Tag Archives: Tom Brady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can the New England Patriots Keep Free Agent Rex Burkhead?

Steve Balestrieri
February 16, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2018 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. Among the veterans looking for a new deal are Nate Solder, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater.  There are other veterans such as Brandon Bolden, James Harrison, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming who have played significant roles at times and have been limited in others.

The Patriots have only $13.14 million dollars under the salary cap right now and will have to be creative in creating some room as well as decide who they want to retain. They’ll need to sign a few of their own free agents as well as grab some others who they covet from other teams. All the while knowing they have draft choices to sign.

We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the more intriguing players facing free agency is running back Rex Burkhead.

The Patriots made a very nice move last spring grabbing Burkhead off of the free agency pile in an under-the-radar move from the Cincinnati Bengals. Burkhead was stuck behind two very talented backs and didn’t see the field much. They signed him for the modest price of $3.15 million dollars.

The team liked his versatility, he can run the ball between the tackles, catch it out of the backfield and play a key role on special teams. We knew he’d fit right in here and it was easy to see that the coaches liked what they saw as well.

Burkhead hauls in a pass during Patriots minicamp in June. SBalestrieri photo

Why Burkhead Will Return: The Patriots and especially Bill Belichick love players who can do more than one thing. And versatility is Burkhead’s middle name. His season production, 264 yards on the ground with five touchdowns, 254 yards in the air with three more touchdowns. A blocked kick on Special Teams…

When the Patriots made the backfield a combination of Burkhead, Dion Lewis, and James White, the offense was extremely difficult to stop. The trio made it hard for opposing defenses to expect a pass or a run. All three also do a very good job as pass blockers as well, something the Patriots demand of their running backs

Burkhead was injured a couple of times this season and played in just 10 games in the regular season. And that may work in the Patriots favor this season. He showed the team he is an excellent fit in what they do and his two injuries last season may scare away, would-be suitors from investing heavily in a guy that they’re not sure if he can hold up for the long term.

Why Burkhead Won’t Return: There are enough of Burkhead’s good work with the Patriots on tape to show other teams what he can do. And let’s face it, the Patriots don’t pay their running backs to retain their services. They let them walk to other teams.

Stevan Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead ring a bell? All of them had fairly good success here in New England. Then when it was time to get paid, they moved on, just like LeGarrette Blount did…twice.

Players like him are rare, he can play four downs and do it all. If a team comes in with an offer that blows him away, he’d be foolish not to consider it. Careers in the NFL are woefully short and so is the window of peak earning potential. And Burkhead is right there. He’ll be 28 this season.

And of course, the Patriots could have cold feet themselves. Burkhead was injured twice last season and a Belichick mantra is availability is very important. Could they decide to walk away because of injury concerns? Absolutely.

Bottom Line: The Patriots love the selfless, egoless attitude of Burkhead. Bill Belichick lauded his work ethic speaking of him before the Super Bowl.

“Rex is really is a four-down player. He can play on first, second, third and fourth down at a good level. And those players are hard to find in the National Football League. He’s a very reliable, dependable player.”

Burkhead saw that for the first time he was given a chance to play meaningful snaps in an offense. And he thrived in it, before getting dinged up. He seemed as happy here as the coaches and other players were to have him here.

Both he and Dion Lewis are free agents this spring. Lewis had much more production this past season and is extremely elusive in the open field. If there is one back who will get a lot of money offered upfront, it is him.

Again this could work in the Patriots favor. They aren’t going to break the bank for Lewis and if another team scoops him up, the team could throw some decent but not crazy money after Burkhead on a short-term (2 years) deal that could lock him up for the foreseeable future.

Various cap-based projections put Burkhead in the $3.3 million dollar range for 2018. That is a modest raise from what the Patriots paid him in 2017, but if they can work out a deal in that vicinity, then there is a very good chance of Burkhead returning.

This is another intriguing decision that Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio will have to make this spring. On one hand, they both know what Burkhead brought to the table when he was available on the field. But they also know in his only season in New England, he missed a lot of time.

That’s why a short-term deal would work for both sides. They won’t be able to keep both Lewis and Burkhead. In the end, they may not be able to keep either. But keeping Burkhead is a financially more doable situation for the Patriots. If the money is right…

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.

PHOTO: Tom Brady “Wins”First Sunday With No Football

Robert Alvarez
February 15, 2018 at 6:00 pm ET

It didn’t take long for quarterback Tom Brady to move on from the Super Bowl.

On Instagram Sunday, the first with no scheduled football games until next August, Brady shared an affectionate photograph with himself and his wife Gisele Bundchen kissing at their Costa Rica vacation home.

“This Sunday’s outcome is a lot better than last Sunday’s. #losingstreakstopsatone”

Even in defeat, Brady always wins.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfE4zZ-B6Tv/?taken-by=tombrady

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Valentines Day

Robert Alvarez
at 5:00 pm ET

As the 2018 offseason gets underway, members of the New England Patriots took time to share some heartfelt Valentines Day social media posts with their loved ones.

For the immediate future, many of the Patriots will now take some time away from the rigors of a football season and you can check out some of their getaway vacation locations below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfLy9NfBydF/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfLrFBkHsTr/?taken-by=lindaholliday_

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfLjIRZBEa9/?hl=en&taken-by=edelman11

Tonight. My valentine ❤️

A post shared by Olivia Culpo (@oliviaculpo) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfMai9ThMAU/?hl=en&taken-by=mccourtytwins

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfNERvklAQ-/?taken-by=laadrianwaddle

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfMYHkMA9Cg/

New England Patriots Free Agent Profile Nate Solder

Steve Balestrieri
February 14, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2018 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. Among the veterans looking for a new deal are Nate Solder, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater.  There are other veterans such as Brandon Bolden, James Harrison, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming who have played significant roles at times and have been limited in others.

While the team has a limited amount of cap space, right now… they should be retooling a few contracts or cutting their ties with some players soon which will create more cap space.

We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the key players facing free agency is left tackle Nate Solder.

This is where things begin to get very interesting. Solder, and backup tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming are all free agents this spring. That means three out of the four tackles utilized by the team in 2017 could conceivably be gone in 2018.

The Patriots thought they drafted their left tackle of the future last spring when they took Antonio Garcia in the draft. But Garcia never stepped foot on the field and spent the season on the NFI (non-football injury list) as a result of an illness. Garcia is down to only about 260 pounds right now, so not only is there uncertainty about his playing ability because they really don’t know what they have in him yet but medically as well. Will he even be ready to go this summer? That is a lot of question marks pertaining to the guy who must protect Tom Brady’s blind side.

Why Solder Will Return: The Patriots drafted Solder in the first round, (17th overall) in 2011. He’s started 95 of 98 games he’s appeared in and has been pretty durable, playing thru a variety of ailments including testicular cancer a few years ago. He did have a torn bicep in 2015, where he missed the last 11 games.

The Patriots need Solder this upcoming season. They have capable backups in Waddle and Fleming, who can fill in for a game or two, but as starting left tackles? No. And with the dearth of tackles in free agency this season, they know they can’t lowball Solder’s offer too much or risk losing him.  

Solder is still a very good left tackle, there was some thought that he may opt for retirement but he probably has one or possibly two years left before he decides to hang it up. With questions regarding his heir apparent, the team will either have to draft another tackle (a definite possibility) or retain Solder for one more year. Solder has played in four Super Bowls protecting Tom Brady’s blindside and has the big game experience that the team wants. He’s a proven performer and the Patriots will probably be able to retain his services for about the same amount of cash he earned in 2017.

At 30 years old this fall, Solder still has plenty of tread left on the tires.

Why Solder Won’t Return: There are a couple of considerations to think about here. One is Solder was contemplating retirement according to some rumors this fall. His own health issues coupled with the return of cancer to his young son, reportedly had him thinking about possibly hanging it up. If so, that would be the one situation where he’d be adamant about not returning.

As we mentioned above, there is a lack of quality tackles hitting free agency this season. With Solder just about to turn 30 in April, he could command some very decent offers. One team in dire need of a tackle is the Denver Broncos, and Solder played his college football in Colorado. They’d love to steal Solder away from New England.

The Patriots aren’t in a great position salary cap wise, so they won’t be able to overspend for Solder or anyone else this spring unless they start cutting other players or redoing some of the other contracts out there.

Bottom Line: The Patriots would like to have Solder back this season and truth be told, much like Josh McDaniels, family considerations may play a very large part in Nate Solder’s decision to remain in New England or to leave either in free agency or retirement.

With his son going thru another bout of chemotherapy, he and wife may want to keep their family close to the doctors that have treated his son Hudson at Boston Children’s Hospital. They have trust in the staff there and tied to them in the community as well.

He’s a very well respected member of the team by both the players and coaches. The 6’8, the 320-pound left tackle has been very good since entering the NFL. He’s sure to generate plenty of interest from other teams. And a few may opt to throw big money dollars in his direction. There is a stipulation in his contract that he can’t be franchised, so, that option is off the table.

Our feeling here is that he will return to New England or retire. While we may be way off on this one (not like we are batting 1.000 on these things), that is how we see it playing out. I think if the Patriots offer him close to what he earned in 2017, then the chances of Solder returning are much better and seeing him in a Patriots uniform in 2018.

We feel that the chances of him returning to New England are better than 50/50 this summer. Somewhere around 60/40 in favor of him playing at least one more season protecting Brady. Now the question remains, who else (Waddle or Fleming) will the Patriots resign and will Garica be able to resume his football career, which means working himself back up to weight and gaining the 40-50 pounds he lost?

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 Free Agent Profile Dion Lewis

Steve Balestrieri
February 13, 2018 at 9:00 am ET

The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2018 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. Among the veterans looking for a new deal are Nate Solder, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater.  There are other veterans such as Brandon Bolden, James Harrison, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming who have played significant roles at times and have been limited at others.

While the team has a limited amount of cap space, right now… they should be retooling a few contracts or cutting their ties with some players soon which will create more cap space.

We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the key players facing free agency is running back Dion Lewis. Lewis put it all together in 2017 and proved that he can withstand the rigors of a 16-game season as well as three playoff games and at 27 years old, is in the great position to cash in on free agency. He’s won a Super Bowl and now he wants to get paid.

Lewis’ situation is a bit different than other notable free agents as he’s missed so much time due to injury in the past, it will be interesting to see if there is a great demand for his services on the open market.

But as always, the question remains, who does the team feel is one of their priority free agents? Will Lewis be one of the guys that the Patriots feel like they must re-sign him?

Why Lewis Will Return: The Patriots settled on Lewis in the second half of the season as their go-to back and he didn’t disappoint. He carried the ball 180 times for 896 yards with six touchdowns. He added 32 receptions for 214 yards and three more touchdowns.

But the bottom line was, once they went with Lewis, the offense was much more difficult to stop. Opponents had to respect the run as well as the pass and his versatility was on full display. As we mentioned above, Lewis showed he can stand up to being a feature back. His previous career high for carries was 64 in 2016, this season he nearly tripled that.

Lewis displays the willingness to run the ball between the tackles and for a smaller back, showed remarkable ability to carry would-be tacklers for yards after contact. He also has the innate ability to make people miss in the open field.

Lewis is a well-respected player by his coaches and teammates and they know what he can bring to the table.

Why Lewis Won’t Return: There are a couple of considerations to think about here in regards to Lewis and his tenure here. First, the Patriots have never highly valued the running back position. So, will they pony up the kind of cash that they’ll have to, to keep Lewis in the fold? That is the big question. It will all come down to how much?

Lewis isn’t going to sign anything quickly here. He’s earned his payday and will want to test the waters to see what he can bring in during free agency. The Patriots have allowed Dont’a Hightower and Julian Edelman to test the waters of free agency in the past with the stipulation that the player gives them a chance to match any offer out there. You can expect the same with the Patriots.

Will another team try to wow Lewis away from New England with a big money contract offer? That is a distinct possibility. Other teams could see the potential with him and with the run/pass option he presents. He could easily be a fit with several other teams out there. It all comes down to money and the amount others are willing to spend. I could easily see the Patriots wish Lewis the best and wave goodbye this spring.

Bottom Line: The Patriots, do, however, recognize what they have in Lewis and the dynamic playmaking ability that he possesses, especially in the open field. Does that mean, the Patriots will break their mold and pay top dollar for a running back? That part is doubtful.

Bill Belichick has always been especially reluctant to pay big bucks to a running back, and one with an injury history like Lewis’.So have most other teams. The NFL really doesn’t value the running back position like in days of yore.

The Patriots have always eschewed the idea of a “feature” running back with the exception of Corey Dillon and have relied on a running back by committee with the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, and Antowain Smith. But this year was a bit different. Although they still used a committee, Lewis was the main guy down the stretch and he was equal to the task.

So what would it take to sign him to a new deal? Several sites have been throwing around the numbers of a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million dollars. If the Patriots are willing to pay Lewis that kind of cash, then I think the deal could definitely work.

Reliability? He caught 32 passes on just 35 targets in 2017, that is a 91 percent completion percentage when the ball is thrown his way. That isn’t good, that is outstanding. And of course, there is the little stat that the Patriots are 32-3 when Lewis is in the lineup and just 13-7 when he’s not.

So, the chances are good, better than 50/50 that Lewis returns to the Patriots for the next three years on a new contract. But it is far from a sure thing. He’s turned enough heads for other teams to look long and hard. And then Lewis will have to decide what is in his best interests for the long term before coming to a decision, but he’s earned that right. If the money is right, he’ll be back. If not, wish him well elsewhere.

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 Free Agent Profile Danny Amendola

Steve Balestrieri
February 12, 2018 at 9:00 am ET

The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2018 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. While the team has a limited amount of cap space, right now… they should be retooling a few contracts or cutting their ties with some players soon which will create more cap room. Check with our old friend @patscap for the latest on the salary cap goings on.

We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the key players facing free agency is wide receiver, Danny Amendola.

Amendola has heard the doubts since high school, recruiters told him he wasn’t Division I material but he made the team at Texas Tech. After going undrafted, he turned heads at the Cowboys training camp but was cut and then spent time on their practice squad as well as the Eagles. After he had success with the Rams when finally given a chance, he heard plenty of criticism when the Patriots signed him to replace Wes Welker.

Danny Amendola has been tremendous in the postseason for the Patriots

He’s not hearing it anymore. Amendola has become one of the Patriots biggest playmakers in the past four years. While he’ll never come close to 100 catches like Welker did in his time here, he’s become a crunch-time star, or as his teammates call him “Danny Playoffs” or “Playoff ‘Dola” for his penchant of big-time catches when the stage is the biggest.

He has the surest hands on the team and it is a true rarity to see him drop a catchable ball. Amendola is also a versatile, hard-working player who will do anything asked of him and his work on special teams in the punt return game can’t be overlooked. He set up the game-winning touchdown (which he caught) against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game with a big punt return that set the Patriots up for the winning score.

Why Amendola Will Return: The Patriots and Amendola have a good thing going for themselves. They’ve figured out a way to best utilize his talents and he’s thrived in it. He occupies a key spot in Tom Brady’s circle of trust. If you watched any of Brady’s “Tom vs Time” docu-series episodes, you’d see Brady, Julian Edelman, and Amendola working out before training camp together in Montana.

That speaks volumes of how the QB feels about his wide receivers and how the bond between the three is cemented in hard work and trust. The three of them share a common bond that no one believed in any of them. And now they’ve won a pair of Super Bowls together and that collective chip on their shoulder will forever fuel them regardless of their success.

Amendola has the toughness and the ability to do the dirty work in the middle of the field where he takes a beating at times. In his first Patriots game in Buffalo, he tore his groin muscle right off the bone and then played the entire season like that.

The Patriots limited his pitch count this season, he played in just under 50 percent of the offensive snaps this season, because and especially so, once they lost Julian Edelman in the preseason, they needed a healthy and fresh Amendola for the playoff run.

And he delivered once again. The team won’t have to break the bank for him, but they’ll have to pony up more money than they have in the past, where they’ve renegotiated his deal, seemingly every year.

Why Amendola Won’t Return: There were concerns that if Josh McDaniels left for Indianapolis, that he’d try to entice Amendola into leaving with him and he’d become the invaluable piece that he was in New England with the Colts. McDaniels and Amendola have a ton of mutual respect for one another and that was a definite possibility. Now that one has been squashed as McDaniels is staying.

There is still the off chance that a team will try to wow him with a bunch of money after his playoff run where he was outstanding in all three playoff games for the Patriots.

And of course, the Patriots may decide to low-ball him so much that he feels like he has to move on and take the money elsewhere. But those last two scenarios are both of the low percentage variety.

Bottom Line: The Patriots, as we mentioned above, have some interesting decisions to make this spring. This shouldn’t be one of them. Amendola is a proven performer on the big stage. His playoff run with 26 catches for 348 yards and two TDs is the production that elite receivers look for in the playoffs.

While no one is saying he’s elite, however, he is, in this offense, invaluable. He has the absolute trust of his coaches and his quarterback. His toughness is unquestioned and he possesses the best hands on the team. His ability to find the openings in zone coverage and get open quickly in man coverage are perfect fits for the team.

Furthermore, he loves playing here in New England, for this coach and this quarterback. He’s learned the Belichick method of answering questions at his press conferences, never giving much up and very much sticking to the company line. But during training camp, we were there when Mike Reiss asked him about his taking another pay cut and what his feelings were about coming back for another go with the Patriots. He made it very clear that there is New England and not much else in terms of where he wants to be. Check out the video clip.

While there are some “must sign” free agents, let his name be at the top of the list. Chances of his returning should be around 90 percent for 2018.

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.

Antonio Brown Jabs Brady Dropped Catch, Forget’s He’s Sitting Home

Robert Alvarez
February 8, 2018 at 9:01 pm ET

Not a whole lot went the Patriots way during Super Bowl LI, but unlike 15 other AFC teams, they still managed to claw their way to an eighth NFL title game appearance under head coach Bill Belichick.

One of those losing teams was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went one and done in the postseason and will enter 2018 without a championship ring in the last nine seasons.

Despite their head coach proclaiming “we expect to be there” and players chirping about a rematch with the Patriots, it never came to fruition as Steelers were sent packing for the Pro Bowl by the Jaguars.

Which takes us to Monday, Over his Instagram account Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown decided to poke a little fun at Tom Brady’s dropped reception and old teammate James Harrison.

So to recap, despite not having a win against the Patriots since 2011, Brown for whatever reason fired a slight shot when they were down and out, because the only place the Steelers can beat New England of late is behind a screen.

McDaniels is Staying and the Succession Plan for the Patriots is in Place

Steve Balestrieri
February 7, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The silver lining from the Patriots Super Bowl loss on Sunday night, while painful has a good…no a great bit of news. Josh McDaniels has spurned the Indianapolis Colts offer to be their next head coach and is staying in New England as the Offensive Coordinator.

McDaniels reportedly had dinner with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the deal was struck to keep him in place and then? The succession to the throne had to be addressed. Bill Belichick has made it clear that he wasn’t planning on coaching into his 70s and he wanted to establish his son’s coaching careers before moving on.

McDaniels had plenty of reasons to stay. And not the least of which is his family. His wife is from the area and his kids go to an exclusive private school in Walpole. His family has roots here and he doesn’t want to leave. His wife and kids most definitely don’t want to go to the mid-West. Never underestimate the family side of the equation.

Josh McDaniels, here with Jimmy Garoppolo at June minicamp will remain as the Patriots Offensive Coordinator. (SBalestrieri photo)

Now McDaniels will remain and the Patriots get to keep not one but two coordinators. Joe Judge, the Special Teams coordinator was slated to go to Indianapolis with McDaniels and now he’ll more than likely remain as well.

And the bigger piece of the puzzle that no one is mentioning is Nick Caserio. He will remain after getting some feelers once again for GM positions in the offseason. Caserio will remain in his position as the Director of Player Personnel but he does much more. He’s the guy doing all the leg work for the draft, works with the players in practices and serves as the de facto GM.  Which means when Bill Belichick decides to step down possibly in a year or two, the next coach and GM are already in place.

With all of the flak coming at Kraft and McDaniels since yesterday, one has to wonder, aren’t the same people who are complaining that there was no succession plan in place with Tom Brady, now giving the Patriots the business for addressing life after Belichick? Isn’t it the exact same thing?

What will the staff look like in 2018? McDaniels will remain as the Offensive Coordinator. Judge will remain as the STs coach. Chad O’Shea is put on hold as the OC in waiting, once McDaniels takes the reins. Greg Schiano’s name keeps coming up as the Defensive Coordinator, which may mean that Brian Flores is still getting consideration elsewhere.

I’d look for Stephen Belichick who has been the safeties coach to move this season to another position. Brian Belichick may be a positional coach this year as Bill tries to groom his sons for bigger and better things once he retires.

The offense now, won’t miss a beat. Brady and McDaniels have a long relationship and they have the mutual trust and respect to get the job done. There will have to be decisions made on several players who are free agents but this is a team when it has all of its weapons that is loaded.

McDaniels has grown from the coach who failed in Denver. He learned from his mistakes and has a much better feel for the game and his personnel than he did a few back. The young coach who was too stubborn to adjust in Super Bowl XLII ten years later faced an even better defense under Jim Schwartz and took them to the woodshed.

Now he, Belichick and Caserio have to find a young QB for them to groom to take over the reins for Brady when he too rides off into the sunset. The Patriots can be many things…boring is never one of them.

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.

Podcast: Super Bowl Recap Show

Russ Goldman
February 6, 2018 at 11:05 am ET

This is our Super Bowl Recap Show, and during this episode we discussed all the turning points in the game. Later on, we talked about Malcom Butler in two ways. We first talked about the “trickle down effect” of not having him in this game, and what it possibly did to the Patriots defense. To end the show, we shared if we agreed or disagreed with the decision to bench Butler on defense.