Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 2-25, & AFC East Notes
During our weekly PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th and 2” this week, we took one last look at the curious benching of Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl. The reaction to that, as one would imagine was decidedly mixed. Some listeners took our host Russ Goldman to task for, lack of a better term, beating a dead horse.
We probably never will get the entire story, and as different players speak it gets more confusing. Devin McCourty said, the players knew all week that he wouldn’t start, but not play at all? And then Alan Branch reiterated that none of the players knew Butler was going to be benched. Anyway, thanks as always for the feedback, We’re on the NFL Combine.
Good Move By the Patriots to Bring Back Bolden:
One of our favorite guys to hear during the season is Brandon Bolden. While Bolden isn’t even close to being a starter on offense, he is and always has been an outstanding STs contributor as well as the occasional contributor with the offense, albeit with the games well in hand. But it doesn’t matter.
Brandon Bolden after practice in Foxboro in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)
We sometimes forget these players are people too and Bolden is one of the outstanding ones. Always upbeat and positive, he’s a great, funny interview, as he had the media laughing last training camp in the rain when discussing his new baby girl.
Bolden got paid a very modest $800,000 with $170,000 in guarantees. Nonsensical reporting by foolish hot take artists aside, it was money well-spent. Bolden is a great locker room guy and a core ST’s player. And we’re glad to hear he’s coming back.
Second-Year Development By Hollister Could be Key For 2018:
There is a lot of uncertainty with the Patriots tight end position heading into 2018. Rob Gronkowski is contemplating retirement and heading off into the sunset with the WWE. Martellus Bennett was also considering retirement but now has said he’d like to return for the 2018 season. And last season’s primary backup, Dwayne Allen is slated to return but for the tidy sum of $5,000,000 in 2018.
The team wants Gronkowski back but will have to make decisions on both Bennett and Allen where the cap figures will no doubt play a key factor in whether or not they return. The team has Will Tye on the practice squad, but an under-the-radar player is TE Jacob Hollister.
Hollister made the team out of camp from Wyoming and although he played sparingly, he turned some heads in his limited body of work with the ability to attack the seams and hold onto the ball while taking some big hits.
The 6’4, 240-pound Hollister, caught five passes last year, four in the regular season and one in the playoffs and is more of a Move-TE and not the traditional end of the line tight end. His blocking will have to improve next season. But with a full year under his belt in the system and learning from the best with Gronkowski, he could see an uptick in snaps and production this season. He’s one of the guys we’ll be keeping an eye on this spring.
TE Jacob Hollister could be an under-the-radar guy in the team’s plans in 2018. (SBalestrieri photo)
Harris Retirement, Not Unexpected But Frees Up Another Slot At LB:
We saw that David Harris announced his retirement after 11 NFL season today (Friday) and it isn’t unexpected. Harris had lost a step and played very little over the course of the season and into the playoffs and the Patriots were expected to cut their ties to him before the March 1st deadline. His retirement saves the team about $1.65 million in salary cap space.
With James Harrison and Marquis Flowers free agents this spring it leaves the team (for now) with only three linebackers who were on the roster at the end of the year. Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and special teamer Nicholas Grisby. Dont’a Hightower and Shea McClellin, and top draft choice Derek Rivers ended the year on IR and Harvey Langi was placed on NFI due to a car accident.
We made our case for possibly pursuing Eagles free agent Nigel Bradham this spring. While not the outside linebacker that everyone is clamoring for, it would solidify the middle and allow those returning players and Van Noy to move between the OLB/DE spot on the edge.
Although he played a much smaller role on the field than envisioned, the Patriots praised his veteran presence and savvy and he was valuable in giving advice to the younger players on the roster. One of them, Van Noy, took to Twitter when Harris announced his retirement, calling for the Jets to put him in the Ring of Honor.
Will the Patriots to Pick Up 5th Year of Brown Contract?
Mike Reiss of ESPN wrote an interesting piece on former 1st round draft pick Malcom Brown this week on the benefits for the team to pick up the fifth-year option for Brown, which for the first-round draft picks in the collective bargaining agreement is allowed. If the Patriots decide to do that, which would put Brown under their control for the next two years, it would also be fully guaranteed due to injury.
For Brown, who is due $1.472 million dollars in 2018 it wouldn’t be a long-term deal but would certainly be a nice payday increase. In selecting the fifth-year option, the Pats would have to pay him (32nd overall pick in 2015), an average of the 3rd through 25th highest salaries at the position. That would play out to around $7 million. It would be a nice raise for the player and guaranteed to keep Brown on the roster thru 2019.
Bennett Wants to Play in 2018 After All:
When Martellus Bennett was being released by the Packers, he stated he was probably going to have surgery on his ailing shoulder and then retire. But after coming back to the Patriots he seemed to have changed his tune. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that :
“Despite publicly contemplating retirement last season, #Patriots TE Martellus Bennett does want to continue playing, I’m told. He’s due a $2M roster bonus on March 14, so New England has a decision… but his $6.2M cap hit isn’t bad.”
While the team may opt for Bennett to return in 2018, it probably will not be for the $6.2 million dollar cap hit that the team didn’t want to pay in 2017. He’s due a $2 million dollar roster bonus on March 14. If the team decides to cut him, they’d save $5.7 million from the salary cap.
The Patriots are going to probably push Rob Gronkowski for a decision during this time frame as their decision on Bennett may ultimately ride on whether Gronk decides to retire or return. Stay tuned.
TE Martellus Bennett hauls a Brady pass in. (SBalestrieri photo)
Patriots Receive 4th Round Compensatory Pick in the NFL Draft:
The NFL released the compensatory picks for the 2018 NFL Draft this season and the Patriots added a pick in the 4th round (#136). For the first time this season, compensatory picks are allowed to be traded.
The Patriots losses in free agency (Logan Ryan, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Jabaal Sheard, and Barkevious Mingo) were offset by the free agent signings (Stephon Gilmore, Rex Burkhead, and Lawrence Guy) and they ended up with the 4th round selection this year.
With the added selection, it brings their total draft picks to just six this season.
#31 (round 1)
#41 or 43 (round 2) depending on the coin flip
#63 (round 2)
#95 (round 3)
#136 (round 4)
#205 (round 6)
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Incognito Threatened By Former Teammate Martin:
Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito was threatened in a bizarre Instagram post by former Dolphins’ 2nd round draft pick Jonathan Martin along with Miami center Maurkice Pouncey as well as Martin’s high school.
His Instagram account posted a picture of a shotgun and shell casings spread around with words that read: “when you’re a bully victim and a coward, your options are suicide or revenge.” Superimposed were the Twitter addresses of Pouncey, Incognito, and the High School.
Pouncey and Incognito were accused by Martin of bullying him while a member of the Dolphins. Incognito sat out the 2014 season for it but then signed with Buffalo in 2015 and has since moved on successfully.
Shortly after the message was posted, the police were called to Martin’s home and took him for questioning. The high school in question was closed for the day on Friday over the incident. ESPN Sports Center reported early on Saturday morning that Martin was being held in a mental health facility undergoing an evaluation.
Dolphins Tag Landry, and Have Davis Back for a Visit:
The Miami Dolphins have designated wide receiver Jarvis Landry with their non-exclusive franchise tag which means, for the time being, he remains a Dolphin while they try to either work out a long-term deal or trade him.
The current salary for wide receivers getting the franchise tag this offseason is expected to be around $16.2 million, which is a nice raise for Landry, who made $894,000 last season. Because it is non-exclusive, Landry is free to sign an offer sheet with another team where the Dolphins have the right to match. That is now nearly moot. If the Dolphins refused to match, the other team would owe Miami two 1st round draft picks.
The Dolphins also had former 1st round draft pick Vontae Davis in for a free agent visit on Friday. Davis was drafted in 2009 before being traded in 2012. And he’s at least open to returning to the Dolphins if they can agree to a salary cap number that isn’t too exorbitant
Jets Expected to Release Wilkerson Before Deal Becomes Finalized:
The New York Jets once formidable run defense took a big step backward in 2017. They allowed the most yards rushing, 1887, on the ground since 2012. Their yards after contact allowed (951) was 29th in the league.
Part of the reason was the play and tackling of the defensive line. One of those players Muhammad Wilkerson is expected to be released when the league season opens in March. Wilkerson is due $16.8 million in salary on March 16 when it becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster. They will save $11 million in cap room if they release him.
They could save $17 million by designating him a post-June 1st cut but then they’d have to carry his almost $20 million in cap charges. Kony Ealy is also a free agent although he’s expected back with the Jets next season.
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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.