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Mailbag: What Should the Patriots and Vikings Do Now?

After a flurry of free agent signings and trades this week, several teams are figuring out what to do next. Plus, what happens if the new stadiums in L.A. and Vegas can't be completed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Answering your questions with the new league year hours away, and a bunch of deals set to be made official …

From Mike Kehoe (@MKehoe88): The big one: what the hell are the Patriots going to do at the quarterback position?

From mag (@mg319): Are the Patriots going to go in the same direction as the Ravens and Chiefs QB-wise?

Mike, I think Mag has the answer to your question—sort of. My sense is the Patriots won’t overreach to fill a hole. And that probably means waiting the market out at the position, finding an economical veteran to add to the roster, and maybe drafting another one to compete with Jarrett Stidham over the summer. Then, after shedding Brady’s $13.5 million dead-money hit this year, they’d go into 2021 with clean financials at the position.

And they’d stand to create the kind of roster-building advantage that the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs rode all the way to the Super Bowl over the last three years.

All of that said, I would not count Stidham out. I’ve talked to enough people who really like him, and I understand the Patriots’ strategy drafting quarterbacks as “distressed assets” the last couple years (Danny Etling was another in 2018). Stidham was the No. 1 or 2 QB recruit in the country (depending on ranking) coming out of a storied Texas high school program five years ago, and has overcome a lot, both personally and football-wise.

He also got real playing time as a true freshman at Baylor, before the program’s sexual-assault epidemic came to light and Art Briles was fired. He transferred to a program, in Auburn, that didn’t have an offense that best fit his skills—he played in a scheme that was best suited to Cam Newton. He had one great year running it (2017) and one not as good year (2018) before declaring for the draft.

Follow that trail of events, and it’s easy to understand why the talent there might be a little underdeveloped, and why the Pats think he has a shot to outplay his draft position. There’s also the kind of kid he is: He’s married to the daughter of the Rockets CEO, and already carries himself like someone polished enough to be the face of a franchise. Which makes sense given his Texas prep star/SEC backstory. So stay tuned on him.

From Brian T McMullen (@Emobtm): How does COVID 19 effect the Raiders operation?

Brian, this is a fascinating question, and we can throw the Rams and Chargers into this one too. All three teams are scheduled to play in new, not-yet-completed stadiums in the fall. Given the nature of the pandemic we’re living through, it seems unrealistic that construction will go forward completely uninterrupted over the next few months.

In the case of the Rams and Chargers in L.A., SoFi Stadium is scheduled to be completed in late June/early July, and the first event on its calendar is a Taylor Swift concert, set for July 25. So both teams have a healthy amount of cushion there (preseason games could certainly be moved if necessary) before we get to the mid-September opening of the 2020 season (later this year because Labor Day is later).

The Raiders’ situation is a little more complicated. Allegiant Stadium isn’t scheduled for completion until late July. The first event on the schedule there is a Garth Brooks concert on August 22. So they have less cushion. There’s also the matter of their suburban practice facility, which had been on track to open in June. And obviously all the logistics of moving the team’s operation there from Oakland.

My guess would be that they may keep things in Oakland until summer, and postpone the move-in to the new facility until after they break camp in Napa in mid-August. As for the possibility the stadium’s not ready? I suppose they could play at Sam Boyd Stadium, which UNLV’s moving out of to join the Raiders at Allegiant. But that’s the same Sam Boyd that would’ve needed a ton of money poured into it to be NFL-ready, had the Raiders chosen to go to Vegas a year or two ahead of their new stadium opening.

Now, the good news for the Raiders? The governor of Nevada declared the construction of the team’s stadium and practice facility as “essential” the other day, meaning both projects have the green light to go forward.

From MANSELM (@matthewranselm): Chiefs have a lot of talent and need to get creative. What do you do and who are the core players you keep at all costs besides Mahomes?

Manselm, great question, and one I know KC is grappling with now. Their dynamic, indeed, will change. It’ll probably mean being more judicious on the veteran market. It’ll also mean valuing draft picks differently. And as you alluded to, it’ll mean identifying a small core of players—maybe 8-10 guys—who are worth paying and building around.

Obviously, Mahomes is part of that group. They’ve paid Frank Clark, Eric Fisher, Mitch Schwartz, Travis Kelce and Tyrann Mathieu. I think Chris Jones is likely to be part of the long-term plan too, and has a big number after getting tagged. And after that, you’re going to have to be smart.

Sammy Watkins is one good example of the sort of luxury signing the Chiefs could make while they had Mahomes on the cheap that might not be possible anymore. He’s due $14 million in cash and counts $21 million against the cap in 2020. Kansas City has been working to try and find a way to keep him. But with Jones up for a new deal, and Mahomes’s on the horizon, the Chiefs’ new reality makes that a legitimate challenge.

And that’s especially true with promising second-year receiver Mecole Hardman ($1.14 million cap hit in 2020) on hand as a possible replacement. Which hits exactly where KC will have to work the margins going forward—in losing the ability to go get the Watkinses of the world, they’re charged with finding more Hardmans.

From Chad (@wildvikingfan30): What are Vikings rebuilding or going for in 2020? Re-signing Cousins then trading Diggs are kind of conflicting!

Chad, calm down! I don’t think you should read too much into the Stefon Diggs situation, as it relates to overall direction of the team. Really, this came down to Diggs again voicing his displeasure on social media (in the wake of Kirk Cousins getting an extension), and the Vikings getting phone calls and, finally, deciding to listen. In the process, they set a price, and it was a high one, and Buffalo met it.

The model, as we wrote the other day, was the Percy Harvin trade. Here’s a side-by-side …

2013: Vikings trade Harvin to Seattle for 2013 first- and seventh-round picks, and a 2014 third-round pick.

2020: Vikings trade Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick for 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks, and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

And in the end, now, the Vikings have the capital and time to replace him in a receiver-rich draft, which makes this much different than trading him in-season would’ve been.

From Justin DeWeese (@jdeweese569): Do the Vikings go WR round 1 now that Diggs is traded?

Not necessarily. The Vikings now have five picks in the first three rounds – 22nd, 25th, 58th, 89th and 105th overall. The class has quality players at the position that should last well into the third round. And so if, say, CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are gone by the time the Vikings pick, they could decide that a comparable receiver to what they might find at 22 or 25 would there at 58. Or, on the other hand, they could trade up for a Lamb or Jeudy.

The bottom line is, they have a ton to work with now. So yes, the receiver group on hand for the Vikings right now is Adam Thielen and … we’ll see. But the Vikings have time to figure the “we’ll see” part out, and the assets it’ll take to do so.

From Simón Uribe (@suribepe): What is the price (picks) for Cam Newton?

To me, the best model for a Cam Newton trade all along has been the Alex Smith trade of 2013. The Niners were off-loading a former first overall pick that was still in his prime but seen as, to a degree, damaged goods. And they wound up bringing home two second-round picks from the Chiefs, as Andy Reid made Smith his first quarterback in Kansas City.

The difference here may be the offseason that we’re in. For the first time I can remember, the supply of experienced quarterbacks is outdistancing the demand for starters across the NFL. And that’s depressed the trade market on several notable guys. Which is a sign that Carolina may struggle to get proper value for Newton, and could decide the best course of action is to avoid the drama and give him his release. We’ll see what happens.

From jordin kovarik (@jkovarik23): What QB do Bears end up getting?

The two guys that they’ve been in play for them to this point are Jacksonville’s Nick Foles and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Both guys have connections to new Bears assistants. Foles played for quarterbacks John DeFilippo in both Jacksonville and Philly, and Dalton played for offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in Cincinnati. And Foles also played for former Matt Nagy staffmate Doug Pederson, which counts for something.

All of that underscores the plan here, which isn’t unlike what the Titans did last year, in giving Marcus Mariota a shot to keep his job, but building in a viable escape hatch—one that one took Tennessee all the way to the AFC title game. So if this plays out to where Foles or Dalton comes aboard, that doesn’t mean the end for Mitch Trubisky. But it does mean he’s on notice. (Also, for what it’s worth, I did hear the Bears at least sniffed around bigger-name QBs too.)

(UPDATE: Shortly after publication, the Bears went ahead and traded for Foles.)

From ChrisLeeKnowsBest (@LeadoffWithLee): Did the #Browns make an impact on day one?

Chris, I think it’s pretty apparent what the Browns were trying to accomplish early in free agency: create a better situation for the quarterback, in general, with the financial flexibility they have since he’s on a rookie deal. So signing Jack Conklin to shore up a crying need at tackle, and giving Baker Mayfield a reliable target, in Austin Hooper, who knows the offense Kevin Stefanski’s bringing in, made sense to me.

It’s also good to see GM Andrew Berry get off to this sort of start. You may remember how slow the Browns were out of the gate in sticking to their numbers in 2016, in Sashi Brown’s first year in charge with Berry as a top lieutenant. That, very clearly, wasn’t a problem this time around.

From Keep Chris Jones (@CharvariusSZN): what do you think Chris Jones value is? What do you think is going to happen with the Chris Jones situation? If he were traded, would the chiefs receive more or less than the 49ers?

I think the Chiefs work hard to get him done, but it won’t be easy. DeForest Buckner just got $21 million per year, and he has a year left on his deal. And you’d have to think that Jones would want more than that anyway, since Frank Clark got a five-year, $105 million deal from the team last year before he played a single snap as a Chief.

I’m sure teams will call, and maybe someone blows GM Brett Veach away. I just don’t see how you move him if you’re KC. It took a lot of work to reconstruct the defense there, and losing Jones—no matter what’s coming back—would be a pretty big blow.

From DHL (@DrHotLunch): If Brady does indeed sign in Tampa, do the Patriots file tampering charges based on Bruce Arians’ comments a few weeks ago?

DHL, out of respect to Brady, I don’t think the Patriots will do that.

From Lo-Well the Sportsman (@SportsmanLo): Why do people actually believe Brady would sign in Tampa Bay? We understand they are loaded with offensive weapons but uhhh just read the signs. Starting production company in LA. It’s chargers or raiders. Period.

Well, Lo-Well, he is signing in Tampa Bay. And I’m not picking on you here, but I thought this would be a good place to explain some factors in Brady’s decision to become a Buccaneer.

First, Bruce Arians has settled into more of a CEO-type role as a head coach in recent years, and Byron Leftwich is in just his second year as an OC—which should create flexibility in how the offense is put together. Second, there are weapons on that roster (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, etc.), a good line, and cap flexibility to add more. And third, being on the East Coast makes it easier for Brady to commute to New York, where his eldest son lives and where he’ll settle his family, on off-days or dead spots in the football schedule.

Ultimately, I don’t think this is the way that Brady saw this all playing out a few months back. But the situation he’s landing in does check a bunch of the boxes.

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