FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Left unsaid in Demaryius Thomas’ recent trashing of the Patriots’ treatment of him and Bill Belichick’s reasoned response Thursday is the reality that as things shook out, the Patriots could have used Thomas after all.
Had the Patriots not gone down the Antonio Brown hole, only to distance themselves from his twisted world after he played one game for them, Thomas would be catching multiple passes from Tom Brady on a weekly basis. So in tabulating the costs for Brown, add Thomas’ potential contributions to the $10 million Brown has coming from the Patriots.
The realization that the Patriots could use him, more than anything, probably triggered Thomas going public with his opinion that his short time with the Patriots was, “kind of a waste of time.” He wishes he were catching Brady’s passes for a Super Bowl contender. That doesn’t make him a bad guy. It makes him normal.
“It was insulting, for sure,” Thomas, now with the Jets, told the New York Daily News of his time with the Pats. “Once I got cut (Aug. 31), I could have just come (to the Jets) and not stayed there and re-sign. When they re-signed me, I was thinking that I was good. Two weeks later, I was gone. So, it’s like, ‘Why did I waste my time?’ “
If only life could be lived knowing exactly what’s going to happen 10 days from now we’d all make gazillions in the stock market, but that’s not the way it goes, especially in a bottom line business as the NFL. If you can help the team, you’re with the team. If the team doesn’t need you, they get what they can for you and move on. That’s what the Patriots did. Once they signed Brown, Thomas became expendable so they traded him for a 2021 sixth-round pick.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick vacuumed the dust cloud of a controversy Thomas kicked up just as it was beginning to form by answering a question about it. Belichick stayed 180 degrees from insulting Thomas in his response.
“Yeah, look, Demaryius is a great kid,” Belichick said. “I have a ton of respect for him. He’s very professional, did everything we asked him to do. Circumstances changed a couple of times in that period leading up to when he was traded, so I felt like I was truthful with him, but things changed, therefore what I said was not the same as it was what I said previously.”
Belichick told Thomas the truth on the receiver’s way out the door as well, a conversation Thomas recounted for the Daily News.
“Coach (Belichick) came up to me and was like, ‘Uh, we got too many guys. We can’t get the ball around enough and we’re going to trade you to the Jets,’ “ Thomas told the News. “And that was that. ... Ain’t no reason to yell. They’ve won championships without me. I was only trying to be part of something that was going to be good when I was there. ... They’ve done a hell of a job.”
Thomas, 31, caught four passes for 62 yards in the Jets’ upset victory over the Cowboys on Sunday. He fits the profile of the sort of receiver the Patriots are tracking, with an eye toward a potential trade.
Brady famously prefers veterans to rookies and will be happy to see Phillip Dorsett (hamstring, expected back Monday) and Josh Gordon (knee, status uncertain), which places additional pressure on undrafted Jakobi Meyers (eight catches in 10 targets, 120 yards) and the bigger, faster N’Keal Harry, the first-round choice bound for activation for a Nov. 3 road game vs. the Ravens.
A day after the first game with the Jets, Belichick addressed the challenges rookie receivers face.
“The transition from college to the NFL at that position is a big one. A lot more coverages, a lot tighter coverage, a lot more route adjustments because of the variety of coverages and techniques, and leverage and so forth that the defenders will play,” Belichick said. “Like yesterday, the Jets played a lot of cover two, but they had two or three different ways of the way they played it and it kind of looks the same, but it’s not the same, and it really can affect the receivers rules and adjustments because it just, it looks different. So, you know, experience and understanding concepts and understanding route concepts and route coverages, that’s a big area of growth for the passing game in general.”
Even if the Patriots don’t fortify the receiving corps with a veteran, it’s difficult to make the case that the position ranks atop the list of offensive concerns. The weakened state of the offensive line, down two starters at least until Isaiah Wynn is eligible to return at left tackle, makes it tougher to move the ball through the air and on the ground.
Toss in James Develin’s absence at fullback and the blocking deficiencies grow. Even if Develin becomes healthy enough to return, a team is limited to bringing two players back from injured reserve. Harry makes one, Wynn two. Blocking, not catching, qualifies as the Patriots’ biggest concern.