Category Archives: 2017 Free Agency

Patriots Get Their Man Again From Buffalo, Gillislee Now a Pat

Steve Balestrieri
April 24, 2017 at 6:32 pm ET

The Patriots added another nice piece to their roster when the Buffalo Bills decided not to match New England’s offer sheet and Mike Gillislee is now a member of the Patriots.

The cost? A fifth-round draft pick. But this is another case where with Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy the Patriots and Bill Belichick decided to go with a known commodity. New England gave up their first rounder for Cooks who has been very productive for New Orleans and their second-round pick for Ealy and Carolina’s third rounder, a difference of eight slots.

Gillislee had 577 yards on 101 carries for a 5.7 yard per carry average with eight touchdowns in 2016 backing up LeSean McCoy. The 27-year old added nine receptions out of the backfield. Against the Patriots last year, he had 12 carries for 85 yards and a score in the game in Buffalo.

He’ll join a stable of running backs including James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster and Brandon Bolden. While Gillislee has never had to stand up for a whole season as a starter, with the Patriots, they have plenty of depth to carry them thru, plus he can contribute in the passing game.

This signing probably means the end of the line for LeGarrette Blount in New England as Gillislee’s role will undoubtedly be that of the “big back” in the Patriots offense. He had a stellar 2016 season with over 1100 yards and 18 touchdowns. Blount was never a fan favorite here in New England but in his seasons here, in all fairness, he was a model citizen, a great teammate and being paid around the veteran minimum, a tremendous value.

So the Patriots raid Buffalo again, Chris Hogan was a restricted free agent last season and Stephon Gilmore was an unrestricted free agent this spring. Gillislee won’t have to worry about knowing many players in the locker room in his first few days.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Learn Today If They Get Gillislee, Close Door on Blount

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:23 am ET

 The Patriots will know no later than 4 p.m. if restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee will be suiting up for them this season. The Patriots signed the Bills running back to a 2-year $6.4 million dollar offer sheet with $4 million of it front-loaded into the first year. Buffalo has until the 4 p.m. deadline to either match the Patriots offer or decline it.

If the Bills decline, Gillislee becomes part of the Patriots stable of running backs which includes James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, D.J. Foster and Brandon Bolden under contract. The Patriots would also have to give up one of their fifth-round draft picks, as the Bills placed a fifth-round tender on Gillislee this offseason.

Gillislee would inherit the “big back” reps in the Patriots offense. With a slew of pass-catchers and the New England offense being a pass-first unit, he wouldn’t be consistently asked to carry a heavy load. But he’s a physical, downhill runner who can also be a factor in the passing game.

Gillislee earned the praise of Bill Belichick last year and in the second meeting between the two teams in Buffalo had a very solid outing. He carried the ball 12 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. He also added three catches out of the backfield.

The Bills are tight under the salary cap and also have been rumored to be looking to add some picks in this week’s upcoming draft. Part of the reason the Patriots front loaded the deal for Gillislee is to make it harder for the Bills to match. They’d have to do some shifting around of monies under the cap but could make it work if they feel it is in their best interests to do so.

If the Bills match the Patriots offer, then Gillislee returns to them for the next two years and the Patriots will probably use one of their draft picks on a running back. They currently have seven picks. Two 3rd -round picks, a 4th, two 5th-round picks, a 6th and a 7th.

One player who will be watching the events of today unfold will be free agent RB LeGarrette Blount. If the Patriots sign Gillislee, then that would probably end the run of Blount in New England. But if the Bills decide to match, it would open the door for Blount to return for at least one more season, although it would still be expected that they’d entertain drafting a big running back this weekend.

Blount was visible over the weekend and is still making personal appearances for the team. He appeared at a charity basketball game with the Patriots in Grafton on Friday night. So there is plenty of reason to believe, that the door is not closed yet.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

How Lawrence Guy Fits In Patriots’ Defense May Influence the Draft

Steve Balestrieri
April 18, 2017 at 7:09 am ET

The Patriots, many are predicting will double-dip at the edge rusher position which may indeed be the case.  We’ve had multiple conversations on the podcasts about the edge and how they’ll approach it in the draft. But how they plan to use Lawrence Guy may have a bearing on those draft plans as well.

Guy has been kind of the under-the-radar signing that Bill Belichick has traditionally made during free agency. While the news of his signing wasn’t met with a ton of fanfare at the time in March, the four-year, $13.4 million-dollar contract certainly shows that they’re planning on using him in their system for the next several years.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman has played in 67 games in his career, with 20 starts. He played in all 16 games for the Ravens in 2016 with 10 starts and played in 46 percent of the defensive snaps. He had a quarterback hit against Tom Brady on Monday Night Football last season. Guy had his most productive season in 2015 when he recorded 4.5 sacks and 46 tackles.

Guy’s most natural position is at the five-technique defensive end and he’d be a big body on the outside although he has the versatility to kick inside on passing downs and be a three-technique defensive tackle and provide an interior pass rush.

Unlike other players the Patriots have used in a kind of NASCAR-like package, Guy at 300 pounds isn’t an undersized guy but still has the athleticism to get after the quarterback. He’d provide them with plenty of versatility to play inside or outside. He’s not a space eater like Alan Branch but should be strong enough to hold up in the running game inside as well as push the pocket. At the age of 27, he’s just entering his prime as a player.

Guy’s former coach John Harbaugh thinks that the Patriots got a good player, and spoke highly of him at the league meetings last month.

“I just think they’re getting a great guy, and they’re going to love him because he’s a really good football player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very under-rated, under-valued player. I thought it was very Patriot-like to recognize his value and to pay him the way they did. I think they paid him very well and in a way that’s going to change his life forever so I’m really happy for him.”

“They’re going to get a guy that plays equally well against the run and the pass, plays super hard, will be excellent in the locker room and in the meeting room,” Harbaugh added.

So where will Guy play, on the edge or inside? Both probably and special teams as well. Because since the league has ruled that Shea McClellin’s leaping over the line is a [gasp!] safety issue, they’ll need more of an interior push to block field goals and extra points.

But in regards to the draft, while they’re about set in the interior with Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, and Guy, they will still be looking to add speed on the edge.

The Patriots have Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom on the edge. Flowers will have big expectations this year after a strong second half of the 2016 season. Ninkovich has always been a solid big-play contributor but at 33, is starting to slow down. Grissom was a special teamer. Ealy has the size and versatility to also play inside or outside on passing downs.

This gives Belichick and Matt Patricia plenty of options on the defense as they’ll be able to mix and match with a variety of fronts. At the end of April, they’ll look for a speed rusher in the draft. Of course, if the opportunity avails itself, another would be even better. One can never have enough talented ‘guys’ on the edge.

But as for Lawrence Guy, he’ll be one player to watch this spring/summer. He may be the ‘guy’ no one talks about in the spring, then will rave about what a great signing it was in December.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Marshawn Lynch to the Patriots? Don’t Buy It

Steve Balestrieri
April 11, 2017 at 8:08 am ET

Marshawn Lynch to the Patriots? Sorry, that dog won’t hunt.

Yesterday reports surfaced from Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweeted out that the Skittles-loving, non-media talking bruiser of a running back said that if his talks with the Raiders fall through, that he’d be interested in going to New England.

Lynch retired after the 2015 season where he played in just seven games and rushed for 417 yards on 111 carries. It seemed like time had caught up to talented running back who had rushed for 1200 yards and 10+ plus touchdowns in the previous four seasons with the Seahawks.

Asked about his status last season, Lynch was adamant.

“I’m retired,” Lynch said in an interview with 60 Minutes. “Is that good enough? Which camera do you want me to look into? This one? I’m done. I’m not playing football anymore.”

But apparently, he’s had a change of heart. The Raiders need a bruising, power back and Lynch, if a year off from football had stoked his desire to play again as well as healed him up enough would be a great fit.

Seattle still owns his rights however GM John Schneider has stated that the Seahawks will not stand in his way should he opt to return. The Raiders’ need trumps Lynch’s desire to play football and that is where things get interesting.

Apparently, the talks between the two sides have hit a snag. So Lynch did what any good salesman does, he threw another hook in the water. He said that if the talks with Oakland break down, that he’d be interested in playing for New England if that happens.

The Patriots, not-so-coincidentally need a power running back too. And nothing would put the fear of God in the Raiders more than a re-energized, revitalized Lynch being part of the Patriots offense. LeGarrette Blount is a free agent and has reportedly turned down the Patriots offer to return.

The team has five running backs on the roster right now. Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster and Brandon Bolden but the power back position is one of need.

This little bit of leaked information will serve as a wakeup call to Blount and his agent as well. If you don’t sign with the Patriots with what they offered, they’ll move on quickly to someone else. Except Lynch did their dirty work for them.

Lynch never expressed interest in playing for the Patriots in the past, and I doubt that he has any now. This is just a leverage game he’s playing with the Raiders, the team that made him discuss coming out of retirement in the first place. It wouldn’t be shocking if Blount in the next few days decides that the offer by New England is good enough and he returns for the 2017 season.

But regardless of whether Blount or Lynch (very unlikely) signs with New England, look for the Patriots to add a youthful power back this spring. The draft has plenty of prospects and the team will be looking there.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Who Will Be the Patriots’ Slot Corner in 2017?

Steve Balestrieri
March 31, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots will have an interesting mix on their hands at the cornerback position if they can persuade Malcolm Butler to come back at least for this season. They’ll have Butler, newly signed Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman as their corners (as of right now) unless they add another in the draft.

The question everyone is asking is, “Who will play in the slot?” And the easy answer is, all of them could at one time or another.

With Rowe and Gilmore being 6’1, they could line up them outside and push Butler into the slot where he’d line up on the quicker shiftier receivers much like Logan Ryan and before him, Kyle Arrington did in the past. But the NFL being what it is, many teams now try to line up their big WRs in the slot attempting to get them more of a free release and take advantage of matchups.

We’ve seen this many times, and the Patriots would have the option of sliding any of their corners around depending upon those matchups. Flashback to Super Bowl XLIX, Arrington was being matched up with the Seahawks Chris Matthews who had a huge size advantage on him. Bill Belichick then slid Brandon Browner into the slot and the physical 6’4 corner quickly erased Matthews.

In 2016, the team used Butler and Eric Rowe on the outside and moved Logan Ryan into the slot. Butler has developed into one of the best corners in the game. He has a short-term memory, is very physical, doesn’t back down from a challenge and will jump up into the fray in support of the running game. He is outstanding in press man coverage at the line and is versatile enough to play on the outside or bump into the slot.

He is a perfect fit, depending on the matchups to play in the slot. The Patriots would have two big corners in Gilmore and Rowe and a slightly smaller but very athletic Butler. This is a secondary that could mix and match with anyone. Things become slightly murkier however if they do end up trading Butler.

The slot corner position would then be open for competition between Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Justin Coleman. At that point, I think the Patriots would add a corner thru the draft if Butler leaves. But I truly believe sans Butler the job would be Cyrus Jones’ to lose.

Forget about 2016, that nightmarish rookie season is long gone. He got off to a rocky start in minicamp last spring with issues holding on to punts in the return game and it carried over into the season. Jones is starting with a clean slate this spring and I expect much, much better results from him on the defensive side of the ball in 2017.

He was much too good in Nick Saban’s defense in Alabama to forget how to play football. Jones has excellent press coverage skills, is a good, willing tackler in the running game and is more than athletic enough to cover anyone from the slot position. Obviously, without Butler, it would be a step-down, but the team and the rest of the secondary members could make it work.

Coleman and Jonathan Jones are the dark horses here but never say never…especially in New England. Coleman played some in 2015 and did fairly well overall. Jones had some flashes in training camp a year ago but it will be interesting to see how he looks in Year 2.

Devin McCourty at free safety and Pat Chung at strong safety in the box provide excellent overall play and still have plenty left in the tank although Chung’s physical play down low is bound to start taking a toll on his body soon.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice new deal that works well for both sides. He’s the guy that comes in for the Big Nickel formations. One player that may be replaced this summer is Jordan Richards. He’s been disappointing and is too stiff in the hips to be a consistent player in coverage.

The best-case scenario? Butler signs his tender and returns with a big chip on his shoulder and wants to show the rest of the league that he deserves a big money contract. With Gilmore, Rowe, and he providing three very good cornerbacks, the defense will be ready for the cavalcade of opposing QBs that they’ll face in 2017.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 3-26 AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 26, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-26, & AFC East Notes.

Although I’m glad that the FBI and the Houston Police were successful in reacquiring Tom Brady’s jerseys and got them returned to Foxboro as well as catch the culprit, doesn’t it seem a bit over the top with the resources used to find it? I wasn’t aware the one from the Seattle Super Bowl was missing as well. One must wonder if the culprit will get credentials this upcoming season.

Building Depth Still Easily Done Before the Draft:
The Patriots have made a lot of moves during free agency, signing some free agents, bringing back a few of their own and adding other players via trade. But with almost $27 million in cap space, there’s no reason that the team cannot continue to build depth and add some impact players in free agency.

Just because things slowed down on the free agency front, don’t think that Bill Belichick and company are done. There are still plenty of good players available and some of those may still end in Foxboro. With the cap space available, they have the option of adding free agents that are still out there and spending to the limit or rolling over whatever cash they have left after the draft and adding UDFAs to the 2018 season.

That may not be that far-fetched. If they keep Jimmy Garoppolo, then the cost of franchising him will not be cheap. It will be interesting to watch how much they roll over into next season.

Revis Rumors Persist:
The rumors that the Patriots are going to sign CB Darrelle Revis “at any time” refuse to die. So perhaps there is some truth to those rumors, however, I don’t see that happening. As we spelled out here about a week or so ago, the Patriots wouldn’t be served well by bringing Revis back.

His level of play has slipped badly, he’s no longer a top corner, the Patriots are better served by sticking with Stephon Gilmore, and further developing young players in Eric Rowe, Jonathan and Cyrus Jones and deciding on whether they hold onto Malcolm Butler.

We’ve heard the rumors as well about Revis moving to safety. First of all, it was Bill Belichick that said that his skill set didn’t lend itself to moving there. But even if they did, who do you sit? Devin McCourty? Duron Harmon, who the team just re-signed? He’s not going to be a strong safety so Pat Chung is out too. Time for this rumor to go.

DC Bound in April:
The White House announced that the Patriots will visit on April 19th. The tradition is for the champions to be welcomed and honored by the President.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the announcement on Thursday and now the only question remains as to how many members of the team will opt to show up to meet President Trump or decide to sit it out.

Six players from the 2016 Super Bowl team, (Alan Branch, Chris Long, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, LeGarrette Blount, and Martellus Bennett) have all stated that due to either political or personal reasons they will not attend.

Return of Pat the Patriot:
Some interesting news this week was that a proposed rule change that will be voted on at the League Meeting in Phoenix this week will be that teams be allowed to wear an alternate helmet in a color to match their third uniform.

That would allow the Patriots to wear the “Pat the Patriot” uniforms and helmets again, which were banned in 2013 in the name of player safety as alternate helmets required a break-in period.

For my money, the white jerseys with the red pants and the Pat the Patriot helmets were the best uniform that New England has ever worn. Nothing else comes close. Not that it would ever happen, but I’d love to see them go back to that setup full time.

A Look Back in Time:
It was 46 years ago, this week, on March 25, 1971, the Boston Patriots changed their name to the “New England Patriots” although at the time, it wasn’t a big deal, it has gotten more important as time goes along.

The Sullivan family who owned the team at the time wanted to change the name from Boston to New England in part because the city of Boston balked at building the franchise a new stadium. Sullivan had just finished building his new facility down in Foxboro on Route 1.

Originally Sullivan wanted the name, Bay State Patriots (yuck) but Commissioner Pete Rozzelle stepped in thankfully and suggested that the new name be reflective of and inclusive of the entire region and the New England Patriots were born. And as Paul Harvey used to like to say, “now you know the rest of the story.”

Amendola Contract Re-Do Still In the Works:
There was an intriguing post on ESPN by Pats beat writer Mike Reiss on Saturday morning about the importance of Danny Amendola. While many in NE are writing Amendola off with the addition of Brandin Cooks. Reiss made the very astute observation that this may be premature.

Amendola doesn’t possess gaudy numbers, but like we’ve said here more than once, the NFL isn’t a fantasy football league. In big games when the chips are on the line, Amendola has proven himself, time and again, to be clutch. More importantly, he has Tom Brady’s trust factor, something that can’t be overlooked.

In the past two Super Bowls played by the Patriots, Amendola has caught 13 passes for 126 yards, two touchdowns, and an all-important two-point conversion. In the playoffs for New England, he’s returned nine kickoffs for a 23.7-yard average and four punts with a 13.5-yard average.

Amendola’s current cap hit with a salary of $6 million will not fly this year, especially with him being a 4-5th option in the passing game. But if he’s amenable to another reduction, and all indications are that he is, he’ll be welcomed back.

Malcolm Butler Sets Social Media Afire with Cryptic Message:
There is nothing new on the Malcolm Butler front, we do know he met with the Saints and afterward, NO coach Sean Payton raved about Butler to the press. Then Butler posted a picture on Instagram of himself sitting on a plane with the quote, “Nothing’s changed but the change” which was a line from a rap song.

It immediately set off social media on a conspiracy theory burn that lasted the rest of the day. Anyone can interpret that to mean any number of scenarios. As many as there are possible outcomes in his contract stalemate. People are still reporting he may be dealt as early as this week, and although that may be true, Butler isn’t going anywhere until he signs his free agent tender.

The Saints and Patriots can’t even discuss a possible trade for him until he does sign it. New Orleans isn’t going to sign him to an offer sheet because, at that point, they run the risk of either losing Butler back to New England if they match. But more importantly, they risk losing their top draft pick #11 to the Patriots if they decline to match.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Picked as NE’s Top AFC East Competitor:
The Buffalo Bills and not the Miami Dolphins are the Patriots biggest competitor in the AFC East according to Adam Schein. Schein wrote this week:

“And I still wanna see Ryan Tannehill take the next step. But I love that Buffalo retained Tyrod Taylor. He’s a good quarterback who will get even better now.”

While I’ve always enjoyed Schein’s takes, I respectfully disagree with this one. Taylor has done little with the passing game. Buffalo averaged 189.7 yards per game thru the air. They were 32nd in attempts and 30th in yards. I’ve yet to see Taylor put the team on his back and carry them to a win. The Bills only success in throwing the ball has been when they’ve run it very effectively.

I do agree with Schein that Sean McDermott will change the culture quickly up in Buffalo. And it should prove to be interesting.

Miami a Finalist for LB Zach Brown:
The Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders are the two teams that have hosted linebacker Zach Brown, the former Bills free agent. It is rumored that Brown will choose between one of the two in the next few days.

Brown, 27, led the Bills with 143 tackles and added 4 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles in 2016. He is reportedly seeking $6 million dollars per year. It is reported by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins are only offering in the $3-4 million-dollar range. Brown would upgrade a Miami unit that struggled in 2016. However, they’ve re-signed Kiko Alonso and signed free agent Lawrence Timmons in free agency. Brown would add another solid veteran presence.

Jets sign Patton, Ijalana to Deals:
The New York Jets made a couple of deals this week, re-signing T Ben Ijalana to a new deal. Ijalana, 27, started the first 13 games of his career in 2016 while appearing in all 16 games.  Playing both RT and LT, the 6’4”, 332-pounder totaled 868 offensive plays and 925 overall snaps, ranking fourth most on the offense and fifth most on the team respectively.

The team also signed free agent WR Quinton Patton from the San Francisco 49ers. Patton, 26, set career highs last season with 37 catches and 408 yards, playing 68 percent of the offensive snaps for the Niners. He’ll join Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa as the primary WRs for the Jets this season.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Unless The Price Is Right, Patriots Should Hold On to Butler

Ian Logue
March 20, 2017 at 9:47 am ET

Anyone who has followed the Patriots over the last decade, there’s one thing we’ve learned when it’s come to finding reliable cornerbacks in Bill Belichick’s defense. It’s been a problem, and given all the discussions over the last week of jettisoning Malcolm Butler from the roster, it should definitely be something this team doesn’t do unless they’re being adequately compensated.

Some people are making the argument that the deal for Butler is simply a continuation of the trade involving receiver Brandin Cooks, which saw New England send the #32 overall selection in the first round, along with swapping selections in the 3rd and 4th rounds with New Orleans in exchange for adding Cooks to the roster.  But with time having passed since this escalated last week, the Saints need to realize that the value Butler brings in what is now a passing league is a valuable asset, and it should cost them a little more than they might have thought to get him.

Bill Belichick and Sean Payton may be friends but at the end of the day, both coaches understand that they’re each judged by wins and losses, and whatever deal they make needs to work well for both sides.  The Saints played hardball when it came to wanting more than just the Patriots #32 in order to feel fairly compensated for giving up Cooks, and you could make the argument that Butler is the equivalent in this trade and is certainly worth more than the rumored #32 selection that’s been speculated as currency to add Butler to their defense.


Letting Butler walk should come at a serious cost to whatever team wants him.

As for Butler, who is frustrated and has been working with his agent to orchestrate a deal out of New England, he has virtually no say in the matter.  He’s already been tendered at the first-round level for his restricted free agent contract, which would bump his salary up to $3.91 million and has New England in control of him for at least one more season.  As it stands right now, his current obligation is to suit up in Foxboro in 2017 before he’ll have an opportunity to take his talents elsewhere after the season.  While he hasn’t yet signed his tender, there will eventually come a deadline that will give the Patriots the right to reduce his salary if he doesn’t, much in the same way that it happened with Logan Mankins back in 2010 during a similar standoff.

Mankins didn’t care and his salary was cut, and he held out until the very end before he eventually signed the tender reported on November 7th just before the Browns game that season, which at the time was likely only done because it would have cost him the opportunity to become a free agent when the season ended.  The Patriots eventually reached an agreement on an extension for the veteran guard after they placed the franchise tag on him the following season, which put that situation to bed.

While Butler has said he won’t hold out, this whole mess still has a long way to play out should this deal with the Saints fall apart and the two sides, for now, seem too far apart to find common ground.

Make no mistake, Butler is one of the top corners of the game, having bucked the history here in New England of not enduring a second or third season slump that past players like Leigh Bodden, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, among others, each went through and caused a ripple effect in their secondary.  This is a football team that had gone through a rough stretch developing cornerbacks and it wasn’t until recently that they finally had some success after what we’ve seen from Butler, along with the recently departed Logan Ryan.

As a result, they had been forced to overcome that by relying on signing free agents, with Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis being two keys to their recent run of success.  But that’s a formula that only goes so far and it’s no secret that the money they saved during Butler’s rise to becoming a restricted free agent helped pave the way for other personnel deals that also played a factor in winning their most recent championship.

To let him go doesn’t make a lot of sense unless the deal is just too good to pass up.  While they may have gone out and signed Stephon Gilmore, having already lost Ryan to free agency, the cornerback position remains one that is still going to require depth and there’s no guarantee that Gilmore is going to hit the ground running and match Butler’s level of play.  Not to mention the fact Gilmore has only played in 16 full games just once during his NFL career (2012), unlike Butler who has played in all 16 over each of the last two seasons.


The Patriots have already lost Ryan to free agency this offseason.

Belichick may have a plan in mind but he’s likely aware of the painstakingly frustrating stretch he went through before the Patriots finally got their secondary in order and started getting more consistent play from the group they’ve built over the past few seasons.  With Ryan now in Tennessee and Butler’s future in question, Belichick should make sure that as much as he’d like to help his friend Sean Payton out, he needs to make sure that New Orleans coughs up at least the #11 selection, or he’ll simply start planning on the prospect of having both Butler and Gilmore lining up opposite each other for 2017.

Simply put, the Patriots are in the driver’s seat here and need to be smart.  Giving him away unless the deal is too sweet to turn down only benefits New Orleans, and the Patriots were more than fair by including another pick with the #32 pick when they acquired Cooks.  As great as that acquisition was, New England was already stacked with talent at receiver before making that deal and unfortunately, they don’t have that luxury right now at the cornerback position.

As a result, there’s really no room to do anyone any favors.  Now it’s just up to Belichick to take a tough stance and make sure the Patriots receive more than what they deserve in return for what they’d lose by not having Butler on the team next season.

VIDEO: Fitzy’s Wicked Pissah Free Agency-Cast

Robert Alvarez
at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots superfan Fitzy returns with a new webcast featuring a recap and breakdown of the Pats busy free agency moves and what he expects moving forward into the 2017 season.

WARNING: NSFW, Language.

Video courtesy @FitzyGFY

Just Say No to Revis… Patriots Should Pass

Steve Balestrieri
March 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm ET

The Patriots made a big splash in free agency with the signing of CB Stephon Gilmore, formerly of the Bills and he’s locked up for the next several years. They’re also locked into an ugly struggle with Malcolm Butler their restricted free agent corner because of it.

They tendered Butler with a first round pick and the former UDFA corner is upset that the team paid Gilmore the money he feels he’s earned. Now he’s trying to find a home in New Orleans who may very well work out a deal for him. But if Butler goes, should New England bring back Darrelle Revis who was released by the Jets? I’d say a resounding no.

Revis came to New England on essentially a one-year deal and played very well during the Super Bowl run in 2014. He did everything that was asked of him and by all accounts was a good soldier and teammate that year. Butler himself stated that Revis was a big help to him and he credits Revis with helping him to become the player he is today. So, can the Patriots catch lightning in a bottle twice? Again, no.


Darelle Revis had a solid 2014 in helping the Patriots win a Super Bowl. (USA TODAY Images)

The Patriots tried to bring back Revis in 2015 and offered him a big money deal worth in the neighborhood of $35 million. But the Jets were intent on bringing him back, even to the point of tampering with Revis. They didn’t need to. Revis who in retrospect, really wanted to go back to New York, got twice that amount from Gang Green. But he didn’t just get his ring, his money, and be on his way. Revis took parting shots at both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Worse, during the Deflategate saga as it unfolded, Revis went out of his way to criticize Brady and the Patriots, basically calling them cheaters. Do you think that Bill Belichick may hold a little bit of a grudge there for this? It is possible. The backlash over his comments about Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots prompted Revis to send his mother to get his Super Bowl ring at the team ceremony in 2015. Except that the Patriots didn’t allow his mother into the celebration.

But the fans and even many members of the media are clamoring for a Revis – Patriots Part Deux, basically ignoring the fact that the past two years, Revis has been flat out awful, especially in 2016.

The 31-year old Revis has been a shadow of himself the past two years and in 2016, teams didn’t shy away from Revis, they attacked him, and sought his side of the field out. For the first time in his career, Revis allowed two touchdowns in a game to the same receiver. In this case, it was against New England and was rookie Malcolm Mitchell.

Revis was overweight, out-of-shape and lost a step. He claims to have already lost 10 pounds this off-season and wants a final shot at redemption. The Jets still owe him $6 million this year, so a one-year deal would be affordable. But would the Patriots pull the trigger again? If they’re smart…in a word no.

While Belichick can bring out the best in players, he doesn’t have a magic elixir that is going to make a player gain those steps he’s lost overnight. No doubt, he’s seen the decline in Revis and knows that he can’t do anything to stop the inevitable slide that has already begun in his game.

It never fails to amaze how fickle some people are. For the past two years, fans and media here in New England have been all over the “Revis is fading” storyline while touting Bill Belichick as brilliant for letting him walk to the Jets in 2015. Many of those same people now are clamoring for his return…And if he signs with his hometown Steelers, as he’s been politicking to do, watch those same people jump back on the “he’s finished” bandwagon.

But while the Pats possibly need another corner if Butler moves to New Orleans, they aren’t in a crisis. Gilmore, Eric Rowe can hold down the corners. And 2nd-year player Cyrus Jones should be much improved in 2017 or Justin Coleman can compete in the slot. And there is the draft.

But as much as Bill Belichick loves to stick it to the Jets, he knows what he sees. Revis is done, or very close to being done. That ship has sailed. And the Patriots should pass.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Re-sign Dont’a Hightower, Big Domino Falls

Steve Balestrieri
March 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm ET

The Patriots made their biggest move of an already busy free agent season by re-signing LB Dont’a Hightower to a 4-year deal worth $43.5 million dollars with a full $19 million guaranteed. The deal was first reported NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Hightower, 26 was drawing serious interest from the Jets, Steelers, and Titans but it was always thought that New England was the favorite to bring back their talented linebacker from Alabama.

A year ago, we wrote here that among the top three defenders on the Patriots with Hightower, Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones, that Hightower was the key cog in re-signing first. Collins and Jones have since been traded.

In 2016, Hightower appeared in 13 games for the Patriots and recorded 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, two pass defenses and a safety. He was a first-round draft pick from Alabama in 2012.

With the Hightower deal done, the Patriots are in fantastic shape heading into the draft. They’ve more than recouped their losses in free agency, with the additions of Dwayne Allen, Kony Ealy, Lawrence Guy, Stephon Gilmore and now Hightower on the defensive side and adding the talented Brandin Cooks and Rex Burkhead on offense.

Heading into the NFL Draft, the Patriots are in tremendous position with cap space remaining to add additional depth. The only domino remaining is that of Malcolm Butler. If the Patriots can repair their relationship with him, there’s no reason to believe that this team isn’t the favorite to repeat as a Super Bowl champion in 2017.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.