NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano
The preseason has officially kicked off, and as the summer develops so don’t rumors around the league. Jobs will be lost, depth charts will shift and the turk will begin hoarding playbooks. Only thing guaranteed during August is movement, plenty of roster movement. This summer I’ll try and explore some potential moves, and maybe even predict a few surprising transactions.
Basically, I’m going to throw some stuff against the wall and see if it sticks (i.e. my Brandon Marshall Post ), if it doesn’t… I was obviously just kidding guys.
1.) Marques Colston will no longer be a Saint:
Here’s my logic behind such a move happening; Colston has three years left on his deal, cap hits of $8.3M in 2014, almost $10M in 2015 and about $10.5M come 2016. Those numbers are a little rich for an aging wide out with bad knees. As productive as he’s been for New Orleans, the Saints have a young receiving corps ready to take the helm. Kenny Stills broke out for them last year, and rookie first round pick Brandin Cooks has impressed early in camp. Third year receiver Nick Toon and UDFA Brandon Coleman are two options that offer comparable size to Colston. However, size shouldn’t be an issue when you have Jimmy Graham roaming the field.
Colston had a relatively good season last year by most standards, catching 75 balls for 943 yards and 5 touchdowns in only 11 starts. Normally those are impressive numbers for a player who just turned 31 in June, but not for a receiver who has recorded 1,000+ yards receiving six out of his previous seven seasons. At times last year it looked like age was becoming a factor, and I’m curious to see how Colston performs through the rigors of another camp, especially with so much youth competing next to him.
I doubt Colston will be released, although nothing is impossible, but if New Orleans’ crop of young wide outs make him expendable, there’s a chance Mickey Loomis might start fielding some calls. The Saints love Colston, but as entrenched in the community as he is, there’s always a bottom line. The youth movement at receiver might just push that bottom line a little bit earlier for New Orleans.
About two years ago the Saints resigned Colston before he could hit free agency. How interested or concerned the Pats would have been regarding his health/age had he made it to the open market, I’m not sure, but he’s the exact type of player Belichick loves. A hard working guy who was a late round pick out of a small program that’s found a way to excel in the league. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Patriots ears perking up if he was made available. He would be a more than solid presence on the outside for Brady, while also helping to ease the growing pains of New England’s own youth movement at receiver.
In regards to New England making a play for Colston, a lot depends on the health of Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, as well as the progression of Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins may be drawing a lot of praise for an excellent camp so far, but having Dobson sidelined with a bolt in his foot, and Boyce already ringing the bell for trainers, doesn’t forecast well for Tom Brady. The Patriots offense needs dependability at receiver, and outside of Julian Edelman that doesn’t exist. Brandon LaFell has intriguing size, but fails to catch the football with any regularity, which is kind of important at his position. Danny Amendola has all the ability, but will most likely rekindle his romance with the injury report. If the Patriots don’t discover a reliable option behind Edelman, then Rob Gronkowski’s work load is going to increase, and the more you utilize Gronk early on, the more you risk losing him come playoff time.
A lot of dominoes would have to fall for this scenario to play out. But every year one or two veterans surprisingly meet the chopping block, and in my opinion Colston could very well be one of those names as training camp concludes.
2.) Stevan Ridley will no longer be a Patriot by the trade deadline.
Deadline trades rarely happen, let alone significant ones, but the Patriots are far from shy when it comes to mid season trades. Even if Stevan Ridley goes out and rushes for 1,000+ yards, he’s still gone after this season. The Patriots won’t pay a running back serious cash when they can get similar production elsewhere on the roster for less. And if Ridley does have a productive season, expect another team to cough up the money and sign him next spring. On the flip side, if he struggles early and catches a case of the fumbles again, he might find a new home on the trading block instead of Belichick’s dog house.
Depending on whom the Pats can stash on the practice squad, and who takes advantage of their opportunities in preseason games, a more than suitable alternative to Ridley should arise from the roster. Right now it looks like that alternative could be James White. He is more than an efficient runner between the tackles and a much better receiver out the back field than Ridley. If Shane Vereen can stay healthy, a two back set consisting of White and Vereen would be very appealing to Josh McDaniels.
One thing people fail to mention when talking about Ridley is the lack of explosiveness in his game. In three seasons with New England, he’s yet to notch a run over 41 yards, and has only two carries over 30 yards. Not exactly game breaking stuff. Ridley is a talented player, but a talented player who is replaceable.
Another big incentive for this move to happen is draft capital. As of right now, the Pats only have 6 draft picks in 2015. They traded their 7th rounder to St. Louis for Greg Salas. Belichick doesn’t like heading into any offseason without sufficient draft ammo, and Ridley could be an avenue to acquiring more.
Depth might be on Ridley’s side however, because Brandon Bolden’s bubble looks like it’s about to pop after an atrocious start to camp, and with uncertainty on how other younger backs in the system will pan out like Jonas Gray, Stephen Houston and Roy Finch, the Patriots may need to retain Ridley as insurance.
3.) And the 2014 Sudfeld Award Winner is……. Wilson Van Hooser.
A lot of people have already awarded the ‘Sudfeld’ label to Justin Jones, but I think it’s another UDFA who will take the prize. The former Tulane and Troy wide receiver is the type of competitor that usually finds a way to stick around Foxboro.
Van Hooser will play anywhere he’s asked to, and has that small school gumption Belichick loves to reward with playing time. He’s already had his moments during camp, and I expect some of those moments to translate onto the field when dress rehearsals begin this Thursday. I can already see him making gutsy plays in traffic over the middle, or scrambling down the sideline to catch a Garoppolo garbage time bomb as Jimmy escapes the pocket. Every year we’re gifted a preseason hero, and this year his name will be Van Hooser, Wilson.
Unless he’s released by the time this is posted… in that case, what I meant to say was, Justin Jones.