ESPN held a round table discussion with former Bills, Panthers, and Colts general manager Bill Polian, former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, former Washington and Eagles director of pro personnel Louis Riddick, and former Chiefs scout Field Yates to evaluate the NFL offseason, and to hand out initial grades to every team.
"Terrific, terrific offseason," Polian said. "Chris Hogan was just a great addition, stealing from Buffalo to help themselves. [Dante Scarnecchia] will get the offensive line straightened out. The addition of Terrance Knighton was a master stroke as soon as the rule passed outlawing chop blocks. As usual, they were all over it before most others were."
The addition of tight end Martellus Bennett was received well, while most raised reasonable questions about how the Patriots were planning on replacing edge defender Chandler Jones.
"There are concerns with Chandler Jones and whether you can trust him with a big contract," Riddick pointed out. "So I understand that move. They will be just fine without him."
My biggest question comes with how ESPN rated "notable veteran additions and subtractions."
Immediately I noticed that the Patriots were credited for adding veteran linebacker Tony Steward (signed April 22nd). They were also flagged for the subtraction of linebacker Tony Steward (released May 11th). I'm not sure if ESPN understands what "notable" means.
Among the other "notable veteran subtractions": cornerback Leonard Johnson, linebacker Darius Fleming, linebacker Eric Martin, defensive tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, defensive tackle Chris Jones, wide receiver Brian Tyms, linebacker Dekoda Watson, safety Tavon Wilson, wide receiver Josh Boyce, defensive tackle Chris Jones (a second time!), linebacker Jonathan Bostic, and wide receiver J.J. Worton.
It should be pointed out that these "notable subtractions" combined for 313 snaps on offense or defense, with cornerback Leonard Johnson, who signed with the team on December 9th, accounting for just over half (157). Wilson, Bostic, and Fleming were the only other players to see more than 5 snaps in the regular season.
And if you're wondering who "notable subtraction" J.J. Worton is, the Patriots signed him to their practice squad on January 12th and he was promptly arrested for assault and released before the end of the month.
The big reason the Patriots didn't receive an A grade is the movement of top picks like Jones and Dominique Easley. Polian expressed a question of how long the Patriots can keep adding veterans to compensate for the loss of first round picks.
Dominik thinks there are a lot of question marks on the Patriots offense, with a heavy reliance on players with serious injury histories. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Dion Lewis have never been noted for their health, and LeGarrette Blount is returning from the injured reserve. Hopefully the addition of Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett can compensate for any potential question marks.
Dominik also appears to factor in quarterback Tom Brady having his suspension reinstated when grading the Patriots offseason, which is fair game; prior to the start of the offseason, we all expected Brady to be available for the full 2016 season.
Riddick believes that the Patriots are going to have plenty of success in rebuilding the careers of guard Jonathan Cooper and linebacker Shea McClellin, and lauded the New England draft class.
"Cyrus Jones is one of the most technically sound corners in this draft, even though he did not get a lot of hype," Riddick said. "Jacoby Brissett is a project, but he has tools and Josh McDaniels is one of the best."
Yates believes the Patriots will start signing notable players like linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins and cornerback Malcolm Butler to extensions in the coming months.
How would you grade the Patriots offseason?