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New England Patriots News 4-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-21 and AFC East Notes.

We would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter today.

The Patriots began their offseason conditioning work this week in Gillette. While no one gets a look at what they do, the Patriots always put a premium on being one of the fittest teams in the league. The endurance that begins now and goes thru the July/August sprints up the hills carries the team to wins in December and January.

Keep this in mind; In 2016, 72 of the 256 NFL regular season games were won by a team that trailed in the 4th quarter. That doesn’t include the Super Bowl (28-3).

ICYMI: Our third attempt at predicting how the Patriots will draft, Mock Draft 3.0 was conducted last week with some trades thrown into the mix. You can recap it again here:  Mock Draft 2.0 an attempt on beefing up the weaker parts of the roster was our previous attempt. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we had ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. That can be heard here:

We will do one more pre-draft podcast where we’ll take a stab at predicting the entire first round of the draft and then see who the Patriots may target.

Quick Hitters:

Rob Gronkowski was back in the news and the Patriots released a video of the behind the scenes look at the Fenway Park celebration. Several players were warming up for the ceremonial first pitch and Gronk decided to stand in the batter’s box against Julian Edelman. He went farther though and used a Lombardi Trophy for bat and bunted a pitch, putting a huge dent in the back of the football of the trophy.

That video can be seen here: Classic Gronkowski…BTW the Patriots have no intentions of fixing the dent…It now has personality….Going out with a bang.

Benjamin Watson who was thought to be retiring is said to be considering a return to the NFL this season. After the birth of the twins he’s expecting, Watson may return to playing “in the right situation” according to Adam Schefter. While that probably means a return to the Saints, seeing Watson play one more season with the Patriots wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

Ben Watson catches a TD against the Bills on MNF in 2009.

Brandon Bolden signed a one-year deal to return to the Patriots and it is like coming home again for the veteran STs standout and backup RB. Bolden has always been one of the most popular players in the locker room and last year, the Patriots players made it clear to him when they saw him that his locker remained untouched.

Bolden remarked that his year in Miami was like “going away to college” but is happy to be back. “For some strange reason, every time I did something, I could hear Bill (Belichick) cussing me out like, ‘No, that’s not how we do it,’” Bolden said. “And I was like, ‘You’re right. I’ve got to do it the right way.’ I had great coaching… and it just carried me all through last year. Like, the entire time. I’m happy to be back, excited to get back to work. I missed this place.” And you were missed…especially on STs.

D’Qwell Jackson just wants his football back. The Colts linebacker who inadvertently started the entire Deflategate fiasco by intercepting a Brady pass in the AFC Championship Game and giving it to an equipment manager to keep, and then having this equipment guy turn the ball over to the NFL. Now Jackson has sent a letter to Tom Brady asking for his help getting his football back…. A hilarious bit here and definitely worth another watch.

Allen Bailey is a name to keep an eye on this spring. The former Chiefs DL is a free agent and came in to New England for a visit. Bailey is probably waiting to sign anywhere until after the draft to see where he’ll be asked to be a bigger piece of the puzzle. If the Patriots don’t get one of the top tier defensive linemen in the draft, don’t be shocked to see Bailey get an offer from New England.

Daniel Jones is reportedly getting a longer look by the Patriots??? CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote in his column this bit about New England allegedly liking Daniel Jones the more they think about it:

This could become a spot for Daniel Jones. The Duke QB is a polarizing prospect who hasn’t exactly wowed everyone he’s been around… I continue to hear the Patriots have taken a shine to him. Is he their pick at 32? I’m not so sure. Maybe the Patriots would move up a bit for him.” While they did have him in for a visit, moving up to pick Jones? Not buying into that.

NFL Schedule Release Means Super Overreaction Day:

With the NFL releasing the schedule on Wednesday night, we were once again reminded what an absolute sieve Park Avenue is, as their celebrated release show was rendered moot by an avalanche of schedule teasers, who took the thunder out of the NFL’s release. Operational Security is not high there. Hmmm, didn’t we mention that about 4 years ago? But we digress…

It is always fascinating to gauge fans’ reaction when the schedule is released, even though they’ve already known who the opponents are, just not how they play out. For Patriots fans, the mantra has gone from a worrisome lack of offensive weapons to many proclamations of the team running the table on the first 7-8 weeks of the schedule. What changed? Shouldn’t we wait for those predictions until at least the draft is over?

Even more predictable is the reaction from the fans from other teams, especially those fan bases from rivals (you know who they are). With the perpetual lament about how the Patriots make the playoffs every year only because the AFC East is so weak. Ugh.

It was refreshing to see a national NFL reporter Field Yates, put that ridiculous and overblown take in proper perspective. However, you can set your clock by these overreactions and depending upon the area code how it means completely different things, again depending on your point of view.

Tweet by Field Yates on AFC East

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. There was a report released by the Attorney General this week and depending upon which side of the aisle one sits on, the takes on that were so different, you would’ve thought they were two totally different reports. Signs of the times.  

Chris Hogan Now A Panther and Still a Misunderstood Player:

Not surprisingly Chris Hogan has moved on in free agency after three seasons with the Patriots. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers that is worth up to $2 million, a pretty modest figure, which highlights that the Patriots were ready to move on and try to get younger and more athletic at the position (we’ll see).

Hogan wasn’t brought here to be a #1 receiver, that isn’t who he is and never will be. He’s a complementary guy who can and has provided solid production if he’s part of a solid rotation of players on offense.  

And while no one will argue that Hogan had a frustrating year, his numbers were nearly the same in all three seasons with the Patriots.

Chris Hogan during 2018 mini-camp (SBalestrieri photo)

2016 – 15 games, 58 targets, 38 receptions, 680 yards 17.9 avg. 4 TDs

2016 had the Patriots loaded offensively. Julian Edelman had nearly 100 catches (98) and 1106 yards, Danny Amendola, Martellus Bennett, Gronkowski, Malcolm Mitchell, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield. Teams could pick their poison and Hogan often drew the lesser of the opposing team’s corners and feasted (see Pittsburgh AFCCG) with his stellar yards per reception.

2017 – 9 games, 59 targets, 34 receptions, 439 yards, 12.9 avg. 5 TDs

Hogan got off to a hot start in 2017 then was hurt and was never quite the same which made his yards per reception average drop by a large margin, although the one from the year before was unsustainable. Again, the Patriots had a plethora of pass catchers beginning with Brandin Cooks with 65 for over 1000 yards, Gronk returned healthy with a 69 catch 1000 yard season. Danny Amendola had 61 catches and the trio of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White out of the backfield had 118 catches.

2018 – 16 games, 55 targets, 35 receptions, 532 yards, 15.2 avg. 3 TDs

What a difference a year makes. Edelman was suspended for the first four games of the year. Gronkowski was hobbling all season, Cooks was gone and replaced by Josh Gordon who chipped in 40 catches. Amendola, Mitchell, and Cooks were gone, Phillip Dorsett chipped in with 32 catches. A mess of injuries in the summer decimated the WR position.

Despite struggling to gain separation, and often ignored, Hogan’s targets and catches remained almost identical to his first two years. But with the offense clicking at a much lower rate than the standard that we’ve become accustomed to, he was singled out often for criticism. Fair or not, it is what it is.

Hogan would be the first to say that he didn’t have a good year in 2018. That is who he is. But let’s not do the normal thing here and kick the guy on his way out the door. He was a key part of three Super Bowl teams in his three years here, winning two. And in the only one they lost he logged six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.

While a lot of people are excited about the signing of Demaryius Thomas, let us remind ourselves the Patriots are not getting the guy from five years ago. His numbers from last year combined with Denver and Houston: Now with the albeit unscientific method of giving Hogan 89 targets, the same as Thomas based on his 2018 numbers?
89 targets, 59 catches, 677 yards, 11.5 avg. 5 TDs
89 targets, 57 catches, 875 yards, 15.2 avg. 5 TDs. The bottom line, the Thomas from five years ago is a vastly better WR than Hogan. In 2019, I think Hogan is. Moving on.

Offensive Tackle, Not Defensive May Be the First Patriot Selection:

The Patriots have been rumored to be taking a DT early in the draft by several draft experts in many of the Mock Drafts over the internet. Including here…although we’d stop well short of declaring us here as “Draft Experts”, but the plethora of excellent prospects make that an attractive option.

But… after losing both starting left tackle Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle to free agency and having last season’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in training camp last summer, (those counting on DThomas, who suffered his in December should take note) the position is one of need.

There are several out there that warrant early round consideration, and while it may not be the sexy pick that we’re all wanting…and expecting, the Patriots have made it a habit to zig while everyone else zags… Trading up may involve a tackle but not the one we’re all expecting …just saying Stay tuned

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Poised to be Players at the Draft:

The Buffalo Bills are finally in an enviable position in the NFL Draft. Last season they found their franchise QB and still have the #9 pick as well as 10 picks in the draft. This draft is loaded with talent at exactly the places the Bills need to address the depth and holes in their roster. Tight End, wide receiver and the defensive line are all positions of need for Buffalo.

Holding the #9 pick, the Bills can scan the board and move down if desperate teams behind them are itching to move up for their own prospect. This is unchartered territory for the Bills and they should be in a great position to have themselves a great draft.

In other developments, the Bills will be planning a trip to Dallas for Thanksgiving. The Cowboys have traditionally been involved in Thanksgiving and this year the Bills will be on the nationally televised game from the Big D. That promises to be an intriguing matchup…at least in April.

Dolphins May Be Looking To Trade Back in Round 1:

The Miami Dolphins have the 13th pick in the upcoming draft and if the QB they want, if any of them are on the board that they like, they may move back to accumulate more draft capital and roll the dice with Ryan Fitzpatrick for 2019.

Therein lies the rub, there may be a QB that they like but are not enamored with, so the temptation is to settle. But history is an unkind barometer of teams who did just that. It will be intriguing to see who GM Chris Grier and new coach Brian Flores select.

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of suitors to move up in the draft, there always are. And the Dolphins could be the beneficiaries of some nice draft capital because of it.

Jets Bell Has Week 16 Tilt Against the Steelers Circled:

File this one under “Be Careful What You Ask For…You may get it. The New York Jets new running back Le’Veon Bell who the Jets signed to a big four-year deal with the Jets worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed after sitting out last season with Pittsburgh over a salary dispute. Bell wasted no time once the schedule was released to circle a Week 16 date with the Steelers.

Bell took to Twitter and posted a picture of himself running against the Jets. He did keep things light by posting “Jets Steelers, Sunday December 22nd. I got a feeling something miiight be a little different this time around…” While that is innocuous enough considering that in the picture he was running against the Jets, some people will take as something else and it immediately becomes bulletin board material.

That is usually the time of the year where Pittsburgh is trying to solidify playoff position and the Jets are hoping to find themselves in a familiar position. We’ll see.

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“Is it time for the Draft yet? 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.

New England Patriots News, 4-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-14 and AFC East Notes.

It is looking like it is going to be another soggy Boston Marathon this year, we’d like to wish all of the competitors the best of luck tomorrow.


As we stated last week we have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing. Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming out early this week.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we’re planning on having ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. Please do check that out around mid-week.

Last week did a draft mailbag podcast which can be listened to here:

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady was on his Instagram account beginning his offseason work at his home. The interesting thing about that was he was still picking confetti from the Super Bowl out of his helmet. Speaking of which, he can no longer wear his old one and must wear the newer version which he tried a few times last year.

Chris Hogan signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hogan had quite a few memorable moments and catches in his three years in New England, helping the team get to three Super Bowls and winning two. But his leaving this spring is not a surprise, it seemed like a long shot for him to return.

Pat Chung has signed a one-year extension according to NFL.com, locking up the Patriots safety thru the 2021 season. Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. Chung broke his arm in the Super Bowl but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp

Tim Tebow was in Pawtucket playing the Paw Sox for the Mets minor league affiliate and was asked about his brief time with Tom Brady. Tebow gave a long answer, gushing over the qualities of Brady as both a QB and a teammate. Then apologizing for giving an answer that was too long.  Tebow was and is always a class act.

RIP Forrest Gregg the longtime Packer great offensive lineman who passed away at age 85 this week. Gregg set a record (since broken) of playing in 188 straight games and later became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi called Gregg, “the greatest player I ever coached.”

The Patriots were supposedly interested in making a trade for NY Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, but for the second year in a row, the Giants when they found out there was interest in their player (OBJ last year), gave the player a fat extension. In Shepherd’s case a 4-year, $41 million dollar extension.

Seferian-Jenkins Is Excited to Play in New England:

With the signing of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week, it was a move we immediately pegged as a win but then turned around and stated that he probably would not be a #1 tight end here. And we’ll double down on that. The move was for the veterans’ minimum salary with just a $50,000 signing bonus and incentive bonuses totaling only another $40,000. That is peanuts; so the outlay of cash and risk for the team is very minimal.

Seferian-Jenkins could….could step into a #1 role for the Patriots, but they don’t obviously think that is so or they would’ve enticed him earlier with more money. It will be interesting to see how he works out with the team in the spring. And if he can stay healthy and on the field.

A best-case scenario for the team would be for them to get one of the top TEs in the draft (which is still a big need) and have Seferian-Jenkins step into the #2 role as a complementary receiver.

Jenkins took to social media posting a picture of the original Pat the Patriot (he immediately got high marks from here) and thanked the Patriots and stated “I am ready to go to work.” And why wouldn’t he be? Look at the QBs he’s played with and he’s never been on a playoff team.

Belichick Praises Caserio, Scouting Dept. Ahead of the Draft:

Bill Belichick held a pre-draft press conference at Gillette on Weds. and opened with nearly a 7-minute statement praising the work of Nick Caserio, the Pats Director of Player Personnel.

With a big turnover in the coaching staff, Belichick said that there was less scouting of college prospects by the coaching staff than in previous years. But he raved about the job that Caserio and the Director of College Scouting Monte Ossenfort and Pro player Scouting Dave Zigler have done. With the absence of so many coaches, Zigler and his staff jumped in to help with the process.

“So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what’s going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we’re evaluating on all different levels,” Belichick said of Caserio.

Belichick added that the goal, as always is to come away “as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, (emphasis mine),  in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It’s really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we’re trying to achieve.”

Patriots and Titans Will Hold Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots always try to conduct joint practices during training camp and this season will be no exception. Prior to their Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, the two teams will conduct joint practices against one another at the Titans’ facility.

“Sure, we are going to practice against the Patriots,” Vrabel said on Friday.

“They’re going to come down here, and it’ll be great for our fans to come out here and see a lot of great players, the team that won the Super Bowl last year. And they’ll be able to watch those practices and see our work and see how we compete against each other and try to improve.”

That immediately set off a lot of good-natured trash talking between old friends and former Patriot Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Pat Chung. Ryan said he was going to play one snap at WR to burn the McCourty Twins. He tweeted, “Easy money, he getting old.”  Which immediately got a response from Devin where he answered, “Which one? I guess it don’t matter, I don’t like you vs anyone!” Chung jumped in with “I mean damn, Let’s do it!…LOL.”

The two teams will meet there in Nashville during the week of August 12. If fans are looking for a nice vacation trip…Nashville is nice any time of the year.

Seahawks and Patriots Trading for #21 Pick in the Draft?

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be trading back from the #21 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. And depending upon how the board plays out, the Patriots with a plethora of draft picks could be in a prime position to move up if one of the tight ends they covet are there or perhaps one of the premier edge guys like Clelin Ferrell.

Seattle has only four picks in the upcoming draft, (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rounds) so creating a few more would seem to be the order of the day for Pete Carroll. According to the Draft Value Chart, Seattle’s pick at #21 is worth an even 800 points. So to give them adequate compensation, the Patriots could package their first round pick at #32 (590 points) and #73 (225 points) to give Seattle a slight perceived edge or you could delve really deep and package #32, and some of the Patriots mid-to-later round picks for the Seahawks #21 and one of their mid-round picks.

Of course, they won’t be alone. Everyone knows that Seattle may be looking to trade back and that means the Seahawks brass will be looking for the best deal for them. That’s what makes this time of year so interesting.

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Speaking of the draft, I was talking about Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom to a high school coach that coached against him in school last week and he remembered how impressive the former Shepherd Hill OL was back then. “They ran those tight formations (Double Wing) and watching him pull out and road grade thru the defenses was impressive,” he said.  “Back then he was about 270 (pounds) and he was still one of the faster players on the field. You could tell he was going to a really special player.”

We say that because don’t go to sleep on a player like Lindstrom. He played right tackle for the Eagles, but projects to be an interior OL at the next level. But he has the versatility to maybe do both.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking For A Big Draft to Upgrade Offensive Weapons:

The Buffalo Bills were very active in free agency and signed six offensive linemen as well as two wide receivers during the early going of free agency. Don’t expect the Bills to stop there. Buffalo has 10 picks in the upcoming draft and they have the flexibility to move around the draft to search for the weapons to surround 2nd year QB Josh Allen with the talent he needs to succeed.

The Bills OLwas a mess in 2018 and they signed three guards, two tackles and one excellent center to help protect their franchise QB. They also added WRs John Brown, Cole Beasley and TE Tyler Kroft to the mix.

But now they are poised to make some noise in the draft. With the #9 pick in the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Iowa T.J. Hockenson and then adding Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with their 40th pick. The Bills just had the other Iowa TE Noah Fant in for a visit.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll doesn’t need to see Alabama TE Irv Smith up close for a visit, he coached him with the Tide.

The Bills also signed FA DE/OLB Eli Harold this week. Harold played two seasons for the 49ers and last year with Detroit where he had eight tackles, four sacks and a pass deflected in 13 games for the Lions.

Dolphins To Pass on Early QBs in the Draft? Quite Possible:

The Miami Dolphins and new head coach Brian Flores have a lot of holes to fill in the 2019 roster. After the jettisoning of Ryan Tannehill and the signing of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, most experts believe the Dolphins may reach early for the next potential franchise QB at #13 in the draft. Not so fast…

If someone they like is still around at #13 could Miami pounce on them, but with big holes to fill at DE, the offensive line, running back and corner, they Dolphins may wait to select a QB they can develop in the middle rounds.

Fans may scream given Fitzpatrick’s track record as a starter, but with Brian Flores coming from the Belichick regime, they may be looking at the long-term best solution first rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, which is how they ended up in this predicament.

Jets Ink Montgomery, Maybe the End of the Line for Powell:

The New York Jets signed RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery this week to back up Le’Veon Bell. The former Ravens player was also reportedly being courted by the Miami Dolphins. A talented kick returner, Montgomery was cut by Green Bay after an ill-advised return at the end of a game with the Rams. Montgomery was told to take a knee and returned it out of the end zone and then fumbled.

He was dealt to the Ravens where in six games he rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 65 yards. He began his career as a WR and switched to RB with the Packers. It is expected that head coach Adam Gase will try to find a niche role for him behind Bell.

But that news is probably the end of Bilal Powell’s time as a New York Jet. He suffered a neck injury last season but was thought to be able to continue his career fully. In his eight seasons with the Jets, the 30-year old Powell rushed for 3,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 204 for 1,567 yards and five touchdowns. He was never the Jets #1 running back but led them in scrimmage yards in both 2013 and 2016.

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We’ve all seen those commercials “Want to Get Away?” When someone does something silly or just plain dumb… How about the editorial staff on Sportsnaut? This week they published a piece on “NFL stars about to fade in 2019” and who leads off the list? Danny Amendola. Okay you say, that could happen, but what? Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.

“This veteran receiver will likely see an uptick in targets next season now that Rob Gronkowski has retired. In no way does this mean the 33-year-old Amendola is going to be as efficient as we’ve seen in the past.” Ouch. Ummm Amendola hasn’t been with the Patriots since 2017, having spent the 2018 season with Miami and now with Detroit.

The facts checker took the day off it seems. Want to get away? …

“Is it time for the Draft yet? 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.

New England Patriots News 04-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-07 and AFC East Notes.

We have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing.

And be sure to check out for pre-Draft Podcasts with Derek Havens and I going over some of the possible fits for the Patriots in the upcoming draft.

Quick Hitters:

Michael Bennett had the felony charges against him dropped in Texas. After the Super Bowl in Houston, he was trying to get on the field to congratulate his brother Martellus when he supposedly shoved a 66-year-old paraplegic security staffer, who suffered a sprained arm. The DA dropped the charges “in the interest of justice” as they didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence to earn a conviction.

Tom Brady was in People Magazine after he signed what he dubbed, “the coolest helmet I’ve ever signed.” The helmet with many Patriots-themed illustrations didn’t appear to have a clear area for #12 to sign. We’ll leave the picture here for fans to decide on the coolness of it.

Patriots Huge in China: The Chinese have definitely taken a shine to the Patriots. According to CNN, the Patriots have enjoyed a “monumental” year in the world’s most populous nation, becoming the first NFL team to hit 500,000 followers on Weibo, which is the Chinese version of Twitter. Weibo has around 300 million monthly active users.

The Patriots were the team that put the biggest onus on creating daily content that would specifically be attractive to Chinese fans. Which included graphics in Mandarin,, and short video explainers on American Football.

“The Patriots this past season have set themselves apart from the rest of the league in terms of creating original Chinese content,” Gideon Clark, client director at Mailman, said to CNN.

Red Sox/Patriots championships for the 2018 season will both be honored at the Red Sox home opener on Tuesday. RS President Sam Kennedy told media members that the Patriots have accepted their invitation to attend and conduct a joint celebration.

The Patriots are celebrating their sixth title since 2001 while the Red Sox are recognizing their fourth since 2004.

Patriots Draft Caps were released by New Era caps that the players who are drafted by the team will wear on stage when they are selected. In a word…bland.

Rodgers and McCarthy Excoriated in B/R Piece:

Aaron Rodgers was raked over the coals in the recent piece by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne. And former head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t spared the rod either in this compelling yet disturbing story. Calling this an unflattering look at Rodgers is like saying the Titanic encountered ice problems on her maiden voyage.

This was a truly toxic relationship and Dunne says it was over before it began. Rodgers, it was said, never forgave McCarthy for drafting Alex Smith before him in the NFL Draft and it poisoned their relationship before it even began. This story, unlike the one that pictured Brady and Belichick at odds, named names and had quotes from many former Packers players.

Rodgers changed about a third of the plays McCarthy called and frequently told receivers to run different routes than what was called. After McCarthy was fired, Packers President Mark Murphy called Rodgers to tell him the team was hiring new coach Matt LaFleur speaks a lot of how bad things have gotten in GB.

Murphy called Rodgers to tell him who they were going with. He didn’t ask for permission—he told him who the choice was. There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone before Rodgers eventually spoke. Murphy made it clear that Rodgers would need to accept coaching. “Don’t be the problem,” he told him. “Don’t be the problem.”

Leon Gray Elected to the Patriots HOF:

With the meeting of the Patriots Hall of Fame Committee this week to select the three finalists for this season’s fan induction, the 10-member Senior Selection Committee met to elect a player who has been retired for 25 years or longer. This year’s selection was former Patriots offensive tackle, Leon Gray.

Gray was drafted by Miami but cut at the end of training camp. He was quickly scooped up by Chuck Fairbanks of the Pats and quickly became one of the best tackles in the NFL. He and John Hannah comprised an outstanding combination at guard and tackle and were instrumental in setting the NFL record for team rushing yards in 1978, a record that still stands today.

Gray was underpaid in relation to tackles around the league and would be gone by 1979 to Houston. He later played for  New Orleans. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with two All-Pro seasons. He died in 2001. The selections for the team HOF will be announced later this week.

Why A 1st Round WR? He’s a Perfect Fit:

“The Patriots have NEVER selected a WR in the first round of the Bill Belichick era.” Yes I know, and judging from the emails I received after Mock Draft 2.0, a lot of Patriots fans know that too. But if there is one thing about this team, we’ve learned is to never say never.

So, with that being said, we opted for a wide receiver from Ole Miss at the end of the first round who was still there, during a draft simulation.No, it wasn’t D.K. Metcalf, the physical freak who has everyone drooling in fantasy football dream scenarios. It was his teammate A.J. Brown who was actually a ton more productive.

Metcalf caught 67 passes for Ole Miss during parts of three college seasons. Brown caught 189 for 2984 yards (15.5-yard average) with 19 touchdowns. He’s been compared to JuJu Smith-Schuster by several draft writers.

He’s got very good size at 6’0, 226, and has good but not great long speed. But before everyone begins to say a “deep threat receiver” keep in mind that Brown can do a lot more than that. He can work as a traditional “X” wide receiver, the “Z” or out of the slot. His route running and route tree is much better than his ex-teammate.

He can be a chain mover and stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically, something the Patriots offense is more aligned with. He’s versatile and can play multiple positions. He can be a very productive receiver in this offense. Now the only question that remains is, would he fall as far as #32 and if he did… would the Patriots, who already had a visit with him, select him in the 1st round?

Saban on Advice from Belichick – “Let the Players Play”:

There are times when you see obscure tweets and you at times just skip over them. There’s no way you can read everything that zips past your timeline. But when a good friend (@PatriotsSBLIII) tweets something, I usually stand up and pay attention. And when I miss something and frequently do, he’s always sharing stuff with me.

Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama was on the podium and talking not about coaching but “over-coaching” which can sometimes happen to coaches who try to hammer home every detail into players’ heads.

“Sometimes players are kind of depending on that reinforcement all the time in practice,” Saban said. “In a game, there’s no coach out there. I coached like that when I was an assistant — we’d have a scrimmage at the Cleveland Browns, and Belichick would chew my butt out, man. He’d say, ‘Let the players play.’

“And I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve never had my butt chewed out before for coaching and teaching.’ “

But as Saban continued, he said that learned that Belichick was right and adopted the same style of coaching.

“I say the same things to our coaches now, because there’s a time when you’ve just got to let the players play. Because in the game, they’ve got to know what to do, they’ve got to know how to do it, they can’t depend on somebody else to make a call for them. They can’t depend on somebody else to recognize things for them.”

“So, we actually do stuff in practice now, when we do team I make the coaches get off the field, make the calls, let the players play,” he added.

One of the hallmarks of Belichick coached teams and a trait that they value is having smart football players. Guys who will take the coaching, do the preparation needed and be able to recognize what they see in front of them in a game and know what they’re supposed to do.  This is just a small example of how blessed the Patriots fans are in New England.


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Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Adam Schein Is Bullish on Bills and Allen:

Sports radio host and NFL analyst Adam Schein is really high on both the Buffalo Bills and their second-year QB Josh Allen and predicts great not good things for the duo in 2019. He appeared on the One Bills Live radio show and echoed those thoughts.

“I’m obsessed with the Bills. I love the coach; I love the GM; I love the potential of the young quarterback. I think he’s going to be great and I’m not just throwing that word around. I think Josh Allen’s gonna be an absolute star,” Schein said.

“Here’s a stat: 5-6. That was Allen’s record as a rookie starter. And given what people initially expected of the 2018 Bills, as well as the underwhelming offensive talent that surrounded Allen, that 5-6 mark speaks volumes,” Schein penned in an NFL.com article.

“A couple more stats that sing: 631 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Allen’s rushing ability was a revelation. Remember the hurdle of Anthony Barr? That’s not normal for a quarterback. Special stuff.”

He added, “Long story short: Allen enjoyed an encouraging rookie season. He silenced many naysayers. And that was just the beginning. Josh Allen is going to be great.”

That particular radio show had to be music to the ears of the fan base hungry for a contender. While many writers don’t share Schein’s optimism regarding Allen, he’ll have the chance to prove them all wrong in September.

Dolphins Meet With Duke QB Daniel Jones:

The Miami Dolphins search for a franchise QB, something they’ve struggled to find since Dan Marino retired continues. With their trade of Ryan Tannehill, they signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as a bridge QB, but that signing is strictly a band-aid fix.

Jones played in a pro-style offense and has the arm strength, size, and patience in the pocket. He has a quick delivery and processes things quickly and accurately. It will be interesting to see if Miami pulls the trigger on Jones in the draft. The Duke signal caller has also drawn interest from the Broncos, Giants, and Chargers.

Miami also announced that Richmond Webb and Kenyan Drake will announce some of their 2019 NFL Draft picks in keeping with the recent tradition of having former and current players announcing selections for the team.

All Quiet on the Jets Front:

The New York Jets are keeping a very low profile heading into the draft. And there hasn’t been much of them in the news. While they prepare for the #3 pick in the draft, how the first two selections go will have a big influence on their decision.

Most of the talk this week was on the Jets new uniforms which are IOHO very boring, with the black third jersey looking far too much like the Philadelphia Eagles uniform. Sometimes new isn’t better, the Jets 1980s look to me was their best, just like the Patriots red uniforms, especially the away unis with red pants and white jerseys.

But in other “news” Robby Anderson is excited to be in Adam Gase’s offense, although he hasn’t officially seen it yet. And Jamal Adams doesn’t believe Gronk stays retired…Yawn.

“Is it Draft time yet? 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.

New England Patriots News 3-31, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 31, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-31 and AFC East Notes.

We have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here:

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:

Joe Bellino, former Patriots kick returner and running back passed away this week at the age of 81. Bellino was a standout athlete at Winchester, Mass before joining the Naval Academy. Bellino won the Heisman Trophy at Navy as well as being a three-year letterman on the Midshipmen’s baseball team.

Following his four-year military commitment, Bellino joined the Patriots in 1965 and played three seasons until 1967, primarily as a kick returner. His only NFL touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Babe Parilli on October 8, 1966, against the Bills.

Supposedly at his Annapolis graduation, Bellino took part in the cap toss with 700 other Midshipmen. A young boy picked up Bellino’s cap amidst the 700 others and returned it to him. That young boy? Bill Belichick.

Following his Patriots career, Bellino re-joined the Navy and served a total of 28 years retiring as a Captain. RIP Joe.

Bill Belichick and Joe Cardona were on hand at Gillette Stadium this week to spend time with the Navy Lacrosse team who were practicing there before their game against Holy Cross. Belichick is never one to turn down an opportunity to spend time with the Navy cadets or put a lacrosse stick in his hand.

New Replay for PI/OPI: Not a fan. It doesn’t solve what is or what isn’t Pass interference and now the subjective part of this falls to some unnamed staffer in New York who decides if a play is truly a foul or not.

Richard Sherman said the NFL “can control the outcome as they see fit” because “every defendable pass looks like PI in slow motion.”

Malcolm Mitchell was back in Boston and sat down with ESPN’s Mike Reiss and spoke about his retirement after just one season in the NFL due to chronic knee issues. Mitchell told Reiss that his plans are still flexible but he will always have that one shining moment in the Super Bowl.

“With football, it is easy to see into the future and build an idea of where you want to end up. With that gone, it has been a little hazy to see where I will end up. But one thing I hope people in New England know is that I made sure I went out a Patriot.”

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends are the talk of Patriot Nation right now, specifically the lack of them currently on the roster. So fans will be happy to note that the team has met with or is bringing in WR A.J. Brown, N’Keal Harry, and TE Jace Sternberger in the upcoming days. Sternberger in our draft profiles was marked as a great fit.

The Gronk Videos Keep Rolling:

With the retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski last Sunday, the highlight videos have been everywhere all week and truth be told, all of them were fantastic. Gronkowski had so many highlight plays, one could literally spend hours watching his tape.

The word best describing the big guy was “genuine”. He was always just a big-hearted kid trapped in an enormous man’s body. There was no acting for him, what you saw is what he truly is. But for all the partying he did, there was always a smart element to it, he had his bus and a designated driver and he never got in any trouble.

On the field, he was all business and his work ethic was unquestioned. We’ve seen countless great catches and his ability to attack the seams of the defense while drawing two, three and at times four defenders was legendary. But as a blocker, there are none better.

In the 2011 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots had him blocking the big immovable Haloti Ngata 1-on-1 and he opened a hole for a Patriots rushing touchdown. In the 2018 AFC Championship Game, they left him in to block Dee Ford, the Chiefs best pass rusher all alone. Any other TEs today get tasked with that kind of blocking responsibility? Anyone? Bueller? No way.

One of the best Gronk videos we saw this week was from the outstanding work of Brian Baldinger who does a tremendous job of breaking down tape. In this one from the NFL, he shows how versatile the big man truly was. Happy trails 87…

Schiano Abruptly Quits, Mayo Back on Board:

Greg Schiano, who was never actually announced as the Patriots Defensive Coordinator has stepped down to “spend more time on my faith and family.” The exodus for Patriots coaches leaving the team since the Super Bowl win over the Rams has now reached five.

Schiano was widely thought that he’d assume the mantle as the Defensive Coordinator with the loss of Brian Flores. But now his departure leaves a gaping hole in what was already a really depleted defensive staff.

But the good news was that the Patriots hired former linebacker Jerod Mayo to take over the linebackers. Mayo was described by Tedy Bruschi when he was drafted out of Tennessee as “an old soul”, meaning he was very mature and already had great leadership qualities. While a player, Mayo was considered a coach on the field and many of the players called him “Bill Jr.”

One coach who may be tasked with more responsibilities this season is former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. He was hired as a defensive consultant to Bill Belichick last year. Before becoming a head coach, he was a linebacker coach and the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin.

But as far as the Defensive Coordinator, that will probably fall back to Belichick.

The Patriots are “In on” Josh Rosen and Everyone Else:

Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, the Patriots were reportedly to be very interested in QB Josh Rosen who was taken by the Cardinals in the first round. Now with a new regime in place, the Cardinals are supposedly coveting Kyler Murray in the draft and are reportedly going to cut ties with Rosen after saddling him with a terrible supporting cast after just one year. And yes, the Patriots are one of three teams “in on” Rosen as the Cardinals look to trade him. Yawn… wake me when the deal happens.

Is there ever a free agent or player rumored to be on the trading block who ISN’T rumored to be on the Patriots’ radar? I think a lot of agents and team GMs use the Patriots as leverage to draw the price up by leaking out… isn’t that a daisy, that “the Patriots are in on …”

That isn’t to say a deal for Rosen isn’t a possibility but these things happen so frequently, I wouldn’t be betting the house on it. Stay tuned.

“Better Pro Than College Player”, Yes it Happens:

In some of our recent pre-draft writing, I got an email from one reader who took great exception at my comment that a player could be a better professional and have much better production than he did as a college player.

While I won’t print his name, he asked, “Are you out of your f***ing mind?” and finished his thoughts off with, “if he doesn’t produce in college, then he won’t in the pros.”

So, to answer both comments, to the first, I’d say, “Quite probably, and my family has accused me of such often.” As to the second… the NFL is chock full of players who produce at a much higher rate than they ever did in college. Look no farther than Gronk who caught 47 passes in his final season in Arizona.  A great example of that is George Kittle the TE for the 49ers. In four years of college in 48 games, Kittle caught 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 TDs. This season he caught 88 passes for 1377 yards and 5 TDs. And of course, there is a guy who in college was forever being pushed to the backup role and who they tried to replace several times as the starter. Tom Brady.

Some players do mature and take longer to reach their peak effectiveness. Others won’t make that jump to the pros and elevate their games to the next level.

Pat Chung Sued Over Trash Talk:

In one of the more bizarre bits of news, Patriots safety Pat Chung and Matthew Weymouth who runs Chung’s Instagram account are being sued $1.75 million dollars by Matthew Hogan, who was a Rams ticket exec during the Super Bowl.

Hogan was fired after the game for posting to Chung’s Instagram account, “Pat Chung is a bitch” after the safety broke his arm during the game. After Hogan and Weymouth began exchanging unpleasantries, Weymouth posted the screenshots of Hogan’s tirade on the internet.

Hogan was fired over this and now wants Chung and Weymouth to pick up the tab for him losing his job… That isn’t a typo.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills to Lean on Young Leaders Allen, Edwards in 2019:

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott at the NFL Owner’s Meeting said that the Bills will be leaning on their younger stars, QB Josh Allen and LB Tremaine Edwards to assume bigger roles both on the field and in the locker room in 2019.

“We’re trying to put a team together and the bottom line is Josh is a big part of that,” McDermott said of Allen. But he was quick to point out Edwards will have a bigger role as well.

“His leadership and Tremaine’s leadership will be key to our success, at a young age, because there’s a gap with what we had last year. Year-three and year-four players, there was an absence of that in our locker room. We’ve added there somewhat in free agency, but Josh and Tremaine on the offensive and defensive side are two young players who are going to have an added amount of responsibility from a leadership standpoint this year.”

Dolphins Trade Robert Quinn, Is Reshad Jones Next?

The Miami Dolphins are definitely doing a clean sweep in South Beach. Miami has traded edge rusher Robert Quinn to the Dallas Cowboys for a 6th round draft pick in 2020. And Miami had already paid Quinn a $1.12 million dollar roster bonus. Making the trade appear even more one-sided was the fact that Quinn agreed to a $4 million dollar pay cut with Dallas. Now, the thought is that Miami will put Reshad Jones on the market.

Jones, 31, is coming off shoulder surgery and doesn’t fit into the Dolphins long-term plans. And the fact that he counts more than $17 million against the salary cap in 2019 puts Jones in the crosshairs to move.

But despite the fact that Jones has been underrated and underappreciated, moving him will be difficult considering his contract. If Miami were to cut him, they’d be on the hook for $25.3 million in dead money.

Sal Pal, “Jets Have Changed the Balance of Power in the Division:

The New York Jets have made some key additions and according to ESPN’s Sal Palantonio, not only have the Jets made the right moves to change the direction of the team, they’ve changed the balance of power in the division.

“When I look at the offseason and I look at free agency and coaching changes, I say two things,” Paolantonio told the Jets.com. “Did you change the balance of power on your team, and did you change the balance of power in your division? I think the answer to the first question is definitely yes.”

Palantonio believes the addition of Gregg Wiliams will mean a great deal to the Jets defense, bringing a renewed sense of energy as well as accountability to the Gang Green defense.

“Le’Veon Bell changes the balance of power within the division,” Paolantonio said. “To me, if the team can run the ball, that takes pressure off your second-year quarterback, that’s pretty obvious. And you need to do that. If you calm him down and keep him on schedule with the running game, the formula is you will win more football games.”

Having the Jets into Gillette Stadium in Week 1 would be a great way to kick off the season. That is a great Week 1 matchup and the rivalry and unpleasantries will reach new heights.

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 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.

New England Patriots News, 3-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 17, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-17 and AFC East Notes.
We hope everyone has a great, happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day.

Favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory? Taking the train into North Station in a blizzard and my Dad taking me, my brother and two cousins to my first Bruins game. Against the Montreal Canadiens.

Quick Hitters:

Adrian Clayborn – the veteran pass rusher will only complete one season as a Patriots and was released on Friday as per his wishes. His release gives the team an extra almost $3.5 million dollars in salary cap room.

Clayborn wrote on Twitter a thank-you note to the Patriots.

“Thank you Patriots for my time with the organization. gained so much respect for how you do things and win championships. It’s done the right way through hard work. Thank you for granting my release. I’m ready for this next chapter.”

He garnered 2.5 sacks, 13 QB hits, and a forced fumble after signing a two-year free-agent deal last spring. He added a sack and five QB hits during the Patriots Super Bowl run. With Trey Flowers a member of the Detroit Lions and Clayborn released, the Patriots depth chart on the edge consists of Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., John Simon, Ufomba Kamalu, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, and Trent  “Toolbox” Harris.

Michael Bennett – Speaking of the latest addition, Bennett spoke with Patriots.com

“I used to hate the Patriots,” he said. “I hated it because they would win so much. I hated it because Tom Brady’s hair was long. I hated that Belichick would wear sweaters. But now that I’m here, I love it. I love Tom Brady’s hair. I love being a Patriot obviously because it is all about winning. I think everything about the organization is being team-first, and just about doing what we need to do to get to where we want to go as a group. I love that.”

KC’s Hill Under Investigation For Child Abuse – Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is under scrutiny by law enforcement personnel for battery against a minor. This is the second brush with the law in 10 days. Police were called to his home for a child abuse/neglect call on March 5 but closed the case without any charges being filed.

Again on March 14 police officers received a call at the same address and Hill’s three-year-old son was reportedly the victim with a broken arm. Hill has not been charged with any crime at this point.

Law enforcement officials won’t comment on an on-going investigation. Hill back in 2015 pleaded guilty of  domestic assault and battery by strangulation in August 2015. He received three years probation.

He reportedly punched and choked Espinal, who was then eight weeks pregnant with their son, on Dec. 11, 2014.  She is now pregnant with twins. Hill has been in negotiations with the Chiefs on a new deal that would make him among the highest players at his position. But for now, those negotiations are probably on hold. Both the Chiefs and the NFL said that they are aware of the incident.

“The club is aware of the investigation involving Tyreek Hill,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We’re in the process of gathering information and have been in contact with the league and local authorities. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”

This isn’t good news for Hill, the Chiefs or the NFL. The league just suspended former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt for eight games in 2019 for violation of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. After he was captured on video kicking and shoving a woman in the hallway of a Cleveland hotel. 

Bolden and McCourty Return – After a year in Miami, Patriots special teams ace and backup running back Brandon Bolden is returning to Foxboro on a two-year deal. The popular locker room presence spent the first six years of his career in Foxboro. Tom Brady responded to Bolden’s Instagram post about his return with an “F**k Yeah!”

Jason McCourty is also returning on a 2-year deal. The 31-year old, came on board with the team last year and played very well, giving the cornerback position another veteran presence along with Stephon Gilmore.

Dorsett and Simon Back – The Patriots also brought back two more of their own free agents by re-signing WR Phillip Dorsett and DE John Simon.  Dorsett seemed primed for a big role in the offense after a solid training camp but he never really had a big impact, catching 32 passes for 290 yards and three TDs. Once the team brought in Josh Gordon, Dorsett lost most of his reps. He has a one-year, prove-it type deal in 2019. The one strange thing in this, however, was whenever his number was called, he generally came thru, with a 76 percent catch rate. Will the third season be a charm?

Simon was signed in late September after being released by the Colts. He was a valuable role player both defensively and on STs, where his role increased down the stretch last season and into the playoffs. He was one of the players who found a nice role when the team used their “Amoeba Defense.” The deal was for two years and $7.2 million dollars.

Melifonwu Surprised by Grafton High School Honor – Patriots reserve safety Obi Melifonwu was asked by his old high school in Grafton, Mass. to come in and speak with the students. I was covering it for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Grafton News.

He did and spoke about the importance of schoolwork and how it helped a freshman struggling to fit in find his way into a college where he not only starred in football but graduated with two degrees in 2017. But the school surprised Melifonwu by presenting him with his high school jersey which will be permanently displayed at the school. He was a star both offensively and defensively in CMass football before moving on to UConn and then the NFL.

He admitted he was shocked by the gesture and very appreciative. Afterward, he spoke about preparing for this upcoming season, he’s working with a trainer in Foxboro, outside the facility to prepare himself. He also spoke about learning how to better prepare his body, something he learned the hard way, after being injured for the first time and the resultant therapy.

“Sometimes you train a certain way thru high school and into college that you believe is preparing your body correctly,” he said. “But you learn that certain body parts have been neglected which can lead to overcompensating in certain areas, which ultimately lead to injuries.”

Asked about his Super Bowl experiences, he said, although he didn’t play, his focus was on helping his teammates. “I knew early in the week that I wasn’t going to play, so your focus is completely different,” he said. “Then, your entire mindset is to help the offense, by trying to emulate the Rams defense the best that you can in practice.”

Obi Melifonwu poses with his high school jersey at Grafton High School. (SBalestrieri photo)

While CMass Division III football isn’t exactly a hotbed for NFL players, the Indians have had a few make their mark. Beside Melifonwu, another former Grafton alum, Steve Spagnuolo is now the Defensive Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The draft and spring workouts will be an interesting one for Melifonwu. When the Patriots signed him it was for two years, with 2019 in mind. How they feel about the ridiculously athletic safety will be put to the test in April. They normally target a safety early in the draft. If they do or don’t take a strong safety early will probably tell you how they feel about his long-term viability in their system.

Patriots Add Five Free Agents But No Sexy Names…Surprised? Shouldn’t Be:

We knew this was coming…right? While teams were overpaying for the premium name free agents in a feeding frenzy before the actual free agency period even began, the Patriots stood pat. They did bid on a couple of free agent wide receivers, especially Adam Humphries and to a lesser extent Cole Beasley. But if you really expecting OBJ or Golden Tate, you were bound to be disappointed, just like nearly every other spring.

The team did add five free agents, but they weren’t any of the sexy names fans were clamoring for. The Patriots signed wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris, tight end Matt LaCosse, special teams safety Terrence Brooks and defensive tackle Mike Pennel.

Fans shouldn’t be worried at this point in just mid-March about the state of the wide receiver position. Team building is just in the infantile stages here. Trades are still available and with 12 draft picks, there will be some deals to be made. And with 12 picks in the upcoming draft, they have the capital to move around or make a deal

Of all the players the biggest impact player may just be Mike Pennel. If you listen to our Patriots 4th & 2 podcasts, you’d have heard me say, I believe the Patriots were going to add Pennel as a free agent. He’s a big, 6’4, 330-pound space eater who will be the nose tackle in 2019. With Malcom Brown a Saint and Danny Shelton a free agent, the team needed a big body to anchor the middle of the field, something they needed a year ago.

As Bill Belichick said a year ago before the Patriots played the Jets, guys who are 330 pounds don’t grow on trees. He’s big, very strong and will be a very good addition against the run. He’ll be a starter on Day 1.

Bruce Ellington is a small, 5’9 WR who has had trouble staying healthy and on the field. He has excellent speed and had 31 catches in just seven games a year ago. He has KR and PR ability and this may be why the team brought him in to replace Corrdarrelle Patterson this season. In 2017, he had a good game against the Patriots in Foxboro, catching four passes for 59 yards including a 29-yard touchdown from Deshaun Watson. Bill Belichick loves bringing in players who have done well against his team in the past.

Maurice Harris is a former Redskins WR who has never really put things together. He has very good size at 6’3, 200 pounds with some return ability as well. An UDFA in 2016, he seemed destined to break out last year after a big training camp. But he never did and gets a fresh start with New England. He had 28 catches for 304 yards a year ago, however, over half of those receptions (15) came in two back-to-back games.

Matt Lacosse from the Broncos has boom or bust written all over him. He signed a two-year deal worth $4.8 million dollars and has the frame (6’6, 255) to be a very good blocker in the running game.

He caught 24 passes for 250 yards and a TD last year after working his way from the #3 TE to being the starter after injuries hurt the position. He too will be getting a fresh start in New England. He’ll get the chance to be the #2 or #3 TE here in 2019.

Terrence Brooks is a safety but is more known for his special teams’ acumen. He was one of the standout players on one of the better STs units in the league last year. The Patriots struggled in the kicking game especially kickoff and punt coverage early last season. Once they brought in Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber, both free agents, things solidified. Bringing back Bolden and signing Brooks should be a boost overall for the ST units in 2019.

Patriots ST’s Kickers Remain Unsigned:

The Patriots are getting a lot of air time with the usual hot take hosts about their lack of depth at wide receiver. But right now, they have no players in the kicking game with the exception of long-snapper Joe Cardona.

Both kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen remain unsigned. Gostkowski has been with the team for longer than Adam Vinatieri was and is one of the top kickers in the league. Allen, while in the middle of the road in terms of gross punting average is outstanding at directional punting and could have been a legitimate Super Bowl MVP candidate by pinning the Rams back deep in their zone all game long.

Bottom line here is there isn’t a better kicker on the market than Gostkowski. We still expect both to return at some point, but it remains an area to monitor.

Patriots Still “Tentatively Planning” on Having Gronk Back in 2019:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t announced his decision on whether to return to the team in 2019 or retire. He’s openly talked retirement in the past but the opportunity to have one last shot at the team’s seventh Super Bowl championship may be a big draw for him.

Of course, Gronkowski can also point to the cash he’s due, he’ll count for $11,859,375 against the salary cap in 2019. If he retires, the team will have an additional $9,859,375 to spend this year.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported, “My understanding is when you talk to people close to him, they think there is a better chance that he comes back again than he doesn’t. And I do believe that the Patriots are at least tentatively planning as if they will have Gronk for the 2019 season.”

With the release of Dwayne Allen, the Patriots depth chart at tight end consists of the newly signed Matt Lacosse, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Bring In Weapons for Josh Allen:

The Buffalo Bills signed some very needed receivers for their offense in free agency inking WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley, tight end Tyler Kroft as well as offensive line help in Mitch Morse and Ty Nsekhe. This should aid in helping QB Josh Allen in helping transform what was a moribund offense in 2018.

The team also inked the ageless Frank Gore at running back on a one-year deal, giving Buffalo the oldest RB group with Gore who will be 36 along with Chris Ivory (30) and LeSean McCoy (30). It should be noted, however, that Gore averaged 4.7 yards per carry last year with the Dolphins.

Brown gives the Bills the deep speed they lack and he had his best season last year in Baltimore catching 65 passes for 1003 yards. Beasley is a Julian Edelman clone, who the Bills hope will transform their short passing game, where Allen was 32nd in the league a year ago. Kroft had a breakout season with 42 catches in 2017 but broke his foot and played in only five games a year ago.

This will be an interesting year to see how much Allen can progress, the Bills spent a lot of cash to upgrade their weapons for him and added two WRs and a badly needed TE. With the draft upcoming, the Bills will probably still address WR and RB to get a bit younger there.

Dolphins Trade QB Tannehill to the Titans:

The Miami Dolphins have traded their seven-year starter at QB, Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans on Friday. The Dolphins packaged a 6th round draft pick in 2019 along with Tannehill for the Titans 7th round pick in 2019 and a 4th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tannehill had his moments but could never put it all together for Miami who paid him a few years ago as their franchise QB. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,979 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 11 games last year. Now he’ll serve as the backup to Marcus Mariota. Tannehill is playing on a one-year deal with $7 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The one-year deal goes to $12 million+ with playtime and other incentives. The Dolphins are on the hook for $5 million of the $7 million guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus.

Miami, which tried to bring in QB Teddy Bridgewater, now has only Jake Rudock and Luke Falk at QB. They’ll either try to swing a trade for an established QB, or draft a young one in the NFL Draft, perhaps both.

Jets Go All in On Free Agency:

The New York Jets were expected to make a splash in free agency with a ton of cap space to spend it on and they didn’t disappoint. The laid out big money for RB Le’Veon Bell, ILB C.J. Mosely, slot receiver Jamison Crowder and then added slot corner Brian Poole who came over after spending three years with the Falcons.

Bell, is the most notable free agent having sat out 2018 in a contract dispute with the Steelers, and the money he signed for is actually less than the Steelers offer of five-years and $70 million. Bell signed for four years and $52 million with $25 million guaranteed. He has a ton of wear on his tires but after taking a year off, he may go into the season refreshed. But the Jets offensive line scarcely resembles the Steelers unit that helped Bell launch in his career. The Jets did make a move in that direction by trading for LG Kelechi Osemele from Oakland.

Mosely is one of the best interior linebackers in the league, a true leader for the defense and a smart, physical player who will be on the field for all three downs. He’s an instant upgrade for them at the position, but the Jets ponied up a ton of money, guaranteeing a whopping $51 million. They also had Anthony Barr agree to a deal but he ended up getting cold feet and ultimately left the Jets at the altar.

Crowder gives the Jets a big play option in the slot with the speed to make a ton of YAC. This should allow them to move Quincy Enunwa to the outside. But the question with Crowder is can he stay healthy? He missed seven games a year ago.

The Jets made a big splash, but will these moves pay off? We’ll see, but it never stops Manish Mehta from making one of his patented silly predictions. In Manish’s latest “look at me” moment, he made his prediction for the top QBs for the AFC East in 2019.

Current starting QBs in the AFC East… from projected best to worst in 2019:

1) Sam Darnold
2) Tom Brady
3) Josh Allen
4) Luke Falk

But before you get too hard on Manish, he got exactly what he was looking for as Boston sports radio couldn’t wait to get him on to defend his position…hmm

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.

New England Patriots News 3-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 10, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-10 and AFC East Notes.

Quick Hitters:

Van Noy Defense – As if Van Noy needed anything else to endear himself to the fan base. After Colts TE Eric Ebron took a veiled shot at the Patriots when he tweeted  “nobody wanna do that Patriot way bull- #COLTure.” But Van Noy quickly answered that by tweeting a picture of two rings with a winking emoticon.

Gronk Selling Condo: On a day with some exciting trade news, one item that could have people thinking worst case scenarios was the news that Rob Gronkowski is selling his Boston seaport condo. Gronk’s luxury condo located at 21 Wormwood St. located on the waterfront can be yours for a cool $2,375,000. Does this mean the big guy is retiring? Not so fast. While it could be just that, it should be noted that he bought the place just a few years ago for $1.8 million. Just another sound financial investment.

Jamie Collins redux? With the news that the Cleveland Browns were parting ways with linebacker Jamie Collins, many fans and media members were wondering about a reunion for the two. As we see it here, that ship has sailed and he won’t be returning to New England. We don’t see it as a need as the LBer position isn’t in bad shape.

Et Tu Amendola: Danny Amendola was released by the Dolphins on Friday. The cost-cutting move is expected to clear a salary-cap space that Miami may use to entice Trey Flowers to South Florida. Now many are hoping for a reunion with Amendola and the Patriots.

Well, no one has been a bigger Amendola supporter than we’ve been on these pages. While we’d love to see him back in Foxboro this spring, the situation may preclude that from happening. The team needs to get younger at the position and with the cupboard bare, they may play a waiting game to see how the rest of FA/Draft plays out before making a decision. By then, I’d expect Amendola to be signed elsewhere.

Brown Has His Cake, But Won’t Share it With Buffalo: Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown may have effectively forced his way out of Pittsburgh by demanding a trade, and now is stipulating where he won’t go. The Steelers and Bills had a deal supposedly agreed to in principle but Brown put the kibosh on it, stating he won’t go to Buffalo.  

After a few tweets and videos that may have effectively ruined whatever compensation, the Steelers could have gotten for him, Brown now halted a trade. One has to wonder if he may paint himself into a corner where the Steelers (and rightfully so), give him the option to return to the team or sit out the season.

Bennett Trade, One The Team Couldn’t Bypass:

The Philadelphia Eagles are trading DL Michael Bennett and their 7th Round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Patriots for New England’s 5th round pick in 2020. In terms of compensation, the deal is a steal. Bennett is still a very productive player and even at 33 logged more sacks (9) and QB hits (30) than anyone on New England and fourth most (QB hits) in the league.  

Bennett’s contract isn’t going to break the bank either. He’s due $7.2 million in salary and game day bonuses and $8 million in 2020. The Patriots tried to swing a deal with the Seahawks to get Bennett last spring, but the Eagles had pounced first and he was dealt to Philadephia.

Does this mean that the team is washing their hands of Trey Flowers in free agency? Not necessarily. We’ve been of the mind here that Flowers’ chances of resigning here have been slim. Especially now with so many of the edge rushers being tagged by their respective teams. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t try to retain Flowers. Bennett’s trade was something that just popped up on the radar that was too good to pass up for a player that they tried to bring in last spring.

He wasn’t brought in as a replacement for Flowers, although it could seem like that if indeed he does walk in free agency. But the thought of watching the two on the field together in the Pats defense is an exciting one. Will it happen? Stay tuned.

Brady Extension Coming?

We heard thru someone we know (and someone who would know) that a contract extension for Tom Brady was going to be done soon and the team would lock him up for another three years, that would take him to the age 45 limit that he said he envisioned.  

The guys on “Patriots Unfiltered”, what used to be known as PFW in Progress on the Patriots team website invited me on the show on Thursday and we spoke about it for a few minutes. It can be heard here:

Free Agency “Legal Tampering” Season Is Here:

Now is when things get interesting. The Patriots still have a slew of free agents to either resign or let walk including both kickers and still look for ways to improve the team.  So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at certain positions and see who the team has out there and who they could bring in.

Interior Defensive Line:  With both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton unrestricted free agents, there is certainly a case to be made that neither returns. However, if I had to pick one… I’d go with Brown as being the one player closer to return, but not by much. Like a 52-48 ratio.  

There are some intriguing free agents out there, Sheldon Richardson (Vikings), Brandon Mebane (Chargers), Johnathan Hankins (Raiders), but I don’t see the Patriots laying out the money that those guys would draw in free agency. On our 4th and 2 podcast, I mentioned Jets FA Mike Pennel as a guy the Patriots may target. A huge, 6’4, 330, two-gapping space eater, the Patriots are one of the few teams that still covet those type of players. Not a sexy signing, but one that will pay dividends in the season.

Tight End: Will he or won’t he? If Rob Gronkowski retires, it will free up $11.6 million in cap space, and the position becomes of critical need. if he doesn’t, it is still a position in dire need of young(er) blood. They currently have Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, and the sleeper Stephen Anderson under contract. Hollister has looked good but can’t stay on the field. Izzo was an intriguing kid and Anderson has unlocked potential.

With the release of Dwayne Allen, the team needs an injection of talent and youth. One guy who’ll be the perfect #2 TE with the team, (especially in the two-TE sets) is Pittsburgh’s, Jesse James. He’s been a favorite here to pick up all winter. He’s big  (6’7, 260), is a very good blocker and productive as a receiver. He’s only 25 and has 112 catches in three seasons being the #4 or lower target.

Wide Receiver: With a slew of free agents (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson), and only Julian Edelman and untested Braxton Berrios coming back, adding youth at WR is also critical. Will they bring back any of those three? I could see Patterson and maybe one or the other to return but they need some talent to help Edelman and Brady in 2019.

Free agents rumored to be linked to the Patriots include Golden Tate, Adam Humphries, Cole Beasley, Randall Cobb, Jamison Crowder, Eli Rogers,  and Danny Amendola. As much as we’d love to see Tate in this offense as well as Humphries, the money those two would be looking at may be prohibitive.

Look for the Patriots to make a move on Jamison Crowder. That still would be a difficult proposition, however, because even though he’s coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss seven games, he’s still expected to fetch in the neighborhood of $8-10 million dollars in free agency. The draft, which the Patriots have struggled to find suitable wide receivers, may end up being the answer here.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Beane Says Brown Trade to Bills “Didn’t Make Sense”:

The Buffalo Bills inquired about and were close to making a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown earlier this week. Then Brown put any hopes of that deal materializing by stating that he wouldn’t commit to showing up if the trade went thru. In the end, Bills GM Brandon Beane took the high road and in a statement. “We had positive discussions, but ultimately it didn’t make sense for either side. As great a player as Antonio Brown is, we have moved on and our focus is on free agency.”

The trade for Brown would have made total sense, from a football perspective for the Bills. They invested heavily into a young QB last year in Josh Allen. But he had a dearth of viable weapons to throw to plus an aging RB in LeSean McCoy. It would have made less sense, as it will for any other team since no one knows if Brown will tow the line in his next assignment.

As we mentioned above, Brown is painting himself into a corner, trying to force a trade to where he wants to go. For the Bills, they’ll approach free agency with about $80 million and the opportunity to sign lesser talented players but who will be more about the team than themselves.

Dolphins Clearing Cap Space, Release Three Veterans:

The Miami Dolphins have done a house cleaning in South Florida. By bringing in Brian Flores as the new head coach, he’s starting from scratch. Miami is expected to move on from QB Ryan Tannehill and that will be the first order of business for the new regime. But the team released three veteran players which will aid their salary cap situation.

Miami released wide receiver Danny Amendola, 33, in the move toward youth as well as DE Andre Branch and G Ted Larsen. The release of Amendola frees up $6 million and coupled with the other two vets gives Miami $22 million in cap space. Miami is also expected to decline the 5th-year option for WR Devante Parker making him a free agent this week. That will add another $9.4 million in cap space.

Amendola led Miami with 59 catches and 575 receiving yards in 2018. Now, Miami drafting in the first round with the 13th pick will have to decide whether to move up in the draft to get a QB they like, hope one falls to them in their spot, or wait until next year when the QB class is expected to be better. Free agency has the most intriguing name in Nick Foles, but the Jacksonville Jaguars released a slew of players adding $30 million to their salary cap and are expected to make a big push for the 30-year old QB.

Jets Have Money to Spend in Free Agency:

The New York Jets have nearly $100 million in salary cap space in 2019 and are in a position to make some big splashes in free agency. With that amount of money, they can front load some of those contracts to make the Jets the favorites to any team that they may be bidding against. However, they also have several (as many as 10) starting positions that need to be addressed.

New York is rumored to be in on the LeVeon Bell sweepstakes and signing the very talented running back would ease the growing pains on young QB Sam Darnold. On the flip side of the ball, the Jets are also expected to make a run at the very versatile and talented LB Anthony Barr who has spent the first five years of his career with the Vikings. He’d fill a great need for the Jets.

Barr is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who has been a Pro Bowler for the past four years with the Vikings. He’s adept at stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing off the edge. The team needs help at wide receiver as well as at edge rusher besides Barr. The Jets can be big players this spring with a ton of cap space. Look for them to make a splash or three.

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.

Six For Saturday: Some Patriots Thoughts Heading Into this Offseason

Ian Logue
March 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm ET

Some thoughts now that the page is about to officially turn heading into an offseason that will shape the 2019 version of this football team.

1) Patriots defacto defensive coordinator Brian Flores really did have a terrific season, showing another side of what this group was able to do defensively after a 2017 season where they weren’t anywhere close to as disruptive as they were in 2018. It was great to see and was a big reason behind their dominating performance against the Rams in their Super Bowl victory.

One thing that was obvious this season was that the players really seemed to respond to Flores’ intensity and personality, which may end up being a void that the Patriots will have a tough time filling next season. With Greg Schiano coming on board to replace him, it’s going to be interesting to see if Schiano will garner the same type of respect that Flores had with a group that really played well for him.

When Flores met with the Miami media following the Super Bowl, he sounded confident and said he has a plan that will involve some “bumps in the road” as he begins trying to turn the franchise around. The now-former Patriots coach made it clear that he didn’t accept the job on a whim, saying that he told the Dolphins that if the team didn’t share his beliefs, he wasn’t interested in the job.

“Our vision, and our core philosophy of how to build a team, they were aligned. That was one of the things [that sold] me,” Flores said via the Sun Sentinal. “I told every team this, ‘if our beliefs aren’t aligned then don’t hire me’ because if they aren’t aligned it’s not going to work.”

They have a long-term vision and he made it clear to the fans to expect some pain initially as he brings in guys who are “selfless” and put the team first.  Past coaches really haven’t had much of an opportunity to build a good group of players there due to inept coaches who didn’t have the support of the front office.  Dolphins GM Chris Grier knows Flores well during his time in New England and it’s obvious that he believes that he’ll be able to create a Patriot-like culture with Miami.

After seeing what Flores accomplished in just one season, one thing is probably certain, for the first time in a while the Dolphins may finally, once again, become a thorn in the side for New England moving forward. 


Edelman was terrific in the Super Bowl against the Rams. (USA TODAY Images)

2) It’s not a surprise that most of the nation was displeased with the idea that the Patriots are again World Champions and Julian Edelman appeared to be the focus of their ire.

Edelman, who was obviously named Super Bowl MVP following his performance, ended up in the crosshairs of opposing fans who believed that he should never have even been on the field against Los Angeles to begin with thanks to his early season suspension for PEDs.

Baseball writers point to the fact that a player who was suspended for using PEDs isn’t permitted to play in the MLB postseason, which was the argument that made its way around the internet on Monday following New England’s victory.

The veteran receiver was big, catching 10 passes on 12 targets for 141 yards, with 8 of his receptions moving the chains.  He also caught 3 of Brady’s 6 third-down completions, all of which were for first downs.

It’s clearly a case of sour grapes among those who were unhappy to see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick raise another Lombardi trophy.  However, it will be interesting to see if the anti-Patriot sentiment doesn’t potentially spark a discussion for a change this offseason. 

It wouldn’t be a surprise for the NFL to consider some sort of further penalty since this issue seems to come up among players throughout the league each year.  As we know, given the history of situations involving the Patriots, the league loves to make a rule change to try and save face to figure out a way to stop a team that just continues to dominate year in, and year out.

Roger Goodell loves this stuff.  The prospect of being ineligible for postseason play would obviously make players think twice before taking that type of risk, especially since missing the first four games of the year isn’t close to the damage that would be inflicted if a team’s key offensive (or defensive) weapon was sidelined during a playoff run.  

Needless to say, don’t be surprised if we hear about this again during the offseason.  But for now, it’s just noise and the fans made plenty of it in Boston when they celebrated during last month’s parade after an unbelievable year as New England won their sixth Lombardi trophy.


Andy Reid was out-coached again this postseason by Belichick. (USA TODAY Images)

3) While we’re on this topic, this nonsense with the Kansas City Chiefs complaining about the overtime rules is getting old, with the subject coming up again this week after the Chiefs submitted a proposal to end the scenario where a first-possession touchdown in overtime no longer ends the game in the postseason.

This is ridiculous. If anyone inside the NFL office is even leaning that way, they should take a good look in the mirror before they even consider making this change.  The Patriots have been a part of two incredible wins in overtime during the postseason in recent years, with both coming on opening drive touchdowns to earn the walk off victory.  To change it now would indicate the NFL wasn’t happy about the outcome and would be trying to prevent those situations going forward.

Let’s be serious.  The league already once changed this rule as it pertained to field goals, which you could sort of make the argument because offenses really only needed a couple of big plays on their first possession in overtime to kick a long field goal and win it.  Although given what we’ve seen from kickers in recent years, the difficulty surrounding that sequence doesn’t seem to garner the significance of pulling that off that people seem to think it does.  But “it is what it is” at this point and the rule has already been modified.

However, the idea now that an offense digging deep and driving the length of the field and scoring isn’t worthy enough of winning the game is ludicrous.  The worst part about this situation is the league already has a key example in the New Orleans Saints, who after coming up on the wrong end of a bad call in regulation, were unable to score on their opening drive in overtime, which opened the door to the Rams winning the football game and moving on to the Super Bowl.  That game more or less proved that scoring a touchdown isn’t a given, and the fact the Patriots wore down a terrible Chiefs defense and then executed at the critical point in the contest to win the game is a reminder this rule shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion.

We’ve seen enough from the NFL over the years to realize that New England’s dominance is a key frustration behind the scenes.  But if this rule goes through, it should set off a serious red flag that the league is just reaching at this point and reacting negatively to yet another incredible postseason run by this football team.


Brady extension is good news for the Patriots. (USA TODAY Images)

4) With our own Steve Balestrieri learning this week that a contract extension may be coming for Tom Brady, it’s good news for a team that will have essentially erased the narratives and speculation that would have surrounded his uncertainty heading into what would have been the final year of his deal.

While Brady isn’t necessarily coming off of his best season, it’s obvious that even with the injuries he battled through last season and his ability to eventually overcome Wade Phillips tough game plan in the Super Bowl, he’s still playing well enough to potentially do it a few more times before he finally walks away.  That’s a positive sign for the Patriots, who are still in need of grooming a successor and don’t have that person in the locker room at this time.

Last year’s late draft pick, Danny Etling, showed some promise in the preseason, but he’s no where near the level of where Jimmy Garoppolo was and while seeing a late-round pick become a starter isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility (ie: Brady), we haven’t seen that from him just yet.

This year’s draft will be interesting to watch from the standpoint of whether or not they view one of the guys coming out high enough to pass on another player in favor of taking a quarterback.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll target someone in the first round, since as we know, Garoppolo was a second round selection.  But given the timing of where Brady is, this would be the right time to find a player they believe in who could spend 3-4 years learning in this system and eventually emerge as a starting-caliber player.

That’s tougher than it sounds, especially knowing how hard it is to find an NFL-ready quarterback.  One other X-factor in all this is Josh McDaniels, who has done a pretty good job of developing quarterbacks during his tenure here in New England.  But if ever there was a time to hope that process was starting over again, this offseason would seem to be it.


The Patriots seemed to try and prepare for Flowers’ departure on Friday. (USA TODAY Images)

5) The addition of Michael Bennett reminds me of a couple of offseason scenarios over the years, which doesn’t make me feel overly confident in the future of defensive end Trey Flowers.

Bennett’s arrival mimics one of the more surprising moves, highlighted by the signing of Danny Amendola when Wes Welker was headed to the free agent market in 2013. At the time, it was obvious that the Patriots signing of Amendola looked like they felt like Welker wouldn’t be back. So Bill Belichick appeared to take the step to protect his team from losing an impact player, essentially moving on after feeling that Welker sign elsewhere.

Flowers seems poised to end up with a big payday, with the initial reports seeming to indicate that the veteran will hit the market and test the waters, which will likely spell trouble for the Patriots in terms of trying to keep him in the fold.

While it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely and it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone like Flores brings Flowers in to help start building Miami’s defense.  While Flowers’ numbers (7.5 sacks last season) aren’t among the NFL’s best, what’s scary to consider is the fact that those totals probably could have even been higher.  While New England’s defense was more aggressive last season than it’s been in a while, he still wasn’t used in that role as much as he could have been. 

But that’s not how this scheme works. The Patriots’ defense is much more disciplined and it prevented him from ending up on the highlight reel since most of his best work really came from the plays he made that flew under the radar.  For teams who take the time to look at that body of work, they may realize that Flowers is a complete player who has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.  The bad news for New England is, it likely means a payday much larger than what the Patriots can offer may be coming for him.


 This year’s defense did a terrific job. (USA TODAY Images)

6) Watching this year’s defense over the final three postseason games was interesting from the standpoint of trying to ponder where they’ll someday sit in history when we reflect back on each of those players.

Think about it for a second.  At the time, none of us looked at players like Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, etc. in the way we look at them now.  After all, during that era, none of them were ever considered among the NFL’s elite because the Patriots weren’t really viewed that way back then.  Fans knew they were good players, but it wasn’t until Bill Belichick arrived and took Pete Carroll’s roster and turned them into champions that they really became who they were.

When you look at what New England did defensively this postseason, this isn’t exactly a group full of superstars.  You can put Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Trey Flowers and Stephon Gilmore in the group of potentially elite players, but the remainder of this group is simply filled with just really, solid football players.   The secondary was rounded out with guys like Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, and Jason McCourty, along with safeties Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung.  None of them get anywhere near the amount of respect outside of New England as they do by fans who see them each week.

Up front, they had players like Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Malcolm Brown and Lawrence Guy, none of which would ever be on the radar of fans outside of this region.  The same can be said for linebackers like Elandon Roberts, John Simon, and Kyle Van Noy.  Honestly, even most casual Patriots fans don’t even know who these guys are.

Yet these are players who just put together one of the best defensive stretches in Patriots postseason history to capture the club’s sixth championship.

One of the things that made guys Law, McGinest and Bruschi so great was the fact they did it over a sustained period of time, which obviously sets them apart but again, people didn’t really appreciate how good they were until this team went through a rough stretch without them.  It’s like they say, you don’t appreciate guys like that until they’re not around anymore.

That’s why it’s going to be hard not to wonder how fans may someday view players like McCourty, Chung, Hightower, and Gilmore, with players like Van Noy even hopefully earning a little more appreciation after putting together a terrific showing to cap off a pretty terrific year. 

Either way, it’s an interesting notion.   What makes it even more curious is the fact that while many fans discussed how great they played defensively, the names didn’t seem to be joining the discussion of what they did on the field as they held one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses to 3 points. 

Oddly enough, even after a Super Bowl win, people still don’t seem to know who they are.  The key to changing that will be seeing if they can build on this performance heading into 2019.

If they can, maybe people will start paying attention.

One More Thought:


Is this the end for Gostkowski? (USA TODAY Images)

7) With the news that the Patriots weren’t using the franchise tag, the first player that came to mind was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who appears to be headed to free agency.

When you take into consideration how many kickers struggled last year, Gostkowski looks like he’s in for a potential payday and it could mean that the Patriots might have to spend this offseason looking for a replacement.

For Gostkowski, there’s not much really left for him to prove. He’s already put together a Hall of Fame worthy career here in New England and there’s really nothing more positive that can come for him staying in Foxboro.

Gostkowski missed just one extra point during the regular season and five field goals total, missing two from 40-49yds and 3 from 50+. He was perfect from 20-39yds. In the postseason, he missed just one field goal and was perfect on all his extra points.

Yet, that didn’t stop the criticism and whispers that happened over the course of this season, as well as the year before when he hit a couple of bumps during an almost-championship season.

As a result, if I’m Gostkowski, I would follow Adam Vinatieri’s lead and target a dome team with a lot of money in need of a reliable kicker, which would likely extend his career. He still has a strong leg and doesn’t seem to have lost any of his power, which is a positive sign for a player who has been among the best in the league for a while now.

Gostkowski’s loss would be tough as he would mark the end of another solid career for another terrific kicker in Foxboro and leave the Patriots with some uncertainty at a position that he’s quietly been an afterthought since he’s been here. There have been people hoping for his departure not realizing how good he’s really been, which is unfortunate.

For now, this may be something to watch over the course of the offseason and if Gostkowski does move on, fans need to recognize just how special his run has been and how replacing him might be harder than some might think.

New England Patriots News 3-03, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 3, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-03 and AFC East Notes.
Sorry, no AFC East notes this week, we’ll bring them back in the days following the 2019 NFL Combine.

Quick Hitters:

Adam Schefter is reporting that the Patriots have told Dwayne Allen that they plan on releasing him. They’d like to have him back, but at less money. But for now, he’s free to sign with anyone. Normally, a move like this means that the team is freeing up cap space to sign one of their own to an extension…stay tuned.

Youth? – Isn’t it strange that when all of the talk about the Patriots getting younger at wide receiver goes right out the window when veterans like Demaryius Thomas and Golden Tate become topics of discussion?

Local Talent: One local small school player, that we’d love to see get a chance to show what he can do is DE Ray Sarkodieh from Assumption College. The Worcester native who played locally at St. Peter Marian is a mathematics major. He’s a 6’2, 260 pass rusher who was the NE10 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Another local player being linked to the Patriots in the NFL Combine thus far is Boston College and Shepherd Hill offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is one of the top five rated guards coming out this spring.

Super Bowl Trailer: Patriots fans will soon be able to purchase the team’s Super Bowl season highlight film. The NFL Films production will feature all 16 regular season games as well as their three playoff victories including the 13-3 triumph over the Los Angeles in Super Bowl LIII.

NFL Films and entertainment company Cinedigm will release Super Bowl LIII Champions: New England Patriots on Blu-Ray Combo Pack, DVD, as well as digitally on March 5. The trailer for the video can be seen here:

Chiefs, Reid, Latest To Lobby For Rule Changes After Losing to NE:

We knew this was coming…right? Hardly a year goes by where a team that loses to the Patriots doesn’t go to the league to change a rule in protest of what they perceive to be an “unfair playing field” in the NFL.

So, Andy Reid and Kansas City GM Brett Veach are the latest to join the crowd. The Chiefs are mad that their offense wasn’t allowed a possession in overtime of the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots won the OT coin toss and moved down the field and scored a TD that vaulted them into the Super Bowl.

There was a similar call for this after SB LI when the Patriots beat the Falcons. The Patriots also won the toss and Tom Brady eviscerated the Falcons easily to win the game while Matt Ryan was left to wonder what happened to a 28-3 lead on the bench.

This year was different. The Patriots faced three 3rd and 10s during the overtime drive, any of which would result in the Chiefs getting the ball. KC’s defense, which was porous all season long, showed once again why they weren’t Super Bowl ready. But now it is the rules that need changing.

Leach was a guest on Pro Football Talk Live and had this to say:  “I think everybody wants a chance for guys to do what they do. I don’t really see the downside of having that,” Veach said. “Especially when you have a player like Pat Mahomes. It would have been a lot of fun. I think people, if they weren’t already tuned in for a great game, would have turned on that overtime.”

One has to wonder how much “fun” it would have been for Leach if the Chiefs had won the toss and gone on to score and Brady was allowed to touch the ball in OT. I’ll take the under.

The current O.T. rules were changed from a true sudden death where any score would end the game to each team having “a chance” for possession in overtime. That chance is neither allowing a touchdown or a safety on the opening possession.

The Chiefs will need 24 of the 32 teams to agree to change the rules. Reid and Leach now join Bill Polian who as a member of the Competition Committee lobbied for changes to the rules on how teams play defense after his Colts receivers got beat up in back-to-back years in the playoffs in New England.  John Harbaugh of the Ravens, who was incensed at the wacky formations the Patriots ran in the 2014 Divisional Playoffs that he tried to change the rules, then smugly smiled in a post-game celebration when he ran the same type of formation. Let’s not forget the calls for “player safety” after Shea McClellan blocked several field goals by leaping over the kicking team’s blockers.

Just imagine the angst next year, if the rules are changed and Brady and the Patriots use that to come back and win a game in OT after allowing a touchdown to start the session.

Patriots “ Character Coach” Jack Easterby Leaving:

The Patriots are losing Jack Easterby who is labeled the team’s “character coach/team development,” in a situation first reported by the Boston Globe. Easterby was brought in the 2013 season to help the players navigate thru the Aaron Hernandez fiasco.

Easterby, whose contract expired after the Super Bowl stated that he felt his position had “run its course” and that he’d be exploring new opportunities elsewhere. But this is the first true fallout from the Robert Kraft scenario.

Easterby was deeply troubled by the allegations surrounding Kraft and he retweeted a post from former Patriot Ben Watson that human trafficking is an“entrenched evil.’’ He’ll be missed in the locker room as he was considered a very important piece of the puzzle behind the scenes.

Hightower Won’t Budge on His Salary:

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower hasn’t been approached by the team about taking a pay cut in 2019 and reportedly won’t be in favor of doing so either. Doug Kyed of NESN first reported that Hightower won’t be accepting any overtures from the team about taking a pay cut this season.

Hightower played in 15 games in 2018, the most he’s played in since the 2013 season. He and fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy keyed a defensive resurgence down the stretch and into the playoffs where the New England defense was the key into winning the team’s sixth Super Bowl.

And in this case, we’re going to fall within Hightower’s line of thinking here. Although Hightower has a cap hit of $11 million this season, his salary is $7 million. Linebackers eligible for the franchise tag are getting $15.4 million in 2019. That puts Hightower among the bargains for the league.

As we’ve said on these pages many times before, is Hightower an All-Pro? No, but in THIS defense, his value is the same as one. And without him on the field, the last three Super Bowl wins don’t happen. He stopped Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line with the game on the line in Super Bowl XLIX. His strip sack of Matt Ryan ignited the Patriots to come from behind in Super Bowl LI. And he was outstanding in all three playoff wins this year, where he logged two sacks, four quarterbacks hits, three tackles for loss and a pass defensed.

The Patriots can work something out where his cap hit is lessened this season and his money still isn’t being cut. And we’d be all for that. Because moving forward, the 28-year old linebacker is still an extremely valuable piece on the team’s front seven.

Team Interested in Bringing Back Hogan/Dorsett in 2019:

The Patriots are supposedly talking with both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett about returning in 2019. The free agent wide receivers are far from locks to bring back, however, depending on the deals involved, it may still happen.

Hogan, 30, played in about 72 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps in 2018 but his targets were way down. Since signing with the Pats before the 2016 season, he’s averaged  36 receptions and 550 receiving yards.

He seemed to lose a lot of the trust factor with Tom Brady during the season, but with a solid special teams player that can be an effective #3-4 Wide Receiver, there is expected to be no shortage of teams that come calling.

Dorsett is just 26 and was arguably the #2 WR when the season started and played well. When the team signed Josh Gordon, his snap totals went way down. On the season, Dorsett caught 32 passes for 290 yards and three scores. He also added a big touchdown in the AFC Championship Game.

The former 1st round pick of the Colts has stated that he wants to return to the Patriots but they’ll have to work out a deal that benefits both parties. What is key for Dorsett is being a starter somewhere.

“Obviously, I want to be a key contributor for a team — a starter, that’s always been my goal, a guy that can help a team win. I enjoy going out there, working hard and just playing football. I love the game. It’s the only thing I want to do.”

Who Are We Watching at the 2019 NFL Combine?

With the NFL Combine in full swing in Indianapolis this weekend, the Patriots have an abundance of draft picks this year (12) with six in the first 101 selections. While it is extremely doubtful that the team will use all 12 picks, they do, however, have enough draft capital that they will be able to maneuver around the draft board and address their needs this spring.

It is really too soon to judge how the team will approach the draft since free agency hasn’t started yet. After the initial feeding frenzy dies down, we should have a better idea of how they’ll approach this year’s holes to fill on the team.

With that being said, we’ll list a couple of players we feel would be a nice fit in New England and who we’re watching for this weekend in Indy.

Defensive tackles:
Christian Wilkins – Clemson: Wilkins was a key contributor for the Tigers two recent National Championship teams. A smart, locker room leader, Wilkins was a captain who graduated in just two and a half years. He was a first-team AP All-American and an All-ACC selection in 2018.

Wilkins is versatile and can play end or inside and would fit in well with the Patriots recent attacking style of defensive line play. He keeps his pad level low, has very good short-area agility and is good at shooting the gaps.

Gerald Willis – Miami: Like many players who’ve played for the Canes, Willis comes with some questionable red flags. He was dismissed from Florida for fighting with a teammate and then took off the 2017 season to work out personal issues. But returned in 2018 and played some tremendous football, leading the ACC with tackles for loss with 18.  

Willis projects as a one-gap pass rusher right now, but with some work with the coaches, he could be a very productive three-down player. He’s more of a mid-round prospect.

Tight Ends:
Noah Fant – Iowa: Fant has received a lot of noise as a possible Patriot. He’s more of a move tight end and at this point, isn’t a great blocker. But he has good length, excellent speed, and explosion off the snap to get separation. He could become an immediate weapon and matchup nightmare in the passing game.

Irv Smith – Alabama: Smith is another matchup winner in the passing game. He’s a very smooth route runner who runs crisp routes and has good hands and a knack for finding the open spots on the field. He’s very well rounded and will be an immediate impact player.

Quarterbacks: ***Note*** While we don’t believe the Patriots will pick a QB early in this draft, never say never.
Daniel Jones – Duke: Jones is a guy who seems like a really good fit for the Patriots and the offense that they run. Prototypical size at 6’5, 221, Jones doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but has good mechanics and goes thru his progessions quickly. His receivers dropped 38 passes in 2018 alone…

Brett Rypien – Boise State: Rypien is the nephew of former Redskin Mark Rypien. He projects as more of a project than a pro-ready QB. He doesn’t have great size or arm strength but he’s very accurate, keeps his eyes downfield and has a quick, compact release. He has excellent football intelligence and keeps his eyes downfield.

Wide Receivers:
Riley Ridley – Georgia: Ridley is a WR who should be a better pro than college player. While not a burner, he’s tough and will make the physical catches while still able to stretch the field when matched up one-on-one.

He runs precise routes, has very good hands and will make those tough contested catches in traffic.

Deebo Samuel – South Carolina: Samuel is a tough, competitive wide receiver, who thrives in working the middle of the field where the game is at its toughest. While he too isn’t a burner, he’ll make YAC (yards after the catch) with surprising changing of direction as well as excellent vision.

He’s got strong hands and will work back to the football. He could be used similarly to how the Patriots used Danny Amendola in the past.

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.