D.A.: Are The Patriots Hatching A Lamar Jackson Plan? 

Lamar Jackson has been "un-selling" himself, DA says, and the keys to a dynasty could await

The DA Show
April 09, 2018 - 12:55 pm

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The chess match is never over within Foxboro's walls. Enemies are being scouted. Exit strategies developed. Every future situation planned for. If A, then B. If C, then D. It's not that Bill Belichick is always right (witness Albert Haynesworth, Adalius Thomas, Chad Jackson, and Laurence Maroney). It's that there is always a plan being hatched and a strategy considered. 

While Darth Hoodie is one of the smartest coaches ever to walk to the sideline, he's also had two security blankets in his corner: unwavering job security and Tom Brady. When you never have to look over your shoulder you take chances others won't, and plan for situations others can't. When you have #12, your flaws (the defense, offensive line, inexperience, depth at receiver, mediocre running backs, new coordinators) can often be covered up by quarterback brilliance. 

Which means this offseason is more fascinating than usual because Bill and Tom are nearing the end. The Patriots have to prepare their five-year plan without their cornerstones, even if it seems impossible to envision life after them. It is my belief there are, at maximum, two more seasons for Bill and Tom. Josh McDaniels is not going to napalm his reputation around the league, sandbag the Colts, and undercut assistant coaches who he hired away from other jobs unless he has assurance he's taking over for Bill shortly. And while Brady's ability defies the laws of Father Time every year, it cannot last much longer, and his wife is in his ear every year to retire. 

Playing at a high level at 41 is incredible but not impossible. In three years, though? Brady will no longer be in that huddle, that much I'm certain. So the Patriots need to be thinking (again) about his replacement, since the last one walked out the door and into the San Francisco sunshine. Brady outlasted Jimmy Garoppolo, throwing a monkey wrench into Succession Plan I. So now the Pats are onto Succession Plan II, and they've added recent ammo to make it work. 

In trading Brandin Cooks, the Patriots have added the 23rd overall pick to their picnic basket. They hold two picks in the first round, and two in the second round, giving New England capital to select or trade up for a quarterback. The Pats had never spent high-end resources at signal caller while Brady was in his prime. The highest selections were Kevin O'Connell and Ryan Mallet in the third round. But four years ago, the Pats took Jimmy G. in the second, clearly pivoting from their protocol. They were preparing for the end of Brady's run. The wheels were in motion. But Tom was stubbornly great. And now, they have to do it again. 

In one of the deepest quarterback drafts in recent history, a slew of gunslingers will be off the board far earlier than the Pats can get involved in. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield will all likely go in the first eight picks. Even the Pats' draft collateral won't be able to move them that high. But that means Lamar Jackson will likely still be available after that, and he's taken the curious tact of "un-selling" himself. 

The Heisman Trophy winner didn't hire an agent. He is representing himself, and reportedly teams have had trouble getting in touch through his mother to set up meetings. He strangely opted against running the 40-yard-dash at the combine and his pro day. Sprinting is one of his strengths, so why wouldn't he display it? Could it be to scare off quarterback-desperate teams, giving his a soft landing in Foxboro? Knowing he wouldn't vault ahead of those four passers to make the big money, could the Pats have convinced him to try and avoid unstable organizations for the keys to a dynasty?

The Patriots have been masters at the dark arts for decades, finding every conceivable loophole, exploiting every possible gray area. No matter if you feel the Pats are bold cheaters or victims of jealousy-driven witch hunts, the organization is always looking for an edge. And the whispers of filming, deflation, rules bending, scoreboard operating, and subterfuge are omnipresent. Is it possible the Pats have advised Jackson against speaking with other teams? Is it possible Jackson has been told if he plays his cards right he can be the successor to Brady? Is it possible McDaniels was given the green light to identify his desired quarterback in the draft, and the Pats would maneuver to get him? 

It's the Patriots. It's the NFL. Anything is possible. And if Lamar Jackson gets snapped up by Belichick, he would have orchestrated his Plan B to a startlingly effective degree.  

 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.