Tom Brady has been the New England Patriots’ most valuable player for over a decade. Part of that is the importance of the quarterback position. Part of that is his extraordinary ability to play the position. Those things haven’t changed. What has changed is Brady’s age. What made him so valuable to the franchise 10 years ago is the fact that he had at least another 10 years in him. That is no longer the case.
For the 2014 season alone, Brady will still be the most important player on the roster. But at age 36 he is no longer the most valuable player in the organization when you consider its future (2014 and beyond).
So who is?
Vince Wilfork is getting old for a defensive tackle (32) and is too unreliable coming off a torn Achilles. Logan Mankins is the same age and showed some signs of regression last season.
Excluding the old men (relatively speaking, Dad), I’ve got five players on my short list: Rob Gronkowski, Chandler Jones, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, and Nate Solder.
Mayo is the oldest of that bunch at 28, and is also coming off a season-ending injury to his pectoral. Have to rule him out.
Gronkowski has the ability to be the most valuable non-quarterback in the entire NFL. He is the best blocking tight end in the league when he’s healthy, essentially serving as a third offensive tackle. He is also arguably the best receiving tight end when he’s healthy. He is a complete matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. But there are too many question marks regarding his latest string of injuries to be confident about his future health.
McCourty is one helluva young safety. There aren’t many guys I’d rather have patrolling the back end of a defense. However, in order to be considered the most valuable player on a Super Bowl caliber team that is loaded with talent, you have to make a greater impact than that of a solid safety. Maybe if McCourty had the ballhawking, playmaking instincts of a young Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed he would make a compelling case. But that’s just not who he is. He’s a valuable piece to an intricate puzzle, but not an MVP.
That narrows the list down to two. Chandler Jones and Nate Solder were both first round picks (21st pick in the 2012 draft and 17th in 2011, respectively). They are both young (24 and 25 respectively) and healthy. Neither has made a Pro Bowl – yet – but both are extremely talented and promising. These two Patriots are the cornerstones of the franchise and the most valuable assets to the team moving forward.