Patriotmaven Mailbag: Tom Brady's Decision Will Affect Everything the Patriots Do This Offseason

Devon Clements

With free agency a little over a month away, and the NFL Draft drawing nearer as well, there are plenty of questions to be answered in regards to how the New England Patriots will handle free agency and how that phase of the offseason will affect the draft. 

Fans have submitted some questions regarding what will transpire over the next few months of the offseason and beyond. Let's go through them. 

Gwomanus: If Tom Brady doesn't come back to the Pats, who is the best fit? A free agent QB or a Draft pick?

Because of the Patriots' limited cap space this offseason, and with the CBA expiring next year, that makes it extremely difficult for New England to coerce a high-profile free-agent QB to join their team this offseason. That's including Brady, who will leave dead money behind if he doesn't re-sign with the team before 4 p.m. on March 18. Because of that, you can count out free-agent QBs like Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, and Jameis Winston to join the Patriots. Their best bet could be Teddy Bridgewater. He's the next best QB in the next tier of free-agent QBs that won't merit top-market money. I think that will be New England's first stab at QB. If they can't get him, then I think they will try and trade for a veteran before they draft one. Drafting one seems like their last choice. But don't count out backup Jarrett Stidham. He progressed a lot in Year 1 and Bill Belichick may be ready to plug him in. 

BelichickYoSelf: What should we expect from the OLine with Dante retiring and Thuney likely out the door in FA? Is there anyone lined up at OLine coach?

FYI - I'm definitely going to use your name as my fantasy football team next season. But let's get to the question: What should be acknowledged first and foremost, which is something Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal pointed out earlier this week, is even through Scar retired, he will likely be a consultant for the Patriots this offseason when it comes to preparing for free agency and the draft. That will help them immensely in those departments. But beyond that, the answer to who his replacement will be is murky. My best guess would be that New England promotes from within, and goes with assistant coach Carmen Bricillo, who worked closely with Scar last season. But even if the Patriots replace him with someone that worked closely with him, there's going to be a dip in production from the offensive line. There's no replacing the greatest offensive line coach in NFL history. So, even with a 100% healthy offensive line in 2020, and some new additions being added potentially via the draft, don't expect to see the same production we saw from that unit in 2018, which was one of the top units in the league. Expect to see something closer to what we saw from that unit in 2019. 

GimRari: Who do you want the Patriots to take in the 1st round?

Gim, you probably won't like this answer. But ask me in April. There's too much that can transpire between now and then for me to give you a definitive answer in February.

R Woodbeck (@Patsmemdotcom): With so many Patriots starters heading into FA this offseason where do you see the Patriots investing their Cap Space?

New England needs to spend their cap space this offseason to acquire talent at one or both of these positions 1) tight end 2) wide receiver. The Patriots have a gaping whole at TE now that Ben Watson has retired, but they also need a pass-catcher who can not only boost their passing game, but convince Brady to come back for the 2020 season. What Brady does this offseason will ultimately determine how much money they will have to spend at those positions. If he leaves, then quarterback becomes the 1B priority for them (tight end being 1A). But if he stays, then tight end is the top priority. Again - it'll be tough for the Patriots to sign top-level talent at TE or receiver given their limited cap space. But trading or drafting one of those positions could do the trick as well. 

markclements: What do you think will be the Pats best option for a WR? Free agency or the draft and how about some names?

I think the Patriots will take multiple stabs at WR this offseason. A.J. Green, Danny Amendola, and Nelson Agholor seem like wideouts that would fit their needs, because they are talented players who won't merit a big contract. Luckily, this year's draft has one of the strongest receiver classes in recent memory, which means New England could take a wideout early if they choose to do so. Henry Ruggs, Justin Jefferson, or Brandon Aiyuk are talented pass-catchers that could be available to them at no. 23. If they sign a WR during during free agency then New England would probably not spend a first-rounder on a wideout, but would almost certainly draft one in the mid-rounds. 

Apdasilva518: Assuming Brady resigns, do the Patriots use their top pick on a future QB like Love, Eason, or Fromm and focus on adding weapons through free agency/trades or will they focus on the present and use the draft for weapons to use now?

If Brady re-signs with the Patriots, there's no chance New England drafts a QB in the first round. There will be too much of a need to add weapons around Brady and get younger on defense for them to spend their only pick in the first two rounds on a QB. My guess is they will try to add offensive weapons in free agency and get young, talented players for their defense early in the draft.  

Travis Baltes (@TravisBaltes): What will the Patriots need to do on the O-line to improve their rushing attack and protect Brady, especially now that Coach Scar is gone? 

With Coach Scar on the staff, the Patriots had the luxury of being able to develop mid-round talent into capable, starting NFL players for their offensive line. That may not be the case anymore. But I don't think their offensive line was that bad last year. With pass-catchers who couldn't get open, no real threat at tight end, and no James Develin, the blame shouldn't be put on the O-line. When Develin returns and if they acquire a WR and TE this offseason, I think you will be surprised at how much better their offense will look next season. Since Joe Thuney will likely sign elsewhere during free agency, my guess is New England will draft a versatile lineman who can play left tackle or guard, which will allow the team to move Isaiah Wynn around however they want, whether that be at left guard or at left tackle.