The New England Patriots have been the picture of stability in the NFL for the past 19 seasons, with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady being the foundation for a team that contends for a Super Bowl year in and year out.
But all good things must come to an end, and while Brady has stated his desire to play into his mid-40s, there will come a time in the near future when New England’s roster looks much different than it does today.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote a column Thursday predicting which players will be on each NFL team’s roster in 2020, and his predictions for the Patriots might raise some eyebrows.
Barnwell believes only seven current players are “virtual locks” to still be on New England’s roster in 2020: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, running back Sony Michel, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Shaq Mason and Isaiah Wynn, cornerback Duke Dawson and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley.
He lists a number of notable players as “on the bubble,” including Brady, wide receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, running back James White, center David Andrews, defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy and safety Devin McCourty.
Here’s Barnwell’s explanation:
Plenty of these players — specifically Andrews, White, McCourty, Hightower, Guy and Van Noy — are under contract for 2020 at reasonable prices. The Patriots will keep some of them, but it would hardly be a surprise if half of those veterans are no longer on the roster. The looming Flowers negotiation could be difficult, given that he doesn’t have huge numbers but is regarded in many front offices around the league as a valuable player. If the Patriots let him test the market, somebody’s going to go over the top to bring Flowers in.
As for the “notable players” that Barnwell believes won’t be on the roster in 2020, tight end Rob Gronkowski leads the list, due to his injury history and recent retirement speculation.
Given that Gronkowski was nearly traded this offseason and is going through another run of back problems, there’s a good chance he’ll retire by the time his contract expires at the end of 2019.
How the Pats will look in two seasons is anyone’s guess, but it’s safe to say there will be wholesale changes at some point soon.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images