Been busy with work and travel the last few days but you know I had to pay my respects to the drove of Patriots who moved to(less) greener pastures in free agency. You'd think in the twilight of Tom Brady's career the team would pull out all the stops, do whatever it takes to keep the core of the team together, but the Patriot way doesn't work that way. Fingers crossed there's a greater plan in store because I need the Patriots to be per-annual Super Bowl contenders or else my life has no meaning. When I was a kid I used to get so mad at players for not being "loyal" to the team. But as I've gotten older you realize how much of the league is a business. These guys put it all out on the line for their team, they are let go as soon as it's time to let them walk in free agency. Especially when the Patriots are notoriously cheap when it comes to extending their own guys. As much as I'll miss all these guys and agree that it is a massive loss, these aren't exactly shocking revelations.
Let's look at who the AFC Champions (and winners of 50% of the Super Bowls in the last 4 years) are saying so long to.
Nate Solder: 4 years, $62 million. New York Giants
Of all the guys leaving, this move is the most surprising to me. I'm never gonna fault a guy for going after the money in the NFL where your next snap could very well be your last, but I really thought out of tall the key free agents the Patriots had this was the one they'd keep on to. He's been involved with the community. A full time starter since 2012. Between his backstory with cancer, his charitable matters, and overall role and importance with the team Solder seemed like the one guy the Pats would bring back, like a McCourty or Hightower in their free agent years where multiple key contributors were free agents. There had also been serious rumors that Solder could retire. So in my head he was either coming back to New England or hanging up the cleats.
When you see the money (62 mil) it makes the deal a lot easier to swallow. As a football guy's guy I don't know all the inner workings of the Left Tackle market but I feel like that's a little overpaying for a guy of Solder's caliber. Not to pull a classic Boston kick a guy on the way out but, I'm okay with losing him when that's the cost. I like Solder, but he's not exactly an elite-LT, more of a second-tier guy. He gave the Pats 7 seasons, played on 4 Super Bowl teams and will clearly be missed. They say a good left tackle is like a water heater, you shouldn't even notice he's there. So as long as the Pats replacement can tread water in the NFL I think they can withstand this loss.
Dion Lewis: 4 years, $23 million. Tennessee Titans
Another guy Patriots fans knew was clearly gone, it doesn't make the loss any easier to deal with. Dion Lewis took the Patriots by storm when he emerged as a change of pace to low key work-house back in 2015 after not appearing in an NFL game in 2013 or 14. In 2015 had he not gotten hurt I think the Patriots end up winning the AFC, as the Patriots ability to move the ball on the ground all but evaporated in 2015, causing them to turn to guys like Steven Jackson who with all due respect was already done and finished when he arrived.
After a limited role in 2016 as he was handled with kid gloves coming off a knee injury. Lewis truly had his "I'm back" moment in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Texans where he caught, rushed, and returned a kick off for a touchdown. It was the first time a player had achieved the feat in post-season history.
Had he been relyied on more in the rushing game this season I think Dion could've easily rushed for 1000 yards. On only 160 carries attributed for nearly 900 years on the ground.
With the Titans moving on from Demarco Murray they will have a thunder and lightning backfield of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, which quickly becomes one of the most intriguing back fields in the NFL. I personally love the combo with how they complement each other. Even though the Titans made the playoffs in 2017 I think most people would agree they underachieved. Mariota took a serious step back in 2017, although that may be due to playing banged up. I think having a rushing attack of two great backs can only make things easier for Aloha Jesus. Either way I love this signing for the Titans from an impartial stand. The AFC South is seriously no joke, and I think with the next signing the Titans could easily take the next step towards a Super Bowl next year.
Malcolm Butler: 4 years, $62 million dollars. Tennessee Titans
As soon as the whole Super Bowl fiasco occured you knew Malcolm was as good as gone. Honestly the writing has been on the wall for over a year. He has been upset since what most fans would agree should've been his contract was instead awarded to Stephon Gillmore. His name was floated around in multiple trades with the New Orleans Saints. While I wish we knew more about the whole ordeal I'd starting to accept we'll probably never get the answers we want. At least not for a years.Talking like at least 15. Let's hold off of a 30 for 30 right before Belichick dies.
To me Malcolm Butler embodies what being a Patriot is all about. He went from a division 2 nothing, to a star in the blink of eye thanks to his famous interception on the goal line against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Always did what was asked, did his job and did it well. He was fantastic during his tenure in Foxboro.
You'd think the fact that he literally stole the franchise a Super Bowl, and has played at a fare above average level since would've earned him a little more credit and respect from the coaching staff. Clearly that was not so. I'm truly bummed out to lose Malcolm, but the fact that we knew it was coming for months makes it much easier to swallow. I'll go to my grave believing if he plays in Super Bowl LII the Patriots are Super Bowl champs. Can't hate Malcolm for getting paid. So jealous he's going to Nashville as I too am trying to get back to the music city and right what was a top three mistake of my life.
When Danny Amendola came into New England before the 2013 season fans were not happy. I can remember being devastated about the loss of Wes Welker, especially considered he landed in Denver; a team who had just defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. The expected heir-apparent did not come close to achieving the statistically success of his would be predecessor in Welker, but was able to do what Welker couldn't. Catch the big passes in the Super Bowl.
Danny Amendola had a more than solid in his Patriot opener. 104 yards on 10 receptions. A perfect performance for the so called "New-Welker". However in that same game it was Julian Edelman's true
I'm a legit WR in the NFL, stop playing me at CB and on the kickoff team moment" when he scored twice and had 79 yards on 7 grabs.
Danny ended up missing a lot of regular season time during his tenure in New England and routinely agreed to take a pay cut to stay in Foxboro. He never had anything close to an 80 catch or 1000 yard season, but what Playoff Dola was able to do in January and Februray made the singing more than worth it.
Dola balled out when it mattered most. Two TDs in the 2014 Divisional Round against the Ravens.
In the Super Bowl he had 48 yards on 5 catches and a scored a 4th down touchdown during the Patriots 10 point comeback.
In Super Bowl LI Amendola had his finest day as a Patriot 8 grabs, 78 yards, a touchdown and the game tying two point conversion. Much like his entire career with the Patriots those aren't exactly earth shattering numbers, but they happened at the most important, clutch times.
Welker obviously had the best regular seasons, and over all career, but come playoff time it's hard to find many Patriots who were more important than Danny Amendola.