As players begin to report to camp next week, there will be some new faces in Foxboro—that being just a minute change in scenery compared to the non-existent presence of a man like Tom Brady. Despite that, New England has maintained its eager position to be a catalyst in the free agency world.
It’s a simple system in place—trade away draft picks, get compensated for later picks, and scavenger the list of free agents who best fit the bill.
This year, it’s a tight ship. Not only on the field, as always, but in the salary cap as well. It consists of re-signing a couple of veteran leaders, tagging a solid offensive lineman, and sticking to several modest contracts that fall into a low-risk financial status.
Devin McCourty (S)—Two-year, $23 million contract
Matthew Slater (WR/ST)—Two-year, $5.3 million contract
Joe Thuney (OL)—Franchise Tag—One-year, $14.781 million contract
This helps the team establish a core of returning veterans to lead the ship. McCourty has been with the team in each of his 10 seasons in the league and a captain for nine of them. Slater has spent all 12 seasons in Foxboro and his special teams presence could prove even more impactful as a leader with the transition of losing Joe Judge as the special teams coordinator. Then you throw a tag on Joe Thuney on the offensive line who has started every single game of his four year career. This tag can be used as a valuable commodity this season and future seasons.
New signees on offense:
Cam Newton (QB)—One-year, $1.75 million contract
Damiere Byrd (WR)—One-year, $1.6 million contract
Marqise Lee (WR)—One-year, $1 million contract
Brian Hoyer (QB)—One-year, $1million contract
Danny Vitale (FB)
Cam Newton is 0-8 in his last eight starts. It sounds bad—almost like a complete shell of his former MVP-self from 2015. Yet, a lot of that comes down to being unhealthy. With what looks to be a rejuvenated Newton, his mobility could prove to be an asset in some way to a system-run offense with a load of talent in the backfield. Not to mention, with a Brian Hoyer in the back pocket, that brings an extremely valuable addition. Hoyer’s experience in the system, now in his third stint in New England, could help develop Newton or Jarrett Stidham quicker in an already limited preseason.
The additions of Marqise Lee and Damiere Byrd bring more competition to the wide receiving core. Although it’s a long shot to say they both get out of camp, it’s a chance to elevate the guys around them. Byrd spent three seasons with Newton in Carolina and is coming off his best season in Arizona, giving him an edge to be a potential fourth or fifth option. Throw in Danny Vitale, a fullback from Green Bay and now you have a complete offense. Vitale comes in as the lead for the starting fullback position to help pave a running game for a backfield with immense potential. Replacing James Develin who sits on the retired reserved list will be tough, but crucial.
New signees on defense:
Beau Allen (DT)—Two-year, $7 million contract
Brandon Copeland (OLB)—One-year, $1 million contract
Adrian Phillips (S)—Two-year, $6 million contract
Cody Davis (S)
The biggest need defensively going in will be edge rushers, due to the losses of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. After drafting several linebackers to help fill that need, the addition of Brandon Copeland fills the gap of another edge pass rusher. The secondary in New England seems to be the most-solid core of position players heading into camp. Yet, with some veteran legs back there, adding depth is key. Adrian Phillips and Cody Davis bring experience that will help them compete for spots on the field in times of need, but they seem to be an even bigger asset to the special teams unit. That will be their gateway onto the field considering the presence of Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and the drafting of big potential Kyle Dugger. Finally, the addition of Beau Allen could help anchor down the defensive line alongside Lawrence Guy to stop the run up front.
As you can see, many short-term, modest contracts in 2020. It’s a low-risk, high-reward mentality that could serve this team well heading into camp. A lot of question marks in some positions, but it’s nothing new to this organization year in and year out. Look to see some of these free agents play some key roles once the season gets underway.