Tag Archives: Patriots tight ends

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Signed, Increases Depth at TE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Despite Slow Start, Gronkowski Still On Pace Through Five Games

Ian Logue
October 12, 2018 at 11:06 am ET

It’s been a while since fans have seen Rob Gronkowski spike a football, but through five games Gronkowski is still on pace for another Gronk-like year.

The veteran tight end last spiked the football back in week one when he scored on a 21-yard acrobatic play in the first quarter against the Texans, which saw Brady make a back-shoulder throw in double coverage where Gronkowski spun and managed to cross the pylon for New England’s first touchdown of 2018.

It was a great play, but that’s been the last time we’ve seen him score.  From there, two straight losses saw Chris Hogan (2) and James White (1) as the only two receivers to catch a touchdown pass from Brady while no running backs also crossed the goal line.  In their last two wins, Brady’s thrown three touchdown passes, with White, Josh Gordon and Corradelle Patterson each on the receiving end of scoring throws from the quarterback, while Sony Michel and Brady each crossed the goal line on the ground.

But no Gronk spikes.  Is Gronk worried?

“No, we’re winning,” said Gronkowski, who was asked about his touchdown drought on Wednesday.  “We’ve won the last two. I’ve got to pick it up. I’ve got to start scoring.”

His current drought hasn’t hurt him in terms of his touchdown totals from last season.  Through five games, he had just two receiving touchdowns this time last year compared to the one he has this season, and he’s actually three receptions ahead of what he had hauled in at this point in 2017 (he has 23 so far, compared to 20 last year).

Speaking of which, it’s interesting to look at the red zone totals, which are interesting.  Gronkowski is surprisingly without a reception in scoring territory so far this season, but that drought is eerily similar to what he endured last season after having been targeted six times with just one reception, which was a touchdown.  Like last year, the team was still adjusting to losing Julian Edelman during the preseason, while this year they were obviously without him during his four-game suspension.

As for receiving yards, Gronkowski is just 10-yards behind where he was last year at this time, having compiled 308-yards compared to the 318-yards he had last season.

Gronkowski doesn’t appear to really know that despite his slow start, he’s right on par with where he was through five games last season.

When asked about his incentives in his contract, Gronk downplayed it and said he’s just trying to make sure he remains focused on what he’s supposed to be doing out there and he’s not worried at all.

“No, I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” said Gronkowski.  “Just get back to the basics, just get back out and keep playing football. That’s the last thing I’m worried about. The first thing I’m worried about is just doing my job and doing the best I can do to help out the team.”

New England Patriots 2018 Training Camp Primer – Tight Ends

Steve Balestrieri
June 29, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Gronkowski and Who Else?

The Patriots have a bunch of interesting tight end possibilities on the roster this season after Rob Gronkowski and the competition in training camp will ultimately tell the tale on who stays and who goes. Although the big news all spring was that Rob Gronkowski along with Tom Brady was staying away from the “voluntary” workouts, the star tight end was on hand for mandatory minicamp and looked in excellent condition.

There were also some rumblings that the Patriots tried to trade Gronkowski just prior to the draft, having had contact with several teams. But regardless, he is still here and he remains the best overall tight end in the NFL. The big question is now, who will back him up. Last year, the Patriots carried three tight ends with Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, and rookie Jacob Hollister.

We here would expect them to carry three again. And there are quite a few intriguing options for them to look to this year. And as we’ve already broken down the QB and WR positions, we’ll do the same here with the tight ends.

So, who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski is still the man in the NFL. He’s the guy that everyone tries to shut down and very few teams are able to do it with just one player, it usually revolves around multiple players having to get involved.

Last season, in 14 games he had a very Gronk-like 69 catches for 1084 yards and eight touchdowns receiving. He and Brady are always on the same page and they often communicate with simply a look or a slight hand signal at the line of scrimmage as they both see the field and how the defense is lining up extremely well and are always in sync with one another.

I would expect a new deal or an extension to get done with him sooner, rather than later that will keep him around Foxboro for the next couple of years, despite the offseason talk about him retiring.

Gronk has it all; size, speed, tremendous hands, he can line up all over the field from in the slot to split out wide and is a very good pass blocker and a devastating run blocker. Gronkowski is just 29 years old and the Patriots use him to create mismatches all over the field.

Near Roster Locks: Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen

Jacob Hollister after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Hollister made the team as a rookie UDFA in 2017 and played a little bit on offense but was a regular contributor on special teams. He’s got the speed and hands to challenge the seams but needed to bulk up, and get a little bit stronger as well as improve his run blocking this year.

Hollister had a very solid spring and looked very impressive in the passing game. He also appears to have bulked up a little bit and we’ll see if that translates into being a better run blocker. Putting on the pads will ultimately tell the tale but he appears ready to make that big Year 1-to-Year 2 jump that Bill Belichick always talks about.

Allen had a very disappointing year in the passing game in 2017. He was expected to replace some of the production of Martellus Bennett who signed with Green Bay as a free agent last year. But he caught just 10 passes and never seemed like he had a firm grasp of the passing game and was basically an afterthought most of the season.

But he remains a very good blocking tight end and a Bill Belichick favorite. Allen is carrying a $5 million cap hit for 2018, that is not guaranteed. However, the Patriots didn’t try to renegotiate his deal this spring. So read into that what you will.

On the Bubble: Troy Niklas, Will Tye

The Patriots brought in Niklas this spring and the first thing that stood out about him was his size. He’s comparable to Gronkowski in bulk (6’6, 270 pounds), although not in speed and athleticism. Many pegged Niklas to be a big target in the passing game when he entered the league with the Cardinals.

But it has never happened for “Hercules”, he’s been utilized as mostly a blocking tight end and he caught just 11 passes last season. But he remains a very solid blocking tight end and he could push Allen for that blocking TE spot since he has a much more manageable cap number. He looked good this spring in the positional work but in 11-on-11, he disappeared a bit. He’ll need to show more this summer once the pads come on and show more in the passing game.

The Patriots picked up WIll Tye last year and promptly stashed him on the practice squad. He had a nice spring and was getting open in the passing game, showing his athleticism. He made a beauty of a catch over Pat Chung during minicamp while we were there and it is worth noting that he was a two-year starter for the Giants catching 90 passes in 2015-2016.

Longshots: Ryan Izzo, Shane Wimann

Izzo and Wimann face long odds to make the roster but could be candidates for the Patriots practice squad in 2018. Izzo is a very good blocking tight end and will be competing with Allen and Niklas as the blocking tight end. He’s got good size at 6’5, 256 pounds.

Wimann is listed at 6’4, 252 pounds but seems a bit lighter than that, but when standing next to Gronkowski, Niklas and Allen, everyone looks thin. He’s a small school tight end (Northern Illinois) who caught 30 passes for 283 yards and a school-record 7 touchdowns receiving in 2017. He’s a long shot but we’ve seen crazier things. The problem for he and Izzo will be the chance to show much on the field will be very limited with so many tight ends in camp.

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Wednesday Patriots Notebook 4/25, Gronk Returning, Final Mock

Steve Balestrieri
April 25, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Gronkowski Announcement Doesn’t Change Much:
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and his agent Drew Rosenhaus met with Bill Belichick on Tuesday telling the coach that he’s returning for the 2018 season. Adam Schefter reported this first on ESPN. This ends months of speculation that he may retire.

“It was very positive and Rob is committed,” Rosenhaus told Schefter.

Gronkowski then took to Instagram to announce his intentions:

Jeff Howe reported that just a few days ago, Gronkowski didn’t have a date to return and now he’s all in. Howe believes that Belichick issued him an ultimatum.

Regardless, it doesn’t change much for the Patriots needs wise in the draft this weekend. While they have Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Troy Niklas, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye on the roster, they still have a need there as Gronkowski has committed to playing in 2018. The next question becomes, what happens in 2019? While the need may be significantly lower this year, they still may opt to address the position.

The interesting tidbit was that Schefter announced through a source that Gronkowski will not be traded in 2018. Just as an FYI, that is what was said about Jimmy Garoppolo.

Van Noy Tells Patriots Nation to Chill Out:
When the news of the Gronkowski “decision” was aired, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy had some fun with it and laughingly told everyone to calm down and was hoping for the media to leave it alone as well.

Something tells us that more than one player will pipe in now in regards to this latest Gronkowski saga.

Patriots 4th and 2 Podcast Dates Upcoming:
Be sure to check out our Patriots 4th & 2 podcasts right after each day of the 2018 Draft and the guys will break down who the Patriots added through each round.

Final Mock Draft Has the Patriots Moving Up

The Patriots have several options in the upcoming draft on Thursday night. And while we all talk about “positions of need”, the fact of the matter is, with the roster as currently constructed (if healthy), they’d be okay. Obviously, there are questions of depth at LT (Waddle, Garcia) and at LB, but with Hightower, Langi and Rivers returning, that should help quite a bit.

For our final mock draft, we explored the buzz that has been making the rounds, that the Patriots may decide to move up in the draft. And much of the talk has centered around the #9 pick of the San Francisco 49ers. We’ve heard a ton of talk that John Lynch “owes Bill Belichick” for the Garoppolo trade and frankly that is not how it works. Lynch owes the Patriots nothing, both sides went into that deal with their eyes wide open. If Belichick dials the phone on Thursday night, Lynch will certainly listen but doesn’t owe him a thing.

The thought moving up to #9 centers around the QBs obviously but in researching it, the top QBs (Rosen, Allen, Mayfield, Darnold) were all gone. We looked into it with the hope that LB Roquan Smith or DE Bradley Chubb may still be on the board due to the QB feeding frenzy going on. That didn’t happen. However, there are still opportunities.  

So, for our final mock draft ( conducted 4-22), we still decided to explore a trade up. PatsFans Mock 4.0. We looked at pick #13 for the Washington Redskins. So in our mock, we made a deal with Washington. The Patriots slide up 10 spots and give the Redskins the #23 and #43 picks for Washington’s #13 and #109 in the 4th round, where the Patriots don’t have any picks. The value works out, Washington gets added value in the early second round and the Patriots get their move up as well as a pick in the 4th round. So who did they take?

Round 1, Pick #13 Quarterback, Lamar Jackson, Louisville:

Once the team decides (if Jackson is the guy) who their QB of the future is, then they have to go get him. The Patriots brought him in for an official visit on the sly and judging from their supposed interest, he could be a guy they are interested in. We’ll see.

Jackson is a tremendous athlete with incredible moves in the open field when forced to run and rushed for 3000 yards over the past two seasons. He has a cannon for an arm and threw for 57 touchdowns the past two seasons as well. He is still raw in the passing department but will have the time to work on his mechanics and learning the offense.

Belichick had his eyes opened last season by a rookie QB (Deshaun Watson) who is a mobile QB much like Jackson. Working with Josh McDaniels, Belichick and learning at the side of Tom Brady for the next couple of seasons should have him ready to go.

Round 1, Pick #31 LB, Malik Jefferson, Texas:

Jefferson is another one of those great athletes at the linebacker position and has the added advantage of being able to play on the inside or slide outside as an edge defender or blitzer off the corner. He’s good in coverage in both man or zone.

Jefferson is a great anticipatory player but is explosive, very athletic and a powerful tackler. He’ll learn to be a true off the ball linebacker and can be very effective.

Round 2 Pick # 63 Edge, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State:
We have said all along that Hubbard is a proto-typical Patriots type of edge defender.

He gives that needed depth on the edge, can step in and play at a high level on Day 1, can play either side so he’s versatile and can do a bit of everything.

To see our draft profile on him click here:

Round 3, Pick #95 OT, Jamarco Jones, Ohio State:

Jones was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes who have developed quite a pipeline for tackles in the NFL. Jones has good size at 6’5, 310 and is a very good pass blocker, and has shown the quick feet and agility to rarely get beat by speed rushers on the edge. He’ll need to get stronger and become more physical, especially in the running game at the next level but under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia, he’ll get there. With the Garcia news that he’s healthy and ready to go, Jones won’t be hard-pressed to produce as a rookie.

Round 4, Pick #109 S, Marcus Allen, Penn State:

Allen has great size (6’2, 215), and athleticism for the position. He was a starter since midway thru his freshman season and was one of the leaders of the defense. He’s one of the most physical safeties in the class and a big-time hitter

He can play deep but is best suited to be the player in waiting to replace Pat Chung in the box. Excellent in run support, can cover tight ends and will be a perfect player to play the LB slot in the Patriots “big nickel” package.

Round 6, Pick #198 Edge, Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas:

Armstrong had a tremendous 2016, with 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks as his coaches had him pinning his ears back. In 2017, going to a more read-and-react style, those numbers dropped to 9.5 TFL and just two sacks. But he has very good speed and a quick first step. Armstrong has dropped into coverage at times, something the Patriots ask their edge players to do occasionally. He’s a good, athletic player who tackles well but needs to add some bulk at the next level.

Round 6, Pick #210, CB, Arrion Springs, Oregon:

Springs has decent size at 6’0 and 205 pounds but was insanely productive for the Ducks with 42 passes defensed, including 17 in 2017 alone. He tracks the ball in the air as well as anyone. However, his top end speed isn’t great and looked a bit stiff when turning at times. He is very bowlegged which hurts his athleticism.

Round 7, Pick #219 RB, Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State:

Samuels is a true jack of all trades, we wrote he is chameleon-like as he can do just about anything. He rushed for 404 yards and 12 touchdowns while being the leading receiver for the Wolfpack with 76 receptions for 597 yards and four scores. He’s a good route runner that played tight end in college, can run between the tackles and can do just about anything on the field. He’s a Bill Belichick type of guy.

Samuels draft profile that we wrote can be referenced here:

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New England Patriots Draft Profile, Jaylen Samuels, NC State

Steve Balestrieri
April 9, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Hard to Pigeon Hole Samuels Into One Position

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots and specifically Bill Belichick likes versatile football players. Guys who can do more than one thing are valuable role players and will find their way onto the roster. Some guys who were multifaceted had the good fortune to be called a “Swiss Army knife” as they had some valuable and varied skills

Jaylen Samuels from North Carolina State is a prime example of that. Samuels played tight end for the most part for the Wolfpack but in reality was much more. He is a true jack-of-all-trades as he lined up as a running back, H-Back, Fullback, wide receiver, slot receiver, and took some direct snaps.

He’s not a Swiss Army Knife but more of a chameleon. His skill set is such that some NFL coaches will have a hard time actually deciding what position it is that he will be used at. He played every position on the offense for the Wolfpack except the offensive line. He was NC State’s leading receiver with 76 receptions for 597 yards with 4 touchdowns. He also rushed for 404 yards for another 12 touchdowns.

He is a good route runner with good short area quickness where he can separate from man coverage. He possesses sure hands and will extend with a nice catch radius on throws wide of the mark and haul them in. Samuels was good in short-yardage, showing a nice ability to see the cracks in the defense and find the sticks or the goalline.

Samuels is competitive to the nth degree and will sometimes go over the top and lose his cool, but is a tough competitor and will go all out for his coaches.

With the right coach and the right system, Samuels can line up anywhere and be a factor on offense. As a running back out in the flat, as an H-Back, or in the slot. He will probably become a core special teamer immediately.

Pros:

– Outstanding versatility

– Excellent hands

– Good at both coming out of the backfield and as a WR

– High Football I.Q.

Cons

– Slightly underpowered

– Average speed

– Blocking skills need work

What his Role Will Be:

That is the $64,000 question. He’s probably just best used as a varied weapon where ever the team senses a mismatch.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

It is possible that after a year in the system with the coaches and players that they will find a niche for him, but he may stay a jack of all trades in the offense where the defense can never know what is coming.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Take your pick, this guy fills so many shoes he could become a valuable player that he could make a bunch of special teams’ players expendable.  

What is his ST Value?

He’d immediately become a core special teams guy with his athleticism and physicality.

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that “Some may see Samuels as a valuable hybrid talent, while others may see a player who offers roster flexibility but lacks a position where he can win consistently. Samuels isn’t a tight end and has to prove he can handle blocking duties well enough to be a fullback. He will, however, appeal to teams looking to disguise their attacks with more diversified personnel groupings. Samuels best fit may be with a zone-scheme team as an RB/FB with the ability to play slot receiver and become a core special teamer.”

Samuels is a guy that you can’t help but root for. His varied skill set will have to be paired with a team that must be creative with his use. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry at NC State. The fact that he can do just about anything on offense could be seen by some as a detriment as some teams won’t be happy unless they can plug him into a specific hole.

What position is Samuels? I think I know how Bill Belichick will answer that. He’s a football player, he’d say and we’ll see how he’ll work out. But with the Patriots, I can see him as a third down running back that they can put in motion out to the slot. An H-Back or even as a flex or “move” tight end. In other words everywhere… and why not?

The kid can play a multitude of roles. After losing playmakers Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis this spring in free agency, Samuels can help in replacing both in the running as well as the passing game.

Does he fit a specific area of need? Not particularly. But his overall value will outweigh his specific value in any one area. Some team will draft themselves a football player on Day 3 and if they are creative, he will give them mismatches all over the field. Samuels will be a fit in New England because Belichick and McDaniels could definitely find a variety of roles for him to excel in.

Right now the team does not have a fourth or a fifth-round draft pick. I’m sure that will change once the draft begins. That will change. And if they would select him, Samuels would give them a reason every day to keep him around. The man with no true position will end up with several.

Leonard’s highlight reel tape from the ACC Digital Network can be seen here: 

His official highlight tape also by the ACC Digital Network can be seen here: 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Martellus Bennett Released by the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
March 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm ET

In an unsurprising move, the Patriots have released TE Martellus Bennett. Bennett had stated after the Super Bowl that he wants to continue to play football in 2018, but it won’t be, at least initially with the New England Patriots.

The Patriots released the veteran tight end on Wednesday afternoon. It is unknown whether they tried to work a deal to restructure his contract that would count for $6.2 million dollars against the salary cap. No one expected him back for that amount.

TE Martellus Bennett hauls a Brady pass in 2016 minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)



The soon-to-be 31-year-old tight end hinted at retirement, especially after he struggled with the Packers and was bothered by a bad shoulder. In seven games, he caught just 24 passes for 233 yards with no touchdowns and was roundly criticized as the Packers showed him the door. Especially after returning to New England. He played in just two games for the Pats before going on injured reserve due to a hamstring issue as well as his previous shoulder issues.

With Bennett’s release, it would seem that either he wouldn’t consider a restructure or the Patriots expect Rob Gronkowski back …or they don’t believe that he can hold up any longer…possibly a combination of all three.

Bennett gets the benefit of being released early and he doesn’t have to wait for the feeding frenzy of free agency to sign anywhere. He can find himself a home anywhere, but it doesn’t appear to be in either New England or Green Bay in 2018.

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 3-4, & AFC East Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gronkowski, Patriots Story Takes a Bad Turn, It is Decision Time

Steve Balestrieri
February 28, 2018 at 9:40 am ET

Well, file this one under unexpected developments. Apparently, the rumors about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski possibly stepping away from the game and retiring are true after all.

NBC Sports’ Tom E. Curran unleashed a startling report on his Monday night show of “Boston Sports Tonight” that Gronkowski considered stepping away during training camp of 2017.

Despite having an outstanding season, Curran reports that Gronkowski didn’t enjoy himself during the season and was growing increasingly frustrated.

“(Gronkowski) did not have a good time despite the fact his body was in a better situation than it’s been in a long time — ever maybe. Despite the fact that he’s one of the most dominant players at any skill position, it’s starting to wear on him physically, mentally, the atmosphere in New England.”

Curran reports that during the rigors of training camp, there was a growing discontent with the training staff over the workout regimens and that Gronk was “pissed.” That could mean a variety of things but it may mean more of the Alex Guerrero saga will raise its head again. Gronkowski supposedly has been seeking out Brady’s personal body guru and there is a chance that it was a sore subject with the training staff.

If that is the case…this won’t go away easily. Curran added, “I don’t think that some of the principal players on this team were really happy with the atmosphere and the climate … they still need to have a hell of an air-clearing at Patriot Place to get these guys back.”

Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, approached Gronkowski during the season about Gronk using the Guerrero method and that the Patriots tried to stop him from writing about the TB12 method. In the end, Gronkowski wanted to talk about it and he gave Daniels the story anyway.

It certainly would seem that there needs to be a sit-down with the veteran leaders of the team with the coaches and ownership and clear whatever bad air is still lingering over what may have been a tense atmosphere in Gillette last season.

Our original thought here over the retirement rumors was that Gronkowski was just frustrated at the way the season ended and would take stock of his situation and bounce back. It was also a nice way to get the team to sweeten the pot a little bit with a contract extension.

One could hardly argue with that line. He’s suffered a myriad of injuries in his NFL career and has grown increasingly frustrated at the one set of rules for defending him as opposed to everyone else. Opponents get away with a lot more leeway when trying to contain him, with a ton of grabbing, holding, hitting well after the five-yard limit as well as targeting. We saw what happened late in the season when he blew up against Buffalo and took out his frustrations with a cheap shot after a play that resulted in a one-game suspension.

But this is different. This changes the landscape quite a bit. Curran’s source has to be with Gronkowski himself or someone within his close circle, no doubt a member of his family. And the source of frustration goes much deeper obviously. His family has always been fiercely protective of him and they’ve always had his best interests at heart.

When talking about the Patriots offense, the three most valuable players are Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Gronkowski. They won the Super Bowl last year without Gronkowski but with Edelman.This year without Edelman but with Gronkowski, they went back to the Super Bowl but lost. Although it was hardly the fault of anything offensively to do with Gronkowski.

Gronkowski caught 69 passes for 1,084 and eight touchdowns and was named to his fourth First-Team All-Pro selection of his career in 2017. In the playoffs, he added 16 catches, including nine for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Gronkowski is truly serious about retiring, then the team would probably want him to do it now rather than later this summer. The Patriots will have some serious decisions to make. With both Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen free agents, they may opt for both, one of which or neither to return. Those decisions may rest on if Gronkowski decides to call it a career at 28.

But make no mistake, regardless of what Gronkowski’s decision is, neither Bennett nor Allen will play for the team with what they are currently slotted to earn. That won’t change. Either or both have some serious renegotiating to do. If both aren’t brought back and Gronkowski does indeed retire, tight end becomes a huge area for an upgrade as that will leave them with Jacob Hollister and Will Tye.

No can fault Gronkowski if he’s had enough, he’s been thru a slew of surgeries, more than many players have that have played much longer than him. If this has to do with hurt feelings over his training regimen, then the parties need to sit down at Gillette and get the dialog going. The clock is ticking, and it is decision time for everyone involved.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Tight Ends

Steve Balestrieri
July 12, 2017 at 6:29 am ET

Gronkowski’s Health Always A Key Concern

The Patriots head into training camp in just 15 days and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up is the Tight End position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.

So next up are the tight ends. The Patriots have six players vying for roster spots.

This position will ultimately be judged on how healthy Rob Gronkowski can stay in 2017. When he’s good to go and on the field, he’s the most dangerous tight end in the game and an absolute game changer.

The team knows that just by the nature of his game and how he plays, he’s apt to get dinged up. That’s why the second tight end spot is very important and Allen will have to be a guy who can be relied upon.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen
Gronkowski is still the gold standard among tight ends in the NFL. No one possesses the entire package that he brings to the table. He has the type of athleticism at the position where he can attack the field down the seams, move the chains, and be a huge physical target in the red zone. And he’s an outstanding blocker in the running game.

He’s one of those players that opposing teams must game plan around. He creates mismatches, as linebackers can’t run with him and safeties, aren’t big enough to stand up to his physicality.

Gronkowski, along with Julian Edelman are two of Tom Brady’s most favorite targets. Both have tremendous football I.Q.s and can read the defense pre-snap and understand and see exactly what Brady is seeing. This frequently means that no audible has to be called. QB and receiver are in tune and the play is changed silently as the two have worked on their reads and chemistry after long hours on the practice field.

Gronkowski in minicamp appeared 100 percent healthy with no restrictions, which is great news for 2017. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots manage his snaps in preseason and training camp as they have plenty of players to use. They want him healthy for a stretch run, not necessarily an early September matchup.

Allen was brought in to replace the departed Martellus Bennett who was a big addition in 2016 and had much to do with the team’s success during the Super Bowl run. Allen is known as a tremendous run blocker, just like Bennett and that will be how the coaches judge him first. Once the pads come on in camp, is when Allen’s fit can be judged.

We saw the commentary on his struggles during the first day of minicamp, his drops and Bill Belichick’s acerbic comments to him about “this isn’t Indy” on that rainy day. We watched Allen closely the next day and I thought he did fine.

Dwayne Allen catches a pass during Patriots minicamp in June. (SBalestrieri photo)

Obviously, if he struggles during training camp it will be a concern moving forward but I’m not buying into much of the talk that he’s on the bubble. He’s had good but not great numbers in the passing game but has been very productive in the red zone.

That could have a significant impact as teams usually pay close attention to Gronkowski in the red area. If Allen’s performance holds true to form, he could have some very good production in 2017.

Near Roster Locks: None

On the Bubble: James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Jacob Hollister, Sam Cotton
The Patriots usually like their third tight end to be more of a blocker but in the case of O’Shaughnessy, that may change. The Patriots spent some time looking at him prior to the 2015 NFL Draft and when the opportunity availed itself, they swung a deal with the Chiefs to trade for him. He could be looked at as a move tight end as opposed to the traditional in-line role as well as a special teams’ performer.

Matt Lengel was on the team a year ago and is a big (6’7, 265-pound) blocking tight end who the team snatched off the Bengals’ practice squad. He chipped in with a couple of catches, including an 18-yard touchdown against the Jets, but he’s a blocker first and foremost.

Jacob Hollister is an intriguing UDFA tight end out of Wyoming. (SBalestrieri photo)

Hollister comes to the Patriots via the UDFA route from Wyoming where he had a standout senior season with 32 catches for 515 yards and seven touchdowns. He is more of a move tight end (6’4, 240-pounds) than an inline blocker. He’s still a bit raw and needs to work on his blocking, but he turned our heads a bit during minicamp so he’ll bear watching in training camp.

Cotton is an intriguing guy, the 6’4, 250 tight end had pretty pedestrian numbers at Nebraska but the Cornhuskers are very much a running team first. For a good sized tight end, Cotton showed some nice athleticism during his Pro Day. He ran a very respectable 4.80 but his time in the 3-Cone Drill, a Patriots staple was what turned heads. Cotton ran that in 6.87 which would have been second among tight ends at the Combine in Indianapolis. He also turned in an impressive performance with a 127-inch broad jump and his 35.5-inch vertical leap which would’ve been sixth in Indy. He’s a longshot to make the team but he’s got the Bo Pelini connection that Belichick likes.

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New England Patriots Draft Profile Michigan TE Jake Butt

Steve Balestrieri
April 4, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Player Injured in the Orange Bowl May Fall to Middle Rounds

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots’ offense despite a plethora of weapons for Tom Brady can still use another tight end. Rob Gronkowski was injured for much of the season and was eventually placed on IR. Michael Williams, primarily a blocking tight end, tore his ACL in June minicamp and was also placed on IR.

Free agent Clay Harbor was signed but was released and fellow free agent Martellus Bennett who played very well for the Patriots all season and was their best target in the playoffs at the position was signed away in free agency by the Packers.

The team worked a trade for the Colts Dwayne Allen during the offseason and he and Gronkowski, if they can stay on the field (an issue for both) should give New England a terrific 1-2 punch. They still have Williams and Matt Lengel from a year ago as depth.

But adding another tight end would seem like the prudent thing to do, given the injury history of both Gronkowski and Allen. There are several intriguing choices but a hidden gem may fall into the middle rounds.

Jake Butt from Michigan is a very intriguing prospect as he’s a versatile target in the passing game that can line up in a variety of different positions creating matchup problems for the opposing defense.

He has good but not great size for an inline tight end at 6’5, 246-pounds and will have to get a big bigger and stronger to become a fully productive Y-type tight end (inline). But has very sticky hands, and shows good quickness off his release. Butt runs good routes and has shown the ability to get separation coming out of his cuts.

He has a large catch radius and is a good runner after the catch despite not being a speed guy. He’s a willing and tough blocker in the running game and does a decent job of pass protection as well. In 2015 and 2016 Butt was the Big Ten Tight End of the Year and put very solid numbers 51 catches for 654 yards (12.8-yard Avg) with three TDs in 2015 and 46 receptions for 546 yards (11.9-yard Avg) with four touchdowns in 2016.

He’s not going to attack the deep seams like Gronkowski but can be a very solid addition to the passing game by being a reliable target that gets open and will move the chains. With Gronk in the lineup, Butt can move around as the “F” or move-type tight end initially but the coaches will find ways to use all three with Allen as well into creating matchup wins for the offense.

Pros:

– Good size, release, and quickness

– Very versatile, can line up in a variety of spots

– Runs excellent patterns and has a large receiving radius

– Very good hands, and a good runner after the catch

Cons

– Tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl, may not be ready

– Not a breakaway threat and doesn’t possess great top end speed

– Needs to get a bit bigger and stronger in the NFL.

What his Role Will Be:
Butt’s role will vary depending on the matchups. He can line up wide, in the slot, or inline. He’s a very good receiving tight end and while he may not be the deep seam threat the Gronk is, he’s a very good move-the-chains type of guy.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, he may not even be ready to start the season due to his ACL tear in the Orange Bowl. So in 2018, he should be ready to go and having a year in the system, would definitely be ready for a bigger role.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Matt Lengel

What is his ST Value?
Limited to extra points and field goal blocking units.

Conclusion:
Butt has all of the markings of being a very productive pro tight end. He’s got the frame to be a big, physical presence. He runs good routes and uses his hands well to create a bit of separation coming out of his breaks.

He’s good at recognizing the weak spots in zone coverage and will set down and give the quarterback a big target who will chew up zones. He’s not afraid to work the middle part of the field and will be a tremendous move the chains target.

He’s tough, competitive, comes from a big-time program at Michigan with Coach Harbaugh and will fit in very nicely with the Patriots offense. Bill Belichick loves players who are versatile and Butt will be able to highlight that side of his talent with the Patriots.

Butt is a 2nd round talent but may fall to the middle rounds due to his ACL injury and the fact that he may not be ready to start the season. The Patriots are in a great position with Gronkowski and Allen where they wouldn’t have to rush him back but give him all the time he needs to get completely healthy.

Butt’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.