The rest of the sports world has just about shut down, but NFL free agency is still in full swing.
It’s been a stressful time for Patriots fans, as Tom Brady has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the team is left without an obvious, proven starting quarterback. Several contributors at other positions have found new teams as well; however, New England is also bringing back some key pieces from last year’s squad.
Here’s a closer look at how an eventful week has unfolded:
Tom Brady is gone.
On Tuesday, Brady announced he wouldn’t be returning to the Patriots after 20 seasons in New England.
“Everything we have accomplished brings me great joy,” he wrote on Instagram, “and the lessons I have learned will carry on with me forever.”
Later that day, reports that he was headed to Tampa surfaced. The deal wasn’t completed right away, but Friday officially marked a new beginning for Brady.
View this post on Instagram
Excited, humble and hungry …if there is one thing I have learned about football, it’s that nobody cares what you did last year or the year before that…you earn the trust and respect of those around through your commitment every single day. I’m starting a new football journey and thankful for the @buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do. I look forward to meeting all my new teammates and coaches and proving to them that they can believe and trust in me…I have always believed that well done is better than well said, so I’m not gonna say much more – I’m just gonna get to work! #Year1 p.s. Jack Brady with the photocred 😀
The team still doesn’t have an obvious, proven, starting quarterback.
Jarrett Stidham, who will turn 24 in August, appears to have learned a great deal from Brady last year as a rookie.
“Jarrett is a smart kid,” head coach Bill Belichick said this past October. “He picks things up very quickly. He has a good grasp of the offense given where he is in his career. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him. In practice, he does a good job. He gets a lot of passes on our defense, and when he has the opportunity to get the offensive snaps he’s prepared and does a good job of those.”
Stidham, who was 2 for 4 with an interception in a very small sample size last year, said being around Brady was extremely valuable.
“It was priceless,” Stidham told ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “It’s going to be really cool one day when I can sit there and tell my children, or my grandkids one day, that I got to be in the same quarterback room and talking about coverages and different passing concepts with Tom.”
Cody Kessler, a 2016 third-round pick out of the University of Southern California, is currently one of the backups. The other is Brian Hoyer, who is reportedly back for his third stint in New England.
Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, among others, are all potential targets, and of course the Patriots could draft a QB if they so desire with one of their 12 picks in 2020.
Some key leaders are coming back, and some new faces are joining the team.
The Patriots placed the franchise tag on dependable left guard Joe Thuney after he played 1,140 snaps without being called for a single penalty last year. They also re-signed safety Devin McCourty, picked up the team option on cornerback Jason McCourty‘s contract, and re-signed special teams guru Matthew Slater.
The @McCourtyTwins are staying in Foxborough!
Devin and Jason's BEST plays from 2019. pic.twitter.com/jyAc7ovdSh
— NFL (@NFL) March 21, 2020
Wide receiver Damiere Byrd, a fifth-year pro from the University of South Carolina, and defensive tackle Beau Allen, a seventh-year pro from the University of Wisconsin signed with the Patriots earlier this week. The team also reportedly reached an agreement with former Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland.
Other players besides Brady are gone as well.
Linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, and safety Duron Harmon (Lions) are all headed to the Detroit Lions. Offensive lineman Ted Karras, linebacker Elandon Roberts, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy are all joining the Miami Dolphins. Defensive back Nate Ebner signed with the New York Giants. Former Patriots coaches Matt Patricia (Lions), Brian Flores (Dolphins), and Joe Judge (Giants) are now the head coaches for those teams.
Tight end Ben Watson retired, and a small group of players remains unsigned as of Sunday afternoon.
The roster isn’t a finished product at this point, so it remains to be seen what the Patriots will look like if or when football returns this summer or fall.
They still have holes at several positions.
Quarterback is the obvious one, but there are other positions where the Patriots may want to bolster their roster before the season begins.
Linebacker stands out, as Collins and Van Noy are gone. Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Brandon King should all play a major role.
Outside of Julian Edelman, who could head elsewhere, the Patriots don’t have a proven No. 1 option at wide receiver. Phillip Dorsett is unsigned. N’Keal Harry showed flashes in his rookie season but is still a work in progress. Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, and the newly acquired Byrd are all currently in the mix as well.
Center is another possible hole. David Andrews, who spent last year on injured reserve after getting diagnosed with blood clots, is hopeful he’ll return for the 2020 season, but that remains to be seen. Even if Andrews is available, the Patriots might need help at the position with Karras gone.
“I’m not ready to be done playing football,” the 27-year-old standout Andrews told ESPN’s Mike Reiss in January. “If there is any chance I can go play football, that’s what I’m going to do. You really take pride in being out there, and that’s what I want to do. I want to play football. Maybe coach one day, but not for a long time.”
Video: David Andrews speaks at the Amos House in Providence, where the Patriots Charitable Foundation is starting the process of distributing 500 Empowerment coats. He caps off his intro with a positive report on his health, with optimism he will he back in 2020. pic.twitter.com/RaDodTsFFz
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 13, 2020