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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.

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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.

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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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ¬†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‚Äô3, 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 Herald, for 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.”

Quick Take: LaFell Adds Competition, Depth at Receiver for Patriots


Brandon LaFell gives the Patriots more size at wide receiver. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots signed free agent wide receiver, Brandon LaFell, to a three-year deal Saturday night.

After re-signing wide receiver, Julian Edelman, to a three-year deal earlier in the day, the Patriots added another guy to the offense. LaFell, who has spent his four NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers, brings some size to the receiving corps — 6’2, 210 pounds.

In 2013, LaFell caught 49 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns for Carolina.¬†Looking over the team’s depth chart, height was something the Patriots certainly needed at the position. Second-year receiver Aaron Dobson, listed at 6’3, is the only real lock to make the roster taller than six feet.

What I love most about LaFell’s game is his ability to play all over the field. He’s shown the ability to play the on the left and right side of the field, but also has been productive from the slot.

In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, the 27-year-old receiver ran 335 of his 532 routes in the slot in 2014. Based on the depth chart, with Edelman, Danny Amendola and Josh Boyce in the mix, it’s safe to assume he’ll be outside more often than not in New England.

LaFell brings more of a play-making threat to the outside, along with a solid red zone target to the Patriots, given his size. He has displayed the ability to make plays after the catch as well. Overall, it’s another weapon for Tom Brady.

My questions with LaFell start with his consistency. He can disappear at times during games and also has some drops from time-to-time. Nevertheless, he appears to be a quality asset for the Patriots offense.

First and foremost, however, it starts with competition in training camp. LaFell will join Edelman, Amendola, Dobson, Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins to fight for a spot of the 53-man roster. When observing camp last season, the lack of competition at receiver was clear, along with the team trying to get younger at the position.

With the upcoming NFL Draft very deep at receiver, along with some veterans available at the position on the open market, it’s possible the team adds another guy to the mix for even more competition and depth.

Stay tuned.

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

Edelman, Patriots Agree To Terms on a New Deal


The Patriots and Julian Edelman have agreed to a new contract. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots and free agent wide receiver, Julian Edelman, have agreed to terms on a new contract, according to several media reports. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.

Edelman confirmed the report on Twitter Saturday afternoon.

 

Edelman, who has spent his entire NFL career with the Patriots over the past five season, gauged the open market, but ultimately decided to return. He finished last season with 105 receptions, 1, 056 yards and six touchdowns.

The Patriots were the favorites to re-sign Edelman, but other teams had known interest. The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, who hosted Edelman on a visit this week, all were in contact with the free agent receiver.

Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, will certainly be happy with the deal, because losing his top target in back-to-back years would have been tough for him.

Edelman gives New England a healthy, known, veteran commodity at the receiver position, as they continue to develop Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce. Of course, Danny Amendola will be in the mix as he gets back to full strength from a groin injury.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots look to add another veteran receiver for a reasonable deal now that Edelman’s contract situation has been resolved. Good signing for both sides.

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

Patriots Add Browner, Secondary Becoming Strongest in Years

It’s hard to believe that a defense could change so much in such a short period of time.

The New England Patriots signed free agent cornerback, Brandon Browner, Friday evening. The deal is reportedly three-years, up to $17 million; terms of the guaranteed money have not yet been disclosed.

Less than 48 hours of signing cornerback, Darrelle Revis, New England added another strong veteran to the secondary. Browner released a statement on Twitter Friday night, saying he is honored to be part of a ‘legendary organization’.

With the addition of Browner, the Patriots secondary is the strongest it’s been in recent memory. Revis, Browner, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington are a deep group of quality cornerbacks that will give Bill Belichick and the Patriots a lot of ways to be creative in the upcoming year. Add safety Devin McCourty to roam the back-end and game on.

A few weeks ago fans and analysts talked about re-signing Aqib Talib, but not only did the Patriots upgrade with Revis, they gave the unit a whole new look with two veterans who can play strong, press man-coverage.

New England did play a more aggressive style of defense last year, while allowing their cornerbacks to match-up and play press coverage against opposing wide receivers. These signings, however, just make the team that much better in the same scheme.

Additionally, there’s a trickle down effect. Revis and Browner presumably slide into the top spots, while Dennard, Ryan and Arrington play in sub defensive packages. It’s just a deeper unit, which in today’s NFL, a team cannot have enough quality cornerbacks.

When Browner first came into the NFL, he joined the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2005. After four seasons in the Canadian Football League, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2011.  He was named to the Pro Bowl that season.

Browner offers intriguing size — 6’4, 220 — something the Patriots desperately need in their secondary, and has shown during his time with the Seahawks¬†he can play in a scheme that allows defenses to do what I previously mentioned. Playing with Richard Sherman, he’s use to lining up next to one of the best cornerbacks in the league — just like he would with Revis in New England.

Some people have even thrown out the possibility of Browner playing strong safety for the Patriots, given his tremendous size. It’s an interesting notion, one that Belichick may toy around with, but I would also argue it would take away from what he does best; playing man coverage on the outside. Still, could be an interesting wrinkle.

Browner does come with a catch, though.

The 29-year-old cornerback was suspended last season indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.¬†Browner and his agent, Peter Schaffer, reached an agreement — both with the league and the NFL Players Association — to conditionally reinstate him under certain guidelines.

First, he must to continue to comply with the NFL substance-abuse policy. He then will serve a four-game suspension to begin the 2014 season and will be penalized an additional four game checks after the suspension.

He will be allowed to participate in training camp and offseason activities before serving the suspension, so he has the ability to get into the defensive system.

Without a doubt there are some drawbacks, but after the suspension the Patriots will have a formidable secondary and an overall much different look than in past seasons.

There are still plenty of holes and needs for the team to fill this offseason, but New England has been off to a strong start in the new league year.

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

The New England Patriots signed free agent cornerback, Brandon Browner, Friday evening.

The deal is reportedly three-years, up to $17 million; terms of the guaranteed money have not yet been disclosed. He has spent the past three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

Browner tweeted a statement about the signing, which I have posted below. –

“Today, I am proud to announce that I am a New England Patriot.¬†I am honored that the Patriots are making me part of their legendary organization, and am grateful for the opportunity Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Nick Caserio and the entire team have given me. I intend to diligently work with the same passion and dedication that I have displayed since coming into the NFL to uphold the great traditions and qualities that are embodied by the Patriots.

“I would be remiss if I didn‚Äôt thank the Seattle Seahawks for giving a CFL player the once in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to the NFL, making a young boy’s dream come true. To Coach Pete Carroll, GM John Schneider, John Idzik, Coach Richard, Rocky Seto, the LOB, my teammates, the training staff, the equipment guys the Seahawks organization as a whole and most importantly the 12th Man, I say thank you for everything you have done for myself and my family.”

“I am a truly blessed person.”

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