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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Is it Le’Veon Bell time in New England?

Related: #PostPulpit Mailbag: Is it Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer going forward?

Arizona Cardinals v New York Jets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It looks like we will finally get to watch some New England Patriots football this weekend.

*crosses fingers*

*knocks on wood*

As the Patriots have been in a two week battle with the coronavirus, they will welcome the Denver Broncos to town this weekend to play finally some football. It also appears they will have their quarterback, Cam Newton, under center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, roaming in the secondary.

We’re excited and you should be excited as well. So no more intro here, let’s answer some questions:

@eghirarduzzi #PostPulpit @patspulpit So do we Le’veon given our depth at RB ?

Le’Veon Bell released by the Jets? You know the drill...

When the news first broke of Bell’s release, my immediate thought was the Patriots wouldn't be interested. But the more I think about this, he could be a fit here.

To start, the Jets still owe Bell $6 million from his original deal, so any deal he signs will be for the veteran minimum. Not that salary cap space is currently an issue for the Patriots, but Belichick is never one to turn down a bargain. And yes, while the Patriots running back depth chart is loaded, that did not stop them from showing interest in Leonard Fournette this past offseason. They also have two current roster spots open.

Bell would become the best back on the Patriots roster, giving them a dual threat option that would keep defenses unbalanced and left guessing when he's on the field. He simply provides a different dynamic than any other current Patriots’ back and could be an electric playmaker next to Cam Newton.

Belichick has raved about Bell in the past. As NESN’s Doug Kyed pointed out earlier in the week, Bell is the only player to earn an “Oh my god” review from Belichick since 2013:

“Oh my god. Oh yeah. He’s a tremendous player, great hands, catches the ball, very quick, makes people miss, strong, breaks tackles, excellent balance, tough, doesn’t run out of bounds, fights for extra yardage, a great player. … But Bell’s as good as anybody we’ll play. …

“He’s a great back, does everything well. Very good with the ball in his hands, good patience, good in pick-up, good in protection, great route-runner, good vision, hard to tackle. He does a good job of setting up blocks and does a good job of reading blocking schemes (and) has great vision. He is one of the top players in the league.”

When asked about Bell on Thursday, Belichick would not comment on a player not on the roster. He did however note that anything he stands by anything he’s said about Bell “on the record.”

The Patriots need more playmakers on offense and Bell fits that mold, even if it is at the running back position. The 28-year old is an incredibly patient runner who could thrive behind New England’s offensive line.

Bell is rumored to be deciding between the Chiefs, Bills and Dolphins, so it looks unlikely, but don't be surprised to see interest from New England.


@BradyyNFL What’s the best option going Foward with Onwenu? I would prefer to see him play tackle and further solidify the best Tackle duo of all time

The Isaiah Wynn - Michael Onwenu tackle combo might just be the best ever. If only we could add Trent Brown into the mix somehow.

It was interesting to see the Patriots mix Onwenu in tackle and jumbo tight end when everyone was healthy to start the season. Onwenu is 70 pounds heavier than the average NFL tackle (300 lbs), but played well in that role.

Going forward, Onwenu will likely be kept inside at his natural guard position as the offensive line is banged up. While David Andrews (IR) remains out, the Patriots listed guard Shaq Mason (calf), tackle Jermaine Eluemanor (not injury related), and center James Ferentz (not injury related) on Wednesday’s injury report.

Mason’s absence last Monday against Kansas City pushed Onwenu to right guard. The week before, he lined up on the left side as Mason was healthy and Joe Thuney took over the center position. It’s encouraging to see Onwenu line up all over the field and frankly dominate at every position. When the interior of the offensive line is back fully healthy, it wouldn't shock me to see them try the 370-pound rookie at tackle again - he’s earned the playing time.


@patshighlights What is the possibility that Thuney is traded once Andrews is healthy based on the play of Onwenu?

As we just discussed, Onwenu has been used all over the field this season. Short-term, Onwenu could be given the chance to start at right tackle, but he projects as a guard long-term. So that’s raises the question of what to do with Joe Thuney, who is playing on the franchise tag and is projected to be a free agent after this season.

I would be shocked if Thuney was moved mid-season through trade, even if everyone else is healthy. For a team that plans on competing, Thuney is too good of a player to move and the return would not be of equal value.

Now fast-forwarding to next offseason, I would believe he will move on elsewhere. With Onwenu’s strong start to this season and Mason being under contract for another three years, it would be tough to see the Patriots giving away two over-the-market contracts to the guard position - especially when they have a more than capable replacement on a rookie contract. New England will certainly offer him a deal with the max cap number they are comfortable with, but the market will most likely trend above that.


@TuckerRossCon Do you think we will see Dalton Keene this season? Is he still injured. What upcoming patriots games are you looking forward too the most?

Keene has been a heathy scratch the last two games after nursing a neck injury to start the season. It’s hard to see Keene contributing much this season, as Bill Belichick mentioned that he didn’t do many things at Virginia Tech that the Patriots do offensively, so his development is taking time. He’ll be exciting to see whenever they deem him ready, as Keene is an extremely versatile player.

As for what game I am looking forward too the most, I would have said the Buffalo game in two weeks but I am going with the Broncos matchup this week. It feels like forever since we’ve watched Patriots football and I'm not taking another week for granted, as we have seen first-hand now how Covid-19 can affect schedules.

@ricardocofilho What about Asiasi and Keene? Izzo has been average at best and some pass catching production from our TEs could help a lot

We just touched on Keene, so we’ll focus on Asiasi. Unlike Keene, Asiasi has been active every game for the Patriots so far. However, he’s failed to see a target in the passing game and his snap count percent took a noticeable decline from Week 3 to 4 (42 to 11 percent).

Bill Belichick has mentioned how hard this season is for young players, and playing tight end in this offense only makes things more difficult. On Wednesday, Belichick mentioned how hard the rookies are working but they are “further behind than any rookie group” he’s ever had. Tight end could be a position New England looks to upgrade at the deadline, perhaps with an experienced veteran, but it should be in their best interest to get production out of their young players.


@TheGeographyBac There are room for only 7 playoff teams in the AFC, and (in my opinion) 8 good teams: Chiefs, Raiders, Patriots, Bills, Browns, Steelers, Ravens, and Titans. Which team do you think misses the playoffs?

I am going to stick with my preseason picks with the Chiefs, Patriots, Ravens, and Titans as division winners and the Steelers, Bills, and Colts as the wild cards. So, I do not have the Raiders and Browns making it.

Even though the Browns just defeated the Colts, I like Indianapolis more learn-term. Their defense remains one of the best in the league (they were without All-Pro linebacker against the Browns) and their offense should improve. Just like Tom Brady in Tampa, Rivers will take some time adjusting to a new system. I’m a big fan of Frank Reich as a head coach, so I will stick with Indianapolis to make the playoffs, sorry Cleveland fans.


@joelshapiro20 Will the Patriots address any needs via a trade before the deadline?

Yes, I believe the Patriots will make a move at the deadline. What that move will be is anyones guess. Belichick also noted on Thursday that if the team swung a deal, it could take a week to get that player into the building.

We touched on a few wide receivers they could acquire in the Week 4 Mailbag, and have also thrown out the idea of trading for tight end Zach Ertz, who has struggled this year for the Eagles. Another name that we have not mentioned in a while here is wide receiver Will Fuller. The Texans got their first win of the season last week, but don't project to a playoff contender this season. Fuller, who is playing on his fifth year option this season, will be a free agent after the year. When healthy, Fuller is one of the most electric receivers in the game, so perhaps Belichick could call up old pals Jack Easterby and Romeo Crennel to swing a deal.


@Tfootballs Michael Thomas - Yay or Nay? And if yes, what price?

Yay x 1000.

We talked about needing a playmaker on offense when discussing Bell, but Thomas would be the perfect fit in New England’s offense next to Cam Newton. If he was to be made available, the whole league will most likely be on the phone. The price for Thomas would also be extremely high, as the star receiver signed a fresh five-year, $96.25 million contract extension in July of 2019. My guess is Thomas would fetch the Saints more than the first and third-round pick, plus safety Jabrill Peppers (a 2017 first round pick), that the Giants got in return for Odell Beckham Jr. in 2019.

Belichick and Sean Payton do have a strong relationship, but, it does take two to tango. Trading Thomas wouldn't make much sense for the Saints, who are making one last Super Bowl push with Drew Brees under center. Their offense has looked extremely average with Thomas sidelined with a high ankle sprain the last few weeks. Unless feelings are permanently damaged from his practice fight and altercation with Payton and the coaching staff, I doubt Thomas would be moved.


@CheyenneSulli14 Why is Belichick being opaque about cams availability ? Given that ten days is up and all

Bill Belichick being opaque? No, it couldn't be.

We now know Cam Newton is available and practicing for the Patriots on Thursday, but I believe Belichick just might not have known what to expect when asked about Newton on Monday. For as on top of things as Belichick usually is, playing a NFL season in the middle of a pandemic is new to everyone.

The Patriots were out of the facility for several days and Belichick “spent a lot of time educating himself on this virus” and he has been “very” active in calls with league, according to NFL Network’s Mike Girardi. It’s a new process for everyone and nobody knows how to handle perfectly.


@Lord_McPants What’s 7x12?

Oh boy, some math to end this week’s mailbag. Where’s our math teacher Pat when we need him?

Let’s see, Jake Bailey x Tom Brady equals 2010-13 Deion Branch or Ben Watson. 84. Did I use a calculator? The world may never know.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!