As the New England Patriots kicked off mandatory minicamp on Monday, football is extremely back. With the team making their way to Foxboro, there were a few noticeable absences, starting with All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The 30-year-old corner, who is rehabbing from a partially torn quad he suffered in Week 17 last season, is currently looking for a pay raise. Gilmore has just one-year and up to $7.5 million left on the five-year, $65 million deal he signed back in 2017. The Patriots accelerated bonus payments to Gilmore the last three seasons, leaving him with a smaller salary this year.
Besides from Gilmore, linebacker Chase Winovich, linebacker Terez Hall, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and EDGE Rashod Berry were all missing from minicamp. Belichick did not provide a reason for their absences, but did briefly discuss Winovich.
“Chase [Winovich] was here for parts of it (OTAs) and as always,” said Belichick. “Chase brings a high level of energy and a high work ethic, competitiveness to all the things that he does. He’s still a young player that’s developing and can continue to grow both in his understanding of our system and the techniques and some of his assignments that come with it.”
We’ll keep a look out to see if any of the missing players show up in the following days but for now, let’s dive into this week’s Post Pulpit mailbag:
@BostonEvan11 Any more free agent additions have your eye?
With the (unexpected) news of Stephon Gilmore holding out of mandatory minicamp due to contract concerns, the Patriots would be wise to look at bringing in another cornerback on the roster. If Gilmore’s holdout does continue into the season, New England would be forced to use newly signed Jalen Mills or Joejuan Williams on the outside with J.C. Jackson.
New England would be best suited without either of those corners lined up out wide, as Mills projects more in a Patrick Chung role while Williams has yet to see consistent playing time in his two years. Beyond them, New England has Mike Jackson, Myles Bryant and special-teamers Justin Bethel, Dee Virgin, and D’Angelo Ross.
Looking at the free agents still available, Richard Sherman and Steven Nelson headline the list. Neither are obviously on Gilmore’s level, but both players are of starting caliber and could help fill a hole.
With roughly $15 million in cap space, money will not be an issue for the Patriots. However, they might just be better off handing some of that money over to Gilmore and get him back on the field. Either way, they need to do something at the cornerback position to ensure their defense does not have any major holes, especially after they spent all offseason upgrading the front seven.
@JasonFromEndor How will the front 7 look like when the season starts?
The Patriots took one of their biggest weaknesses last season and made it a strength this offseason. After a decimated linebacking core and undersized defensive line was consistently dominated in the run game, Belichick had no issues shelling out boatloads of money to completely remodel his front seven.
The return of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, as well as the addition of Matthew Judon has added much needed talent and experience at the linebacker position. Second year player Josh Uche should also see an increased role this season, both blitzing off the edge and using his speed in coverage if comfortable.
As for the defensive line, the focus in the offseason was clear for New England: add size. The Patriots signed defensive tackles Henry Anderson (6-foot-6, 300 lbs.) and Davon Godchaux (6-foot-3, 311 lbs.), as well as drafting Christian Barmore (6-foot-4, 310 lbs.) and resigning Lawerence Guy (6-foot-4, 315 lbs.). These additions will make it much harder for opposing offenses to gash the Patriots in the run game.
The Patriots defense is extremely versatile and they will be able to show the opposition any sort of coverages/schemes they please. The potential is through the roof.
@AnthonyCurtis68 Will the Pats keep 4 QBs? If not who goes?
The Patriots current roster has plenty of talent and depth, which makes it hard for me to see them keeping four QB’s. As Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones are certainly locked in to the final 53-man roster, that leaves Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer battling out for the final roster spot.
It is hard to see the Patriots cutting ties with their 2019 fourth-round pick in Stidham, leaving Brian Hoyer the odd man out. Perhaps that changes with a weak training camp performance from the third-year quarterback or if a team dangles a mid-round pick for his services. If Hoyer is released, it would not be a surprise if he remains involved with the team in some fashion — perhaps as a coach/mentor to rookie quarterback Mac Jones. With the NFL keeping the practice squad rules implemented due to Covid-19, Hoyer could also be one of the two players New England keeps on the practice squad with no age/eligibility restrictions.
@jaymz_86 Will the Pats go after another WR?
The Patriots have had ex-practice squadder Devin Ross in the facility as a tryout player the past two days, but it does not appear that another splash at the position will be made. The Patriots did a strong job adding talent to their overall receiving core this offseason, signing both Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to pair with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.
It’s expected the Patriots will run a lot of ‘12’ personnel this season, meaning they will only have two wide receivers on the field the majority of the time. Between Agholor, Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and N’Keal Harry, New Englands depth at the position is more than enough to get by for now.
Also, it’s worth noting that despite the additions, Jakobi Meyers has been the most impressive Patriots’ pass catcher this offseason. The former undrafted free agent showed his potential last year and could earn an even bigger role this season.
@MatrixMachineYT How do you feel about Kendrick Bourne?
Bourne was one of New England’s addition at the wide receiver position this offseason signing a three-year, $15 million deal. The 25-year old had career highs in receptions (49) and receiving yards (667) with San Francisco last season.
Bourne is another solid, complimentary receiver that has a chance to thrive as a fourth or fifth option in New England’s offense as opposing defenses dial in on slowing down the Patriots’ run game and tight ends.
Watching his game, the player comp that jumps out is Mohamed Sanu (don't worry, not the 2019 version of Sanu). Bourne isn't a burner, but moves well for his size (6-foot-1, 190 lbs.) and creates plenty of separation with his route running ability. He should align mostly in the slot and has a chance to be a great bargain deal by the Patriots.
@CanPatsFan1990 How much do you regret not trading up to #10 now? Will it be worse by mid-season, or better? I’m betting worse. Dang, I wish we had Fields
The feeling is that the Patriots were never that interested in Justin Fields and especially weren't ready to hand over future draft capital — specifically a future first-round selection — to move up and draft the former Buckeye. They got their guy in Mac Jones at No. 15 and did not have to trade up to do so.
For your answer, you will be feeling worse by mid-season most likely. If all goes as planned, Jones will likely still be being groomed on the bench mid-season while Fields should be starting rather shortly in Chicago. Just be patient.
@AidanWi71996918 Opinion on Matt Patricia potentially being the heir apparent to Belicheck.
After watching the Matt Patricia Detroit era crash and burn, I would much rather hand the keys over to someone like Jerod Mayo or Josh McDaniels. Maybe even Steve Belichick as well.
@60065stan how great is Big Mac
It is Mac and Cheese now, but great. Jones looked solid through voluntary OTA’s and had his best practice of the offseason on Monday. The rookie was consistently quarterback No. 2 in practices — ahead of Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer — and even took a majority of the first team reps on Tuesday.
@MattSturtevant4 What’s ur fav color
“Black. It is the most dominant. —Dwight Schrute” —Brian Hines
@MilkyD79 Any chance of the “Parcells Era” royal blue uni’s being worn as a throwback option in Foxboro this season… Or ANY season? I loved those!
Derek, I love those jerseys to too. Sadly, it does not seem at the moment the team has plans of returning them for this season. But damn, look at those bad boys:
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!