Seven members of the 2016 New England Patriots roster have made either the First Team (ST Matthew Slater) or Second Team (QB Tom Brady, RT Marcus Cannon, LB Dont’a Hightower, CB Malcolm Butler, FS Devin McCourty, ST Nate Ebner) 2016 All Pro squad.
These seven players, along with TE Rob Gronkowski (who received one vote and would be Third Team All Pro if such a distinction existed), represent the core of the Patriots roster. They also highlight the Patriots roster building and contract extension strategy.
Brady (March 10th, 2016), Ebner (March 13th, 2016), Slater (August 31st, 2016), and Cannon (November 29th, 2016) all signed contract extensions this year. McCourty (March 9th, 2015) signed one the year before. It’s no coincidence that the Patriots are ponying up the cash to retain players regarded as the top of their position in the NFL.
With Gronkowski already signed through 2019, there are three other players that received All Pro votes that are deserving of a contract extension.
LB Dont’a Hightower was named Second Team All Pro with just one vote, but he can still add the distinction to his resume. There is no bigger free agent for the Patriots than Hightower and he’s the top candidate for the franchise tag if a long term deal isn’t finalized.
CB Malcolm Butler was also named to the Second Team All Pro roster. He’s considered one of the best in the league at his position and received eight votes. He’s a restricted free agent, so he has less leverage than Hightower, but it’s clear that the Patriots ned to retain Butler with a long term extension this offseason.
The final player to receive national attention is FB James Develin, who received three votes for his special teams play. Develin is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL and will be a free agent after this season. Develin is on a one-year contract in his first year back from a broken leg; don’t be surprised if Develin signs a multi-year deal.
The Patriots often reward their homegrown talent with league-leading contracts if they perform at a league-leading level. Hightower, Butler, and Develin have proven their worth and will receive contracts to match.