The New England Patriots offseason got off to a much earlier start than they’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years. Instead of playing deep into the season and to early February in the Super Bowl, they were ousted from the postseason on Wild-Card Weekend by old friend Mike Vrabel and his Tennessee Titans. Now, New England is on the doorstep of what has the potential to be a transformative offseason, especially when it comes to quarterback Tom Brady and is looming free agent status.
For the first time in his entire 20-year NFL career, Brady will have the opportunity to speak with other teams across the league about a future that doesn’t involve the Patriots. That will unquestionably be the first major domino to fall for New England, who will get their chance to woo Brady back to Foxborough for the rest of his football days. That said, they’ll need to put some serious weapons around him to ensure he’s in a Patriots uniform for his entire career. While Brady’s free agency will be priority No. 1, there are a number of other free agents that will be important for the Patriots to retain. Longtime safety and Patriots captain Devin McCourty is just one of the names entering the open market this offseason, as well.
As it relates to the coaching staff, we’ve already seen some turnover as special teams coordinator Joe Judge elected to take the head coaching job of the New York Giants. The good news for the Patriots, however, is that they were able to retain offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels once again and signed director of player personnel Nick Caserio to a contract extension, keeping key pillars of the masthead intact.
As we move through the entire offseason, this hub will serve as a go-to spot for everything related to the Patriots. We’ll have all the important dates, free agency scorecards, draft content, the latest rumors and news revolving around New England, and much more. Before we jump into the personnel, let’s take a look at the need-to-know dates for the offseason.
Key upcoming datesFebruary 25 through March 2: The NFL Combine takes place. There will undoubtedly be a high volume of Patriots evaluators in Indianapolis throughout the combine, including head coach Bill Belichick. March 10: Deadline for NFL teams to place the franchise or transition tag on a player. New England rarely uses the franchise tag with the most recent time coming back in 2015 with kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Even that tag was simply a placeholder for his long-term deal with the club. Before that, the Patriots placed it on receiver Wes Welker in 2012. While it’s rare, that doesn’t mean Belichick won’t use it this offseason if deemed necessary. The only player he cannot franchise or place any tag on is Tom Brady due to language in his contract. March 16: The NFL’s legal tampering period begins. Free agency may not begin for a couple more days, but this is a period where teams can contact and enter contract negotiations with players. This will be an important period for the Patriots as they’ll really start to see their competition in their attempt to re-sign Tom Brady. The Chargers and Raiders will reportedly have interest, but this period will give them the opportunity to actually speak with him. March 18: The new league year officially begins at 4 p.m. ET. Free agent signings around the NFL will be reported prior to this, but they won’t become official until 4 p.m. ET on March 18. As it relates to Brady’s free agency, the start of the new league year is important for the Patriots cap situation. If Brady is not re-signed by this juncture, New England will be dinged with the full $13.5 million dead cap hit for 2020 that remains on Brady’s existing deal, which would naturally hurt them trying to bring aboard talent across the roster. March 29 through April 1: The NFL’s Annual League Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida takes place. This is an opportunity for fans to potentially hear from owner Robert Kraft about the latest happenings surrounding the team and the league as a whole. Mid-April: The NFL will release the 2020 regular season schedule. April 23 through April 25: The NFL Draft takes place in Las Vegas. New England’s first selection in the opening round is at No. 23 overall. April 27: NFL teams can request permission to visit with, try out, or sign any player who was under contract to the XFL at the conclusion of the XFL season. May 1 through May 4: Teams can hold their one three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.
*The Patriots will also hold OTAs and one mandatory minicamp during several weeks in June followed by a roughly six-week break before the start of training camp in late July. Final dates to be determined.
Free Agent Scorecard
Restricted free agents:
Adam Butler, defensive tackle
Jermaine Eluemunor, guard
Keionta Davis, defensive end
Adam Butler is the restricted free agent to keep your eye on out of this trio. The former undrafted defensive tackle out of Vanderbilt has blossomed into a strong rotational player in New England’s front seven and has shown the ability to rush the passer. He finished the 2019 season with six sacks, nine quarterback hits and 26 total tackles in 16 games played (two starts). He will undoubtedly be a player that the Patriots will try to keep considering the turnover they may see across the defense. As for Eluemunor, the Patriots acquired the offensive lineman and a sixth-round pick in a trade with the Ravens in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round pick. He was really just a depth piece along an offensive line that saw injuries hit the interior with starting center David Andrews missing the entire year. Meanwhile, Keionta Davis was placed on injured reserve over the summer and missed the 2019 season. The undrafted defensive end does have the physical attributes (6-foot-3, 280 lbs) to still be an intriguing prospect for New England going forward and was playing well in the preseason last year before landing on IR.
*Restricted free agents will have to be tendered by New England in order for them to be on the roster in 2020. The Patriots can assign a number of different tenders on their restricted free agents (original round tender, second-round tender, first-round tender, etc). Each tender comes with a higher 2020 salary. Those numbers have not yet been determined by the NFL.
Unrestricted in-house free agents
Tom Brady, quarterback
Devin McCourty, safety
Kyle Van Noy, linebacker
Matthew Slater, wide receiver/gunner
Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver
Nate Ebner, safety/special teamer
Jamie Collins, linebacker
Danny Shelton, defensive tackle
Nick Folk, kicker
Marshall Newhouse, right tackle
Joe Thuney, left guard
Shilique Calhoun, linebacker
James Ferentz, center
Ted Karras, center
Elandon Roberts, linebacker
Tom Brady is the straw that stirs the free agent drink of the Patriots this offseason. In fact, he’s such an important free agent that we have an entire Tom Brady Free Agent Hub to keep track of the latest happenings with him. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why he’s such a major figure for the Patriots this offseason, so we won’t dive too deep into TB12 here. Instead, we’ll take a look at a few other big names that are worth monitoring.
Defensively, Devin McCourty already announced that he has no plans to retire, which now opens the possibility of the longtime Patriots safety to potentially leave Foxborough and join a new club for the first time in his career. Even at age 32, McCourty still has the ability to be a high-performing safety in the NFL. He totaled five interceptions last season (most since 2012) and had 58 tackles for a defense that allowed the second-fewest yards in the league in 2019. Kyle Van Noy is another name to look at as he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency as well. The linebacker, who had a career-high 6.5 sacks last season, told CBS Sports HQ prior to Super Bowl LIV that he’d love to stay with the Patriots. That said, his market will likely be robust, so it could cost New England a pretty penny to retain him. Jamie Collins, however, may just be the easiest linebacker to re-sign as the veteran already knows that the grass isn’t always greener beyond Foxborough and enjoyed a strong season in 2019, sparking off his second tenure with the club.
On the offensive side of the ball, starting left guard Joe Thuney is the big name not named Tom Brady. He’s likely to see a market-setting deal this offseason as he’s been an absolute stud for the Patriots on the interior since being drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. With his looming hot market in mind, it seems unlikely a return to New England is in the cards given their cap situation.
Unrestricted free agent signings from other teams
Free agent signings for players cut by other teams
*It’s important to differentiate between the players signed as unrestricted free agents and those signed after being cut by another team. This is true because players who are signed after being released by another team do not count in the compensatory draft pick formula for the team who signs them.
2020 NFL Draft picks: Round 1: New EnglandRound 2: NoneRound 3: New EnglandRound 4: ChicagoRound 5: NoneRound 6: Denver, Baltimore, HoustonRound 7: Seattle, Atlanta, Philadelphia
*The Patriots are also projected to gain two third round picks and two sixth rounders through the compensatory formula, according to Over The Cap. That’s thanks to losing Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, Cordarrelle Patterson and Malcom Brown in free agency a year ago. No official word has come down on those compensatory picks yet.
Rumors, reports, and updates
Patriots to meet with Tom Brady’s agent at NFL Combine
Tuesday, February 25: The Patriots brass is set to meet with Tom Brady’s Agent, Don Yee, at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald adds to this report by saying “the feeling is it might be a ‘starting point’ for real dialogue about a contract going forward for Brady, who hits free agency March 18.” The Patriots will have some competition for Brady, however, as The Boston Globe reports the Chargers, Buccaneers and Raiders are the teams that keep getting brought up as the most likely destinations for Brady outside of New England.
Patriots interested in Ravens TE Hayden Hurst?
Tuesday, February 25: Florida Times-Union’s Eugene Frennette reported on Monday that the Patriots and Jaguars are exploring pre-draft deals for Hurst, who reportedly wants the opportunity to be more involved in the passing game. Given that Mark Andrews is above him on the tight end depth chart in Baltimore, it makes sense that he’d want out. Since that initial report, Jeff Howe of The Athletic backs it up by relaying “there’s a real chance” the Ravens move Hurst. However, it’s unclear how involved the Patriots are. For what it’s worth, New England was linked to Hurst leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft.
Recently retired Dante Scarnecchia still helping Patriots scout at NFL Combine
Monday, February 24: Earlier this offseason, longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia announced that he’d be retiring from the NFL. While the 72-year-old may be walking away from coaching, it appears as he’ll still be helping New England as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reports Scarnecchia is attending the NFL Combine on the Patriots behalf. He did help scout offensive linemen for the Patriots when he first retired following the 2013 season, so this isn’t a new concept for New England. Scarnecchia is looked at as one of the greatest offensive line coaches in NFL history, so he certainly has a valuable eye.
Danny Shelton changes agents
Thursday, February 20: Prior to entering free agency defensive tackle Danny Shelton elected to change agencies and now be represented by powerhouse NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus. Shelton is coming off the best year of his career in 2019 and Rosenhaus is known for getting his clients paid, so it looks like the veteran defensive tackle is looking to cash in big this offseason.
No coast-to-coast free agency tour for Tom Brady
Monday, February 17: According to Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, Tom Brady will “try to set up meetings at one location instead of creating a circus.” This should help Brady comes to a fast decision about his NFL future, which, in turn, would help the Patriots as they’d know whether or not he is in the fold for 2020 or if they should hunt for his successor potentially in the free agent or trade market.
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