Elise Amendola/Associated Press
For the first time since 2001, the New England Patriots are preparing for a regular season without Tom Brady as their starting quarterback. While New England does have a promising young quarterback in Jarett Stidham and a capable journeyman in Brain Hoyer, replacing Brady won’t be easy.
Unfortunately, replacing Brady isn’t the only challenge the Patriots are facing this offseason.
New England is also in the process of rebuilding its roster—a process that began long before Brady left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One player who might not be around for the rebuild is guard Joe Thuney.
The 27-year-old guard, who was a second-team All-Pro in 2019, has been a critical member of the Patriots offense since being drafted in 2016. However, he was also given the franchise tag this offseason and may not be in New England’s long-term plans. NBC Sports’ Peter King suggested in April that Thuney could have been among the players traded during the draft.
Now, reports have surfaced that the Philadelphia Eagles might be interested in trading for Thuney as a replacement for injured guard Brandon Brooks.
“Would they take a big swing on someone like New England’s franchise-tagged All-Pro guard, Joe Thuney? Based on what I know…I think they’d at least explore it,” Albert Breer of The MMQB wrote. “But, again, that’s probably more of a down-the-road contingency thing for now.”
Brooks suffered a torn Achilles while working out earlier this week.
While there’s no guarantee that the Eagles will trade for Thuney—as Breer mentioned, it could merely be a contingency option—there’s no guarantee that he’s on the Patriots’ roster at the start of the regular season. If New England does trade Thuney, it will have one more important offensive player to replace.
Sony Michel Underwent Surgery
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Brady and Thuney aren’t the only offensive cogs who may need to be replaced this offseason. Standout running back Sony Michel isn’t going anywhere, but he may not be ready for training camp.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Michel recently underwent foot surgery and is still recovering:
“New England Patriots starting running back Sony Michel is recovering from surgery on his foot in May, according to sources. The surgery was viewed as more maintenance-based to help relieve discomfort that Michel had been experiencing. … How Michel progresses will ultimately determine whether he starts training camp on the physically unable to perform list.”
If Michel isn’t at 100 percent by training camp, it could open the door for second-year back Damien Harris. A third-round pick out of Alabama, Harris only logged four carries as a rookie last season. However, the 5’11”, 213-pound back is built to provide a similar inside running presence as the one Michel has become known for.
New England also has running backs James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden on the roster. While the prospect of having to replace Michel isn’t ideal, New England is well-positioned to survive a stretch with him at less than 100 percent.
Patriots Remain Betting Favorites for Cam Newton
Theoretically, New England could replace Brady with another former league MVP in Cam Newton. The 2015 MVP and Super Bowl participant was released by the Carolina Panthers earlier this offseason and remains on the open market.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, New England is the favorite to land Newton:
While the idea of Newton playing for Bill Belichick is intriguing, it isn’t likely to happen for a couple of reasons. For one, the two parties may have already had discussions, according to ESPN, with no deal coming to fruition.
Secondly, the Patriots only have about $1.8 million in space, according to Spotrac. If they were interested in bringing in Newton, they have some work to do to free up the money to sign him. Barring an unforeseen development, don’t expect to see Newton in a New England uniform this season.