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Reaction: Five Thoughts on the Patriots 2014 Schedule


Bill Belichick and the Patriots got their first look at the 2014 NFL regular season schedule Wednesday night. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots 2014 regular season schedule was released on Wednesday night.

We knew the opponents, but as a fan and analyst it’s always exciting to see when the team you follow plays certain games. Here’s the schedule and some thoughts below. –

2014 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1 — 9/7 New England at Miami – 1:00pm – CBS

Week 2 —  9/14 New England at Vikings – 1:00pm – CBS

Week  3 —  9/21 New England vs Oakland – 1:00pm – CBS

Week 4  –  9/29 New England at Kansas City – 8:30pm ESPN (Mon Night)

Week 5 —  10/05 New England vs Cincinnati – 8:30pm NBC

Week 6 —  10/12 New England at Buffalo – 1:00pm CBS

Week 7 —  10/16 New England vs NY Jets – 8:25pm CBS (Thurs)

Week 8 —  10/26 New England vs Chicago – 1:00pm FOX

Week 9 —  11/2 New England vs Denver – 4:25pm CBS

Week 10 —  11/9 – BYE WEEK

Week 11 —  11/16 New England at Indianapolis – 8:30pm NBC

Week 12 —  11/23 New England vs Detroit – 1:00pm FOX

Week 13 —  11/30 New England at Green Bay – 4:25pm CBS

Week 14 —  12/7 New England at San Diego – 8:30pm NBC

Week 15 —  12/14 New England vs Miami – 1:00pm CBS

Week 16 —  12/21 New England at NY Jets – 1:00pm CBS

Week 17 —  12/28 New England vs Buffalo – 1:00pm CBS

Reaction:

- Well Placed Bye Week: The first thing that caught my eye, a week ten bye for the Patriots. It’s always good to push the bye week until after the second-half of the season so guys can rest after a sufficient amount of games have been played.

- Starts Easy, Ends Tough: When you look over the schedule, the first few teams appear — on paper — to be relatively easy games for an expected contender like New England. Once you get to week nine — the premier matchup hosting the Denver Broncos — however, along with the seven games following the bye week are much tougher. A good way for the team to ramp up their competition level before a potential postseason run.

- Good Four Games For Browner to Miss: One of the biggest free agent acquisitions for the Patriots was cornerback, Brandon Browner. He’s suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season and the stretch looks manageable with him out of the lineup. Three-out-of-four contests are on the road, but the Patriots should be able to handle the opponents without Browner in the mix.

- November Looks Like the Toughest Month: If I had to pick the toughest month — granted, it’s still a long time before the season kicks off — November looks very challenging. The Pats host Denver before the bye week, then go on the road to face the Colts, host Detroit and then go to Green Bay for a showdown with the Packers. It seems like a stretch that could tell us if this team will be able to make a legitimate championship run.

- Nice Slate of Primetime Games: The NFL announced Wednesday morning that flex-scheduling will start in week five this year. This is actually big news because previously it was not until week 11 before networks could change who is playing primetime and who is not.

As it stands now, though, the Patriots have five primetime games. Week four at Kansas City on Monday Night Football, week five vs Cincinnati on Sunday Night Football, week seven vs the Jets on Thursday Night Football, week 11 at Indianapolis on Sunday Night Football and Week 14 at San Diego on Sunday Night Football. If all five stand, it will be a great slate of primetime contests.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0


Bill Belichick will look to improve the Patriots roster in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. (USA TODAY Images)

The second edition of my 2014 NFL mock draft.

The NFL draft is about a month away and there have been a lot of changes from my previous mock. Here’s how I expect the first round to play out. –

1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

The Texans are a franchise quarterback away from being an AFC contender, but there isn’t a quarterback in this year’s class that is worth a no. 1 overall selection. Houston goes with the best player in the draft and hope to grab a QB in round two.

2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

In my first mock, I had the Rams trading with the Falcons. I still see St. Louis training down, but I’ve decided not to mock trades in this edition.

The Rams have Jake Long, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered last season,  but the Auburn tackle has incredible upside and would be a great addition for the team. They’ve been committed to QB Sam Bradford, so it’s a must they do everything in their power to protect him.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Jaguars could go in several different directions with this selection. Clowney makes sense if he’s available, as they desperately need help rushing the passer, but Jacksonville needs a face of their franchise. Bridgewater gives them a legitimate QB and would be their best option here.

4. Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

I have questions about Bortles, and he’s not my top rated prospect, but this is an interesting fit. Borltes is by no means a sure-thing, but he has high upside. His 6’5, 232 frame throwing the ball to Josh Gordon and Cameron Jordan has to be tantalizing for a team that has been searching for a legitimate signal-caller. The question for Cleveland, however, is could they find a QB they like with picks at no. 26 or no. 35 for better value?

5. Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins is a dynamic, play-making receiver that can boost an anemic offense. The biggest question for Oakland — who will throw him the ball? Is Matt Schuab the plan for their “win now” mentality? The Raiders could potentially move up for one of the top QB prospects, but Watkins would be a nice consolation prize as they look to build on the offensive side of the ball.

6. Atlanta Falcons – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

The Falcons could very well trade up for Clowney, but grabbing Mack at this spot would be a nice selection. Atlanta needs a defensive playmaker and the Buffalo product fits the mold. A versatile, aggressive player that could be an impact starter from day one. Getting after the quarterback is key in today’s NFL and the Falcons would love to add Mack for 2014.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers –  Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

I could easily see new head coach Lovie Smith targeting a prospect to add to the front seven of his defense. But if Clowney and Mack are gone, which is expected, pairing Evans with Vincent Jackson would give the Buccaneers a receiving core that could torture opposing secondaries.

8. Minnesota Vikings – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Fire and ice, that’s what I see with Manziel pairing with new head coach Mike Zimmer. After Manziel’s highly publicized pro day, Zimmer called it a “sideshow”, but I still this as a potential fit. Manziel could develop in the system, handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and has targets down field with Kyle Rudolph as well as Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings could have a young, explosive offense with Manziel leading the way.

9. Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Back-to-back-to-back Aggies. Even with Cordy Glenn already on the line, if Matthews falls to this spot it would be tough to pass on him. I could see the Bills adding a defensive prospect to their defense, but like the Rams, they’ve committed to a QB and need to protect him. A strong line could really benefit E.J. Manuel as he continues to develop going into his second season.

10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

After the signing of wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency, I don’t see Detroit going offense here. The Lions need help on defense, specifically in their secondary. Gilbert brings a tremendous skill-set and high upside to a team with a strong front seven in place. He’s not a perfect prospect, but he is the best cornerback in this class.

11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

The Titans need an edge rusher, so Anthony Barr is the selection here. New defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, will be switching the defense to a 3-4 and could use a standup weapon like Barr. Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley just re-worked his contract and pairing him with the UCLA prospect could give them some explosive outside linebackers for Horton’s new scheme.

12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Ebron is far and away the best tight end in this class. The way tight ends have been used the past few years, every team in the NFL wants the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski on the roster. I’m not sure Ebron is as good, but he can start from week one and do a number for the Giants offense.

13. St Louis Rams – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

This pick is gaining traction around the league. Clinton-Dix is a versatile, playmaking safety that can help stabilize the Rams secondary from day one. Good fit, good value, done deal.

14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, DL, Pittsburgh

Donald would fill a big need for the Bears. Chicago could go in a number of different directions, but I expect them to target interior defensive line early on. They added Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen to the edge, but they could use a young, playmaking defensive tackle. Donald fits the mold and would be a nice addition for the Bears.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Watching the Steelers this past year, it was clear the defense needed some new blood. Pittsburgh got old very quickly, so which direction do they go at no. 15? Taking Dennard seems like the most logical choice at this spot. He would fit nicely in Dick LeBeau’s defense.

16. Dallas Cowboys Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri

Moving on from DeMarcus Ware will be tough for a Dallas defense that really struggled last year. Ealy can come in and help replace some of the lost production. Whether it’s Ealy or not, it seems like a lock it will a front seven choice for the Cowboys here.

17. Baltimore Ravens - C.J Mosley, LB, Alabama

The Ravens could go offensive line here, but Mosley would be a welcomed addition to a linebacking core in need of more youth. His high football IQ, versatility and awareness stand out on tape. The Alabama linebacker could be a nice fit for the Ravens as they continue to rebuild their defense.

18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Despite the addition of Eric Decker, the Jets could use a playmaker like Beckham jr. The LSU wideout has great ability and strong hands that could make New York’s offense much more dangerous than in years past. He has been really impressive during the pre-draft process.

19. Miami Dolphins – Zach Martin, OL, Notre Dame

The Dolphins have a need on the offensive line and have done some reshuffling along the front. Keeping QB Ryan Tannehill upright will be key in 2014 and the versatile Martin can step into a number of spots to contribute right away.

20. Arizona Cardinals – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Arizona could very well go defensive line or safety with this pick, but Lewan is too much value to pass right here. They added Jared Veldheer to play left tackle, Lewan could step in and play right. He comes with some off-field issues, causing him to fall a bit, but this would significantly help the Cardinals offensive line.

21. Green Bay Packers – Calvin Pryor, S, Lousivile

The Packers have several needs, but safety clearly is near — if not at — the top. Pryor is an aggressive, tone-setting safety that could help solidify the backend of the Green Bay defense. The Packers have wanted to add toughness as they’ve rebuilt their defense the past two years, Pryor would be a solid addition.

22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marquise Lee, WR, USC

Desean Jackson out, Lee in. The Eagles released Jackson last week and it was clear they wanted to go in another direction. They re-signed wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, but adding another young, talented wideout like Lee could help replace the void the Jackson release created.

23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

When Kansas City was bounced from the playoffs last year, it seemed they lacked weapons in the passing game. Besides Dwayne Bowe, who disappears for stretches at a time anyways, the team doesn’t really have a no. 2 option. Cooks is a high character, playmaking receiver that has been rising throughout the pre-draft process. He could be what the Chiefs are missing.

24. Cincinnati Bengals – Timmy Jernigan, DL, Florida State

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is recovering from a torn ACL and the team lost defense end Michael Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cincinnati could use some help up front, Jernigan is a bit raw, but would fit their scheme very well. He and Atkins could really give opposing lines fits. Secondary help is also an option here.

25. San Diego Chargers – Louis Nix III, DL, Notre Dame

Nix is a weird selection because he really could go within ten picks of this spot and it would not be a surprise. Chargers lost defensive lineman Cam Thomas to the Steelers and can really use a presence on their defensive line. Nix is a tough, versatile player that can start from day one. Defensive lineman isn’t a “sexy pick”, but it could really go a long way for San Diego.

26. Cleveland Browns (via Colts) – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

When you have Joe Haden in your secondary, he won’t be targeted a whole lot, but the other cornerback will. The Browns could go wide receiver here, but Verrett is a terrific man-coverage corner that can fit in to Cleveland’s attacking defense.

27. New Orleans Saints – Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn

The Saints are somewhat of a wildcard, as they could go in several directions. It doesn’t hurt to give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan another pass rusher to use in his defense, though. From day one, Ford can come in on passing downs and get to the quarterback. His Senior Bowl performance and pre-draft process has him rising.

28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

The Panthers just signed veteran wide receiver Jason Avant, who’s probably their best receiver at this point. That pretty much tells you how badly Carolina needs to get QB Cam Newton some weapons this May. Some forget, however, that left tackle Jordan Gross just retired and they need a replacement for him as well. I expect it to be one of those two positions.

29. New England Patriots – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

There’s one thing that bothers me when talking about the Patriots draft, they won’t do (fill in the blank) or won’t draft a certain position. We’ve seen Bill Belichick do the unexpected time and time again, so nothing will really surprise me here.

There’s a good chance they trade down here, adding selections in the second-fourth rounds, but linebacker makes a lot of sense here.

Shazier is an athletic player that can be moved around in the Patriots front seven. They can send him on the blitz, drop him in coverage or whatever the team asks of him. He’s an athletic, run-and-chase linebacker that can rotate in and give New England’s defense more speed up front.

With Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins set to start, Shazier could fill the role Collins did last year and potentially frees up he or someone else to play on the line of scrimmage. He’s not a finished product, but he would be a nice selection for the Pats at no. 29.

30. San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

If I were mocking trades, I would say it’s very possible San Francisco trades up for a wide receiver like Odell Beckham jr or Brandin Cooks, as they do have a lot of picks in this draft. If they don’t go receiver, look for the 49ers to target cornerback here. They lost cornerbacks Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rodgers to the Oakland Raiders in free agency, so adding a player or two in the draft won’t be surprising.

31. Denver Broncos – Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA

The Broncos lost Zane Beadles in free agency and have to do some reshuffling on the interior of the offensive line. Protecting Peyton Manning is priority one for Denver, so adding the versatile Su’a-Filo would be a nice addition at this spot in the draft.

32. Seattle Seahawks – RaShede Hageman, DL, Minnesota

The Seahawks don’t have a whole lot of needs, so this is a bit of a luxury pick for them. They could go receiver, but depth along the trenches is important in the NFL. After losing Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, Hageman could help rotate into Seattle’s defense. He has an incredible amount of upside.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Release Safety Adrian Wilson


The Patriots released 34-year-old safety Adrian Wilson on Friday afternoon. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots informed veteran safety, Adrian Wilson, he has been released Friday afternoon.

The 34-year-old was signed to a three-year contract last season, but he was placed on Injured-Reserve before the season began. Wilson had an injured hamstring and was recovering from a torn achilles tendon, facing an uphill battle to made the 2014 53-man roster.

Wilson tweeted this statement on Friday.

The Patriots will save roughly $1.16 million of cap space by cutting Wilson.

Wilson, who appears to be healthy and wants to continue playing, had spent some time training at the Fischer Institute in Phoenix along with other Patriots players, such as newly acquired cornerback Darrelle Revis.

The Patriots signed former Eagles safety, Patrick Chung, on Thursday, who spent his first four years in the NFL with New England.

As of now, the Pats have six safeties on the roster. Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, Kanorris Davis and Nate Ebner. Although, only McCourty and Harmon are believed to be locks for the team’s upcoming season at this point.

When Wilson was signed, the hope was he could fill the team’s lack of a pure strong safety, also rotating in as a big-nickel in sub packages for the defense. Unfortunately for him and the team, it didn’t work out. New England could look to bring in a rookie or veteran before the season.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

It may be the middle of the offseason, but you wouldn’t know it based on the NFL activity over the past several weeks.

With free agency, pre-draft workouts and transactions around the league, it’s been a whirlwind. With the NFL Draft about five weeks away, veteran signings will slow down until after the annual New York event. Nevertheless, each NFL team has made significant moves that will have an impact in the season ahead.

Here are my thoughts on some NFL and Patriots topics in the headlines:

- Wilfork Restructure a Sigh of Relief to Patriots Nation: After ten years with the Patriots, defensive captain Vince Wilfork’s name carries a lot of weight on and off the field. After a few reports that the 32-year-old was unhappy after being approached for a new deal, he ultimately agreed to a new contract that should make him a Patriot for life.

From a business standpoint, I could see the case to be made on both sides. With that being said, Wilfork remaining with the team leaves them with one less hole to fill. The team could add some more depth to the defensive line, but having Wilfork back will make an impact next season.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald had this quote from defensive back Devin McCourty on Wilfork, “He’s the heart and soul of not just the defense but the team. Everyone in that locker room listens to Vince when he speaks. He’s not a guy that is just talking all the time or talking to talk. When he speaks, everyone listens.”

- DeSean Jackson Joins the Redskins: No player has been in the headlines more than former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson the past week. After the Eagles took more than a $6 million cap hit to release the troubled wideout, news broke he could be linked to Los Angeles gangs.

To me, as the week went on, it looked more and more like the Eagles used the gang ties story to calm the Philadelphia faithful after releasing one of the team’s most talented players. While he undoubtedly has his baggage, the team clearly wanted to go in a different direction and the Washington Redskins gave him a new place to call home.

The Jackson signing makes too much sense for the Redskins. With no first-round pick in the year’s draft, Washington had to get creative in adding talent to a mediocre roster. Jackson, combined with receivers Pierre Garçon and Andre Roberts, give quarterback Robert Griffin III a nice trio of weapons on offense.

- Blount Becomes a Steeler, MJD Nearly a Patriot?: The Patriots have a need at running back, but it’s not urgent. Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are on the roster, but all three are entering the final years of their contract with New England.

Former Patriots tailback LeGarrette Blount signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers for two-years, $3.55 million, a contract the Patriots were not comfortable matching. Veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew signed with the Oakland Raiders for three years and said the Patriots were one of three teams he was considering.

New England also hosted free agent Michael Bush, but no contract was agreed upon after the visit. With all of these factors taken into consideration, it’s clear the team feels they need another tailback, but on their financial terms. They haven’t been willing to pay complimentary backs in the past — BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead come to mind — but look for them to draft a running back in this year’s draft or sign one in free agency shortly after.

- Manziel, Bridgewater visits Spark Debate in New England: When a team like the Patriots have one of the league’s best signal-callers, you don’t expect to hear them visiting with some of the top prospects at that position. After all, they have only 30 official visits with prospects and used two on Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel along with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.

This sparked some debate on Boston radio and local sports headlines, with fans wondering — Why? To me, this was partly about due diligence. If you bring these guys in, coaches can pick their brain and figure out a better way to gameplan against them. When you face them during the season, you have a better understanding of how they operate.

The other part is this crop of quarterbacks doesn’t draw a consensus league wide. Everyone has their own opinion of how the top guys will work or not, so some could fall to the Patriots first pick at no. 29 overall. If that happens do they want to pull the trigger?

Tom Brady will be 37 in August, which is a reminder that he won’t be here forever. Backup Ryan Mallett hasn’t proven a whole lot and is on the final year of his rookie contract. So whether its due diligence in advanced scouting, preparing for the heir apparent or a higher quality backup, it makes sense for the Patriots to take a deeper look at these prospects.

Chris Johnson could end up in New Jersey: Tennessee Titans running back, Chris Johnson, will be released at any moment. It seems the Titans are ready to move on and Johnson will be a hot name on the market.

While “CJ2K” didn’t live up to his big contract from a few years ago, he still has incredible playmaking ability that will make him attractive for many teams. As I look around the NFL, the New York Jets stand out.

Rex Ryan loves a strong running game and Johnson could add a spark in their backfield. Paired with Chris Ivory, the Jets would have a dangerous ground game to aid whoever takes the ball from under center in 2014. Just a prediction worth monitoring.

2014 NFL Draft Will be a Wild Ride: For hardcore football fans, the NFL Draft is somewhat of a holiday. Personally, I love every minute of it. This year won’t be any different.

As many have said this is a very talented, deep rookie class this year. There will be players in the second, third and fourth rounds who will be starters from week one. It comes down to teams identifying who fits and who doesn’t.

It will be interesting to see who falls on draft day and the top eight picks will have a big hand in that because of the quarterback situation.  When you look at mock drafts around the league, there will be some quality players who fall out of the first round. That’s why you could see many teams, including the Patriots, try to trade down and acquire more picks in rounds 2-4.

With more teams trying to trade down, however, it creates a domino effect and it potentially makes it easier for teams to move up for the guy they want. Come May 8, prepare for a fun and chaotic day around the NFL.

The Patriots Still have Holes to Fill: New England has had a very strong offseason, signing players like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell. On paper, the team’s depth chart looks solid going into the 2014 season, assuming everyone will be healthy.

As I glance through the potential 53-man roster, though, I see a few needs that could still be addressed. On offense, a running back, pass catching tight end and some offensive line depth could go a long way.

Defensively, another pass rusher, depth at linebacker and more quality at the strong safety position could transform the unit into one of the NFL’s best.

I don’t see the team making many more veteran additions until after the draft, when they have a better idea of what is still lacking and what could be added for a reasonable price. At the end of the day, it still comes down to value for the Patriots and building a strong roster from 1-to-53.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Set Dates for Offseason OTAs, Minicamp


The Patriots offseason program begins on April 21, 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots have set their schedule for offseason activities, beginning on April 21. The team has voluntary workouts set for dates May and June, with mandatory group work starting on June 17.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Organized Team Activities –

May 27
May 29-30
June 2-3
June 5
June 9-10
June 12-13

Mandatory Team Minicamp – 

June 17-19

The team uses these dates for players to get up to speed on the playbook, go through meetings and workout at the facility. With most — if not all — NFL contracts having a certain percentage of voluntary workouts necessary for player bonuses, the Pats have a good turnout each year.

While training camp dates have not yet been announced, expect that to be the last weekend of July. Updates will be posted when more information is released.

Patriots Re-Sign Safety Patrick Chung

The New England Patriots have re-signed safety, Patrick Chung, the team announced Thursday afternoon.


Patrick Chung will add to the competition at safety in training camp.
(USA TODAY Images)

Chung was drafted by the Patriots in 2009, playing four years with the team. In that time he played in 50 games, starting 30 times over that span. The 26-year-old spent last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him to a three-year, $10 million contract last March.

After a disappointing season with the Eagles, Chung was released on March 11. The Patriots released safety, Steve Gregory, on Feb. 28 and have a need at the safety position. Chung’s deal is expected to be for around the veteran minimum, which is $730,000 for one-year.

Quick Take: The Patriots still have a need at safety, despite the Chung signing. In the first couple years of his career with the Pats, he showed a ton of promise, but injuries were the main detractor. When he was finally able to stay healthy, he didn’t look like the same player who had flashed early on.

With all that being said, however, this is a fine move for New England. The Patriots need help at safety, Chung can compete in training camp with Tavon Wilson, Adrian Wilson and Nate Ebner. He has no financial risk and has familiarity with the Pats defensive system.

If Chung is able to stay healthy, perhaps he can be the fourth or fifth safety on the depth chart, not to mention his potential contributions on special teams.

The only real “roster locks” at safety are Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon. I would expect the team to draft another safety or bring in a free agent to add to the competition.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Re-Sign Center Ryan Wendell on Two-Year Deal

The New England Patriots re-signed offensive lineman, Ryan Wendell, to a two-year contract Friday.

While the Patriots have yet to announce the deal, NFLPA records showed the signing Friday afternoon. The contract is reportedly worth up to $8.15 million over the next two seasons.

Until more details are released, it’s hard to know the real value of the contract — as many incentives and bonuses make NFL figures complicated — but here’s a rough estimate of what has been reported so far. It includes a signing bonus of $850,000, base salaries of $1 million per season, a $2 million roster bonus per year and up to $1.3 million in playing-time incentives for the 2015 season.

My initial reaction was a solid signing. The money seems a little high, but the options for roster bonuses protect the team if they decide to go in a different direction down the road. I wouldn’t read too much into the max worth of any NFL deal, as the players rarely see the full value.

Wendell struggled for most of 2013, but was very good in 2012. While the team could still upgrade at the starting center position, locking up a versatile and dependable lineman seems like good business for the Patriots.

Wendell has only missed six snaps in the past two seasons combined. He has trouble with stronger interior defensive lineman, but is very technically sound. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has started 37 games in his career, all with the Patriots.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Awarded Fourth-Round Compensatory Pick

The NFL awarded teams compensatory picks for the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft on Monday evening. The New England Patriots received the 140th overall pick, the last selection in the fourth-round.

This came as a surprise to many, as New England was predicted to receive a sixth-round pick from the league. In a deep draft, which many believe selections in rounds 2-4 are the most valuable, adding a fourth-round pick can actually prove to be quite beneficial.

NFL teams are given compensatory picks based on a a net loss of free agents from the prior season. These compensatory selections cannot be traded.

The Patriots now have eight picks in the upcoming draft. The team traded their fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles last October for defensive tackle Issac Sopoaga and a sixth round pick.

Resetting the selections:

First round
Second round
Third round
Fourth round
Fourth round (compensatory selection)
Sixth round
Sixth round (from Eagles Sopoaga trade)
Seventh round

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Patriots Only Seven Round Mock Draft 1.0


Bill Belichick will look to continue and improve the Patriots roster in the 2014 NFL Draft. (USA TODAY Images)

With the NFL free agent frenzy in the books, rosters around the league are beginning to take shape.

The Patriots have addressed several needs and improved in many areas, but there is still work to be done. With that being said, here is my first Patriots only Mock Draft for the 2014 season. –

Round 1, Pick 29 — Kony Ealy, DE/OLB Missouri:

As I look over the Patriots roster, defensive end and tight end are the two biggest positions of need as it stands now. Missouri’s, Kony Ealy, and Auburn’s, Dee Ford, are two prospects I would love to see fall to New England at no. 29.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich played over 95 percent of the snaps in 2013. The two played strong, but their lack of production towards the end of the season was a direct result of season-long fatigue. Adding another pass rusher to the duo would make the front seven more versatile and deadly in 2014.

Ealy has prototypical size — 6’4, 273 — great burst and brings another long, lean, athletic player to the defensive end position. He has the ability to play with his hand in the ground as a 4-3 end, or standing up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, which the Patriots use occasionally as well.

He’s by no means a finished product, but he can contribute from day one and has tremendous upside.

Round 2  Pick 62 — Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame:

As aforementioned, tight end is a big positional need for New England. With the team going defensive end in round one, they look for another pass catching option in round two.

Niklas has only played tight end for two seasons, as he was converted from a DE/OLB at Notre Dame, but has quickly ascended during that time. His big 6’6, 270 frame would give the Patriots another reliable option to start the year at tight end.

With Rob Gronkowski tearing his ACL in 2013, the Pats need a balanced player to pick up some of the slack in his place — Niklas fits the mold. He’s athletic for his size, has good hands and is a solid blocker as well. When Gronkowski returns, both could be on the field and give New England what they love the most, versatility.

Other tight end prospects like Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro or Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins are all other candidates for the team, but expected to go much earlier. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, considered the top prospect at the position, would force the team to most likely trade up in the first round, but I don’t envision that happening.

Round 3, Pick 93 — Weston Richburg, C Colorado State:

This was a tough pick to mock. I could see the Patriots targeting either of their defensive or offensive lines in the draft. I thought about Penn State’s DaQuan Jones, but went with Richburg as the Vince Wilfork situation is still playing itself out.

Richburg would be a great selection in the third round. He’s considered the most NFL ready center in the draft and with Ryan Wendell still on the free agent market, he could step in and potential contribute early on.

As of now, I see Nate Solder at left tackle, Logan Mankins at left guard, Dan Connolly at center, Marcus Cannon at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. While that all sounds good on paper, it does leave the team thin in terms of depth; plus, it’s not a guarantee.

Richburg has good size — 6’3, 300 — and started 49 games at Colorado State. He has the ability to play center as well as guard, and considered an intelligent prospect who should transition nicely to the pro level.

Round 4, Pick 126 — Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana:

The Patriots have a solid starting trio of linebackers on the roster now: Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins. The team is lacking depth at the position and could use a versatile guy to develop.

Montana’s Jordan Tripp has “Patriot” written all over him. Third-generation football player, tough, competitive, versatile, overachiever, special teams performer, versatile — he’s the kind of player Bill Belichick usually loves in the middle rounds.

Tripp has an outstanding motor and plays with a high level of intensity. He diagnosis plays quickly and has a great reaction time; which his 6.89 second time in the three-cone drill — something the Patriots have been known to put a lot of stock in — at the NFL Combine illustrated, the top for his position.

Round 6, Pick 182 — Chris Davis, CB, Auburn:

Davis might be most known for his incredible last-second return to upset Alabama in the Iron Bowl last season.

He’s a stout, 5’10, 200 cornerback, that plays with a chip on his shoulder. While he is more effective in zone schemes, Davis has good field awareness, a strong tackler and considered a leader at Auburn.

The edge he plays with is best shown at the line of scrimmage when he can knock receivers off their routes and take out much bigger opponents in the open-field.

Davis would also bring some play making ability to the return game, which should help him carve out a role in the NFL. He’s not going to become a starting cornerback, at least on the Patriots roster as it’s currently constructed, but he would be a quality depth signing for the defensive backfield and contribute on special teams.

Round 6, Pick 190 — Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana:

With Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell all essentially locks to make the roster, the receiver position isn’t a glaring need. Also, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce, both going into their second years, will have an opportunity to earn a roster spot when training camp rolls around.

With all that being said, Latimer could be a late addition to add more competition and be looked at as a developmental prospect for the future. The former basketball player has a big frame — 6’2, 217 — and knows how to use his size on the field; boxing out smaller defensive backs, snagging the ball nicely in the air and also a redzone target.

His biggest questions are whether he’ll be able to create separation against more athletic competition at the NFL level. He doesn’t have great quickness or burst, but has reliable hands and continues to develop as he plays the game.

Round 7, Pick 221 — Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College:

Patchan looks like a NFL lineman, boasting a big 6’6, 307 frame. He played left tackle at Boston College, helping lead the way for running back Andre Williams as he led the nation in rushing for 2013.

Patchan has had injury problems throughout his career, but was able to be productive and healthy last year. He has the tools to be a solid tackle at the next level, moving well for his size, being able to bend and possesses good functional strength. He would be a nice developmental prospect for New England.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

 

After the New England Patriots signed cornerback, Brandon Browner, to a three-year contract over the weekend, I wanted to get a perspective from someone who has covered him during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. As a result I caught up with, John Boyle of The Daily Heraldfor his take on the newly acquired defensive back.

“Browner’s biggest strength is obviously his physicality,” Boyle said. “When he gets his hands on a receiver in press coverage, that receiver is pretty much out of the play. He also brings toughness and intimidation factor rarely seen from a corner.”

Browner’s size shows up on film as soon as you push play. You don’t see too many guys playing that position who check in at 6’4, 221 pounds. His long arms help him breakup passes thrown his way.

“His length allows him to compensate to a degree for one of his weaknesses, which is a lack of top-end speed for a corner,” said Boyle. “I can’t tell you how many times he’s a step or two behind a receiver — basically beaten on the play — only to get an arm up to break up the pass, or even reach in the punch the ball loose as the receive is pulling the ball in.”

“He also has pretty sure hands, you won’t see him drop many INT chances.” Browner’s had 10 interceptions his last three years with Seattle.

One area that Boyle feels Browner struggles is against small, quick receivers, and the fact his physical play sometimes causes him to commit penalties.

“He lacks top-end speed for a corner, though by no means is he slow, and his aggressive nature can make him susceptible to a double move,” explained Boyle. “In fact he was benched for part of a game early last season after getting beat on a couple of big plays. Smaller, quick receivers are always going to be a tough matchup for him. And of course with any player who plays as physical as Browner, you’re going to have to live with some penalties.”

Seattle encourages physical play, and like Boyle said, Browner’s physicality will lead to penalties at times. The Seahawks led the NFL with 7.9 penalties a game in 2013. In contrast, the Patriots were second-fewest with only 4.2 per game.

Browner is 29-years-old, but he’ll be 30 when he suits up the first time for New England. He spent his rookie season with the Denver Broncos, four years in the Canadian Football League and the past three seasons with Seattle. With that being said, has his play declined?

“I’m not sure I saw his play decline over the past year, though he’s approaching an age that has to be a concern going forward,” said Boyle. “If anything, other corners on the Seahawks roster were just pushing him to the point that he may not have gotten his starting job back had he returned.”

There has been so much talk of Browner’s size and if it might mean a transition to safety now that he’s with the Patriots. I don’t see the move happening, as it would eliminate one his best abilities, press-coverage at the line of scrimmage. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bill Belichick move him around as he’s done with select players in the past.

Boyle feels the prospect of moving Browner to safety is an intriguing one, although it’s hard to say how he would adjust to playing that role.

“It’s hard to say for me how he’d be at safety just because we haven’t seen him do it here, but I do think putting him at safety would take away one of his best attributes in his ability to disrupt at the line of scrimmage,” said Boyle. “That being said, his size and ability to hit makes it an intriguing idea. You know Belichick a lot better than me, but based on what I do know, I could certainly see the Patriots getting creative with him, maybe in some sort of hybrid corner/safety role.”

“This is no knock on New England’s safety play,” Boyle added. “But I do wonder to a degree how much of the Seahawks’ ability to crank out good corners over and over has had to do with their standout safety play, and Earl Thomas’ range in particular, as well as Richard Sherman’s presence on the other side of the field. It’s a lot easier to play aggressive press coverage when you know you have Thomas’ speed behind you to clean things up.”

 

It’s hard to disagree with that take, as Earl Thomas is widely viewed as the league’s top safety — or at least, in the conversation. Devin McCourty is no slouch, though. Not to mention with cornerback, Darrelle Revis, also in the mix, the Patriots have built a similar environment to what Browner had the last few years.

So we have a better idea of what Browner can bring to a defense on the field, but how is he off the gridiron? As has been noted by many, Browner will be suspended for the first four contests of the 2014 season.

He can, however, participate in offseason activities, training camp and play in pre-season games. One of the biggest questions with a new player coming to a team, though, especially an organization like the patriots, is how will he fit ‘the Patriot way’.

“Off the field, the big concern is obviously that he’s another failed drug test — PED or substance abuse — from a long suspension,” Boyle mentioned. “Despite the suspension issues, he’s otherwise by all accounts a good dude. No legal trouble I’ve ever heard of, good to the media, loved by teammates, etc.”