Kraft out front on backup
Tebow in AFC East excites him
PALM BEACH, Fla. - Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a suggestion to new Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow and touched on a number of team-related topics Monday afternoon as the NFL meetings kicked into full gear at The Breakers resort.
Asked about Tebow being in the AFC East, Kraft said, “I think it’s exciting, I think it’s a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of Tim Tebow. I love that he’s into spirituality, and I think it makes the rivalry even a bigger rivalry and I don’t know if there will be enough media hype around the game, but it will be a lot of fun.
“I understand he went to see his first Broadway play since being back in town, so that’s good. Tell him to see ‘Evita,’ because we’re investors in it.’’
Kraft wouldn’t divulge whether there were any discussions about the Patriots acquiring Tebow, but he confirmed that coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who drafted Tebow when he was with Denver in 2010, “are fans of Tim Tebow and appreciate his unique skills.’’
Other quotes of note from Kraft:
■On whether he anticipates there will be contract talks between New England and receiver Wes Welker’s agent, David Dunn, who is at the meetings. “Well, our personnel people are here. Wes, he’s a special guy. I’m happy he’s part of our team this year, and I hope he’ll be part of our team long-term. He represents everything we love.’’
■On the Patriots’ approach to free agency. “I think every team has to do what they think is right. I think what you’re going to see over the next few years is the market is going to be a different market. I think every team has to decide what’s in their best interests. When you’re the first one in the marketplace, you’re surely going to be paying top price. So, if that’s your need, then that’s the correct thing to do, but I think that we try to think long. We’re in the business for the long-term, we don’t plan on selling the franchise, we’d like to be competitive every year to try to make the playoffs. So, the only way you’re going to do that is to get quality depth management and have players have good values and you can only pay so many players top dollar and field a team that will be competitive.’’
■On signing receiver Brandon Lloyd, who has had some issues with teams in the past. “Everyone in our system was 100 percent behind the signing. We think he’s complementary to what we have. I’m happy that we also have Donte Stallworth back with us. I had a chance to see him in the office last week and it was really good to see him. He’s excited to be back, and we really liked it when he was there with us. So we’re excited about that.’’
■On offensive lineman Logan Mankins playing in Super Bowl XLVI with a torn ACL: “Logan Mankins is a gamer and pretty special. He’s an unbelievable guy; terrific player.’’
■On division rival Buffalo adding top pass-rusher Mario Williams. “Mario Williams and [former Patriot] Mark Anderson, I think they have like $26 million or $28 million tied up in the defensive line, so our O-line is going to have to do a good job. But I’m sure part of that was geared towards coming after our boy, No. 12 [Tom Brady]. But congratulations to them: they really improved their D-line and probably Mario Williams is the best player at his position in the league, so they really improved and it is just another good rivalry.’’
Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Chad Ochocinco, talked about the receiver agreeing to a $2 million pay cut, slashing his 2012 base salary from $3 million to $1 million.
“He definitely has unfinished business there,’’ Rosenhaus said, adding that he spoke “extensively’’ with Belichick about Ochocinco returning to New England at a reduced rate. “I felt it was in his best interest and I recommended it to him as well.
“I know it’s going to be pretty competitive there - they’ve got a great group of receivers - but that’s the NFL. It’s always competitive. Chad’s confident and he’s looking forward to an offseason and really try to get as comfortable as possible with this [offense], and bounce back, and have the kind of year we all think he can have.’’
Kraft said of Ochocinco, “He’s a real good guy, and he was cooperative and did everything. I hope he winds up having a productive year with us. But we have a pretty competitive group now at wide receiver in our system, so we’ll see what happens.’’
Rosenhaus also confirmed that linebacker Brandon Spikes had arthroscopic surgery to clean up his right knee, but will be ready for offseason workouts.
The Patriots signed free agent fullback Tony Fiammetta, a league source said. Later in the day, the team released Lousaka Polite, meaning it effectively swapped fullbacks.
New England still has two players at the position on the roster, however, having signed FB/LB Spencer Larsen last week.
The 25-year-old Fiammetta was a fourth-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2009 out of Syracuse. He battled concussions in Carolina, which led to his release last September, and then missed three games in Dallas because of a mysterious ailment that turned out to be an inner-ear infection that caused balance issues.
Polite was signed last Dec. 27 and played in the regular-season finale as well as all three postseason games.
No tweak needed
One rule change that likely won’t be pursued is closing the McDaniels Loophole.
There was a great deal of hoopla when the Patriots re-hired McDaniels, then with the Rams, as an offensive assistant - he has now re-assumed offensive coordinator duties - before the team began its postseason run and faced Denver, McDaniels’s former team.
But Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said that no rule change is coming, barring teams from hiring an assistant coach who was fired or released by another team during the season.
“We didn’t think there was a rule change necessary with respect to that situation,’’ McKay said.
Simms on board
The Patriots have hired Chris Simms, a league source said. It sounds as though Simms, who played quarterback for the Buccaneers, Titans, and Broncos, will do a bit of everything with the Patriots, on the coaching and personnel sides. He is well-connected to the team: his father, Phil, was quarterback of the Giants when Belichick coached there, and Chris Simms played for McDaniels in Denver.