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Patriots News 3-3, Jackson Released, Salary Cap Grows 

The docuseries “The Dynasty” is really taking shot after shot at former Patriots coach, Bill Belichick.

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
March 3, 2024 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots News 3-3, Jackson Released, Salary Cap Grows (PHOTO: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 7 minutes

Good morning, and here is your Patriots news and notes for March 3.  

The docuseries “The Dynasty” is really taking shot after shot at Bill Belichick. After glossing over two Super Bowl wins, omitting a 21-game winning streak, and spending most of an episode on Spygate, now they’re essentially blaming Belichick for Aaron Hernandez blowing a $40 million contract because he wanted to be a street thug. 

Robert Kraft tried to paint himself as this “second father figure” to Hernandez when he performed at a very high level on the football field and rewarded him with a big contract that he would have seen every dime of. 

Kraft then said he was “duped” by Hernandez, stopping short, however, at calling himself a schmuck, as he did to Belichick in the previous episode. When Hernandez’s actions in Boston were beginning to spiral, he went to Belichick and asked for a trade to a West Coast team, fearing, he said, for his girlfriend and daughter. Belichick asked him if he wanted the security team to look into it.

But the team decided not to trade him, and the Globe’s Bob Hohler said, “Belichick never explained why he didn’t trade Hernandez to West Coast team.” Belichick had 40 million reasons not to. 

When all of this took place (between 2003 and 2013), the Patriots were 100 games over .500, going 138-38.

(PHOTO: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

J.C. Jackson: The Patriots released Jackson on Friday, his second stint with the team ending after playing nine games with six starts, being left home on the team’s trip to Germany for missing a curfew, and suffering from some mental health issues. 

His release freed up an additional $13.4 million in salary cap space. Jackson was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Patriots, helped them win a Super Bowl, and achieved Pro Bowl as well as All-Pro honors with the Patriots in his first stint. He then left for the Chargers in free agency, signing a big-money contract in 2022. But he’s been on a downward trajectory since. 

Salary Cap Increase: According to our friend Miguel Benzan, aka @Patscap, the only source I go to in regard to the Patriots salary cap, the Patriots now have a whopping $100.3 million to spend during free agency. This new number reflects the money saved in releasing J.C. Jackson. 

Nathan Rourke: The Patriots have announced that they are resigning Rourke to a one-year exclusive rights free agency (ERFA) tender, according to a report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Rourke played in the CFL for two years before being signed by Jacksonville early in 2023. He bounced between the practice squad and the active roster before being released in December. The Patriots claimed him, and he was active for only the final game of 2023, replacing Mac Jones as the backup. 

Scouting System: Our podcast talked about how the Patriots are changing the way they evaluate prospects by assigning grades to value rather than fit to the system. Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald spoke to an executive close to Eliot Wolf about how that system works. 

“A high-ranking personnel executive who worked with Wolf spoke with the Herald about this system, which runs on a 5.0 to 9.0 scale. A player graded as a 5.0 is considered an undrafted free agent. A prospect who receives a 6.5 grade is regarded as worthy of a second-round pick, and a first-round value starts at 6.9 and goes up from there.

“The Patriots’ previous system was based on a player’s projected role within their offense, defense, and/or special teams. The grading scale would mark prospects as a backup, eventual starter, first-year starter, immediate Pro Bowler, etc., and often involve a numerical value and a letter grade.”

Braden Fiske: The Florida State DT who was a wrecking ball for the ‘Noles last year put on a show at the Combine. He ran a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash, which for a DT is outstanding. He broad-jumped 9’9” and vertical jumped 33.5. 

Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network said that Fiske could vault into first-round consideration now and solidified himself as a Round 2 selection. “He’s a lock for the second round; in my opinion, he might end up finding his way up into the bottom of the first round,” Jeremiah said.

Dallin Hoker: Hoker, a TE from Colorado State at the NFL Combine, made a mistake that turned into a must-see moment. During the on-field work, he caught a pass over the middle. Thinking the drill was over, he headed upfield but then caught another pass one-handed, with the other ball still in his hand.

He should have dropped the first one after securing it, but his “mistake” turned into a moment that got a big charge out of the players and attendees. 

Elite Defender? The latest rumor coming out of the Combine is that the Patriots may target at least one “elite defender” in the upcoming NFL Draft. With Matthew Judon and Jahlani Tavai entering contract years, the team could opt to resign the vets now, especially because they’re flush with cash. 

However, if they want to draft an edge player, Chris Braswell from Alabama would be an excellent addition to the front seven. He was a late bloomer but had a fantastic season for the Tide. He would still need some development time but could turn into an elite player. 

Later in the draft, another edge player could be Adisa Isaac from Penn State. Considered a 4th round talent with the need for seasoning, he’s another guy who could pay immediate dividends as a situational pass rusher as a rookie and develop into a three-down starter. 

At CB,  T.J. Tampa from Iowa State is a name to watch. At 6’2, 200, players his size are all the rage in the NFL today. He’s got definite Pro Bowl potential down the road. Safety Calen Bullock from USC is another guy to keep an eye on. He’s a long, lean FS (6’3, 195), a ballhawk with outstanding athleticism, ball skills, and explosiveness, a trait that Wolf said the Patriots are looking for.

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: This week, we discussed the latest news from Foxboro in our PatsFans.com podcast.

Derek Havens and I discussed the NFL Combine, Eliot Wolf, the upcoming NFL Draft, and The Dynasty series. Please check it out.    

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that Francis isn’t in is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position. This will be discussed in our Sunday posts until it happens. Casper is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Francis’ numbers stand up well against Casper’s, yet he isn’t even in the team’s HOF. 

Jayden Daniels

(PHOTO: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Area 51 News: The Draft, Wolf & Highsmith  —

The Patriots met with all three of the top QBs, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels, at the Combine, and all three had intriguing things to say after meeting with the Patriots. 

Daniels was asked about playing in New England and had this to say: “Yeah, it would be dope,” he said. 

“Obviously, growing up and seeing what Tom Brady did there six Super Bowls, that’s tough to live up to, but it would be dope to come in there and see the success they had and help them get back on that track.”

The Patriots were cool.” Williams said. “The room wasn’t as packed. They had just a few guys, and we talked mainly about ball … It was a good impression. They were asking me questions about my life and about football. Testing me and things like that … They don’t really get to see you and test your mental abilities, so this quick 10-20 minutes they have, that’s what they’re mainly doing.”

While I admit that I’ve been a Drake Maye supporter since the fall, I thought he had the best line of the three, which could be a tad biased on my part. However, he was talking and said, “You don’t want to game plan for me. You want to game plan with me.” I love that and the fact that he has great touch for a kid with a cannon for his throwing arm. 

Eliot Wolf

(PHOTO: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Wolf & Highsmith, Been There, Done That — 

Our own Ian Logue had a nice piece the other day on Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith. The duo worked together in Cleveland and had some very good drafts together. They evaluated and picked Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward, among others, during their time with the Browns.

It should be noted that the Patriots selected RB Sony Michel as the 31st pick in the draft that year. Chubb was taken five spots later by the Browns.

Highsmith spoke back then about Mayfield; his comments were a sign of what they want in a young QB.

“I’ve been around great quarterbacks my whole life,” added Highsmith.  “Played with Warren Moon, played with Troy Aikman, been around Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Testeverde, Bernie Kosar, I was in the huddle with all those guys – well, not in the huddle with Brett Favre and those guys but the other guys before that – and there’s something more than a big arm to be a quarterback.  Because if it were just about a big arm, well, then everybody would be successful at the quarterback position.”

“We throw out all the traits of what it takes to be a quarterback when someone doesn’t measure up to somebody’s standards.  And I’ve always wondered when it comes to being a good football player, who’s standards are we judging them by?  It’s about playing the game.  It’s about being a good football player.  And it’s about wins.  And I thought Baker made all those checks for me, and he had the ‘it’ factor for me.”

 

Weekly Picks… See You in September: 

2023 Season    178—94

2022 Season:   178—92—2

2021 Season:   183—88—1

2020 Season:   169—86—1 

2019 Season:   162—93—1

______________

“It was a blessing and a curse to be coached by Josh McDaniels for as long as we were because Josh demanded so much out of you that you had to learn the ins and outs of everything and the reasons and the rules,” said Hoyer.  “And when you go from that to a system that really doesn’t have a solid foundation and doesn’t have a lot of rules and all those things to guys who have been coached that way for so long, we were kind of looking at like, ‘Well, how do you want us to do this?’

“I would say this about Mac Jones: his rookie year, I was convinced people were telling him the answers to questions in the room or they were giving him the script on the field because I had never seen someone that young learn that offense so quickly,” said Hoyer.  

“It took me three years to get to where he was at the end of training camp.  That, to me, was a blessing, and it was a curse because when Josh left, a lot of people who were going to come in weren’t going to be at the point to be able to coach him at that high of a level, and he’s an intelligent guy so he questions a lot of things.”

Hoyer added that when Matt Patricia and Joe Judge took over the offense, the concepts were there, but they couldn’t explain them adequately to Jones and other members of the offense. 

“I think that’s what the idea was,” said Hoyer.  “But I don’t think there was anyone who could put the vision to paper and then explain it and then have us go out and do it.  I think that was the tough part.”

Patriots former QB Brian Hoyer on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots podcast about the struggles in 2022 with Mac Jones. And playing for Josh McDaniels. Great stuff by Hoyer. 

_______________

“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Apple and YouTube as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

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Monday Patriots Notebook 3/4: News and Notes

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Tags: 2024 NFL Draft Bill Belichick Brian Hoyer Caleb Williams Drake Maye Jahlani Tavai Jayden Daniels Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots NFL Combine 2024 Tom Brady

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