The New England Patriots just closed out their most disappointing season in a decade. After a hot 8-0 start, the team crawled to a 4-4 finish before losing in the Wild Card round to the Tennessee Titans. This marks the first time since 2011 that the team didn’t make it to the AFC Championship Game, and this relative lack of success is making some call for the end of the Patriots dynasty. While the Patriots might be the most vulnerable they’ve been in a decade, they should still be among the NFL’s top contenders in 2020.
Of course, this argument is entirely reliant upon Tom Brady returning in 2020. The six-time Super Bowl champion might need more help than he used to, but he’s still a top-10 quarterback with the physical and mental tools required to win a championship. If he leaves in free agency, the dynasty is very much over. However, if he comes back, there is no reason to believe that New England won’t be one of the Super Bowl favorites in 2020.
If Tom Brady Comes Back, the New England Patriots Dynasty Rolls On
The biggest problem with the 2019 Patriots was the offense. New England’s offensive line regressed to league-average form, and all of the non-Julian Edelman pass-catchers left a lot to be desired. The good news is that these issues are fixable and can easily be addressed over the offseason.
The offensive line should naturally improve with the return of David Andrews. Andrews is one of the top centers in the league and should immediately bolster the offensive line. If the team can re-sign Joe Thuney, then this should be a top-three offensive line in the league. Even if they can’t, Andrews’ return combined with the presumed growth of Isaiah Wynn should make this a top-10 offensive line.
Improving the talent at wide receiver and tight end is going to be harder, but it isn’t impossible. The Patriots have one pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and three picks in the third. Considering Brady is in his mid-40’s, the Patriots might consider trading away some of these picks for a proven player who can immediately improve the offense. Even if they don’t go that route, there are several intriguing free agents like A.J. Green, Austin Hooper, and Hunter Henry who would be welcome additions to New England’s roster.
Even if the Patriots don’t sign anyone, the unit should naturally improve in 2020. New England’s offense is one of the most complex in the league and requires the receivers and quarterback to read the defense the exact same way. The Patriots had tons of turnover at wide receiver, which is part of the reason why the offense looked so lost. Giving Brady a full offseason to work with Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers should help all three players improve in the upcoming season. None of these guys are superstars, but all three have the ability to be solid role players in the passing attack.
Building Around Cap Space
According to Over the Cap, the Patriots should have roughly $49 million dollars heading into the 2020 season. Brady is going to eat into that number, but he’s easily worth the financial burden. There’s no such thing as overpaying for a franchise quarterback, and PFF data shows that paying a quarterback top dollar won’t negatively affect the rest of your team.
The Patriots have 20 impending free agents, the most notable being Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, and Joe Thuney. These are the only players that could command top dollar on the open market and make a considerable dent in the salary cap number.
It’s hard to imagine a world where Slater or McCourty aren’t back in New England for the start of 2020. Both players expressed a desire to keep playing, and both are franchise cornerstones. The Patriots should be able to re-sign one of Van Noy or Collins, with the other one leaving for greener pastures. Thuney is going to be the hardest player to retain, as he should earn a record-setting contract and New England already invested top dollar in Shaq Mason. The Patriots might look for a more cost-effective solution, whether that’s a free agent, a draft pick, or a guy already on the roster like Hjalte Froholdt.
No matter how the Patriots handle their own free agents, they should have more than enough money available to address any positional needs through a free agent signing. New England’s roster is still one of the most talented in the league and they should be able to address most of their remaining weaknesses throughout the offseason. Assuming Tom Brady comes back, the Patriots dynasty should live on for at least one more season.
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