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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Brady era ends

This week's mailbag leads off with the end of the Tom Brady era in New England.


Well, we all knew it was coming, like it or not. The question I have is does or did Bill Belichick ever take a "hometown discount" on his contracts? And the handling of Tom's recent contracts could have avoided this day. With the hometown discounts Tom has allowed in recent years, where did the saved money go?

Scott Lemerise

Whether or not Brady and/or Belichick ever took hometown discounts to remain with the Patriots really isn't at the forefront of my mind at the moment. The bottom line is Brady is no longer the quarterback of the team, and in my view that has little to nothing to do with money. Inevitably the end comes for all of us and the Patriots decided the end for Brady would come as he is set to enter his 21st season at 43 years of age. It was clear that the sides disagreed on the probability of that happening in Foxborough and now he will move on. It will be interesting to see how Brady fares in 2020 and how the Patriots can remain in contention without him. Definitely some different times ahead for Belichick and the Patriots.

Paul Perillo

I really liked, and was surprised, by Joe Thuney being franchised. After also extending Devin McCourty to a two-year deal, do you think Marcus Cannon will be traded/released to free some cap space? And, consequently, could OT be the number one priority in free agency/draft, even more so than WR and TE?

Trygve Saevareid

I, too, was surprised by the decision to tag Thuney. Perhaps the sides can work out a long-term extension, as the Patriots stated in their statement, or maybe a trade is in the works. The tag number for Thuney will be almost $15 million, which is very high for a guard. Given the deal Shaq Mason already signed a while back, that's a lot of money to tie up on interior linemen. As for Cannon, maybe you're right and the team is looking to move on from him to save a little money. Either way, there are two young tackles already on the roster in Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste. Depth is always a concern but I don't see tackle being a bigger draft/free agency need than WR or TE. But yes, I could see a scenario in which Cannon is either dealt or undergoes some sort of contract restructuring.

Paul Perillo

Hi Paul, always pleased with your work and observations. Back during Deflategate, a lot of people were upset that Roger Goodell could be Brady's judge, jury and executioner. Does the new CBA address any of his power and control?

Kenn Scott

There is some good news in this regard as Goodell has conceded some of his power in disciplinary matters. The new deal allows for a neutral decision-maker for most commissioner discipline cases including personal conduct policy violations. However, Goodell remains in charge of all appeals, so while an agreed upon arbitrator would be involved in these decisions, Goodell would still be able to hear appeals and rule accordingly.

Paul Perillo

Tom Brady is unquestionably the GOAT. By next season, though, he will be 43 years old and possibly, no longer, a top 10 quarterback. Unless a team thinks he is the missing piece to get them to a Super Bowl in the next two years, I don't see a team paying him $20 million plus. You're obviously not going to rebuild around him. The only teams I could see making a run at him are the Raiders, (just to make a big splash on their move to Las Vegas), Chargers, (who basically don't even have a legit stadium or fans) and Tampa Bay, (a team with a string of losing seasons and no running game or defense). Maybe Indianapolis, Carolina, Chicago. Not to mention that Tom does not adjust easily to new receivers. And because of the cap hit he is carrying for NE, I see Tom returning to the Patriots on a two-year deal with a disappointing dollar amount (for him). What are your thoughts?

Robert Naegele

I largely don't disagree with much of your post. Brady at this stage of his career may no longer be able to carry the load for an offense to the point where he alone can bring a team to the Super Bowl. But I have full confidence that he can still play at a level high enough for a team with some weapons around him to win with him. You mention a few teams that might be interested, and we've heard that some have expressed interest, and they have some weapons that might be enticing for Brady. There would have been a sizable cap hit for Brady in New England whether he returned or not. Obviously if he re-signed before Wednesday at 4 p.m. the dead money would be $6.75 million instead of the $13.5 million if he left or signed later than that. But adding whatever salary he received to either total made it a sizable hit either way. To be honest, that's really not my concern. The only issue was whether or not the sides wanted to continue working with each other and it seems the answer to that was no. If Bill Belichick wanted Brady back, and Tom wanted to stay, then I was all for it. Otherwise, it made no sense if one party or the other wasn't fully committed and at that point it would be better to move on, which is where we are now.

Paul Perillo

What's the latest info on Gunner Olszewski, James Develin, David Andrews and Stephen Gostkowski? I haven't seen anything lately on the possibilities of any of them returning.

John Stark

All four of those players are under contract for 2020. Olszewski is the only one of the four without many questions however. Develin suffered a neck injury and some people around him believe he will retire. Gostkowski underwent surgery to repair a hip injury and is working to be ready for training camp. Andrews' situation is different as it involves blood clots in his lungs and whether the treatments he underwent will allow him to continue playing. He says he's optimistic about returning this season but we have not heard anything officially as of yet. Gostkowski will likely have some competition with him in camp this summer, while Olszewski figures to get another chance to stick with the team as he did as a rookie.

Paul Perillo

With the resigning of both McCourty brothers and Matthew Slater, the Pats cap is rapidly shrinking. There doesn't seem any way they can sign Brady and make the moves in free agency to surround him with the talent it's been reported he is looking for. But with his other options rapidly shrinking and reports the Pats may have offered him less money than last year, do you think it's possible he reconsiders and retires?

Len Carmody

I do not see Brady retiring, as he's said many times he intends to play. I think there are several teams that are interested in signing him. I don't worry about cap space as much as I do the actual money it would have taken to retain him, not to mention whether or not Brady wanted to return or if the team wanted him back. There were a lot of layers to this situation, and thankfully many of them have now been peeled away.

Paul Perillo

What are your thoughts on a potential Jacoby Brissett return if Brady does sign elsewhere? If Philip Rivers signs with the Colts it's likely he would be available for a pick or possibly even cut. A lot of ifs here but he's a young QB with knowledge of the system who could allow time for Jarrett Stidham or another drafted quarterback to develop.

Mike Jorritsma

I am not a huge fan of Brissett as Brady's replacement because I never really saw much from him working in the Patriots system when he was here. I do think he has some talent, but overall I feel his delivery is slow and he tends to hold onto the ball too long. In Indy when the running game was rolling he was able to have some marginal success. When the game was placed on his shoulders, he generally struggled and the Colts did as well. I believe Indy is a talented team yet failed to make the playoffs with Brissett at the helm, although his injury during the season hurt the cause. I'd rather stick with Stidham in the short term and evaluate him in 2020. I'd also look to the draft this year to provide some competition. If there's no one available the Patriots like, then move on with Stidham and re-evaluate down the road. But I'm a no on Brissett.

Paul Perillo

Should the Patriots go after TEs Jimmy Graham or Delanie Walker, who were recently released by their teams? They shouldn't be too expensive!

Matthew Burns

Both players have enjoyed terrific careers but at this point I would like to see the Patriots acquire some younger talent at the position. Graham (33) and Walker (35) are both getting up there and age and have dealt with several injuries in recent years. And now Graham reportedly is set to sign with Chicago anyway. I'd rather sign a younger option and look to the draft to add some more youth to the equation.

Paul Perillo

Maybe not the easiest question to answer, but why so many free agents this year? Are players unwilling to extend their contracts because they seek the large payday of free agency, or has the Patriots front office fumbled the ball on this one by not getting some of our free agents re-signed? Would love to get your opinion on this one.

Mark Williams

It is a hard question to answer and like many things involving the team-building process there is no one answer. I won't necessarily look at the number of free agents this particular year because I think that number can vary from year to year and there have been plenty of times when the number rises like the current one. What is a little different this time around is the overall age of the team and the fact that many of the veteran free agents who were making good money were able to see the ends of their deals. In my view that is due to some struggles the Patriots have had in the draft in recent years. In general, Belichick has been great at having younger, more affordable players ready to replace departing free agents when they're expected to leave for big money. But this time players like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore, Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, to name a few, have managed to stick around to receive some big dollars because in many of those cases there weren't qualified young players ready to step in. Players like Cyrus Jones and Duke Dawson, both second-round picks, should have been expected to take on bigger roles while Belichick allowed the veterans to leave. But those players weren't suited to do so. This year there could be opportunities for young guys like Ja'Whaun Bentley, Chase Winovich, Joejuan Williams and some others to perhaps fill the void when Van Noy and Jamie Collins depart via free agency. I know that's not a definitive answer but it at least offers something of an explanation.

Paul Perillo

Do you see any chance of the Patriots moving up in the draft to select a QB in the first round? I have seen the mocks with us getting Jacob Eason (horrifying thoughts of Tony) or Jordan Love. But if Justin Herbert starts to slide (a BIG if), could you see us moving up to take him? Does he fit our system?

Fred English

I do like the skill set Herbert has with the size and arm strength to succeed in the northeast. Eason has a good arm as well but seems a bit erratic to me. Love I'm not as sold on as some others given the penchant for interceptions but there's definitely some potential there as well. (As a total aside, I'm not sure if you were just joking about Eason, but Jacob's father is a different Tony Eason from the one who played for the Patriots). If Herbert is available in the late-teens I'd be interested in moving to grab him, but the landscape for the quarterbacks seems to change all the time so it's hard to know how that will unfold. Herbert has his flaws like everyone else, too, so maybe the Patriots coaches aren't as high in him as we are.

Paul Perillo

The Stephon Gilmore free agent signing was a home run. But now would it make sense to trade him for either Dallas Goedert or O.J. Howard and a 2020 second-round pick? Although Gilmore is a great player, corner is presently an area of strength for the Pats and TE is an area of extreme weakness. Plus a second-rounder fills a big hole in the Pats 2020 draft (thanks to Sanu) and should bring a good player. And the trade would also generate substantial cap relief.

John Stevens

I'm not really interested in creating cap relief if it means trading away the team's best player who is still in his prime. And I don't see corner as an area of strength if Gilmore is removed from the equation. If that were the case, then Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson become the starters with Jonathan Jones in the slot. That group might be OK but that's a risk taking away the guy you generally ask to cover the opponents; top gun every week. I'd keep Gilmore and look to add tight ends in free agency and the draft. But I understand the question given the need at tight end. I just wouldn't be willing to deal Gilmore to get one.

Paul Perillo

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