By Joe Bianchi, Staff Writer, May 2020
The Patriots are having quite the eventful off-season, in case you haven't heard. After losing tons of key players from both the offensive and defensive lineup, it's hard to imagine the Patriots having any success this coming season. The news of Tom Brady signing with Tampa Bay greatly overshadows everything else, including the hole in the defense. The Patriots lost Kyle Van Noy, Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins, Nate Ebner, Duron Harmon, and Elandon Roberts, all players who had a large role in the unexpected success of their defense last year.
In addition to the team itself, morale has been bruised in New England. Not only did we let Brady go to the Buccaneers without a second thought, but we also sent Rob Gronkowski right along with him. It’s a tough time to be a fan. Right now, everyone is looking for answers and trying to decide whether the decisions we’ve made have been beneficial. I’m no expert on the matter, but here are my responses to the three most pressing questions about the Patriots: Was it a mistake to let so many defensive all-stars walk? Did the Patriots make the right decision by trading Gronk’s contract? And of course, why did Brady sign with Tampa Bay?
To start, I believe it was absolutely a mistake to let so many players sign with other teams out of free agency. Most teams usually only lose one or two good defensive starters –– if any –– during the offseason. The Patriots, however, lost six. These six players all were major contributors to the outstanding defensive game last year, three of whom were linebackers. Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, and Kyle Van Noy all had great seasons. The three of them combined had 166 tackles, 14.5 sacks, three interceptions, and six forced fumbles. It will definitely be a tough hole to fill, especially since the Patriots still need to worry about their QB situation too. I think paying either Collins or Van Noy as well as Danny Shelton would’ve had the best outcome for the team. Yes, they might have been spending more money than they wanted to, but the Patriots have the resources now without Brady and Gronkowski.
Although this may be an unpopular opinion, I believe that the Patriots did make the right decision by trading Gronkowski to the Buccaneers. There are two parts to this trade that need to be acknowledged; the first is about the finances for the Patriots, and the second is about Gronkowski’s overall wellbeing. To start, we unloaded an expensive contract for someone who wasn’t even playing for the team. Although we didn’t receive much in return, being able to free up this money was huge for the Patriots. In addition to this, it has become clear that the Patriots organization is directly connected with Gronk’s retirement. I believe Gronk disliked the way he was being treated with the Patriots to the point of giving up the sport of football entirely. However, now he is able to get back in the game and play with Brady once again. As horrible as it will be to play in another uniform, it is for the best.
Lastly, I think Brady signed with Tampa Bay because he wanted an opportunity to prove himself as the greatest quarterback of all time. Although it’s ridiculous to say he is anything short of the best, some still claim he is just an average system quarterback in an all-star program run by Bill Belichick. In addition, it was no secret that the tension in the clubhouse between Belichick and Brady was already high. I can see him wanting to have one or two more successful seasons on his own, starting from scratch in a new state. The issue with this, however, is very few all-stars ever have memorable seasons with these “pre-retirement” teams. For example, Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana started for the San Francisco 49ers for 12 full years. He put up incredible numbers, with an average passer rating of 95.3. After missing most of the next two years with an elbow injury, he then signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. In his short-lived career with them, Montana’s average passer rating was only 85.5, which is nearly ten points lower than during his career with the 49ers. I can see Brady falling into a similar trap, but want to wish him the best of luck in Tampa Bay. He may have left New England, but he’ll never be able to escape our support. Once a Patriot, always a Patriot.
Overall, this eventful news about the Patriots may mean little because there most likely won't be a 2020 season. At least it's something to talk about other than coronavirus...