Do These Clues Point To Bill Belichick’s ‘Heir Apparent’ With Patriots?

Matt Patricia seems to be expanding his skill set

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Are the New England Patriots grooming Matt Patricia to eventually succeed Bill Belichick as head coach and general manager?

The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin floated the theory Saturday on WEEI’s “The Ken and Curtis Show,” pointing to Patricia’s evolving role since rejoining the organization this offseason.

“I was the first to report that Matt Patricia was the one that signed Cam Newton’s contract,” Volin said. “Well, I’ve been able to get every contract that they’ve done this offseason — Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, etc. Patricia’s signature’s on every single one of them. He is now the lead contract negotiator for the Patriots.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean Patricia is pulling the strings in Foxboro. As Volin noted after talking with a “couple of team sources” and a “couple of people outside the league,” it’s not unusual for others within an organization who aren’t the GM to have their signatures on contracts.

Belichick still is the one making the shopping list and buying the groceries. Patricia, it seems, is just pushing the cart through the checkout aisle, finalizing contracts as part of the Patriots’ effort to split up responsibilities previously held by Nick Caserio, who left his position as New England’s director of player personnel this offseason to become the Houston Texans’ general manager.

That said, Patricia’s involvement in contractual matters is notable, especially since it coincides with him being an active participant in the Patriots’ NFL draft preparation. While it’s difficult to say how much power Patricia actually has in his current “consultant” role, it’s clear he has fingers on a lot of different tasks.

Is it all part of a long-term plan?

“It’s not a big deal because Patricia’s not, quote-unquote, the GM,” Volin said of Patricia’s new contractual responsibilities. “But it is a big deal because they had to choose one person, and they chose him. And it does seem like they’re broadening his skill set, and it makes me wonder if they’re setting him up to be the heir apparent to Belichick.”

It’s long been suspected that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels ultimately might succeed Belichick, who turned 69 years old last month. But Patricia, who worked on New England’s coaching staff from 2004 through 2017 — including six seasons as defensive coordinator — before spending parts of three seasons as the Detroit Lions’ head coach, is another name worth monitoring.

Of course, if that is the case, it might be a difficult sell to the fan base given Patricia’s disastrous tenure in the Motor City.

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