Bear with me while I get my thoughts down because this blog could be a doozy. I honestly don’t know which way it’s going to go and that’s why the title is what it is. We could end up over here, over there or right down the middle (don’t hate me if I go down the middle, not everything is about having a wild take).
Anyway, the NFL’s “new league year” has started with an absolute bang. If you’re the Patriots though, it’s kind of started with more of a whimper as you try and struggle to find some positives. Yesterday, as I’m sure you all know by now, we lost three key players to free agency. Here’s my quick little breakdown on all of them…
Danny Amendola- I could write about Amendola forever. I honestly feel like I was on the ‘Dola train before anyone because I was excited the minute we replaced Welker with him. When he took beatings and seemed to not live up to the hype or the price tag, people hated him. Not I. I was ride or die with Amendola and used to honestly want to throw fists with those who called him soft. He was tough as nails and the injuries were a byproduct of how he played, fearless.
When ‘Dola started taking less money to stay, there was no downside to him at all anymore. Sure he would still have some nagging injuries during the season, but if the Pats managed him right, we didn’t need him until December and he was cheap. That’s when he’d turn on the heat for the stretch drive and the playoffs and he made a name for himself as one of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets. I was ecstatic to see him come up in big moment after big moment so that I could continue to brag about being on his side (I don’t get to brag about being right much, so I had to milk it). Without Amendola, I don’t know that we win either of those Super Bowls in ’14 or ’16. In fact, I’d almost guarantee we don’t. He was a key cog and it’s a shame it took most of the public until just this past postseason run to really grasp that.
Of course, it made no sense for Danny or the Patriots to stay together any longer. He wanted to get his last pay-day (and go back to Danny Fat-Stacks instead of Danny Pay-Cuts) which is totally his right. He’s won a few times and I’m sure he’s excited to go live on South Beach with his smoking hot girlfriend, Ms. Olivia Culpo. For the Pats, they didn’t need to spend the type of money he got on a fourth wideout. Trust me, he’s more than a fourth wideout (way more) but the point remains that I get why they balked at his price. The Dolphins will get a good leader and a guy that can help change their culture a bit, but I still doubt they make the postseason and get the best version of Danny. He’ll be okay, but Brady and the Pats were a big part of what made him great. I still wish the best for him though, and I’ll be naming my next dog ‘Dola.
Malcolm Butler- Well, this one was obvious. Malcolm and the Pats had been at odds for a while now and I honestly think it played a bit of a part into his down season. When he didn’t play in the Super Bowl, you knew it was over. He went from unknown Super Bowl hero to cast aside like nothing, which is a damn shame. Although you knew he was as good as gone, it doesn’t make it any easier. I can honestly say that his interception was the single greatest sports moment of my life. The fact that he went and built off of that too, while continuing to strive to be the best, says a TON about who he is.
The money is not much of a factor here because I doubt the Pats even made him a courtesy offer, but it is interesting that he got PAID by a team that was run by former Pats exec. Jon Robinson and coached by Mike Vrabel. That, along with the fact that Matt Patricia wanted him to come to Detroit, is telling about whether or not they agree with Bill Belichick on him. I’ll honestly never get over the fact that he was benched.
Just a short time ago (like two hours) Jeff Howe tweeted out this that Butler had to say about his last game with the Patriots. He apparently hasn’t spoken with BB, but this is an interesting little tidbit.
Butler really took the high road here on his way out the door and you’ve got to respect that. Anyone bashing him or saying anything negative needs to realize he was classy the whole way and appreciate what he did here during his time with the Pats. I sure will.
Dion Lewis- Dion was another guy that I expected to go. The Patriots don’t pay big money for running backs and they shouldn’t. He’s a very good, not great, player with an injury history. I’m glad he got paid but I’m glad it wasn’t here. I’ll remember him for the big moments and they sure will miss his breakout, home run play ability.
Honestly, what I was most surprised by here is that it reportedly came down to the Titans and the Pats for Lewis. I thought we’d be way, way out on him but I guess they liked him a bit more than that and made some sort of effort to keep him before tapping out.
Nate Solder- So as you can tell, I’m somewhat understanding of most of these moves so far. The Amendola thing, I thought was getting done and that pissed me off a bit. With Butler and Lewis, I had kinda already considered them gone and honestly while I’m not happy about the Butler thing, I’m numb to it. That was always the way it was going to be. With Lewis, I love him but I completely understand letting him walk.
That brings us to big Nate Solder. Ohhh boy, what a crazy one this was. I thought Solder was the number 1 priority, no questions asked and they’d strike a deal. I would have guaranteed it as early as this morning. Well, I was very wrong. Big Nate decided he wanted the most money and was willing to move on from the only team he’s ever known. I’m not bashing him, because…well because honestly he’s got a lot of personal life issues and I just hope he does what’s best for his family. If that wasn’t the case I probably would bash him for this to be honest. But anyway, Nate went the total opposite way that I thought he would and made himself the highest paid o-lineman in the league. Did he even have an intention of coming back here? We don’t do that type of thing, so I’m thinking he either knew he was gone or just was so blown away by the Giants offer that he had to take it.
Solder has no real backup on the roster, so this leaves a glaring hole. It’s an important spot that isn’t going to be easily filled so boy do I hope they had a contingency plan here. That’s the one thing I’m really sick of. I’m so, so, SO sick of the regular ass Patriots fan proclaiming that this is “all part of the plan,” and that “Bill knows all.” He’s a human. He doesn’t have some crazy power although everyone around here thinks that. While he is a professional and he’s smart as hell, I can’t get on board with people who don’t get ticked off at him.
Sure, it’s tough to question Bill Belichick because he usually ends up being right. He usually has these shitty offseasons where he makes small moves and let’s the big guys cash checks elsewhere. It usually works out! So by no means do I doubt the fact that in the end the Patriots will be fine and probably in the Super Bowl. But don’t tell me I’m not ALLOWED to doubt. Don’t tell me I’m nuts to even question anything. You’re blind if you just keep going around like he’s always got everything figured out.
Anyway, this Solder thing was stunning. But again, I guess I can see why the Pats didn’t re-sign him. It’s frustrating, but he wanted too much money and in the end that’s probably not where we wanted to go. Ugh. I’m falling into the trap. I’ve only like half criticized them on Butler and Amendola.
This offseason has started pretty bad. The Super Bowl has definitely made it this way because if they had won I’d be sitting here just blowing kisses and being like “thanks for the memories guys!” Now, we need to get back to another one and win (and possibly more) and it’s frustrating to watch the team kind of put themselves in a bad position and struggle to just stay afloat, rather than improve. All of the second guessing has been draining and the realization that Brady and Belichick are running out of time is upsetting. Will they pull it off? Probably. But it doesn’t mean I can’t be somewhat annoyed in March.
*Greg Bedard’s report that Brady is not restructuring because he “is in no rush to help the team” seems disconcerting to say the least. I’ll for sure be monitoring this.
**Bringing back Nate Ebner and Rex Burkehead is nice, but we need to keep moving. Find some fixes on defense and maybe add a Jordy Nelson.