The New England Patriots don’t rebuild; they replenish, meaning this dynasty is far from over.
While every team in the AFC East found vital pieces for the promising futures, the Patriots remain in control. The six-time Super Bowl Champions still have ageless wonder Tom Brady under center and the evil mastermind Bill Belichick calling the shots.
Following Super Bowl 53, New England’s hopes for a seventh title perhaps began to dwindle. The second option wideout Chris Hogan will now be catching balls from Cam Newton in Carolina while future Canton-bound tight end Rob Gronkowski will be catching a wave or party or probably the flu from lack of sleep in his retirement.
Trent Brown was always a rental player and took a massive payday to head out west to Oakland. And while New England perhaps wanted Trey Flowers to return, the team knew their chances of keeping him were slim. Flowers will now be the feature pass rusher for his old coach, Matt Patrica with the Detroit Lions.
Still, while the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins all could be future contenders, the Patriots stand tall in their division. Thanks to their offseason acquisitions, it’s hard to count them out moving forward.
Belichick, the team’s general manager, managed to score big for New England’s future over the past two draft classes. Not only did the Patriots find day one starters, but also early contributors who will grow into critical players moving forward.
This is a trend that has been dubbed the “Belichick way,” out with the old and in with the new. New England has never feared trading away top talent to save a nickel or two. In the end, they still find a way to win with young talent.
New England’s bright future
Belichick’s past two drafts have set New England’s future up nicely post the Brady era. Sure, they still might need to find a quarterback, but his arsenal will be loaded. Sony Michel became the first running back New England had taken since 2006. The Georgia product rushed for 931 yards as a rookie, averaging 4.5 yards per carry along with six touchdowns. He also scored 6 touchdowns in the postseason including the go-ahead dagger in last year’s Super Bowl.
Brown became expendable due to the promise of fellow Georgia standout Isaiah Wynn. The former first-round selection missed all of last season due to suffering a torn Achilles. Still, his upside and versatility on the offensive line should grant him playing time this season.
Linebackers Christian Sam and Ja’ Whaun Bentley, along with wide receiver Braxton Berrios and cornerback Duke Dawson have potential. All fit the Patriot mold and with active playing time, could become reliable contributors.
But the 2019 draft might have several franchise pieces in the making. N’Keal Harry shined for Arizona State as a larger slot receiver, making his an immediate replacement for Gronkowski. Throw in his frame and aggressive hands, and it’s easy to see him becoming a factor on offense.
Cornerback JoeJuan Williams has the ideal size and length team’s look for on the outside. He’ll have to improve in his press coverage skills, but his size alone should allow him to win battles against larger receivers.
Running back Damien Harris comes as a luxury pick but has impressed early on. With Michel missing time at OTA’s with an injury, the Alabama product has made the most of his carries. Defensive end Chase Winovich could be a replica of Rob Ninkovich down the line.
The Patriots dynasty is far from over, with or without Brady under center. Young talent fills Gillette Stadium, and the team chemistry is ever growing. Brady will need to mentor the talent, but outside of tight end, there isn’t a hole in the offense. On defense, perhaps their most significant loss was Eric Rowe. Williams’ size should help correct that.
It’s another week here at Pro Football Network and the Two Minute Warning has got you covered on what you missed. With drama unfolding in Houston and a chance of command in the Mile High City, there’s plenty for us to discuss heading into mid-June before training camp officially begins.
Caserio chat ceases
The Houston Texans shocked the NFL world last week with the firing of general manager Brian Gaine. Following just one full season in control of the team, Gaine fell out of the graces of Bill O’Brien and the McNair Family.
While the Texans seemed to have had a plan on making a new hire, that talk is all but over now.
The Texans were charged with tampering by the Patriots for their pursuit of Nick Caserio for the team’s opening. According to reports, Houston had formally requested to interview Caserio, the team’s director of player personnel, but never received a formal reply.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported Friday the Texans are withdrawing their pursuit of Caserio for the opening. Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair issued a statement regarding the situation:
— Texans PR (@TexansPR) June 14, 2019
Caserio was the team’s top candidate following the dismissal of Gaine. During the Patriots ring ceremony, it was stated Jack Easterby, the Texans president of team development, had spoken to his former colleague about the impending position.
Houston will now head back to the drawing board, looking for options. According to one report, the Texans could go without a GM this season while Easterby and O’Brien would split time taking control of the scouting department.
Heading into the offseason, Houston looked to be a few pieces away from making a championship run. Now with training camp on the horizon, the Texans will be lucky not to become one of the favorites picking first in the 2020 draft.
Danger brewing in Duval?
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has been seeking an extension all offseason. That’s not going to happen at the moment as the team’s top corner announced talks of an extension have ceased.
Jacksonville elected to exercise Ramsey’s fifth-year option heading into the 2019 season. While the former top-five pick will remain in Duval through 2020, that doesn’t mean he’ll come cheap.
“Next year, especially after I ball, they’re going to come to me ‘Hey, we want to holler at you,” Ramsey said. “That number is going to be so ungodly. … They’re going to say, ‘Oh god, we can’t get a little discount, 20 percent off?’
“I’m going to tell them last year you could have gotten that discount.”
The hometown discount won’t work on the disgruntled cornerback. Since entering the league, Ramsey has been one of the top young defensive backs, earning two Pro Bowl nods and a first-team All-Pro appearance. In 48 games, Ramsey ranks fourth in pass breakups (44), fifth in interceptions (nine) and sixth in tackles (193) among all active cornerbacks.
The good news for Jaguars fans is Ramsey isn’t looking for a trade. Since last November, the cornerback has made it clear he would like to remain in Jacksonville for the remainder of his career.
“I’ve said multiple times, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again that I want to play for one team my whole career,” Ramsey told ESPN’s Michael DiRocco in 2018.
Jacksonville has an elite defender on their hands looking for a new contract. With defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and linebacker Telvin Smith missing time, they can’t afford to lose Ramsey over contract disputes. He is set for a big payday soon. Will it be in Jacksonville though? Who knows.
Conflicts in Cleveland?
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has always been a talker. His recent comments on fellow teammate Duke Johnson could have him in a negative light around the locker room heading into the season.
According to Michael Silver of NFL Network, veteran members of the Browns “voiced their displeasure” with Mayfield’s comments against Johnson’s business.
“It’s self-inflicted. It is what it is,” Mayfield said on Johnson’s trade request. “It’s not awkward for anyone else in this building. He’s gotta do his job. He said he was a professional. I hope he does his job.”
Sure, while some might not be happy with Mayfield’s stance on the situation, it’s a reach to call it a problem. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry told reporters Friday that quarterback Baker Mayfield’s comments regarding Johnson’s request are “a non-issue.”
“I don’t think it will be difficult at all,” Landry said. “Again, I say to you; it’s a non-issue. Again, it’s not one that we’re feeling any particular way about. … It’s blown up from you guys’ end more than it really is.”
Talks surrounding Johnson isn’t the only news that has Cleveland now on the front cover of a tabloid story. Silver also reported, “The transition to new OC Todd Monken has not gone as smoothly as planned, resulting in HC Freddie Kitchens playing a greater role in spearheading the offense than originally intended.”
The Browns are one of the hottest team’s heading into the 2019 season. With plenty of conflicting personalities now found on Lake Eire, it’s easy to see tempers fly. The biggest question is, what are reports and what are facts.
It’s safe to assume no one will know if the Browns are as dysfunctional as reported until the team’s first snap against the Tennessee Titans on September 8.
A Bronco’s last ride
The Denver Broncos released a statement Friday that owner Pat Bowlen died at the age of 75 following his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are saddened to inform everyone that our beloved husband and father, Pat Bowlen, passed on to the next chapter of his life late Thursday night peacefully at home surrounded by family,” the Bowlen family said in a statement. “His soul will live on through the Broncos, the city of Denver and all of our fans.
“Our family wishes to express its sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support we have received in recent years. Heaven got a little bit more orange and blue tonight.”
Bowlen took over as the team’s owner in 1984, helping take the Broncos to new success. Before his arrival, Denver had made the postseason just four times during their 24-year history. The team would earn 18 post-season berths, 13 division titles, seven Super Bowl appearances and bring home three Lombardi Trophies during Bowlen’s 35-year tenure.
“Nobody is going to care whether the team is worth a billion dollars or whatever,” Bowlen once said. “That doesn’t matter. It’s more about how successful you were as an organization and as a team on the field and in the community.”
Bowlen was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor in February. He will be posthumously honored this coming August.
The team announced they would hold an open-public tribute to Bowlen at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Tuesday.
In his final Super Bowl, Bowlen honored John Elway, stating “this one’s for John,” as the team’s all-time leader called it a career. In 2016, Elway repaid the favor saying “this one’s for Pat.”
Our thoughts go out to the Broncos organization during this tough time.
- The Indianapolis Colts announced they would be signing cornerback Kenny Moore to a new extension through the 2023 offseason. The deal will make the 5’9 corner the highest paid slot cornerback in the NFL. Since entering the league, the former Valdosta State has been a vital factor in the Colts secondary after being picked off waivers. Last season, Moore tallied 77 total tackles, 11 passes defended, three interceptions, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 15 appearances.
Moore’s new deal proves it not where you start, but how you finish. Congrats on the big payday, Kenny.
- Wide receiver D.K. Metcalf fell to the end of the second round in April’s draft. While he might not be pleased when he was drafted, the Seattle Seahawks have to be happy with their selection. Following minicamp, the Ole Miss rookie has made a strong impression on quarterback Russell Wilson.
“It’s great seeing DK make plays,” Wilson said, per John Boyle of Seahawks.com. “I think DK is looking really, really special. He can do anything and everything, and he’s tremendous.”
Fantasy fans, it might be time to circle Metcalf’s name when looking to scout early for next season.
- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been the talk of recent failed big contracts. After signing a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract last season, the Vikings regressed from their 2017 NFC Championship form. Cousins addressed the critics stating his goals entering his second season.
“I think the next level, really, is all about winning,” Cousins said. “I’m pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far, and I don’t think that’s where you want to be, and that’s not why you are brought in or people or excited about you.”
Since entering the league, Cousins has gone 34-37-2 as a starter. Here’s hoping he can bounce back this season and keep the Vikings in contention.
- If you haven’t bought your ticket for the Sam Darnold hype train, you best get in line. According to Jets wide receiver coach Shawn Jefferson, the second-year signal caller has only progressed under Adam Gase’s new offensive scheme during the team’s minicamp.
“Excuse my French when I say this, but he’s a [expletive] dude,” Jefferson said, per New York Daily News Manish Mehta. “He’s a dude with an [expletive] arm, and he’s accurate. I haven’t been around a guy like that. It’s awesome to be around a guy like that. He’s a dude.”
- Following the new contract extension for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, all eyes have turned towards Dallas Cowboys signal caller Dak Prescott. While the deal may take time, it’s safe to say that Prescott’s representatives are looking for a contract past the Eagles’ recent offer.
According to multiple reports, Prescott could earn up to $34 million per season annually. For now, though, the 25-year-old quarterback seems to be only worried about the team’s status now.
“I’ve got my Cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy,” Prescott said. “Let’s say that.”
- While Prescott should be the next giant name to receive a contract extension, the Vikings are making sure Cousins’ arsenal is locked and loaded for the future. Minnesota announced they had reached a four-year, $36 million contract extension with tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph’s name became the subject of trade rumors following Minnesota’s selection of Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr.
The 29-year-old is a two-time Pro Bowler and has been a staple of the Vikings offense since being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2011. While his targets might diminish, at least Rudolph is walking away a winner in his bank account.
- While the San Fransisco 49ers don’t need to rush him back, defensive end Nick Bosa feels confident he’ll return Week 1. The former No.2 overall pick is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.
“I think I’m going to be just fine,” Bosa said, according to NBC’s Sports’ Jennifer Lee Chan. “I’m going to get this hammy perfectly right, and I think there will be plenty of time to play football and get the reps that I need.”
Bosa suffered the injury late last month during the team’s OTA’s and was diagnosed with a Grade 1 hamstring strain.
- Congratulations are in order this post-Father’s day weekend for a future father. After beating the odds and coming back to near MVP form, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced over the weekend and he and his wife, Nicole, are expecting their first child together.
“It’s probably the most exciting/terrifying thought or idea, and it certainly feels more real every day,” Luck said on WTHR. “I hope I could do all right. (There are) a lot of people to lean on for advice and we’ll see what happens.”
Luck and Pechanec, both 29, were married last March in Prague, Czech Republic. The two met while both were attending Stanford on athletic scholarships. Congrats to the future parents.
- If there’s one article everyone should read on PFN this week, Carter Donnick’s story on Jacob Eason should be the pick. The former Georgia quarterback is forgotten among the next wave of future NFL stars due to missing the 2018 season.
Donnick explores Eason’s journey from five-star recruit to offseason workouts in Seattle. It’s a must read for all football fans.
- Make sure you check out the PFN’s Podcast station. This week, Eric and Kai’Chien break down the Jets signing of new general manager Joe Douglas and rank the young AFC East quarterbacks heading into the upcoming season.
Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.