With his team sitting at home, considering life without Tom Brady and missing the playoffs, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has something to think about. After all, he’s reportedly prepared to trade Brady’s backup this week in a blockbuster deal. And if that happens, the Pats’ chances of finally winning a Super Bowl will be slim.
There are a few rumblings in the NFL that Bill Belichick may be looking to put his coach of the year money into a player for New England. The most likely candidate is retired quarterback legend and current Patriots front office member, Tom Brady. The two have worked together well but Brady has the big name and Belichick is known to be a growing owner, who is willing to make a move when he sees fit.
The New England Patriots are Super Bowl favorite for a reason: they’re the only team to win three of the last four titles. But the Pats are in danger of falling short of a fourth consecutive championship for the first time since 2001. And that’s a problem for a team relying on a handful of aging stars and a short-term investment from owner Robert Kraft.Tom Brady won the first round of the legacy fight against Bill Belichick by a wide margin.
After all, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title, while the New England Patriots suffered their first defeat since Brady’s rookie season in 2000. But after Belichick made a shopping spree like Foxborough has never seen, he put himself in a good position to get a Super Bowl ring without TB12.
However, he may have no choice but to ask Robert Kraft for additional money to bolster the 2021 team. With Brady’s impending return to Gillette Stadium and the need to make the Patriots a championship contender, Belichick can’t afford not to field the best possible defense. And with critics pointing to the lack of success without the GOAT, the fear of losing his former quarterback (on multiple levels) could force the greatest coach in NFL history to make a risky investment with an abundance of power wealth.
Do you think Belichick understands the importance of the upcoming season?
After a 7-9 campaign with many disappointing Cam Newton moments, the Patriots must find a way to get back on track in year two of the post-Brady era. Despite all his success as a head coach, Belichick doesn’t have a great track record without GOAT as a quarterback. Missing the playoffs for the first time since Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 of the 2008 season should silence skeptics who believe the legendary quarterback has played a bigger role in New England’s two-decade dynasty.
General manager Belichick gave Coach Belichick the help he needed this season with improvements on both sides of the ball. The offense received an influx of talent at the offensive positions with the signings of Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agolor. Meanwhile, the Patriots bolstered their defense with Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Davon Godchaux and Jalen Mills in free agency. They also found potential starters for the 2021 NFL Draft: Quarterback Mack Jones, fullback Christian Barmore and outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins.
While the roster is certainly better before training camp begins, the Patriots still have a serious problem that needs to be addressed. And if Belichick doesn’t take care of the important stuff, he has no chance of evening the score with Brady.
Bill Belichick scouts during the game as Tom Brady gets ready to take the field. | Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
NFL planners have given Patriots fans a good reason to look forward to the start of the 2021 season. When Brady comes to town, these fans will have a chance to see the future Hall of Fame member in action one more time. But for Belichick, the Week 4 game against the defending Super Bowl champions and their seemingly ageless quarterback shouldn’t elicit such warm feelings. The Buckeyes have a fearsome team that seems capable of winning back-to-back titles. Their passing game in particular seems doomed to cause problems for defenders all year.
This does not bode well for the Patriots defense, which lost its best player.
Star defender Stephon Gilmore did not show up for organized team volunteer activities and the mandatory minicamp. Dissatisfied with his $7 million below-market value salary, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year rightfully wants a pay raise that matches his true value. And while he can still be traded, it looks like the Patriots want to keep him for the foreseeable future. The fear of losing Brady might even lead Belichick to ask Kraft for more money to prevent Gilmore from leaving Foxborough in the near future.
The Patriots and Gilmore know they could step up contract negotiations in the coming weeks. And I’m told Gilmore doesn’t expect a trade during this process because he knows the Patriots have taken steps with Gilmore in mind, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Thursday, per Bleacher Report. They don’t have a cornerback to replace him. And, as a source told me, do the Patriots really want to face Tom Brady in Week 4 without their best defender? So at the moment things are moving slowly, but I expect the parties to speed up the negotiations a bit before training camp.
As Fowler’s source noted, Belichick can’t afford to field a defense without Gilmore against Brady and the Bucs, who will have a much easier time against a defense without one of the league’s best cornerbacks. And without a ready-made replacement for Gilmore, the Patriots need him to have a chance at a Super Bowl. With his own legacy at stake, Belichick must do everything in his power to get his star defender back to work.
Patriots quarterback Stephon Gilmore did not participate in the mandatory minicamp in June.
Here he is referring to a chart of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL (based on average annual value), in which he is not in the top 10. pic.twitter.com/Lqm7DHm0Xk
– Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) 29. June 2021
Even with the fear of losing Brady in Week 4 and the general struggle to prove who had the biggest impact in New England, Belichick should be a little cautious about Gilmore’s contract. Of course, Kraft has more than enough money to pay every player on the team. But that doesn’t mean the Patriots should write a blank check to a two-time All-Pro.
Gilmore turns 31 in September and suffered a partial tear in his quadriceps muscle at the end of the 2020 season. Given his age and recent injury, his value may not be as high as he thinks. And considering that former stars like Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha have dropped out after 30 years, guaranteeing an aging cornerback tens of millions of dollars is not the smartest move.
But in this case, the Patriots will have to find a middle ground. Maybe a $5 million raise or something will help Gilmore get back to work. Perhaps Belichick will offer him a short-term contract extension with performance-based incentives, allowing the cornerback to make even more money.
Regardless of the Patriots’ decision, Gilmore is expected to return to his usual spot at right cornerback.
If not, Belichick will lose to Brady in Week 4 and likely miss the playoffs again.
And if that happens, maybe it’s time for Robert Kraft to have a serious talk with the highest paid head coach in the NFL.
COMPARED TO: Mac Jones has already earned the respect of Bill Belichick by being inspired by Tom Brady’splaybook.
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