In what was a bit of a shocker, the Patriots traded 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts for speedster wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. I had Brissett making the 53 man roster in my prediction piece, but obviously, that is not the case anymore. I thought the Patriots had a lot of faith in Brissett, spending a 3rd round pick on him in last year’s draft. He went 1-1 as a starter in Tom Brady’s absence, showing flashes of brilliant athleticism, playmaking, and arm strength. His biggest question mark was his ability to make quick reads and decisions at the NFL level, one of Tom Brady’s biggest strengths. In the fourth preseason game, Brissett put on a show, displaying his ability to make those quick decisions. He went 28/39 passing for 341 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT on a screen play gone wrong. The pick came on a tipped ball that the Giants sniffed out. It wasn’t like he tried to force a deep ball into double coverage. He also added 4 carries for 29 yards and a rushing score. It was an impressive game, one that the Colts called “the best preseason performance in NFL history” in their statement introducing Brissett. But I hear you, I hear you. It was the fourth preseason game, with backups playing virtually the whole entire game. But that works both ways. Yes, Brissett was playing against a backup defense. But he was playing with a backup offensive line and backup skill positions. So it is kind of a wash. Brissett showed promise through his stint there and if Belichick was willing to give him up, he must like the return that he got.
This brings me to Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett was a first round pick for the Colts in 2015. He never found his way to a significant role on the Colts offense with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle ahead of him for targets when healthy. In his 2015 rookie campaign, Dorsett had 18 catches for 225 yards and 1 TD. Last year, he had 33 catches for 528 yards and 2 TDs. Belichick must think that he is capable of working out of the slot and will be a piece of the puzzle that is replacing Julian Edelman. No single person on the Patriots can do that, not even Brandin Cooks. Obviously Gronk will be a huge security blanket to have back, but for the wide receivers, it is going to be a joint effort in which Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and now Phillip Dorsett will now have to fill. This is no easy task. One of the great things about Edelman was that he was consistently on the same page as Brady. They knew what each other was thinking time and time again. Edelman would run option routes in which he had to make a decision which way to cut. If he was wrong, the whole play was busted and Brady would either have to throw it away or probably throw a pick. Edelman excelled in this decision making. Although Cooks has the talent, it is asking a lot for him to build his chemistry with Brady this quickly. Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell will likely see an increase in snaps with Edelman out, but they are primarily outside receivers. Hogan is a better deep receiver, more capable of getting behind the defense than Edelman, but cannot match his shiftiness out of the slot. Mitchell is more of a precise route running possession receiver on the outside. Again, an important role but not the key one that Edelman provided. Amendola could potentially work out of the slot, but I imagine that the Pats would like to preserve him for the postseason as much as possible. Dorsett could be the primary slot receiver in the offense. I don’t think he’ll get nearly the amount of looks that Edelman got in the slot, but it is a role he can fill while the offense shifts its game plan to suit the weapons that it does have.
That just leaves one thing to talk about for this trade: the future. Keeping Jimmy Garappolo is almost a must now. If Garappolo walked before this trade, it would have been disappointing, to say the least but at least you could have faith in a plan to play out the rest of Tom Brady’s career and give Brissett as much time as possible to learn the offense and grow, still with 2 years left on his deal after this season. Now, if Jimmy G walks in free agency to get paid and start for an NFL team (which you honestly can’t blame him for doing), the Patriots future is all of a sudden very questionable. I love Tom Brady and will defend him as the best to ever do it until the day I die. I want Tom Brady to be the quarterback of my favorite professional sports team for as long as he can be. But I like to try to be a realist. There will be a day relatively soon where Tom Brady will not be an NFL quarterback. He is 40 years old, and time keeps ticking. If Garappolo does leave this offseason, the Patriots would enter next season with a 41-year-old quarterback and no stable future. Another backup would certainly have to be drafted, most likely in the early rounds of the draft. With Brissett traded, it is imperative to keep Garappolo for the long term future if the Patriots truly believe in him. However, does he want to stay any longer as a backup? Would the Patriots have to get rid of Brady to ensure a future with Garappolo? I have no idea. For now, I’m going to root like hell for a 6th ring and have faith that the Patriots will cross that bridge when they get there.