Tag Archives: 2017 NFL Combine

Final Mock Draft 4.0 – Patriots Snag a Big Surprise at #72

Steve Balestrieri
April 26, 2017 at 9:14 am ET

The Patriots got their man with Mike Gillislee, signing the restricted free agent running back to a two-year deal and in the process, lost their 5th round draft pick to Buffalo. That effectively means that they won’t be drafting a back, we looked toward a bigger one this weekend.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is, even more, fun to use in 2017.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

The big boards for each site differ and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based on the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated until it is your time to pick.

For this final Mock Draft before tomorrow (4-25), I used the big board of CBS

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. Talk is still swirling that the Pats may swing a deal involving either Malcolm Butler or Jimmy Garoppolo. I don’t see either of them going anywhere in 2017. And if they were to trade Butler, then they’d be in the market for a cornerback. And with Belichick, he prefers the known commodity. The defense with Butler, Stephon Gillmore and Eric Rowe at corner is stacked.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 4.0:

Round 3, Pick #72 SS Obi Melifonwu, UConn:
Bill Belichick loves to draft safeties early in the draft and after the disappointing performance by Jordan Richards, they’ll be looking for a long-term replacement for Pat Chung at the strong safety position. Melifonwu is an athletic freak at 6’4, 225. He ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, with a 44-inch vertical.

Frankly, we doubted that Melifonwu would be around in the 3rd. But the big board of CBS Sports has him falling all the way to New England at #72. He won’t be a free safety, he’ll be best in the box, where he has the size and athleticism to run with tight ends or step up in run support. The Patriots “big nickel”? He’s a perfect fit.

He has the speed and athleticism to run with the big wide receivers in certain situations as well. Huge steal for NE in the 3rd round.

Round 3, Pick #96 Edge, Tarrell Basham, Ohio:
The Patriots have scouted Basham and reportedly have a high level of interest. This would be a quintessential Belichick pick. In a draft chock full of talented edge players, taking a guy who has totally flown under the radar playing at Ohio.

He has an NFL-ready frame at 6’4, 269-pounds with long arms and big, strong hands. Basham was the Mid-American Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year 50 tackle including 16 for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

He’s got the explosion off the ball with short area burst to get to the quarterback. He’s strong and sets the edge well. He’d project to be a third down sub-package player in his rookie year and a potential starter in Year 2.

Round 4, Pick #131 TE George Kittle, Iowa:
No change from Mock 3.0. Kittle is a 6’4, 247-pound tight end that will help build the depth they need at the position. Kittle was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, in 11 starts, he produced 22 catches for 314 yards and four TDs.

He’s got good size, has very good speed with a 4:52 time in the 40-yard dash with excellent hands. He had only one drop with 48 career receptions. He’s a good and willing blocker inside. Kittle has the speed to be a vertical threat down the seam, although his route-running needs polishing.

Round 5, Pick #183 OT Erik Magnuson, Michigan:
Magnuson is a 37-game starter for the Wolverines and is a solid run blocker who can get to the second level, has very good pass protection skills. He uses his hands well and can mirror pass rushers. He’s strong, physical and tough with good athleticism at the position.

He’s 6’4, 303-pounds, he’s never played left tackle but right tackle and guard while at Michigan. He’s a versatile kid with upside but like Joe Thuney before him, the Patriots may decide to kick him inside at center.

Round 6, Pick #200 LB Connor Harris, Lindenwood:
Harris is a throwback, an extremely versatile kid who can play linebacker, running back and punt in an emergency. A three-time captain his stats speak of an era when players played for 60 minutes. In 2016, he made an incredible 138 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss, two INT, one for a TD. During his career, Harris also contributed as a running back with 50 carries for 328 yards and seven TDs. As a punter, he had a 38.8-yard average, with six downed inside the 20-yard line in 2016.

While he doesn’t have the length, you’d like at linebacker at 5’11, 242-pounds, he is a film junkie who is extremely well prepared and has tremendous production. He’s an inspirational leader on and off the field (3-year captain), who can play all three downs. Non-stop motor, and the ability to make plays all over the field.

Round 7, Pick #231 Edge Keionta Davis, Chattanooga:
Davis had his second straight FCS All-American season in 2016, tallying 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. At 6’3, 274-pounds he has the length and strength to take on offensive linemen in the trenches.

He plays low to the ground and sets the edge very well in the running game. However, he’s a bit stiff in the hips and doesn’t have the bend on the edge that you’d like to see in an edge rusher. The strength and conditioning coaches may have him bulk up another 10-15 pounds and kick him inside as a sub-package interior rusher.

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

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

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

Steve Balestrieri
April 24, 2017 at 6:23 am ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New England Patriots News 4-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 23, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-23, & AFC East Notes.

We saw a lot of talk this week about the death of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and much of it had the word ‘tragic’ built into it. That story was anything but tragic unless the conversation has to do with his daughter, who will grow up never knowing her father, Odin Lloyd, who Hernandez was found guilty of murdering, or the other two young men who he was acquitted of shooting and killing outside a Boston nightclub just last week.

But even if he wasn’t convicted of their murders, he was most certainly there and don’t forget, he shot his own friend in the eye in Florida and left him on the side of the road.

Hernandez had the world as his oyster with a $40 million-dollar contract, of which he’d probably have seen every dime of and would still be young enough to see another big money deal. He was set for life. Instead, he pissed it all away and was doing life in prison because he’d rather be a street hood than catch touchdowns from Tom Brady.

Tragic? No, his actions, for which he was responsible for were stupid.

Blount Very Visible for a Free Agent Who May Not Be Back:
One of the more curious sights this weekend? LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots free agent running back who is rumored to not be returning, was out doing charity work with the team.

Case in point, Blount was in Grafton, Mass on Friday night for a charity basketball game between the Grafton Police against the Patriots All-Stars featuring the past and current members of the team. On Friday night, Blount joined current Patriots Brandon King, Justin Coleman, and Devin Lucien as well as alumni Patrick Pass, Mark Levoir, Vernon Crawford and Steve DeOssie.

Patriots free agent RB LeGarrette Blount signs autographs at halftime of a charity basketball game in Grafton on Friday. (SBalestrieri/Grafton News photo)

Patriots Add New Podcast to their Website, Featuring Price, and Banks:
Congrats to former WEEI Patriots beat writer and all-around great guy Chris Price. He and Don Banks will be hosting a podcast on Patriots.com “Cover 2 with Banks and Price” which will run on Tuesdays. Price has also authored his fourth book, “Drive For Five: The Remarkable Run of the 2016 Patriots” and it details the Pats run to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season.

Patriots Name Three Hall of Fame Finalists This Week:
This week the Patriots announced the three finalists for their team Hall of Fame induction in the Hall at Patriots Place.

This year’s finalists include CB Raymond Clayborn, DL Richard Seymour, and LB Mike Vrabel.  2017 will be Clayborn’s fourth straight as a finalist, Vrabel’s second, while Seymour is a finalist for the first time.

While all three are deserving, Clayborn is saddled with playing in an era before most of the fans who will vote, were even born. He was incredibly durable, playing in 161 straight games, still a team record. And he’s tied with Ty Law with 36 career interceptions. He was a member of the Patriots All-1970s and ALL -1980s teams.

Seymour was one of the best if underrated defensive linemen of his era earning five straight Pro Bowls and four straight All-Pro seasons, including three Super Bowls. Seymour was one of the most dominant defensive linemen of the time but never had the sexy stats because of the system the Patriots played.

Vrabel was also an integral member of the team’s first three Super Bowl seasons being a versatile defender who could also play offense in goal line situations. He caught touchdown passes from Tom Brady in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. In 2007 Vrabel had an All-Pro season garnering 12.5 sacks.

Fans can vote online at the Patriots website here:

Patriots Schedule Has Some Intriguing Twists:
The NFL announced the league’s schedule on Thursday night, but as is typical when discussing the goings on at Park Avenue, it was leaked out much earlier. In regards to the Patriots schedule, they have some interesting factors that will play into their season.

The team opens the second half of the season by playing five out of six games on the road, including two in a row in high altitude cities. First in Denver, then the following week in Mexico City against the Raiders. The Patriots always seem to have trouble in Denver, and Mexico City’s stadium is about 2000 feet higher in elevation than Mile High.

The Pats bye week is located smack in the middle of the season after Week 8. And they open the 2017 campaign at home against the Chiefs on the league’s Kickoff Thursday Night Football game. Their Super Bowl rematch against the Falcons won’t be until Week 7, as Atlanta is celebrating the grand opening of their new stadium Week 1.

James White’s Deal A Win-win:
Once the details of the three-year contract extension for running back James White emerged, it was obvious that this is a deal that will work for both parties. White, who would have been a free agent at the end of the 2017 season, could have waited and possibly made more money, but he opted for the chance to stay in New England.

White’s three-year $12.69 million-dollar deal, which included a $4 million dollar signing bonus, works for both parties as it gives him an excellent chance of seeing every dime and for the Patriots.

It is a bargain signing, and it ensures White will be with New England in his prime years for a player who is a perfect fit for the team in New England’s offense.

Gillislee Deadline is Monday:
The other news on the running back front is that Buffalo Bills restricted free agent Mike Gillislee will have to wait until Monday to find out if he’s playing for New England this fall or heading back to Buffalo. The Patriots signed him to an offer sheet for a two-year deal with most of the money being front-loaded into the first season.

Buffalo is strapped a bit under the salary cap and the Bills are pondering the decision on whether to match New England’s offer. They quickly declined to match on Chris Hogan’s offer sheet a year ago and already lost CB Stephon Gilmore to New England in free agency. Those situations may factor into their decision.

But by placing (some say foolishly) only a fifth-round tender on Gillislee, they opened the door for a team to come in and make him an offer. If the Bills do decline, they’d get the Patriots fifth-round draft choice

NFL Draft Begins Thursday Night but When Will NE Pick?
As things stand right now, the NFL Draft may be a pretty boring one for New England fans for the first two rounds because the Patriots probably won’t be picking in either one. We say probably because although New England doesn’t have a pick in either of the first two rounds, they can still wheel and deal right up to the final moment if they really covet a player.

The Patriots traditionally under Belichick have a much smaller draft board than other teams. They’ll scout extensively but then break it down to players who they feel will fit their system.

Someone DM’d us this week as to why they’re bringing in players for pre-draft visits that are slotted to go early in the first round when they don’t pick until #72?

Sometimes, I think it is a situation where they like this player and they want to see what makes him tick and could they risk moving up for him, or it is information they’ll store for attempting to bring in the player later? We’ve seen this with free agents Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo, both of whom the Patriots liked in the draft.

Sometimes they just want to see a player they feel they may face in the future and get a feel for him. It would come in handy when game-planning against some of those.

The Patriots had a private meeting with UConn safety Obi Melifonwu on Thursday. He’s slated to go either in the late first or early second round. With Belichick’s penchant for drafting safeties early, he’d be a tremendous addition to the strong safety position and an eventual replacement for Pat Chung but the team would have to move up to get him.

Amendola Restructures Contract for the Third Straight Season:
Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, to no one’s surprise, has restructured his deal with the Patriots, re-doing his deal for the third time since signing with the team four years ago.

He was scheduled to make $6 million and instead will make $1.6 million, a modest pay increase from what he made in 2016 for the veteran wide receiver. While Amendola is arguably the fourth option in the passing game, his production is nearly always at crunch time and comes in clutch situations. While it seems like a minor move, considering the other weapons in the Patriots WR arsenal, his signing is indeed a big move.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills’ Lineman Kouandjio Found Wandering in a Field With No Pants:
The Buffalo Bills had a bizarre incident on Wednesday morning when Erie County deputies got a call about a person acting strangely and found OL Cyrus Kouandjio wandering in a field with no pants just a few minutes from the Bills facility.

His vehicle was found abandoned on the highway a short distance away and deputies stated he was cooperative and answered their questions. Although according to some reports when asked what he was doing there, he responded to the Deputies, “Shoot me!” He was taken to the hospital for observation. However, no charges were filed.

Kouandjio was taken by the Bills in the 2nd round (44th overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was not present for the Bills voluntary strength and conditioning program on Thursday. The Bills have reported that they are monitoring his situation.

Miami Adds In-game Strategist to Bolster Analytics Staff:
The Miami Dolphins are continuing to buy into the value of analytics, hiring Matt Sheldon as their director of football research and strategy. He had the Bears job as the director of analytics and football research for the past two years.

Sheldon will work on in-game strategy with the coaching staff. Miami has already added a couple of coaches in the sports science and analytics department, with Wayne Diesel, the Dolphins’ sports performance director, and Dennis Lock, the team’s director of analytics.

Jets Limiting Media Access? Some Writers Think So:
The New York Jets had their share of off-field and on-field problems in 2016. There were altercations in the locker room, players missing or late for meetings, holdouts, unneeded drama and the team flat out stunk after being on the cusp of the playoffs the year before.

Now they’re taking steps to avoid at least some of the issues that plagued them a year ago. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the Jets aren’t allowing the media to speak with newly signed free agents and were not allowed to speak with any players after they began their off-season conditioning program this week.

“While it’s unclear if this is a directive from [head coach Todd] Bowles, it sends a message,” Cimini said. “The team wants to eliminate potential distractions in the early, team-building stages of the offseason.”

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

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

Mock Draft 3.0 – Patriots Get Depth, Fill Needs

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2017 at 8:13 am ET

After the flurry of activity this week, the Patriots are primed to enter the season with all the pieces they need for a serious bid to repeat in the Super Bowl. Malcolm Butler has signed his tender, Danny Amendola has re-done his deal for the third year in a row and the team made an offer for free agent RB Mike Gillislee who would be a great fit.

Of course, if the Bills decline to match the Patriots offer, New England will have to turn over their 5th round draft pick to Buffalo. But for now, until that is settled, we’re moving on under the assumption that they’ll choose in Round 5.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and it is even more, fun to use in 2017.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

The big boards for each site differ and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based upon the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated until it is your time to pick.

For this second mock draft (4-20), I used the big board of Composite Big Board

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. While they may still swing a deal to move up into the first two rounds, right now we’re going with what they have. In this mock, we’re going under the assumption that Malcolm Butler’s signing of his tender means that he will play in NE for at least the 2017 season so that changes our outlook considerably.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 3.0:

Round 3, Pick #72 Linebacker/Edge Tim Williams, Alabama:
Williams is a steal at #72. He’s a 6’4, 250-pound edge player with the frame to get bigger. He can play OLB or DE and fell in this mock down to the 3rd round over character concerns. He’s an outstanding athlete, with excellent explosion, long arms and a very consistent playmaker.

Williams played for Nick Saban at Alabama so Bill Belichick will have all the info he’d need on him. He’s a tremendous pass-rusher with excellent counter moves to get to the QB. The Patriots would use him as a DE primarily

Round 3, Pick #96 Tackle, Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell:
The Patriots have scouted Davenport and worked him out, so Dante Scarnecchia would have the final say if they can work with him. He has great size at 6’7, 318 pounds and a four-year starter. He was a team captain his final two years at Bucknell.

Has tremendous arm length and strength in his hands where he can disrupt pass rushers, has enough athleticism to get out to the second level in the running game. His balance and foot placement.

Davenport will be a developmental prospect that could be the long-term replacement for Nate Solder

Round 4, Pick #141 TE George Kittle, Iowa:
Kittle is a 6’4, 247-pound tight end that will help build the depth they need at the position. Kittle was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, in 11 starts, he produced 22 catches for 314 yards and four TDs.

He’s got good size, has very good speed with a 4:52 time in the 40-yard dash with excellent hands. He had only one drop with 48 career receptions. He’s a good and willing blocker inside. Kittle has the speed to be a vertical threat down the seam, although his route-running needs polishing.

Round 5, Pick #163 S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville:
Clemons has tremendous size at 6’4, 217-pounds and would be the heir apparent to Pat Chung as the box safety. He has rare size, length, and athleticism for a man his dimensions. He’s a physical, tough tackler and will be the in-the-box safety and be able to play the hybrid linebacker role, the “Big Nickel” for the Patriots.

He’s not a deep cover safety and at times takes poor angles to the runner. Was dismissed from Georgia after three failed tests for marijuana.

Round 5, Pick #183 LB Matt Milano, Boston College:
Boston College has been churning out very good linebackers from their program from Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly and now Milano, who stepped up big for the Eagles the past two seasons. He turned in a very solid 2016 season with 58 tackles, 11 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, and a blocked punt.

The undersized (6’0, 233-pounds) Milano plays “like a heat-seeking missile” on the defensive side of the ball, flying around the field looking for contact. He played 94 percent of the Eagles snaps in 2016 and has speed toughness with very good instincts in pass coverage as a converted safety.

Special teams’ standout in Chestnut Hill with three blocked punts and 24 STs tackles. We took him in our Mock 1.0 draft and he’s here again in the third and will be a great value pickup

Round 6, Pick #200 Edge Keionta Davis, Chattanooga:
Davis had his second straight FCS All-American season in 2016, tallying 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. At 6’3, 274-pounds he has the length and strength to take on offensive linemen in the trenches.

He plays low to the ground and sets the edge very well in the running game. However, he’s a bit stiff in the hips and doesn’t have the bend on the edge that you’d like to see in an edge rusher. The strength and conditioning coaches may have him bulk up another 10-15 pounds and kick him inside as a sub-package interior rusher.

Round 7, Pick #231 LB Riley Bullough, Michigan State:
Bullough comes from a football family devoted to the Spartans. His father (Rose Bowl 1982), uncle and brother all played at Michigan State. He’s very athletic, plays downhill and flies all over the field. He was named the team’s “Most Inspirational Player” for the past two seasons.

But at 6’2, 226, he’s not big enough to stand up to the physicality of the NFL as an inside linebacker. His path to the league will be as a special teams’ standout and his mentality, and athleticism will be a perfect fit.

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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots Draft Profile: Washington Edge Player Joe Matthis

Steve Balestrieri
April 20, 2017 at 6:19 am ET

As the 2017 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.

The Patriots are certainly going to be looking at players on the edge with the picks that they have left in the NFL Draft.  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, and Rob Ninkovich are the guys we look to at providing the edge pressure but they still have DL Lawrence Guy who can play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Geneo Grissom is a STs player.

As we’ve repeated here many times, edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones. Many experts are looking for the Patriots to double dip in the draft next week, taking a DE and an OLB that can provide pressure as well. And this next guy maybe a bit of a sleeper.

I was watching a few games of Washington looking for tape on Sidney Jones and this next player began to jump off the screen in the early games of the season. So much so, that we grabbed him in our Mock Draft a week ago.

Joe Matthis from Washington is a 6’2, 266-pound defensive end/outside linebacker who is a well-rounded edge player. He shows good leverage in the running game and an ability to get to the passer despite not being a “quick twitch” athlete. He’s a guy that is versatile and can play with his hand in the dirt or stand up as an outside linebacker. That is always a plus in the Bill Belichick book with the Patriots.

He has good, heavy hands and uses them well to shed blockers at the line of scrimmage. Matthis is a very physical player who goes non-stop and all out on every down. He’s a sleeper because he was injured after just six games in 2016 and there was very limited tape on him.

At the time of his injury, he led the team with five sacks thru six games. A look at how their defense faded after his injury may provide a good look at how valuable he was to the team.

Pros:

– Good frame and strength on the edge

– Excellent, heavy hands with a violent punch

– Good football I.Q., very good against the run

– Shows good bend around the edge, non-stop motor

Cons

– Only average athletically

– Needs to refine pass rush moves

– Injury history, limited body of production on tape

What his Role Will Be:
Matthis’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation outside as an outside linebacker and drop into coverage for the Patriots. He can also move on to the defensive line and play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end and rush the passer.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and more work on his pass rush moves, he could easily develop into a full-time very productive player

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Grissom, Matthis will be a guy that they’ll feel that they plug on the edge and get to play special teams.

What is his ST Value?
Good

Conclusion:
Matthis is a guy who will be intriguing to see where he ends up in the draft. The Washington coaches moved him around and after a productive start of 2016, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

He has very good, heavy hands and has a violent punch that will keep defenders off of him and allow him to get some separation. He has a good bull rush with good bend coming around the edge. He’s very good at setting the edge in the running game, a must in the Patriots system.

Matthis is a Patriots kind of player. He’s versatile, can play standing up as an outside linebacker or with his hand in the dirt, has good instincts and a high football I.Q. He plays with a violent streak, never stops working and will make plays all over the field with a non-stop motor.

Matthis is a guy who won’t be in high demand because of his injury, his lack of taped production and the fact that he’s isn’t an athlete that will blow people away with his measurables. But if he’s on the board in the fourth round, the Patriots could land one of the sleepers of this draft.

Matthis’ highlight tape can be seen here:

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

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

New England Patriots News 4-16, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 16, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-16, & AFC East Notes.

We hope everyone is enjoying their Easter Sunday with their families and from all of us here, stay safe, happy, and healthy.

Belichick’s Four Keys to Success:
Everyone is always trying to pin down what is the secret to the success of the Patriots.  In an interview with CNBC’s Suzy Welch, Belichick handed down the four tenets of his leadership style. While these won’t jump off the page, to those who have followed Belichick and the Pats closely thru the years, it is all perfectly simple.

Bill Belichick opened up on CNBC about his leadership style this week in a very interesting interview. (SBalestrieri photo)

  1. Do your job.
  2. Be attentive.
  3. Pay attention to details.
  4. Put the team first.

“Ultimately, the team has to come first even though we all have individual goals and preferences,” Belichick said. “It’s one day at a time,” he added. “We don’t talk about last year. We don’t talk about next week. We don’t talk about next year.”

“We talk about today, and we talk about the next game,” Belichick says. “And that’s all we can really control. The rest of it will take care of itself.”

A Pair of McCourtys in the Secondary? Good Chance of that Happening:
With the news that Jason McCourty was released by the Tennessee Titans last week, an immediate destination was earmarked for the twin brother of Devin as New England. This is one rumor that we’ll buy into. Because it makes sense and is a fit for both the team and individual.

The Patriots targeted McCourty a few seasons ago but they couldn’t come to an agreement with Tennessee. It makes sense on a couple of different scenarios. If the Patriots trade Malcolm Butler, McCourty would share the duties of the #2-3 CB with Eric Rowe beside Stephon Gilmore. If they keep Butler, it would give the Patriots a secondary unlike they’ve had here in many, many seasons.

Gilmore and Butler would work outside and McCourty would work the slot. At 29, he’s still an effective player and he was due $7 million this season. Tennessee brought in Logan Ryan and also have Jonathan Cyprien, so they asked McCourty to take a pay cut. His refusal opened a possible door to New England. Speaking of Devin…

Devin McCourty is sticking to his guns about not going to the White House this week. (SBalestrieri Photo)

McCourty Explains Why He Won’t Go to the White House:
Appearing at an event at BU this week, the media quoted Devin McCourty, explaining his decision to skip the White House invitation by President Trump. The team will visit the White House on April 21.

“For me, it was just the different things that come out of the White House or the administration just didn’t agree or align with some of my views,” McCourty said.

“And you look at it now, I’m a new dad. And my daughter is growing up in this country…How will I explain to her why is there a photo op of me shaking someone’s hand if I didn’t agree with him? … I think it’s an individual decision. I think everyone on our team has the right to go or not go. But I think you should do what’s best for you. Do what you think is right.”

Being a long-time soldier, we always went by the adage, “you salute the rank and not the man”, so in that line of reasoning I think they should go and respect the office. But I’m not going to put myself in another man’s shoes. If he feels that strongly then I respect his right to stay home. That’s one of the beauties of living in this country. And what we’ve sacrificed so much for.

Patriots Host Bills Free Agent RB Mike Gillislee:
Another shot across the Bills’ bow? Possibly. The Patriots signed CB Stephon Gilmore away from the Bills this spring and WR Chris Hogan in 2016. This could be another former Bills player ending up in New England.

Gillislee, 26, is coming off of a breakout type of season in Buffalo as LeSean McCoy’s backup running back. The 5’11, 219-pounder is a north-south runner who carries the ball very effectively inside and in the red zone. He had 101 carries for 577 yards (5.7 YPC) and eight touchdowns in 2016. He added nine catches for 50 yards in the passing game.

The question would be, is the Patriots interest real or is it leverage against LeGarrette Blount (see below) to sign his offer with the team. The Bills placed a 5th round tender against Gillislee which in our opinion here would be a bargain. Stay tuned.

Marshawn Lynch Signs with the Raiders:
Mark this one down as a non-surprise. Lynch who was coming out of retirement to play for his hometown Raiders hit a snag in negotiations last week. He then leveraged Oakland by saying he’d welcome a deal with New England. We tried to tell everyone it was only a smokescreen, but the thought of adding “Beast Mode” to the backfield was too much for people to see through.

And presto! Oakland after hearing he’d be willing to go to New England quickly signs him to a deal. Lynch never had any intention of playing here but it was a brilliant ploy on his part.

Teen Who Helped Find Brady’s Stolen Jersey, Gets Invited to the Home Opener:
19-year old Dylan Wagner from Seattle got a phone call from Robert Kraft and was invited to go down on the field when the Patriots raise the banner on Opening Night. It was Wagner who tipped off the FBI through a friend in the ATF where Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jersey was.

He had dealt with Martin Mauricio Ortega in Mexico a year ago and as the two corresponded, they shared pictures of their NFL memorabilia collections. Wagner spotted Brady’s jersey and alerted authorities.

Kraft will fly him out for the Thursday opener and Wagner who hopes to meet Tom Brady will be on the field. Something tells me that an invite isn’t all he’s going to get.

Brandon King Signs Tender, Will Return in 2017:
The Patriots announced this week that S/LB/ST 3rd year player Brandon King had signed his free agent tender and will be re-joining the team in 2017.

King, 23, 6’2, 220-pounds was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn in the spring of 2015. He was second on the team with 9 special teams’ tackles in 2016.

Brandon King has been a standout Special Teams player since joining the Patriots. (SBalestrieri photo)

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Undecided on Fifth-Year Option For Sammy Watkins:
The Buffalo Bills have a decision to make on wide receiver Sammy Watkins for the 2018 season. On May 2, the Bills will either pick up the fifth-year option for the talented but injury prone wide out or let him test free agency.

On the surface it is a no-brainer, Watkins is slated to make only $3.1 million dollars in 2018. For a talented WR who is just 23, it would seem to be an open and shut case. But he’s missed 11 games in the past two years and has had surgery twice on the same foot.

With his season shortened with the foot surgery, Watkins caught just 28 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns in 2016.

Miami Re-signs Two Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
The Miami Dolphins re-signed two of their own free agents this week, tight end Thomas Duarte and cornerback LaFayette Pitts. A seventh-round pick from UCLA a year ago, Duarte began the season on the practice squad before being activated to the 53-man roster. He appeared in one game.

Pitts went undrafted out of Pitt before signing with Miami. He was cut in September, signed to the practice squad and finally signed the active roster in November. He made three tackles

The Dolphins also hosted UConn safety Obi Melifonwu this week. Melifonwu was a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection and his team’s top tackler in 2016, making 118 hits, 2.5 for loss, leading the team with four interceptions and with three passes defensed. He ran a 4.40 in the 40 and shined in positional drills at the NFL Combine.

Jets’ Marshall Suspended Four Games For PED Use: 

The New York Jets suffered their third suspension in the past two months when CB Nick Marshall was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Along with Marshall, wide receiver Jalin Marshall and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will begin the regular season on the suspended list. Seferian-Jenkins was arrested for a DUI in Tampa last season and will miss the first two games for violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

Jalin Marshall will serve a four-game suspension for also violating the PED rules. He claimed that he mistakenly took a medication one time without receiving an exemption.

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

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

Mock Draft 2.0 – Patriots Go Heavier on the Defense

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

After the initial mock draft we conducted, we’re back for another crack at the big board. There were big changes in this draft as the big board had changed, as we’ve mention in the past. The Patriots still have some holes to fill although they still have the flexibility in the salary cap to do just that.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is, even more, fun to use in 2017.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

The big boards for each site differ and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based on the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated until it is your time to pick.

For this second mock draft (4-13), I used the big board of Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. While they may still swing a deal to move up into the first two rounds, right now we’re going with what they have. In this mock, we’re going under the assumption that Malcolm Butler will sign his tender and play in NE for at least the 2017 season, so that changes our outlook considerably.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Patriots Get Defensive:

Round 3, Pick #72 Linebacker/Edge Ryan Anderson, Alabama:
No change from Mock 1.0, Anderson will be a Day 1 starter at the SAM linebacker position next to Dont’a Hightower. Coming from a championship football program at Alabama with Bill Belichick’s buddy Nick Saban and playing in a similar system means his learning curve will be an easy one.

He’s consistently as good setting the edge against the run as he is against the pass in coverage. He’s also a good pass rusher and can blitz off the edge with good pass rush moves and a power bull rush. He’s also a very good STs player something Belichick loves in his linebackers. Day 1 starter.

To see our draft profile on him click here:

Round 3, Pick #96 Edge Joe Mathis, Washington:
The Patriots get a possible steal at defensive end with Mathis who was coming into his own when he injured his foot that required surgery after just six games for the Huskies in the 2016 season. In those six games, Mathis garnered 25 tackles, five sacks and a pass defensed in his final season.

He’s very good at setting the edge in the running game and has the hands, strength, and quickness to come off the edge and put pressure on the quarterback. Limited tape due to his injury will push him down the board…and right to New England.

Round 4, Pick #141 RB James Conner, Pittsburgh:
Conner is another steal for the Patriots as he’s had to battle back from a torn ACL and cancer specifically Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2015. He returned in 2016 and gained more than 1000 yards with a 5.1-yard average and 16 touchdowns.

He’s got tremendous size at 6’1, 233-pounds and will move the pile in short yardage and on the goal line. He’s a punishing runner that runs low, hard and gets yards after contact.

Conner’s draft profile from us can be seen here:

Round 5, Pick #163 TE Jonnu Smith, Florida International:
Smith is a move TE at 6’3, 248-pounds but has shown the willingness and strength to block in the running game. Smith has the ability to work all three levels of the field. He has the speed to run right by linebackers in coverage. Had 42 catches for 506 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.

He good with the ball in his hands and can make plenty of YAC (yards after the catch). He has loose hips and possesses good lateral movement but has to work on his hands. He’s had 10 drops the least two seasons.

Round 5, Pick #183 WR Fred Ross, Mississippi State:
Ross nicknamed “the Boss” was a favorite target of Dak Prescott before he moved on to the Cowboys last season. Ross has been heavily scouted by the Patriots and although he missed Prescott still put up good numbers in 2016, 72 catches, 917 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

He doesn’t possess great top-end speed and has far too many drops (8 in 2016), but he uses his body well to block out defenders. He’ll fight for position when the ball is in the air and offers good punt return capability, something that may earn him a roster spot. With the WR position stacked in New England, that may be just what he needs to stick.

Round 6, Pick #200 S Nathan Gerry, Nebraska:
Gerry is an in-the-box safety that is very solidly built at 6’2, 218-pounds. He was named third team All-Big Ten with 68 tackles, 5.5 for loss, four interceptions and eight pass breakups. He has very good instincts with both the run and the pass.

He’s limited athletically however and despite having decent straight-line speed with 4.58 in the 40 Yard Dash, he doesn’t have the agility to be a deep cover safety. He’d be placed in the role that Pat Chung has excelled in as a box safety, patrolling close to the line of scrimmage.

Round 7, Pick #231 DL Stevie Tui’kolovatu, USC:
Tui’kolovatu is an overaged prospect (26), due to a two-year commitment with his church in the Philippines. He played at Utah for a couple of years but left for USC and more playing time in his final season.

He’s a nose guard at 6’1, 331-pounds and can eat double teams in the running game which allow the linebackers to stay to unblocked to make plays. He’s got a wide stance and is very difficult to move off his spot. On a two-down player but he can be the long-term answer to Alan Branch. He’d be a nice addition to the rotation inside

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

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

Marshawn Lynch to the Patriots? Don’t Buy It

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

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

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

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

Asked about his status last season, Lynch was adamant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Missouri DE Charles Harris

Steve Balestrieri
April 10, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

As the 2017 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.

The Patriots are thin at defensive end; Jabaal Sheard has left via free agency and Chris Long has said that he isn’t coming back in 2017. The team did pick up Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in a trade. Ealy has all the tools, he just needs to do it consistently. There has been talk that he didn’t take to coaching in Carolina, something he’ll have to do here to thrive.

That leaves him, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and Geneo Grissom. Flowers came on in his second season and was arguably their best defensive lineman down the stretch. Ninkovich seems to be closer to the end of his career now after several solid seasons. Grissom was strictly a STs guy and didn’t contribute on defense. So, they’ll need to add some depth.

Edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones and the team is expecting Flowers to continue to improve on his 2016 season. Ealy will be looked at to contribute right away. That leaves Ninkovich and whomever they can bring in. Right now, the Patriots don’t draft until Round 3. But we don’t expect that to last. They’ll try to make a move to slide up into either Round 1 or 2 of the draft. And this next profile will be there if they can.

Charles Harris from Missouri is a 6’3, 253-pound defensive end who is another in a long line of productive edge rushers to come out of Mizzou. He was All-SEC second team in both 2015 and 2016. Despite the Tigers having a down year, Harris produced good numbers 61 tackles, including 12 for loss, 9 sacks, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a recovered fumble.

Harris is versatile and can play either right or left defensive end as well as play standing up as an outside linebacker. He has good explosion off the snap, with loose hips that allow him to change direction quickly with no loss of speed.

He’s got a spin move where he can turn in either direction quickly. Harris has a non-stop motor and can go sideline to sideline. He’s got the quickness and strength to beat tackles to the inside on his pass rushes. Decent in coverage, but is inconsistent against the run.

Pros:

– Very good athletically, with excellent change of direction

– Quick first step, stays low and explodes off the edge

– Very good edge rush capability, counter moves, productive

– Excellent quick, hands, can shed blockers and get to the QB

Cons

– Only adequate height for a defensive end

– Can get washed inside at times in the running game

– Ran only a 4.82 at the Combine in the 40-yard Dash

What his Role Will Be:
Harris’ role would be to initially be a part of the rotation for the Patriots on the edge as a sub-package pass rusher. He could also kick outside as an outside linebacker and has the ability to cover or blitz from the outside.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added lower body strength and improved against the run, he could be looking at starting reps in 2018.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Harris will look to earn his way on the field and he’ll play special teams as well as contribute on defense. He could replace Geneo Grissom on the roster this season.

What is his ST Value?
Good, he should see some action on the coverage units

Conclusion:
Harris is a first round talent and will be a guy that will contribute immediately as a rookie. First as a sub-package pass rusher, but I think he’ll push for starting reps right away. His numbers slipped a little bit in 2016 but the coaches asked him to try some different things and he struggled a little. But in the second half of the season, he took off and was dominant.

He’s the type of player that Bill Belichick loves, a versatile young player with a non-stop motor that can play on either side as a defensive end or stand up as an outside linebacker where he has prototypical size. He’s can also play on special teams.

He’d be a tremendous fit on a Patriots defense that can use a talented edge rusher. With his agility and footwork (former basketball player), he can get after the passer and be a very productive professional.

If the Patriots can find a way to work themselves back into the second half of the first or second round, Harris would be a guy, in our opinion, that they’d definitely take a long look at. He’d fit in seamlessly in the locker room as well as on the field.

Harris’ highlight tape can be seen here:

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

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

New England Patriots News 4-9, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 9, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-9, & AFC East Notes.
We hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and the weather. The next few days are going to be positively spring-like. So, we hope everyone can get out and enjoy some outdoor time.

Speaking of spring, it is almost time for the NFL Draft. Have you read out our first Mock Draft for 2017 yet? You can check it out here: Also, be sure to check out our latest Patriots 4th & 2 podcast where we began to delve into the upcoming draft.

Speaking of the draft, I still think the Patriots will try to maneuver into a first or second round draft pick, but that will take some doing.

Congratulations to PatsFans.com’s very own Miguel Benzan, who you all know as @PatsCap. He is starting his own podcast with Russ Goldman. When it comes to the inner workings of the Patriots salary cap, Miguel has no peer. His first guest on the podcast is slated to be Pats beat writer Mike Reiss, so this should be considered a must-listen.

Adrian Peterson Visit Due Diligence Only?
The Patriots brought in Adrian Peterson for a visit this week and he left without signing and that shouldn’t be surprising.  Especially considering Jonathan Kraft’s comments about Peterson at the time of his spanking incident, which shouldn’t be forgotten.

Bill Belichick frequently brings in players to fill out an emergency player list should disaster strike during the regular season. They interview a player and find out if he’d fit their system and locker room. If that player is available later in the year and the need arises, then he’d be signed. Many teams do that.

But Peterson has gone on record saying he still wants big money, more than the Patriots will likely be willing to pay. He has had an injury history the past few years. The Patriots know this and probably wanted to see if he still has the ability to be effective, which is why they conducted a workout with him. The other problem is, Peterson puts the ball on the ground a lot and that’s something Belichick doesn’t tolerate. Due to those three considerations and Kraft’s earlier comments, I’d say it’s doubtful he’d be brought in. As for his next destination, it appears he’s heading to New Orleans for his next visit.

Richard Sherman Rumors Continue to Swirl:
The Richard Sherman rumor mill is still percolating here in New England and with good reason. His talent is obvious and he’s still at the top of his game and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. But again, what’s the likelihood we would see him land with the Patriots? It’s probably doubtful.

The rumor mill has been going for quite a while. However, in my opinion, the very real interest in Sherman by New England was based before the team signed Stephon Gilmore. This week we heard the Patriots would still have an interest in acquiring Sherman if the Pats were to lose Malcolm Butler.  I don’t how they’d “lose” Butler at this point since they control where he plays this year. They’d have to either trade him, or not match an offer from another team.

The other scenario that lends itself to this deal not happening is money. Sherman is counting $13,600,000 against the cap this season and $13,200,000 in 2018. Coupled with Gilmore’s salary, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon, the Pats now have a ton of cash invested in the secondary. They have never allocated that much money in the secondary before.

Brandon Bolden Returns to the Fold and Re-signs with the Patriots:
The Patriots and Brandon Bolden have agreed to bring back the veteran backup and special teams’ standout. While his roster spot will still have to be earned this summer, with Rex Burkhead being added along with James White and Dion Lewis on the roster, it was a no-brainer bringing back a player who’s been a hard-working, solid citizen and key special teams guy.

Bolden’s deal is for one year with a $775,000 base salary. He also received a $50,000 signing bonus along with a $30,000 workout bonus. His total contract will count $695,000 against the Patriots’ 2016 salary cap.

Door Still Open for Blount’s Return, Money Appears to be the Sticking Point:
Mike Giardi
from CSNNE has reported that the Patriots have “an offer on the table” for free agent running back LeGarrette Blount. One would have to take it that the offer by New England hasn’t been accepted. Blount’s telephone no doubt hasn’t been ringing, so it seems like it’s just a matter of time before the two sides work something out.

Blount had a terrific 2016, rushing 299 times for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns but he’s 30-years old and he tailed off down the stretch. Even if he is brought back, I’d expect the team to add another power running back during the upcoming NFL draft at the end of the month.

The team hosted former Texas running back D’Onta Foreman this week in the lead-up to the draft. Foreman, 6’0″, 245-pounds, rushed for more than 2000 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Longhorns during the 2016 season. He’s been linked to the Patriots by many sources.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Add Depth to Back End of the Roster, Sign Eight Players:
The Buffalo Bills announced that the team has signed eight players on Friday. They included CB Marcus Cromartie, T Cameron Jefferson, LB Jacob Lindsey, DE Jake Metz, OL Jordan Mudge, DB Bradley Sylve, LB Junior Sylvestre, and LB Eddie Yarbrough.

The additions are mainly to bolster the back end of the roster, although Cromartie had plenty of playing time with the 49ers after totaling 18 tackles, three passes defensed, two tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery in 21 games with one start.

Rumors in the Buffalo media have GM Doug Whaley being enamored with Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. This will bear watching as the draft unfolds. The team has brought back QB Tyrod Taylor but perhaps they’ll invest in Watson for the long term.

Miami Looking at Linebackers in the Upcoming NFL Draft:
The Miami Dolphins had an issue with their linebacking core in 2016. They had Koa Misi, who ended up getting hurt again and not much else. During free agency, they signed former Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons to a deal, but Timmons is 31 and he is going to be asked to fill a lot of holes in the defense.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald spelled out a number of linebacker prospects the Dolphins could land with the 22nd pick in the draft. They include Vandy’s Zach Cunningham, Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt, Temple’s Haason Reddick, KSU’s Jordan Willis, OSU Raekwon McMillian and others.

Jets Add Free Agent Tight End Brian Parker:
The New York Jets also added to their depth by signing free agent tight end Brian Parker. The veteran tight end was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers in 2015 but later ended up with the Kansas City Chiefs, appearing in nine games.

The Jets attempted to pick him up last season but he was waived two days later with the failed physical designation. He is a graduate of Albany and the 6’4, 265-pounder had career numbers of 1006 receiving yards with nine touchdowns for the Great Danes.

With the Jets in near total rebuild mode, despite still needing a franchise QB, they may opt to use the upcoming draft to fix a defense that slipped to 28th in scoring. They’ll need help on the edge at OLB and CB since the team has released Darrelle Revis.

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

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