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Friday Patriots Notebook 3/16: Pats Make a Trade, Other Players Visiting

Ian Logue
March 16, 2018 at 8:59 am ET

Another week in the books.  With the first round of free agency starting to settle down, the Patriots appear to now be making moves to improve their roster, including one notable one from Thursday.

Patriots Acquire McCourty’s Brother – Devin McCourty has more than made it clear that the idea of playing with his brother in the NFL is something he’s hoped for and on Thursday, he finally got his wish.

According to published reports, the New England made a trade with Cleveland to bring Jason McCourty to the Patriots, fulfilling what Jason said would be a “dream come true” last offseason before agreeing to a 2-year deal in Cleveland.  At the time he felt the Patriots had interest but the personnel situation in New England didn’t quite work, so the opportunity wasn’t there.

“I think there was definitely mutual interest,” McCourty said at the time via “Me and Devin have never hid the fact that us playing together would be a dream come true. My mom kind of has hinted at that since we both got into the league. She knows it would be a lot easier only having to travel to one city during the season.

“I think there was definitely mutual interest, but to be honest, the Patriots are kind of set at cornerback. They have a lot of talent in that room. There really wasn’t room for me. Me and Dev talked about that and that’s just the way of the league. I’m excited about the opportunity I have in Cleveland to work with those guys.”

The last time the two got to play together was in college at Rutgers.  They were only on the field together for two seasons, with Devin redshirting, yet he ended up being the higher of the two draft picks one year after Jason made it to the NFL ahead of him.  Jason started his career with Tennessee, who took him in the sixth-round in 2010, while Devin was selected in the first-round in 2011.

It’s been an amazing journey for both players and the opportunity to finally play together in the NFL should be fun to watch.  With a secondary that now has a need, adding Jason certainly provides them with a veteran presence and playing out there with Devin certainly means chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.

The other positive will be the fact that should Jason settle in and earn a role, their mother will only have one stadium she’ll need to attend next season, which should be pretty special given how close they each are.

It’s ironic that when Devin was a free agent, Jason did all he could to recruit him to the Titans before he ultimately decided to remain in New England.  Now they’re finally together, which should be one of the more enjoyable storylines we’ll be able to follow should they experience success together next season.

Patriots to Host RB Hill – While the Patriots were able to extend Rex Burkhead, that doesn’t appear to be stopping them from trying to stock up on some additional talent at that position.

According to ESPN’s field Yates, free agent Jeremy Hill is set to visit Foxboro on Friday, with the Patriots hosting the Bengals running back as they continue looking to build their 2018 roster.

Hill is coming off of a rough season in Cincinnati, suffering an ankle injury in week 7 that sidelined him for the year after he ended up on injured reserve.  Prior to that in 2016, he finished with 222 attempts for 839 yards and nine touchdowns, including one that went for 74-yards.  He also caught 21 passes for 174 yards.

His best season came in his rookie year where he rushed for 1,124-yards and nine touchdowns, including one he broke off for 85-yards.  As a result, he’s got some athleticism and he’s somewhat of a dual threat, which may be why the Patriots are looking at him as they try and make sure they’ve got someone who can potentially make up for Dion Lewis’ loss of production after he signed with the Titans.

TE Ebron “Potentially” to Meet With the Patriots – We all know how much Bill Belichick loves having talented tight ends on his roster and according to Adam Schefter, the Patriots could have one visiting soon.

Schefter reports that after visiting Carolina on Friday and Indianapolis on Sunday, New England could “potentially” be former Lions TE Eric Ebron’s next stop.

Ebron has already played on the field at Gillette Stadium, having faced New England in his rookie season where he caught 2 passes on 7 targets for 23-yards in a 34-9 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.  One of those receptions was notable, albeit it didn’t quite work out in the end for Detroit.  Trailing 27-9, Ebron made a 17-yard grab on fourth-down to keep the driving going but unfortunately for the Lions, the drive eventually stalled at the Patriots 25 and two possessions later, LeGarrette Blount added another touchdown.

Ebron is a former first-round pick by the Lions but never really met the expectations in Detroit.  His best year came in his third season after Ebron caught 61 passes for 711 yards along with a touchdown.

Last season he caught 53 passes for 574 yards and four touchdowns.

Howard Getting Interest from Patriots – Now that Nate Solder is heading to the Giants, New England is in need of another player and Ian Rapoport reports that they’ve got a player they may be interested in.

According to Rapoport, former Ravens offensive tackle Austin Howard is a player that is “drawing considerable interest” by the Patriots.

Howard is considered in Baltimore as being one of their more dependable offensive linemen and certainly fits the mold of the type of player the Patriots tend to like.   He’s been a right tackle for the majority of his eight-year career, which would give them some stability on the right side should Marcus Cannon move over to left tackle.

Woodhead getting interest? – When Danny Woodhead left in free agency to San Diego in 2013, it was a move that stung a bit given his effectiveness in the offense and his role on third down.

At the time, Shane Vereen was starting to be utilized more and it left Woodhead as the odd man out as the Patriots made the decision to let him depart to the Chargers.

Now, here we are years later and it sounds like a reunion might be a possibility.  According to the NFL Network, the Patriots have been in contact with the 33-year old running back, who spent last season with the Ravens.

He’s had a tough time with injuries over the past two seasons, playing in just 10 games over that span.  The Ravens released him two days ago and given the Patriots current running back situation, there’s certainly room on the depth chart to give him another opportunity.

New England spent a lot of time last season managing each player’s workload, which might be something that could even potentially help Woodhead become a productive player again if he can prove that he’s still got something left.  We’ll see if he gets the opportunity.

Hope everyone has a good weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday.

Thursday Patriots Notebook 3/15: Patriots In the Mix for Suh, Clayborn?

Ian Logue
March 15, 2018 at 8:31 am ET

It was another rough Thursday and unfortunately, fans can cross another free agent off the list for the Patriots.

Solder Headed to the Giants – Things took a turn for the worse heading into Wednesday in the Nate Solder negotiations and it appears New England’s left tackle will be protecting the blind side of someone other than Tom Brady next season.

Solder’s price tag had begun to escalate and as of Monday afternoon, it reached a point where even the Broncos – who were initially in the lead for his services – bowed out.  That was the first red flag that the offers for Solder’s services were becoming too rich for the Patriots to match.

On Wednesday, we found out just how bad it really was.  According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Solder’s deal is worth $60 million over four years, with the Giants giving him $35 million guaranteed.

This is a significant loss, ending a pretty good stretch for the former number one pick who has been terrific protecting Brady.  Solder was consistent with his protection in the passing game and his return in 2016 coming off his 2015 season where he was placed on injured reserve saw New England’s run-blocking improve dramatically that season.  That’s something that sort of fell under the radar, which played a big role during the team’s second championship in three years.

It’s difficult to see him go, but like Danny Amendola, it’s not hard to understand.  Best wishes to him in New York, although there’s no question that most fans may feel a bit of a sting seeing him landing with the Giants.  Unfortunately, his loss becomes the latest hole the Patriots will try and fill and unfortunately, it’s going to be a tough one.

Burkhead was extended on Wednesday.

Patriots re-sign Burkhead – There was one player the Patriots managed to re-sign on Wednesday, keeping one more offensive weapon in the fold for at least another season.

According to the Boston Globe, the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead to a three-year deal, keeping the former Bengals running back with Brady and the offense for the foreseeable future.   Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports the deal is “heavy” on gaurantees

Burkhead finished his first season in New England playing in 10 games with 64 carries for 264 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.  He also had 30 receptions for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns.

His signing somewhat stabilizes their running back situation, which just saw Dion Lewis sign with Tennessee.  That gives them James White and Burkhead as two players who played any significant snaps last season that will at least be coming back in 2018.

Last Month Burkhead talked about what it’s like being a Patriot and credited the work ethic of the people around him as motivation.

“Half the team’s there super early,” Burkhead told’s Sam McKewon of his first day with New England. “Just seeing the focus going into workouts, every single detail in warmups and certain drills we’re doing. You saw attentiveness and the competitiveness right off the bat.”

Thankfully after Wednesday’s news, he’ll now get to be a part of it for a few more years.

Suh has had success making Brady miserable over the years.

Patriots in the mix for Suh? – With the news of the Dolphins releasing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Patriots appear to be on his radar as he begins testing the free agent waters.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Patriots “are going to be in the mix” for his services.  Given that the Patriots need help up front on their defensive line, the possibility of adding Suh is intriguing.  However, the fact his history of questionable decisions which has earned him a bad reputation as a player is another factor that’s tough to overlook.

But as we’ve seen in the past, those types of players tend to fall in line here in New England and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to Suh to join that group.

Brady probably wouldn’t mind having him on his side given how competitive things have been between the two. Suh even said back leading up their battle in early December that it was his job to “piss off” Brady.

“I’d love to make him mad,” Suh said via the Palm Beach Post. “My job is to piss him off and have him yelling at his offensive linemen for not blocking me, his coach and everybody on the sideline. That’s my job.

“We know he likes to drop back and throw comfortably and have this nice pocket, but my sole job is to disrupt that at all costs.”

The other team that could reportedly be in the mix is said to be the Seahawks so if that scenario remains, it’s a win-win for the Patriots.  They either add him to their roster or see him get shipped out of the Conference, so it appears that barring the Jets or Bills getting involved, they’ll come away a little happier knowing they won’t have to face him twice per year anymore.

Light Believes “The Culture Has Changed” in the Patriots Locker Room – Things have changed a lot since Matt Light’s playing days, and he doesn’t seem to believe it’s for the better.

Light talked with Butch Stearns prior to the annual “Speed of Light” fundraiser for The Light Foundation and said that today’s players don’t react to the same demands quite as well compared to back when he was still a player.

“The culture has changed so much in that locker room,” said Light. “When you lose a veteran presence, it’s more than what it meant five or ten years ago. It’s a different story today when guys walk into a system like a Belichick system and they have a lot of demands placed on them.

“It’s not just show up and do your job. It’s show up, do your job, work hard, be attentive, put the team first – all the core principles of the Patriot way – and that’s a lot more than a lot of other organizations ask of you. So if the culture’s different it’s going to be harder to train guys in the Patriot way than it was five or ten years ago.”

Light says that the rules of the new CBA, along with the distractions of social media and their off-field interests, are the biggest problems today’s players deal with and it makes it harder for guys to commit as much as they used to.

“You have guys that are more worried about their brand and social media and everything else but there’s not a toughness like there was before,” said Light.  “Overall that toughness and that mentality, we crafted a lot of that through training camp and minicamp and all these things. Look at the league today. I was part of that CBA that got signed and helped push it through, but didn’t really think of all the ramifications.

“Guys aren’t as prepared to play the game of football. It was a sloppy playoff run in a lot of cases, but it was also a sloppy product overall, league-wide, when you look at this whole season. I don’t think the toughness level is there. I don’t think the commitment level is there as much and I think it’s harder to get through to a lot of these young guys that are walking in from organizations where they’ve been placed on a pedestal and are asked now to jump in with both feet and make a huge commitment.”

Murphy Picks Bills Over Patriots – Free agent linebacker Trent Murphy was reportedly on New England’s radar, but it appears he’s opted to take his chances with the Bills and will instead play against them twice per year.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Murphy signed a 3-year, $10 million deal to join Buffalo.  For a team that needs help at linebacker, it’s disappointing to see the Bills benefit from his services as the Patriots still need help alongside veteran Dont’a Hightower.

Murphy seemed excited with his decision, posting on Twitter after the Bills sent out the news.

Patriots in the mix for DE Clayborn? – While they’ve yet to make a big move in free agency, it seems like the Patriots at least seem to be active in exploring their options.

According to the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels, the Patriots “are showing some interest” in Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn, which would certainly give them some help getting after the quarterback.

Clayborn is coming off of a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2017, including two forced fumbles and two recoveries.

Other teams aside from the Falcons and Patriots reportedly in the mix are the Colts, Buccaneers and Browns.

Some might recall that Clayborn had a less than memorable moment during Atlanta’s visit to Foxboro back in October, with the defensive end foolishly drawing a “roughing the passer” penalty on Brady, which negated an interception and led to a touchdown by the Patriots.

Hopefully, he’ll be a little more disciplined should he wind up in New England.

Daily Patriots Notebook 3/13: Brady Starting to Ponder His Future?

Ian Logue
March 13, 2018 at 9:46 am ET

Today’s edition certainly sparks some discussion, so let’s get to it.

Brady Starting to Ponder His Future? – The last couple of years for Tom Brady have been a little different than pretty much every year prior, especially as it pertains to his image and business interests off the field.

It almost feels like DeflateGate was really a wake-up call for the veteran quarterback, who seemed like he completely changed his approach when much of the world outside of New England turned on him.

Prior to that, Brady didn’t say much, seemingly satisfied with letting his actions on the field speak for him.  When DeflateGate started, Brady more or less brushed it off as absurd since he obviously knew what really happened and probably didn’t ever expect things to take on a life of their own.  But when things began to spiral, his approach changed. You could sense the frustration, yet he seemed more intent on taking the high road and managed to maintain that despite the fact the whole mess dragged on for well over a year and spilled over into two football seasons.

During that span, Brady only talked to the media when absolutely necessary and spoke to just a select a few outside that general circle for any additional commitments.  He admitted at the start of the 2015 season that would be an approach, obviously frustrated with all the false accusations and things being said that he couldn’t control.  Instead, he opted to focus on the game and keep the outside stuff to a minimum.

“I think that’s a pretty natural feeling to have,” Brady said via the Boston Herald back at the beginning of September 2015. “I don’t know exactly how I’ll approach those things each week. A lot of it for me especially this offseason is to try and conserve my energy as best that I possibly can because you deal with things that are pretty mentally tiring. I wouldn’t say physically tiring, but you’re still trying to get ready for a football season. There are a lot of workouts and so forth and you get off the field and you’re dealing with other things and on top of that you have your normal life, which those things are challenging within themselves so I’ll need to converse some energy this year no doubt.

“It’s a long season anyway, but the more things that I do — non-Patriot related really to help other people out — you’re right, those things take away from the energy that I may have to do other things. I’ve always tried to fulfill different obligations for people and different times it’s hard to fulfill all of them. I get a lot of requests. Things that may be public or private and then I just try and make those decisions based on how the week is, but it’s hard to fulfill them all. We’ll see how that goes this year.”

That translated into Brady starting to focus more on himself and his brand, more so than during any other time of his career.  TB12 gained more publicity, he wrote a book outlining his passion for nutrition and the methods he uses to take care of his body, and made the surprising decision to air his own “Tom vs Time” documentary.  The project was produced privately, giving him the chance to tell his own story.  It gave him the opportunity to open up his life on his own terms, allowing people an inside look at who he really is as a husband and a father, while giving them a real glimpse of what he goes through and how hard he really works.

The fact he decided to do it is probably the thing that’s the most surprising for someone so private.  But it made sense because it hopefully showed some of the naysayers that there are reasons far beyond of the ridiculous and untrue implications of why he’s so great.

As it moved along, it seemed like it was headed toward a storybook ending.  The team had plenty of momentum heading into their match-up against the Eagles and looked like a group with enough talent to get it done.  But following the loss, it seemed like the end of the project was put on hold, with Brady and the people behind the scenes seemingly trying to figure out how they wanted to write the final chapter.

However, following its recent release, Brady’s final words were somewhat concerning.  Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston, who like it or not, has connections within the Brady circle and has been telling people for a while now that things may have been a little more serious in Foxboro this season than many might have thought, pointed out something Brady said that may provide some insight into where he’s at mentally.

Following the loss, the documentary cuts to Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, who insinuates that there may be some frustration in terms of what he’s dealt with and how he feels coming to work each day.

“These last two years have been very challenging for him in so many ways,” she said via NBC Sports Boston. “And he tells me, ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’ ”

Her words say one thing, but the final scene where Brady revealed his own thoughts spoke volumes.

“It’s a big commitment, laying here three days after the game and getting my Achilles worked on and my thumb,” Brady said. “You go, ‘What are we doing this for?’ You know? ‘What are we doing this for, who are we doing this for, why are we doing this?’ You gotta have answers to those questions. And they have to be with a lot of conviction. You know, when you lose your conviction then you probably should be doing something else.”

He’s always been someone who has been pretty clear in terms of his love of the game and his commitment to playing for as long as he can.  Hearing him waver from that is the first real hard reminder that the end could be coming sooner than some may have hoped.

Either way, one thing that’s starting to become obvious is that as much as we might not want to admit it, an incredible career that seemingly had 4-5 years left suddenly seems a little shorter.  Hopefully for Brady’s sake, he can put together one more championship run that ends his way before it’s over.

First Image of Brady’s Hand Shown – There were quite a few whispers surrounding Brady’s thumb injury leading up to the Super Bowl and while it sounded a little exagerated, the image of the actual injury only makes what he did against the Jaguars and Eagles that much more impressive.’s Zach Cox posted the photo on Twitter, revealing the severe, deep gash below Brady’s thumb that he suffered in the incident between he and Rex Burkhead where his hand reportedly got caught on Burkhead’s helmet, leading to the injury before the AFC Championship Game.

Bill Belichick downplayed the injury after their win over Jacksonville, saying, “He’s a tough guy, we all know that. But we’re not talking about open heart surgery here.”

That may be true, but being able to throw the ball accurately with that type of injury is still impressive.

Against Philadelphia, Brady put up over 505-yards and 3 touchdowns, playing well enough where punter Ryan Allen never saw the field as the Eagles had their way against New England’s defense.  The difference in the game ultimately ended up being a fumble he committed toward the end of the game where he was blindsided and stripped that led to an Eagles field goal, putting any shot at a comeback out of reach.

The photo certainly adds context and while it’s not “open heart surgery”, it’s still a testament to his incredible skill and toughness as a player.

Brady Out-Chugs Colbert in Beer Drinking Contest – In Brady’s younger years, Brady was well-known for his ability to pound down a beer and on Monday night, the normally health-conscious quarterback showed off those skills against Colbert, and as usual, came away a winner.

Brian Hoyer told a story of Brady’s prowess from a time they were stranded in Buffalo due to a snowstorm where Brady impressed everyone that night.

“We played up at Buffalo and we couldn’t fly back into Boston because the weather was so bad, so we had to stay the night in Rochester,” said Hoyer.  “We drove there, and we all decided we’d go out to dinner together. Tom being who he was, he usually couldn’t come to a team event like that. We might be at Capital Grille and he is sneaking in the back door and then people realize he’s there and he has to leave. But this was impromptu at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester. The whole team is there. And it turns into a beer-chugging contest.

“You have linemen, Julian Edelman, they all think they are going to win. Then someone says, ‘I heard Tom is really great at chugging a beer.’ We don’t usually get to experience him like this, but we finally coax him into doing it. He does it, and let me tell you, you couldn’t have poured out the beer faster into a glass. It was unbelievable.

And he slams the mug on the table and puts both fists in the air. He walks away with a look on his face that said, ‘You really thought you were going to beat me on this?’ The place went nuts.”

Some seem to forget that he wasn’t always who he is now.  He was once just a college kid at Michigan and a sixth-round pick that no one ever expected to become the best quarterback of all time.  Even when he was just starting out here in New England, one of the things that came out from players in the early going was how much more relateable Brady was among the players, which was in stark contrast to then-quarterback Drew Bledsoe.  Brady was simply one of the guys, and that played a big factor in the chemistry he was able to establish so quickly when he took over as a starter, with everyone rallying behind him on the way to the team’s first championship.

He said he still likes to have fun and it was cool to see him willing to show that side after Colbert obviously knew about that story.  And like his play on the gridiron, Brady certainly doesn’t appear to have lost a step there either.  Too funny.

Gronk Spotted Working Out – While Rob Gronkowski may be pondering his future, it appears that he’s still maintaining the same approach this offseason, which is encouraging.

The NFL Netowrk’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the tight end has spent his time getting some work in at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which he believes is a good sign.

Rapoport, who does still hold connections within the Gronkowski camp from his time here in New England with the Boston Herald, is one of the few to report that Gronkowski is expected to return next season.  While Gronk may have somewhat refuted that report with a “#clueless” Tweet, the news is definitely encouraging for those hoping to see him back for another year.

It’s a long offseason and anything can happen.  Hopefully this continues and #87 will be back in 2018.

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Daily Patriots Notebook 3/7: Edelman’s Return Should Spark a Big Improvement in 2018

Ian Logue
March 7, 2018 at 8:36 am ET

Looking back at the 2017 regular season, one of the biggest things that stood out for the Patriots was the fact that they managed to win 13 games despite struggling to move the chains more than they have in recent years.

Obviously, Julian Edelman’s absence played a significant role in those problems during this past season and looking at the third-down numbers over the course of the regular season, Tom Brady finished with his lowest completion percentage on third down for the first time since 2011, completing under 60% of those attempts for the first time since 2013.

Here’s a quick rundown of Brady’s third-down totals going back to that season:

2011: 80-of-139 (57.6%) 1012yds, 9 TDs, 2 INTs
2012: 92-of-150 (61.3%) 1133yds, 13 TDs, 1INT
2013: 96-of-161 (59.6%) 990yds, 8 TDs, 4 INTs
2014: 88-of-145 (60.7%) 1041yds, 10 TDs, 3 INTs
2015: 92-of-145 (63.4%) 1147yds, 10 TDs, 2 INTs
2016:  82-of-123 (66.7%) 1289yds, 11 TDs, 1 INT
2017: 81-of-140 (57.9%) 1019yds, 9 TDs, 6 INTs

Many will likely remember that following Wes Welker’s departure that offseason – and Danny Amendola’s addition – 2013 was Edelman’s breakout season.  The receiver came in and took over the lead role, finishing with his first thousand-yard season (1056yds) and found himself with even more pressure on him following Rob Gronkowski’s devastating knee injury in Week 14 that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

The following season, Edelman was comfortable in his role and it was he and Gronkowski who carried the load on third down, with both players catching a combined 44 passes and with 36 first downs.

The result?  The team’s first Super Bowl title in 10-years.

In 2015 Edelman suffered a foot injury that knocked him out of the regular season and seemed to re-aggravate it in the postseason when he finally returned, which you could tell limited his effectiveness in the AFC Championship loss in Denver.  Without a healthy Edelman, it was obvious how important he was and how much the injury ultimately cost the team another championship run.

But in 2016, Edelman completely took over, catching 28 passes on third down with 24 first downs, which is an absolutely remarkable success rate.  The amazing thing about that is the fact he did it after Gronkowski went down in Week 12 after re-aggravating a back injury against the Jets, which he originally sustained against Seattle two weeks earlier.

Thanks to Edelman’s efforts, Brady ended up finishing the season completing nearly 70% of his passes on third down.

The result, again?  Yet another championship.

It’s just a reminder of how important his return will be next season, especially if he’s even able to be close to the same player he was prior to his knee injury.  Joining Edelman will hopefully be Malcolm Mitchell, who himself caught 10 of his 15 targets that year with 9 first downs when called upon on third down as a rookie.  The obvious question mark will be the future of Gronkowski, which remains uncertain as he continues teetering on retirement.  However, as we learned, with Edelman, they have the ability to play at a championship level, which should hopefully put a few minds at ease in the event Gronkowski chooses to walk away.

Flores gets a shot, without the pressure – Another bit of news that came out yesterday was the fact according to Yahoo! Sports Charles Robinson, linebackers coach Brian Flores will inherit the responsibility of calling the defensive plays in 2018, but he won’t reportedly be promoted to defensive coordinator.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone as that’s how Bill Belichick has handled things on both sides of the football.  It works out well as it causes any issues to fall on him while taking the pressure off of Flores during the transition.  They’re no stranger to this approach, as Matt Patricia wasn’t named as defensive coordinator until 2012 after former coordinator Dean Pees departed following the 2009 campaign.

As a result, it should be interesting to see how it pans out next season for a group that was inconsistent in 2017 and has the sting of a poor performance in the Super Bowl to hopefully motivate them heading into 2018.

Alan Branch’s time in New England appears to be over.

Branch is Out, Britt is In – With free agency closing in, the Patriots have apparently already made up their minds about a couple of their players.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots have informed defensive tackle Alan Branch that they won’t be picking up his $1 million option for the 2018 season.

As we mentioned yesterday, following previous reports the news doesn’t come as a surprise given that Branch has already been talking about the team in the past tense and this news simply means he’ll hit the free agent market and move on.

Reiss points out that moving on from Branch will save the team about $3 million in cap space, giving them somewhere between $17 million and $18 million to work with.

He also reports that the team did pick up receiver Kenny Britt’s $150,000 option, which should create some competition in camp and also provides some additional insurance should either Edelman or Mitchell suffer any setbacks, or, as we unfortunately learned last year, in the event they were to lose anyone to injury in the preseason.

Gronk still exploring his options – Speaking of the passing game, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Gronkowski and it appears that he’s still potentially exploring his options outside of football.

The latest speculation surrounds the talk of his interest in pursuing an acting career, which saw him spotted on Monday at a Hollywood Casting agency.

According to @mambochicken on Twitter, the agency he was at is responsible for Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead, so it’s definitely worth noting that he was there.

That same Twitter user also claims Gronk was meeting there about a possible movie role.

While none of this speculation is confirmed, the fact he was there appears to be true.  Not that any of us can blame Gronk for choosing to no longer absorb big hits from linebackers and defensive backs by choosing acting over putting the pads back on.

Regardless of whatever decision he eventually makes, it will obviously play a big part in what happens with this team moving forward.  The biggest concern for fans who have followed this team since Belichick arrived should be the fact it took a long time to find him (he was drafted in 2010, 10-years following Belichick’s arrival in 2000).  He’s definitely a unique player, and it makes you wonder just how long it might be before the team finds anyone close to him ever again.

That reality will eventually come.  All fans can do until his decision is made is hope there’s still some time left for watching #87 throw down a few more Gronk spikes before it’s over.

Podcast: Can We Turn The Page Yet To The Next Patriots Season?

Russ Goldman
February 22, 2018 at 11:17 am ET

In this episode, we looked forward to the next Patriots season by discussing the biggest positional needs for the team and sharing our thoughts on which Patriots free agents we would want back. However, we started the show by once again discussing Malcom Butler.

Patriots Losing Special Teams Coach To Colts

Ian Logue
February 15, 2018 at 10:10 pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts may not have gotten their man with Josh McDaniels, but it appears they’ve been successful in poaching a New England coach to fill one of their coaching vacancies.

According to the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez, Patriots assistant special teams coach Ray “Bubba” Ventrone is heading to Indianapolis to coach the Colts’ special teams. It’s an interesting turn of events given that current special teams coach Joe Judge was initially going to handle that role had McDaniels accepted the head coaching job. Instead, McDaniels had a change of heart and remained in New England, with Judge opting to stay with the Patriots after the offensive coordinator changed course.

Ventrone will join new head coach Frank Reich’s staff, with Indianapolis hiring the former Bills quarterback following McDaniels decision to walk away from the position.

Colts fans should definitely be happy about the move, as Ventrone is a smart coach, which hopefully means they’ll no longer have to worry about having to be subjected to plays like this:

Podcast: Super Bowl Recap Show

Russ Goldman
February 6, 2018 at 11:05 am ET

This is our Super Bowl Recap Show, and during this episode we discussed all the turning points in the game. Later on, we talked about Malcom Butler in two ways. We first talked about the “trickle down effect” of not having him in this game, and what it possibly did to the Patriots defense. To end the show, we shared if we agreed or disagreed with the decision to bench Butler on defense.

Defense Betrays Patriots In Super Defeat

Bob George
February 5, 2018 at 1:39 am ET

MINNEAPOLIS – Tom Brady throws for 505 yards and three touchdowns. Ryan Allen had zero punts. Three Patriot receivers had over 115 receiving yards.  Their first three drives of the second half go for touchdowns.

Another Super win for the Patriots, right?

Not on your quarterback touchdown receptions. Super Bowl LII featured each quarterback being targeted for a catch, two missed extra points, two missed two-point conversions, one total punt for the entire game, two touchdowns which needed replay scrutiny, and an NFL postseason record of most combined yards on offense by the two teams. The Philadelphia Eagles took an early lead, the Patriots rallied to take a fourth quarter lead, and right up until the end you the Patriot fan figured your team would win.

But in the end, the Eagles would not allow the Patriots to do what they do. A late touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Zack Ertz, followed by a strip sack of Brady by Brandon Graham, and a failed Hail Mary at the end gave the Eagles a 41-33 win over the Patriots, and their first NFL championship in 58 years at US Bank Stadium on Sunday night. The game was all set up for Brady to win it in the end, but Graham’s play (the fumble was recovered by Derek Barnett) shocked the entire football world.

The strip sack virtually sealed the win for the Eagles, but in the end the lasting impression from this game will be the sad fact that the Patriots did not have the material on defense to win this game. Allen did indeed not punt all game long, but Philadelphia themselves only punted once, and the Eagles scored on their last five possessions of the game.

Curiously, Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX, did not play a single down in this game. Butler came to Minneapolis a day late, and apparently paid the price for it on Sunday by playing only on special teams. Butler was seen crying on the sideline during the National Anthem, and he perhaps will never play another game for the Patriots again.

His absence was a main reason for the porous defense, but not completely. Stephon Gilmore started the game covering Nelson Agholor, but later switched to Alshon Jeffery and shut him down for the rest of the game. But the other side was manned mostly by Eric Rowe, who got burned on several passes and gave up considerable yardage all game long.

Another telling stat was the run defense, or lack thereof. Former Patriot LeGarrette Blount scorched the Patriots for 90 yards on 14 carries and a 21-yard touchdown run. Former Dolphin Jay Ajayi had 57 yards on nine carries. As a team, Philadelphia averaged 6.1 rushing yards per carry. The potent rushing attack certainly helped to settle Foles down and remove any chance of him allowing the game to become too big for him.

Foles became the first backup quarterback in 27 years to win a Super Bowl, and he earned game MVP honors for his performance. He finished 28 of 43 passing for 373 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating was 106.1. Agholor, who should have been covered by Butler, finished with nine catches for 84 yards, while running back Corey Clement had 100 receiving yards, mostly on two long passes, one of them for 22 yards and a touchdown which on replay looked like he stepped out of bounds before securing the catch, but the call stood.

Foles and the Eagles had their way against New England Sunday night.

Foles was also key in perhaps the most memorable play of the night for the Eagles. With 38 seconds left in the first half, facing fourth and goal at the Patriot 1, Foles lined up in shotgun formation. Clement took a direct snap, then handed off to Trey Burton on an end around left. Burton then lofted a pass to a wide open Foles in the right side of the end zone to make it 22-12 Eagles at the half. It was the first touchdown catch by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. Earlier in the quarter, Danny Amendola took a toss from Dion Lewis and tried to hit Brady in the right flat. Brady was wide open but the pass glanced off his fingertips.

With 9:26 left in the game, the Patriots took their first lead of the night when Brady found Gronkowski for a touchdown to make it 33-32 Patriots. Either the defense needed to make a stop, or Brady could bring the Patriots back to force overtime at worst.

But neither happened. On third down and six, Foles hit Ertz in the left flat for seven yards. Devin McCourty made a nice play on Torrey Smith on the next series to bring up fourth down and one at the Eagles 45. The Eagles were more or less forced to go for it on fourth down, but Foles again found Ertz for 2 yards and a first down. Agholor then caught three passes for 42 yards with three different safeties covering him instead of Butler. Meanwhile, the clock was running down, and it seemed a distinct possibility that Brady might not get the ball back with enough time.

On third down at 7 at the Patriot 11, Foles found Ertz for a touchdown, who caught the ball and bobbled it after he crossed the goal line. Ertz didn’t become the next Jesse James in that he was a runner and once he crossed the goal line, play over. Brady had 2:21 left, one timeout, and only a five-point deficit. You the Patriot fan shouldn’t have been worried.

On first down, Brady found Gronkowski for 8 yards. But on second down, the pocket collapsed, and Brady never saw Graham coming. He hit Brady’s arm and the ball squirted away, recovered by Barnett at the Patriot 31. The Patriots exhausted all their timeouts and the two-minute warning, and surrendered a 46-yard field goal by Jake Elliott.

Down eight with 58 seconds left, Brady managed to drive the Patriots to the 49 yard line. On the final play of the game, Brady heaved one to the end zone, but Gronkowski could not come up with the catch and the game was over.

Brady was 28 of 48 passing, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 115.4. Gronkowski had 116 yards receiving, Amendola had 152 and Chris Hogan had 128. The Patriots as a team did average 5.1 yards per carry on the ground, but the ground game was inconsequential for the Patriots. Brady enjoyed a wonderful evening, right up until the strip sack.

This game may be franchise-altering for the Patriots. Both coordinators, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels, are reportedly off to Detroit and Indianapolis respectively. Gronkowski said in his postgame presser that he will not commit to playing next season, indicating he may be contemplating retirement. Butler said “They gave up on me, (expletive), it is what it is!” when asked why he didn’t play, and he most certainly is out the door. Brady won the MVP at age 40 but came up a game short in his quest for one more title. And of course, if Bill Belichick is truly upset at having to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, Camelot in Foxborough may be over.

For now, Philadelphia finally gets their Super Bowl, the city gets a rare sports championship, and they wound up winning it all with Carson Wentz on the sidelines. They deserved to win and can party to their heart’s content.

The Patriots now need to be really champion-like and gun up for next year. The next few days for the Patriots are going to be interesting, for sure.

Patriots TE Gronkowski Pondering Retirement?

Ian Logue
February 4, 2018 at 11:05 pm ET

In what’s already expected to be an interesting offseason, it appears that Rob Gronkowski’s future will be part of the discussion in the months ahead.

The veteran tight end met with the media after the game and looked sad and dejected, and was caught off guard when a reporter asked him about the possibility that he may be considering retirement.

The look on his face was surprise, wondering how the reporter caught wind of that notion.

“I don’t know how you heard that,” said Gronkowski. “But I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure. I’m going to sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at.”

“I’m not ready for these type of questions right now.  I’m going to sit down, reflect on the season, talk to my teammates. We fought all year long.  All the receivers, running backs, linemen, we put all the work in together. I’m just going to reflect on the season.  I’m proud of the boys.  We’ll see what happens.“

“We just lost.  I just want to just sit back, relax the next couple weeks.  I really have nothing to say about that right now.

It’s been another long year for the tight end, who took another big shot two weeks ago against the Jaguars that landed him in the concussion protocol.  After arm, leg, back and now a head injury, if he decided that enough is enough, it would be hard to blame him.

Despite the loss, he finished 9-of-15 for 116 yards and two touchdowns in another terrific performance.  If he were to walk away, he can at least say he went out on a high note.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds but it certainly sets up another potential obstacle for a team that already has plenty of work ahead of them this offseason.

Cardona Says “There’s a Chance” Military May Call This Offseason

Ian Logue
January 30, 2018 at 6:22 am ET

Joe Cardona knew that the military may someday need him, and it sounds like that realization could come to light this offseason.

According to Yahoo! Sports, Cardona, who is a supply corps officer in the US Navy, said Monday night that his unit may be called on to travel to South Korea to take part in a joint forces operation.

With tensions in the Korean Peninsula escalating, Cardona revealed that there’s a possibility he’ll be heading there in the not too distant future.

“There’s a chance I’ll be traveling over there,” said Cardona. “We’ll see.”

Cardona reportedly started working with the Navy on this operation last offseason and reinlisted back in August in a ceremony he held during training camp.  Tom Brady and other teammates reportedly took part in their practice gear, while Cardona wore his uniform and ran the ceremony.

The uncertainty surrounding his future certainly could leave New England in a tough spot.  Cardona has been terrific since being selected out of Navy in the 5th round (166th overall) back in 2015, bringing stability to one of the positions that Bill Belichick values highly.  It’s a position he’s targeted over the years, bringing in players like Lonie Paxton and others, with Belichick knowing how important it is to have a capable player back there ensuring the operation runs smoothly given that one bad special teams play can often change the course of the game.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been an issue as Cardona’s been flawless during his time here, and as concerning as this situation might be, Belichick likely knew what he was getting into when he selected the Naval Acadamy graduate.  Regardless of what the future might hold, he’s most certainly proud of not only what Cardona has done, but what he represents as an individual off the field.

While the Patriots are known for being prepared for any situation on the field, Cardona’s taking the same approach in his second career, which depending on how things play out, could come calling.

“It’s being prepared for whatever they could call you to do,” said Cardona. “If they call you to Korea, you have to work in seamlessly with your unit.”