New England Patriots News 4-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 24, 2016 at 4:59 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s New England Patriots news 4-24, and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Patriots Add Depth, Insurance This Week with Steward, Yount Signings:
The Patriot made a couple of low-key moves this week as they continue to work free agency in building a roster. They signed LB/STs player Tony Steward who was released by the Buffalo Bills and long-snapper Christian Yount who played with Tampa and Cleveland but was out of the league last season.

It should be repeated that the roster now can reach up to 90 players. Not every player signed will make the final roster but in the team building phase, it is about building depth, allowing players to develop and allowing competition during training camp.

Steward is a prime example; drafted in the 6th round last season by Buffalo, he was a productive but oft-injured player at Clemson that stuck with the Bills due to his ability to contribute on special teams. That is an area that he’ll look to make his mark in again in 2016 with New England.

Yount is being brought in mainly as insurance. Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona is in the Navy and as a naval officer, he serves at the whim of the government. Last year he was allowed to play and was assigned to the Naval Prep School in Newport, RI. If the Navy’s needs change (the troop levels are rising again in Iraq), he could find himself reassigned based on the needs of the Navy.

Mayock: “You Can Bet Your Butt” DT Falls to Pats at 60/61:
NFL Network Draft analyst Mike Mayock, who does a fantastic job covering the NFL Combine and Draft for the network held his pre-draft conference call with the media and shared his opinion on how he sees things playing out this coming week.

In regards to New England not having a first round draft pick and picking back-to-back at 60/61, “From 20 to 50 or 60 there are similar-type players,” Mayock said.

“[The Patriots are] picking back-to-back at 60 and 61 and then 91 and 96. Most personnel guys will tell you they love that kind of draft. You get two twos and two threes. Obviously, there’s a hole at the top, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You gotta hit on three out of these four or all four of these guys. That’s really, really important.”

“You can bet your butt at 60 or 61 . . . and obviously Malcom Brown is doing well, they signed [Terrance] Knighton, but there’s gotta be some defensive tackles I would imagine that are sitting there that look and smell like New England Patriots.

Some of the more popular names to come across the Patriots radar in that time of the draft have included Javon Hargrave from SC State, Sheldon Day from Notre Dame (a kind of Dominique Easley size and skillset), and Adolphus Washington from Ohio State. Don’t go to sleep on Brown’s former teammate, Hasan Ridgeway of Texas either.

Patriots Stay the Course, True to their Ideals When Approaching the Draft:
In his pre-draft presser this week, Pats Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio spoke about how the team will approach this season’s draft. And unsurprisingly, it won’t change. The Patriots under the Belichick watch are a team that won’t overpay for players based on need, and on the subject of the draft? They won’t try to force a square peg in a round hole based on need.

“You lose players, you sign players. We signed our share of players probably at a similar point to where we were last year,” Caserio told the media. “You make additions to your team but even when you make draft decisions I would say you sort of make them independent of one another.

“I think the most important thing is knowing the players, knowing who you’re talking about,” Caserio said. “And then if you are going to make a decision to [trade] up from where you are, who are you moving up for and what is the rationale?”

So while the team has needs, don’t expect them to overpay a team to move up and take a player that ultimately may not be worth the price. A case in point is the enormous draft capital the Eagles spent on moving up to the #2 position in the draft.

Eagles G.M. Howie Roseman told the media on Wednesday that while Bradford is the starter, the team will take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft. This is after the Eagles spent $57 million dollars in free agency on two QBs, Bradford, and backup Chase Daniel. And in all honesty, none of the top QBs in the draft this season, have can’t miss labels. For what Philly gave Cleveland to move up six spots to the #2 position, that is far too much.

Gronkowski Present at OTAs, Not Concerned with Contract: After much ado about nothing, Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was indeed at the team’s off-season, voluntary workouts this week.

Ever since Gronkowski posted a sarcastic tweet in early March that he was underpaid, the sewing circle, er…rumor mill has been running rampant that Gronkowski was upset with his contract and was going to hold out.

Speculation grew, even more, when a few photos snapped at the conditioning runs on the first day of workouts failed to include a photo of Gronk. It turns out he was there, and he issued a statement that should put this one to rest….at least for a while.

“No, that’s [contract] not on my mind at all. I started offseason workouts yesterday. It just feels great to be back with the team working out, getting back in football shape and getting prepared for the season.”

Of course, the fact that he has a $250,000 workout bonus should have been taken into consideration for anyone paying attention to those things.

Running Backs Should Be Available into Rounds 2-3:
The Patriots have a pair of picks in the second and third rounds of the draft this week, and there is plenty of reasons why they’ll address the running back position this year to seek a long-term fix for the position.

One is that both of last season’s top players, Dion Lewis, and LaGarrette Blount are coming off of serious injuries that landed both on IR in 2015. We’re not sure that Lewis will even be ready for the start of the season and may begin the 2016 season on the PUP list.

Secondly, the draft should have plenty of talent available into the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft for the Patriots to pick from. We wrote draft profiles on several prospects including Jonathan Williams, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Dixson and Devontae Booker and invite you to take a second look at them and how they fit.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins’ Jones Joins His ‘Favorite Team’ After Being Released by NE:
The Dolphins signed former Patriots DL Chris Jones after he was released by the Patriots last week. Jones missed all of 2015 with a calf injury but played in 22 games in 2013-2014.

Jones was born in Ohio, went to high school in Indiana but grew up rooting for the Dolphins.

“Absolutely,” he told the Dolphins.com this week. “My grandma, she grew up a Dolphins fan through the ’70s. She loved the years with Dan (Marino) and I kind of adapted that as well. My dad, too, for some reason. We all grew up in Ohio, but we all loved the Dolphins.”

Jets Contacted Tennessee About the #1 Pick, says GM:
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan told the media this week that the Jets did indeed contact the Tennessee Titans about moving up from the 20th spot in the draft to trade for the #1 overall pick.

Tennessee eventually traded the pick to the Los Angeles Rams for a large bevy of draft picks. Maccagnan wouldn’t go into specifics, just to say that they had contacted the Titans.

“The short answer is yes,” Maccagnan said. “The short answer is we inquired.”

That means the Jets were probably interested in QB Jared Goff from Cal as they’ve bogged down in the negotiations with incumbent starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Rumors are, that the Jets dangled franchised DL Muhamad Wilkerson as bait as well, as Gang Green is cash strapped under the cap. Wilkerson is due to make $15.7 million this season under his franchise designation.

Bills’ Rex Ryan Introduces Donald Trump to Rally:
Republican front-runner for President Donald Trump now can add another NFL name to his supporters.

Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan who shares with Trump a tendency to be bombastic, not only introduced Trump to a large rally in Buffalo but endorsed him for President.

“One thing I really admire about [Trump] is he’ll say what’s on his mind,” Ryan said. “So many times, a lot of people want to say the same thing, but there’s a big difference: they don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it, but they don’t have the courage to say it. Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it. That’s what I respect.”

Trump tried to buy the Bills in 2014 but the team was sold to Terry Pagula. Trump and Ryan would definitely had made an intriguing duo.

 Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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