With only a few days to go until the NFL draft plenty is happening around the New England Patriots and the rest of the league. Let’s use this forum right here to go through some of the stories that emerged recently: time for our Sunday Patriots Notes.
1. New England doesn’t have to do anything “sexy” in the draft. The Patriots are among the most intriguing teams entering the 2021 draft. After already having made some major investments in free agency, and having built a deep roster along the way, they are seen as a prime candidate to possibly move up the board to address the biggest question mark remaining: the quarterback position.
While trading up for a new franchise quarterback is a popular mock draft scenario for New England, former Patriots director of college scouting and Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is not convinced that his former team will do that. Appearing on NBC Sports’ Patriots Talk podcast, Dimitroff pointed out that the club can actually take a more conservative approach with an otherwise deep roster already built.
“They have a lot of things in place,” he said. “I understand how they can be saying, ‘What are we going to do with the quarterback situation?’ and maybe there’s one of those guys that drops into Bill’s lap and maybe they make a move there. I don’t know that, of course, but I think they can be fairly basic and clean in what they do and they don’t have to get creative and ‘sexy.’”
The idea of using assets to move up the board — maybe in a trade with his former team at No. 4 overall — is an intriguing one, but Dimitroff argued that the cost associated with such a move might be too steep for head coach/general manager Bill Belichick’s liking. As a result, he can see them either stay put or make a comparatively minor move either up or down the board.
“It’s not easy at four, five, and six to trade back,” Dimitroff said. “People start suggesting, ‘Well you just trade back if you’re at the fourth pick overall and you’re not sure about a quarterback, if you don’t want to take a tight end that high, get back and get picks.’ Everyone thinks that’s easy. It’s a lot easier at 20 to 32 to trade back than it is in the top-10 knowing how much it’s going to cost.
“So then, flip it over to Bill and the Patriots thinking about moving up from 15 to the early part of the draft to look at one of those quarterbacks. That’s a long way. That’s an expensive acquisition to be honest with you. There are going to be some really talented people available at the 15 area, and I think they can thrive in that area, or maybe trade within the next two or three picks, one way or another. But to jump up into the top-5, that is a big move.”
2. The Patriots’ team building process is underway. Trent Brown was among a group of Patriots present for the start of the team’s voluntary offseason workout program earlier this week; he also joined four of his teammates in New York City. The big-bodied offensive tackle spent time together with quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers:
While Newton and Meyers have been with the Patriots for one and two previous seasons, the others are new additions to the team: Smith and Bourne were added in unrestricted free agency while one-time Patriot Brown was re-acquired via trade from the Las Vegas Raiders. It seems as if they are taking the team building aspect of the offseason serious even away from the Gillette Stadium facilities.
3. Fifth-year contract options are started to get exercised. NFL teams will have to make a call whether or not to exercise the fifth-year contract option for 2018 first-round draft picks by May 3, and the Patriots have two players falling into this category: offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel, who were drafted 23rd and 31st overall three years ago.
So far, New England has neither made a decision one way or another, or tipped its hand. The expectation at the time is that Michel’s option will not be picked up, while Wynn — the team’s starting left tackle of the last two seasons who has struggled to stay healthy since joining the league — appearing to be a toss-up at the moment.
The Patriots and other clubs still have some time to make that call, but the first few options have already been exercised. Four of 32 first-round picks have reportedly seen the fifth-year option get picked up by their respective teams:
- QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (1-1)
- QB Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers (1-3)
- CB Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns (1-4)
- DT Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12)
Given that two more players are already accounted for — OT Kolton Miller (1-15) signed a contract extension with the Las Vegas Raiders; QB Josh Rosen (1-10) will not see his option get picked up by the San Francisco 49ers — the following 26 are left in the dark at the time being. Among them are Wynn and Michel:
- RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (1-2)
- DE Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos (1-5)
- G Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts (1-6)
- QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (1-7)
- LB Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears (1-8)
- OT Mike McGlinchey, San Francisco 49ers (1-9)
- S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers (1-11)
- DT Da’Ron Payne, Washington Football Team (1-13)
- DE Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints (1-14)
- LB Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills (1-16)
- S Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers (1-17)
- CB Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers (1-18)
- LB Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (1-19)
- C Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions (1-20)
- C Billy Price, Cincinnati Bengals (1-21)
- LB Rashaan Evans, Tennessee Titans (1-22)
- OT Isaiah Wynn, New England Patriots (1-23)
- WR D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers (1-24)
- TE Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens (1-25)
- WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons (1-26)
- RB Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (1-27)
- S Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh Steelers (1-28)
- DT Taven Bryan, Jacksonville Jaguars (1-29)
- CB Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings (1-30)
- RB Sony Michel, New England Patriots (1-31)
- QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (1-32)
Among the players that are safe bets to either get extended soon or see their options exercised are Nelson, Allen, Fitzpatrick and Jackson.
4. Jonathan Jones: Elite slot cornerback, elite son. We all need something to lighten our collective mood these days, and Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones is here to help. The 27-year-old recently surprised his father by presenting him with the car of his dreams as a birthday present. Cameras were there to film the surprise, and to capture a touching moment between father and son:
.@Jonathan_Jones2 and his dad, Stacey, have always shared a passion for old cars.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 21, 2021
For his birthday last week, Jonathan surprised him with his dream ride. pic.twitter.com/wWBpOwQ07k
5. Julian Edelman has a new job. Former Patriots wide receiver and future Patriots Hall of Famer Julian Edelman recently announced his retirement from the NFL, but he already has set his sights on his next career. The 34-year-old announced on social media this week that he and his production company Coast Productions have teamed up with Viacom CBS to create content. Furthermore, he announced that he would be joining the cast of Showtime’s Inside the NFL:
… Annnnd action! @_coastpro is teaming up with @ViacomCBS! We're gonna make movies, shows and docs on networks like Showtime, Nickelodeon and Paramount+. Speaking of which, I'm also joining the legendary cast at @insidetheNFL— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 21, 2021
Yalla, let's get to work@aswissa @kylerschelling pic.twitter.com/ahWzaK3Bu6
6. The Chiefs continue to build their offensive line. Kansas City’s high-flying offense got annihilated in the Super Bowl thanks in large part to an O-line that failed to give star quarterback Patrick Mahomes the proper protection. The former league MVP looked out of sorts all day while facing consistent pressure, eventually failing to lead his team to even a single touchdown in a blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In order not to have history repeat itself, Kansas City upgraded massively up front. Not only did the reigning AFC champions sign long-time Patriots guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80 million free agency deal, they also added center Austin Blythe and veteran guard Kyle Long. Furthermore, the club also swung a trade recently to acquire now-former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown.
The Chiefs sent four total draft picks to Baltimore: first- (No. 31), third- (No. 94) and fourth-round (No. 136) selections this year as well as a 2022 fifth-rounder. In turn, the Chiefs received Brown as well as a second-rounder (No. 58) in 2021 as well as a sixth-rounder in 2022. Needless to say that the Chiefs are doing their best to improve up front after a disastrous end to their 2020 campaign.
7. Tom Brady hates the new jersey number rules. Count current Buccaneers and long-time Patriots quarterback Tom Brady among those not in favor of a recently voted-on rule change. The greatest QB to ever play the game took to social media to blast the Chiefs’ proposal that will allow offensive skill position players, linebackers and defensive backs to select new jersey numbers:
Brady is feeling a certain way about the jersey numbers so he posted about it on his story and he sent an explanation in a txt message ...— Gabrielle Shirley (@WFLAGabrielle) April 22, 2021
“The whole point of the number limits are to help offenses and defenses both, identify who's in a legal position and where people can go.” pic.twitter.com/J5toYPQxqp
As a reminder, players will be allowed to wear the following numbers according to their respective positions:
- Quarterbacks, punters and kickers: 1-19
- Running backs, fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends: 1-49, 80-89
- Offensive linemen: 50-79
- Defensive linemen: 50-79, 90-99
- Linebackers: 1-59, 90-99
- Defensive backs: 1-49
The most cerebral quarterback of his time argued that identifying players on either side of the ball will be made harder by the rules, and thus make “for a lot of bad football.” Time will tell whether he is right or not — players and teams eventually get used to all kinds of rule changes and adaptations — but one can see where he is coming from with his criticism.