The Patriots made headlines all winter and spring long thanks to the DeflateGate scandal. Their actual football moves, however, didn’t garner as much ink. It remains to be seen how the Pats will actually fare in 2015, but right now this offseason appears to be more about what they lost than what they gained.
- Devin McCourty, S: Five years, $47.5MM. $22MM guaranteed.
- Jabaal Sheard, LB/DE: Two years, $11MM. $5MM guaranteed.
- Stephen Gostkowski, K: One year, $4.59MM. Fully guaranteed. Accepted franchise tag.
- Patrick Chung, S: Three years, $7.2MM. $3.4MM guaranteed.
- Scott Chandler, TE: Two years, $5.3MM. $2MM guaranteed.
- Bradley Fletcher, CB: One year, $2.5MM. $550K guaranteed.
- Brandon Bolden, RB: Two years, $2.32MM. $300K guaranteed.
- Robert McClain, CB: One year, $1.24MM. $300K guaranteed.
- Jonathan Freeny, LB: One year, $1MM. $150K guaranteed.
- Travaris Cadet, RB: Two years, $1.715MM. $65K guaranteed.
- Chris White, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $50K guaranteed.
- Brandon Gibson, WR: One year, minimum salary benefit. $40K guaranteed.
- Dane Fletcher, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $20K guaranteed.
- Matt Flynn, QB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $20K guaranteed.
- Derek Cox, CB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Dekoda Watson, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
The Patriots were always said to be in the driver’s seat when it came to safety Devin McCourty and they struck agreement with the Pro Bowler days before the opening of free agency. The new pact is worth $47.5MM over five years and McCourty reportedy turned down more lucrative offers to stay in New England. It also doesn’t hurt that the deal includes $28.5MM in guaranteed cash for the Rutgers product. The Jaguars, Eagles, and Giants all made hard pushes to sign the play making free safety, but it sounds like McCourty didn’t have much interest in signing elsewhere.
Jabaal Sheard saw his sack count decrease in each of his NFL seasons, from 8.5 in 2011 to just 2.0 in 2014. The Browns also took him out of the starting lineup this past season, reducing his snap count to 690. However, Sheard played very well in the new role — out of all the league’s 3-4 outside linebackers, only Terrell Suggs had a better grade against the run, per PFF. If the Patriots can keep him off the field in passing situations, Sheard can do some serious damage for them either as a linebacker or a defensive end.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski signed his one-year franchise contract tender in early March, giving him a salary of $4.6MM for the upcoming season. The 31-year-old has led the NFL in field goals in each of the last two seasons, making 73 of his 78 total attempts during that stretch, for a 93.6% mark. Gostkowski has also made all 95 of his extra point tries over the last two years. That success prompted the Pats to designate him as their franchise player, rather than using the tag on McCourty.
In January, the Pats signed safety Patrick Chung to a three-year extension worth up to $8.2MM, with $3.4MM guaranteed. The advanced statistics suggest that Chung was one of the best safeties in the league in 2014, as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him as the 12th-best at his position. Chung will now be sticking with the organization that selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft. Chung signed a one-year deal with the Eagles two years ago, but a mediocre 2013 season prompted his release.
Shortly after extending Chung, the Pats reached agreement on a new pact with cornerback Brandon Bolden. Bolden was set to hit restricted free agency this offseason, but the 24-year-old is now signed to be a part of the Pats’ backfield through 2016. Bolden joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and the former Mississippi standout quickly made a name for himself. In only his third career game, the running back rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. Since then, he hasn’t produced much on the ground, and he only compiled 28 carries for 98 yards and a score in 2014.
Tight end Scott Chandler was released by the Bills in March but quickly found a new home in the AFC East. The 6’7″ athlete hauled in 47 catches for 497 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. Chandler was something of a late bloomer in the league, as he did not see any time on an NFL field between his debut in 2007 with the Chargers and his return in 2010 with the Bills. In Buffalo, he asserted himself as a real NFL talent and not just a taxi squad filler.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Bradley Fletcher as the 92nd best cornerback last season out of 108 qualified players at the position. He was much better in 2013, however, having been ranked 44th out of 110 players at the position. The Pats are hoping that they can get Fletcher to revert to his old form and they weren’t the only team with that idea in mind. The veteran also drew interest from the Vikings before the official start of free agency.
After losing Shane Vereen, the Patriots signed former Saints back Travaris Cadet to fill a similar role. Cadet, 26, saw his first significant action for the Saints in 2014, hauling in 38 passes on 51 targets, totaling 296 yards and a touchdown on those receptions. Although he was listed as a running back and generally lined up in the backfield, the Appalachian State product only had 10 carries for 32 yards.
- Danny Aiken, LS
- Kyle Arrington, CB: Released
- Akeem Ayers, LB
- Brandon Browner, CB
- Michael Buchanan, DE: Waived
- Jonathan Casillas, LB
- Dan Connolly, G
- Alfonzo Dennard, CB: Waived
- Darrelle Revis, CB: Declined option
- Stevan Ridley, RB
- Shane Vereen, RB
- Vince Wilfork, DT: Declined option
- Tim Wright, TE: Waived
The Patriots decided not to pick up the 2015 option on star cornerback Darrelle Revis, not because they didn’t want him, but because the $25MM cap hit would have been too much to bear. Now, the Pats will have to deal with seeing him multiple times each season now that he’s back with the Jets, but they’re probably not envious of the price Gang Green paid to get him. The 29-year-old appeared in all 19 of the Patriots’ games in 2014 (playoffs included) and ranked as the fourth-best cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading system (subscription required). He also earned his sixth Pro Bowl nod and fourth First-Team All-Pro selection.
Revis’ secondary partner Brandon Browner was also shown the door. The veteran corner, who turns 31 in August, appeared in nine regular season games for New England in his suspension-shortened season. He recorded 32 total tackles, seven pass deflections, and one interception during that time. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) wasn’t wowed by Browner’s performance in 2014, ranking him No. 79 out of 108 qualified cornerbacks.
In May, the Pats decided that they might as well get rid of all of their top CBs when they released Kyle Arrington. Arrington had two years left on his deal at non-guaranteed salaries of $3MM in 2015 and $3.5MM in 2016 and while a reunion at a reduced rate was thought to be possible, he wound up signing with the Ravens.
Two notable running backs – Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley – made their exit from New England this offseason. Vereen joined up with the Giants on a deal with an AAV of ~$4MM. The 26-year-old ran for 391 yards off of 96 carries in 2014, good for an average of 4.1 yards per attempt. He was also heavily involved in the Pats’ passing game for the second year in a row, recording 52 catches for 447 yards. Pro Football Focus (sub. req’d) placed him as the 28th best tailback out of 57 qualified players last season with a slightly below average grade of -1.0. Ridley, meanwhile, has joined the rival Jets. Ridley was once one of the brightest young running backs in the league, but he couldn’t hang on to the ball in 2013 and his season was cut short by injury in 2014.
The Pats elected not to exercise their option on Vince Wilfork in early March, making him a free agent. The veteran spent all 11 years of his career with the Patriots, playing 158 regular season games for the club, and starting 148 of those. An anchor in the middle of the defensive line in New England for the last decade, Wilfork looked like he may be leaving the team a year ago, before the two sides worked out a new deal to keep him around for the club’s Super Bowl 2014 season. This time, he’s gone for real.
Tim Wright, who came to the Patriots last year as a part of the Logan Mankins deal with the Buccaneers, was released in June. The move was somewhat surprising, but the Pats likely felt that Wright’s role on the team can be filled by offseason pickup Scott Chandler.
Extensions and restructures:
- Jerod Mayo, LB: Restructured contract. Three years, $22MM. $4.5MM guaranteed.
- Danny Amendola, WR: Restructured contract. Three years, $12.75MM. $500K guaranteed.
Jerod Mayo’s previous contract with the Pats called for a $6.25MM base salary in 2015, and cap numbers averaging about $10MM for the next three years, through 2017. Now, the new pact is a one-year contract that includes $4.5MM in guaranteed money. That amount is equivalent to the injury guarantee New England would have owed the 29-year-old if the club had cut him before he was deemed healthy.
Danny Amendola‘s new deal is a bit more reasonable for the Pats given his production and overall health. Last year, Amendola caught 27 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown. The advanced stats at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave Amendola an overall grade of -7.0, ranking him 93rd out of 110 qualified wide receivers.
- Acquired a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 111; G Tre Jackson), a fifth-round pick (No. 147), and a sixth-round pick (No. 202; TE A.J. Derby) from the Browns in exchange for a 2015 third-round pick (No. 96; DT Xavier Cooper) and a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 219; ILB Hayes Pullard).
- Acquired a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 166; LS Joe Cardona) and a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 247; CB Darryl Roberts) from the Packers in exchange for a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 147; QB Brett Hundley).
- 1-32: Malcom Brown, DT (Texas): Signed
- 2-64: Jordan Richards, DB (Stanford): Signed
- 3-97: Geneo Grissom, DE (Oklahoma): Signed
- 4-101: Trey Flowers, DE (Arkansas): Signed
- 4-111: Tre’ Jackson, G (Florida State): Signed
- 4-131: Shaq Mason, OL (Georgia Tech): Signed
- 5-166: Joe Cardona, LS (Navy): Signed
- 6-178: Matthew Wells, OLB (Mississippi State): Signed
- 6-202: A.J. Derby, TE (Arkansas): Signed
- 7-247: Darryl Roberts, CB (Marshall): Signed
- 7-253: Xzavier Dickson, DE (Alabama): Signed
With their first-round pick, the Pats plucked Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, ostensibly as a replacement for Vince Wilfork. Brown broke out in 2014 with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss and he became the first defensive tackle to lead Texas in both categories in 30 years. If Brown can attract double teams the way that Wilfork did, the Pats might not miss the veteran all that much in 2015.
- Penalized for role in DeflateGate controversy. QB Tom Brady suspended four games; he is appealing the decision. Franchise stripped of its 2016 first-round pick, its 2017 fourth-round pick, and fined $1MM.
- Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for DE Chandler Jones ($7.799MM).
- Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for LB Dont’a Hightower ($7.751MM).
- Learned RB LeGarrette Blount would be suspended for the first game of the 2015 season.
- Signed LB Brandon Spikes to a one-year, $1.3MM contract ($25K guaranteed); Spikes was then released after a legal incident.
- Signed CB Chimdi Chekwa to a one-year, minimum salary benefit contract ($50K guaranteed); Chekwa was cut one week later.
- Signed nine players to reserve/futures contracts.
- Signed seven undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.
Brady is still awaiting word on his appeal but as we learned Thursday, we could be getting closer to a ruling.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Tom Brady, QB: $14,000,000
- Rob Gronkowski, TE: $8,650,000
- Nate Solder, LT: $7,438,000
- Sebastian Vollmer, RT: $7,020,833
- Jerod Mayo, LB: $6,100,000
- Devin McCourty, S: $6,000,000
- Darrelle Revis, CB: $5,000,000 (dead money)
- Rob Ninkovich, DE: $4,750,000
- Julian Edelman, WR: $4,656,250
- Stephen Gostkowski, K: $4,590,000
The Patriots had enough question marks this offseason with so many familiar faces out of the picture. Now, the prospect of being without Brady for the first month of the season looms over them. You can never count the Patriots out, but the AFC East now seems more wide open than ever.