Tag Archives: Malcolm Butler

New England Patriots News 3-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-18, & AFC East Notes

Quick Hitters: The Patriots have given safety Pat Chung another short-term extension on his contract that ran through the current 2018 season. Terms are not available. But since he returned for his second stint with the team, Chung has been a valuable, dependable defender. Good move all around.

No Honey Badger in NE, tonight we learned that Tyrann Mathieu was heading to the Houston Texans on a one-year deal as what so often happens plays out. It seems every free agent is rumored to be going to New England. And frequently as in Mathieu and Richard Sherman, the Patriots weren’t even in the game.

Often times, I believe that the agents push this agenda to drive up the price and market for their clients. Just like the Patriots were supposedly “in on” Ndamukong Suh and Jordy Nelson which is borderline ridiculous at this point. With about $15.6 million dollars of cap space, how would the team afford to sign a player like Suh or Nelson, if they even wanted them?

Free Agency- When will fans learn that the Patriots, unlike last year, much more often than not eschew the opening feeding frenzy of free agency where several players are in our opinion, are overpaid and then make the moves that they must to build the depth of the roster for the long haul.

This year, the cries of despair from the fan base have never been louder, as if the people that run the operation over at 1 Patriot Place all of a sudden forgot how to build a team. They’ve been to eight Super Bowls in the past 17 years. They know how to build a team that will be playing in February, not winning Day 1 of free agency in March.

And the intent of some to drive the narrative to question every move that Belichick makes like the Red Sox managers have had to endure since Dick Williams (Google his name) is laughable. “Grady Belichick” is the lamest yet, for some media members who are intent on forcing the issue.

Pats Lose Four Key Players Early in Free Agency:
Right after the season ended, we didn’t think there was a chance of Malcolm Butler returning in 2018, and that wasn’t a surprise when he left, for a big payday with the Titans. And with the draft class strong at running back, we’d didn’t feel the market would be that great for Dion Lewis, even though he’s shown how electrifying he can be. He’s had only one healthy season, 2017, but the market heated up for him and he too signed with a nice deal from Tennessee.

But the loss of Danny Amendola and Nate Solder hurt especially. Partly because we expected both to be back. Amendola because he was so clutch at crunch time for the past several years and was their punt returner as well as a go-to guy in the playoffs.  And Solder, because he’s protected Brady’s blind side for the past seven years and they really don’t have a replacement plan in place.

LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming are fine swing tackles. But over a 16-game season? I don’t know that they’re the best options and both are free agents anyway. Tony Garcia? After missing all of 2017 with an illness, we’re not even sure he’ll be ready to play, much less be a capable player yet. The other alternatives (for now) are recently signed Matt Tobin, (depth player) Andrew Jelks and Cole Croston. So the loss of Solder hurt.

But it hard to find fault there, the deals for Amendola and Solder were much more than the Patriots could or would be willing to offer. The Patriots offer to Solder was 4 years, $50 million, while more than $12 million a year, was a full $12 million less than the Giants offered. That is substantial.

While the frustration level of losing those key players is understandable, it has to be tempered with the realization that the business model that the Patriots have stuck to for so long is the reason that they are able to remain so competitive for so long.

Patriots Add Five Players Including McCourty, Clayborn, and Hill:
The news wasn’t all bad, as usual, the team began building their roster depth, resigning special teamers Brandon King and Nate Ebner and running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead was an intriguing, New England kind of player. While he’s not outstanding in any one facet of his game, he does everything well. He runs between the tackles, can catch the ball, pass protect and be a key special teams guy.

The trade for Danny Shelton became official, which will immediately impact the Patriots rush defense. With an interior rotation of Malcom Brown, Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine (who returns from IR) and Adam Butler, who is more of an interior sub rusher, they depth is much stronger now.

The Patriots addressed cornerback with the trade of Jason McCourty which we covered in a piece here:  I still believe that the team will add another corner in the upcoming draft, but they are building depth while adding a veteran presence there.

Then the team signed DE Adrian Clayborn as well as RB Jeremy Hill. So the Patriots have hardly been stagnant during free agency. Were they the splash moves everyone clamors for? No, but the roster is building up for the 90 man limit. And there is still a long, long way to go. We’ll give our thoughts on the newest additions below.

Adrian Clayborn Immediately Upgrades the Front Seven:
The Patriots suffered a slew of injuries along the front seven last season, coupled with the loss of Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long in free agency as well as the sudden retirement of Rob Ninkovich left them in a bind all season long.

Getting Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Valentine, and Derek Rivers back will no doubt help. But the team added another very nice piece in signing DE Adrian Clayborn the free agent from the Atlanta Falcons.

Clayborn who will turn 30 in July, is coming off of a 9.0 sack season (six in one game against Dallas) and is a very good but not great pass rusher. But what he does extremely well is set the edge in the running game. And in the Patriots defense, that is paramount. They aren’t, nor ever will be, that pin your ears back, attacking defense.

One play that Patriots fans may remember well with Clayborn is back during the joint practices in 2013. Clayborn bullrushed Nate Solder and their feet got tangled up and Tom Brady went down in a heap. It was an accidental play. Brady held his knee and was down for several moments before walking off. My pic from the practice was carried by Boston.com for their column that day.

Adrian Clayborn and Nate Solder got tied up and Solder fell into Brady but he wasn’t seriously injured. (SBalestrieri photo)

Clayborn will be just fine here, he has a relentless motor and will take a lot of heat off of Trey Flowers on the other side of the defensive line. After four seasons with the Bucs, he spent the last two with the Falcons. He’s had injury problems during his career but a healthy 2018 will be a successful one for the veteran in this scheme.

Jeremy Hill,  Gives the Patriots Needed Depth at RB:
When the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon in the 2017 NFL Draft, Hill became expendable. And at just 25-years old, Hill has plenty left in the tank. At 230 pounds, he is the big back that the Patriots had in LeGarrette Blount. And short yardage was a sore spot for the Patriots offense in 2017. The Pats ranked a lowly 24th in the league on converting third or fourth and one last season. Hill will definitely help in that aspect.

But for the immediate future, he gives the team options, he and Mike Gillislee will compete for the big back role in the Patriots offense. He’s had issues with ball security in the past but he knows how Belichick feels about those and it will be a key area for him to work on. Eventually, in camp, the team may have to decide whether to keep one or the other as the team’s big back. But for now, the team just added two much-needed depth backs with him and Burkhead, who were teammates in Cincinnati.

One area that may be in Hill’s favor is that he’s a decent pass receiver, something the Patriots like their running backs to do in their offense. It is the case of the more you can do which helps to secure a roster spot on the Patriots. So we’ll see what a fresh slate can do for Hill.

While the Patriots will still probably draft a running back this season, it now probably won’t be one in the top rounds, it will probably be a later round, developmental pick.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Are Very Active in Free Agency:
The Buffalo Bills haven’t been shy about making a slew of moves in free agency. After signing CB Vontae Davis, they shipped off LT Cordy Glenn to the Bengals and now have picks #12 and #22 in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

But that was hardly the tip of the iceberg as the Bills signed DT Star Lotulelei, re-signed DT Kyle Williams, then signed DE Trent Murphy from the Redskins strengthening their pass rush.

The Bills added depth to the running back position by signing veterans Chris Ivory and Travaris Cadet. And then after unloading QB Tyrod Taylor to the Browns, they signed their bridge QB, A.J. McCarron for a 2-year, $10 million dollar price tag from the Bengals.

It has been a busy off-season for the Bills and they are far from done. It will be an interesting draft season in Buffalo. While I may think they overpaid Murphy and question the trade of Glenn, the Bills are still in much better shape than they were after their playoff loss to the Jaguars.

Dolphins Plan to be “Straight Up Flying” in 2018:
The Miami Dolphins are never ones to lack for confidence in the offseason. After trading Jarvis Landry to the Browns, the team has addressed his loss by adding former Patriot wide receiver Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson from the Chiefs and confidence is high in South Beach.

.“We’re straight up flying,” said Wilson. “I feel like the way we’re going to put the stretch on some defense is going to be crazy. The speed outright shows itself.”  Both Wilson and Amendola can play the slot or move outside. That will present matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Wilson, who was the fourth or fifth option in Kansas City, now will get a chance to see the ball a lot more. And with Amendola setting the table by making the chain moving catches, why shouldn’t the Fins be confident? Ryan Tannehill got an early Christmas present with his two new toys in the offense.

Plan “B” for the Jets, No Cousins? They Move Up to #3 in the Draft:
The New York Jets made a huge pitch to sign Kirk Cousins in free agency and they failed to bring him in. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Now they move on to their Plan B and it is to draft the best available quarterback.

So, on Saturday, the Jets moved from the 6th position to the #3 spot in the 2018 NFL Draft by trading for the Colts pick. But it won’t come cheap.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jets are giving the Colts the sixth pick, the 37th overall selection, the 49th overall pick, and a 2019 second-round pick. That is some pretty steep compensation for sliding up just three spots. The Colts hit a homer there in terms of compensation.

By signing bridge QBs Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, the Jets get to draft their QB of the future and groom him and allow him time to develop.With Buffalo thought to be ready to pick a QB at #6, the Jets have leapfrogged them and now are poised to pick ahead of the Bills. The next and most important question now becomes, WHO will be the Jets QB of the future with the #3 pick?

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 Signing of Jason McCourty a Good Low-Risk Move

Steve Balestrieri
March 16, 2018 at 9:48 am ET

The McCourty twins are finally getting a chance to play together when the Patriots traded for Jason McCourty in a very low cost/risk, high-reward type of deal. McCourty was about to released by the Browns in a cost-cutting move when the Patriots approached the Browns and offered their sixth-round pick for the Browns’ 7th rounder and McCourty.

So for moving back 15 spots at the back end of the draft, the Patriots get a very serviceable corner and a guy that they tried to bring in more than once before.

McCourty, 30, was originally drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the 6th round (203rd overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft. He is considered, (like his brother) as a great locker room influence on both the younger players and veterans alike. His $3 million dollar cap hit is extremely affordable.

What does it mean for the Patriots secondary? He’s another 6-foot tall corner that can play on the boundary or possibly be moved into the slot. With Malcolm Butler now in Tennessee, the Patriots needed at least another corner with a veteran presence and now that block is checked. I still believe that they’ll draft a corner in the upcoming draft. Perhaps now it will be a mid-round pick.

It gives them options and much-needed depth at the position as they’ll be able to present different looks depending on matchups.

But for now, the cornerback situation has Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, as well as practice squad players Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz signed for 2018. The cupboard is hardly bare there and if both of the Jones are healthy to begin training camp, (especially Jonathan in the slot) then the team is in good shape moving forward.

It was interesting to see some of the comments pooh-poohing the Rutgers connection for the Patriots and former Scarlet Knight head coach Greg Schiano. The Rutgers connection has actually worked out quite well for the Patriots. The McCourty twins, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and yes, Steve Belichick, the current Patriots safeties coach were all Rutgers alums and played for Schiano. Hardly a collection of stiffs.Other names who played under Schiano and made brief stops in New England were Tiquan Underwood and Alex Silvestro.

While it wasn’t the splash signing that fans were clamoring for, it was a very low-risk, high reward type of deal. He was a guy the Patriots tried to bring in once before and it didn’t work out. Now they have their man and they can continue to move forward with re-tooling the defense.

Rumors are Adrian Clayborn is in town for a visit on Friday morning. They still need some much-needed depth and athleticism at the linebacker position.

But for the McCourty twins who haven’t played together since Rutgers, they’ll finally get the chance to suit up together in the NFL. The Patriots get a good corner who graded out well according to Pro Football Focus in 2017 in his only season with the Browns.

It isn’t a fantasy football squad they are building but a 53-man roster. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

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 Fourth And Two Podcast: NFL Free Agency For The Patriots

Russ Goldman
March 13, 2018 at 11:59 am ET

On this episode, we had some very interesting topics we discussed in the Patriots Fourth And Two Roundtable. After that we discussed the five things we would do first when the league year opens if we were Bill Belichick.

Free Agency Fits For the New England Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
at 8:23 am ET

The legal tampering window is upon us and with free agency and another blizzard right around the corner, it is a good time to kick back with a coffee and look at the free agency help that is out there. For this particular exercise, we’re looking at fits for the Patriots defense, specifically, the linebacking core as all but one of these are linebackers and one corner. Are there others out there? Absolutely. But these are the ones we like the fit to New England.

As always the price of the free agents will drive the train and the Patriots don’t have anywhere near the flexibility that they had a year ago. And many of these free agents, perhaps all of them may be out of their price range. But in terms of fit, in our opinion, these players would be good additions to the defense.

Again, there are other players out there who may either be of interest to the Patriots but here are some of the ones we believe will be a good fit in the defense.

Nickell Robey-Coleman: The Patriots are very familiar with him, having played for four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and he fits a very specific need of theirs, which is a slot corner. Coleman can play boundary corner but at 5’8, 165 pounds, he’s better suited for the slot where he’s flourished.

Coleman was an undrafted free agent in 2013 played on a one-year prove-it type deal with the Rams last season and there is plenty of talk that he wants to return to Los Angeles and that Rams want him back.

Coleman had a very good 2017 season logging 50 tackles, two tackles for loss, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one interception. The Patriots need a slot corner. Jonathan Jones was close to taking over that spot but then was injured and went on IR. He was missed in the Super Bowl, especially with Malcolm Butler being benched in the game.

Eric Rowe is better suited to be a boundary corner which would leave the slot wide open. Cyrus Jones is still in the mix, but at this point, he can’t be counted on as he’s still an unknown. I would still expect them to address the position in the draft as well.

Paul Worrilow: If the name sounds familiar, it should reportedly the Patriots kicked the tires on him last spring when he was a free agent from the Atlanta Falcons. The 27-year old linebacker signed a one-year, $3 million dollar contract with the Lions last season.

Worrilow was slowed by a knee sprain of his MCL and played in just 13 games, starting in eight. He put up only so-so numbers with 30 tackles, one pass defensed and a fumble recovery. He struggled with his tackling as well as in coverage.It doesn’t appear that Detroit is interested in bringing him back with new head coach Matt Patricia.  

Would the Patriots be interested in him a second time around? I’d say no at first glance but one can never be too sure. If they feel he’d fit better in Foxboro in what they’d ask him to do, he could be a middle of the road, lower cost free agent.

Avery Williamson: Another guy that the Patriots have liked in the past is Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson. The 26-year-old has just finished his rookie contract deal with Tennessee and wants to test the market.

Williamson would immediately upgrade the Patriots run defense in the middle as he led the Tennessee defense with 92 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He received a 90.1 grade in run defense from Pro Football Focus, which was sixth best in the league. He’s a very durable player who has missed only one game in four years and is decent but not great in coverage.

He turned down a four-year, $12 million dollar deal with Tennessee and according to Diane Russini from ESPN is drawing interest from both the Jets and Dolphins. Spotrac has reported that he’s due for a possible four-year, $36-million dollar deal which would put him probably right out of the Patriots market.

Nigel Bradham: We wrote about this about a month ago as he’d be a great fit for the defense. Bradham is a very durable, sure tackler in the middle of the defense who is very good in coverage.

After Jordan Hicks went down with a torn Achilles last year in Week 7, Bradham began calling the signals for the Eagles defense and was one of their leaders and a very well respected veteran in the locker room. The 28-year-old finished with 88 tackles, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

He’s one of the most highly sought free agents out there with sources within the NFL reporting that 8-10 teams are interested in his services. While Philadelphia would love to have him back, they are currently $17 million dollars over the cap. And the interest he’s being given, will no doubt drive his price out of the Patriots range, but in terms of fit. He’d be excellent in the Patriots defense.

Preston Brown: Brown has already made it clear that he would be open to signing with the New England Patriots as they’ve gotten a lot out of several former Bills players.

“I think I can definitely help the young guys they have,” Brown said. “They’ve got some good young talent at linebacker. They run pretty well. I know Harris retired. A lot of young guys were playing well, Van Noy and Roberts played well. They definitely have some things they can work on like we all do, but I think I can help that defense get better. “

The Patriots know him well having faced him twice a year in the division. Brown has never missed a game in his four-year NFL career and calls the plays in the Bills defense. He’s a tackling machine and led the league with 144 tackles in 2017.

He’s just 25 years old and would be an instant upgrade in the middle of the defense and a fantastic fit. He’s rumored to be in the market for about in the area of a $7 million a year range. If the Patriots can somehow make that work, Brown would be a tremendous addition to the front seven.

Alex Okafor: The Saints definitely had a free agent under the radar hit signing when they nabbed Okafor during free agency last year. He was playing very well for a rejuvenated defense that went back to the playoffs in 2017. He had 4.5 sacks, nine QB hits, and two forced fumbles in the first 10 games before tearing an Achilles that ended his season prematurely.

Okafor, 27, is expected to be fully healthy and is a versatile defender as the Saints used him both on the edge and kicked him inside as a sub-package interior rusher. The Patriots could some help on the edge.

With Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Derek Rivers all ending up on IR, it left the team thin with Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler and Eric Lee. Okafor could be one of those veteran signings (we’ve already mention Connor Barwin) that won’t break the bank but would allow the team to rotate their players in and out, set the edge and get some pressure on the quarterback.

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 3-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 11, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-11, & AFC East Notes

*** Trade  Alert***: The Patriots just minutes ago (Saturday afternoon) traded a third-round draft pick in 2019 for DT Danny Shelton of the Cleveland Browns and a 5th round selection in 2018. This is a good move for solidifying the Patriots run defense in 2018.

Shelton was a first-round draft pick for the Browns (12th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s a 6’2, 335-pound run stuffer who can play over the nose or the 1-technique. He’s the classic two-gapper that the Patriots like in the middle of the defense. When he was going thru the draft process, he drew some comparisons to Vince Wilfork. While maybe those aren’t quite fair to the guy coming to New England, he’s the same body type.

He’s not going to upgrade the pass rush, he’s a two-down run stopper. But if he can maintain his weight. (It fluctuated as high as 363 pounds in 2015) then he’ll be a very nice addition to the defense. He’s in the fourth year of his rookie deal, the Patriots have until May 2 to kick in the final option year (around $7 million) for 2019. With Alan Branch and Ricky Jean Francois gone, the Patriots needed another big body in the middle and now their big guy rotation has Malcom Brown, Shelton, Lawrence Guy and Vincent Valentine.

Quick Hitters: Sorry to hear that Sean McDonough won’t be returning to Monday Night Football on ESPN. He’s returning to the college circuit for the network and with Jon Gruden returning to the sidelines with the Raiders, ESPN will have a new crew on tap for next year. McDonough, in our opinion, was fantastic as the play-by-play man and will be missed.

The Patriots resigned STs ace Brandon King to a new deal that wasn’t unexpected. Also included in that was the release of TE Martellus Bennett who was due a $2 million dollar roster bonus as well as counting $6.2 million against the cap. Also being jettisoned is DT Alan Branch whose play slipped mightily in 2017

DT Ricky Jean Francois announced that he wouldn’t return to the team in 2018 and thanked the coaches for the opportunity. His leaving opens up another spot on the front seven that will need upgrading this spring.

LBs Coach Brian Flores will call the defensive signals this season but will not get the title of Defensive Coordinator. While sounding a bit odd, this was exactly the same thing that Bill Belichick did with Matt Patricia initially a few seasons ago.

And finally, Tom Brady had all of his locks shorn for charity this week along with Mass. governor Charlie Baker. But he did release his trailer for the final episode of the “Tom vs Time” docu-series that will be released on Facebook Monday.  

Sherman Case, Hardly a Slam Dunk: This week, as was expected the Seahawks cut Richard Sherman who is coming off an Achilles injury in 2017 and will be 30 years old during the 2018 season.

Sherman was an obscure 5th round draft pick who became a cornerstone for the “Legion of Boom” defense in Seattle. The two-time All-Pro, when healthy is one of the best cornerbacks in the business. Immediately tongues started to wag about a fit with the Patriots, who have not yet reached out to Sherman.

Are the Patriots interested? Of course, but it hardly means that it is a done deal. And the first thing to temper expectations is money. Fans automatically assume that every big name star will sign on the cheap to “win a ring with Bill” when the situation, especially here doesn’t fit the reality.

Sherman already has a ring, and now he wants to get paid. While the Patriots aren’t swimming in cash this offseason, Sherman could legitimately be reciprocal in wanting to come here. But the money is the issue. Our old friend Miguel Benzan, aka @Patscap, stated,  “Richard Sherman is on the NFLPA Executive Board making it likely that he will look to max his dollars as an example for his fellow union members.”

Sherman is scheduled to meet with the 49ers today (Saturday a.m.)

Talib Trade Left the Pats No Chance:
Besides Sherman, the rumor mill was also hot for former Broncos CB Aqib Talib. Talib made it clear that if he were released, one of the teams he was very interested in returning to would be the Patriots.

Well, John Elway certainly didn’t want to see that, so he agreed to ship Talib to the LA Rams for a 5th round draft pick. The Patriots were also supposedly involved, but no one expected Talib to come here in a trade since by trading him, his contract is on the books for an $11 million dollar cap hit in 2018.

The Patriots couldn’t pay that so it really left them out in the cold. Which leads us to point #3 today…

Cornerback Isn’t As Big A Need as Thought:
With Malcolm Butler as good as gone, the Patriots have Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones still at corner. Gilmore and Rowe are just fine as a pair of starters. The issue is in the slot. If Jones (Jonathan) isn’t ready to go after suffering an injury last season, then they’re really thin. Cyrus Jones is still an unknown quantity.

Expect them to address this need in the draft for sure, where there are several good corners who excel in the slot. If they nab Sherman, that is fine, but he’s not a need per se, the real issue is with the front seven and getting them up to speed.

Picking Up Britt Option a Smart, No Risk Move:
The Patriots signed Kenny Britt to a two-year deal when they picked him up on December 13. He didn’t show much in his limited time in the offense and picked up just two catches. Many fans expected the Patriots to cut their ties with him and save a few dollars on the salary cap, but to do so would’ve been ignoring that they signed him for 2018, not 2017.

Britt was cut loose after signing a four-year deal with Cleveland in the spring that saw him catch just 18 passes in a nightmarish season. The Patriots signed him with 2018 in mind. While he possesses decent enough straight-line speed, what sets apart the 29-year old wide receiver is his size. He’s the biggest Patriot wide receiver on the roster at 6’3, 223 pounds. That is something the team can use.

While the Patriots have a plethora of smaller receivers in the mode of Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan is the only receiver over six feet tall at 6’1. Britt now gives them a bigger option, something they can use in the red zone or in the short-yardage areas where he can use his size to box out opponents.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport has reported that the Patriots are expecting big things for the Patriots in 2018, and now with a crash course in the offense, the last few weeks of the season and the playoffs, he has a full off-season to acclimate himself into the offense.

Britt had his best season in 2016 with the Rams catching 68 passes for 1002 yards and five touchdowns. His career numbers are 329 catches, 5137 yards with 32 scores. He was originally a first-round pick (30th overall) of the Titans in the 2009 NFL Draft.

By picking up his option, the Patriots are on the hook for $150,000. That’s it. His option bonus is the only guaranteed money on the books. Even if he sticks thru training camp, his salary for 2018 is just $1,468,750. With bonus incentives, it could reach $2 million.

With that little-guaranteed money on the table, it is a no-brainer to bring him back. Especially with Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell coming off of serious injuries in 2017 resulting in them going on IR. Danny Amendola is an unrestricted free agent, and although he’s expected back, Britt’s option being picked up isn’t indicative one way or another of Amendola’s return.

The Patriots depth chart currently consists of Edelman, Cooks, Hogan, Britt, Dorsett, Mitchell, Cody Hollister, and Riley McCarron. Edelman, when he returns would obviously bolster the depth as would Matthew Slater who is a WR in name only and is a Special Team’s captain. But he too is a free agent. It will be interesting to see who the Patriots look to in the draft. There could be a market for an eventual slot receiver to replace Edelman/Amendola and there are some intriguing names out there.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Taylor to the Browns, Need Two QBs:
The Buffalo Bills have traded QB Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a third-round draft choice. Now it leaves Buffalo with just one QB, Nathan Peterman on the roster. Realistically, now the Bills will have to add a pair of QBs to the team this spring. There are several free agents out there as well as plenty of depth in the draft.

It will be interesting to see how the Bills address the situation externally as well as with Peterman who got to see the field a bit last season. The Bills got a tremendous deal for Taylor, who was pretty much known not to be in the Bills plans this season.

For Taylor, he’ll be the placeholder for the Browns as they search once again for the elusive franchise quarterback. But he’ll at least have a very reliable outlet to throw the ball to next season…

Dolphins Trade Jarvis Landry to the Browns For Two Draft Picks:
The Miami Dolphins have traded WR Jarvis Landry for a 4th Round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, (123rd overall) and a seventh rounder in 2019.

Landry is a very reliable possession receiver with very good hands who led the league in catches in 2017 with 112. In contrast, all Browns receivers had 134. Landry had 987 yards receiving in 2017 but had 1,136 and 1,157 yards the previous two seasons.

He and Taylor should make a good team and one would expect that those two will soon be seen somewhere working out together building some chemistry. But the Browns are in need of other help at WR.

The Dolphins will be hard-pressed to replace the 100 catches a year with Landry but the draft will have some intriguing options and the Fins just gained $16 million dollars in cap space.

Never a Dull Moment with the Jets:
The New York Jets, like the Patriots, can be accused of many things but boring isn’t one of them. First, Muhammad Wilkerson’s mom called into the “Boomer and Gio” show on WFAN 660 to complain about the negative reporting going on with Manish Mehta about her son.

“He’s always written horrible things about my son,” Wilkerson’s mother Ka’idah said on the show Friday. “Muhammad does not pay Manish any attention, so therefore he always has something against him. Where’s his proof? Where’s your proof, Manish? … I’m just livid. I’m just livid with him.”

Mehta, as many Patriots fans know, is prone to some outlandish assumptions, not surprisingly doubled down on his “Wilkerson has an alcohol problem” line of reasoning when he called in to counter Mehta’s mom. Wilkerson, he said was having “issues with alcohol and drinking in the past.”

In the second incident, Jets safety Jamal Adams blasted Rivals.com writer Mike Farrell after Farrell questioned whether any team should draft NFL Combine star, Shaquem Griffin. Griffin, who had his left hand amputated at age 4 because of amniotic band syndrome.

Adams was livid on Twitter. “Shut up you clown!” Adams tweeted. “What makes you think you can evaluate NFL prospects when you can’t even do your job and evaluate HS players. You’re the same clown who had me as the 38th player in the country, 3rd best safety, no one cares what you have to say!

“Don’t ever sell a kid short.” And the beat goes on…

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.

Top Areas That the Patriots Must Address in Free Agency

Steve Balestrieri
March 7, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Everyone was planted in front of a television over the weekend listening to Mike Mayock do his thing talking about the hundreds of NFL prospects over the weekend. And frankly, there is no one better. He puts an incredible amount of time preparing for the Combine and Draft and he and Rich Eisen are fantastic at what they do.

But before we get all gaga about players getting drafted and who going to get picked when and where free agency will have the most to say about what their true needs are to be addressed in the draft. Because free agency, or at least the vast majority of it will be done before the draft rolls around.

Then we’ll have a good idea of how Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and the staff will proceed. So, in a perfect world, the Patriots would get the majority of their problems worked out in free agency and then add pieces and depth during the draft and with undrafted free agents.

So when the league year opens at 4 pm on March 14. The Top 51 Rule takes effect and they’ll have to be under the salary cap and here are what we believe are the top few areas of need that they’ll have to address.

Resign Nate Solder and Add Another Tackle: This is numero uno, the big enchilada, the Patriots have to bring Solder back in the fold for at least 2018 but preferably for two years. Right now they have three of their top four tackles who are free agents. Solder, Cameron Fleming, and LaAdrian Waddle. Marcus Cannon remains on the roster but is coming off of IR in 2017.

Solder has been a very good left tackle and could continue to be on for the next couple of years. He’s had some injury and illness concerns but frankly, he’s the best option out there in free agency. The pickings are slim in free agency and it isn’t a great year for tackles in the draft. Solder is their best option out there and he won’t be cheap.

The depth the Patriots had at tackle served them well last year. Solder, Cannon, Fleming, and Waddle all played significant snaps. Waddle, in my opinion, is the better swing tackle than Fleming but he suffered a couple of injuries and Fleming’s performance in the Super Bowl may get him a nice payday. So if they can do it, the team should bring back Solder and one of the two. I was asked if Solder walked could they make do with Fleming, Waddle, and Cannon. I like their swing tackles but not as 16-game starters

They also have Cole Croston and Andrew Jelks who they kept around last year. The big question now is centered around Tony Garcia. They drafted him to be the possible successor to Solder but he suffered an illness that cost him 40 pounds and the entire season. Will he be ready to go, fully back to strength this summer? No one knows yet.

Extend Brady and Gronkowski to Keep Their Cap Hits Lower: The Patriots have a tad over $14 million in salary cap space as it now stands. They can generate some room by cutting a few players or re-doing their contracts. Alan Branch, Dwayne Allen, and Martellus Bennett are three players who will either be cut outright or have their deals done to limit their cap hit. But reworking the deals for Tom Brady especially and Rob Gronkowski if he decides to keep playing, will happen sooner rather than later.

They could get their salary cap up into the $30+ million dollar range with those moves, of which Solder will take up close to have of it (estimate? $12-13 million). That would still allow them to chase a medium priced free agent or two and still leave some room to sign their draft picks and leave some capital on the books for the invariable injuries which occur during the season.

And hopefully, in doing so, they can possibly lower the salary cap hits on Brady and Gronkowski for this year a little bit.

Get the Tight End Situation Sorted Out: As it stands right now, Gronkowski is contemplating retirement. Dwayne Allen is on the books for $5 million and Martellus Bennett is owed $6.2 million with a $2 million dollar roster bonus due on March 16. None of these scenarios are what the Patriots need to have right now.

According to Drew Rosenhaus, Gronk’s agent, he hasn’t made a decision one way or another about returning or retiring yet. Hopefully, that decision will come sooner rather than later as they can base their decisions, at least partly on whether or not to move on from Bennett or Allen or bring them back.

Regardless, neither of them will return for what they are owed right now. Both will have to take a big pay cut to remain on the team. I think they’ll cut ties completely with Allen and then make a decision on Bennett. Allen never became a factor in the passing game at all and they’ll look to move on. The Bennett situation will bear closer scrutiny.

The team has Jacob Hollister who showed good hands and the ability to stretch the seams of the defense a little bit but he’ll have to improve in the offense as well as a blocker too. The team also has Will Tye who has caught 95 passes in the NFL. He’ll get a longer look this summer.

Re-Sign Danny Amendola to a 2-Year Deal: This one is kind of a no-brainer. Amendola isn’t going to light the world on fire and catch 100 passes, or anything close. But when it comes to crunch time, he’s absolute money. His moniker of “Playoff Danny” has been well-earned. In the 2017 playoffs, he caught 26 passes for 348 yards in three games which averages out to 8.7 catches a game for 116 yards. That is pretty elite territory.

Amendola has the best hands on the team and always can be counted on the make the most difficult catches when games are on the line. He’s versatile and can also return punts and kickoffs if the need arises. And with Cyrus Jones being placed on IR along with Julian Edelman this past preseason, the need arose.

He won’t break the bank to keep around, but he has the absolute trust of Brady, something that can’t be overstated. The “circle of trust” is something very real with Brady and he was included in the offseason work with Edelman that was included in the “Tom vs Time” docuseries last season. The three went Brady’s body coach Alex Guerrero to Montana before training camp to work on their timing and chemistry.

Replace Dion Lewis in the Patriots Backfield: As more time passes, it seems Lewis is less and less likely to return in 2018. The Patriots set a low bar on what they pay their running backs and it quite possible that a team will pay Lewis more than the Patriots will spend. It is being tossed around that he’ll be garnering in the neighborhood of $6.5 million a year in 2018. If that is the case, color Lewis gone.

The Patriots will want to replace him with a back that can not only run but catch the ball out of the backfield, something that hamstrung Mike Gillislee last season. Gillislee ran well but could never break into the passing game. Opponents quickly learned that Gillislee would either run or pass block. With Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White, they had to play a guessing game, making the offense much more difficult to stop.

Burkhead is also a free agent although one would have to assume that his asking price will be much more affordable than Lewis’ at this point. He has a much better chance at being retained at this point.

We heard thru the grapevine (a reliable grapevine) that with the Broncos expected to release C.J. Anderson soon, that the Patriots may make a move for him. Although it is doubtful, he commands any less than Lewis would. But that’s what we heard so, we’ll assume that it would be the case. A quick look at their numbers from 2017:
Lewis    – 180 carries,  896 yards, 5.0 avg. 6 TDs, 32 catches 214 yards, 3 TDs
Anderson – 245 carries, 1007 yards, 4.1 avg. 3 TDs, 28 catches 224 yards, 1 TD

I think this one could be nominally filled by resigning Burkhead and then drafting a young back who can catch and carry the ball. That is the Patriots usual M.O. The majority of the free agent running back class are filled with names that I don’t believe the team being interested in. But we shall see.

Adding Some Veteran Help on the Edge: The team should get back Dont’a Hightower, Derek Rivers, and Harvey Langi this season from Injured Reserve, That alone should help the play on the edge. Although in the case of last season’s rookies, Rivers, and Langi, the team really doesn’t know what they have in them yet.

What Bill Belichick likes to do is bring in established veterans. Guys who can set the edge, get after the passer a bit and not break the bank. They aren’t going after the high priced, high profile free agents. But a guy who can do these things and isn’t a “name” everyone clamors for. Who would this be?

Connor Barwin is an established veteran who has played well with the Eagles, Texans, and last season with Rams. He could step in, help the defense and still has some juice left in the tank. He’s the kind of player that the team may look at once free agency begins.

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 3-4, & AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 4, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 3-4, & AFC East Notes

This week some light was finally shed on what the illness was that sidelined Patriots offensive tackle Tony Garcia last season. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported that Garcia suffered from blood clots in his lungs citing a source. Because of that, Garcia was placed on NFI and was lost for the season.

He was placed on blood thinners which caused him to lose 40 pounds. Supposedly, he’s back in the weight room and is expected to make a full recovery. However, his return to the field is uncertain at this time.

Some other good news is that LB Harvey Langi is expected to be a full-participant in the Patriots off-season workouts. Langi too was placed on NFI after both he and his wife were severely injured when their car was rear-ended at a traffic light in Foxboro. Langi and his wife are reportedly fully recovered and he’s expected back on the field.

Combine Fast Trackers: Things are beginning to heat up at the 2018 NFL Combine. It is always intriguing to watch some player’s stock rise or fall depending on their performance there. Although most coaches believe that the most important factors are the medicals and/or the interviews.

One player whose stock rose quickly last season was Grafton, Massachusetts native and UConn alum Obi Melifonwu who drafted by the Raiders. His first NFL season was marred by injuries and he appeared in just five games. He was placed on IR with a hip injury that required surgery. We ran into him this week, as he was back in Mass. and he’s almost fully healed now and said that he should be ready to go once the Raiders kick off their workouts.  

Patriots Receive 4th Round Compensatory Pick in the NFL Draft:
The NFL conducted the coin flip between the Raiders and the 49ers in regards to the upcoming NFL Draft and the Patriots compensation in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade is now settled. The coin flip was done at the NFL Combine and the 49ers won the toss which means they’ll get the 9th overall pick in the draft. The teams will rotate picks in the second round which means the Patriots 2nd round pick via SF will be # 43.

With the added selection, it brings their total draft picks to just six this season.
#31 (round 1)
#43 (round 2)
#63 (round 2)
#95 (round 3)
#136 (round 4)
#205 (round 6)

Deep Running Back Class May Help The Pats in Lewis/Burkhead Situation:
A lot of people are already salivating over the group of talented running backs in this year’s deep class at the NFL Draft in the event that the Patriots will lose either Dion Lewis and/or Rex Burkhead, perhaps both.

We’ve read that the free agent hype on both is heating up. It is often difficult to gauge that before free agency starts because often times it is created by the players’ agents trying to inflate the players’ worth. We aren’t saying that it the case here, just that it has happened before, we won’t really know until the official tampering period begins.

So, while the blow could definitely be softened by dipping into this class of backs that are out there in the draft if either or both Lewis and Burkhead move on, it can also work in the Patriots favor in the opposite way. It could help them retain their services.

The free agent market may not lend itself to overpaying and high bidding on running backs since the draft class is so deep. So that may work in the team’s favor if they decide to make a play to retain their services. If history is any indication, the Patriots will let the players test the market and find what their worth is, and then make a move to keep them here in Foxboro for 2018 and beyond.

Will He or Won’t He? Gronkowski Situation No Clearer:
Last week we wrote that the decision by Rob Gronkowski on whether to retire would be best served if he made it earlier rather than later. Despite reports from national media sources that they expect Gronkowski to be in uniform in 2018, his agent Drew Rosenhaus has stated that he hasn’t made his decision yet and that it was going to take some time.

Rosenhaus appeared with Mike Florio on his “ProFootballTalk Live” show and threw water on the reports that Gronkowski is all set to return. The team has decisions to make with both Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen, neither will be back for what their contracts are calling for but regardless, they’ll have to look to the future.

A couple of names to check out in Indianapolis include Oklahoma TE Mark Andrews, who caught 62 passes for 958 yards and eight TDs last year in Norman. South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert is an intriguing player with the Gronkowski-like style of catching and blocking. Despite being from a smaller school, he’s one of the top prospects at the position. And I’d be remiss without mentioning a Gamecock and the SC offense has a good tight end coming out, in Hayden Hurst, who is a bit older due to a baseball career as a pitcher that flamed out due to control issues but he’s a very good receiver with one drop (1) against 100 receptions.

Pats Need to Get Younger at WR This Season:
It appears that Julian Edelman is rehabbing extremely well from his preseason ACL surgery in 2017. With he and Malcolm Mitchell due back from their respective injuries, the Patriots, on paper, would be fairly set at wide receiver.

Edelman, Mitchell, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Kenny Britt return. Danny Amendola is a free agent but is expected to be at least courted to return in 2018. But age is creeping up on this group. Edelman will turn 32 in May, Amendola, 33 during the season, Britt turns 30 and Hogan will turn 31 this season. Cooks is the only youngster of the group. Dorsett is also young but he had trouble catching on with the offense a year ago and was barely used. Mitchell’s knee issues may be chronic and will be monitored moving forward. That was the big knock on him coming out of college.

One receiver to keep an eye on is NC State’s, Jaylen Samuels. Samuels is actually listed as a tight end but will probably be a slot receiver in the NFL. NESN’s Doug Kyed wrote an intriguing piece on the Wolf Pack’s Swiss Army knife. Why will he change positions? Samuels is 5’11, 223 pounds. He caught 77 passes in his final season, but he can run the ball, catch it, block and even throw it, completing 2-3 passes. He’s a guy that can do a bit of everything…even running back kicks. Bill Belichick loves versatile players and Samuels fits the bill (no pun intended) to a tee.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Sign Davis, “the right place to be”:
The Buffalo Bills have signed FA Vontae Davis to a one-year deal that has $3.5 million in guaranteed money. Davis signed because he was released last season and was allowed to sign anywhere he chose immediately.

For Davis, the selling point was the young talent that coach Sean McDermott is assembling around Orchard Park and his belief that he can help. Davis on speaking to the media this week said although it was his first visit, his mind kept returning to Buffalo.

“They made me feel at home. As I went on my visit and kind of evaluated, it felt like I was just drawn to Buffalo because of how everybody made me feel. I feel like they run their organization with a lot of integrity. They respect their players. I just felt like it was the place to be.

“Even though Buffalo was one of my first visits, as I evaluated things, it seems like it just stuck with me throughout all my visits. It had a huge impression on me.”

The Bills also interviewed Louisville QB Lamar Jackson at the NFL Combine. It is intriguing because the system that Buffalo will use on offense, the Erhardt-Perkins system that Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll will use, is what Jackson ran at Louisville so, if the Bills do select him, he’ll fit seamlessly into it.

Dolphins Swing Big Trade to Nab Edge Rusher Robert Quinn:
The Miami Dolphins have swapped a reported fourth-round draft pick to the LA Rams for edge rusher Robert Quinn. The two teams also swapped sixth-round picks. The trade will not become official until the league year begins on March 14.

Quinn, 27, had 8.5 sacks for the Rams and has two years remaining on his deal which is set to pay him approximately $24 million over the course of the deal. The Rams dealt him in essence for salary cap space.

Quinn paired with Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, gives the Dolphins three very good pass rushers for their defense in 2018.

In a Not-so-surprising Move, the Jets Release Wilkerson:
The New York Jets released defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on Wednesday, after a seven-year hitch that ended badly for both parties. Wilkerson was benched for the final three games of the season for being perpetually late for and sometimes skipping meetings altogether. For a player of his caliber and what he’s being paid, it was unacceptable.

The Jets cut Wilkerson before March 16 or else his $16.75 million salary for 2018 would have become fully guaranteed.

Team officials question his passion for the game once he got paid. He was the recipient of a  five-year, $86 million contract that included $37 million fully guaranteed at signing in 2016 after a career year in 2015.

Since that time, his play has gone down while his absences from team meetings have gone up.

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.

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

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

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

New England Patriots News, 2-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 2-18, & AFC East Notes

It has been a long couple of weeks here since the Super Bowl but the Malcolm Butler story just won’t go away and while we may never have the complete story, fans continue to chime in on it. Was the Butler benching in SB LII “Bill Belichick’s arrogance” as some have repeatedly stated or was there something deeper there? Did Butler do or say something that would have caused him to sit?

That is something the Patriots will never say, other than what Belichick said, which was it was a football decision, made in the best interests of the team. Which can mean many things. It is time to let it go. Regardless of the decision, it is water under the bridge and the Eagles made more plays two Sundays ago and it is on to NFL Combine and Draft. But for the sake of conspiracy theorists, I’d be inclined to believe the latter more than the former…

Happy Birthday to the Man Who Originated the “Gronk Spike”:
If you ever wondered about where spiking the football originated from read on… Back in the 1960s, many players, including several stars, (Frank Gifford of the Giants and Paul Hornung of the Packers) would celebrate a touchdown by flinging the ball into the stands. The NFL cracked down on this in 1965 (even back then) by fining players $500 if they tossed the ball into the stands.

The Giants signed a speedster in 1965, Homer Jones from Texas Southern. A 6’2, 220-pound track star to play wide receiver. Jones wanted a celebration of his own but didn’t want to pay $500 bucks either. So after a touchdown, he started a trend of throwing the ball hard on the ground. Asked what it was, Jones called it “a spike.”

Back before the merger, the Patriots games in the AFL were carried on NBC. The Giants in the NFL were all carried here in New England on CBS. As a youngster, Jones was one of my favorite players to watch in 1967. And what a season he had. In the run-heavy era of the ‘60s, Jones had 49 catches for 1209 yards for an incredible 24.7 yards per catch and an NFL leading 13 touchdowns receiving.

Giants quarterback Fran Tarkenton, said throwing to Jones was like hitting a man on a motorcycle with a butterfly net.

Knee injuries curtailed what could have been an unbelievable NFL career in 1971, but Jones was electric in the open field. His career average of 22.3 yards per catch is the NFL’s best for any player with 200 receptions or more.

Today is Jones’ 77th birthday, in an interview a few years ago, he said he regretted ever doing the spike. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski would probably respectfully disagree. Happy Birthday to #45.

Colts Still Get Patriots Assistant Coach, Ray Ventrone To Head Colts STs:
After the Colts-Josh McDaniels fallout, Indianapolis hired Frank Reich as their new head coach. And one of Reich’s first hires was to New England’s assistant STs coach Ray Ventrone.

“Bubba” Ventrone was an 11-year player in the NFL and spent the past three seasons as the Patriots assistant STs coach. The Colts will be looking to improve their STs by grabbing a coach from NE who have one of the better STs units in the league.

Who Will the Patriots Draft at QB This Season:
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes…” well add to that Ben, the Patriots drafting a QB. The Patriots draft one every year, but this one better be a good one, someone that takes over for Tom Brady once #12’s career winds down.

The team traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers this season at the deadline and now with Brian Hoyer as the backup, they’ll need to look to the future. But finding a capable backup to Brady isn’t the option anymore. We all know Brady’s age so this is must be someone they feel can lead them to continue to win once Brady decides to hang it up.

So who is out there in the draft in 2018? Forget about the Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Josh Allen call, they’ll be gone in the top of Round 1, long before New England picks. A couple of names to keep an eye on are Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Washington State’s Luke Falk, Western Kentucky’s Mike White and Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta from a Patriots perspective.

We’ll look at them in the upcoming draft series after free agency but one guy who they pick with their top draft choice is Lauletta. Forget about all the lacrosse stuff, yes he and BB share that, but he has the look of a QB that would thrive in this system.

Schuplinski A Key Coach to Watch, For the Next QB Taken:
Another overlooked part of the McDaniels remaining in New England is the retaining of assistant QB coach Jerry Schuplinski who was rumored to be heading to Indy along with McDaniels. Now, Schuplinski, a close friend of McDaniels is opting to remain too.

Mike Reiss of ESPN penned an interesting piece about the role of Schuplinski mentoring both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett and will likely mentor whoever the Patriots draft this season.

No Mulligans, Now Belichick “Should’ve Drafted Garoppolo in Round 1:
My, my, my (Joe Kenda voice), how quickly the worm turns. The latest idea making the rounds over on social media was that Bill Belichick screwed up by not taking Jimmy Garoppolo in the first round of the draft back in 2014. The feeling is, if he had, then Garoppolo, being a first-round pick would’ve been under the Patriots control for one more season.

First of all, isn’t it amazing how Belichick lasted this long as the Patriots coach because so many of his decisions have come under such scrutiny? How many times have we heard or read, “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill with bad decisions.” Well, now we have this one. And it isn’t recent, this particular story began circulating back in mid-August I believe.

Just as a reminder, when the Patriots drafted Garoppolo, the talk was that they “reached” for him and that he’d have been available later in the draft. But in actuality, even if you could peek into the crystal ball and look back and ahead, they would still be in a position where they’d probably be doing just what they did. Brady, who led the league in passing in 2017 and threw for 505 yards in the Super Bowl, doesn’t look like a guy getting ready to go over the cliff anytime soon. What was Bill thinking back then?

Resetting the 2018 Season Priorities:
We’ve been exploring the Patriots own free agents here on PatsFans.com but we’ll be exploring some other issues that the team will have to address if they are to return to represent the AFC again in Super Bowl LIII. Some upcoming articles to look for are:

  • Getting younger and more Athletic on Defense, Especially Linebacker
  • Finding the “next guy” at QB in the NFL Draft
  • Sorting out who will be the RBs in 2018
  • Resign Key FAs, starting with Nate Solder and Danny Amendola
  • Who will replace Malcolm Butler, a veteran or draft pick?

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Vontae Davis Leaves Buffalo Without a Contract with the Bills:
Although the Buffalo Bills hosted free agent cornerback Vontae Davis, the first visit that Davis attended, he left without a contract. It was then reported that Davis then visited Cleveland and spent some time with the Browns.

This is probably nothing more than Davis seeing what is out there in terms of Free Agency cash that teams will throw around before making his decision. Which is a smart move by the player as he’s under no rush whatsoever to make a decision quickly.

Davis was released prior to the 2017 NFL season ending so he doesn’t have to wait for the beginning of free agency to sign anywhere. He could get locked up with a team early and prepare for the NFL season whenever he’s ready.

Davis will be 30 years old this year and was a Pro Bowl corner with excellent cover skills in 2014 and 2015. But he’s missed significant time due to injury the past two seasons. Many teams may want to give him a one-year “prove it” type of deal to see if he’s healthy or he’s beginning to fade, including the Patriots.

Dolphins Contribute $100K to Stoneman Douglas Fund:
The Miami Dolphins made two payments of $50,000, to the GoFundMe page for the Stoneman Douglas school to help put the donations over $1,000,000 in just two days of being active. It was explained that the Dolphins had to make two donations because the maximum allowed by the page to accept was $50,000.

Soon after the Dolphins gesture, donations began pouring in from around the world. According to the Miami Herald, over 16,000 people have donated to the page.

“Donations raised here will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families of the horrific shooting,” the fund’s organizer said. In a separate donation, Dolphins coaches donated $17,500 to the family of Aaron Feis, the assistant football coach who gave his life, shielding students from the psychopathic gunman who attacked the school.

Jets Have the Cap Space and Expected to Chase Cousins, Perhaps Butler Too?
The New York Jets have an estimated $73,000,000 in salary cap space for 2018 and they’re expected to make a serious run at Washington QB Kirk Cousins as soon as free agency opens. It may not be as far-fetched as some people believe at first glance.

With that much cap space, they can not only snag Cousins but a number of players who can help support Cousins and give him enough weapons to make the Jets relevant again. Another potential selling point is the big market NYC area for Cousins to play in as well as the fact that they can point to the way that the Jets played for Coach Todd Bowles right up until the end of the season. The Jets players believe in Bowles and have bought in.

Another rumor has it that Patriots free agent cornerback could possibly be going to the Jets. Can you imagine the hype for the two meetings this season if both Cousins and Butler end up with Gang Green in 2018? That would immediately make the two meetings even bigger than they normally are, regardless of team’s records.

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.

Marquis Flowers Goes After Patriots Critics With A Series Of Tweets

Robert Alvarez
February 15, 2018 at 2:00 pm ET

As the New England Patriots continue the process of moving on from the 2017 season, linebacker Marquis Flowers took to his Twitter account Monday to try and clear the air with those criticizing himself and his team in the aftermath of Super Bowl LII.

Beginning with an article in the Boston Sports Journal by Greg Bedard that viewed Flowers Super Bowl performance as worse than the issue with Malcolm Butler’s benching, Flowers defended his head coaches decision making while also holding himself accountable for a bad game.




Secondly, Flowers responded to a quote from Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Lane Johnson who referred to the Patriots as a “fear based organization.”


When a fan pushed Flowers further on defending Belichick with a tweet that read “so you believe your teammate malcolm butler who you worked with all year the blood sweat and tears he didnt deserve to play???? did u tell him that marquis??” Flowers reiterated how those decisions were out of his control.


To conclude his series of tweets, Flowers shared what a full season under Belichick helped him with most while also calling out a few internet trolls that wanted to give him a hard time.


Flowers will head into the off season as a free agent, but judging by his defense and outpouring of emotion towards his time so far New England, he certainly learned a lot in just one full season.