This Patriots team is stacked and they have played like it since the nightmare that was the Kansas City game, but not all is settled in New England and they have some big decisions coming on major contributors on both sides.
Rob Gronkowski – Of course everyone loves this big oaf, but back in 2012 when the Patriots extended him, there was a little option placed in there to be exercised by the year 2015. This means that the Patriots could opt out of this deal starting next season, or pick it up anytime next season. The option is worth $10 million and would extend Gronkowski until 2019.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the season, with Gronkowski’s injury history, I’d say the Patriots probably would have moved on as hard as it would have been, but the guy is killing it with over 1,000 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns, both of which lead the team. People that compare Jimmy Graham to Gronkowski are utter morons. The consistent edge at which Gronkowski plays the game makes Graham look like Gronk’s younger sister. That same edge is what cost Gronk his last two seasons though. Tough decision.
Tom Brady – Now, Brady signed a deal that gave him a $30 million signing bonus and brought his base salary way down starting next season. The deal’s main objective was to give the Patriots flexibility on the cap, but even with the signing bonus, Brady still isn’t close to players like Peyton Manning and that usually matters.
At the time of the deal, it was thought the Patriots would take that cap relief and use it to keep Brady’s go-to-guy Wes Welker, but it didn’t happen. In fact, nothing happened for Brady as far as offensive help. The money has pretty much gone to the defense, which makes us feel good, but should Brady’s leading wide receiver be Julian Edelman, or could it have been spent at the WR position? Depends on who you ask, but I bet Brady feels a certain way about it.
The fact is, professional players in any sport are a fraternity and they usually want each other to make more money (with longer contracts) because it brings up the market value for all players during free agency. Brady’s deal seems to be a placeholder to me, but I could be wrong. He’s been a team guy his whole career, but he was also paid competitively and next season, he won’t be.
I’d rework the deal to make Brady’s pay competitive to the best QB’s in the league and he will have all the leverage if the Patriots head back to the Super Bowl. It’s a tough decision that could have the Brett Favre ending in New England.
Running back trio – In case you missed it, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are all free agents this offseason and who to keep is an interesting one. For me, it’s not that interesting – I’m keeping Shane Vereen and not extending for anyone else. For as much crap as the Patriots have gotten for drafting bad at WR or CB, they have had no trouble finding guys to carry the rock – see Jonas Gray, who leads the team in rushing yards.
Vereen is different because he is a weapon out of the backfield at receiver. The lost Danny Woodhead and Vereen is the only one who has shown flashes of that ability since. I’m not going to ignore the fact that Vereen has taken a small step backwards in this category. In 8 games last season, Vereen caught 47 balls and was targeted 69 times, but in 6 more games this season, he’s caught 48 balls and been targeted 71 times. So to me, Vereen’s step backwards in the passing game is a game-plan thing.
The Patriots have major contributors on both sides of the ball with upcoming contracts and to read up on the defense, stay tapped in to Boston’s TitleTownTalk. Tweet us @TitleTownTalkSB and tell us who YOU think is the biggest free agent this offseason!