Pro football focus cap expert talks Patriots position, Q’s big offseason


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How Will Bill Belichick and the Patriots Build on Their Surprising 2021 Season? And will they retain one of their biggest rising stars for long?

New England Patriots Jesse Jackson intercepts a pass to Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Tavon Austin. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

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Even if they aren’t true contenders, the Patriots will officially be looking for a Super Bowl title just weeks after the playoffs begin, which is a welcome sight after missing the postseason last year.


But he also has a big 2022 off-season that includes big decisions on key players like star cornerback Jesse Jackson and the need to build on rookie quarterback Mack Jones.

How will Bill Belichick and the Patriots follow up on last March’s epic free-agent spending spree and a stellar draft in a few months?


Greeley Tribune.com broke down the most pressing questions about the Patriots’ future with Brad Spielberger, a salary cap analyst at Pro Football Focus. Here are the highlights of the interview, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Now that the Patriots have made it to the playoffs, can we say that their record spending time in free agency was money well spent?

The reason for this resurgence is that the last two draft classes have now produced some very good players. Mack Jones is clearly a huge upgrade compared to Cam Newton, perhaps now that we’ve seen him outside of New England, we see how much they were really getting out of him in the first place.

But if you go down the list, yes, Hunter Henry has a lot of touchdowns and that’s a significant portion of this offense, but the two guys being the co-third highest paid tight end doesn’t really sound that good. . Nelson Agholor isn’t even in the top three in receiving yards on this roster.


But I don’t attack the Kendrick Bourne deal because it’s a modest $5 million per year deal. And even Matt Juden, I didn’t have a problem with that deal because you’re getting the guy out there with a franchise tag, and you sign him for about $13.4 million a year. That’s not a lot of money to spend on an edge rusher.

There’s a reason the Patriots don’t usually do this because you don’t tend to win in free agency. But, of course, Jalen Mills, Kendrick Bourne, they’ve got some significant contributors, and they’re back in the playoffs.

Has Mills’ solid play justified his decision to trade rather than pay Stephen Gilmore?

It’s a pretty interesting scenario, and of course, we’ve now come to associate Bill Belichick with not re-signing those aging veterans and, more often than not, looking smart.


Gilmore has apparently been good in Carolina so far. They are trailing him to No. 1 wide receivers. They’re playing him a ton of man coverage and doing a lot of things they weren’t doing before they got there.

So obviously, he is still the corner of lockdown number 1. But without him, the Patriots still have a pretty good defense, and he continues to play at this level of high – he’s 31 now – not much of what he keeps doing.

From a “dollars and cents” standpoint, it’s hard to argue against them. He probably wants top-end cornerback money, and they don’t really need to.

The Patriots re-signed 29-year-old Adrian Phillips for an extension after an outstanding year. How do you grade that move?

The crazy thing about him is last year, with Donta Hightower’s exit, the Patriots tried to play as few snaps as possible with off-ball linebackers on the field. Ja’Whaun Bentley led the team at Snaps on off-ball linebackers and was not in the top-40 in the NFL in Snaps among off-ball linebackers.

It just shows how valuable Adrian Phillips is: to be that versatile, to be able to box as a true linebacker, play in slots, do all those different things. I guess they realize how big a difference is between Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoa and Adrian Phillips? These are the modern linebackers we’re going to get in football.

And they are taking advantage of this deal again. Three years and almost $14 million is nothing for a really productive, really good player.

Talking about good players, Jesse Jackson is going to get have paid After proving himself as the Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback this offseason. What will be his market in free agency, and do you think the Patriots will let him test it?

So it can be tempting as you look at this cornerback group, and if you want to find a young corner who can play a press-man corner, the list is a player. This is Jesse Jackson.

Even when teams, not even the Patriots themselves, saw him as No. 1, he was still producing that ball (nine interceptions in 2020). Now let’s also include the fact that he has been No. 1 all season long. Is that Stephen Gilmore? No, but he’s a player that teams can feel comfortable with as their No. 1 player.

It is hard to imagine that he clearly reached unrestricted free agency. I think a franchise tag, which is going to cost around $17-18 million, is probably already a foregone conclusion. I guess the more interesting question is, can they find a long-term deal that works for both parties? She earned more this year on her banned free-agent tender than her entire career before that. Their earnings are still low to the point where an injury at the wrong time can be a catastrophic injury.

My pitch would be like, “Look, Jesse, we think Tre’Davius ​​White ($17.25 million a year) is a little better than you in our division. But we think you’re a really good player. We think you’re very strong.” At $17 million per year guaranteed to make him the fifth-highest paid cornerback in the NFL.” I think Jesse and his agents, if they’re smart, are listening to him.

In a tweet earlier this weekYou crowned Belichick the top general manager in the NFL. What makes him the best, and has this season added to that legacy in your opinion?

I think for the perception of others, [this year] There is a wide benefit. It erases any argument, “You know, without Tom Brady, he would have been nothing.” He has a rookie quarterback, and he is second in point difference in the NFL. this is insane.

But the reason Bill Belichick is the best general manager in the history of organized sports is that it’s so hard to keep up with what he had with Tom Brady. There’s a reason why other elite quarterbacks have fallen short over the years, even when teams are willing to spend and do all these things. Drew Trees ran 7-9 three years in a row in the middle of his prime.

What the Patriots did – letting Chandler Jones go, letting Darrell Revis go, letting go of the draft, letting go of Nate Solder – when they make these difficult decisions, may have a slight negative impact in the near future. But in the long run, it’s going to enable you to maintain a dynasty, and that’s what it has done for 20 years.

The Patriots may have hit a gold mine with Mack Jones playing well on his rookie deal. Could the Patriots be big spenders again as they build around that in Year 2?

That’s a crazy thing. He holds the record for the most guaranteed money paid to unrestricted free agents in a single season in NFL history. And that was before they even had Mac Jones on the roster.

Now, you have Mac Jones on this rookie deal. Trevor Lawrence’s rookie contract is worth about $37 million. Mac Jones is there for about $15.5. He’s not even making half of Trevor Lawrence’s money for the next four years.

You can have another free agency again, and I’m sure Robert Kraft has no problem with that, where you’re spending a ton of money again and fixing all those spots. Maybe you move on from some like Nelson Aghor and spend it again somewhere else. He has every right and every ability to do it again.

They are in the top half in the NFL in estimated cap space for this upcoming off-season. They’re going to be saving $40 million a year on the quarterback for the next three seasons. In addition to quarterback, Christian Barmore is also saving you a lot of money every year.

think of such a boy [Los Angeles Chargers receiver] Mike Williams stretches the field for New England. Mack Jones might not be able to hit him downfield as much as he would like, but just imagine how much room Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry would have to work if they had Mike Williams running the go-ball for too long. I still think you can devote your resources to the offensive side of the ball as well.

Who is responsible for the Patriots making the playoffs?