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Super Bowl LI: Where do Rutgers alums go from here?

Logan Ryan and possibly, Duron Harmon, will cash in.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
Ryan celebrates victory.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is done, and a number of Rutgers former players won rings. We already covered the end of season superlatives for NFL players on both sides of the ball, but nothing impacts a team or players more than playing a Super Bowl. Often the winners can parlay their success the following season whether it be with their current squad or into a new contract elsewhere.

Mohamed Sanu, Falcons wide receiver. 4 years remaining on contract.

It has been documented that second place is actually worse than third psychologically. The Falcons did not just finish second, they had by all accounts the game in the bag up 28-3 in the third quarter, then up 28-9 in the 4th! Sanu caught all his targets (even though at least one more was erased on a killer penalty) but the game plan was clearly to take advantage of 1 on 1 situations with Julio Jones and secondarily use Taylor Gabriel. They also lose their offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, so it will take some time for them to adjust to Steve Sarkisian.

With an offense full of playmakers, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones aren’t going anywhere, they will lean heavily on Sanu to help them weather the effects on their psyche above. He served as the vocal leader who was consistently pushing his teammates especially since 2017 will only be the second year of a 5 year, $35 million dollar deal that was initially questioned. After a Super Bowl run coupled with the surprising demise of the Bengals after he left at the moment it looks like Mohamed will be with Atlanta for the duration even though with contracts not guaranteed in the NFL anything could happen. The contract is structured in a way that the dead money for Atlanta drops tremendously after 2017 and then again after 2018, so he surely stay with the team in 2017 and likely 2018 but after that will depend on his performance and the state of the team.

Stephen Belichick, Patriots safeties coach. Contract unknown.

With so many assistant coaches on the move seemingly all the time at the college level (as RU fans know all too well) and at the pro level, you have to figure the younger Belichick will rise through the ranks of Patriots assistant or will jump if another offer blows him out of the water. Winning team coaches usually move up and losing staffs are fired. Perhaps he elevates to DBs coach after one season covering the safeties. More likely a seemingly inevitable jump by Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia would cause some movement in the ranks. Or maybe another team tries to poach Stephen from his father’s staff to be a defensive coordinator, perhaps at the college level. Whatever happens his rise will likely be faster than his father this day in age. As the aforementioned Kyle Shanahan, Stephen has some advantages that make him an attractive candidate to somebody.

Jonathan Freeny, Patriots linebacker. Two years left on contract.

Freeny was starting before he went down with a shoulder injury. Before the injury, Elandon Roberts was beginning to emerge but then the team traded Jamie Collins. Rob Ninkovich was also returning from suspension and the team traded for former draft bust Kyle Van Noy who like virtually everyone else played better with New England than previously. So it’s possible the Patriots elect to cut Freeny even though it would only save them about 700k. For a productive, versatile veteran it doesn’t look like they would do that. 2018 is another story as Freeny will count about $2 million toward the cap and they would save $1.6 million if he were cut. As the Patriots always seem to be on defense, everyone is expendable. Hopefully Freeny contributes in 2017 and can continue in 2018 with New England or elsewhere because he simply continues to improve at 27 years of age.

Houston Texans v New England Patriots
Freeny seems to be around big plays when on the field.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Devin McCourty, Patriots safety. Three years remain on contract.

Initially I thought it was entirely possible McCourty might just hang them up after seven years in the league, 6 straight conference title games and 2 Super Bowl rings. But he is only 29 and is signed through 2019. The dead money would be huge if the Pats cut him or asked him to restructure his deal after next year (and why would they when he’s an All-Pro). After 2019, he could play several more years at the current pace since he has avoided major injury.

Prior to finishing this article I had an interesting conversation with a friend about former Yankees great Bernie Williams. I know it’s mixing sports, but the debate was not whether we thought Bernie should be in the MLB Hall of Fame, but rather is he better than guys already in. So that got me thinking about McCourty. Like Williams he is arguably on of the two best and surely most consistent players on a Patriots defense that is bordering on dynasty status. So if he continues to improve and is named All-Pro at least one of the next two years winning another Super Bowl in the process, he might actually have a shot at the Hall of Fame. Because as this Patriots team goes down in history, is Brady the only guy who would get elected to the Hall? Sure Rodney Harrison, Randy Moss, etc played some years with the squad, but they won’t be in as Patriots. Could McCourty be remembered as this version Pats’ Nick Buoniconti, but having his championships and accolades all with New England rather than going elsewhere? I mean Andre Reed is in after an impressive 15-year career, and he never even made 1st team All-Pro or won a Super Bowl!

Duron Harmon, Patriots safety. UFA.

If the Patriots were not winning, Harmon may be considered an underachiever as the Patriots surprised everybody when they drafted him in the 3rd round 2013. He is 26 and an unrestricted free agent, so it’s possible he could score a nice deal elsewhere. The rarely in the headlines nickel safety made big news when it came out after Super Bowl LI that it was not Brady, Belichick, or even McCourty but in fact Harmon who predicted the historic comeback.

As a fan of the Knights, the ballhawking we saw from Duron in college is not always on display with New England even though he snagged a near leaping interception but was out of bounds Sunday late in the 4th quarter. NFL careers are short so perhaps he goes elsewhere and if he starts would be good for the Patriots as well because they would likely receive a compensatory pick next year. So I expect him to move on unless the Patriots decide to commit to him in a bigger role in 2017.

Logan Ryan, Patriots cornerback. UFA.

Ryan was drafted just ahead of Harmon in the 2013 draft so he is also an unrestricted free agent. Based on the success he had in the playoffs, consistently ranked by PFF as one of the best on his team and at his position in the league, he should expect a big pay day. Corners are hard to find, especially those that can play inside or outside. Some team is going to spring big money. It seems like every team’s beat writers have indicated why their team should acquire Logan, here are some examples (Raiders, his hometown Eagles, Titans to join with the other McCourty, or of course Dallas because they try to sign everybody, right?)