Tag Archives: free agency

Veldheer Could be the Patriots’ First of a Secondary Slate of FA Signings

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

At the stroke of midnight, all remaining free agents will no longer count against the compensatory pick formula for the 2020 season. So one can expect a minor flurry of free agent signings to occur.

The Patriots are reportedly going to sign OT Jared Veldheer according to the NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The one-year deal is said to be worth up to $6.5 million dollars and will add the needed depth the Patriots lack at the tackle position.

The 6-foot-8, 321-pound Veldheer who turns 32 in June has played in 118 career games with 113 starts. His nine-year career has been spent with the Oakland Raiders (2010-13), Arizona Cardinals (2014-17) and Denver Broncos (2018). He brings along a ton of versatility as well; Veldheer can play either tackle position, center or guard.

After losing LT Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle in free agency, the team is expected to get back last year’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn who missed the season due to injury as well as this year’s draft pick Yodny Cajuste. Marcus Cannon remains at right tackle. With the tackle position now seemingly in good shape entering OTAs, where else would the Patriots like to shore up their depth in free agency?

Defensive Tackle:

There are a couple of names still out there that could be intriguing to the team, depending on the amount of money that they’re looking for.

Allen Bailey – Bailey is an eight-year veteran with the Chiefs and was a defensive end in their 3-4 defense. With the Patriots he could bring that inside/outside versatility that Bill Belichick likes where he can play on the edge or kick inside as an interior pass rusher.

Bailey, 30, is listed at 6’3, 288 but was up to as much as 300 pounds at times last season according to media reports. With the Chiefs last year, he posted a career high 6.0 sacks along with 38 tackles and 2 forced fumbles.

Corey Liuget – Liuget spent the first eight years of his career with the Chargers and has been a very solid player. He missed the first four games of the 2018 season with a PED suspension. And only played in six games during the season after tearing a quariceps during a game against Denver in November. He was limited to just 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In case anyone was keeping score at home former Patriots Ricky Jean-Francois, Danny Shelton and Dominque Easley are still available as well. But the biggest name out there is DT Ndamukong Suh. I just don’t think the Patriots are interested in Suh, despite his talent. He doesn’t seem like a Belichick-type player.He’s never played for less than $10 million APY according to SI, so he won’t come cheap. But never say never.

Tight End:

The Patriots have Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt Lacosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Jakob Johnson and the recently signed UDFA Andrew Beck on the roster. Potential trade candidates are Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings and the Bucs Cameron Brate if they cut their ties with him.

Ben Watson – The aging but still viable 38-year old retired in January but after the birth of his twins recently has said that he’d like to return to the NFL for one last season. Watson began his career with the Patriots as a first round draft pick in the 2004 season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes Watson may end up his career back in Foxboro.

Other free agents include Lance Kendrick and Jermaine Gresham.

Wide Receiver:

The Patriots aren’t as needy depth wise after drafting N’Keal Harry in the 1st round and signing three UDFAs but adding another veteran wide receiver may not be the worst decision they ever make.

Michael Crabtree – Crabtree is being linked to the Packers by CBS Sports so we’ll have to see how this development plays out. However, Crabtree had decent production with a Ravens team that wasn’t great at throwing the football in 2018.

Crabtree caught 54 passes for 607 yards 3 TDs with Baltimore and has been very durable, missing just two games total in the past five years.

Other notable players include Pierre Garcon, Seth Roberts, Jermaine Kearse, and Rishard Matthews.

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Austin Seferian-Jenkins Signed, Increases Depth at TE

Steve Balestrieri
April 11, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots on Wednesday signed veteran tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to a very team-friendly one-year contract that increases their depth at the tight end position. The news was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN.

Jenkins has very good size at 6’6, 262 and is only 26 years old. However, he’s had trouble staying on the field. In 2018, he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and played in only five games before a pair of hernias ended his season early. In 2017, he caught 50 passes with the Jets. A

The deal with the Patriots is a very low risk and a possible very high return. Seferian-Jenkins signed for the veteran minimum andincludes a $50,000 signing bonus, with an additional $40,000 in future bonuses.

Seferian-Jenkins was considered an athletic freak when he entered the NFL but has been unable to stay healthy. But with a minimum contract and little in bonus money, he is betting on himself to have a good year working with Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels and can cash in next season at the age of 27.

While he doesn’t possess the kind of speed to threaten the seams like Rob Gronkowski, he can (when healthy) find open spots on the field and find a way to get open. He’s not a replacement for Gronk, that just isn’t fair to Seferian-Jenkins to even suggest it. Nobody is. He can, however, become a productive member of the Patriots passing game.

Something to keep in mind when talking about Jenkins is that he hasn’t exactly played with an elite quarterback. Take a look at the QBs he’s caught passes from… Blake Bortles, Josh McCown, and Jameis Winston. There is no reason to not believe that he should be much more productive working with Tom Brady.

But is he going to be the Patriots #1 tight end? No, but the Patriots just picked up a possibly very productive #2 with several other players vying for the #3 spot on the roster. The #1 tight end for the team is still to come via the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.

He just increased the depth at the position and will be given every chance to carve out a very big role in this offense. The risk/reward pendulum, due to his contract is tilted firmly in the Patriots side.

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New England Patriots News 3-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 24, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-24 and AFC East Notes.
Spring to a backseat to a snowstorm that hit the area on Saturday…A sight no one was happy to see except maybe the ski slopes still operating in the area.

We’ll begin our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team on Monday. Also, we’re doing a special Patriots 4th and 2 podcast early this week on some of the potential fits for the team in the draft. Be sure to check for that.  

ICYMI: Our first Mock Draft 1.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: You can expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, moving around the board due to having 12 draft picks and half of them in the first 101 picks.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick was in Hollywood with Linda Holliday and as the pair came out from dinner and were awaiting their car from the valet, the paparazzi descended on Bill in force. While Ms. Holliday was gracious with some of the questions, Bill in a quintessential Belichick performance didn’t say a word to the ridiculous, inane questions thrown at him by the clueless TMZ staff. Listening to those questions, undoubtedly made Bill homesick for a press conference in the Gillette media workroom….ok maybe that is a stretch. So how was your week, Bill?

Stephon Gilmore freed up $5.67 million dollars of cap space by converting $8.5 million dollars of his contract into a signing bonus, which was reported by Field Yates of ESPN. That move gives the Patriots some much-needed space and comes just at the right time as the team is supposedly in negotiations with kicker Stephen Gostkowski on a new contract.

Do you think Tom Brady is slow? Maybe on the football field, but watching Brady zip down the ski slopes in the Rockies faster than we can drive any morning on the Mass Pike was a bit disconcerting to watch…can’t imagine the team was thrilled to see that. While we’re all waiting on news of an extension for the Pats QB, he won’t sign anything until he gets back from vacation.

Ryan Allen has re-signed with the team and is coming back on a one-year deal. The veteran of six NFL seasons was just 20th in the NFL a year ago with a 45.1-average. However, Allen’s value lies in his directional punting and the ability to pin teams back inside their 20-yard line. In the Super Bowl against the Rams, he did so three times and could have been a candidate for the MVP of the game.

Malcolm Mitchell in his only NFL season

Malcolm Mitchell Forced to Call it a Career

Former Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell had to finally come to the realization that his chronic knee woes won’t let him continue his fledgling NFL career and it was over just as it getting ready to take off. Mitchell had close to 10 surgeries on his knees between college and the NFL.

The Patriots knew his injury history when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie and only season in the league. But the vast majority came in the second half of the season.

In Super Bowl LI, during the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, Mitchell caught five passes for 63 in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots tie and then beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

But another knee injury forced him to miss all of the 2017 season. When his knee didn’t respond to treatment, the Patriots released him in 2018. In January, he said he wanted to continue his football career, but sadly it was not to be. At an event at Georgia, he announced he was done with football.

After struggling with reading, he joined a women’s book club and later became an author of his own children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat”. He created the children’s literacy program, “Read with Malcolm” as well as the “Share the Magic Foundation.” Although his NFL career was painfully short, he is making a lasting impact off the field. And he’ll always have SB LI.

Expect the Patriots to Make a Tackle Selection Early in the Draft:

With the free agency losses of both Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, the tackle position on the Patriots offensive line has gotten much thinner. And with last year’s top draft choice, Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall selection) coming off of an Achilles injury, it makes things even more uncertain. That’s why we expect the Patriots to make a tackle selection early in the upcoming draft.

If Wynn is healthy and ready to go for the season, it would put he and veteran Marcus Cannon at the tackle positions. Wynn has yet to play a snap in the NFL and their backups are limited to practice squad player Cole Croston, Dan Skipper, and Ryker Matthews.

Even with the legendary Dante Scarnecchia coaching the offensive line, that leaves too much of an unknown factor in the mix. During our first mock draft, we had the Patriots taking Greg Little from Ole Miss as a tackle. He’s one of the best pass blockers in the draft and can play left or right tackle. He could be the swing tackle in 2019 and be prepared to take over for Cannon in the future if all works out well for Wynn.

Achilles injuries are different from everyone, Vince Wilfork told Mike Reiss that it took him a full year and a half before he felt right again.

Patriots Visible at Numerous Pro Day Workouts:

Bill Belichick was on hand at the recent Pro Day workouts in Alabama and Georgia getting an up-close look at several of the players who will hear their names called in the upcoming NFL Draft. Belichick, sporting an Alabama sweatshirt, no doubt courtesy of his buddy, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban seemed to be completely in his element.

Dante Scarnecchia, meanwhile, was working much closer to home, attending the workout for the Boston College players, who have several players who should be drafted next month. One player who was drawing interest from Scarnecchia is Eagles interior offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is from Dudley and parlayed an outstanding high school career at Shepherd Hill under the coaching tutelage of his father Chris who played in the NFL,  into being a four-year starter for the Eagles.

In just a month, the Patriots will begin voluntary workouts at Gillette Stadium.

Four Patriots Throw Support for Education Bill at the Statehouse:

Four of the Patriots, Devin McCourty, his brother Jason, Duron Harmon and Matthew Slater, all members of the advocacy group, the Players Coalition, testified on Friday in support of Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s education bill, the PROMISE Act.

The Players Coalition stated goal is to make an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education, and allocation of resources.

Chang-Diaz’s bill, one of several,  has been backed by teachers, parents, mayors and education advocates. And she got the blessing of four of the Patriots star players. The goal of the bill is to bridge the gap in education spending between richer and poorer communities.

“These young people have inspired us in our day-to-day lives. We know that they are the future of our region, our nation, and our world,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “And we are confident that if we give them everything, we could give them a million things.”

“We are prepared to battle for our children,” said Devin McCourty.

Patriots Still Waiting on a  Gronkowski Decision:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t decided whether to return for the 2019 NFL or to retire. Mike Giardi of the NFL Network said that several members of his family are worried about the long-term health of the big man, not just from the surgeries to his back, knee, and arm but also the blows to his head.

If Gronkowski does indeed retire, it would add nearly $10 million in salary cap space but also leave a tremendous hole at the tight end position. Regardless, the Patriots are expected to add the tight end position in the upcoming NFL draft where several intriguing options exist. They have to start grooming a potential successor even if he does return.

New TE Matt Lacosse was ecstatic after signing a two-year deal worth about $4.8 million last week. “It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “Great franchise, great players, great coaches. Just the history behind this franchise is unbelievable. Just to be here and to see all that happens here and to be a part of it is huge, it’s awesome.”

Lacosse will bring an immediate upgrade at the backup tight end position in the passing game as he should have little trouble passing Dwayne Allen’s 13 receptions in two years, including only 3 in 2018. However, Allen was one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Lacosse has a long way to go there.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Continue to Add Depth:

The Buffalo Bills added a trio of players this week, signing guard Jon Feliciano from the Raiders as well as tight end Jake Fisher and linebacker Maurice Alexander as they continue to build the depth of their roster.

Feliciano is an intriguing player. Stuck on the depth charter behind center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson in Oakland, he started just eight games in four years but appeared in every one. Known as a very physical player who has a mean streak he’ll immediately vie for starting reps.

Fisher was an offensive tackle who lost some weight and converted to tight end. The former 2nd round draft pick is on a one-year contract. He’ll be used as a blocking tight end or an extra offensive lineman. Alexander came over from the Seahawks where he was a reserve safety and special teams’ contributor. He’ll probably be the “big nickel” linebacker and STs for the Bills.

Dolphins Sign Fitzpatrick, Host Edge Rusher:

The Miami Dolphins solved the immediate need for a quarterback by signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, making Miami the third AFC East team he’s played for. He’ll be the bridge QB for the time being while the team searches for hopefully their franchise QB. Miami watched Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock at their respective Pro Days.

Another big need is at the edge. Cameron Wake is gone, Robert Quinn is rumored to be gone also very shortly, which leaves Miami with just Charles Harris. So, the Dolphins are bringing in TCU edge rusher L.J. Collier, who is a shorter, more compact player who was considered a late-round prospect. But a good week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl may have changed the Dolphins perspective on him.

Jets Need Help At Center, Wisniewski on the Radar:

The New York Jets have struggled to run the ball the past two seasons and have given up an inordinate amount of pressure up the A-gap because of poor play at the center position. Spencer Long had a nightmarish season and was cut loose. Many expected the Jets to target Matt Paradis from Denver or Mitch Morse of the Chiefs in free agency.

While the Jets are thought to be looking for a long-term solution during the draft, they are also thought to be looking at Stefan Wisniewski who spent the last three years with the Eagles. He’d be a stop-gap measure but regardless would bring an immediate upgrade in talent at the position.

With the Jets looking to make a big step in rebuilding the team with a young QB in Sam Darnold, they can’t have running for his life every week.

So, how was your week?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots Not Unexpectedly Bid Adieu to Flowers, Brown

Steve Balestrieri
March 12, 2019 at 7:55 am ET

The Patriot Way Giveth and Taketh Away

While not shocking at all, it was nevertheless a blow to the Patriots as they waved goodbye and good luck to starting left tackle Trent Brown, who after one year is moving back to the Bay Area after agreeing to a big money deal with the Oakland Raiders.

It was more difficult, however, to part with Trey Flowers, the Patriots best defensive player on their front seven for the past several years and a consummate pro who spoke softly but led by his example on the field.

There is no way that the Patriots were going to match either offer. Call Brown and Flowers victims of the “Patriot Way”, where the team will not become enamored with any particular player. They’ll place a value on each player and will rarely if ever go over that amount when it comes to compensation.

It is why year after year, we watch players who came to Foxboro leave for big money contracts, much more than they would have received here. And it is also why, most of the big name, high-dollar free agents don’t sign here. So, every spring Patriots fans gnash their teeth in frustration over “the big fish that got away.”

It is also why, because the team won’t overspend for free agents that Patriots fans are glued to their television sets in late January and February every season. Because of their fiscal responsibility, they’ve been able to compete every year. The Patriots have been in the AFC Championship Game nine years in a row and have been in four of the past five Super Bowls. That isn’t a fluke. The Patriots build a complete team of 53 players every year. Because they won’t overspend and get into a bidding war over individual players, they’re able to sustain their success over the long haul.

It is why March is usually not fun to be a Patriots fan but February can be glorious. Which would you rather have?

Brown came to the Patriots with plenty of questions a year ago. Nobody…but the coaches were sure that he could play left tackle. But he hooked up OL coach Dante Scarnecchia and he parlayed that into a terrific 2018 season. Now he’s rewarded with a four-year deal worth $66 million dollars with $36.75 million guaranteed. He’s now the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Take a bow Dante…you’ve done it again.

Flowers came to the Patriots in the 2015 NFL Draft in the 4th round with the 101st pick that year. But he impressed right from the start and even when the Patriots had him tucked away in the far left corner of the locker room when they expand for training camp, one could sense that he wasn’t going to be tucked away for long.  

Flowers cashed in and has agreed to a four-year deal that is reportedly paying him between $16-17 million per year with the Detroit Lions and will join former NE defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who also signed former Pats WR Danny Amendola as well.

The Tennessee Titans supposedly outbid the Patriots for the services of free agent wide receiver Adam Humphries to the tune of a four-year deal worth $36 million. Humphries is a guy we said on these pages would have been a great fit in the Patriots offense. But he opted for the bigger payday with the Titans. It is the nature of the beast.

With the contracts of NFL players largely not guaranteed with their career spans in many cases woefully short, one should never fault the players for taking care of their future. In Brown and Flowers’ cases, the money they got was far beyond what the Patriots were going to offer. Nobody is going to argue that. How many of us would turn down millions of dollars? Not many I’d bet.

So what’s next for the Pats? Free agency in reality hasn’t even begun yet, because the league with their ridiculous “legal tampering period” has deemed that none of the deals are binding until 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday when the league year officially begins.

So, with free agency beginning and the draft around the corner, the team will try to address these as well as other holes to fill. In Brown’s case, his replacement is already here. Isaiah Wynn was the Patriots top draft choice a year ago and he’ll team up with Scarnecchia and get to work on becoming the new left tackle. He tore an Achilles tendon in preseason last year, but is expected to be ready to go once training camp begins this summer.

Brown’s departure will also impact on how the Patriots may value swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who is also a free agent. A valuable, versatile, tough player, Waddle was re-signed a year ago but played little due to the offensive line remaining healthy in 2018. But now bringing him back makes a lot more sense. He can play on either side, is an established, solid veteran and now will be one of the team’s priorities.

Replacing Flowers is more problematic. His greatest gift was his versatility. He was very good at rushing from and setting the edge. But he really made hay by rushing from the interior when they’d slide him inside on passing downs. He was tailor-made for the Patriots defense and their style of playing.

The blow was lessened a bit by the trade for Michael Bennett who came over from the Philadelphia Eagles with a 7th round pick in 2020 for the Patriots fifth rounder next year. Bennett is more productive from a pure pass rusher perspective but will he be able to do all of the things Flowers was tasked? We’ll see. But at 33, while still very productive, his shelf life will probably be a year or two at the most here.

At least for now, Deatrich Wise will be looked at to provide more in terms of every down production. He played just under 60 percent of the snaps last year. The team also has Adrian Clayborn, Keionta Davis, Ufomba Kamalu, Trent Harris, and 2017 top draft choice Derek Rivers. Rivers tore his ACL in his rookie training camp and missed all of that year. Last year he came back but flashed very little. The 2019 season will be a very big year for him moving forward.

There are still some intriguing names in free agency in terms of pass rushing edge players including Justin Houston, Cameron Wake and Ezekiel Ansah. Although the prices for each of them may preclude any from coming to New England. The Patriots will no doubt be looking at the draft to find the next Flowers.

It is a fact of life, that when the team has success in February, others will try to poach your best players and coaches from your roster. It is the way of the league in March. And it is just beginning.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 2-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 24, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-24 and AFC East Notes. And as we’ve said before, the Patriots are many things, but boring is never one of them.

Kraft Opens Himself, and the Team Up For Unwanted Scrutiny:

Robert Kraft found himself in the center of a maelstrom on Friday morning as the Jupiter, Florida police busted a series of massage parlors that were tied to human trafficking. They had implanted surveillance cameras on the premises of each of those establishments and had 173 people on tape soliciting sex. About 200 people are to be charged and Kraft is one of them.

The Patriots immediately fired back with a release denying all charges and with the now very Patriot M.O. in the last line, “we will not be commenting further.”

Don’t worry, the rest of the NFL will, and have already done plenty of talking. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t matter if Kraft is guilty or not (as he claims), the old adage of “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t count much when the person charged is a celebrity, or in Kraft’s case, the owner of probably the most hated franchise in the NFL.

At a minimum, he was guilty of an extremely poor decision making by frequenting the establishment twice and once the video comes out on TMZ, because in this day and age the video always comes out, then there will be the devil to pay.

Kraft as the owner of the Patriots has not been a “behind the scenes” kind of guy. He’s always been upfront and very visible. He was instrumental in helping to end the player’s strike in 2011. He’s one of the most generous people in New England with his charities both here in the United States and in Israel. He lobbied hard for the release of rapper Meek Hill, and was seen with a championship gold and diamond chain that the rapper gave him as a gift after the Super Bowl. A life-long Democrat, he’s pals with President Trump and regularly golfs with him. And now, his reputation has taken a very big hit.

In the court of public opinion, he’s already guilty, and all of the social media feeding frenzy on his character has already begun. Some, such as the noted blowhard Bart Scott called for the NFL to take away all of the Patriots draft picks in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This time, the firestorm is placed right on Kraft’s doorstep and this isn’t going to be an easy time for the 77-year old owner, who has been one of the most popular people in New England. He’ll certainly face some kind of internal discipline from the NFL and Roger Goodell, regardless of whether he’s convicted or not. The NFL holds the owners to an even stricter conduct policy than the players.

It is coming and it isn’t going to be pretty. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past…”

Patriots Receive Four Compensatory Picks in the Draft:

As expected the Patriots received multiple compensatory picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. They received two third round picks, a sixth, and a seventh. Now the team has 12 selections in the draft, including six in the first 101. With this many picks, the team is in prime position to move up in the draft if there is a prospect that they’re looking for.

1:  #32 Own

2a: #56 via the Bears

2b: #64 Own

3a: #74 via the Lions

3b: #97 Comp pick (Nate Solder)

3c: #101 Comp pick (Malcolm Butler)

4:  #134 Own

6: #205 Comp Pick (Danny Amendola)

7a: #237 via Eagles

7b: #243 Josh Gordon trade

7c: #246 Own

7d: #252 Comp pick (Cameron Fleming)

Flowers Should Be Allowed to Set His Own Worth:

Earlier we wrote that Flowers should be considered one of the top priorities for the Patriots to resign in 2019. And we’re not changing that. However, Flowers plays in a position that is frequently overpaid in the NFL and if he begins to receive offers, such as Nate Solder and others got a year ago, the Patriots would be correct in walking away from the table and looking to replace him elsewhere.

Flowers, in our opinion here, is an invaluable piece of the Patriots defense. He can do multiple things, set the edge against the run, rush the passer and kick inside and be a good interior pass rusher. But is Flowers an “elite” pass rusher to the tune of being worth $12-14 million dollars a year?  The feeling here is that the Patriots would say no and allow him to bolt for greener pastures.

After him, the Patriots have Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Keionta Davis, and Derek Rivers. None have the versatility of Flowers. There are some intriguing edge rushers in the upcoming draft, and with a lot of draft capital, the Patriots could slide up and select one of them.

We’ll be watching how the rest of the league sets Flowers’ worth. He’ll probably give the Patriots the chance to match any offer on the table, but anything in that higher range will probably result in the team allowing him to walk.

Devin McCourty Returning in 2019:

In another bit of good news, Devin McCourty announced that he’ll be returning for his 10th season with the Patriots in 2019. McCourty’s steady hand on the back end of the defense, his leadership and his durability all contribute to how valuable he is to the Patriots defense.

If there is a downside to McCourty not retiring, it means that the Patriots will now have a difficult decision to make on McCourty’s contract, which pays him more than $9 million in base salary with a $13.4 million dollar cap hit in 2019.

He’s been a Patriots captain since 2011 and has missed only 5 games in his career. While the two sides will have to work out an agreement on the cap issue, it can be done and should be soon.  

Free Agency – Tight Ends That Could Be on NE’s Radar:

Rob Gronkowski is still sitting on the fence regarding retirement. Regardless of whether he decides to return for the 2019 season or not, the Patriots need to address the position this spring. Maybe in free agency or the draft, possibly both.

The Patriots currently have Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, who remains one of the best blocking TEs in the game but hasn’t been a factor at all in the passing game. For a player with a $7 million dollar salary cap hit, that far too much. They also have Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, and Stephen Anderson.

There are a couple of intriguing names in the draft and we’ll get to those players soon, but for now, who are the players that would fit in the Patriots scheme?

Jesse James – James was often the fifth option for the Steelers passing offense in a loaded offensive system. While not a dynamic receiving option, James has more potential than people are crediting him with, having 30 catches for 423 yards in 2018.

He’s a reliable good receiver with prototypical size, a tough, no-nonsense attitude and good blocker in the running game. In the Patriots “12” or “22” personnel, he’d immediately be a weapon that can be targeted, giving opposing defenses more options to worry about.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Jenkins had an outstanding 2017 with Jets catching 50 passes for 357 yards before moving on the Jaguars. He suffered two hernias and was placed on IR after just five games. He was due $4 million from Jacksonville but they decided to let him walk.

Jenkins is just 26 years old and has never really lived up to his high (2nd round) draft selection…sound familiar? The opportunity to play with Brady and the Patriots offense could be a powerful draw to bring him to New England.

Tyler Eifert – Eifert is easily the most talented TE on the list but has played the least due to injuries. He’s only suited up for 43 of a possible 96 games thus far in his NFL career. Eifert is another play with oodles of talent, was drafted in the 1st round but has only scratched the surface of his potential, catching 13 TDs from Andy Dalton in 2015.

But in the past three seasons, he’s played a total of 14 games. While the talent is obviously there, the Patriots may only offer a one-year, prove it type of deal. If they’re interested at all.

Charles Clay – Clay is a player that they’re very familiar with, playing him twice a year in the AFC East as he was a member of both the Bills and Dolphins. Clay had a very down year in 2018, playing in the moribund Bills offense and with a rookie QB.

The 30-year old has been a productive TE in the past, and it should be noted that Bill Belichick has always thought very highly of him. And we all know that Bill loves to bring in players that he respects.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills To Put Hughes on the Trade Block?

ESPN had an intriguing piece by Buffalo Bills beat writer Mike Rodak about whether the team may decide to trade edge player Jerry Hughes in 2019. Rodak wrote that Hughes, 30, is in the last year of his contract. Since being traded to the Bills from Indy, he’s played in all 96 games with 80 starts.

Hughes will turn 31 during training camp and is due $10.4 million against the salary cap this season. If they trade him now, they’ll save money against the cap, where they already have $79.4 million in cap space which would allow them to address one of the premier free agent pass rushers and get younger at the position.

The Bills already own the #9 pick in the draft, with added draft capital, they could decide to move up and make an effort to land one of the top names on the edge as well as sign a free agent.  

Flores, Graham Will Run More 3-4 Looks for the Dolphins Defense:

The Miami Dolphins have an entirely new coaching staff this season and many of their names will look familiar to Patriots fans. Brian Flores has hired Patrick Graham to be his defensive coordinator. The two spent seven years together as Patriots assistants, once sharing an office together. Now, they’re be building a defense in a manner that they both feel will fit their personnel.

“We want guys who are selfless, guys who are willing to work hard,” Graham said. “Aside from the character traits, you want guys who play with their hands and are heavy-handed. You want guys to play with good knee bend and good leverage, and you want guys who have good eye discipline.”

“In terms of the toughness, I want to have a way to measure the toughness. To me, you measure the toughness as a defensive player, and what we’re going to talk about to those guys is, ‘Can we stop the run, and can we stop the run when we know they’re going to run the ball?'”

While the Dolphins don’t have the personnel, yet to run more of 3-4 look which will help their ability to stop the run, it will take an overhaul, the coaches believe that is the correct way to go. They want a flexible, versatile defense that can change on the fly determined by who their opponent is…Sounds a lot like New England.

Gase Feels the Jets Can Turn Things Around Quickly:

The New York Jets new coach Adam Gase has a daunting task ahead of him, he’s inherited a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010, and has a fan base and media contingent hungry for a winner in New York that won’t be patient with him for very long. But he’s convinced that he and his staff can get things done.

Start with the fact that the team has a whopping $101 million dollars of salary cap space. The Jets can go after, and sign multiple big-name free agents this spring and still have flexibility under the salary cap.

But the most important piece, at quarterback, the Jets feel like they’ve finally found their franchise leader in Sam Darnold. Now they have the means to surround him with the talent he’ll need to succeed in the NFL.

“We have to find the right guys for us, the right fit, and make sure those guys want to be here,” Gase said during an interview this week with WFAN. “We have a lot of money right now, but at the same time there are going to be other teams pursuing certain guys and it’s not only going to be money. Guys want to know if this is the right place for me and do I fit into what they want.”

“We can improve quickly because we’re able to bring in players that have done it before. We’ve seen it in the NFL,” he said. There won’t be much of a grace period. He’ll be expected to win and be competitive right away.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Pittsburgh reactions to Dont’a Hightower visiting Steelers

John Morgan
March 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET

New England natives have strong opinions on Dont’a Hightower, with crucial plays from Super Bowls 49 and 51 etched in their memory. As the linebacker makes his free agency tour, how do western PA writers and fans view the potential of seeing Hightower wearing black and gold at Heinz Field?

 

Dont’a Hightower, Steelers to meet, according to report
Sean Gentille / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers, at some point, are going to have to replace Lawrence Timmons, and they’re reportedly setting their targets high. Like, “stealing a Pro Bowler from the team that beat them in the AFC championship” high.

The Steelers have the cap space necessary to make a competitive offer. Hightower is a better pass rusher than Timmons but probably worse in coverage, so it’d be an interesting trade-off; it’d likely take $50 million or so over five years to bring him in, but you’d also be keeping him away from New England. So, maybe call it a wash.

 

Analysis: Dont’a Hightower would be a good fit for Steelers
Chris Bradford / Beaver County Times

It’s not that the Steelers don’t like or don’t trust Vince Williams, the heir apparent to Lawrence Timmons, who signed a two-year, $12-million free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins last week. Williams, who received a three-year, $5.5 million extension in September, remains a viable option.

Hightower is an upgrade though. Hightower is seen as a three-down player who has saved some of his best performances for the biggest games, including two, game-changing plays in each of the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl wins.

A potential pairing with Ryan Shazier, another fast, physical inside linebacker, in Pittsburgh is intriguing.

The knock against Hightower is that he has yet to play a full 16 games. He has missed 13 regular-season games in career due to various injuries. He has 13 passes defensed and zero interceptions. Whatever flaws, however minor, are outweighed by Hightower’s 251 solo tackles and 17 sacks.

And there’s this: As they were in 2016, the Patriots are all that is standing in the way of the Steelers and a potential trip to Super Bowl 52. Anytime you can take a great player away from New England, it can only help the Steelers.

 

Keith Butler Could Be ‘Pounding The Table’ Again For Dont’a Hightower
Steelers Depot / Matthew Marczi

The Pittsburgh Steelers currently find themselves in an exploratory phase as they seek out their options on how to replace starting buck inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, and there are several options. The most immediate and readily available option to replace him is to simply plug Vince Williams into the starting lineup, but they do not seem content just yet to rely upon that.

They could use the draft to replace him, but they have perhaps an even bigger immediate—and certainly long-term—need at the outside linebacker position, and this is with consideration of the fact that they have used their past three first-round draft picks prior to last season on linebackers.

Or they could replace (Timmons) the same way that they lost him—free agency. And they are bringing in for a visit a player that their defensive coordinator once “pounded the table” for in the draft room in 2012: Patriots free agent Dont’a Hightower.

Keith Butler was the linebackers coach at that time in 2012, but he admitted in training camp later that year that he wanted Hightower in that draft, with the team instead taking David DeCastro. This was just a month or so after the Steelers released James Farrior, one should keep in mind.

 

Why The Steelers Need To Sign Dont’a Hightower Immediately
Ryan Lippert / Sports Junkies

The addition of Hightower would be a huge upgrade for the Steelers defense. With the defense improving with its young core of players such as Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree, Hightower would provide experience and leadership. Hightower has played five seasons in the league for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. With that being said, he can help to show the young guys what it takes to win.

With Lawrence Timmons leaving for Miami, the Steelers need to find another inside linebacker to pair with Shazier. Timmons was one of the leading tacklers for Pittsburgh over the past ten years as he accounted for 981 tackles and 12 interceptions (one for a touchdown). The next man up at the inside linebacker position would be Vince Williams who has had some experience. However, it has mainly been on special teams and sparingly in the linebacker rotation. With that being said, Timmons will be leaving behind big shoes to fill. However, I believe that Hightower would be the perfect replacement.

 

Dont’a Hightower Rumored to Visit Steelers as Jarvis Jones Visits Cardinals
Timothy Rapp / Bleacher Report

Even if Hightower did join the Steelers, he wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement for (Jarvis) Jones, who plays on the edge, while Hightower generally plays inside. And Jones has never quite lived up to being the No. 17 overall pick in the 2013 draft, either.

Last season, (Jones) registered 43 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. In four seasons, he’s managed just six sacks and has never been more than a rotational outside linebacker for the Steelers. While he is solid against the run, he doesn’t provide the sort of game-changing ability to pressure the passer he was drafted to provide.

So the Steelers could see some big changes in the linebacker group next year, and while Hightower seems likely to return to New England, the thought of pairing him with Ryan Shazier in Pittsburgh’s defense has to send shivers running down the spines of NFL offensive coordinators.

 

$10 million per year for Dont’a Hightower? Hard pass
Curt Popejoy / Steelers Wire (USA Today)

The latest marquee free agent to be linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers is former New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Outside linebacker and cornerback are the two primary needs of the Steelers and so it makes sense there would be interest. But if you believe the projected money figure floating around, there’s little chance the Steelers will be interested.

Hightower has started at outside linebacker for the Patriots for the bulk of his five seasons. He’s been a steady contributor but in terms of impact plays, he really hasn’t stood out. The Steelers need to bring in an outside linebacker who can rush the passer on a consistent basis. 17 sacks in five seasons does not scream pass rusher to me.

This really feels like Hightower is making the rounds just to come back and get paid from the Patriots. If the Steelers weren’t going to pay $10 million per season for a top-tier cornerback, would they do it for a run-stuffing linebacker with limited pass-rush skills.

Perhaps the author was out in the kitchen grabbing a brew and some grub during SB 49 and 51, and missed certain ‘impact plays’ . He may also want to dig a bit deeper in his research on how Hightower is utilized in Foxboro, the contrast between the defensive schemes in Pittsburgh and New England, and brush up on the differences between 3-4 and 4-3 (or 4-2) defenses.

 

To see how Steeler fans feel about Hightower, check out the comments sections on the articles linked above. The most common sentiment seems to be that Pittsburgh will not sign Hightower, as the Steelers are traditionally not a big player in free agency.

 

2017 NFL Calendar and Key Dates

John Morgan
March 2, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

With the start of the 2017 National Football League year just days away, below is a list of key dates for NFL and Patriot fans. Even though training camp is four months away, crucial decisions in the upcoming free agency and next month’s draft will have a critical impact on next season’s success for all 32 teams.

All deadlines are 4:00 pm eastern time unless noted otherwise.

 

Feb 28 – March 6: NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis IN.

Wed March 1: Deadline for teams to apply franchise or transition tag to impending free agents.

Sat March 4: Regional Combine, Eden Prarie MN.

March 7-April 7: College Pro Day workouts.

March 7-9: Legal Tampering Period. Teams are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2016 Player Contracts.

March 9: At 4:00 pm the 2016 league year ends, and the 2017 league year commences with the start of free agency.

Thu March 9: Unrestricted Free Agents: All 2016 player contracts expire.

Thu March 9: Option Clauses. Deadline for teams to exercise options for 2017 on all players who have option clauses in their 2016 contracts.

Thu March 9: Restricted Free Agents. Deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to their RFA with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

Thu March 9: Exclusive Rights Free Agents. Deadline for teams to submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2016 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

March 9: Top 51. All teams must be under their salary cap, with only the top 51 players counting against the cap.

March 9: Trading Period. After 4:00 pm when 2016 contracts expire, teams can make trades.

Sat March 11: Regional Combine, Metairie LA.

March 26-29: Annual League Meeting, Phoenix AZ.

 

Mon April 3: Teams that hired a new head coach may begin offseason workout programs on the first Monday of April.

Mon April 10: NFL preseason schedule announced. Preseason nationally televised games are announced with exact date and time. All other games are announced only by the week, with exact date and time released about a 7-10 days later.

Wed April 12: Patriots Hall of Fame Nomination Committee meets to select three finalists for this year’s fan election process.

Mon April 17: Teams with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs on the third Monday in April. This is also referred to as Phase One of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). These are two weeks of voluntary strength and conditioning activities, and physical rehabilitation. The strength and conditioning coaches are the only coaches that can be present. There is a time limit of four hours per day and maximum of 90 minutes on the field. Of those four hours the team can specify two hours for players to be at the facility, with players choosing the other two (for weights, running, etc.)

In all phases of OTAs there are a maximum of four workouts per week, none on the weekend. Contact work such as tackling and blocking is prohibited.

Mon April 17: New England Patriots’ offseason conditioning program commences.

Tue April 18: Annual pre-draft press conference from Pats’ director of player personnel Nick Caserio, starting at 11:30 am.

Wed April 19: Patriots Super Bowl 51 team honored at the White House.

Thu April 20: 2017 NFL Schedule announced.

Fri April 21: Patriots announce three finalists for the team’s Hall of Fame; fan voting commences, concluding on May 15. The winner will be announced about a week later and the induction ceremony will likely be held the day prior to the first preseason game, with a halftime ceremony at the home opener.

Fri April 21: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets with other teams.

April 27-29: NFL Draft, Philadelphia PA. Round One is on Thursday April 27 starting at 8 pm. Rounds 2-3 take place on Friday April 28, beginning at 7 pm. Rounds 4-7 will be on Saturday April 29, commencing at noon.

Sat April 29: Teams may sign undrafted rookie free agents as soon as the draft is completed.

Mon April 31: Phase Two of OTAs. Same rules as Phase One, except this is for three weeks and all coaches are permitted on the field. Individual and non-contact drills are allowed. No offense versus defense, no helmets.

 

May 5-8 or 6-9: Rookie Minicamp. First option for teams to hold their one three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp; from either Friday through Sunday, or from Saturday through Monday.

Tue May 9: Unrestricted Free Agent Tender. Deadline for teams to send “May 9 Tender” to its unsigned Unrestricted Free Agents. If the UFA has not signed a contract with a team by July 22 (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later), he can only negotiate or sign a contract from that date until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season only with his old team.

May 12-14 or 13-15: Rookie Minicamp. Second option for teams may to hold their one three-day post-Draft rookie minicamp; from either Friday through Sunday, or from Saturday through Monday.

Mon May 15: Rookie Football Development Programs begin.

~ May 18: Winner from fan voting for Patriots Hall of Fame announced.

May 18-21: NFLPA Rookie Premiere, Los Angeles CA. Invited Rookies (typically, first and/or second-round selections) must be permitted by their respective clubs to attend. Such players are unavailable for offseason workouts, OTA days, and minicamps during this period.

May 22-24: Spring League Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Late May-Early June: OTA. Phase Three of Organized Team Activities, with specific dates varying by team. Clubs may have four OTAs in May and four in June. No pads except protective knee or elbow pads, but helmets are permitted. No live contact drills between offensive and defensive linemen. 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted, provided no live contact takes place. Maximum six total hours per day, with a maximum two hours on the field for any player. Maximum of three OTAs per week for the first two weeks. During weeks one and two a fourth ‘non-OTA’ workout is allowed, but Phase Two rules apply. There are a maximum of four OTAs for the third o fourth week, with the other week being the mandatory minicamp.

Mon May 22: Patriots’ OTA

Tue May 23: Patriots’ OTA

Thu May 25: Patriots’ OTA, open to media.

Wed May 31: Patriots’ OTA.

 

Thu June 1: Patriots’ OTA.

June: Mandatory Minicamps, specific dates vary by team. Minicamp must be conducted during the week (Monday through Friday), with physicals taking place on Monday (but no practice or workouts on that day), and then practices on Tuesday through Thursday. Minicamp rules are similar to OTA rules, but Minicamp allows for 10 hours per day, with 3½ hours on the field spread out over two sessions.

Thu June 1: Restricted Free Agent Tender. Deadline for team to apply “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned RFA who received a qualifying offer for a Right of First Refusal Only, in order for that player to be subject to the CBA “June 15 Tender” provision.

Fri June 2: Salary Cap Implications. For any player released, waived or traded after June 2, any remaining prorated signing bonus amounts for future years will be included fully on the team’s 2018 salary.

Tue June 6: Patriots’ minicamp, open to media.

Wed June 7: Patriots’ minicamp, open to media.

Thu June 8: Patriots’ minicamp, open to media.

Mon June 12: Patriots’ OTA, open to media.

Tue June 13: Patriots’ OTA.

Thu June 15: Patriots’ OTA.

Thu June 15: Deadline for teams to withdraw qualifying offer from restricted free agents and still maintain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting “June 15 Tender” of one-year contract at 110 percent of the player’s prior-year salary.

June 20-22: Rookie Transition Program. Held by all teams. Attendance is mandatory for all rookies. Topics teams will address with players include social responsibility, respect at work, mental health, character and values and player engagement resources. Replaces centralized Rookie Symposium (infamous for Cris Carter’s ‘get a fall guy’ speech).

 

Sat July 15: Deadline for any franchise tag player to sign a multiyear contract. Any player who does not do so can sign only a one-year contract with his team, and the contract cannot be extended until after the team’s last regular-season game.

Thu July 20: Training Camp opens for the two teams playing in the Hall of Fame game.

Sat July 22 (or the first scheduled day of training camp, whichever is later): Signing Period ends for UFA to whom a “May 9 Tender” was made by prior club. After this date and until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.

Sat July 22: Signing Period ends for Transition Players with outstanding tenders. After this date and until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.

July 25-30: Training Camps Open.

Teams are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.

Veteran players (defined as a player with at least one pension-credited season) other than quarterbacks or injured players may report to training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the team’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the club’s preseason training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the club has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official preseason training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a club’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who join the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

Mon July 24: Rookies report to Foxboro for training camp.

Wed July 26: Veterans report to Foxboro for training camp.

Thu July 27, 9:00 am: Training Camp session #1.

Fri July 28, 9:00 am: Training Camp session #2.

Sat July 29, 9:00 am: Training Camp session #3.

Sat July 29, noon: Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Raymond Clayborn.

Sun July 30, 9:00 am: Training Camp session #4.

 

Thu Aug 3: Hall of Fame Game, Canton OH.

Sat Aug 5: Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, Canton OH.

Mon Aug 7: Training Camp joint practice session with Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tue Aug 8: Training Camp joint practice session with Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tue Aug 8: Deadline for players under contract to report to their clubs to earn an accrued season for free agency purposes.

Tue Aug 8: If a drafted rookie has not signed with his club by this date, he cannot be traded to any other club in 2017, and may sign a player contract only with the drafting club until the day of the 2018 draft.

Aug 10-14: Preseason Week 1 NFL games.

Thu Aug 10, 7:30 pm: Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots.

Aug 12-16: Each club has until five days prior to its second preseason game to provide any tendered but unsigned Exclusive Rights Player or Restricted Free Agent with written notice of the club’s intent to place the player on the Exempt List if the player fails to report at least the day before the club’s second preseason game. Once such notice has been provided, the club must place the player on the Exempt List. While on the Exempt List, the player will not be entitled to compensation for up to three regular-season games, depending upon the date the player reports to the club.

Aug 17-21: Preseason Week 2 NFL games.

Sat Aug 19, 8:00 pm: New England Patriots at Houston Texans.

Aug 23-27: Preseason Week 3 NFL games.

Fri Aug 25, 7:00 pm: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions.

Aug 31-Sept 1: Preseason Week 4 NFL games.

Thu Aug 31, 7:30 pm: New York Giants at New England Patriots.

 

Sat Sept 2: Roster Cuts. Teams must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.

Sat Sept 2: Simultaneously with the roster cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of “Active/Physically Unable to Perform” or “Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness” must select one of the following options: place player on “Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform” or “Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness”, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.

Sun Sept 3: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12:00 noon ET.

Sun Sept 3: Claiming period for players waived during final roster cuts ends at 12 noon.

Sun Sept 3: Teams may sign up to ten players to their Practice Squad, starting at 1:00 pm ET.

Sun Sept 3: All tryouts on this date and for the remainder of the season must be reported to the league office.

Mon Sept 4: Required filing of injury reports and game status goes in to effect.

Thu Sept 7: Top 51 Rule expires and all teams must be under the salary cap for their full roster.

Thu Sept 7, 8:30 pm: 2017 regular season commences with Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, on NBC.

Sept 10-11: Remainder of NFL Week 1 games.

Sept 8, 11-12: Any veteran player with at least four previous pension-credited seasons who is released after week one is entitled to termination pay after the end of the season (contract guaranteed).

Sept 14-18: NFL Week 2

Sun Sept 17, 1:00 pm: New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints, on CBS.

Sept 21-25: NFL Week 3

Sun Sept 24, 1:00 pm: Houston Texans at New England Patriots, on CBS.

 

Sept 28-Oct 2: NFL Week 4

Sun Oct 1, 1:00 pm: Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots, on Fox.

Oct 5-9: NFL Week 5

Thu Oct 5, 8:25 pm: New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on CBS.

Oct 12-16: NFL Week 6

Sun Oct 15, 1:00 pm: New England Patriots at New York Jets, on CBS.

Mid October: IR. One player per team per season can return from Injured Reserve to the Active Roster. That player has to have been on IR for at least six weeks.

Oct 13-17: PUP. Beginning on the sixth calendar day prior to a club’s seventh regular season game (including any bye week) and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend, clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness for a period not to exceed 21 days. Players may be activated during the 21-day practice period, or prior to the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, provided that no player may be activated to participate in a Week 6 game.

Oct 17-18: Fall league meeting.

Oct 19-23: NFL Week 7

Sun Oct 22, 8:30 pm: Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots, on NBC.

Oct 26-30: NFL Week 8

Sun Oct 29, 1:00 pm: Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots, on CBS.

Tue Oct 31: trade deadline.

 

Wed Nov 1: Players with at least four previous pension-credited seasons are subject to the waiver system for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.

Nov 2-6: NFL Week 9 — bye week for Patriots.

Nov 9-13: NFL Week 10

Sun Nov 12, 8:30 pm: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, on NBC.

Tue Nov 14: signing period ends for those playing under a franchise tag. Any players tendered, franchised or drafted rookies who had not signed those offers to this point are now not eligible to play for the rest of the season.

Nov 16-20: NFL Week 11

Sun Nov 19, 4:25 pm: New England Patriots vs Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, on CBS.

Nov 23-27: NFL Week 12

Sun Nov 26, 1:00 pm: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots, on CBS.

 

Nov 30-Dec 4: NFL Week 13

Mon Dec 1: clubs can tryout and negotiate with CFL players whose contracts are about to expire, through January 31.

Sun Dec 3, 1:00 pm: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, on CBS.

Dec 7-11: NFL Week 14

Mon Dec 11, 8:30 pm: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, on bspn.

Tue Dec 12: NFL management council labor seminar.

Wed Dec 13: league meeting.

Dec 14-18: NFL Week 15

Sun Dec 17, 4:25 pm: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers, on CBS.

Dec 21-25: NFL Week 16

Sun Dec 24, 1:00 pm: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots, on CBS.

Dec 28-31: NFL Week 17

Sun Dec 31, 1:00 pm: New York Jets at New England Patriots, on CBS.

 

Mon Jan 1, 2018, Salary Cap: clubs must provide the amount, if any, of their 2017 cap room to be credited towards their 2018 team salary.

Jan 1-Feb 5: Once a team’s season is over they can sign practice squad players to futures contracts.

Jan 1-7: Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that have byes in the Wild Card games may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Wild Card games.

Jan 6-7: Wild Card Playoff Games.

Mon Jan 8: college football national championship game.

Jan 7-14: Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that won their Wild Card games may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Divisional Playoff games.

Jan 13-14: Division Round Playoff Games.

Mon Jan 15: Deadline for college players that are underclassmen to apply for special eligibility. A list of players who are accepted into the NFL Draft will be sent to clubs on January 19.

Sat Jan 20: East-West Shrine Game, St. Petersburg FL.

Sun Jan 21: Conference Championship Games.

Sat Jan 27: Senior Bowl, Mobile AL.

Sun Jan 28: Pro Bowl, Orlando FL.

Sun Jan 28: An assistant coach whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job, may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl.

Tue Jan 30: Deadline for NFL clubs to try out and negotiate with CFL players whose 2017 contracts are due to expire.

 

Sun Feb 4: Super Bowl 52, Minneapolis MN.

Mon Feb 5: Waiver system begins for 2018.

Tue Feb 6: Hopefully another parade through the streets of Boston.

Tue Feb 13: Teams may begin to sign players whose 2017 CFL contracts have expired. Players under contract to a CFL club for the 2018 season or who have an option for the 2018 season are not eligible to be signed.

Wed Feb 14: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

 

NFL announces compensatory picks; New England Patriots 2016 draft slots set

John Morgan
March 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm ET

On Friday the National Football League announced the allocation of 33 compensatory draft picks for the 2016 NFL Draft, which will be held April 28-30. The New England Patriots received the maximum four compensatory picks: one in the third round, and three in the sixth round. With that news the Pats slots in April’s NFL draft has been set.

 

Compensatory draft picks are allotted to teams that lost an unrestricted free agent to another team in the previous off-season. Although the formula has never been made public, it has been determined that it is based primarily on the compensation that the player received from his new club, along with an adjustment for playing time and a smaller adjustment for post-season honors. Players who were released by their former team do not count in the formula, nor do players who sign with a new club after June 1.

 

Last year the Patriots lost cornerback Darrelle Revis in an obvious but not penalized textbook tampering scenario. The Pats also lost defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, corner Brandon Browner, running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, and linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas in free agency. The only compensatory qualified free agent that New England signed was defensive end Jabaal Sheard.

 

The third round pick was obviously for Revis, and there was some thought that Browner’s contract (3 years, $15,000,000) would fetch the Pats a fifth round selection, but that turned out to not be the case. Here is a rundown of the picks that the Patriots received:

third round, 96th overall
sixth round, 208th overall
sixth round, 214th overall
sixth round, 221st overall

 

With the compensatory draft picks now known, the initial arsenal of draft picks that the Patriots own has been finalized. Earlier this year the NFL decided to change the rule compensatory could not be traded. The fact that the league decided to implement this rule change next year rather than in 2016 surely has nothing to do with the fact that the Patriots would be receiving several comp picks (/sarcasm).

2nd round: 60th overall
3rd round: 91st overall
3rd round: 96th overall (compensatory pick, cannot be traded)
4th round: 127th overall
6th round: 196th overall (from Houston)
6th round: 208th overall (compensatory pick, cannot be traded)
6th round: 214th overall (compensatory pick, cannot be traded)
6th round: 221st overall (compensatory pick, cannot be traded)
7th round: 243rd overall (from Houston)
7th round: 250th overall

– The first round pick (29th overall) was stolen by Roger Goodell in the league’s attempt to smear Tom Brady the Patriots, and give the commissioner full power over the players and the NFLPA.
– The fifth round pick (154th overall) was traded away to the Houston Texans on September 17, 2015 for WR Keshawn Martin and Houston’s sixth round pick (196th overall).
– The sixth round pick (204th overall) was traded away to the Chicago Bears on September 29, 2015 for LB Jon Bostic.
– A seventh round pick (243rd overall) was acquired from the Houston Texans in exchange for QB Ryan Mallett on August 31, 2014.

 

Patriots Free Agent Profile Steven Jackson

Steve Balestrieri
February 2, 2016 at 7:41 am ET

The Patriots suffered a slew of injuries in 2015, and ended up with 21 players on injured reserve. The running back position was no exception with both starters, Dion Lewis and later LaGarrette Blount being lost for the year.

This was compounded by the early season losses of Tyler Gaffney and fullback James Develin. So the Pats brought in veteran Steven Jackson who has a Hall of Fame resume but hadn’t played at all in nearly a year after closing out 2014 with the Falcons. Jackson appeared all but retired, and stated he didn’t want to return unless he had a chance to appear for a Super Bowl berth.

“It helps me close a chapter on my terms,” Jackson said. “That’s what I always stressed … if I went back to the NFL it had to be for a team that had a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.”

The Patriots signed the 32-year old running back and he appeared in the final two games of the regular season and gained just 50 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown, which was more a statement on the state of the offensive line than him. His one shining play was a 20-yard catch and run in Miami he had on a pass from Tom Brady.

In the post-season facing two very good run defenses in Kansas City and Denver, Jackson had 24 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown (his first professional post-season score) against Denver in the AFC Championship Game.

Now both he and the Patriots have a decision to make, does he want to come back for one more chance at a ring with a team that is always in the hunt or does the back who will turn 33 right around the time of training camp decide to call it a career after gaining 11,435 yards and 69 touchdowns in his time? Had the Patriots made the trip to Santa Clara this week, that question would be a no-brainier, but now there still remains a sliver of hope for him to try it one more time.

Do the Patriots entice him back for a final chance and give him the opportunity to not only win a spot on the roster but contribute meaningful snaps for the offense?  Or do they go with either different, younger players in free agency and/or the 2016 NFL Draft?

Jackson obviously wasn’t the player he was back about 7-8 years ago when he was a dual threat both running and catching the football out of the backfield. But his meager stats in four games weren’t the result of him having nothing left in the tank either. He is still a serviceable running back and he was in surprisingly good shape for someone who hadn’t played in nearly a year.
Why Jackson Will Return: Jackson got a small taste of what the Patriots can bring to the table offensively when the playoffs started with an almost healthy receiving core. Starting a season with an upgraded and healthy offensive line and the return of Dion Lewis would be a bonus.

They won’t be asking him to carry it 20+ plus times per game, but contribute as a role player at this stage of his career, something he’s still capable of doing. He’d still have to win a job during training camp as they’ll undoubtedly bring in some younger talent during the spring.

But Bill Belichick has always admired him and loves his veteran presences on a team. He could be signed for the veteran minimum with the chance to hit some incentives along the way.

Why Jackson Won’t Return: The Patriots will most definitely look to add youth in the upcoming draft at the end of April and thru free agency. As in the case with Blount, they could extend an offer for a chance to come back and win a job in July, but may decide that it is just time to move on.

In Jackson’s case, his comments when he signed, sounded like someone who was all in 2015. He may just decide that his bust in Canton will not involve having a Super Bowl ring attached to it.

Bottom Line: There is always a chance that Jackson returns for a final swan song for his career. Belichick loves veterans who can lend leadership along the way when the going gets tough. Players like Brian Cox, Roman Phifer, and Ted Washington all come to mind when thinking about those earlier Super Bowl teams.

He admires Jackson and spoke about spending an entire day with him when evaluating him for the draft when SJax was a rookie. There is a slight possibility of them asking him to come back for one more shot.

But I think that Jackson will take the decision out of the team’s hands. I believe that he’s going to call it a career and ride off into the sunset and explore other career opportunities closer to home. The odds on him retiring are about 80 percent. The small chance of him not doing that is the fact that he hasn’t announced it yet. I’m sure he’s coming to that decision and will announce it soon.

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We’re on to 2016… Patriots Roster and Key Free Agents

Steve Balestrieri
January 27, 2016 at 9:17 am ET

The 2015 season is in the books, the Patriots came up short in their efforts to repeat as Super Bowl Champions and it is time to move on. As Bill Belichick would say…”we’re on to 2016.”

And, compared to other teams, the Patriots are a bit behind in terms of looking at impending free agents and free agency in general as they’ve had their eyes on the postseason. It is a familiar problem and one that that they’re used to dealing with.

The Patriots currently have 74 players on the roster, the 53-man unit that faced Denver in the AFC Championship and 21 players who are on IR. Of those 74, the team has 11 un-restricted free agents, four restricted free agents and three exclusive rights free agents, those players only the Patriots can make offers unless they decide to let them go to free agency.

We’ll break down the roster by position and list the free agents for the team. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll break down each free agent individually and make a case for them to stay or go as the team will have a lot of thinking to do.

Unlike last season there is no huge pending free agent contract pending with a player like Darrelle Revis. There will have to be decisions made in regards to contracts already on the books but overall the team is great shape to add some free agents in 2016 and with the salary cap. First up is the offense…