The spotlight is going to be — Tom Brady and his future with the New England Patriots in the aftermath of their wild-card loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. Given that Brady is the most important player to ever strap on a Patriots helmet, it’s understandable that this is where the attention goes, but he ain’t the only one possibly walking out that door.— on
New England has plenty of questions across the organization far beyond TB12.
As we put him to the side for the purposes of this conversation, it seems like we already have the immediate answer for one current Patriot as it relates to his future. Standing at his locker on Saturday night, a teary eyed Ben Watson all but confirmed that he has played his last game in the NFL.
“It’s difficult,” the 39 year old tight end said. “I love this game, but there’s a time when you definitely have to move on. Definitely won’t be back here next year probably and probably won’t be playing at all. It’s something that I’ve tried to do before and it didn’t work. There’s only so much that your body can take and so much you want to put your family through before you want to settle down and figure out what the next chapter of your life is going to be. We’re going to talk about it, of course, and we’re going to make a family decision, but it’s been a great run and it’s been really special to be back here and special to have the opportunity to play the game.”
With Watson likely putting is playing days behind him, New England did hear the opposite answer from veteran safety Devin McCourty, who contemplated retirement last offseason.
“I definitely see me playing football next year. I’ve had a lot of fun this year with this group of guys,” he said. “I can’t see it happening me not playing football next year. So, I think over time, I’ll take some time away from football and I think the rest will kind of work itself out. We’ll see how that goes, but I definitely plan to be playing.”
While it’s good news for the Patriots that McCourty plans to continue his NFL career, he does carry us into the next phase of what New England is looking at in this uncertain offseason. McCourty along with Brady represent a large number of Patriots veterans — pillars to the previous Super Bowl championships — heading into free agency.
In all, New England has 20 players heading into free agency, including Brady, McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, Matthew Slater, Joe Thuney, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins, Philip Dorsett and Ted Karras. All of those players mentioned were not only starters in 2019 with the Patriots organization, but three (Brady, McCourty and Slater) are captains.
Brady’s free agency will be a spectacle in its own right, but Thuney and Van Noy in particular could warrant some serious contracts throughout the league. Since coming over in a trade with the Lions in 2016, Van Noy has established himself as key cog in Super Bowl winning defenses, which will surely help him get paid. As for Thuney, the starting left guard is in line to possibly become the highest paid interior offensive lineman in the league. Given how in-demand they’ll be, both of their futures in Foxborough seem to be the most at risk.
Beyond the roster, there’s also the conversation of what happens with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He’s already being sought after by a number of clubs (Panthers, Browns and Giants) as they go through their head coaching searches. Unlike a year ago where he seemed content with his post in New England, it feels like the Patriots will have to wonder once again if he’ll be trying to go out on his own. Last time, Robert Kraft was able to keep him in town after McDaniels verbally accepted the Colts gig in 2018, but it’ll be curious to see if Kraft will be able to pull it off again (if he even tries).
These are just some of the questions that are now bubbling around the Patriots as they close the book on 2019 and there will undoubtably be even more that come about in the next few months. It’s possible that the band gets back together for another kick at the can in 2020, but currently the team is looking at what could be a franchise-shifting offseason that extends beyond Brady’s decision, as important as that is.
Ch-ch-changes appear to be on the horizon in one form or another.