In the vein of the new NBA champion Golden State Warriors, the question should be asked: What would a superteam look like in the NFL?
It’s a much more difficult proposition in the NFL, what with the significantly larger team rosters, a salary cap that works, and the prevalence of the franchise tag. The tag alone prevented stars like Le’Veon Bell, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Kirk Cousins from hitting the open market this offseason.
Football might be closer to such a team than one would believe, however.
For this exercise, we’re taking the New England Patriots – Super Bowl LI champions and the odds-on favorites to repeat in 2018 – and building on their already loaded lineup.
The tag and free agency have already come and gone, and netted the Patriots even more talent, but look ahead to next year and here are some options that could be the football equivalent of the Warriors signing Kevin Durant:
Mine the free-agent market
Much of the Patriots’ roster is already locked in for the 2018 season and beyond. The only notable pending unrestricted free agents are Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Kony Ealy, and Rob Ninkovich, which New England would have to bring back on team-friendly deals.
What would entice them to take less than market value? The opportunity to play on the NFL’s version of the Warriors.
In order to build on their roster comprised of stars Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, and Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots would have to mine for gold on the free-agent market and go all-in to pursue another title, like the Warriors have done.
One such free agent could be Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers used their franchise tag to keep hold of Bell for 2017. Should he slip through their fingers after the season, he would represent the monster Durant signing that would vault the Patriots to stratospheric heights. Throw in the fact that the Patriots kept Bell and the Steelers from reaching the Super Bowl in 2017 and he’s an easy stand-in for KD.
Running back is one of the few positions the Patriots could stand to improve. Bell represents the greatest upgrade possible.
Offer veterans a shot at a ring
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the NFL’s most loyal foot soldiers. He signed a one-year contract to remain with the Cardinals for the 2017 season. Should Arizona again fall short, the only thing that could keep Fitz from retirement is likely the option to play for a Super Bowl contender.
Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Brady, and their many rings would offer Fitzgerald that very opportunity in joining a pass-catching corps that already includes Edelman, Cooks, and Gronkowski. Now that’s a super unit.
Use available resources
The Patriots still own their greatest bargaining chip: backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady’s backup has shown he’s a starting-caliber player and has drawn considerable interest from passer-needy teams.
With Hightower and Stephon Gilmore on their defense, pass-rusher is the last remaining area of need for New England.
There are only a small number of organizations still in the market for a starting quarterback, but one is the San Francisco 49ers. With a new front office that drafted Solomon Thomas with its first-round pick this year, the 49ers might be willing to move their top pick from 2016 DeForest Buckner in order to find an answer under center.
In return for Garoppolo, the Patriots would get a young talent who corralled six sacks in his rookie season.
With the additions of Bell, Fitzgerald, and Buckner, the Patriots would be as super as ever.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
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