Category Archives: Patriots Rumors

Potential Patriots Draft Target – LB Malik Harrison 

Steve Balestrieri
April 7, 2020 at 11:09 am ET

As the 2020 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

On Monday we wrote about Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, who we feel is a great fit for the Patriots in what they do and how they normally target potential linebackers in the draft process. 

Again, presently at the linebacker position, the team currently has Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Terez Hall. The team also has hybrid edge rushers who can also play some linebacker with Chase Winovich, John Simon, Brandon Copeland, Derek Rivers, and Shilique Calhoun.

So, let’s take a look at another one of the prospects that we feel would be a good fit for the Patriots and vice versa.

Malik Harrison from Ohio State is another one of those long-framed athletic linebackers who will play inside at the next level. He’d be an excellent fit in the Patriots 3-4 scheme as an inside backer. Harrison is versatile enough to be a good strong-side (SAM) backer in a 4-3 look 

He’s a very physical, downhill thumper in the running game. Prototypical size of 6’3, 247 who looks the part with a chiseled frame and huge arms. Was a former high school QB with freakish athleticism. 

Was considered only so-so in coverage, but improved as a senior and looked solid in coverage at the Senior Bowl with an interception. Growing as a blitzer up the gaps, he anchors well against the run and has great makeup speed.

Pros:

– Excellent Height and Length

– Freakish athleticism

– Outstanding change of direction, 6.83 in the 3-Cone Drill

– Just scratching his potential

Cons

– Natural aggressiveness makes him susceptible to play action

– Only average instincts

– Coverage ability still somewhat of a question mark

What his Role Will Be:

Harrison will initially be a backup and depth player for Hightower and Bentley. But as he grows into the system he could see more and more snaps as a rookie.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he should be competing (and winning) reps as a starting ILB. Then look for him to become a much-more utilized blitzer up the A-gaps 

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Harrison isn’t the replacement for anyone on the current roster, but look for the Patriots to use him similarly to how they used Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

What is his ST Value?

He’ll be a frequent and often used coverage player in the kicking game due to his freakish athleticism. 

Conclusion:
Our friend from Patriots.com and Patriots Unfiltered Radio, Mike Dussault wrote about Harrison, “With the expectation that the Patriots trade out of the 23rd overall spot, Harrison would be a great first selection in the second round. He has outstanding size and athletic ability and would bring just the kind of hard-nosed play the Patriots love from their linebacker corps. After testing through the roof at the combine, Harrison is a riser on draft boards and would be an ideal foundational player as the defense looks to rebuild their front seven.”

Harrison, playing on a stacked Ohio State defense had excellent production, 75 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, along with 4.5 sacks. Harrison has the versatility to play all of the linebacker spots and has experience as a core special-teamer (a Bill Belichick positive). 

Harrison is the classic inside linebacker who can stuff the run; hits like a brick wall and is he’s outstanding at shedding blockers and getting runners while they’re still in the backfield. He’s versatile and can be moved around (a la Van Noy) While he does struggle some when it comes to coverage a bit, what we saw in Mobile may be a harbinger to come. He was slotted to go in Rounds 3-4 but I doubt he lasts into the 4th Round with the way he’s been shooting up different draft boards. If he’s available when the Patriots pick in Round 3, he’d be a great fit.

Harrison’s highlight reel tape from JustBombs can be seen here: </span>

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Looking for Linebacking Help, Terrell Lewis Checks All the Boxes

Steve Balestrieri
April 6, 2020 at 7:30 am ET

As the 2020 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

In my Sunday post, I touched upon the need at the linebacker position. The team lost an awful lot of talent of depth with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts all gone this spring. Not only were those players talented but they were versatile too. Van Noy and Collins, in particular, were like movable chess pieces who Bill Belichick could move around and create mismatches. That’s why the sack numbers were so high, especially early in the season when Collins was en fuego. 

At the linebacker position, the team currently has Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Terez Hall. The team also has hybrid edge rushers who can also play some linebacker with Chase Winovich, John Simon, Brandon Copeland, Derek Rivers, and Shilique Calhoun.

As I wrote for the Sunday column, a lot of people are enamored (and rightfully so) with players Patrick Queen, Zack Baun and a few others who are tremendously talented but are not the size the Patriots usually covet. The average size of a linebacker that the Patriots draft is over 6’2 and 245 lbs. So, while I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it isn’t going to happen for either of those guys but I’m not holding my breath. 

We’ll take a look at a few of the prospects that we feel would be a good fit for the Patriots and vice versa.

Terrell Lewis from Alabama is an intriguing prospect that played in the SEC for Belichick’s good friend Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. When talking about Lewis, however, his injury history is bound to be a concern. He missed significant time as a sophomore with an arm injury and then all of his junior season with a knee injury. But healthy in 2019, he showed the potential that he possesses. He led Alabama with 16 QB pressures while notching six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. 

He is built like a prototypical linebacker, with a long frame, very well built and excellent footwork. He runs well for a big man at 6’5, 262. He has the versatility to either rush the QB off the edge or drop into coverage. 

Pros:

– Excellent Height and Length

– Outstanding explosion off the snap

– Rare combination of speed and power

– Potential is far ahead of him

Cons

– Injury history in his middle two seasons

– Needs to get a little stronger in setting the edge

– Could use better use of his hands

What his Role Will Be:

Lewis will start out as a depth player, perhaps as a sub-package rusher, but by the end of his rookie season, he should be getting more and more reps

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he should not only be earning starting reps, but could see his role blossom into one of the leaders of the defense. 

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Lewis is won’t be replacing anyone currently on the roster but could see his role evolve into a similar way the Patriots used Jamie Collins. .

What is his ST Value?

Limited, but the team will probably use him on some of the coverage units taking advantage of his speed and athleticism

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his draft profile wrote that Lewis, played in just 26 games, so he’s less technically sound than most Alabama defenders at this stage, but he was still productive and showed growth as a player in-season. With more coaching and development as a rusher, he should be able to pair traits with the skill to become a future NFL starter

Lewis’s future is tied up in potential. He is not yet the sum of his parts after playing in just 26 games in college. That combination of speed, power, and instinctive play should be an enticing look for the Patriots to take a flyer on. He is probably (if he can stay healthy) going to be a much better pro than he was as college player.

With the Patriots possibly trading down into the second round, Lewis should be around for them in the late 30s or early 40s.  The Patriots like their outside linebackers big, physical, and with the ability to either set the edge or drop their hand in the dirt and rush the passer. Lewis checks all of those blocks.

Lewis’ highlight reel tape from JustBombs can be seen here: 

 

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

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

 

New England Patriots News 4-05, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-05 and AFC East notes this week. 

From all of us here, we hope everyone is healthy and happy. Stay safe folks, we will all get through this.  

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

Robert & Jonathan Kraft: We were pleased to see but hardly surprised that the Kraft family stepped up big time for the hospital workers and first responders in the state. Kraft stripped down the Patriots plane and had it flown to China to pick up the sorely needed masks for medical workers in Massachusetts and New York. 

The plane was only given a three-hour window to load the masks. Although they purchased 1,700,000, they were only able to load 1,200,000 masks before having to take off. The Krafts who are trustees of Mass General Hospital (MGH), showed the kind of empathy that we expect from leaders, be those in industry or government. Well done.

Even the NY Post, a never-ending source of needling toward everything New England, to say the least, had this to say… “THANK YOU Pats!”

Of course, there are always some who can’t take a gesture for what it is and have to try to quantify the gesture with divisive B.S.and try to make themselves relevant once again. Ignore the noise and consider the source, if you’re making this into a political statement, you need to look in the mirror…hard. 

Tom Brady’s Home “Breaking News”: I had to read with some amusement all of these people fighting over the news that the Brady Bunch was moving into Derek Jeter’s mansion on Davis Island outside of Tampa Bay. We knew about that about two and a half weeks ago and wrote about it here on March 22 

But whatever, I guess when you’re the ‘worldwide leader” you can take victory laps over anything you want. Stay close to home Pats Fans…

Bill Belichick: The coach’s philosophy was put on display by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah who posted a copy of Belichick’s 1991 notes on the draft that Jeremiah received when he was in “scout school” with the Ravens.

Great stuff, his comments about QB play seem like a perfect description of Tom Brady, a full 10 years before he was drafted. “#1 is to make good decisions — then arm, size, physically tough, leadership, guys look up to and have confidence in, a real competitor,” Belichick wrote. “Accurate, rather than a guy with a cannon. Emphasis on our game will be on decision, timing, accuracy — guy needs to be confident, intelligence is important but not as much so as field awareness & judgment. Can’t be sloppy fundamentally unsound guy with ball handling, [techniques] etc.

James White: The Patriots running back who had such a fantastic game in Super Bowl LI admitted this week that he had never watched it…until the quarantine. 

In the game, White had 14 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, adding six rushes for 29 yards and two more touchdowns. He also successfully converted a two-point conversion. White accounted for 20 of the Patriots’ 34 points. That was a Super Bowl record for any one player, and White’s 14 receptions also made for a Super Bowl record. But he never watched any of his own highlights until the coronavirus quarantine. 

“It was actually my first time actually watching the full game a couple of days ago when it was on,” White said in a video conference call. “It was pretty cool to see.”. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. This week Russ, Derek, and I discussed Jarrett Stidham and how we felt things may progress with him…or another young QB. And we uploaded a video in the best Patriots team of the Brady/Belichick Era

How Will the Patriots Value the LBs in the Draft:

With the losses of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Elandon Roberts this spring, the linebacker depth has become an area where the team will have to make some moves to shore that up. 

That does not appear to be the case for a free agent signing with the state of the team’s salary cap space right now. And barring a surprise trade…where are they at right now. While they did make a move to bring in Brandon Copeland, they still need help, especially on the edge. John Simon returns, he should have an even bigger role moving forward. Ditto for Chase Winovich, who played well for the team as a rookie. 

Looking ahead, many fans, as we mentioned a week ago, really like both LSU LB Patrick Queen or perhaps Wisconsin LB Zack Baun with the 23rd pick. I wrote before that while Queen is very athletic, and a three-down linebacker who can roam sideline to sideline but his lack of size, the same with Baun, makes me feel that the Patriots won’t target either. 

The Patriots like their linebackers, especially outside on the edge to be big guys. Queen is just a tad over 6 feet and 229 pounds. Baun is 6’2, 238. The Patriots (read Bill Belichick) have traditionally gone after bigger guys on the edge. He shares the same philosophy with his close friend, Nick Saban from Alabama. Saban has two linebackers in the draft that could be of interest to the Patriots. 

Terrell Lewis is an outside linebacker that is cut from the mold that Belichick likes his edge backers to be. He’s 6’5, 262, and has that rare combination of power and explosion off the snap that makes his ceiling very, very high. But he’s had injury issues with the Tide and that could entail the Patriots passing on him.

A couple of other OLBs that the team could target later in the draft are Lewis’ teammate in ‘Bama, Anfernee Jennings who is 6’3, 252 or Casey Toohill from Stanford who stands in at 6’4, 250.

Jennings is the kind of versatile guy that Belichick likes and can switch between defensive end and outside linebacker. He’s frequently compared to John Simon. So coming from a respected program coached by a FOB (Friend of Bill), and frequently compared to a valuable Patriots’ role player could tip the scales for the team on Day 3.

Toohill seems like a guy who is just scratching the surface of his potential. He has the frame to fill out some more and get a bit stronger. While he struggles to defend the run, he has a very high potential as a pass rusher. He’s smart too, and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is awarded to a scholar-athlete for “combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary leadership.”

The team also needs some depth behind Dont’a Hightower (and Ju’Whaun Bentley), inside. And if the Patriots decide to stick with a 3-4, one player that may fit is Evan Weaver from Cal who is 6’2, 240. Weaver may not look the part, but he was the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s not fast but is able to diagnose quickly and plays faster than his timed speed. He’s a hard-hitting thumper who has been remarkably durable. He hasn’t missed a game all the way back to high school.

But the guy they may covet is Ohio State LB Malik Harrison. Harrison is 6’3, 247 and is another versatile guy, who has played all of the different LB positions. While Weaver may not look the part, Harrison has the chiseled, v-shaped frame. He has freakish athleticism and is another guy that is just scratching the surface of his potential. The knock-on him was he was slow to diagnose but improved as a senior.

Kessler Release Means Another QB Taken in the 2020 NFL Draft:

The Patriots, in the end, did Cody Kessler a solid…releasing him before the draft and giving him the opportunity to find a new home. They were probably waiting to see if Tom Brady was going to return for one more season to decide what their plan of action was going to be. 

By letting go of Kessler now, makes a couple of things clear at least from our point of view. I keep hearing that the team is still looking at Cam Newton/Andy Dalton/Blake Bortles even though Jeff Howe from the Athletic, who is as connected as anyone, says his sources say they have no interest. And now I’m convinced more than ever that this is absolutely the right move when I see Nick Wrong saying BB is making a mistake by signing Newton.

The Patriots have virtually no cap space to even sign their own draft picks. Clearing a bunch of space to sign a retread QB and then finding yourself back in the same position, doesn’t make a ton of sense. Is it out of the realm of possibility? No, but the chances of that happening are slim. 

Nope, the feeling here is that the team is planning on drafting a QB in the draft and not a high one. They’ll address the QB position in Round 3 or later. One kid who checks all the blocks Belichick likes in a QB is Jake Fromm. Although one guy I really like is Jalen Hurts. But we’ll see. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Brandon Beane Says Don’t Write Off New England:

The Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane has seen the news and he’s read the early predictions stating that this is the year that the Buffalo Bills dethrone the Patriots as the AFC East Champions, something the Patriots have virtually owned for two decades. And he’s telling everyone to just pump the brakes a little bit.

“Playing against (Tom Brady), I go back and forth,” Beane said. “You know you always want to take down the best… So I think it’s funny and comical that people are writing them off and labeling, whether it’s us or another team as the team to beat in the East.

The team to beat in the East is the Patriots, and until somebody beats them, they are the team to beat. And as long as Bill Belichick’s there, you’re talking about probably the greatest head coach of all time that was paired with the greatest quarterback of all time.

So until we beat them, we’ve done nothing, and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

So, while Beane is confident that his team is moving in the right direction and continuing to improve, he’s made the conservative (and correct) call. They haven’t won anything yet. The Bills will have to go out and earn it in 2020. And while fans around the NFL are rejoicing at the fall of the hated Patriots, Beane is approaching the season as if nothing has changed. But regardless, the Bills persona is changing now. In the division, they’ll be the hunted in 2020 and not the hunter. And it is a much different look from there.

Dolphins Flores Building a Program That FAs Believe In:

The Miami Dolphins hired Brian Flores last year and promptly gave him a team that was considered the worst in pro football at the outset of 2019. Many pundits thought that the team was tanking on purpose.

But that attitude didn’t cut it with Flores and his team believed in what they were trying to build and played hard. While they finished at 5-11, that was after an 0-7 start. They won their last two games in the season, including a last-minute 27-24 stunner over the Patriots in Foxboro, knocking the Pats out of a bye. 

Despite all of the losses as well as the lack of a franchise QB, the attitude in Miami is one of confidence, that they’ve found the right guy to lead the team and turn things around. And that is reflected in the free agents that have signed with Miami. They’ve signed on as much in their belief in Flores as any other factor. 

“My number one reason is Coach Flores. He just made me feel so comfortable with coming down,” linebacker Elandon Roberts said. Roberts spent three of the past four seasons with Flores as his position coach. “Just knowing how good of a leader he is on and off the field, how much he cares about you as a player. … I’m 100% bought in. I can’t wait to get down there, and I love that I’m a Miami Dolphin.”

“He takes something that’s so small and is able to put it into football and relate it, and he’s really good with his players,” Kyle Van Noy, also a former Patriot under Flores said. “He’s ready to go all the time, and he brings that same energy each and every day. That’s what you want as a coach; and as a player, that’s who I want to play for.”

“Flores is a young coach and I love that. He’s got young energy. I hear he’s intense and he likes to create competitive scenarios, competitive situations,” said CB Byron Jones who came over from the Cowboys. “That’s just something that I like and I wanted to be a part of. … That’s exciting for me, just to be on a team that he’s leading.”

Foot in Mouth? Former Jets Coach Ryan Calls Amari Cooper a ‘Turd’:

The New York Jets former coach Rex Ryan had to walk back one of his comments when he said the Dallas Cowboys made a huge mistake in paying WR Amari Cooper and not QB Dak Prescott.

Cooper who has gained 1000 yards or more in every season except for one in his NFL career, signed a five-year, $100 million-dollar contract with the Cowboys. 

“[Amari Cooper] is the biggest disappearing act in the National Football League. … I wouldn’t have paid this turd,” Ryan said on the Get Up football telecast. 

Ryan was brought back later in the day on ESPN, Ryan apologized for his choice of descriptive words, by calling Cooper a turd and said that he hoped Cooper would accept his apology. 

_______________

““Thank you to our heroic medical professionals; doctors, nurses, medical workers, and others, who are selflessly and courageously doing their job to take care of others in need,” Belichick said in a video posted on the team’s Twitter page. “We have heard your stories, and have seen some of your great work. You are truly champions and warriors…”we are facing a difficult opponent” and “it will take teamwork, discipline and commitment to do the right things all of the time… I encourage everyone to shelter in place for as long as necessary as we fight this virus together. “There are plenty of things we cannot do right now, but let’s focus on what we can do. We can adapt, we can adjust, and we can make better decisions right now for the betterment of the future. As I tell our team, let’s keep stringing good days together, and we will get through this.” Bill Belichick in a PSA to all of the people out there trying to get through the Coronavirus pandemic.  

_______________

“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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 NFL.com. 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 – Profootballnetwork.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com 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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.