Tag Archives: 2017 NFL Draft

New England Patriots News 5-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 14, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-14, & AFC East Notes.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Moms out there. We hope you all enjoy a great family day and that it is a safe and happy one.

While the weather thus far this spring hasn’t been great, the rain we’ve got so far is making things nice and green and the fruit and vegetable gardens are getting plenty of irrigation. But the grapes are still pretty sour this time of year, right Bill Polian?

Brady “I don’t believe in curses” on the Cover of Madden 18:
A lot of people will wring their hands at just about anything these days. Now the (gasp!) “Madden Curse”? Gimme a break. Tom Brady tried to allay those irrational fears by poking fun at all those superstitions and posted a pretty funny video after being selected for the cover of the new EA Sports Madden 18.

Let’s just hope they don’t dust off an old horror genre this fall with “Hollywood 19 ½ Jason Takes Foxboro”. Seriously folks? Of course, the division rivals in the AFC East, eager for any straw to grasp at, were posting silly curse-related tweets in reaction to the news. It really begs the question to how far we’ve evolved as an educated people from the “world is flat” era of curses and silly superstitions.

Michael Williams’ Release, a Numbers Game Victim:
The Patriots release of TE Michael Williams after he missed all of 2016 after tearing his ACL last spring wasn’t really a big surprise. He didn’t fit into their plans in 2017 and this will give him a chance to catch on with a new club.

Williams, 6’6, and 305 pounds, appeared in 15 games in the 2015 season with nine starts. He was competing for the third tight end spot a year ago before being injured. He is more of a blocking tight end and extra tackle than a receiving threat.

He was just a victim of the numbers game as the Patriots will enter OTAs and mini-camp with six tight ends on the roster. Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler, and Jacob Hollister.

Brandin Cooks on Pats, “A New Journey”:
In an interview with the media this week, new Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks showed that he’s focusing on looking forward not backward with his new team. Cooks was asked about not asking Jimmy Garoppolo for the #10, what Cooks wore in New Orleans. Cooks claimed he didn’t even ask for it.

No, I didn’t even try,” Cooks told reporters. “I didn’t even think about asking him. (It’s) a new journey, new opportunity, so I wanted something different.”

Cooks wore #7 at Oregon State and said he’s going a throwback look …kind of. “I was (No.) 7 in college,” said Cooks, “So the way that I like to think about it is double-7.”

After a couple of solid seasons with over 1100 yards receiving in New Orleans, expectations are high for the 23-year old WR. He’ll join an eclectic group of receivers including Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, and running backs James White and Dion Lewis.

Gillette Stadium, Upgrades to the Most Technologically Advanced Field Turf:
The Patriots have upgraded the Gillette Stadium surface with the most up-to-date field turf. The synthetic turf surface upgrade has been completed and will make its debut when the New England Revolution play Real Salt Lake on May 13.

From the Patriots website:

Gillette Stadium’s new field will feature FieldTurf’s revolutionary new premium system, featuring the industry’s highest-performing monofilament fiber that makes the surface player-friendly, resilient and durable. Along with the most innovative fiber technology in the industry, this state-of-the-art turf system features FieldTurf’s proprietary heavy infill system, which is critical to performance and playability. The result is a surface that plays soft, feels real, looks great and hangs tough.

“We are excited to upgrade our game field to the latest FieldTurf technology” said Jim Nolan, Senior Vice President of Gillette Stadium. “It is our goal each year to provide the highest quality surface for the both the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, and we were eager to take advantage of FieldTurf’s latest innovations for the 2017 season.”

“Keeping in line with our commitment to ensure that the Patriots and Revolution consistently have the latest in synthetic field technology, we are pleased to have been selected once again by Gillette Stadium,” said Eric Daliere, President of Tarkett Sports. “It is an honor and a testimony to the quality of our products that such prestigious organizations continue to put their trust in our company. We look forward to continuing this longstanding relationship with the Patriots, Revolution and Gillette Stadium for many years to come.”

Now that the FieldTurf is complete, can they do something to fix the awful WiFi Connection in the stadium and Patriots’ Place?

Trying to Make Sense of the Blount Situation:
Patriots FA running back LeGarrette Blount’s free agency status took a very weird twist on Tuesday as the Patriots made the rarely used tactic of placing a tender at 110 percent of his 2016 salary ($1.1 million dollars) on him.

The timing of this bizarro twist means that the Patriots could still receive compensation in the form of a compensatory pick in the 2018 draft if Blount signs elsewhere. He’s been rumored to be in talks with both the Giants and Ravens.

The timing also means that if Blount doesn’t sign with another team by July 22, his only hope of playing this season is signing his tender with New England. In order to receive a compensatory pick, Blount would have to produce with his new team.

The tender, with a $1.1 million base salary, $110,000 signing bonus and $1 million in incentives could add up to a $2.2 million-dollar payday for Blount if he signs his tender, returns and plays well.

But with the signing of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead this offseason, the writing was on the wall that the Patriots were moving on from Blount. That’s why Tuesday’s move was a pretty ruthless business decision by the Patriots.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Hire Brandon Beane as new GM:
The Buffalo Bills finally have a new regime in place for 2017. New GM Brandon Beane met with the media on Friday morning. He’ll join new coach Sean McDermott in an attempt to bring the Bills back to the postseason, something they haven’t done since 1999.

Both worked together in Carolina and have a built-in trust factor. They will share personnel responsibilities but Beane has the final say on the 53-man roster. Beane also stated that he is a big believer in the running game so the Bills offense will be sure to feature a lot of LeSean McCoy next season.

Miami’s Revamped Offensive Line Structure a Key to Watch for in 2017:
The Miami Dolphins made some moves in the offseason to bring more stability to their offensive line, which was a key point in their turnaround in 2016. The Dolphins running game was much improved as was their pass protection for the quarterbacks. But rather than standing pat, the Fins are making some changes to their OL in 2017.

Brandon Albert was dealt to Jacksonville for a 2018 7th round draft pick. They signed free agents Ted Larsen and Avery Young to offseason deals and then drafted Isaac Asiata in the 5th round of the NFL draft two weeks ago.

With last year’s first-round pick Laremy Tunsil moving from left guard to left tackle, there will be some growing pains associated with this unit but the coaching staff believes that they can be much better.

One area they’ll have to cut down on is penalties. That was an issue that plagued the offense as a whole all season. The Dolphins were in the middle of the pack in terms of yards rushing and passing but Miami’s offense had the least amount of snaps of any unit in the NFL in 2016 averaging just 57.6 snaps per game.

One reason? Penalties. It is an issue that they’ll have to cut down on, which is why it is curious that they brought in the solid but penalty prone Larsen in this spring. The key for the offense was third down where the Dolphins clicked at just 36.7 percent, the eighth-worst mark in the NFL last season.

Journey for Jets Adams Starts with Father’s Injury:
The New York Jets drafted the safety Jamal Adams with the 6th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he’s one of the top safeties in his class. But a weird twist of fate may have changed his path to the NFL.

His father George was a first-round pick of the Giants back in 1986 and was thought to be the next big back in the Giants’ offense that won the Super Bowl that season. But a broken pelvis changed everything for his dad, who was never the same.

So when his son was in high school, George changed Jamal’s position to safety and everything changed for the young star. Now he’s a first-round pick.

Check out the excellent piece by ESPN’s Rich Cimini 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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp 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.

Will Any UDFA Players Make the Patriots? Hollister, Langi Good Candidates

Steve Balestrieri
May 6, 2017 at 9:06 am ET

There always seems to be at least one undrafted free agent [UDFA] that makes the Patriots 53-man roster out of training camp. Bill Belichick has never been one to care where a player was drafted only that he can play, is coachable and one that football is very important to.

This year’s undrafted rookie free agent crop has [for now], 19 names on it. While these players are yet to take the field with the veterans in any kind of workout yet, there are a few names that jump off the page. Among them are tight end Jacob Hollister and LB Harvey Langi.

Hollister is a tight end but at 6’4, 239-pounds he’s more of a “move” or a “U” type tight end than the inline or “Y” tight end like Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen. While a willing blocker in the run game, he doesn’t have the strength or the punch to drive defensive linemen back. He won’t line up inline much in short yardage.

Hollister, as one would expect of move tight end has good speed and athleticism. He logged a 4.64-second time in the 40-yard dash with a 36 1/2-inch vertical leap, a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump, a 4.34-second short shuttle and a 7.12-second time in the all-important 3-cone drill that the Patriots really like to evaluate their receivers.

Hollister caught 32 passes for Wyoming in his senior season, good for 515 yards and seven touchdowns. He showed an ability to stretch the seams of the defense. Hollister was targeted 11 times in 2016 where the ball was 20 yards or more in the air. He caught seven of those for 189 yards and three touchdowns.

He runs nice fluid routes, can move around the formation to create mismatches against linebackers and is a threat to stretch the field attacking the seams. He can create some separation and has good ball skills. Wyoming at times lined him up in the backfield as an H-Back. His value will lie in that the Patriots when they go with a two-tight end set with him and Gronkowski, is that they’ll be dictating to the defense. If they play a base look, he’d be isolated on a linebacker. In a sub-package look, Hollister would have single coverage on a safety.

With some work on his run blocking and gaining the trust of Tom Brady in the passing game, Hollister could be a steal. The Patriots gave him $90,000 in guaranteed money. Which is high for an UDFA.

His highlight film can be seen here:

Langi was a Swiss Army knife for BYU where he transferred from Utah after taking two years off to complete his two-year mission to fulfill his Mormon LDS obligation. So he’s an older [25] prospect. Part of his versatility was possibly the reason that he fell in the draft right out of the seven rounds.

He was effective at inside linebacker but the team switched their defense up and tried him as a 4-3 edge rusher, something he wasn’t particularly suited for. He is listed at 6’2, 251 pounds but he’ll probably ditch 5-10 pounds and lineup full-time as a linebacker in the Patriots scheme which should help his mobility.

He’s at his best when he’s playing a downhill, physical style of football and plays the run extremely well. The Patriots will probably play him inside or on the strong side. While not great in coverage, he shows good depth in his drops. He can easily play in the short-to-intermediate parts of the field.

Langi moves well and has good athleticism running a 7:00 in the 3-cone drill. He’s a guy that can back up Hightower at the Mike or line up at the SAM. He’s a good blitzer up the A-gaps and that is a better look for him than on the edge.

The Patriots gave him the most guaranteed money of their UDFAs with $115,000 fully insured so they obviously think he can contribute this season. He’ll be an immediate contributor on Special Teams and become part of the rotation at linebacker.

His highlight film can be seen here:

Hollister and Langi aren’t the only two who could land on the roster this season. One never knows how things play out and how many injuries occur in minicamp and training camp. But in looking for a couple of guys who can crack the 53-man roster in early May? These two should be at the head of the list.

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’ Defense on the Edge Will Have a Different Look in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
May 3, 2017 at 10:50 am ET

 The Patriots didn’t have to make too many changes for a roster that had just won Super Bowl LI but one of the areas that underwent pretty dramatic change was at defensive end on the edge. With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long leaving via free agency, it was considered the Patriots biggest area of need.

And the Patriots have addressed it, bringing in Kony Ealy in a trade with the Carolina Panthers and then drafting a pair of edge players Derek Rivers from Youngstown State and Deatrich Wise from Arkansas. Those three players will join Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich for the Patriots this season. The team signed UDFA linebacker Harvey Langi as well and he played the edge for BYU somewhat last year, but his best fit is at outside linebacker.

Flowers was arguably the best Patriots defensive lineman down the stretch last season. He’s guaranteed to be starting at RDE when the season starts. Ninkovich and Ealy will compete for the LDE spot. With Rivers and Wise providing rotational depth.

But this year’s unit has a much different feel to it because they have more versatility. Ealy is a bigger guy at 6’4, 275 pounds. He can set the edge in the running game, has the athleticism to get after the passer and is big and physical enough to kick inside as an interior pass rusher on third down. Flowers already does that frequently.

The Patriots brought in another free agent, Lawrence Guy who can be a sub-package interior pass rusher. That’s what they’ll get in Wise as well. He’s a big kid, at 6’5, 275 pounds with insanely long arms that he needs to learn to use better. When he extends his arms, with his upper body strength, he can push through tackles and get to the quarterback. He’s frequently been compared to Chandler Jones but isn’t nearly as athletic. He’s more of a big edge setter. But Wise can also kick inside and provide interior pass rush…Seeing a trend here?

Which brings us to the team’s first draft pick Derek Rivers. If there was one element the Patriots front seven lacked on the edge last season was speed. Rivers will bring that speed to the pass rush with an athleticism that should serve the team very well.

Rivers isn’t as big at 6’4, 250 pounds at the defensive end position but ran a 4:61 in the 40-Yard Dash, with a 1:61 10-Yard Split. His time in the 3-Cone Drill was third best at the position with 6:94. That shows he has the quick twitch athleticism, loose hips and the ability to change direction as well as bend off the edge to get to the QB. He showed his strength with 30 reps at the Bench Press.

He may need some time to find his feet in the NFL, similar to how Flowers progressed in his first campaign, but he has the potential to be a very good player in the league. The good part is, with the depth of the team, he won’t be pushed too hard too soon. They can let him develop and learn the nuances of the position at the NFL level.

With the added depth, the Patriots can move Ninkovich around and possibly let him take some snaps at OLB with Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Langhi.

However, the edge will look quite different in 2017. How effective will it be? No one knows right now but I’d bet on Belichick having it figured out as the season winds along.

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.

Daily Notebook: Monday Patriots News and Notes 5/1

Ian Logue
May 1, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

After a busy weekend, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:

Quality over Quantity In the 2017 Draft For the Patriots – The NFL Draft is typically one of the biggest weekends of the year for most Patriots fans who follow it intently, but given how few picks New England finished with in terms of selections (4), it will certainly go down as one of the most memorable due to how few they walked away with.

As Mike Reiss of ESPN pointed out on Sunday the four selections tied the 1995 San Francisco 49ers for the fewest draft picks by a defending Super Bowl champion, but New England seemingly made the most of the players they came away with.

They grabbed two offensive linemen and two defensive ends this weekend, infusing youth into two important positions for this team.

In Antonio Garcia and Conor McDermott the Patriots have two young players they can begin grooming for the tackle position on the offensive line, whether it’s for an eventual replacement for Nate Solder or simply to add quality depth in case of injury to either Solder or Marcus Cannon.  Protecting Brady is obviously a priority as the quarterback turns 40 and after losing right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who seems appears poised to retire, it’s a wise move for a team that is lacking depth behind their two starters.

In Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr. the Patriots have two young defensive ends to help boost their pass rush, which is certainly good news for a team that has had their share of trouble getting to the quarterback.  Rob Ninkovich has played a lot of snaps over his career and at 33 may not have many seasons left, so developing players behind him is a good move.  Should either player emerge into a role player in 2017, it will only be that much better.

Overall, it’s not a bad draft for a team that was already in good shape thanks to what has been a pretty strong offseason. Thanks to this weekend, they’ve grabbed some terrific young pieces for the future, which if they pan out, will be another reminder of the quality of work that continues to be done by Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and New England’s scouting department.


Conor McDermott brings versatility to New England.

McDermott Has Versatility, NFL Pedigree Working For Him – While we spotlighted Wise Jr. on Sunday and the fact his father is a former NFL player, recently drafted tackle Conor McDermott also falls into that category.

His brother, Kevin, is a long-snapper for the Vikings, which is a skill that McDermott claims is also in his arsenal, as well as the fact he’s had plenty of experience as a tight end.

“I used to long snap in high school,” said McDermott during his conference call on Saturday.  “And I did some back up during my college career.”

He also said that he was a tight end for his entire life prior to moving over to tackle in college.

“I was a tight end my whole life and then when I got to UCLA they moved me right to tackle, and then I did some tackle-tight end formations and some goal line and short-yardage for my first two years before I became a full-time left-tackle starter,” he said.

McDermott went on to say that he’s familiar with Nate Solder after having studied him in college, and he admitted he’s “been a fan of his for a while”.  He also went on to say he’s looking forward to meeting him.

The rookie also said that there’s some good chemistry between he and fellow draft pick Antonio Garcia, with the two having spent time working together at the Senior Bowl.

“We spent a good amount of time together,” said McDermott. “We were on the same team and practiced together every day, watched film together in meetings. He’s just a great guy. I’m happy for him and excited to work together.”

Needless to say, he sounds like a great fit and another great addition to the defending champs.

Patriots Add 17 Undrafted Free Agents – One part of the offseason that has become more of a focus in recent years has been keeping an eye on undrafted free agents, which has been fun to watch thanks to the players who have emerged from those ranks over the years for the Patriots.

New England loaded up with 17 undrafted players, although there may be changes still yet to come prior to when camp opens in a couple of months due to the roster shuffling that will likely take place between now and then.

One interesting story is the fact New England added a pair of twin brothers to the mix in Cody Hollister (WR, Arkansas) and Jacob Hollister (TE, Wyoming), which will likely be a fun story to follow later this summer as the two were recently profiled by FoxSports.com.

I was such a cute baby (on the right haha)

A post shared by Cody Hollister (@codyhollister) on

According to published reports, here is a list of the other additions from this weekend:

  1. LeShun Daniels Jr. (RB, Iowa)
  2. Jason King (OL, Perdue)
  3. Harvey Langi (LB, Brigham Young)
  4. Josh Augusta (OT, Missouri)
  5. Corey Vereen (DE, Tennessee)
  6. Austin Carr (WR, Northwestern)
  7. Dwayne Thomas (CB, LSU)
  8. Kenny Moore (CB, Valdosta State)
  9. Max Rich (OT, Harvard)
  10. David Jones (S, Richmond)
  11. Damarius Travis (S, Minnesota)
  12. Adam Butler (DL, Vanderbilt)
  13. D.J. Killings (CB, Central Florida)
  14. Cole Croston (OT, Iowa)
  15. Jason Thompson (S, Utah)

As for who will be the next Malcolm Butler (2014), David Andrews (2015) or Ryan Allen (2013), among plenty of other past standouts, that remains to be seen.  But if history is any indication, it will certainly be an area to keep an eye on during training camp to see if any one of these players ends up being this year’s surprise heading into this season.


Kirk Minihane of WEEI called Edelman “Essentially Brain Dead” Friday.

WEEI’s Minihane: Edelman a “Dummy” and “Essentially Brain Dead”, Brady’s Charity “Shady” – If you listened to WEEI on Friday, Kirk Minihane of “Kirk and Callahan” dropped some disturbing comments about Julian Edelman along with questionable remarks toward quarterback Tom Brady.

The topic of discussion came about surrounding the fact Brady and Edelman are taking part in an upcoming “Wealth and Success Summit” on June 8th in Boston with motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

While Minihane and Callahan disagreed with the two players being part of the event, Minihane went over the top with his criticism and had choice words in particular for Edelman.

“What I would say is, again, it gives you an insight into how empty Brady is,” said Minihane of the fact the quarterback is appearing at the event.

“He’s not empty, just because he has different priorities than you…” responded Callahan.

“If you think Tony Robbins, that crap he’s peddling is real, you are as dumb as the day is long,” said Minihane to Callahan.  “That’s what I would say.”

From there they played a clip from one of Robbins’ appearances, and that only infuriated Minhane further, which sparked one of his usual rants.

“I mean, really, and Brady will be sitting there with his notebook taking notes while this idiot [referring to Robbins] talks and slings his crap,” said Minihane.

“Julian Edelman, who is essentially brain-dead,” Minihane continued, “really is going to sit there and … ”

“Julian Edelman?” responded Callahan.  “You’re going to pay $6000 to hear Julian Edelman? …”

“Talk?” barked Minihane.  “I don’t want to listen to him talk here at the station for free every week.”

If you listen to Minihane with any regularity, you’ll notice a pattern of ripping someone, and then coming back with “I like that person … “.  He took same approach with Brady as the segment continued.

“So Brady has only so much time, according to Gerry [Callahan], for Best Buddies but he can take a day with Anthony Robbins, a full day, right?  O.K., just want to get that straight,” said Minihane.

“This is frightening, this seriously creeps me out.  I like Brady, he’s a nice guy, our interactions with him, he’s always been a good guy with us.  I know he does a lot of charity work.  I like the guy.  I’m actually worried about him.  I want to go there, I’ll pay the $6000, I’m going to throw a net over Brady and bring him somewhere and try and bring him back to reality because his mind has snapped.  It’s snapped, he’s snapped.”

“This is so below Brady.  This is so minor league.  This is Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback ever, the greatest football player who ever lived, a king in this town, he’s married to Gisele [Bundchen], the two of them are worth about $600 million and he’s going to schlepp to some hotel with Anthony Robbins and that dummy, Edelman?  For this talk?  Am I the only one who thinks this is utter madness?  Evidently.”

Speaking about Minihane’s praise for Brady’s charity work, he was singing a different tune earlier in the week.  Minihane went after the quarterback following the Globe (a newspaper he’s openly admitted he can’t stand and has a strong dislike for editor Joe Sullivan) releasing the piece about Brady’s charity, Best Buddies, last weekend, questioning where the money was being allocated.  Minihane surprisingly took the newspaper’s side and claimed Brady and the charity weren’t being transparent.


Minihane accused Brady of not being transparent with his charity last week using the word “shady.”

“So a charity that never disclosed it, gives $500,000 a year for his charity and what Brady does with it is things like, $250,000, if you donate to Best Buddies, there’s a chance that money is going to his high school in San Mateo, they get $250,000,” said Minihane.  “If you give Best Buddies $100, if you’re a guy making $35,000 a year, you give Best Buddies $100 because you love Brady, just know, there’s a chance it’s going to Santa Monica Catholic Community, or the TB12 Foundation, a charity formed by Brady in 2015 to support clients of his Foxboro-based TB12 Fitness and Nutrition company.  That’s in the world of shady to me right there.  I’ll say it.”

“Ohio State University, $50,000, in honor of Ed Razek, that’s where your money may be going, a former Victoria Secret executive who is said to have helped launch Brady’s romance with Gisele, in 2006.  $50,000 Michigan, obviously Dana Farber, Mission of Hope Haiti, Navy Seal Foundation, a charity for Tom Martinez, Brady’s coach who died five years ago. $30,000 went to a nursing facility in Minnesota that cared for Brady’s grandfather before he died in 2016.”

He then argued with Mut Mutnanski about if giving to the nursing facility was a good cause (again, Brady’s grandfather was cared for there which obviously holds a special place in the heart of the quarterback) and proceeded to argue with Mutnanski about whether or not Brady’s own foundation was also good cause.

“You think the TB12 Foundation is a good cause?” barked Minihane.  “Based on what?”

From there, Minihane claimed Brady and Best Buddies weren’t being transparent about where the money was going, which Mutnanski tried in vain to explain to him that the information is there if Minihane just “does the work” and looks for it, which it is.  Co-host Gerry Callahan also tried to reason with him, but failed as well.

Minihane, who joined the show a few years ago and has injected some life back into WEEI’s morning show, has played an important part in the station taking back the lead in the ratings over 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich.  But some of his bizarre rants seemingly are said (one can only hope) without him really thinking them through and certainly must test the incredible patience shown by his co-host, along with the two terrific producers WEEI has for that show in Chris Curtis and Ken Laird.

Brady and Edelman both appear weekly on the radio station during the regular season, with Brady being the only one of the two who conducts a weekly interview with Kirk & Callahan’s show every Monday during the season.  Edelman usually appears in the afternoon with Ordway, Merloni and Fauria and since WEEI owns the rights to Patriots Monday, that’s the primary reason why those two players appear on there each week.

Needless to say it would be great if Minihane could tone it down and stick to the things he does really well, like interviews like these, instead of these rants that likely wouldn’t be received positively with either player if they were made aware of them.

It’s been a rough road for Minihane, who has faced multiple suspensions over the years and last season cost the station weekly interviews with Mike Lombardi and has alienated others.  One would believe that costing the station a weekly interview with a player like Brady – or Edelman for that matter – likely wouldn’t be something that would go over too well with the station.

Brady’s said in the past he’s a very positive person and tries to avoid negative situations.  Despite that, it’s safe to say the veteran quarterback wouldn’t be feeling overly positive about Minihane’s comments.  Knowing Minihane, who already predicted Brady’s impending demise two seasons ago, there will most likely be more to come.

New England Patriots News 4-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 30, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-30, & AFC East Notes.

Not that anyone really cares but on Saturday, Deflategate actually ended. The Patriots had to cede their 4th round draft pick. But if the NFL’s arbitrary enforcement of an equipment violation’s intent was to punish New England, think about this. During the timeline of Deflategate, New England was 31-7 with two Super Bowl wins…. Back to the drawing board guys.

With the draft complete, the Patriots were so deep at so many positions, they drafted only OL and DL. That is a good problem to have.

We mentioned this before here, but nobody does a better job of evaluating talent than the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Between his work on the Combine and then the Draft, he’s head and shoulders above everyone else. I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t try to bring him on board a franchise soon as a talent evaluator.

Draft Had the Future in Mind: The Patriots added some depth and potential impact players in the 2017 NFL Draft but this seemed to be a draft with the focus clearly on 2018 and beyond. While players such as top pick Derek Rivers will be looked at to contribute this season, he and OT Antonio Garcia were selected clearly with the future in mind. Deatrich Wise will be looked to be a sub-package player initially.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. With a roster as loaded as New England’s is and fresh off another Super Bowl victory, there aren’t a ton of open starting positions available. And they used some of their draft capital on free agent player, which will segue right into this…

Belichick, Patriots Go for Known Commodity, Value over Draft Picks:
We’ve repeated this time and again but it bears repeating. While many fans and some of the talking heads in the media lament the lack of draft picks for the Patriots, Bill Belichick doesn’t

“Obviously, we’ve been watching a lot of picks go by, but I feel like overall our opportunity in this draft started a couple of months ago, Belichick said.

“The four players that we acquired already are also part of the draft process, Belichick added.”

“Hopefully we’ve been able to improve our team, become more competitive. That’s the ultimate goal, he said.”

One needn’t have to read the tea leaves to see that Belichick considers the players traded for draft picks in free agency as draft capital. So, he deems Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy as the team’s first and second-round picks. Dwayne Allen as a fourth rounder and Mike Gillislee as a fifth-round pick.

In trading for established pro players, Belichick has a known commodity in making the deals. Cooks, for example, has been a very productive receiver in the NFL and there’s no reason to believe that at just 23 years old, he won’t continue to grow as a player.

The draft is a crap shoot because no one really knows how a player will turn out once he turns professional. How many “can’t miss” prospects end up busting? It is an inexact science, something Belichick has said numerous times. They know Cooks, Ealy, Allen, and Gillislee can produce in the NFL because they already have. Albeit, some at different levels than the others but with Belichick, he will place these players in a position to succeed, knowing that they are professionals already.

Now take a second look at the Patriots ‘draft’ haul and it looks much different.
1st Round – Brandon Cooks, WR, Trade with New Orleans
2nd Round – Kony Ealy, DE, Trade with Carolina
3rd Round – Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
3rd Round – Antonio Garcia, T, Troy
4th Round – Dwayne Allen, TE, Trade with Indy
4th Round – Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
5th Round – Mike Gillislee, RB, RFA Buffalo
5th Round – James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Trade KC
6th Round – Connor McDermott T, UCLA

Now courtesy of another lookover of the haul and it seems like a much deeper draft class, doesn’t it?

Garoppolo and Butler Stay Put, Despite All the Trade Rumors:
After much talk dedicated to the “what if” category of New England trading QB Jimmy Garoppolo and CB Malcolm Butler this offseason, both remain here and likely will for at least the 2014 season.

There were rumors that the Patriots rebuffed a Cleveland Browns trade offer on Thursday night. Whether the Browns didn’t offer enough compensation or not remains unseen but supposedly New England told the Browns that Garoppolo was not up for grabs.

Cleveland eventually took a QB in the draft, DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame with the 52nd pick, so that should put the Jimmy G. rumors to rest now.

Butler too was subject to many trade rumors to New Orleans. Although the Saints said they were impressed with him, they didn’t swing a deal for him since they would have had to give the Patriots compensation of a first-round pick and then some and subsequently signed him to a long-term contract.

Both remain on the roster and should remain there for at least the 2017 season. With no CB taken, Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and Eric Rowe seem to be the top three CBs in the rotation. Butler may see some time in the slot depending on the matchups. Cyrus Jones is in the mix too.

Rivers on Meeting Belichick on Pre-Draft Meeting, “It was Awesome”:
Top Patriots draft pick Derek Rivers

“It was awesome, man,” Rivers said to the media via conference call. “I mean, we talked ball. I love coach Belichick. I love everything he is and what he stands for and how he coaches his demeanor. I mean, he’s an awesome dude. I could learn a lot from him.”

“Man, it’s awesome,” he said when asked about coming to New England. “I’m super excited. I mean, there’s just so much I can learn from those guys that were there, as far as just the commitment that those guys have, the type of coaching that’s in that locker room.”

“I’m just ready to learn from those guys and get better with those guys.”

UDFA Signings By the Patriots:
As soon as the draft was complete, the undrafted players immediately began getting interest from teams. The Patriots have already either signed or are bringing in several players on a tryout basis. Those already linked to New England include:
DT Josh Augusta, Missouri
LB Harvey Langi, BYU
WR Austin Carr, Northwestern
S Jason Thompson, Utah
G Jason King, Purdue
TE Jacob Hollister, Wyoming
CB Kenny Moore, Valdosta State
DE Corey Vereen, Tennessee
S David Jones, Richmond
DT Adam Butler, Vanderbilt
RB Leshun Daniels Jr., Iowa
OT Cole Croston, Iowa
OT Max Rich, Harvard
S Damarius Travis, Minnesota
CB D.J. Killings, Central Florida
DE Adam Butler, Vanderbilt

There will be plenty of comings and goings on this list, so stay tuned…

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Address Needs and Move up and Down the Board:
The Buffalo Bills had needs at CB, and WR with the loss of Stephon Gilmore and Robert Woods. Their first two picks in the draft definitely met those.

LSU CB Tre’Davious White is a perfect fit for the Bills zone defense and he’s considered a solid locker room presence as well as a player. He will compete for an immediate role as a starter.

Zay Jones, the WR from East Carolina gives Buffalo a solid #2 WR that will provide the receptions to move the chains. He was an incredibly productive receiver with 399 career receptions in college.

I loved the pick of BC LB Matt Milano, who flies all over the field and will play special teams. But moving up for RT Dion Dawkins? Seemed like a reach and there wasn’t really a need to move up. Time will tell. The pick of QB Nathan Peterman from Pittsburgh was another nice move. He’ll push Cardale Jones for a roster spot.

Miami Grabs Nice Edge Rusher in Harris:
The Miami Dolphins first pick in the draft was Missouri DE Charles Harris, who we really liked in the pre-draft process. He fits an obvious need and should fit right in with the Dolphins defense.

Another excellent pick in Round 2 was Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillian. He filled a position of need at ILB where the team will eventually decide to replace Koa Misi. He’s solid, and an excellent player against the run.

Round 3 CB Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson gives them the length they needed at the position. He should compete for reps on Day 1. Isaac Assiata was another good pick. The OL was a place the Dolphins needed to upgrade and he’s a good choice. An excellent run blocker, he’ll need to work on his pass protection. A very good draft for the Dolphins.

Jets Snag Two Safeties Early:
The New York Jets double-dipped at the safety position with two good selections who fell right into their lap at the #6 and #39 positions respectively with Jamal Adams from LSU and Marcus Maye from Florida. The Jets had an obvious need there and those two should step right in and compete.

They then double-dipped at WR with Ar’Darrius Stewart and Chad Hansen but their sleeper pick is Jordan Leggett, TE from Clemson who has the tools to be a very good one in the NFL. But the biggest question still isn’t answered. Who is going to be the QB?

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

 

Patriots Make Trades, Select DE and OT Friday Night

Ian Logue
April 28, 2017 at 11:34 pm ET

It was quite a wait for anyone watching Friday night’s coverage of Rounds Two and Three of the 2017 NFL Draft, with fans in New England forced to wait a little longer after Bill Belichick did Belicick-like things on draft night.

The Patriots didn’t have a second round pick and just as it seemed the they were poised to make their first selection of the night, Belichick traded out of the 72nd overall spot with Tennessee, shipping off a 6th-round pick along with their selection while picking up a 4th-round pick.  They essentially moved back 11 spots with the trade with the Titans, who selected Western Kentucky receiver Tawaun Taylor with New England’s #72 pick.

When the Patriots did finally get back on the clock at 10:25pm ET Friday night, former Patriot Andre Tippett came out and announced the selection, with New England going with Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers with their first pick of 2017.  Prior to the selection, Mike Reiss predicted a “line of scrimmage” pick, and Rivers certainly looks like one who will make some noise up front.

Here’s a look at Tippet announcing Rivers’ selection:

Rivers finished with 16 sacks in 2016, which was second most in the nation for the 6’4″, 248-pound player.

Overall, Rivers is a solid addition and another young player who should hopefully develop well along with fellow Patriot, Trey Flowers.  He was also just named 2017 Youngstown Scholar-Athletes of the Year Thursday Night along with track and field standout Jaynee Corbett.

The Patriots then traded up with the Lions from the #96 overall spot to #85 and grabbed offensive tackle Antonio Garcia out of Troy.


Garcia adds talent to New England’s offensive line.

In Garcia, New England added a key player to their offensive line, filling a need at the tackle position after the team released Sebastian Vollmer last month following an incredible tenure by Vollmer with the club. The 6’6″, 302 pound tackle finished his career having played in 44 games over his collegiate career, including 13 in his final season in 2016.

His former school Tweeted out the fact that the rookie is the highest pick ever drafted out of his university.

His school also pointed out that after 900 snaps, he never gave up a sack.

It appears to be a great move by the Patriots who obviously wanted him, giving up their 96th and 124th overall selection in the move.

Garcia said back in March that he was looking forward to the draft, and he was excited for the next step.

“You hear some of everything from everybody,” Garcia said of the whispers of potential teams via USA TODAY. “Anything can happen on draft day, so I’m just taking it one day at a time and just making sure I’m in shape.”

And now he’s a Patriot.

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.