What a time to be a Boston sports fan.
The New England Patriots are canceling spring practices because they’re feeling themselves despite no one knowing for sure who their offensive play-caller is or who’s going to start at cornerback on defense.
The Bruins just fired their head coach, and no one except for Don Sweeney seems completely sold on the move.
After two months of futility, the Red Sox have suddenly decided to be good at baseball again and have won seven of their last 10 games en route to sneaking back into the third AL Wild Card spot.
Oh yeah, and the Celtics are up 2-1 in the NBA Finals with a chance to put Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and the Golden State Warriors on the ropes Friday night. No big deal.
We asked for some Patriots and Boston sports-related questions this week, and you delivered. Here’s the first of what will hopefully be many Twitter mailbags:
What are your bets for AFC East win totals? Bills 11.5. Dolphins 9.5. Pats 8.5. Jets 5.5? -parappa (@mositatupufan)
Let’s start with the Patriots. While I don’t have them as a playoff team at this point, I do in fact have them hitting the over on this one by going 9-8. The swing game on the schedule for me is Cleveland, and it’s getting harder and harder to think the Browns will have Deshaun Watson available to them when the teams meet on October 16.
The Bills, of course, are the class of the division, and it’s hard to see that stopping with Josh Allen ascending into true superstar status. 12 or 13 wins feels like a decent bet.
As much as the hype around the Dolphins makes sense, they, like the Patriots, don’t feel like a playoff team even with Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, and new coach Mike McDaniel in the fold. Maybe Tua Tagovailoa will improve as he gets further from that hip injury, but it’s uncertain if he has the arm to truly take advantage of the weapons at his disposal. But if the line is set at 9.5, I’ll take the under.
Give the 2021 Jets credit for scratching out four wins last year despite Zach Wilson not knowing what he was doing, three starts from backup quarterback Mike White, and a slew of other injuries on both sides of the football. Rookies like receiver Garrett Wilson, running back Breece Hill, and defensive end Jermaine Johnson could make them better right away. But upon further review, they only have about six clearly winnable games on the schedule, and they won’t win all of them because they’re the Jets. Under.
Am I crazy for being sneaky confident in Patricia/Judge as the head offensive coaches? I understand they did not do well as head coaches, but they had success as Belichick lieutenants, so I like the idea of them having one aspect to focus on. -Drew12122 (@sonny12122)
“Sneaky confident” is probably toeing the line a bit in terms of craziness. Not much about Patricia or Judge having big roles in the offense does much to inspire confidence.
That said, is this experiment absolutely doomed to fail? Not necessarily.
In the end, this is going to be Bill Belichick’s show, no matter who relays the plays off of the call sheet. He’ll be in either Matt Patricia or Joe Judge’s ear saying he wants to run the ball in certain situations or go for it on fourth down. Judging by how involved in the offense in spring practice, you can essentially call him the offensive coordinator this season.
Also, though his or his coaches’ abilities to make adjustments will be crucial to the process, the most important factor will be the players’ execution on the field. If they do their jobs, the coaching carousel will fade into the background.
Plus, we can’t forget Mac Jones’ influence on all this. So much of the conversation has revolved around what the coaching changes will do to Jones in his second season without considering how much ownership he’ll have over the offense.
Jones has been the undisputed leader on offense so far this spring and looks in thorough command of the huddle and the execution of the plays himself. His confidence has been obvious both in his growing personality between plays and his increasing aggressiveness to test his arm and take shots down the field.
So while it might be a stretch to be confident in Patricia and Judge as offensive coaches, it might not be far-fetched to say they won’t be as important to the offense’s success or failure as we think when it’s all said and done.
Would Tre Nixon earn more with a year on Practice Squad or a year stashed on IR? -Qualitysmoke (@qualitysmoke)
Probably injured reserve.
This year, practice squad players will make $11,500 every week, which totals to $207,000 for an 18-weeks season.
At this moment, Nixon’s base salary is set at $705,000 heading into 2022 because he technically has no accrued NFL seasons — he was not on the active roster at all in 2021. Players stashed on IR often agree to a “split” contract that helps reduce the financial burden of his being unavailable. In 2020, a split salary for a player like Nixon with no accrued seasons was $393,000, which would still be above the $207,000 practice squad salary for a year assuming that number has stayed the same or increased.
Of course, if Nixon were on the practice squad and got three elevations for the season, he’d receive a significant pay bump. The minimum salary of a player on the 53-man roster is $41,470 this season. But even if you factor in three weeks on the active roster along with 15 weeks on the practice squad, it still doesn’t top $300,000 all told.
For Nixon’s wallet’s sake, he should try to make the active roster or give the Patriots enough reason not to waive him.
Hypothetically, if the Celtics win the championship, what would you want to see them do in the off-season? Run it back with the team as constructed? Add pieces? Subtract? (I’m inclined to think “run it back,” but we could use a real ringer!) -Jake Hamilton (@_JakeTHamilton)
Now we’re talking.
The first thing to note: four of the Celtics’ five starters this year — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart — are firmly under contract for multiple years. Smart and Williams just signed extensions this past off-season that will kick in this coming year, in fact.
I’ve seen a few people suggest the Celtics should trade Marcus Smart to clear space for another max player like Bradley Beal, who could choose to opt out of his $36.4 million player option and become a free agent this off-season. (Beal could also opt out and sign a max deal with Washington.)
If Beal opted into his option, you could also explore trading Smart plus prospects (say, Aaron Nesmith) and picks for Beal in addition to signing him to a big contract. It would be expensive either way. But again, Smart just signed a four-year, $76 million deal. That doesn’t sound like someone the Celtics want to trade, nor is it a given that they’d easily be able to.
If Beal isn’t available via trade or signing, All-Star Zach LaVine or rising point guard Jalen Brunson will also be free agents. Brunson in particular could fit very well in Boston.
There’s also Al Horford to consider: he’s scheduled to make $26.5 million this year if he doesn’t retire after the Finals. He’s had an incredible playoff run and has been an excellent locker room influence, so it feels unlikely the Celtics would trade him again. If he wants to be in Boston, he probably gets to play out his contract.
The bottom line: the Celtics’ core of Tatum, Brown, and Williams will be here, and Smart is more likely than not to remain. But in a perfect world, you would add at least one more top player to the mix to maximize Tatum and Brown through 2024, when Brown’s deal runs out. If they don’t plan to trade Smart, who has proven himself a worthy starter, they’ll have to do it in free agency.