Here’s a look at today’s top stories:
SAINTS WON’T SIGN BUTLER TO AN OFFER SHEET – The situation with Malcolm Butler seemed to be escalating beyond the point of no return recently, but it looks like there’s a shot that the veteran cornerback might not necessarily be going anywhere just yet.
Butler, who is a restricted free agent and saw New England place a first-round tender on him earlier this offseason, met with the Saints earlier this month but didn’t receive an offer sheet from New Orleans, which had he signed it and had the Patriots opted not to match it, would have meant the Saints would have been forced to give up the #11 overall pick to get him.
According to head coach Sean Payton, that’s not an option and it sounds like right now things might have quieted down on that front.
“We had a chance to visit with him,” Payton said via the Times-Picayune. “Currently, to my understanding, he hasn’t signed his tender. It was just that. We can sign him to an offer sheet, but I don’t think we’re going to do that and give up the 11 pick.”
“In fact, I know we’re not going to do that. It kind of it what it is right now.”
Whether or not that means he’ll remain in New England remains to be seen. The Patriots can still opt to trade him after he signs his tender, but that option doesn’t really make sense unless Butler suddenly becomes so unbearable that the front office needs to ship him out of town.
Payton reportedly acknowledged that a deal for Butler would involve a sign-and-trade deal but also added, “That would just be speculation, though.”
Robert Kraft recently said that the team had no intention of trading Butler, and that he’d like to see him stay.
“I know he has the ability to go out in the market and get someone to sign him, and then we either match it or get the first-round draft pick. “I’m rooting, I hope, he’s with us and signs his [tender] and plays for us,” Kraft said via the Boston Globe. “I have a great affection for him. He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team, but there are a lot of people involved in that on both sides.”
Now it’s just a question of whether or not the two can find a common ground. The idea of having both Stephon Gilmore and Butler in the secondary seems to make too much sense to not find a way to make it work, and if the Patriots aren’t going to receive a king’s ransom to pry him away, there’s no need to let the business of winning football games suffer by allowing him to force his way out of town. For Butler, as annoyed as he might be, he’ll still be getting nearly a $3 million pay raise with an opportunity to further increase his stock next season.
Then there’s still the possibility that cooler heads might prevail and the Patriots put together a deal that includes just enough guaranteed money for Butler decide that the endorsements he’d receive in a region where he single-handedly helped make history are far more valuable than going to another market where he’s just a cornerback. In New England, he’s become much bigger than that, and that’s obviously worth something.
We’ll see how it plays out, but the fact he’s still here is good news. Each passing day brings more hope that there still remains a future for him here. And if the Saints aren’t willing to make it worth their while, there’s no reason why 2017 shouldn’t see him on the roster.
Atlanta’s fourth quarter strategy played into Brady and the Patriots’ hands.
DAN QUINN STILL WON’T ADMIT MISTAKES IN SUPER BOWL – For a coach, Dan Quinn seems to be a man still in denial and it’s hard to blame him since losing a Super Bowl has to be a tough thing for a guy who knows just how close his team was to winning it all.
Quinn now faces the challenge of picking up the pieces and moving on, with his team battling the odds when it comes to a Super Bowl loser bouncing back the next season and getting back to the big game. There’s no guarantees and over the course of a grueling 16 game season, so many things need to go right in order for that to happen.
According to an article on MMQB, Quinn has spent a lot of time reliving the loss, watching film over and over as he prepares getting his team ready for the 2017 season. Looking back, one thing that Quinn notes is that he has no regrets in terms of the decision he made with 3:56 remaining in the fourth quarter when he allowed offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to call a passing play on second down instead of trying to run out the clock and kick a field goal, which would have made it a two possession game. It was obviously a bad decision for the Falcons since Trey Flowers dropped quarterback Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss, followed by a holding penalty that knocked Atlanta out of field goal range.
That gave the football back to New England with just a touchdown and a two-point conversion away from being able to tie things up and obviously the rest, as they say, is history. Still, despite how they handled that one costly drive, Quinn believes they had every opportunity to win the game.
“We still had an eight-point lead,” Quinn said via the MMQB. “We could have stopped them on defense. They didn’t have to get the two-point conversion.” He sighs. “The game was not won or lost on that [sequence]. That’s important to note.”
It’s also important to note that had they handled things differently and kicked that field goal, Tom Brady might not have been able to pull off the greatest championship comeback ever.
It’s a fact that, like it or not, Quinn will be forced to live with as he faces the challenge of trying to get there one more time. It took Atlanta nearly a decade to get another chance the last time they were in it and they fell short. Hopefully for Quinn’s sake, his opportunity will come a little quicker.
There’s plenty of mutual respect between Brady and Sherman.
BEFORE GILMORE DEAL, SHERMAN WAS ON PATRIOTS RADAR – Bill Belichick is a big fan of bringing in players from other teams who have caused his team problems over the years, and it sounds like he might have inquired about one of them this offseason prior to New England’s signing of Gilmore.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Patriots were among teams who inquired with the Seahawks about potentially swinging a deal to bring Richard Sherman to New England.
Instead, a deal never materialized and the Patriots turned their attention elsewhere. Seeing both Brady and Sherman together in the same locker room would have been fun to see given their mutual respect for each other, but for now, they’ll remain opponents.
Former Burkhead coach has high praise for the new Patriots RB – Browns head coach Hugh Jackson was Rex Burkhead’s position coach and offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and he knows that the Patriots definitely improved after signing him.
Jackson said that he believes the Patriots ended up with a pretty good player after signing him away from the Bengals earlier this month.
“He’s very talented,” Jackson said, via Phil Perry of CSNNE. “He’s a guy that was playing behind some very talented players, and so he’s going to get his opportunity now and he’s going to flourish. He’s a really good player. A really good player.”
“He’s very versatile because he’s a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He’s a good blocker. He’s very bright. He’s been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team.”
The addition of Burkhead fills out a talented backfield that now features Dion Lewis, James White and D.J. Foster all joining him when the team eventually gets back out on the field in the coming months.
Ealy’s former coach believes the DE hasn’t reached his potential yet.
Rivera believes playing in New England “will be really good for him – Panthers head coach Ron Rivera spoke highly of his former defensive end Kony Ealy on Wednesday, saying that he has a chance to thrive with the Patriots if he does things the way that Belichick will want him to do them.
“More than anything else is just really do what he’s told,” Rivera said via the Boston Herald. “I think being around a program like what coach (Bill) Belichick has established in New England will be really good for him. I think it will be an opportunity for him to grow and take another step. I think it’s a good situation. I really do. The biggest thing, more than anything else, is do things the way coach Belichick wants them done.”
Kony had high expectations coming out of the 2014 draft and it seemed like he really came into his own after his huge game against the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. In that game he totaled three sacks along with an interception and a forced fumble. He seemed like he was on his way to big things but fizzled out in Carolina, but now he has an opportunity to rejuvenate his career.
“They’re getting a guy, I think, who hasn’t truly tapped his potential,” Rivera said. “He showed it. He flashed it in the Super Bowl. If they can get him back to that point, I think they’ll get a very explosive pass rusher.”
That’s exactly what the Patriots could use, and he’s yet another player to keep an eye on in 2017.
Mixon Not in New England’s Sights – If the Patriots had any intention of adding to their backfield in this year’s draft, it sounds like Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon won’t be part of that equation.
According to the Boston Herald, the Patriots have taken themselves out of the mix and aren’t even considering Mixon’s services. Mixon was arrested for punching a female student at his university, breaking four bones in her face.
A video of the incident brought it to the forefront and Kraft said that any chance of drafting him isn’t even a consideration.
“While I believe in second chances and giving players an opportunity for redemption, I also believe that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right,” Kraft told the Boston Herald. “For me, personally, I believe that privilege is lost for men who have a history of abusing women.”
That’s obviously a feeling that the majority of fans in New England likely share as well. Credit Kraft for being able to say publicly what most people probably agree with, and now the question will be whether or not other teams will follow that same lead.