Category Archives: NFL Commentary

New England Patriots News 3-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 22, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-22 and AFC East notes this week. 

The news of Tom Brady leaving for Tampa Bay has dominated the talk and the print media this week, they’ll be much more of that below, however, there was plenty of other news this week as the Patriots had an exodus of veterans jump ship. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

Kyle Van Noy: As we said last week, the Dolphins were expected to show a lot of interest in Van Noy, and they did, signing him to a four-year $51 million dollar contract. 

In Miami, he’ll be reunited with former Patriots’ coach Brian Flores, and his former coach knows how to utilize the versatile player the Dolphins hope can become a centerpiece of their front seven.  Van Noy can play the run off the edge, drop into coverage and also rush the passer from any position.  

Jamie Collins: Is rejoining his former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in Detroit. The Lions offered Collins a three-year deal worth $30 million. Collins had a career-high seven sacks and three interceptions last season for the Patriots. 

Joining Collins in Detroit are DL Danny Shelton, who signed a two-year, $8 million dollar contract. They also secured Duron Harmon who was, in essence, a salary dump by the Patriots. New England gave up Harmon and a 7th round draft pick for a Detroit 5th round pick. 

Ted Karras: Opted to bet on himself and signed with the Miami Dolphins on a one-year deal worth $4 million. The Patriots offered him a two-year deal with more overall cash but Karras looked at the current unsettled situation, especially with Brady and his OL coach Dante Scarnecchia retiring, he’ll have a good chance to start at center for Miami

Nate Ebner: The ace ST player is joining former Patriots STs/WR coach Joe Judge with the New York Giants on a one-year deal.  

Damiere Byrd: The Patriots signed the small (5’9, 180-pound) but fast wide receiver to a one-year deal. Byrd is coming off of a career-high 32 catch season for the Cardinals and has the ability to return kicks and punts. Byrd ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash while at South Carolina. 

Beau Allen: The Patriots replaced Danny Shelton with the big, 6’3, 327-pound defensive tackle who is known as a run-stuffing interior lineman. Allen spent the past two years with the Bucs  

Danny Vitale: The Patriots signed the big, bruising fullback who played for the Packers last year serving as a lead blocker and occasional pass catcher (7 receptions, 97 yards). The signing of Vitale doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of James Develin who suffered a season-ending (perhaps career-ending) neck injury last year.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. This week Derek and I went over the various comings and mostly goings of free agency. 

Trying to Make Sense of Brady’s Leaving:

For the first time in 27 years, the Patriots are now the team in the AFC East that is searching for their franchise quarterback. The Bills, for years, have been waiting for the next Jim Kelly, the Dolphins tried out numerous faces searching for Dan Marino’s heir apparent. The Jets? All the way back to Joe Namath. Now with Tom Brady leaving, there is a huge hole in the Patriots lineup.

For the past nearly three decades, the Patriots have had that stability, since they drafted Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Then when Mo Lewis leveled Bledsoe in the first game after 9/11, Brady stepped in and twenty years and nine Super Bowls later, the rest has been history.  That stability is now HIS-TOR-REE. And that is of their own choosing

They have 2nd year QB Jarrett Stidham, and honestly, nobody knows if he can be the guy or whether the Patriots even believe he can be. That’s what the other teams in the division have been dealing with for the past few decades…So, how the heck did we ever get here? 

But first and foremost, let’s get something clear and it seems like a lot of people on social media have it in error. Brady didn’t leave the Patriots. The Patriots forced him out the door. Now they can spin this however they want, but this relationship was broken to the point of no return last year.

Ian Rapoport from NFL Network said that the Patriots “likely would have done the contract” he signed with the Bucs, “though Tom Brady never came to them with his desire to return.” That’s a crock, sorry folks. They made it quite clear that they were not going to commit to Brady more than year-to-year. 

One of the people we spoke with is Tom’s long-time, good buddy Jay Flannelly. You can check out our conversation here: And we’ll get into the year-to-year thing shortly. But first, once the Patriots decided to go year to year, Brady was furious. He basically felt betrayed and that he was a lame-duck quarterback. He felt that after 20 years, he earned the security of a multi-year deal, even at age 42. 

After nothing was agreed upon by both parties in August, they gave Brady a raise and agreed to let him test free agency for the first time in his career this spring. Brady put his house on the market the next day. This was all very avoidable if, in fact, the team wanted Brady around past the 2019 season.  The sad fact is, they didn’t want him beyond 2019 unless it was at their terms and now they’re paying him $13.5 million dollars to play in Tampa Bay in 2020. 

And Tampa is paying him only what he asked of the Patriots last summer. Tom’s choice to leave? Really? No, this was their decision. 

One of the hallmarks of what made this team so great for the past two decades is that they invariably made sound decisions when it comes to the team. Bill Belichick is considered cold-blooded by some for his business first attitude and the fact that he doesn’t let emotions play into his decisions. That’s been their business model and it has obviously worked. 

But what about this decision? Do the Patriots have a better option at quarterback right now? Is there someone waiting in the wings that can handle this offense better, to where you’re paying Brady millions of dollars to stay away? 

This spring they didn’t even make an offer to Brady, the message was “go find an offer and bring it back to us.” To some bottom third of the roster player, that may be acceptable. To the QB who brought you to nine Super Bowls, that was a message that he wasn’t needed or wanted back. Then with the news that the DeAndre Hopkins trade was coming and how little Arizona gave up for him, Brady’s mind was made up. The Patriots weren’t going to make him an offer, nor would they be making another play to be all-in for another championship in 2020.

The Stefon Diggs trade was the icing on the cake. We spoke with someone that lives in Tampa, that Brady had dinner with Bill Gates, Derek Jeter and Jeffrey Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and that he made Jeter an offer to buy his mansion on Davis Island off of Tampa Bay. His decision was made…for him.

On Monday, he went to Robert Kraft’s home and told him that he was leaving. But the fact remains, he was ready to leave last August. There were reports that Belichick was shocked that Brady was signing with the Bucs. If they thought he was going to come back to them for one final negotiation, they were sadly mistaken. 

You could make a comparison between Brady’s last season and Rob Gronkowski’s. Both were unhappy and unnaturally moody in their final season. But the difference was, Gronkowski made the signature play at the end of the Super Bowl, hauling in a great catch that set up the Patriots for the game-winning touchdown. He was able to ride off into the sunset a champion. Brady’s last game ended badly with a Wildcard Loss to the Titans. 

Robert Kraft has come off awfully bad since the news broke. First, he called into a daily “hot take” show to claim that it was Brady’s decision to leave. That Brady wanted to leave… that take was a classic Red Sox move (hint, that isn’t a good look) by trying to deflect it back on #12 and then on Friday, he had another statement that was even worse, by throwing Belichick under the bus, in essence comparing Belichick or possibly his son Jonathan to a meddling mother-in-law that ruins a marriage. 

“Think about loving your wife and for whatever reason, there’s something — her father or mother – that makes life impossible for you and you have to move on but you don’t want to,” Kraft told NFL Network’s Mike Giardi. 

If Kraft had just said that the Patriots were sticking to their business model and the two sides were hopelessly deadlocked, while one can disagree with it, or even dislike it, but at least you can respect the decision. This wasn’t the case at all. Kraft first tried a couple of times to insist that all Brady had to do was to tell them he wanted to return and then tried to blame others as if he didn’t have the power to change it. That was a really bad look. 

We’ve heard rumors that Kraft has increasingly turned over more of the day-to-day operations to his son Jonathan, and may have admitted as much a few years ago, when Brady signed an extension. Kraft said he looked at the contract and then asked Jonathan what he thought. But that is a stretch …or was it?

Kraft spoke with Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston and tried to explain that the Patriots were waiting for Brady to signal that he wanted to return…What? After eight months of inactivity, they waited until the final few hours for Brady to signal he wanted to return? Bad, bad, bad. For a team steeped in making smart business decisions, this one rivals any of the stupid ones the Jets or Dolphins have made in the past 20 years.

The Patriots made their decision and have now taken a giant step back. They will no longer be an automatic favorite to go deep into the playoffs and compete for the Super Bowl. They’ve rejoined the pack. They’ll have to fight, claw, and scratch for every win and hopefully eke out a Wildcard berth. They won’t be favorites, nor should they be, to even win the division they’ve owned for 20 years. Honestly, wearing an analyst’s hat, it makes for a very compelling season. It should be fascinating to see how the entire team dynamic is going to work. Switching to a fan’s perspective, it sucks. But we knew it was coming sooner or later…and now it is sooner.

And so, Brady is moving on to a new team, a new coach, new teammates, and a new system. But what isn’t new is his burning desire to win. Everyone who’s had the pleasure to watch him work and interact on a very small scale down at Gillette can see that the fire still burns really bright in him. His coaches and teammates will soon see that too. He’s going to a good coach that knows how to get a lot out of his QBs, although he’s a bit of a deep passing guy. 

Brady loves nothing more than a challenge. That’s his personal bushido, he approaches things with the warrior mentality of everything is a challenge. Any perceived slight or negative criticism is, therefore, also a challenge. And he does feel slighted and challenged by the Patriots forcing him out the door. The Bucs defense may hold them back this year, their secondary was awful a year ago. But Brady and the offense? He’s going to light it the hell up in 2020 in Tampa.  Just sit back and watch.

Patriots Franchise Tag Joe Thuney:

The Patriots in a somewhat of a surprise move used the franchise tag designation on left guard Joe Thuney and the 27-year old signed it guaranteeing him…for now having the highest salary on the Patriots at $14.78 million for 2020 now that Tom Brady is a member of the Bucs.

Thuney has made $3.6 million in his three-year career, so this is a big pay increase for him. He was expected to price himself out of New England this spring as a free agent but the tag will keep him a member of the Patriots …for now. The team could still opt to trade him since they’d have an inordinate amount of cap space dedicated to their guards. 

The Patriots have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension with him or he’ll count the entire $14.78 million against the cap this year. 

Adrian Phillips, Will Ease Workload on Pat Chung:

The Patriots signed Safety Adrian Phillips, the free-agent All-Pro and Pro Bowler came from the Chargers where he had spent his entire six-year career.  Phillips signed a two-year deal worth $7.5 million with $3 million guaranteed. Phillips can earn a total of $4 million this year if he hits all of his incentives.

Besides being a Special Teams ace, he is a physical, downhill safety and will play in the box, defending the run and in coverage against tight ends. He missed significant time in 2019 with a broken forearm but this year, with Pat Chung, who fills the same role getting older, Phillips would help scale back Chung’s workload and would look to be his eventual replacement.

So, Phillips would replace Ebner’s presence in the kicking game and back up Chung and play a role at Strong Safety. But the salary dump of Harmon still leaves the team with a hole in Free Safety depth. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade for WR Stefon Diggs:

The Buffalo Bills are going to have an offense that will be tough to stop. They wasted no time in going after former Vikings WR Stefon Diggs during the early hours of “legal tampering” as free agency unfolded. 

While they paid a steep price for Diggs, a 1st, 5th, and 6th round picks in 2020 and a 4th rounder in 2021, he’s going to transform this offense into a very dangerous one. Buffalo now has speed, speed and quickness outside and it will be a case of “pick yer poison” while trying to defend Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley next year. 

Buffalo has three excellent wide receivers who give their QB a large target window due to their ability to get separation from defenders. For a QB that still has some accuracy issues in Josh Allen, this group will go a long way in alleviating that. 

Diggs is a very good #1 WR, Brown as the #2 and Beasley out of the slot gives Allen and Buffalo an excellent group of skill players. Coupled with a suffocating defense, Buffalo should be overwhelming favorites to run away with the division in 2020. 

Dolphins Going Conservative in FA? Not a Chance:

The Miami Dolphins had said that they were leaning towards being conservative in free agency, despite having a boatload of money to spend. But GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores were anything but, going after a ton of players that they coveted once free agency began.

Miami filled a bunch of holes in their roster as they quickly hit on the Patriots, poaching LB Kyle Van Noy, who should immediately become a centerpiece for their front seven. But their secondary got a huge boost from the signing of CB Byron Jones, formerly of the Cowboys to a deal worth a guaranteed $57 million. Jones, teamed with Xavien Howard gives Miami the most expensive CB duo in the league. Miami also brought in edge rusher Shaq Lawson, OL Ereck Flowers. They later added OL Ted Karras from the Patriots who should get the nod at the starting center in 2020. 

With three first-round draft picks in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, Miami is set to make a big splash there as well. A week into the process, the Fins are off and running. Conservative? Nope, but it is hard to disagree with anything they are doing so far. 

Jets Go Low Key in Early Free Agency:

The New York Jets, unlike Miami, DID go conservative in the first week of free agency, something they’ve not done in recent years. Probably the biggest signing the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets have made is slot corner, Brian Poole. While a needed, and solid signing, it isn’t the kind of splashy signing, we’ve seen from Gang Green under previous regimes. Although, those haven’t exactly worked out either. 

Poole is a solid player and a good signing, and while the Jets still need more help at corner, they didn’t spend a ton on him and he should pay immediate dividends. Another under the radar move GM Joe Douglas did was to sign C Connor McGovern. A definite position of need, McGovern is a solid, if unspectacular player but is an immediate upgrade over what they had last year. 

They gave McGovern good money, three years, $27 million with $18 million guaranteed but with the Broncos last year, he allowed one sack and just three QB hits. And he didn’t commit a single penalty last year. He’ll help keep the pressure off Sam Darnold up the middle in the A gap. Good moves by Gang Green


“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone-setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in almost every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.

“Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom’s success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone’s adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.

“Examples of Tom’s greatness are limitless, going back even before he was drafted. We witnessed how he prepared when he wasn’t playing, how he performed when he got his opportunity, what he did to continuously improve, his leadership, his mindset, the example he set, and, of course, the person he is. I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally.

“Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”  Bill Belichick on Tom Brady after he announced he would not be returning to New England. 


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


New NFL CBA Should Make It Easier for Brady/Patriots To Deal

Steve Balestrieri
March 16, 2020 at 8:30 am ET

While the world rushed the aisles of stores to hoard the last of the toilet paper supply, the vote for the NFL’s new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) narrowly passed 1019-959 with about 500 players not even voting. 

If the Player’s Union wanted to send a strong message to the owners, they perhaps sent the wrong one. With about 20 percent of the members not even voting, it tells the ownership that the union is fragmented and weak. That won’t bode well down the road.

The big takeaways from the new CBA is that there will now be a 17-game season with one less preseason game. The seven-team playoff format with only one team getting a bye means that more teams will be resting players down the stretch

The salary cap will increase to $198.2 million, which means the Patriots should receive about another $3 million in cap space. Rosters will increase from 53 to 55 and teams can dress an additional two players on game days. The rules governing drug testing have changed and the players will receive a bigger slice of the revenues moving forward. The agreement will ensure a somewhat calm labor front for the next 10 years.

So, on to the Patriots and the possibility of bringing Tom Brady back, the new CBA should help that along. The 30-percent rule is no more so it “should” be easier to backload a contract for multiple seasons that may be agreeable to both Brady and the Patriots. This “should” make it easier for the team to restructure guys like Stephon Gilmore and Dont’a Hightower, because with the Slater re-signing and the news of Devin McCourty’s return (more below) the Patriots are running out of cap space.

With the new CBA, the sticky subject of voidable years has also been addressed as well. The Patriots added two voidable years to his deal last year, those are not allowed if the CBA is in its final year, which the league was in until Sunday. Now the team and Brady can add the voidable years to the back end of the contract, which will give the team some measure of cap space relief. For more on that see Miguel @patscap.

The rumored Brady to Tennessee train totally derailed on Sunday when it was announced that the Titans were giving Ryan Tannehill a big new contract with over $91 million in guaranteed money. That supposed door is closed. What’s left for Brady now? In reality, not much. The Tampa Bay Bucs, the Patriots, or perhaps that “mystery team” that we’ve been reading about. We’ll see; unless something totally crazy happens in the next day or so, the chances of Brady returning should be much better. 

Is Tampa closer to a Super Bowl than New England? No, so if Brady were to opt to go there, it would have to be for one of two reasons. One, he just wants out of NE and would be willing to go about anywhere, or Two, the Patriots don’t want him back. 

So, with the news that Devin McCourty is returning, the twins will be back for at least another season in New England. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that McCourty’s two-year deal is worth $23 million with $17 million in guarantees. 

Friday the Patriots locked up Slater for another two years, so they are locking up some of their veteran players before free agency starts. Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Joe Thuney, and Ted Karras are all free agents, but all eyes will be on #12. 

And so it begins, buckle your seat belts, its going to be a bumpy night.

New England Patriots News 3-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 15, 2020 at 6:27 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

“Beware the Ides of March”… on this day Julius Caesar was assassinated on his way to the Senate. Hopefully, the Ides will bode better for the Patriots in regards to a certain Free Agent quarterback than it did for J.C.

With all of the absolute hysteria going on with the coronavirus, let’s all take a break and talk some football for a few… 

This promises to be a busy week, corona panic and all. First of all, teams face the franchise- and transition-tag deadline Monday. Free-agency negotiating, the so-called “legal tampering window” also opens Monday. And the new league year begins on Wednesday when the feeding frenzy begins and teams begin to overpay for free agents.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

Kyle Van Noy: The Patriots linebacker is expected to draw some interest from the Miami Dolphins and possibly even the Detroit Lions, the team that didn’t use him properly and jettisoned him to New England on the cheap. 

Miami makes sense, he played for and had great respect for Brian Flores, the Dolphins have a boatload of cash to spend, the weather in Florida is nicer in the winter and there is no state tax. But how would Van Noy look in teal?   

Julian Edelman: The Patriots wide receiver took to social media and posted to Twitter a picture of him in a throwback Patriots jersey with the caption: “Hearing rumors about new jerseys.” Let’s hope it wasn’t that one, those hideous blue-paneled ones from the Bledsoe era were godawful.

If they’re going to wear new jerseys then go back to the white jerseys and red pants of the ‘85 era Patriots, which were the best uniforms in team history. And it isn’t open for debate on these pages.

Ted Karras: The Patriots free agent OL cashed in nicely on the NFL’s performance-based pay system. This is used to reward players who earn more playing time relative to their salaries. Karras, filling in for Center David Andrews, started 15 games for the Patriots in 2019. 

So, Karras raked in $635,947, the second-largest payout in the program. He earned $393,363 through the performance-based pay pool, and an additional $242,584 from a veteran performance pool. Not bad…now he’ll cash in even more in free agency.

Eliot Wolf: The Patriots have hired the former Browns Assistant GM and former Director of Player Personnel for the Packers as a front office assistant. The 37-year old is the son of former Packers GM Ron Wolf. 

Salary Cap: If any of our readers have salary cap questions, there is only one person that they should be following and asking questions of and that is Miguel aka @patscap. If you’re asking anyone else or getting your Patriots cap information from anyone else, you are doing yourself a disservice. 

“If This Is Sunday” – Then Tom Brady must be going to San Francisco, or Tennessee, or Las Vegas…or was it Tampa Bay? This should be rectified very soon one way or another this week once free agency begins. 

Compensatory Picks: The Patriots added four compensatory draft picks in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, the most in the league. Of the 32 comp picks that the NFL releases every spring, the Patriots picked up two in the 3rd Round, and two in the 6th Round. 

The Patriots currently have the 23rd overall pick in the 1st Round, and no 2nd Round pick (Traded for Mohamad Sanu) and now three picks in the 3rd Round. Which means they’ll have four of the first 100 picks. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. Two weeks ago we finally got the band back together as Russ Goldman, who’d been working a schedule that didn’t permit getting together with Derek Havens and myself, was able to rejoin the podcast for the first time in several months.

Matthew Slater is Returning With a 2-Year Deal:

File this one under a no-brainer… The Patriots are bringing back ST’s Captain and outstanding Gunner Matthew Slater on a 2-year contract according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Yates stated that the deal was structured similarly to how his last contract was which paid him $2.6 million. 

Slater who turns 35 this fall, belies his age as he remains one of the very best gunners in the NFL and has been a captain of the STs since 2011. Slater’s work ethic is beyond reproach as the Patriots have long allowed him to practice on his own and during training camp. He can be seen sprinting up and down the field with an assistant coach trying to block him. 

And it still translates to very good on-field production. Slater notched 10 tackles in the kicking game, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble,as well as a blocked punt and he scored the first touchdown of his career in an early-season win over the Bills.

When his playing days are through, many have predicted and we agree with, that Slater will be a perfect person to take over the old position that Jack Easterby held as a character coach and team chaplain.

Slater is a locker-room influence and has been a veteran leader for many years. For several years, it is Slater who Bill Belichick calls upon to break down the team after a victory. “So…how do we feel about Matthew Slater returning to the Patriots in 2020? Awwwww Yeah!” 

CBA Vote Expected Soon:

The CBA voting window is closed, it was over at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday night. The results will be posted sometime this morning. A simple majority is all that is needed for the new CBA to take effect, which would begin immediately if adopted. 

This will have a great deal of influence on new contracts, especially with Tom Brady. Stay tuned

Hunter Henry Franchise-Tagged By the Bolts, A Possible NE Target:

Around Los Angeles, most people thought the Chargers would franchise tag tight end, Hunter Henry. Others believe that the Bolts may tag him and then trade him… not out of the realm of possibility.  And they did just that on Friday, guaranteeing him at least $11 million dollars in 2020. 

Chargers GM Tom Telesco said at the Combine, that LA wanted to keep the very talented but oft-injured tight end.who has caught 136 passes for 1,709 yards and 17 touchdowns in his three seasons. Last season, he set single-season career highs with 55 receptions and 652 receiving yards for the 5-11 Bolts. He missed all of 2018 with a knee injury suffered n the spring.

Henry was a favorite Free Agency binky for New England fans. The Patriots need to retool and reload at the tight end position. With Henry out of the free agency picture, that means that Austin Hooper is probably primed for a very big payday once free agency begins as he’s the biggest name out there, which doesn’t bode well for any hope of the Patriots enticing the 25-year old here. 

Other names that they could target…barring a trade include Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Delanie Walker, Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham, and Marcedes Lewis. Many people feel (including here),  that the Patriots will double-dip on the position in both free agency and then during the 2020 NFL Draft. Of course, we thought that last year as well, so we’ll see how it plays out.  

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Re-Sign TE Jason Croom:

The Buffalo Bills have re-signed exclusive rights free agent Jason Croom according to ESPN’s Field Yates. After he led all Bills tight ends in receptions in 2018, albeit with a modest 22 receptions for 259 yards and one touchdown, he ended on IR in 2019.

He injured a hamstring in training camp and it bothered him to the point that he was eventually placed on IR last summer. 

Croom will compete with a crowded positional room as the Bills have Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, and Nate Becker all under contract for 2020. They were trying to entice Greg Olsen to Buffalo but he signed with Seattle. Kroft redid his contract earlier this week. 

Dolphins Sign Three ERFAs, Promote WRs Coach:

The Miami Dolphins tendered exclusive rights free agents wide receiver Isaiah Ford, linebacker Trent Harris, and defensive tackle Zach Sieler.

Ford has spent his entire career with Miami and has had numerous stints on the practice squad and active roster. In 2019, he caught 23 passes for 244 yards. Harris was originally signed by the Patriots as a UDFA. He was picked up via waivers and played in 11 games with 22 tackles (16 solo), 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Sieler joined the team in December via waivers from the Ravens and notched eight tackles (three solo), one sack and two passes defensed in three games. 

Miami has told center, Daniel Kilgore, that he won’t be brought back in 2020.they also announced that they have promoted Josh Grizzard to be the wide receivers coach. This is his 4th season with Miami, the first three as a quality control coach. 

Jets Reportedly Looking At OL Thuney, Ricky Wagner, Jack Conklin:

The New York Jets have to do a rebuild along their offensive line in 2020. The good news is that both free agency and the NFL Draft promises to be very deep for the offensive linemen. 

The Jets are supposedly very high on G Joe Thuney from the Patriots, as are the Dolphins and he’d be an immediate fit and upgrade on their Oline. The Jets are supposedly rumored to kick the tires on Titans tackle Jack Conklin once free agency begins. Another name that surfaced was Lions RT Ricky Wagner who was released this week. He had a very solid 2018 but fell off sharply last year, now he’s been released.

Two other free agent names on the defense to watch for the Jets are edge rushers Cameron Wake, released by the Titans last week and Jadaveon Clowney from the Seahawks who is a free agent. 


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


Patriots Free Agency Wish List, Let the Madness Begin

Steve Balestrieri
March 12, 2020 at 10:04 am ET

With the start of the league year less than a week away it is time to get our early wishlist going and hopefully, the Patriots are already making some inquiries…wait, what???

“I know what you’re thinking…” as Thomas Magnum used to say every Thursday night. “The Patriots can’t be making overtures to free agents…that would break the rule for tampering!” And yet like every other year, we’ve already heard about Team A. is going to offer Tom Brady $60 million, yada, yada. If you don’t believe that has happened, is happening now and is going to happen this weekend, well I have this little bridge for sale you see. 

So, with that said, let’s look at some of the potential targets that we feel the Patriots should look at in the 2020 free agency feeding frenzy. Everyone has been saying that they really need help at wide receiver and tight end. I won’t argue that, however, I believe the latter is a much bigger need than the former. 

I’ve been saying ad nauseam that I think they just need some speed to go along with the talented possession guys that are already on the roster. I believe, that N’Keal Harry is going to have a very solid 2nd season after missing much of his rookie year hurt with a couple of injuries. Ditto for Jakobi Meyers. With Mohamad Sanu playing hurt, I expect that he’ll be much better in 2020. And Julian Edelman is still Julian Edelman. Give them a speedy guy outside that can run all of the routes and take the pressure off the guys underneath…and they’ll be fine. 

Tight end is another story. The Patriots’ tight ends were…to put it politically correct “challenged” in 2019. Okay, they stunk up the joint. So this year they need to sign a quality free agent and then double dip and try to draft a good one in the middle rounds of the draft and get the middle of the field, down the seams a friendly target area again. 

However, my first two names that I’d love to see the team chase are on defense. What, you say??? “Say what again, I double dare you,” (see who remembers that reference). Yes,  defense. So, before anyone yells, “Gedoutta HEAH!” we shall explain. 

Jordan Phillips, DT, Buffalo Bills:

The Bills scooped up Phillips when he was being let go by the Dolphins in 2018. The Patriots put in a claim for him, as did others, but he went to Buffalo due to their lesser record at the time. So, we already know that the coaching staff likes him and believes that he would be a fit in their defensive system. 

Phillips is one of those big immovable objects in the interior of the line at 6’6, 340 pounds. But he’s much more than that, he’s a penetrator. Playing the 3-technique who aligns on the outside shoulder of an offensive guard in the B-gap between the guard and tackle. The player is responsible for controlling and/or penetrating that gap inside. He tallied 9.5 sacks for the Bills, a career-high in 2019 as an interior DL.

The Patriots’ Danny Shelton is a free agent this season, Shelton had a very good 2019 and could find a nice market for himself. But Phillips brings the added dimension of pressure inside. He won’t come cheaply, but they may be able to entice him to play for Bill Belichick rather than against him in the division. Paired with Lawrence Guy inside, Phillips could have a huge season on this defense. 

Nick Kwiatkowski, LB, Chicago Bears: 

I’ve always liked this player since he entered the league in the 2016 NFL Draft and was taken by the Bears in the 4th round from West Virginia. An interior or MLB, depending on the formation, he is an excellent run stuffer who has steadily improved in coverage and has good range to move sideline-to-sideline.

Listen to what Aaron Rodgers who has played against him twice a year had to say.  “Well, 44, I’ve always thought he’s been a really solid player. I don’t want to butcher his last name. But he rocked me a couple of years ago and I know where 44’s at most times when he’s in the game. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Kwiatkoski wore the green dot for the Bears, who are cash-strapped (less than $25 million under the cap) and with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Elandon Roberts all free agents this spring, bringing in a guy like Kwik (his nickname on the Bears), would make perfect sense. 

Okay… now the offense.

Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons: 

I know most people are clamoring for Hunter Henry from the Chargers, but he’d be a distant second here given his injury history. I really like Hooper who was a dynamic target for Matt Ryan and the Falcons last year hauling in 75 passes for 787 yards and 6 TDs. 

He’s still not a great blocker but the 6’4, 255-pound tight end has improved in that aspect but what the Patriots really need is a big, reliable target down the seams, Hooper can do that and would be a matchup nightmare for defenses in the middle of the field. 

The issue with him will be money. He’ll probably command some big bucks on the open market. This is why re-signing a certain somebody at QB would be of paramount importance early in the process. Getting to play with “that certain somebody” could go a long way in enticing Hooper to New England. 

Trade for O.J. Howard/Cameron Brate, TEs, Tampa Bay Bucs:

The Patriots reportedly made a move to get Howard last year at the trade deadline but Bruce Arians, who doesn’t use a tight end extensively in his offense balked. It came down to a ‘we’re not going to use him and neither will you’ type of deal. 

Howard is another guy that I’ve always thought would thrive here in the Patriots offense. It might be a good time to kick the tires one more time with the Bucs to try to swing a deal. We read that Brate may be on the trading block as well. While not as talented as Howard, he’s a huge upgrade over what they have here…either one is a big plus.

Yesterday Adam Schefter wrote that the Packers were going to release Jimmy Graham…pass

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers:

Sanders was targeted by the Patriots a few years ago when a restricted free agent and reportedly they tried to get him at the deadline but didn’t have the cap space…thanks AB. Sanders made noise about wishing he had gone to NE all along. Will the third time be a charm? 

Although he’s 33, he still has the speed to burn and is a tremendous route-runner. If everything falls into place under center, then it may just work out for the Patriots and Sanders. We’ve said all along, he’d be a tremendous fit here. 

What will hold it up? Money. I know that Sanders said that the cash won’t be the driving force in his decision this time…but I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. So, we’ll see. 

Second choice: the Jets Robby Anderson. Anderson has a ton of speed and even had a dream of playing with Tom Brady. I’ve heard some people say that we don’t know if he’d be able to pick up NE’s passing offense. Isn’t that a legitimate question with every WR at this point? 

The Vikings Stefon Diggs is becoming this decade’s Larry Fitzgerald, every year, we’re going to hear rumors he’s coming to New England. Would I like him? Who wouldn’t? But do I see him here…nope.

There’s our early wishlist…which usually means that Bill Belichick won’t be interested in any of them this spring. Stay tuned…

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 3-08, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 8, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-08 and AFC East notes this week. It is good to be back on Daylight Savings Time…did you remember to turn your clocks forward last night? 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Scouting Combine, and the NFL:

Jason McCourty: The Patriots are going to pick up the contract option for the veteran cornerback, which will pay him about $4 million dollars in 2020, according to Ian Rapoport of McCourty had said in early February, “I definitely plan on playing next year. Now he’ll be back with the Patriots, which a tad surprising as with the cap space available, we thought that the team may be tempted to move on.   

Devin McCourty: The other half of the McCourty twins is an unrestricted free agent coming off of, arguably his best season. The Patriots move to re-sign Jason could be twofold in the thought process. While he’s been a valuable, versatile presence, his return could be the catalyst in Devin deciding to remain with the Patriots once free agency starts. 

Bill Belichick: The Patriots head coach will be honored by his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland on March 14th and be given the Keys to the City by MayorGavin Buckley. Originally, the city of Annapolis had planned on doing this last spring, but then former Heisman Trophy winner and Navy alum Joe Bellino passed away and Belichick, who was close to Bellino, went to the funeral, which happened to be the same day as the ceremony was planned.   

The city was understanding and now they’ve rescheduled for the 14th to present Belichick with the key to the city at halftime of the Navy-Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse game next Saturday. 

In a released statement, Belichick stated, “I am humbled and honored to be recognized by Mayor Buckley and the City of Annapolis,” he said.  “I would like to thank Admiral Buck and Chet Gladchuk for allowing me to receive the key in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. I loved the years I spent growing up in Annapolis and at the Naval Academy and I always look forward to returning. I am proud to be an Annapolitan!”

“If This Is Sunday” – Then Tom Brady must be going to San Francisco, or Tennessee, or Las Vegas…or was it Tampa Bay?

Jalen Hurts – This week on another podcast other than our own, I spoke with Mark Schofield, who is one of the best QB evaluators concerning the draft about Hurts. Schofield writes for too many publications to list them all, but we spoke about Hurts and his potential fit with the Patriots. 

He said that if Brady were to return, then the possibility of getting Hurts with one of their mid-round picks would be intriguing. His long throwing motion has been cleaned up and his mechanics looked very good in Indy at the Combine, where he threw very well. Something to remember, after going to Oklahoma last season, Hurts threw for over 3800 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’s an incredible athlete and is a very good runner with the ball in his hands.

His potential to learn under Brady would be a huge factor as well and the Patriots could opt to use him in the meantime much like the Saints use Taysom Hill, which would create matchups and get him some good game-time experience. Just something to consider. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. Last week we finally got the band back together as Russ Goldman, who’d been working a schedule that didn’t permit getting together with Derek Havens and myself, was able to rejoin the podcast for the first time in several months.

The Scouting Combine Needs To Return To Daytime, Prime Time? No:

The NFL can take one of the best events of the offseason, the Scouting Combine and turn it into a soup sandwich. In a league that has become obsessed with turning every little thing into “an event”, they’ve kicked the Combine into prime time and tried to bring in the casual fans, most of whom could care less how fast Player A. runs the 3-Cone Drill, or even know what that is. They just want to know who their team is drafting. 

The players arrive four, five, and in some cases six hours before they are due to working out and then forced to sit around for a large part of the day waiting for the prime time window to begin. The pace of the workouts seemed off as well. As a result of these long delays, several players suffered muscle pulls and strains. For what? 

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported that “agents and agencies were protesting the pending change to prime time workouts and threatened to have players sit out Combine workouts. However, now that they’ve experienced the issues that come with these workouts which last until 11 PM, it may be a different story in 2021.”

The Combine, the way it had always been run was just fine the way it was. It didn’t need tweaking and definitely doesn’t need to be a “prime-time event” and judging from what we heard the numbers were, the fans rejected it as well. Some folks who work on Park Avenue couldn’t hit water out of a boat. 

Jarrett Stidham A Star QB? His Throwing Guru Believes So:

In case you have either been on Mars or have been unwired for the past few months the Patriots may or may not re-sign Tom Brady this spring…(I know, it is breaking news! More to that below). But regardless of the incessant and increasingly silly rumors of who the Patriots are “all in on” coming into replace him if indeed he does leave, but all of it ignores one key fact.

We’ve been saying since the season ended, whatever the Patriots decide to do begins with how they feel about Jarrett Stidham. They drafted him in the fourth round last year and he’s still quite an unknown quantity. But by now, the coaches must have a feeling on whether he can play at a high level and become a franchise QB. One person who totally believes in Stidham is his throwing coach Jordan Palmer. 

Palmer, the younger brother of Carson, has been working with Stidham since he was just 16 years old. Jeff Howe of The Athletic spoke with Palmer and the former NFL player was glowing in his praise for Stidham. 

“To be clear, I think he is a star, and he is going to be a big-time franchise quarterback,” Palmer said. “I have felt that way for a couple of years now. I’m totally fine saying that. I don’t care that he went fourth round. I think he is legitimate. He is going to be the leader of New England for a long time, whenever that starts. Go ahead and jump on that bandwagon.”

Palmer and Stidham have been hard at work to improve his velocity, an area that he has to improve upon moving forward. And that comes from fine-tuning his mechanics. 

“Because he can spin it as well as anybody in the league, literally from a data perspective,” Palmer said. “The focus for Jarrett was velocity. So he gained 11 percent velocity over two months, and that was almost double what the other guys were. So just by focusing on certain areas, we can make large gains. So with Jarrett, every other week or so, we’re testing that and having him throw from the simulator out on the field, and we’re able to monitor growth and address certain issues.”

“He has had to learn two completely different systems in college and is now learning a third,” Palmer added. “He is playing for the best organization in football and the greatest coach of all time. I would put my money on the guy who gets to play with that guy.”

Stidham is the wildcard in all of this. Regardless of whether Brady decides to stay or go, how they proceed beyond that is directly related to how they feel about their 2nd year QB. Remember, other than mop-up duty against the Jets, we really haven’t seen him play since Game 4 of the preseason. The beat writers got quotes from some of the players saying that he was making some great throws in practice, but then once the season started, their only access was the first 15 minutes or so of practice that is essentially a walk-thru.

Vrabel Facetime, Not a Big Deal…Unless They Did in Foxboro:

Around this time of year, the most overlooked and ridiculous rule in the league centers around the “legal tampering” period. Teams aren’t allowed to contact free agents or their agents and discuss money or contracts until the designated period….right. 

Pro Football Talk and Larry Fitzgerald Sr. published a report that the Raiders were prepared to offer Tom Brady a two-year $60 million dollar deal…hmm. Last week, we’ve by now all seen the Facetime video of Titans coach Mike Vrabel chatting up with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman. Normally, during this time of year, a head coach of another team calling a free agent QB that is rumored to be coveted by your organization would send the NFL offices at Park Avenue into a frenzy. 

However, Vrabel said that there was no harm, no foul…it was simply old teammates and friends catching up. 

“It would be no different than a conversation you would have with two of your (friends) on a weekend,” said Vrabel.

“And listen, my relationship goes back to 2001 with Tom Brady and training camp at Rhode Island (and) Parente’s. We’d go practice, and a bunch of us would go to the bar at Parente’s after practice, and that’s where a lot of those friendships were made. And those friendships aren’t going to stop or not continue to grow and develop now that I’m a head coach and he’s a quarterback with an expiring contract. Those are going to continue on well after he’s done playing — with his family, with my family. “

Vrabel added, “And having the ability to meet Jules and all those players, there’s a special bond that goes on in the locker room, and that’s not going to stop, the same way that Larry Izzo or Tedy Bruschi or Willie McGinest or Wes Welker and Matt Cassel and I will have a relationship.”

That is completely understandable and his explanation makes a lot of sense, because there are times that common sense has to prevail…right? But what if Brady actually DOES sign with Tennessee? Would that conversation be looked at differently in Foxboro then? It won’t in New York, but just imagine if you will (Rod Serling voice) that Bill Belichick got on “MyFace” or “SnapFace” and yukked it up with a big free agent that the Patriots supposedly coveted. Would the non-story remain the same? The league would be on the horn with Ted Wells and trying to grab everyone’s cell phone within a 10-mile radius to Gillette. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills To Target Jadeveon Clowney in FA? A Good Fit:

The Buffalo Bills have a need for a consistent pass rusher in 2020 and they have the cap space to go out and find one. Buffalo has about $80 million in available cap space, although GM Brandon Beane said that the team wouldn’t go on a spending spree like last year, they have the flexibility to target some of the higher-priced talents out there. Enter Clowney from the Seahawks who is a free agent. 

Buffalo had a rotation of Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and free agent Shaq Lawson and they played well. Bringing in a guy like Clowney will add a disruptive edge player who is outstanding against the run. He’d be a really good fit in the Bills defense and with the money available, he could be Buffalo bound if they are interested. 

Dolphins QB Fitzpatrick In Favor of CBA Proposal:

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the few players that we’ve seen so far embrace the CBA proposal forwarded by the owners to the Players Association to vote on. Fitzpatrick said he has spent weeks going over the proposed CBA and he agrees with the vast majority of it. 

“I can confidently say today that I’m going to vote yes on the CBA proposal. And there’s a long list of reasons why,” Fitzpatrick said in a video he sent to ESPN’s Trey Wingo. “First, when we met with NFLPA leadership during the season we gave them things we wanted to see addressed.”

He said that the points that the Player’s Association brought up were addressed and he was voting yes. Those points included increased minimum salaries, marijuana drug policy changes, increased roster spots, better work conditions and environment, better practice-squad treatment, less hitting in training camp and increased benefits for current and former players.

“For us as players, revenue sharing, getting a larger percentage of the pie, is important but also the overall growth of that pie is important,” he said. “Those two things both happen if we sign this CBA.”

“The possible gains we could make from a work stoppage don’t justify the risk we would undertake in voting this proposal down,” Fitzpatrick said

Jets Quinnen Williams Arrested For Attempting To Bring a Gun on a Plane:

The New York Jets DL Quinnen Williams was arrested at New York’s LaGuardia Airport this week for criminal possession of a weapon and will be arraigned March 25 in Queens County criminal court, according to the DA’s office.

Williams was carrying a Glock 19 handgun in a carry-on bag when he was arrested at the Delta check-in counter at approximately 9:15 p.m. on Thursday night, a Port Authority Police spokesperson said. The gun was licensed in his home state of Alabama, but not in New York, according to police.

He was not, however, carrying any ammunition which would carry a much stiffer sentence if the owner of the weapon is carrying it loaded or has ammunition in close proximity to the weapon. New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. 

Although the resolution of this legal matter should be over quickly, Williams would still face league discipline for this incident under the personal-conduct policy.


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


New England Patriots News 3-01, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 1, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-01 and AFC East notes this week. 

Has everyone been watching the Scouting Combine this week? Any surprises that stood out?

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Scouting Combine, and the NFL:

Xavier McKinney – The outstanding safety for Alabama, played for Bill Belichick’s close friend Nick Saban and the two share a similar outlook on many things. But that still didn’t stop the young man from feeling a bit out of sorts after meeting with the Patriots.

“That was one of the harder meetings that I had,” McKinney said. It was a little tough, a little awkward. Just toward the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well,” he said. “You kind of walk out of these meetings, kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can.”

Jared Pinkney – The stud TE from Vanderbilt was also taken back a bit, when in a meeting with the Patriots, they accused him of having a “loser’s mentality.” OOOPS.

“I gave a kind of wonky answer, and it was like, ‘No, that’s a loser’s mentality.’ And I was like, ‘OK, my bad.’ (raises hands) They were like, ‘You need to be like this and that and that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m better.”

Combine Tight Ends –  As most people have Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet as the top tight end in this year’s class, he was impressive with his straight-line speed, but he struggled with his agility, something his tape showed. Adam Trautman of Dayton is my personal favorite of the class and while his straight-line speed was a tad slower, he blew away the competition in the 3-Cone Drill with a very impressive time of 6.78. And we know how the Bill Belichick and the Patriots like the 3-Cone. And his sled drill, was reported to be outstanding, but I didn’t see that.

Marcus Mariota – has reported that “with all the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are showing interest in soon to be free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former first-round pick is being courted by several teams who may have an open competition at quarterback. I’m told the Indianapolis Colts have also shown interest in Mariota – just in case.”

What exactly is “showing interest”? Anyone’s guess, but if TB12 wasn’t to return, I’d want either Stidham or another young QB…just my dos centavos.

Denzel Mims – While the football world (and many NE fans) went gaga over the 40-time of Henry Ruggs, (who wouldn’t?), the chances of the team snagging Ruggs is pretty remote. I think he’ll be long gone by the time the Patriots were to pick at #23. 

Doug Kyed from NESN, however, highlighted a very intriguing WR, Mims from Baylor who checks all of the blocks the Patriots usually look for in a WR. Said Kyed, “At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Mims ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical leap, 10-feet, 11-inch broad jump, 4.43-second short shuttle and — most importantly — a 6.66-second three-cone drill. Mims isn’t just an athletic anomaly either. He caught 66 passes for 1,020 yards with 12 touchdowns in 2019 with the Bears. Mims finished his three-year college career with 182 catches for 2,901 yards and 28 touchdowns.”

Oh, and BTW in case you missed it, Mims ran a 6.66 time in the 3-Cone Drill tops in the group on Thursday night, we’ll see what the Patriots think of him down the road.

Media Eating Their Own – Was it just me or did all of this Tom Brady hysteria turn into the beat writers just attacking each other. Things got a little bit on the ugly side this week. Time for everyone to step back. 

Combine Interviews – We usually hear about most of the interviews that the Patriots conduct during the Scouting Combine. And hearing that they are meeting with Player A or B, usually gets the interest piqued. However, did you know… that over the last five years, the Patriots have only drafted two out of the 154 players they met with at the combine? This great bit was written to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. The two players? Sony Michel and Tre’ Jackson.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. We are hoping to get our third amigo, co-host Russ Goldman back in the fold soon, as his schedule may allow him the time to rejoin the show. Coming into our ninth year together, he’s definitely been missed. 

Mohamed Sanu Needs Ankle Surgery:

The Patriots were expecting big things from Mohamed Sanu when they traded a 2nd round draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons for him last season. Initially, things definitely seemed to be tracking that way. In the blowout loss to the Ravens, Sanu, in just his second game in a Patriots uniform caught 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Then the following week, while trying to make an Eagles defender miss on a punt return, he twisted awkwardly while going to the ground as he was being tackled. He missed the monsoon game against the Dallas Cowboys, but when he returned from that high ankle sprain, he hardly resembled the same player.

Sanu struggled badly down the stretch, now we know the reason why. We don’t know the timetable for his surgery and rehab, but this will be a very important off-season for Sanu, who is due to make $6.5 million dollars this season. 

Still Hunting For a Smoking Gun? NFL Wrapping Up NE/Cin Fiasco:

The NFL may finally be wrapping up their investigation of the Patriots taping issue at Cincinnati. The league has been at this for three months, think about that for a second…and Pro Football Talk reported several weeks ago that the league was “frustrated” by their lack of ability to link the film crew with football operations. 

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported from the Combine that, “Last week, NFL Security completed what was believed to be the final interview with a Patriots employee. Now the security officials must write up their report, then hand it up the chain of command, where it will eventually land on the desk of commissioner Roger Goodell, who will approve of a final course of action. There is still no precise timetable for a release of the findings, but it is drawing close. The NFL declined to comment on the investigation.”

Volin speculated that the Patriots could be in-line for a fine of up to $500,000 and a mid-to-late round draft pick. But don’t be too sure. They suspended Tom Brady for a quarter of the season for playing in cold weather. 

Patriots Exploring a Deal for Hayden Hurst With Ravens? A Possibility:

The Patriots have a need at tight end, where the production was woeful in 2019. However, according to the Florida Times-Union’s Eugene Frenette, the Patriots are kicking the tires for a pre-draft trade for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. 

Of course, it all depends on the compensation; and the Patriots aren’t alone, Jacksonville is supposedly also interested in Hurst as well. Hurst was a 1st round pick in 2018 out of South Carolina, but he’s been stuck behind Mark Andrews on the Ravens depth chart. He caught 30 passes for 349 yards last season. 

The Patriots have a glaring need at tight end, as they never truly addressed the loss of Rob Gronkowski and blocker Dwayne Allen a year ago. They brought in Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse but neither was able to produce. Ryan Izzo was supposed to check the block on the running game blocking but he was hurt and then a healthy scratch for much of the season. 

The big questions are, would Baltimore trade Hurst to New England and what would it cost them in compensation? 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Draft Will Determine Where Cody Ford Plays on Bills OL:

The Buffalo Bills are going to wait and see where they stand after the draft to determine where versatile OL Cody Ford is playing this season. Head coach Sean McDermott spoke to the media at the Combine this week and was asked if there is a possibility of Ford playing either guard or tackle this season, depending on how the Bills draft. 

 “Absolutely”, he said. “Cody’s position flexibility was very apparent year one. There was a learning curve there as well just adjusting to the NFL, but being able to play two positions throughout preseason and also in the season at times I thought really spoke for who Cody is and his versatility. And now, you know, we’ll see how things fall into place through this process with both free agency and the draft and then we will go from there.”

“I don’t want to say he’s going to be this position or that position because of the flexibility. You know, we’re going to put it together like we do every season and the great part about it whether it’s Cody or Jon [Feliciano], Ty [Nsekhe], they’ve got some flexibility with not only playing right or left side but also guard or tackle. Some guys are guard and center flex like [Ryan] Bates was flex last year and you look at what Spencer [Long] was able to do. I think that’s all good for us.”

Asked if the Bills have a preference, McDermott said, “Well I think we have a feel for where he is best but at the same time he has a history of playing both, really. So we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves,” McDermott said. “It wouldn’t be smart strategically to do that right now with where we are, with where Cody is in his development. It wouldn’t be a smart move for us as an organization right now to say ‘well he’s just this’ because he’s a lot more than that potentially.”

Dolphins Playing Coy With Tua or Not Interested?

The Miami Dolphins left Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa wondering whether the team is the right fit for him after they treated him a bit coldly in their meeting. Tagovailoa said, they didn’t give any indication that he was their guy or that they were remotely interested in bringing him on board. 

However, it could be just a way for Miami to see how the players react to that, or to throw other teams off what their true intentions are. The Sun-Sentinel reported:

Dolphins coach Brian Flores is spearheading a stealthy operation with regards to the franchise’s thoughts and movements throughout the upcoming draft and free agency, and does not want the result of Miami’s meetings to divulge any of the team’s intentions.

Also, Flores has also been known to create adversity in a variety of ways to see how players respond in an effort to gauge their character and mental toughness, which could have been a tactic he used to test Tagovailoa during their first meeting together.

This just could be a smoke screen, but for Miami fans who much of last season were chanting “Tank for Tua”, this news has to be a bit disconcerting.

Jets Need to Hit on a WR in the Draft:

The Patriots aren’t the only ones who need help at WR. The New York Jets already had a middling passing attack and with Quincy Enunwa’s future questionable over a neck injury and Robby Anderson hitting free agency, the Jets need help at wide receiver in a big way. They have a very good slot WR in Jamison Crowder but Josh Doctson, a free agent they signed last week, is a depth guy, not a difference maker.

Amari Cooper is a possibility in free agency, but he may end up staying in Dallas. So, they need to hit on one at the draft. And they’ll be in a great position to nail one of the top WRs with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, or CeeDee Lamb all slated to be available when the Jets pick. 

Sam Darnold would love having one of those three being available when the Jets’ number in called in the draft. 


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


New England Patriots News 2-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 23, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-23 and AFC East notes this week. The NFL Scouting Combine 2020, is taking place this week. As always it should be interesting.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Super Bowl, and the NFL:

Ben Affleck – The actor (and Tom Brady fan) from Boston had a funny clip while appearing on ESPN’s Get Up Tuesday, regarding Brady. Affleck said that he and fellow Boston fan Matt Damon texted Brady to ask if he’s coming back to the Patriots. 

“This is what we got back: an emoji,” he said, raising his arms to show his version of the shrug emoji. “So I have no information for you.” 

NFL Combine: This begins always with what is a favorite time of year for us when the young players coming out of college begin to get their first look from the fans and much of the media.
Tentative Combine workout schedule:

» Thursday, Feb 27: TE, QB, WR

» Friday, Feb 28: PK, ST, OL, RB

» Saturday, Feb 29: DL, LB

» Sunday, Mar 1: DB

NFL Combine 2: Nothing against the guys who are on the broadcast, it is a very tough job to be speaking about players non-stop for 4 days, and heaven knows they do a great job there. But personally, I miss Mike Mayock (now the Raiders GM). Mayock was phenomenal during the Combine and made it even more interesting with his keen eye.  

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. Last week we took another look at the team’s free agents and how we think it will play out.

Combine, Who Are the TE’s You Are Interested In? Lots of Options:

The Patriots really need to upgrade both the wide receiver and tight end position. The tight end position we have already looked at a bit two weeks ago breaking down how it looks right now (pretty barren), and how it could be addressed in free agency if the team is so inclined. Some of those players include Tyler Eifert, Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, and perhaps a trade scenario involving O.J. Howard (however unlikely). 

Now with the Combine and the NFL Draft talk beginning to heat up, who might the team look at in Indy this week? A couple of the players we highlighted were Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney, LSU’s Thaddeus Moss, (son of Randy),  and Dayton’s Adam Trautman. But there are several others.

Included in there are Stephen Sullivan from LSU, who is a hybrid TE/WR with a lot of upside, Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic and the nation’s Mackey Award winner for the top TE in the country, and Sam McKeon from Michigan who is a better blocker than those listed above but isn’t quite the same threat in the passing game. He’ll be a mid-to-late round pick (Rounds 4-5).

Seven Teams Make the Playoffs? Not a Fan:

The NFL may be looking at some big changes in the playoff format as well as with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which expires at the end of the 2020 season. Negotiations between the owners and the Players’ Association are on-going but at first glance, it doesn’t look like the two sides are close to any agreement. 

Under the current owner’s proposal, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams from each conference. In addition, only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye.

The league is also wanting to switch to a 17-game regular season while eliminating one of the preseason games. This isn’t anything new, it has been something that the league has discussed for a few years now. Why? Because fans stay away from preseason games and it would be a bigger piece of cash for the owners.

There was nothing wrong with the playoff format as is, but this adds two Wild Card weekend games with teams that generally don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. There are the occasional 11-5 teams (New England and Denver come to mind) that didn’t get in, but by and large, the system worked without nearly half the teams making the postseason. If there was one issue that fans may have been wanting the league to look at, it is that some wild card teams with better records wind up playing road games against lesser division winners. That issue wasn’t addressed in the new proposal

A quick look at the past decade and which team would have been the biggest beneficiary to the new rule, the Pittsburgh Steelers who would have made the postseason four more times. Hmm, but Robert Kraft has the Commissioner in his pocket right? 

If the players vote to accept this, the new playoff format will begin in 2020, while the 17-game regular season will take a year to three to take effect. 

“Bill Can’t Draft” And Other Myths Every Spring:

Around this time of year, each and every spring we get the inevitable lament that Bill Belichick can’t draft and some media members will cherry-pick certain selections or trades to show how “awful” the team is at drafting. And yet, despite the early playoff exit this past season, the Patriots were in three of the four previous Super Bowls and a record eight conference championship games in a row. The past three Super Bowl winners were also heavily built through the draft, but it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.

Belichick is the first to admit that the draft is a crapshoot and no one knows if a highly touted college player will continue to develop in the pros. He’s had plenty of swings and misses, but two things that people forget (or ignore) is that the Patriots are always picking at the bottom of rounds. This year, they pick all the way up to #23. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. And the other thing is, that the draft is just a piece of team building, which no one does better than Belichick. Which is why they’ve been to eight of the last nine conference championships. 

This week I saw another thread on Twitter where the subject was how “Belichick blew the Brandin Cooks trade” and I had to chuckle at that one. Look if you’re going to cherry-pick the misses (and many do every spring), feel free, but this was one they nailed. The Patriots traded the #32 pick in the draft (for a Super Bowl win …again) to the Saints for Cooks. 

They then had Cooks for an entire season where he caught 65 passes for nearly 1100 yards and a career-high 16.6 yards per reception. They then traded Cooks to the Rams for the #23 pick in the draft. That is a win-win. But “yes caller #2, Bill dropped the ball on that one.” 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Going to Let Phillips Walk Away in Free Agency :

The Buffalo Bills are going to let free agent defensive tackle Jordan Phillips test free agency this spring according to John Wawrow of the Associated Press. He reported that while both sides “enjoyed his two seasons in Buffalo”, they don’t expect to stay together for a third.

“The thinking behind the decision is a question of how much Bills can spend because they have to focus on re-signing others,” added Wawrow.

Phillips was signed by the Bills off of waivers in 2018 and signed a one-year deal for the 2019 season. He played in all 16 games, and started in nine, registering  9.5 sacks along with 31 tackles. With that kind of production, he should have no problem finding the next suitor for his services. 

The cupboard will hardly be bare for the Bills, however. They have Ed Oliver waiting in the wings and he should step right in and become the lead 3-technique of the team for the next several years. Would the Patriots be interested in the 27-year old Phillips? If the money was right, he’d be a really nice addition to the defense, however, he’ll probably be priced out of the Patriots’ range. 

Dolphins Eying QB (Tua?) and Tackle in the 1st Round:

The Miami Dolphins have three 1st round draft picks in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Miami picks at #5, #18, and #26 in the 1st round. It is an exciting time at South Beach. Most pundits expect Miami to take a quarterback with the #5 pick. Smart money is on Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. But after that? Miami may start looking for a tackle to protect their next franchise QB.

NFL Draft authority,  Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that, “Much time and space has been spent discussing the Miami Dolphins moving up from No. 5 overall to select quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, but there hasn’t been as much talk about the team’s second of three picks in Round 1. I’m told by many evaluators connected to the Dolphins that general manager Chris Grier will want to keep No. 18 overall to land an offensive tackle. Said one scout, “Don’t be surprised if they ultimately move up from 5 and 18 to get Tua and a tackle.””

The Dolphins have a lot of draft capital and have the ability to be movers and shakers in the draft. They also have the most available cap space in the league with over $89 million where they can sign a lot of players. Good times for B-Flo this spring.

Jets Sign Former 1st Round Pick WR Josh Doctson:

The New York Jets have signed former 1st round pick, veteran free agent WR Josh Doctson.

Doctson, who has good size at  6’2″, 205 was a first-round pick by the Redskins, #. 22 overall, during the 2016 draft after an impressive career at TCU. However, in three seasons with the Redskins, he played in just 33 games with 26 starts and caught 81 passes for 1,100 yards,  for an average of 13.6 yards/catch, and 8 touchdowns.

He was a final cut by Washington at the end of 2019 training camp and signed as a free agent with Minnesota  He was placed on IR with a hamstring injury right after signing with the Vikings but was released in November. He played in only one game with stats.


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


New England Patriots News 2-16, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 16, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-16 and AFC East notes this week. We hope that everyone had a happy and fun St. Valentine’s Day with your significant other. 

On another note, I’ll be surprised…no shocked if there aren’t some players currently in the XFL who aren’t in training camp with the Patriots this summer… stay tuned.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats,and the NFL:

Tom Brady – The Patriots’ QB has had more rumors and innuendo surrounding him lately than the guy currently residing in the White House…and that’s saying something. Take your pick, “Brady’s aging but the Patriots are bringing him back”, Brady “Definitely” isn’t coming back”, “the Patriots Don’t Want him back”, the Patriots definitely want him back”, He’s going to LA, Las Vegas, the Jets, Giants, Titans. 

My favorite was that the Raiders already offered him two years and $60 million. Which if true, as they are being reported by Larry Fitzgerald Sr. the father of the Cards WR, and a very good reporter, would beg the question, “Was there illegal tampering done?” Nah.

Just think…we have 31 more days of this drivel until we “REALLY KNOW” what Brady is doing and where he’s going. The rest are just spit-balling the latest rumor that someone just made up. Ignore the noise. 

Derek Rivers – Mike Reiss of ESPN made note that while other players have taken off for the remainder of the winter, one player who has stuck around and is working out in the team’s facility is Rivers who was the team’s first draft choice a few years ago.

Rivers had two of his three seasons cut short by injury in training camp. And while it is good news he’s stuck around to work out, he has to be a long-shot to make the team this season. However, anything he could bring to the table at this point would be a bonus to the team. 

Lenzy Pipkins – Pipkens is an intriguing signing as he appeared in 12 games as an UDFA rookie in 2017 with the Packers. He was released and played in two games with the Colts and one with the Lions in 2018 before landing on the Browns PS.

Cleveland cut him in August and he was out of the NFL for the entire 2019. He has decent size at 6’0, 196 and is now 26 years old. There’s always something about UDFA cornerbacks that wind up in New England…we’ll see how well he can play this spring. 

AB – Antonio Brown, who was with the Patriots for all of 11 days can’t seem to stop talking about them. His latest rant, while conducting an interview on the radio was more directed at Robert Kraft than anyone else as he said:

“(The Patriots) didn’t want to see me get off. They didn’t want to see me be great,” Brown said. “They’d rather let me go than be great.”

Brown was then asked why Bill Belichick would sign him if he really didn’t want Brown on the Patriots. That’s when Brown said his release wasn’t Belichick’s doing, saying it “was over his head,” once again throwing owner Robert Kraft under the bus in the scenario. 

“I wanted them to need me there, man,” Brown said. “Want and need are two different things, you know?”

Is there anyone left now, still wanting to beat the drum for the team bringing him back? What about all those poor hysterical souls screaming for him down the stretch and into the playoff game…anyone, Bueller?

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, last week, we spoke with Miguel Benzan aka @Patscap about the different scenarios facing the team this offseason. Please do check it out. We’ll be back this week with another episode, as we took a week off. We reasoned that fans get enough of the “Brady is rumored to be going here” stuff all week. We certainly do. 

Cutting Ties With Phillip Dorsett? Not Shocking if True:

The Patriots really need to upgrade both the wide receiver and tight end position. The tight end position we visited last Sunday, but the wide receiver needs an influx of some speed. This is why the report that the Patriots are planning on allowing free agent Phillip Dorsett walk, on the surface appears to be a puzzling decision. 

Dorsett has plenty of speed, he ran a 4.29 and a 4.27 at his Pro Day and averaged nearly 25 yards per reception in his last two seasons of college football. But those numbers never equated to the NFL like most believed they would. He’s spent the past three seasons with the Patriots. He was expected to play a significant role in the passing game. And for the first three games of 2019, he did. But those numbers nosedived and he became pretty much a non-factor. 

In fact, his production in the first three games was nearly half of his entire season. In his three years with the Patriots, he combined for only 73 receptions, 881 yards, 8 touchdowns and a 12.1 yard per reception average. Hardly the numbers they were looking for or needed from the former 1st round draft pick of the Colts. His best season in terms of catches and yardage are still from his second and final year with Indy, 33 catches for 528 yards, although he did have a career-high five touchdown catches in 2019, with three of those coming in the first three games.

It is probably best for everyone to make a clean break here.

Patriots Re-Sign Caserio, Great for the Short-term But No Extra Title?

The Patriots on Wednesday this week, signed a big pending free agent when they signed Nick Caserio, the Director of Player Personnel to a multi-year contract extension. Caserio is considered Bill Belichick’s right-hand man and wears many hats for the organization. Although Belichick retains the final say on roster moves, Caserio has swung several trades and is the de facto General Manager. 

Caserio swings deals with other teams, and manages both the pro and college scouting departments. He sits in the booth during game days and communicates directly with OC Josh McDaniels. And when the team brings in offensive players to work out, they’ll frequently have Caserio throwing them the ball. This is also something he does at team practices and gets a first hand feel for how the players are working within the system. 

Caserio has been with the team for the past 15 years and his returning after losing coaches Joe Judge and Bret Bielema to the Giants and Dante Scarnecchia to retire is a huge boost for the team. Especially considering that the biggest free agent, Tom Brady still has to be signed. 

But if there is one caveat to this news, is that his new extension makes no mention of a new or added title to Caserio’s name. Does that mean another team, like Houston has done twice, will attempt to swoop in and steal him away as their GM and do so again? It will be interesting to see if the Patriots included a clause in his contract to prevent that or did Caserio insist on it being left out? These are the only questions that need to be answered. But it is big news for the team as Caserio’s contract was due to run out right after the 2020 NFL Draft. Now they need to get to work on Director of College Scouting Monti Ossenfort’s contract. His runs out after the draft as well…and of course, #12.

No AFC East Notes this week 


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


New England Patriots News 02-09, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 9, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-09 and AFC East notes this week.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Super Bowl, and the NFL:

Slow Time of Year at PFF?- With the annual Pro Football Focus (PFF) top 101 players for 2019, the NFL’s Defensive MVP, Stephon Gilmore ranked 22nd, which raised a few eyebrows, mostly locally but a few nationally as well. The author of the piece Sam Monson, who should be familiar around these parts further raised the hackles of local fans by ranking SF 49er CB Richard Sherman 13th overall. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but this was “more probable than not” designed to specifically generate conversation/outrage which will boost clicks. It has been a while since Monson was on Boston sports radio, so that should be remedied quickly as well. 

Halftime damnation – Nothing brings out the flakes, crazies, and loons more than a big national event. The Super Bowl also has its looney tunes and this year the #1 contestant was the latest “look at me” person who is suing the NFL for $867 trillion dollars for risking his eternal damnation and “his place in heaven.”

The activist, who, rather than change the channel, watched the entire Shakira/J-Lo halftime show and was outraged at the “porn” of it. I think what made it worse was that WEEI gave him exactly what he was looking for, a spot on the sports radio dial. Proof once again, that no stupid deed goes unpunished. 

Kyle Shanahan – The coach of the 49ers was taking an awful lot of heat for abandoning the running game similar to what he had done in Super Bowl LI with the Falcons against the Patriots. And there is certainly an argument to be made on that. Especially when they were at midfield late in the game.

However, the argument can also be made, that he called a perfect play when Emmanuel Sanders blew by the coverage and was easily open for a touchdown. If Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t overthrow him it is an easy touchdown. Even if it is slightly underthrown, Sanders is in a great position to either make the catch or draw a long pass interference penalty. 

In both games, the defenses for Shanahan’s teams wore down late. With the Falcons, the Patriots offense ran so many plays, they were completely gassed by the 4th quarter and by overtime, once the Patriots won the coin toss, there was little doubt that the Falcons were going to give up points. New England outscored them 31-0 down the stretch. Kansas City outscored them 21-0 in the 4th quarter with all three scores coming in a 5.5-minute span.

While Shanahan certainly deserves some of the blame there, for the ignoring of the running game and going away from Kittle and Deebo Samuels, if Jimmy G. connects with Sanders, we’re saying what a great call it was.  

Rob Gronkowski – The Patriots’ former tight end can’t stand being left out of the conversation for very long and is taking great delight in tweaking the fans with cryptic messages about returning to the team in 2020. And his latest comment on Tom Brady’s Instagram post where he was talking about 31 weeks to prepare before the next NFL season begins, Gronkowski responded.

The even more interesting and funny comment was from Snoop Dog who offered to play WR for Brady during his offseason workouts in response right below Gronk’s.

Tom Brady – The Patriots’ QB was the subject to a massive amount of rumors in recent weeks and we’ve barely scratched the surface. One story, by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, said that the Patriots would be willing to go to $30 million dollars to keep him in Foxboro. 

The Patriots were very upset that the information got out according to several local outlets including NBC Sports Boston, who reported it first. But the fact of the matter is, the Patriots dug themselves into this hole and have to reap what they sowed. Back in 2017, it was they who opted to go year-to-year with Brady in regards and his contract.

Brady Pt. 2 – I wrote a piece last week for, which is a military news site on if the TB12 method of training would be of benefit to Special Forces soldiers, to help them prepare, perform, and recover faster and more efficiently. And if they can continue the work to keep themselves more pliable while deployed. I went to the TB12 Sports location in Foxboro and worked with the staff there as well as interviewed them and am a convert. Those principles are now part of my daily routine. Brady even commented on it from his Instagram account. You can read it here: 

Chandler Jones – The Patriots traded Jones back in 2016 and in an interview with Jeff Howe of The Athletic, he had some interesting things to say about the trade and his time with New England. 

“At the time, I didn’t understand,” Jones said. “That next year, they won the Super Bowl, so I did understand what was best for the team — saved money, and they actually went and won. There were no hard feelings at all. I understood it’s a business and it was what was best for the team.”

“The New England Patriots taught me pro football,” Jones added. “I feel like there’s no other organization you would have to have those guidelines in order to step into the world of football. As a young player, you learn on and off the field how to be a pro. There’s no other place where you would rather start your career than there, for sure.”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, this week, we spoke with Miguel Benzan aka @Patscap about the different scenarios facing the team this offseason. Please do check it out.  

Remaking the Tight Position:

The Patriots really need to revamp and retool the tight end position. After Rob Gronkowski’s retirement last spring, the Patriots thought they had addressed it enough to have good blocking and decent enough production in the passing game. They were wrong on that assumption. 

Ryan Izzo was supposed to be the answer for the blocking tight end to replace the departed Dwayne Allen. He had spent his rookie season on IR but 2019 was not a good one. His blocking was subpar and after he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss some time, he was a healthy scratch for the entire second half of the season. 

The team inked Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson in free agency with the hope that those two could combine to produce similar numbers to what Gronk had produced in 2018. Again, they were wrong. LaCosse disappointed and Watson played nearly the entire season with a partially torn Achilles tendon. 

What now? Watson is a free agent but he’s made it clear that he’s retiring. With the Combine coming up shortly, the team will be scouring the list of tight ends that will be working out in Indy. And free agency will be looming before that. One name that fans shouldn’t go crazy pining after is Gronkowski who continues to stir the pot (see above).

A couple of players at the Combine that would seem to be a fit at first glance with NE are Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney, LSU’s Thaddeus Moss, (son of Randy),  and Dayton’s Adam Trautman. More to those guys as the Combine and draft prep goes along.

Among the free agents hitting the market, the four biggest names are the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Hunter Henry of the Chargers, Eric Ebron of the Colts and Atlanta’s Austin Hooper, who is probably the best overall fit, but probably won’t be coming here. He’ll be commanding big bucks on the open market and I don’t see that happening for two reasons. A. the Patriots don’t have that much cash to spend and B. without the QB situation resolved, it is going to be hard to sell New England to an offensive weapon. 

One other free agent to keep an eye on is Greg Olsen. The 35-year old that played for the Panthers would be a short-term fix at his age but still could be a nice mentor to a young tight end if they opt for one in the draft this year. 

Salary Cap Relief… Where Can Some of the Money Come From:

The Patriots can use some help with the salary cap and if things work out for them, they’d get an additional $12.25 million dollars without cutting contracts to some veterans or having to rework the cap on others. 

As I mentioned earlier above, Miguel Benzan, @Patscap on Twitter was on our PatsFans podcast this week and we spoke about getting some relief and he mentioned two specific contracts that could give them some extra room. 

Antonio Brown was due a $9 million dollar signing bonus from the Patriots. After his actions that caused him to be released and his numerous meltdowns on social media and his arrest in Florida, it would seem that they’d at least have a good chance of recouping it back. And 9 million is nothing to sneeze at. 

Aaron Hernandez and a $3.25 million roster bonus question are still not resolved even seven years after his release and then his subsequent murder conviction. The Patriots and the Players’ Association are at odds over this “guaranteed” bonus installment which is ridiculous that it is still unresolved. 

Just these two moves alone would give the Patriots another $12.25 million in salary-cap space, which if it goes in their favor (and I have my doubts that it will), will give them a lot more flexibility in 2020. 

No AFC East Notes this week 


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


New England Patriots News 02-02, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 2, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-02 and AFC East notes this week. And Happy Groundhog Day. If Pat the Patriot doesn’t see his shadow…then we have six more Super Bowls in the next 20 years.

Game Day! Enjoy the Super Bowl today as it is time to enjoy some great food, company,  and hopefully a great game today. I like the 49ers defense to hold on for a close win but this could easily go either way.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – sent the Twitterati into a tizzy with a black and white photo of him walking into/ out of (?) Gillette Stadium that was published on his Instagram account. And then, once again the amateur psychologists on social media set out trying to interpret what the meaning was…ugh please make it stop. March 18 is still nearly six weeks away.

Later, Brady spoke to the McCourty twins and had this to say: “Bro, I’m 42 years old, one of the oldest guys in the league, wanted to remind people that the best photos are in black and white.’ That’s all it was, bro. Black and white. It’s a classic — like, I’m the classic: Tom Brady, black and white. Put it all together, I’m still out here doing it.”

Brady Pt. 2 – I wrote a piece this week for, which is a military site on if the TB12 method of training would be of benefit to Special Forces soldiers, to help them prepare, perform, and recover faster and more efficiently. And if they can continue the work to keep themselves more pliable while deployed. I went to the TB12 Sports location in Foxboro and worked with the staff there as well as interviewed them and am a convert. Those principles are now part of my daily routine. You can read it here: 

Michael Bennett – The Patriots traded for Bennett during the offseason last year but then traded him in midseason. During Super Bowl week, Bennett dispelled rumors that he departed on bad terms with the team. 

“Nothing happened with me and Belichick,” Bennett said. “It’s just I didn’t fit into the [scheme]. They changed to the whole other defense. It was a defense that people hadn’t seen before, really, honestly. It was a defense where you had one defensive lineman, three linebackers down.”

Of course, he was asked why the Patriots traded for him if they didn’t plan to use him at defensive end, and he said that he believes the team’s defensive plan was altered after the season got underway.

“I think things change,” said Bennett. “I think Belichick, he could start off with one mindset and then look at what’s better for the team.” He took all the fun out of that one…

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Goodell Not Done With Taping Investigation:

If you thought the NFL’s investigation into the taping incident in Cincinnati would be over now, you’d have been in the majority, in terms of a train of thought, and you’d also have been very wrong. After the incident on December 8, the tape in question was in the NFL’s hands a day later. Now another 56 days have passed and the league still isn’t finished with it. 

Commissioner Goodell was asked by Ben Volin of the Globe what was taking so long this week at the Super Bowl media gathering since it was an open and shut case. His answer wasn’t surprising considering the league’s past history. 

“The answer to that (last) question is no, it shouldn’t, because our responsibility is to make sure we’re being extremely thorough (emphasis mine). We have a responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have a responsibility to fans to understand all of what happened, and make sure that something we don’t know happened didn’t happen. And so from our standpoint, we want to make sure we’re being thorough. Our team has been on it. We have been focused on this. I think it has not been that lengthy of time. We have obviously put the focus on it, but we’re going to get it right. When we come to a conclusion, we’ll certainly make sure people are aware of it.”

Considering the shoddy, preordained “investigation” that the league conducted during the Deflategate fiasco where anyone who sat through 7th-grade science class or has lived through even one northern winter knew it was weather-related, it isn’t a surprise at all. We’re not even going to get into the allegations of deflating footballs that have happened since that the league has refused to even entertain or the data they collected on air pressure that they conveniently destroyed after it was over. 

Again, the definitive line here is this: “We have responsibility … to make sure that something that we don’t know happened, didn’t happen.” In other words, what Goodell is saying, that the league is moving forward once again with the presumption of guilt of higher crimes than just stupidity on the case of the film crew and the league will try to paint this in the darkest light possible. 

Very early in the process of this latest fiasco, Pro Football Talk reported in mid-December that the NFL was frustrated by the absence of tying the film crew with the Patriots football operation side of the house. 

“As one source explained it, there’s a sense that investigators want to make that connection, and a perception that they are showing frustration when unable to tie the video crew to the football employees,” Florio wrote. When someone wants to make a connection, it ceases being an investigation, much like the Ted Wells junk science crapola that was spoon-fed to the legions of Patriots-haters that were screaming for their pound of flesh. 

Goodell’s statement tells you all you have to know how this is going to go. 

Mike Pennel after minicamp practice. SBalestrieri photo

Pennel Unhappy With the Patriots “Lack of Transparency”:

The Patriots signed free agent defensive tackle Mike Pennel early in the 2019 offseason and it was originally thought that he’d play a big role in the run defense, something they struggled with at times this year. But his playing time was decreased as the preseason wore on and he was cut. 

Pennel wasn’t happy about the way things were handled according to NESN’s Zach Cox who was first to report this.

“I’ll definitely keep the particulars of that to myself,” Pennel said. “But it was just with how the preseason was going and everything like that, me being a veteran, I kind of knew what was going on with the (decreased) reps and everything like that. I didn’t really understand what was going on and didn’t really get any answers. So after that point, it was a little bit of confusion, a little bit of relief when I got cut. But I’m just glad to be somewhere with a lot more transparency.”

Pennel said he didn’t connect with former Patriots DL coach Bret Bielema, now with the Giants on Joe Judge’s staff. But he did say he has a good rapport with former Patriots and current Chiefs DL coach Brendan Daly. 

“It’s different when you go up to your coach and talk life and not just football,” Pennel said. “It’s different when you can have a different technique or be able to talk through techniques with your coach. Some places you can do that; some places you can’t. New England wasn’t the place to do that.”

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Sean McDermott a Finalist for NFL Coach of the Year:

The Buffalo Bills are (this was written on Friday night) hoping to hear that Head Coach Sean McDermott will be named the NFL Coach of the Year which will be announced on Saturday night. 

It is generally thought that John Harbaugh will take that honor, however, in his three seasons with the Bills, McDermott has taken them to the postseason twice, no mean feat considering the postseason drought the team suffered since the 1990s.

“It is an honor,” McDermott said in an interview with”One Bills Live” this week. “But, like most of the awards I think it is truly a team deal and you don’t get that recognition without winning games. And, you don’t win games without a team and a great staff and a great building. I am much appreciative of that and I think it is great for our team and great for Buffalo.”

“It has truly been a team effort,” he added. “We have been through ups and downs and that is part of the journey. We have enjoyed that journey but it is satisfying to know that our players have gotten the recognition that they deserved to this point and they are going to get more and our staff. It is great to see the Buffalo Bills back on the map.”

Brady to the Dolphins Still? Makes No Sense to the Owner:

The Miami Dolphins are in the midst of rebuilding and team owner Stephen Ross, in addressing the Tom Brady to the Dolphins rumors says it doesn’t make any sense. And we’d agree with that. 

 “I hear he’s going to be a free agent but we’re not allowed to talk to him until March,” Ross said on Friday. “I don’t know why he would want to come to Miami as we are a rebuilding team.”

With Ryan Fitzpatrick remaining in 2020, and the fact the team fired OC Chad O’Shea because it wanted to get away from a Patriots style of offense, why would Miami then try to bring in the Patriots QB? It makes less than zero sense, but the rumors persist. 

Jets To Target Joe Thuney in Free Agency? Makes Sense:

The New York Jets need a lot of help along their offensive line, and one player that they may go after once free agency starts is Patriots free agent Joe Thuney.  

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network believes it is a great fit for both sides. “I heard nothing from Jets sources but several league insiders believe the team will go hard after Joe Thuney – which makes perfect sense,” Pauline wrote.

While it certainly does make sense for the Jets to look at the 2nd team All-Pro guard as a very needed upgrade for the Jets offensive line in 2020, they will hardly be alone. Thuney is expected to draw a lot of interest across the league once free agency begins on March 18th. 


“This is an extremely sad time for the entire sports community. In my 45 years in the NFL, I have never witnessed a group as captivated as the day Kobe addressed our team two years ago. The respect and reverence he commanded far exceeded him being a legendary player. He was a special person with an unmatched passion, intensity, and mentality toward achieving his goals.

Kobe’s determination led to a brilliant athletic career and paved the way for successes in the next chapters of his life. By bringing joy to millions of people with his extraordinary athletic ability, inspiring people to elevate the standard for anything they do or performing countless acts of encouragement, Kobe Bryant’s lasting impact is immeasurable.

I hope our collective thoughts and prayers can help provide strength to the families of all the victims of this tragedy.” Bill Belichick on the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. 


“So, how was your week?”

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