots social media accounts is an extension to lower his current cap hit and keep him around a few more years. While this hasn't happened yet, it would certainly make sense given the current state of the tackle position.
Marcus Cannon* - What a story. Going from scapegoat to the best protector of the G.O.A.T. Cannon turned his career around last year. Finally healthy after dealing with foot injuries the previous year, losing some weight, and the return of Scarnecchia seemed to be the perfect storm to propel Cannon into being the tackle he was meant to be. Arguably the best Patriots offensive lineman last year, Cannon can build upon that with another year of continued development with the comfort of knowing he's not of everyone's hate list.
Cameron Fleming* - Fleming either wows you or makes you shake your head. At times he has great games, opening up running lanes as a sixth lineman or filling in at one of the tackle spots when Solder or Cannon went down. Sometimes he was mauled by defensive ends that disputed plays. Barring the addition of another tackle, Fleming should continue to hold onto that role, as long as his play continues to improve.
LaAdrian Waddle* - Waddle was only active for two games last year. That's the bad part. The somewhat optimistic part is he will be only 26 when the season starts, entering his second year with the team, having starting experience and good health. He may not seem like much given how little we have seen of him, but his 6'6" 315 lb frame could be put into action this preseason and be given a chance to earn a backup role.
There are as many guards on this team as wide receivers, and that's saying something. Belichick seems to love to develop versatile interior linemen that can play either side and potentially center when needed. The youth at the position is also something unique, with Shaq Mason currently only 23 years old and Chris Barker, the eldest, at a mere 26. Thuney and Mason are both rising stars on this line and hopefully a second full year with Scarnecchia can do wonders for both of them.
Joe Thuney* - Started the year as a downright force at left guard. As the season progressed, whether it was conditioning, wear, or defenses learning how to gameplan for him, his success lightened. A few too many holding penalties scuffed an otherwise great season from the rookie. A full year in the offseason program should help fix these potential flaws and Thuney should continue to improve.
Shaq Mason* - Another player who has improved as his career has gone on. Still a bit unrefined in his pass blocking, there may not be a better run blocker on this roster than Mason. His strength, leverage, and mean streak allows him to plow down defensive linemen. With another year of Scar he can hopefully address some of his pass blocking woes after spending almost his whole college career run blocking.
Ted Karras* - The Patriots love their versatile linemen and they have been grooming Karras for just that. Having practiced or played as a center and both guard positions he seems to have the inside track to be the swing interior linemen going into the season.
Chris Barker - A player who has been with the Patriots practice squad and active roster on and off since 2013. It's clear that the Patriots value what he brings to the team, but has offered only six career appearances on the active roster. Whether he ever becomes anything more than what he's been in a emergency/practice role is hard to see.
Jamil Douglas - Drafted in the 4th round by the Dolphins, despite not having a clear position, Douglas was eventually cut after one year in Miami and found his way onto New England's practice squad. As a large guard he may continue to develop with Scarnecchia into a backup role, but with limited information, projecting him into any meaningful role doesn't seem worth it at the moment.
Chase Farris - Another tweener lineman who had played tackle in college, but fits into what the Patriots look for in their guards. Given that he's only 24 and relatively inexpensive, it seems like keeping him around on the practice squad would make a lot of sense.
Andrews is going to be 25 this season and entering the final year of his deal. He is a RFA which is a good safety valve for the Patriots should they wish to keep him. With Karras being the backup center at the moment, it could make sense for the team to draft one of the versatile centers in the draft his year to compete for a spot, and at worst provide backup at an important position.
David Andrews* - The only true center on this team. Brady has spoken highly of Andrews, who has command of the line and Brady's trust. After stepping into the starting role as an UDFA, Andrews outperformed expectations and had a solid season in his second year. Next year Andrews is a RFA, which gives the Patriots control of his future, though they may look to the draft to bring in some competition just in case.
With the return of Alan Branch the Patriots retain the heart of their defensive line. Branch had a great year, despite his age and will likely continue to do so as part of a rotation that features two young players with promise in Brown and Valentine. Guy provides a large body capable of lining up in the various techniques the Patriots like to deploy their tackles in. Hamilton and Kilgo are quality depth pieces that can be called into action if needed. Someone may be added but the depth chart seems pretty stacked here.
Malcom Brown* - Brown was a player that was held back in a game late last regular season for missing a meeting. Some saw this as a kick to see if he could elevate his play. While Brown didn't light up the stat sheet, he provided three sacks and 50 total tackles, which included a safety. His consistency and health make him a key cog in this defense. I expect more of the same from him this year.
Alan Branch* - After two years of consistent play, including a dominant 2016, the Patriots gave Branch a raise to return this year after he briefly contemplated retirement. His size in the middle of the field and his explosive power are vital parts of the run defense which was outstanding last year.
Lawrence Guy* - The addition of Guy will provide another stout run defender to the front seven. Despite being in a more limited role, Guy was PFF's 10th best run defender at defensive end last year for Baltimore. In New England he will likely be asked to play as a 3-technique (guard's outside shoulder) where his ability to disrupt can be fully utilized.
Vincent Valentine* - Valentine showed some promise last year in a limited role. He's big and can be disruptive and likely will have an expanded role going forward. The offseason conditioning program will likely benefit him and allow him to see an increased number of snaps.
Woodrow Hamilton - An emergency player last year who stepped in and did a fine job in the two games he was asked with filling in for. Would imagine he sticks around in some capacity, most likely practice squad, if he's not snatched up by someone else once cutdowns start.
Darius Kilgo - The former Broncos 6th round pick is the only player listed on the Patriots official website as a nose tackle. He provides some meat in the middle and again, will likely be seen as a quality camp body and practice squad candidate.
The biggest position of need for the Patriots is defensive end. Ninkovich isn't getting any younger and Flowers can't play both sides of the line. Ealy was a brilliant low cost move that could provide a boost to the pass rush as part of the rotation. Given the relative lack of attention given here in free agency I expect the Patriots to invest serious draft capital into this position given the cost of good ends in free agency and the quality of the position in this draft.
Rob Ninkovich* - Ninkovich has provided a steady presence on the edge for the last several years, and now at the twilight of his career his role has been somewhat diminished. He has been asked to play more off the line and cover, while also setting the edge and holding his own. His timely sacks have altered the course of big games and his leadership is unquestioned. Hopefully a full season of consist contributions is on the way.
Trey Flowers* - Trey Flowers was shown off to the world last year. His speed, power, and ferocious mentality were on display each week. Going into his third year, with more opportunities and snaps on the way, this year may allow Flowers to establish himself as one of the best defensive ends in the league.
Kony Ealy* - Ealy's role in Carolina slowly but surely faded, and New England took a chance, for next to nothing, to bring him in and let him contribute for the Pats. His pass rush skills are sorely needed and he should be given the chance to show them off as part of the defensive end rotation.
Geneo Grissom* - Grissom was brought in after being cut during the summer cuts and was asked to perform on a variety of special teams. He may not have a steady role or position on defense, but he clearly provided Belichick enough to warrant a spot on the active roster for most of last year. He'll have to show he can continue to provide that value to keep his roster spot.
After Hightower this position leaves a lot to be desired. Van Noy flashed at times last year despite being added mid-year. Roberts showed he can be a heat seeking missile in the run game. McClellin was disappointing and Freeny had been a liability on defense prior to his injury last year. If the Patriots continue to use their hybrid defense where linebackers are expected to be able to play on and off the line we could see some hybrid players added here in the draft.
Dont'a Hightower* - The biggest move the Patriots made this offseason, and at a value I didn't think was likely. Hightower is one of the best defensive players in the league and his ability to rush the passer, drop into coverage, and line up all over the field makes him beyond valuable. Add that to the fact that the rest of the linebacker corps leaves a lot to be desired, his presence on the team is very comforting. If his health holds next year his play should continue to prove his status as an elite playmaker on defense.
Kyle Van Noy* - Van Noy enters the last year of his rookie deal after being acquired for next to nothing last year. He flashed at times, getting to the quarterback and making key tackles, but also had some busts in coverage. A full year in the program should be a great benefit for him and his expectations should rise. If the Patriots don't add another linebacker Van Noy will likely have to command the second linebacker role.
Elandon Roberts* - Roberts may have been the hardest hitter on the team in his rookie year. He dished out some pad-popping hits last year that stood up running backs with authority. His work in the run game was very promising. The one play that sticks out for me though is him being out of position and getting run over by a tight end as Devonta Freeman sprung open in the Super Bowl for a huge gain. His value on passing downs is limited at the moment, and that's one area he needs to improve in in order to become a regular presence on the defense.
Shea McClellin* - McClellin had a great blocked kick that was so good it helped change the rules of football forever. Other than that he provided some roles on special teams and played defense from time to time. He was the definition of average for me on defense, not egregiously bad, but not enough contributions to warrant overwhelming praise. His contract isn't huge, but by cutting him it's enough to return a solid bit of change. Hopefully for both sides he's able to step into a bigger role this year.
Jonathan Freeny* - I am not a fan of Jonathan Freeny. I believe his value is on special teams, because when I envision him on defense I get vivid memories of him being stonewalled by linemen and opening up gaps large enough for me to get through. He's a coverage linebacker who isn't overly good in coverage. His extension last year gave me pause because I clearly have not seen the same player Belichick has. If he steps up and becomes whatever they envision him to be I would be eternally grateful to be wrong, but my expectations are quite low.
Trevor Bates - Someone that has garnered some buzz from writers and analysts alike as someone who could sneak into the picture this year given his athleticism. Bates will be only 24 when the season starts and had spent a good part of last year with the Colts before joining the Pats. His offseason will be one to monitor.
If Malcolm Butler stays with the Patriots this secondary will be extremely impressive. At the moment that seems to be a huge IF. Gilmore was about as surprising a free agent acquisition as we've seen recently out of Foxborough, and the implications of that signing continue to be felt with Butler's agent's comments about how his client is apparently feeling. Should Butler be traded I would expect the Patriots to add to the position in one form or another. Currently Darrelle Revis and Jason McCourty could be the biggest names to watch, but it is likely no one will be signed unless a Butler trade occurs or after the draft has passed. Cyrus Jones currently is slated for a bigger role in the slot after a disappointing season as a return man. Coleman and Jones vie for the back end of the depth chart, where Jones may have the upper hand due to his special teams contributions.
Stephon Gilmore* - Gilmore has been a very good corner for a while now and the Patriots have seen his work at least twice a year for quite some time. They know what they're going to get from him. His press man style should help tremendously in a defense that, in my opinion, is at its best when it employs a man scheme. Ball skills and great athleticism should be a huge plus in a season where the Patriots will face elite WRs on a regular basis.
Malcolm Butler* - No one knows what will happen with Malcolm Butler in the coming weeks. He could be traded, signed long term, or asked to play on his tender. All indications would say that Butler is likely to be traded, but with how long this has dragged out I'm still not positive that's what happens. No team has been willing to offer him a contract and he's yet to sign his tender, but has been rumored to be ok with playing for the Patriots this year if that's what needs to happen. Unless the Patriots have a very solid contingency plan for him leaving I am in the boat of having him stay this year and having an elite secondary tandem.
Eric Rowe* - Rowe was yet another young player without the benefit of a full offseason in New England before being pressed into a significant role. His athleticism is great and his ability is very promising. I was a fan of his acquisition and believe he will improve this year and be used as all other corners will be used, as a matchup piece.
Cyrus Jones* - I am in the minority on Cyrus Jones, mostly because I don't jump to knee-jerk reactions demanding a second round pick be cut in his rookie year for a few muffed kicks. Jones is an outstanding athlete that right now could be in line to start in the slot. Reports are that he was hit hard from all the hate fans gave him and it has motivated him to better himself for this year. I do believe Jones can come into a role on this team and be a contributor on defense and in the return game.
Jonathan Jones* - As the season went on we saw more and more of Jones on special teams making big plays. His speed is outstanding and as a gunner he gives Slater a run for his money for the first one down the field. He is the rare special teamer that could potentially earn a role on defense due to his athleticism. For now special teams is his way onto the team and I expect him to make the team and contribute in that way.
Justin Coleman* - Coleman has had an up and down time with the Patriots, but for the most part he has contributed more than most players as an UDFA. He has shown that he can be a solid cornerback and should look to fight to win the slot corner role.
Bringing back Duron Harmon was one of my favorite moves of the offseason. His value is understated. With the amount of Cover 3 Robber looks the Patriots use (Cover 3 with one safety hanging around the middle of the field underneath a high safety) Harmon was more or less a starter last year, and he played quite well. McCourty continued to shine in his continuously evolving role where Chung took a slight step back after being one of the best safeties in the league the year before. Ebner continues his dominance on special teams, but Richards seems to be a reach that hasn't come to fruition. This summer will be key for him if he wishes to stay with the team.
Devin McCourty* - The leader of the secondary has again altered his role with the success of Harmon back deep. Last year he provided more man coverage and robber zone coverage in cover one with Harmon over the top. McCourty performed well in this role and allowed the Patriots to keep three safeties on the field to help with run support while not missing anything against the pass.
Patrick Chung* - Chung took a step back last year after an otherworldly performance the year before. One of the emotional leaders on defense, Chung is always looking for a big hit to set the tone. His ability to provide run support, cover a wide receiver, or drop into zone coverage is a rare combination of traits that should not be taken for granted. While battling a variety of injuries last year that went relatively unreported, I feel that Chung can return to form this year.
Duron Harmon* - A quasi-starter given the high number of three safety sets employed by the Patriots last year. His ability to be a ballhawk in key moments has become his trademark. He mentioned this offseason that he is looking to bulk up to provide more in run support. He may not need to do this, but if he can that could add even more skills to his already impressive arsenal.
Nate Ebner* - The rugby star continues to be his reliable self on special teams. With the Olympics come and gone he has a full offseason to train for football, which didn't appear to be a huge disadvantage for him despite Belichick's comments on the contrary. He should be full go this year for more of his normal hard hits downfield.
Jordan Richards - At this point in time all of his intangibles haven't translated onto the field. We heard great things about his leadership, his intelligence, and his work ethic following the draft, but at the end of last year he was relegated to sitting on the bench, inactive. He hasn't been able to contribute in any meaningful way outside of practice, and as a high pick that's not what you need. He'll need a great offseason here to protect his roster spot, because at the moment he's on the outside looking in.
Ghost proved that he was human last year, with several uncharacteristic kicks. Many, including myself, attributed this to the change in kickoff rules where he was adjusting his form to account for the shorter kicks to force returners to return the ball. However, given his high cap hit and struggles, I wouldn't be surprised if competition is brought in to challenge him. Ryan Allen had another solid year, pinning teams deep with consistency. Cardona is a name you don't hear often and that's because he's done a fine job snapping the ball. Slater is the best special teamer playing in the NFL, yet again. King looks to build onto his own special teams legacy.
Stephen Gostkowski* - Ghost had a somewhat rough year last year. He had games where he was his normal self, kicking 45+ yard field goals and pinning teams deep on kickoffs having to return the ball. Other weeks he was off and missed routine kicks that any kicker in college could have made. With a full year to acclimate to the new kickoff standards, hopefully he's able to return to form.
Ryan Allen* - Ryan Allen isn't the flashiest player on the roster but he's done a great job doing his job. He's had games where he singlehandedly dominated the field position battle, with punts that stopped opponents' drives before they even started.
Joe Cardona* - The old adage of "the best long snappers are the ones you don't know" is true with Cardona. His snaps were almost perfect last year and none that had a devastating result. He's someone we could expect to have in Foxborough for quite some time.
Matthew Slater* - The Pro Bowler's still got it. His speed, leadership, and production will carry Slater as far as he wants to go with the Patriots. As one of the greatest human beings on the team, and the best at what he does in the NFL, his value goes far beyond the stat sheet.
Brandon King* - The linebacker...safety...special teamer? He may not have a position on downs one through three, but on fourth down he has found his niche making big hits and getting down the field.
While the Patriots still have some work to do, it's hard not to be optimistic about this team. With the additions and retentions this offseason the Patriots have put themselves into position to compete for another Super Bowl. The next two weeks could bring some high drama and splashy moves, or they could go through the draft, standing pat, and do what they believe is best for the team.
In the next few days I will have my offseason spreadsheet ready to go, with detailed scouting profiles on players, a modified mock draft, and a visual depth chart of the current roster.