Patriots' tackle Nate Solder, who could be taking on a bigger role on the offensive line if Matt Light retires and he flips from the right side to the left, spoke to hundreds of families at the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon. The Pats and New England Pop Warner held an event to honor youth players and cheerleaders for scholastic acheivement.
Coming off a rookie season in which he played in all 19 games (including the postseason), with 16 starts, 14 of which came at right tackle and two at left tackle but also saw him play as a third tight end, the first-round pick out of Colorado took a week's vacation since the season ended but otherwise has been at Gillette Stadium working out.
The biggest question surrounding Solder is tied to the status of Light. There are rumors that Light will retire, and if that happens, Solder could get his chance to be Tom Brady's blindside protector on a full-time basis.
Solder said he hasn't talked to Light since the Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, but he'd welcome the opportunity to fight for the job if it comes available.
"Well I feel like that is the reason I was brought here, to eventually be the starter, and that's great. I'm excited about that," Solder said.
Asked to reflect on his first season, the 6-foot-8 Solder had an interesting response:
"My sole drive was not to be a disappointment" - he let out a self-conscious chuckle - "so I hope I wasn't a disappointment. But it continues on, you know, I have to get better next year too."
Solder mentions his technique more than once when asked what he needs to improve, saying he needs to refine it.
Unlike the younger members of his audience at the Pop Warner event, Solder didn't grow up playing football in the organization - he was a ski racer instead, idolizing Austrian legend Hermann Maier.
Patriots' defenisve lineman Kyle Love was honored in his Georgia hometown on Wednesday, having his No. 72 jersey retired at North Clayton High.
It was also declared Kyle Love Day in Clayton County.
In front of a packed house at his alma mater's gym, politicians, teachers and former coaches all lauded Love, who went from North Clayton to Mississippi State.
Undrafted in 2010, Love signed with the Patriots and played in nine games as a rookie; last season, he made great strides, playing in all 16 regular-season games with 13 starts. He also started all three of New England's playoff games.
In the first spot embedded above, the reporter in the commercial says he's been going across America trying to get people to try on the new Depend Real Fit protective briefs for charity. He catches up with Welker, along with the Packers' Clay Matthews and the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware.
The players are asked to wear the briefs for charity. "For charity, let's do it," Welker says.
After a brief workout, Welker says of the undergarment's fit, "Yeah, it was almost like silk."
Welker goes on to make a catch on the field at the end of the commercial.
In the second spot embedded below, Welker talks more about the cause being supported by the Depend spots.
"I don't think people realize one in six American men are affected by prostate cancer," Welker says. "I actually have a friend who has prostate cancer and Depend has really stepped up and really gone after that challenge."
Gronk has kept busy as he recovers from ankle surgery following the Super Bowl. Earlier in the week we told you about his new sponsorship deal with Dunkin' Donuts, and now Gronk is working with Celebrities for Charity and promoting a raffle in which the grand prize is luxury box tickets to the Bruins' game April 7 and dinner afterward, and Gronk will attend both events with the raffle winner.
Details on the raffle are available on the Celebrities for Charity web site. Tickets are $2 (minimum buy is 5).
Review the discussion in the window below.
PALM BEACH, Fla. – The NFL concluded its annual league meetings today at The Breakers will votes on several rule and bylaw proposals.
The most significant change is that the overtime rules for the postseason – each team gets a possession unless a touchdown is scored on the initial possession, basically – has been adopted for the regular season as well.
The other major modification is that all turnovers are subject to booth reviews, just as all scoring plays are.
Here’s a rundown on what passed and didn’t:
PLAYING RULE PROPOSALS
- Proposal to make all replays handled in the booth, similar to the college system. REJECTED
- Horse-collar rule would apply to quarterbacks in the pocket. REJECTED
- Postseason overtimes rules will apply to the regular season. ADOPTED
- Adds loss of down to penalty for illegally kicking a loose ball. ADOPTED
- Makes too many men in the formation a dead ball foul. ADOPTED
- Makes recipient of a “crackback” block – defined as a player more than 2 yards laterally outside a tackle who clips or blocks before the waist -- a defenseless player. It adds the illegal head/neck shot protection that defenseless players have. ADOPTED
- The replay booth official will initiate reviews of turnovers. ADOPTED
A Patriots related note on the “crackback” block: Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee said Tuesday that the wham block, which the Patriots use a ton with tight end Rob Gronkowski, would not be affected. Mike Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating turned Fox analyst, told me the wham block is affected because the “whammer” is usually lined up 2 yards outside the tackle. Gronkowski will just need to be careful to make his blocks hit the defender from the waist to the neck.
- Modified roster rules for teams that play on Christmas and Thansgiving. ADOPTED
- Moved trading deadline to the Tuesday after the eighth weekend. TABLED
- Expanding training camp rosters to 90 players. TABLED
- Eliminates first preseason cutdown if roster limit remains at 80. TABLED
- For only this season, allows the teams playing the kickoff game to begin practice on Saturday. ADOPTED
- Allow teams to designate one player on injured reserve as a possible roster addition later on in the season. TABLED
- Allowing one roster exemption per week for a player that is inactive because of a concussion. TABLED
NOTE: Many of the bylaw proposals could pass at the May league meeting once the NFLPA gives its recommendations.
PALM BEACH, Fla. - We all know Patriots coach Bill Belichick and new Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano have a relationship dating back a few years because Stephen Belichick attended Rutgers when Schiano was coach there.
It has been told over and over again.
But I did think Schiano's insight today on what kind of things they talk about -- generated via a question from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times -- brought something new to the table.
"Schematically we’re different... just the game, in general, the approach, the thinking, your perspective of it. Dealing with players," Schiano said.
"He knows every player in the National Football League. I mean, he has it up here (tapping his head). I have books right now that I’m checking and reading. He’s got it in one book (tapping his head). That’s neat to just talk about players -- and he’s been doing it for so long -- because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, the players."
Maybe I'm still new around here, and I'm sure Schiano was exaggerating a little bit, but I didn't realize Belichick has that kind of recall on personnel around the league. I know he's beyond smart and has a terrific memory, but I didn't think it was to that extent. Interesting to me, at least.
On Monday, Dunkin’ Donuts announced that the Pro Bowl tight end signed a two-year sponsorship contract. As part of the deal, Gronkowski was on hand – walking-boot and all – at the Dunkin’ Donuts Tuesday on Main Street in Foxborough at 11 a.m. to serve unsuspecting customers their morning coffees.
“It was a blast out there,” said Gronkowski, who admitted to having a soft spot for the chocolate glazed donuts. “I got to see all the employees. I’m always going through this drive-through, like twice a week, every time I’m around town, and now I get to meet them all after them serving me all the time.
“It was fun working the drive-through,” he continued. “I met one customer who said she had a puppy named after me – named Gronk – so that was pretty cool. I put a couple signatures on cups. I think people were happy going through and it was just a blast being back here.”
Gronkowski said that there haven’t been any setbacks since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 10 to repair a high-ankle sprain and ligament damage he suffered in the Patriots' 23-20 win over the Ravens in the AFC title game.
“[The ankle’s] great,” said Gronkowski. “I’m like six and a half weeks out of surgery and I’m just getting better every day, taking it week-by-week, day-by-day. I’m walking around now and everything’s on pace and hopefully I’m 100-percent when it comes down to the time that that’s where I’m supposed to be [mid-April].
The timetable for Gronkowski’s return, which was set at approximately 10 weeks, should put him back to 100 percent sometime in the middle of April, when the Patriots' minicamp is scheduled.
“Not sure when the boot is coming off,” said Gronkowski. “It’s still a couple weeks away and I’m just getting better every single day. Right now all I can do is upper body – sit-ups, pull-ups, and pushups. All that good stuff – I’m just going to have to make up for that in cardio and leg workouts when I get healthy.”
Gronkowski talked about the new additions to the Patriots in the recent weeks, including Donte Stallworth and Spencer Larsen.
“I’m excited to have new teammates coming in,” he said. “I’ve met some of the guys in the past. They’re great guys and I’m just excited for them to come on board. We’ve got some hard workers coming in.”
Gronkowski said he has practiced with Stallworth during past offseasons in Florida and he remembers Larsen from his time at Arizona, where Larsen was a senior during Gronkowski's freshman season.
“I was glad to meet up with [Larsen] again and start working with him,” said the tight end. “He’s a hard worker and has a lot of dedication to the game and loves playing it.”
With the walking boot, Gronkowski had no chance to escape the inevitable Tim Tebow questions.
“It’s tough competition playing [the Jets] every single year. I’m just thinking that our conference might be the most talked about conference now because of [Tebow]," he said.
... Say that headline three times fast!
After telling one Patriots' beat reporter on Monday that he wouldn't be at this morning's AFC coaches' breakfast, Bill Belichick decided to take part after all, albeit a little late. He chatted for 45 minutes, and it was clear quickly that he wasn't interested in talking about certain topics - Tim Tebow and the Saints/Sean Payton bounty scandal at the top of that list - but he did offer comments on a range of other things.
The first question he got was on Tebow (and it wasn't from a Boston reporter, for the record): "I’m just concentrating on our team. Just trying to get better in the offseason like we always do. You don't want to talk about it? I’m just trying to get ready with what we’re doing. Not really worried about the other 31 teams right now.
Asked about Matt Light, Belichick said, "If we have any announcements to make on any player, we’ll make them when it’s appropriate."
Here's more of his comments:
On signing Brandon Lloyd and whether he was an obvious pickup given his history with Josh McDaniels: He's been a productive player, especially the last couple of years, in an offense similar to ours. We'll see how all that goes. ...We look at all the players in free agency. Try to look at all the players in the draft. Some of them work out, some of them don't. I don't think it's any big formula. We've talked to a lot of receivers. We talk to a lot of players, period. Some of them we sign, some of them we don't. It's that way in the whole process - free agency, draft, trades. That's part of it.
If he's confident in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley with BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone: Yeah, we'll see how it goes with those guys. We drafted them, we obviously like them enough to draft them. We'll see how it goes. I don't know. Neither one of them played a whole lot last year. They played some, but we'll see how it goes. I'm sure there'll be competition at that position, just like there is every other one.
Why do you keep signing fullbacks? Everybody we've brought onto our team, we'll give them an opportunity to compete, whether it's offensively and special teams, or defensively and special teams, whatever it happens to be. We'll take the players we think give us the best chance. I don't know who that's going to be. We'll let our guys compete, see how it goes.
The competition the Pats will have at wide receiver with the recent signings and re-signings: You always try to have competition at every position...We'll see what the roster ends up being this year. There's going to be a number of receivers, some guy at that position might not even be on our team right now and we're not even talking about it. It's just a process. We signed a couple of guys the beginning on March. We're not even a month into the whole offseason team-building process... We'll see how it all comes together.
On his expectations for Chad Ochocinco in the receiver's second year with New England: I think I have the same expectations for all our players, doesn’t matter who they are, doesn’t matter what year they’re in. Come in, work hard, be prepared, go out there and compete on the field. No difference for any player. First year, second year, they’re here to play football for us, then that’s what they need to do.
With the Patriots currently not holding a pick beyond the fourth round of the draft, will he move to acquire later-round spots? You never know how the draft’s going to go. We’ll just take it as it comes. If we do, we do. If we don’t, it’ll be because we feel like there’s better value to doing something whatever it is we do, I don’t know.
On losing tight ends coach Brian Ferentz to his father, Kirk's staff at Iowa, and who might replace him at that position: Anything on the coaching staff any of those announcements we'll make when we're ready to make 'em. We're all set on that. But yeah, Brian did a good job for us. He added a lot during the years he was here and this is a good opportunity for him to go back with his dad, coach the line at Iowa. He certainly contributed a lot to us when he was here.
His thoughts on former Patriots' head coach Ron Erhardt, whom he worked with when Erhardt was offensive coordinator of the Giants and Belichick was defensive coordinator: Ron and I worked together for a number of years and we worked with each other and against each other as he was the offensive coordinator and I was the defensive coordinator and at training camp and practices and things like that. Ron was very confident, he was, I thought he kept a good…he was an upbeat guy, kept good balance on the team, he was tough but he also had a way of keeping things light (small smile) and he was always an upbeat guy to be around. Sad that we lost him. Ken Shipp, both – in my era, when I was young, those are two of the great offensive coaches in the league, Ron and Ken, and it’s sad we lost them.
On Logan Mankins playing in the Super Bowl with a torn ACL: I don’t think anybody’s ever questioned Logan’s toughness or his competitiveness. We’ll just leave it at that.
PALM BEACH, Fla. - With compensatory draft picks being handed out on Monday (Patriots didn't receive any), the official draft order has been set.
Here are the Patriots' picks:
PALM BEACH, Fla. - The coaches from the AFC were supposed to have the spotlight to themselves this morning with their breakfast/interview session with the media (Shalise Manza Young will be posting some comments from Bill Belichick, who did show up this year), but an NFC coach got much of the attention.
Saints coach Sean Payton, facing an unprecedented season-long ban for his role in the bounty scandal, answered his first questions about the situation.
Payton, who amazingly said he hasn't seen the NFL's confidential report on the bounty issue, took questions for about 18 minutes and answered them straight on.
It sure sounded like Payton will appeal the suspension, if only to give the Saints more time to get their house in order. And Payton said he's "100 percent certain" he'll be back with the Saints after his suspension.
Here is some of what he had to say:
His initial reaction to the suspension: "None specifically. You go through a range of emotions that kind of hit you. You’re disappointed. You’re disappointed in yourself that it got to this point and I think we’re trained as coaches to begin preparation right away. I find myself reflecting on it and you go through a lot of emotions."
His reaction to the severity of the suspension: "Um, I think, the commissioner has done a good job communicating with us through this process. Being in a leadership role myself as a head coach, certainly I understand the position he’s in and I think he’s made it clear and for good reason. We have such a good product right now, just the idea of something of this magnitude is an important issue he wanted to address."
On how it got to this point: "Listen, there’s a number of things just specifically in the report, some of which I can’t comment on, but I made this statement earlier, anything that happens in the framework of your team and your program, you’re responsible for and that’s a lesson I’ve learned. It’s one it’s easy to get carried away with a certain side of the ball, more involved offensively or defensively, and that’s something I regret."
On the assertion of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that Payton wasn't truthful even the "past several weeks": "I saw part of what he said and specifically I don’t know that he made mention of that directly to me. That being said, we take his office very seriously and the role he has and in the two trips to New York, I made sure to do everything I could in my power to answer the questions honestly."
On what he would do during the suspension: "I don’t know yet. The specifics of the suspension is one in which we’re still trying to gather the information as well. But hopefully staying involved as best I can. We’ll be able to make that decision sooner rather than later. But it seems for me right now the checklist of things to do is what occupies my mind."
On the leadership quarterback Drew Brees will continue to show: "I think the hardest thing is that this would possibly put a taint or tarnish the success we’ve had and I think our players feel that same way. We’ve won 41 games in the last three years. That’s hard to do. And that’s done through hard work. It’s done through discipline. It’s done through execution. It’s done through having good football players that are very coachable. So when we found ourselves maybe in a two-game losing streak or relocated because of a hurricane or we found ourselves kind of going through some tough times, we’ve always responded well. So this is uniquely different, but I do think our players and coaches will take that same response. That starts with our captains, guys that have been in our program for the whole six years that we’ve been together."
On if he feels that he's being unfairly punished for something that goes on elsewhere: "No, I accept this. I’ve heard that argument. I think trying to really look closely at how we and how I can improve has been probably a better way for me to handle this than to kind of vent or to look outwardly at other programs and I’ve tried to take that approach."
On how difficult this has been: "They’ve been difficult, challenging. It’s interesting, you find out how close some of your friends are. I said this in the statement: the fans back in New Orleans have been amazing. My peers, guys that I’m very close with in this league, the players on our team. And really it’s like a family. That’s the thing that will get you through something like this."
On talking to Bill Parcells about becoming interim coach: "I’ll have a chance to visit with him when I’m down here. But that would involve (general manager) Mickey (Loomis), myself, Mr. (Tom) Benson. My conversations to date with Bill to date have been about the uniqueness of this situation. ... I think we’d just be considering all options to be fair and really trying to do our homework on each option before making a decision. But Mickey and I and Mr. Benson … I mean there’s a lot of small steps here before we would get to that point of making a decision."
On how open Parcells is in considering to coach again: "We really haven’t gotten into it. I’ve really called him more as more of a mentor, someone to shoot some ideas off of him. That would be very consistent with what I do regardless of this being … obviously this is different. But I speak to him pretty regularly in regards to advice. So the dialog I have with him would be pretty normal, especially in this area. In fact, for me to be down here and if I didn’t call him or set up a time to see him, I’d probably get his wrath."
On what's intriguing about Parcells as a head coach: "You’re asking me what are his great strengths, and I would say to you he’s a great teacher. Certainly I’m biased, having worked with him. But he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. And I would also say there are some things probably set up within the framework of our program that would be exactly how he would have set things up had he been the head coach here back in ’06. So there is some carryover that way."
On how much damage this has done to his reputation: "Certainly you take lumps, and I’ve taken them before. I look forward to getting back, being successful and being a part of it. I think the biggest challenge is driving in here this morning, this will probably be 39 years, as a Pop Warner player, as a high school player, a college player, then college coach, professional coach, this is potentially the first of 39 years where you’re not directly involved in football for a season. But that being said, I look forward to getting back in this position, I look forward to winning. And we’ll do that."
It sounds as though Simms, who played quarterback for the Buccaneers, Titans and Broncos, will do a bit of everything with the Pats, on both the coaching and personnel sides.
He is well-connected to the team: his father, Phil, was quarterback of the Giants when Bill Belichick coached there, and Simms played for Josh McDaniels in Denver.
Early in the 2006 season, when he was still with Tampa Bay, Simms suffered what turned out to be a ruptured spleen and lost over five pints of blood; he underwent emergency surgery after the game in which he suffered the rupture to have the organ removed, and the massive blood loss was almost fatal.
The blog FootballScoop was first to report that Simms had been hired by New England.
The Patriots swapped fullbacks today: after finalizing a deal with Tony Fiammetta, the team announced that it released Lousaka Polite.
Polite was signed on Dec. 27 and played in the regular-season finale and all three postseason games for New England.
PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Patriots will not be receiving any compensatory picks in this year's draft, according to a league source.
Teams were notified about them today, and the league will likely release the list later today.
Compensatory picks are rewarded for players lost in free agency the prior year. Not sure the Patriots lost any free agents last year (Sammy Morris and Jarrad Page, maybe, depending on when they signed elsewhere). Released players do not count.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Remember all the talk about how the Patriots used a loophole in the rules to hire Josh McDaniels as an offensive assistant -- right before the team played the Broncos, his former team?
Well, the NFL didn't apparently think it was very controversial.
Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Monday that the situation -- a fired or released assistant coach being hired by another team before the season was over -- was discussed by the committee, but no rules change is coming.
"We didn’t think there was a rule change necessary with respect to that situation," McKay said.
He touched on a wide range of topics, both those specific to his team and others pertaining to the league.
Here's a sample, mostly Pats-centric:
On Tim Tebow being in the AFC East as a member of the Jets:
I think it’s exciting; I think it’s a lot of fun. You know, the NFL is about rivalries, and now, I think having Peyton Manning coming back – I’m glad he’s coming to Gillette Stadium and we’re not going up to Denver, but we saw the difference when we played the Colts this year, first time Peyton wasn’t in the game, and 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.
Whether the Patriots discussed acquiring Tebow:
That’s, we don’t discuss those kind of discussions. Surely, we wouldn’t… I know that both our head coach and our offensive coordinator are fans of Tim Tebow and appreciate his unique skills. He’s just a great young man and we’re looking forward to the rivalry. And we want him to go see Evita.
On free agency and the Pats' generally waiting to sign players:
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 market place, 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 the proposed rule changes, including one which would let teams remove one player per season from injured reserve:
I think the biggest one is being able to bring back an injured player. Even the year with Brady and the Kansas City game, he possibly could have come back at the end of that year. He actually wanted to, I remember the discussion. I think all that does is just allow us to keep the game more exciting for those teams that make it to the playoffs, it’s a great opportunity to be able to do that. I think it’s a very positive thing.
On losing BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who signed with the Bengals:
BenJarvus, I’m so sorry that he left us. You’re getting a gem. He’s one of the finest players to come through our system. He never fumbled once in four years, I think over 600 carries, he’s a gentleman, he’s a hard worker and I’m just sorry you paid him more than we were willing to pay him.
Whether there might be contract talks between New England and Wes Welker's agents this week (agent David Dunn is here in Palm Beach):
Well, our personnel people are here. Wes is, he’s another special guy, sort of like BenJarvus. I’m happy he’s part of our team this year, and I hope he’ll be part of of our team long-term. He represents everything we love.
Signing Brandon Lloyd - any hesitation because of his past problems?
Everyone in our system was 100 percent behind the signing. We think he’s complimentary 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 Chad Ochocinco restructuring his contract
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.
On Logan Mankins playing in the Super Bowl with a torn ACL:
Logan Mankins is a gamer and pretty special. He’s an unbelievable guy; terrific player.
Apologies for the not-so-great picture...
PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Patriots are finalizing a contract with former Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta, according to a league source.
UPDATE: Fiammetta agreed to terms, which weren't disclosed.
Fiammetta, 25, would give the Patriots three fullbacks on the roster. Lousaka Polite finished the season with the team after being brought in mid-season, and the Patriots recently signed former Broncos fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen.
Apparently, new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is aiming to run a little bit more of a two-back offense, which was largely non-existent under Bill O'Brien outside of short yardage.
The Cowboys elected not to tender Fiammetta as a restricted free agent for $1.26 million. They attempted to sign him to a contract extension at less money, but Fiammetta elected to test the market. The Cowboys signed Lawrence Vickers instead.
Fiammetta was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the Panthers out of Syracuse. He battled concussions in Carolina, which led to his release in September.
Fiammetta played well for the Cowboys last season before a mysterious ailment -- later revealed as an inner-ear infection that caused balance issues -- caused him to miss three games. Fiammetta wasn't quite the same player when he returned, but the Cowboys' running backs enjoyed much more success when he was on the field compared to when he was off it.
Given that the marriage of receiver Chad Ochocinco and the Patriots' offense didn't work out as planned last year, it seemed a given that one of two things would happen for 2012: the veteran would return, but at a reduced salary; or he would be cut.
It seems the former has taken place for now.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Ochocinco has agreed to restructure his deal and now has a $1 million base salary for the coming season. It was to be a $3 million base.
NFLPA records do not yet indicate the change.
This is a smart move for Ochocinco, who earned $6 million in salary and bonuses from New England in 2011 - and in return gave the team just 15 regular-season catches in 15 games, adding one more reception in the Super Bowl.
It shows he's committed to making things work with the Patriots, at least financially, and is an acknowledgment from both he and the team that the expected results last year weren't there.
The Patriots received Ochocinco at the start of training camp last year via a trade with Cincinnati for two late-round picks, a fifth-rounder this year and sixth in 2013.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer signed his restricted free agent tender in the past day, a league source confirmed.
Hoyer will make $1.92 million this season. A team would have needed to surrender a second-round pick if it signed Hoyer to an offer sheet.
There wasn't much of a market at that level, and the Patriots think too much of Hoyer to part with a pick, say, around the fifth round.
This is a pretty good deal for Hoyer when you consider that if he was drafted in 2009 -- he was undrafted out of Michigan State -- he would be making the minimum this season. Hoyer is making triple that and will be an unrestricted free agent next season.
The Patriots keep trying to build their depth, with former Broncos fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen agreeing to a two-year agreement, according to a league source.
Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com first reported a deal with imminent.
Larsen (6-2, 243) played for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the Broncos. Previously signed tight end Daniel Fells did as well.
A sixth-round pick out of Arizona in 2008 where was a teammate of tight end Rob Gronkowski, Larsen also caught Tim Tebow's first career touchdown, so maybe Larsen can be used on defense to help confuse Tebow (kidding).
Of course, Bill Belichick is no stranger to two-way players. With Troy Brown and Julian Edelman, Belichick practically reinvented the practice in the modern game.
FOXBOROUGH - We've reported previously that the Patriots entered the offseason prepared to move on without center Dan Koppen and left tackle Matt Light, with retirement likely for the latter.
Koppen is still a free agent after the Patriots signed Dan Connolly to starter's money at center, and owner Robert Kraft said nothing today to dissuade the thinking that Light is likely to retire at some point.
Kraft, following a Patriots Charitable Foundation event celebrating Camp Sunshine in Maine, became a little emotional when asked about prospect of moving forward without long-time Patriots in Light and Koppen.
"Well, (if) Matt Light decides to retire…he’s somebody who’s been with us the whole time," Kraft said. "He’s been such an outstanding person both on and off the field.
"I truly hope that Deion Branch remains with the team. He’s also been one of my favorite guys. I was sorry to see him leave, and I hope Dan Koppen winds up on the team as well."
Branch later re-signed with the Patriots on a one-year contract.
"It's truly an honor and a blessing to be back with Patriots next year," Branch posted on Twitter. "Can't wait to get back in the swing of things."
Kraft was asked whether Light has informed him of his decision.
"I don’t want to speak for him ... has there been no public announcements?" Kraft asked.
When told there hasn't been, Kraft said, "I think you ought to speak to Matt."
It wasn't so much what Kraft said, but the way he said it.
If Light retires, the Patriots will recoup about $5 million salary-cap space.
Light's agent, Ben Dogra, hasn't commented on Light's plans.
Kraft also talked about other topics:
On Peyton Manning being with the Broncos: “I know that CBS is happy that he’s in the AFC. But we’re playing him here, we’re not playing in that in Denver, so that’s always good. I think it’s great for football that we have the rivalry back with Tommy and Peyton. I still think we have the best quarterback in football though. I like our position.”
On Tim Tebow being traded to the Jets: “I personally like Tim Tebow a lot. I love that he’s into spirituality, it’s something that I and my family feel strongly about. He’s a great young man and I have great affection for him as well.”
On the bounty penalties handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “I think he had unique knowledge that none of us had. His job is to protect the shield, and look at the long-term best interests of the game. I think that’s what he did there. What I like about it is I know that he’s looking out for what’s best for the game long-term and the health and welfare of our players. I know my grandsons play Pop Warner, another grandson plays high school football. It’s good that they know that their role models have certain standards, and all of us in society really have to conduct ourselves a certain way. I think he, having the knowledge he had, sent a strong message and I have confidence in his judgment and whatever he decides is in the best interest of the game. …I have a lot of confidence that Roger Goodell is doing that all the time.”
On Tom Brady agreeing to restructure his contract: “I think we’re blessed to have the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL, but lets also remember that when he restructures his deal, he’s getting a bundle of cash up front. But it is helping us create cap room and it’s something that I think is a win-win all around. I think we brought in some interesting players here that hopefully can help us be a better team and let us try to do some things that we couldn’t do as well last year.
On if he’s excited about any of the additions: “I always liked Donte Stallworth. I’m happy he’s coming back. We have so many new young men that we don’t know. What I learned in the early years was I used to get really excited in the offseason. I think probably most owners think the moves in the offseason are going all the way. And sometimes, realities set in and things aren’t always the way you think they are when you’re signing these players. So I’m going to wait and see what happens.
But I do think we’ve really improved our team and I really believe that. I think Tommy receiving a little wad of cash up front also helped us.
On if fans should expect a big move, a trade or signing, with the cap space: “Remember, we’re in the business of quality depth management. And it’s a physical game and you have injuries and you need depth on your team. I think we’re starting to develop depth on the team. We’re doing a lot of homework in the draft, and I think leading up to the draft I think we’re going to have a very interesting offseason continue to develop. We’ve had some great moves already and it will continue to happen. I like our position that we’re in the draft with two 1s and two 2s. The homework that we’ve done and depth that we’re starting to develop. WE have flexibility. That’s the key in this game because no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, who will be on the market, what opportunities will be there. We’re in a position of flexibility.
On if there’s been progress with Wes Welker: “He’s on the team. That’s the progress.” (On a new contract) I have no comment. I’m not involved in that. You know how I feel about Wes.”
Tom Brady agreed to a restructuring of his contract with the Patriots within the last week, a league source confirmed Wednesday night.
By doing so, he saves New England $7.2 million against the salary cap for the coming season, but his cap number in 2013 and 2014 now will be higher.
Under the original terms of the four-year contract extension he signed in 2010, which went into effect last season, Brady's base salary for 2012 was to be $5.75 million. Now, according to NFL Players' Association documents, his base salary will be $950,000.
The remaining $4.8 million was combined with the $6 million roster bonus Brady was to earn on Feb. 15, 2013 and the $10.8 million total became a signing bonus that will be prorated over the final two years of the deal.
Brady initially was set to count $18.2 million against the salary cap in 2013 and '14, and that number now will increase to $21.8 million in each of those years.
On the heels of the stunning penalties handed down to the Saints for the team's bounty program came the news that the Jets have acquired quarterback Tim Tebow from the Broncos. According to reports, New York sent fourth- and sixth-round picks to Denver, and in exchange the Jets got Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick.
It's tough to know at this point what the Jets' plans are for Tebow. Will he and Drew Stanton work as Mark Sanchez's backups? Could Tebow have his own package of plays and be used as a Wildcat-type quarterback, as New York used to do when Brad Smith was still in green?
After the "we're sorry" contract extension the Jets gave Sanchez recently, when they were quickly knocked out of the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes, it would be tough to see Sanchez not the starter as the regular season begins.
He's paid like the starter, and Jets' brass have taken every opportunity possible to talk him up and say there's no quarterback they'd rather have.
They also said they'd be bringing in players to challenge Sanchez. Those words ring a bit hollow given the two players they've brought in at quarterback over the last week: Stanton, who has played in 12 career games with four starts and has a 55.6 career completion percentage, and Tebow, who completed just 46.5 percent of his passes for Denver last year in 11 starts, with 12 touchdown passes, six interceptions and 33 sacks.
Tebow did, however, lead the Broncos to their first postseason appearance and win since 2005.
When talk began on Tuesday night that the Jets were interested in acquiring Tebow, whom Denver put on the trade block as soon as Manning decided to accept its offer to sign there, one of the reasons offered for why the Jets might be interested is because of the fractured locker room and player infighting that occurred last year.
Tebow may not be a great quarterback, but he's known for his extremely high character, and perhaps he will make a difference in that way. However, if the Jets felt it necessary to smooth things over with Sanchez when they pursued Manning, how will he react to having the highest-profile player in the NFL on the field with him every day?
This isn't to say that Sanchez shouldn't be challenged or pressured to keep his job - he absolutely should. Last year was his third season as starter, and typically a quarterback should be hitting his stride three seasons in - but Sanchez did not show marked improvement and down the stretch, when the Jets had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, he faltered.
A porous offensive line didn't help, but Sanchez had five touchdown passes against seven interceptions and took 11 sacks; New York went 0-3 and missed out on a playoff spot.
His confidence has already been an issue; if the Jets stumble out of the gate and fans start calling for Tebow to step in, hoping for a little of the comeback magic he showed with Denver, how will Sanchez respond?
If he falls apart, it seems clear that Sanchez doesn't have the makeup to be a starter in the NFL.
Coach Rex Ryan has said from Day One with the Jets that his first goal is to win the AFC East. With the recent moves he and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have made, he may not be with the team long enough to see that goal through.
The Bills have strengthened their team, re-signing top receiver Stevie Johnson, landing free agency's best player in Mario Williams and today added another pass-rusher in former Patriot Mark Anderson, and New England has made the type of under-the-radar moves it has found success with over the last decade, signing lesser-known players to team-friendly contracts at positions where it needed help.
Meanwhile, the Jets and Dolphins have stumbled in recent weeks and almost seem weaker instead of stronger.
Right now, New England remains the favorite to win the division again, but it is Buffalo, not New York or Miami, that will pose the strongest threat.
The Patriots have announced the signing of veteran cornerback Will Allen.
A first-round draft pick of the Giants in 2001 out of Syracuse, Allen was with New York through 2005 and has played for the Dolphins for the last six seasons.
The 33-year old is listed at 5 feet 10 inches, 195 pounds; last year with Miami, Allen played in 15 games (six starts), with 43 tackles and 3 pass breakups.
New England also made the Robert Gallery signing official.
Ron Erhardt, former Patriots coach from 1979-1981, died in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday morning. He was 80.
Erhardt began his NFL career as the Patriots backfield coach in 1973, a position he held for four seasons before being named offensive coordinator. When Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks was suspended by then-owner Bill Sullivan in 1978 for making a deal to coach the University of Colorado, Erhardt was named co-head coach, along with Hank Bullough, for the last game of the regular season.
Erhardt officially was named head coach of the Patriots on April 6, 1979. He guided the Patriots to a 9-7 record in 1979 and a 10-6 record in 1980 but missed the playoffs in both seasons. The Patriots fell to 2-14 in 1981 and Erhardt was dismissed at the end of the year. The 1980 Patriots scored 441 points, a record that stood until the 2007 team scored 589.
Bill Parcells was the Patriots linebackers coach in 1980 and retained Erhardt on his staff when he became coach of the Giants. Erhardt was on the Giants’ staff from 1982 to 1991, spending eight seasons under Parcells, and was the Giants’ offensive coordinator when they won Super Bowls XXI and XXV.
"The New England Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Ron Erhardt, who served as Patriots head coach for three seasons from 1979 through 1981," the team said in a statement Wednesday.
“We’re all saddened by the unexpected news of Ron’s death,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin in the Giants' statement. “I just sent him a note at the end of the season when he celebrated his 80th birthday (on Feb. 27).”
A native of Mandan, N.D., Erhardt was a successful high school coach after graduating from Jamestown College in 1953. Erhardt also won two college football championships while coaching at North Dakota State, where he had a 67-7-1 record in his seven years.
Former Globe reporter Larry Whiteside wrote about Erhardt in Feb. 1977:
His name is Ron Erhardt, and while there is still time I want to take credit for his discovery. Back in the '60s, long before Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks ever thought of naming him offensive coordinator, I ran across this confident young coach out of Fargo, N.D., whose North Dakota State football club was trampling just about everybody it faced.
It was after a 71-0 drubbing of a Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee football team that I asked him to explain the offense of his Thundering Herd. That's what the North Dakota State team that won the national college division championship in 1968 and 1969 was called.
Simple, he said. The Herd had only three plays. Stampede Left. Stampede Right. And the big one up the middle - Westward Hooooo! You don't forget a guy like that.
Well, all right. Maybe Fairbanks knew in 1973 when he hired Erhardt to coach the Patriots' offense backfield that Ron had the best record of any college coach in the nation.
Or maybe somebody had told Fairbanks that Erhardt had four times been college division (now Div. 2) Coach of the Year at a time when San Diego State was impressing the world because of a fellow named Don Coryell (now of St. Louis Cardinals). Maybe someone had told Fairbanks that Erhardt had been a part of a college football program at North Dakota State that had produced 90 victories in 100 games dating back to 1963.
But, I discovered him. And if Fairbanks had asked me about replacing Red Miller as offensive coordinator, my choice would be Ron Erhardt. Wonder why he didn't?
Maybe you don't think the title offensive coordinator is important. All you have to do is think back to 1972, the year before Fairbanks, Miller and Erhardt at Foxboro, and recall the miserable offensive lines and one of the worst running attacks in NFL history to appreciate the job done by the Patriots the last four years.
Miller's claim to fame could be that this year three Patriots started in the Pro Bowl: Leon Gray, John Hannah and Russ Francis. But in the Patriots' scheme of things,such honors are the result of coordinated efforts, and you must also praise aides like Ray Perkins (receivers), John Polonchek (quarterbacks) and Erhardt. They're a team. If Fairbanks hadn't hired Ron as offensive boss replacing Miller, don't doubt for a minute that Red would have taken him along to Denver.
Erhardt and Miller are alike in many ways. One percolates. The other bubbles.
"We worked well together," Ron said yesterday. "We both strive for perfect all the time. We believe in enthusiasm. He was certainly the finest offensive line coach I've ever worked with.
"We hope to keep that same kind of attitude among our people. Rather than be defensive on offense, we want them to be cutting, slashing and aggressive. I hope that Ray, John, the new line coach and I keep the rapport.
Some things about Ron Erhardt you need to know. Sam Cunningham thought so highly of him that Cunningham insisted that Erhardt be present at his contract signing last year. Cunningham used to try to bulldoze people. "We worked hard with Sam on developing his football reading skills, so that he could see and understand what the defense was doing as he carried the ball," Erhardt said. "We worked hard on developing pass catching skills, pass route skills, avoiding fumbles."
Andy Johnson and Don Calhoun are products of Erhardt's tutoring. "All our backs are doing a good job," Erhardt said. "They're well disciplined. They make few mental errors. They understand what we're trying to do."
Something else. In the 10 years Erhardt spent at North Dakota State, he had 20-25 players drafted by pro teams. He kept the best one for himself and the Patriots - linebacker Steve Nelson.
Erhardt could easily have gone to the Big Ten or Big Eight but instead joined Fairbanks in the pros. He has never regretted the decision.
"To me, it's intriguing," said Erhardt. "And it gives you an opportunity to work on strategy in almost every way. I find that in itself rewarding, and when you win it really becomes worthwhile. I've always felt that to stay in football, I had to be with the best. A higher level of college football was just more of the same. The big thing is Chuck Fairbanks. He wanted me and that doesn't happen very often to a guy from North Dakota State."
All right, Fairbanks made a hell of a choice in hiring Erhardt. But remember, I discovered him.
News of the bounty scandal penalties broke while the Boston College pro day was going on, so we've now had a chance to digest them. A few thoughts on the discipline that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down:
- The penalties were, in a word, unprecedented. Never had an NFL coach been suspended for so much as as a game, and Saints coach Sean Payton was barred for an entire season without pay. Then you have Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Saints assistant Joe Vitt, and general manager Mickey Loomis all drawing suspensions. It was quite harsh.
- Why such heavy penalties? They all lied and deceived. When the NFL first released its findings on this, I can't tell you how peeved Goodell was about the blantant dishonesty by Payton, Williams, Vitt, and Loomis -- and we haven't even gotten to the players yet. They'll be getting it too.
- It was bad enough that the practice of bounties went on. It was worse that Williams and other non-players contributed funds. It was completely unacceptable to Goodell that on top of that, everyone was lying to his face.
- If the Saints had just come clean initially, the penalties probably would have been cut in half, at least.
- Goodell had to come down hard on both parts, player safety and the deceit. The player safety factor is obvious. The climate has changed in regard to player injuries and Goodell wasn't going to be seen trying to increase player safety through rule changes, and then going easy on a team that was deliberately trying to injure other players.
- Goodell also had to come down hard on the lying. It's conduct detrimental to the league of the highest order.
- If he had just slapped the Saints on the wrist for deceiving the league office, coaches and teams would have just continued to cover for each other in future investigations. Now, you better believe that if league investigators ask a player or coach a question, they are going to think longer and harder about how they answer since the Saints' harsh penalties will be in the back of their mind.
- Amazing the details about how Williams carried out the bounty system with bookkeeping, etc. He's the John Mitchell of Watergate. With Williams being banned for at least a season, I'm not sure if he's ever a defensive coordinator again. He could be an assistant, but that's probably about it.
- Around the league, the penalties were first met with gasps of, "Holy cow." And then there were snickers. Some across the league did not care for the arrogance that Payton and Williams have shown going about their business, that they act like the rules don't apply to them and they're smarter than everyone else. These penalties are viewed as huge pieces of humble pie to both.
- Amazing that quarterback Drew Brees, who previously denied any knowledge of the bounty program's "real existence," took to Twitter to say that he is stunned and needs to have this explained to him. Uh, it's there Drew, in black and white.
- If there's any good news to come out of this, it's that Medway native and former Boston College assistant Pete Carmichael Jr. is in line to either be the Saints' head coach or to call the shots offensively. He's already the offensive coordinator, but Payton called all the plays.
Green-Ellis signed a three-year deal with the Bengals, ending his time with New England.
An undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss in 2008, Green-Ellis worked his way from the practice squad to contributor to starter, becoming the first Patriots player to record a 1,000-yard season since the days of Corey Dillon, when he totaled 1,008 in 2010.
Last year, Green-Ellis was again New England's leading rusher, though the rise of rookie Stevan Ridley and the Patriots' pass-happy offense meant he had just 181 carries. Green-Ellis had 667 yards and 11 touchdowns; over the last two years, he totaled 24 regular-season touchdowns.
Green-Ellis finishes his Patriots career with 547 total regular-season and postseason carries and zero fumbles.
Though Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen remain on the New England roster, the team likely will pursue one of the many free agents still available at the position.
He came to the Patriots last year looking to reclaim a once-promising career, and collected 10 sacks in a part-time role, though several of his early-season sacks came in late-game situations when the Patriots had the game in hand.
Anderson garnered quite a bit of attention on the open market, visiting the Dolphins and Ravens in addition to Buffalo.
The Patriots would have welcomed both Green-Ellis and Anderson back, but the understanding all along was that it would be at a price the team wanted to pay. The numbers aren't out on Green-Ellis's deal yet, but it's safe to say New England wasn't going to pay Anderson what the Bills did.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Brandon Lloyd are both slotted into the field, which gamemaker EA Sports announced Wednesday. Gronkowski defeated teammate Wes Welker in the play-in round of fan voting in which each team had two nominees who faced each other for a spot in the bracket.
Lloyd was nominated while he was with the Rams and won the St. Louis play-in. He was signed as a free agent last week by the Patriots.
However, only one will be able to advance, because Gronkowski and Lloyd are matched against each other in the first round of the bracket. Gronkowski is a No. 2 seed, Lloyd is No. 15.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the top seed in the bracket that includes Gronkowski and Lloyd. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the top seed on the other side of the bracket.
Catching up on a few things:
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady released a statement on his Facebook page about Peyton Manning officially joining the Broncos: "I have a lot of respect for Peyton Manning as a person and as a player. He is a great role model and always puts the team first. And he is a great leader and representative for the NFL. Like always, it will be fun to compete against him this year when the New England Patriots play the Denver Broncos."
- Patriots free agent end Mark Anderson visited the Ravens today, following previous travels to the Titans and Dolphins. Anderson received some initial interest from the Jaguars, but Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union reported the team "is not in the running right now." The Patriots and Anderson would like to make something work, but as has always been the case, he's going to have set his own market.
- Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is in the same boat. After visiting the Bengals, the NY Post reported the Jets have shown some initial interest.
- Safety LaRon Landry, who had visited the Patriots, signed with the Jets and offered a brief comment on his contact with the Patriots: "The meeting went well, but my heart was with the Jets,” he said. The Patriots didn't offer Landry a contract.
- ESPN's Adam Schefter did not name the Patriots among the four teams that he heard have had some sort of discussions about trading for Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
- Status quo on the possible addition of Chargers DE Luis Castillo, who visited the Patriots. They've had good talks, but that's about it.
- Coach Bill Belichick was spotted at the South Florida pro day.
- The Patriots officially announced the signings of DT Jonathan Fanene, WR Brandon Lloyd and TE Daniel Fells, and the re-signing of C Dan Connolly.
Watch excerpts from Peyton Manning's introductory press conference in Denver on Tuesday. According to reports, Manning's deal with the Broncos is for five years and $96 million.
Here's part of the Q&A, from The Associated Press. Click here for the full story.
On the neck injury that kept Manning off the field through 2011: "I'm not where I want to be. I want to be where I was before I was injured. There's a lot of work to do to get where we want to be from a health standpoint."
On his potential role in being the man who could bring about the end of Tim Tebow's popular stay in Denver: "I know what kind of player Tim Tebow is, what kind of person he is, what an awesome year it was. If Tim Tebow is here next year, I'm going to be the best teammate I can be to him. He and I are going to help this team win games. If other opportunities present themselves to him, I'm going to wish him the best."
On John Elway's role in leading him to choose Denver over other suitors, the most serious of which were the Titans and 49ers: "I'm seeing him as the leader of a franchise. I really liked what he had to say. Everyone knows what kind of competitor he is as a player. I can tell he's just as competitive in this new role. That got me excited."
Monday's signing of veteran offensive lineman Robert Gallery makes a lot more sense now: ESPNBoston.com is reporting that left guard Logan Mankins underwent surgery for a torn ACL in the weeks following the Super Bowl.
Mankins suffered a left knee injury in New England's Dec. 24 game against Miami and missed the regular-season finale, the only game he's missed to injury in his career.
In the report, a source said Mankins was hit early in Super Bowl XLVI and it was later determined that he had been playing through a torn ACL.
It is unlikely that Mankins will participate in any of the spring camps, and he may not be able to take part in training camp depending on the timetable for his recovery.
Of course, knowing now that Mankins played in the Super Bowl on a torn ACL only serves to underscore the toughness Bill Belichick and his teammates have long talked about when it comes to the 2004 first-round draft pick.
The Patriots have been adding players at a dizzying pace the past couple of days, so let's try to reset where the roster stands.
It will change in a minute.
Including tendered free agents Wes Welker, Brian Hoyer and Kyle Love (who don't count until their tenders are signed), we have the Patriots for 68 players against the 80-man limit.
Here's a look:
I'm not real big on saying, "Well, they signed this player so this player is toast," but I did have a couple thoughts.
I wouldn't be surprised if Deion Branch is back at the veteran's minimum, and I'm not opposed to Chad Ochocinco being back at a massive restructure, but the signings of Lloyd and Stallworth makes me think Ochocinco is just about done here.
Areas where they're still light on numbers and would use free agency: veteran RB (Green-Ellis?), end (recent visitor Luis Castillo?), cornerback and safety. The latter two could be addressed in the draft.
Thoughts on the individual signings, which as a group I like because they're all good football players who at the minimum will increase competition and depth, which were lacking last season:
- WR Brandon Lloyd: Smart pickup because the Patriots now have an X receiver who can a) catch and b) knows the offense. He's tremendous in the air and gives the Patriots a legit receiver to take some shots with. I'm not worried much about his baggage, at least in the first year, because of the presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. And the Patriots, with Tom Brady and a solid core, can put up with just about anything.
- WR Donte Stallworth: A solid player with much to prove, and he'll have to do that in camp.
- WR Anthony Gonzalez: Good ballplayer who has had a terrible run with injuries the past three years. He'll have to prove he can stay healthy. He can't be counted on.
- TE Daniel Fells: Patriots desperately needed depth, especially behind Aaron Hernandez. He's missed time his first two seasons and the offense struggles too much when he's out. Fells is an easy plug-and-play guy at the Patriots "F" position, which is a TE/WR hybrid.
- G/T Robert Gallery: Long coveted by Bill Belichick, the 6-7, 325-pounder gives the Patriots a veteran presence they lack and allows Marcus Cannon to develop at a slower pace. Gallery can play guard and tackle so he's good to have on Sundays with the 46-man roster.
- DE/DT Jonathan Fanene: Good, versatile player that can do a lot of things on the line. He can be stout against the run when needed, and he also has terrific feet to rush the passer.
- DE/LB Trevor Scott: He is likely to give the Patriots protection at both hybrid end behind Andre Carter when he's healthy (and perhaps Mark Anderson) and behind Rob Ninkovich, who played way too many snaps at times last year.
- S Steve Gregory: Can play a bunch of different positions in the secondary. He can start next to Patrick Chung if need be, but the Patriots will probably be hoping to use him in different packages. They also need depth because Patrick Chung gets beat as well. The Patriots just need a bunch of alternatives at safety because it takes a lot to get through a season.
- CB Marquice Cole: A really good special teams player who gives the Patriots better depth at cornerback, where they've been thin.
New England has announced that it has also signed Jets free agent CB Marquice Cole.
Cole will likely be a special-teamer primarily: he has 45 special-teams tackles in 37 career games; defensively, he has one start, 14 tackles, and two interceptions. Both of those INTs came in that lone start, against Buffalo on Jan. 2, 2011.
Cole is the ninth free agent the Pats have signed (who spent last season with another club) over the last week, most in the last few days:
DL Jonathan Fanene
DE/OLB Trevor Scott
WR Brandon Lloyd
WR Anthony Gonzalez
WR Donte Stallworth
DB Steve Gregory
OL Robert Gallery
TE Daniel Fells
CB Marquice Cole
And another free agent signing for you: Michael Lombardi of NFL.com reports that the Patriots have signed veteran offensive lineman Robert Gallery.
The 31-year-old Gallery started 12 games at left guard for the Seahawks last season; prior to that he spent seven years with Oakland.
Gallery, listed at 6-7, 325 pounds, was the second overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Iowa, where he played for former Bill Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz. When he was drafted, Gallery was a tackle, but has since been kicked inside.
Update: Gallery's agent, Rick Smith, tweets that Gallery "has agreed in principle to a one year deal" with the Patriots.
Stallworth was initially with New England in 2007, and played in all 16 games with nine starts. He had 46 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns during that record-setting season for the Pats' offense.
Though Stallworth's contract then was a multi-year deal, a big roster bonus after the '07 season meant it was essentially a one-year pact. Sure enough, Stallworth was released in early 2008 and went on to sign with Cleveland.
He was with the Redskins last year, playing in 11 games with 22 receptions for 309 yards and two scores.
Stallworth may have given a hint that this move was coming on his own Twitter feed earlier this afternoon when he wrote, "This time around, things will be different..."
The Patriots will host the Broncos at some point next season.
It will be interesting to hear why Manning picked the Broncos. It would have seemed the 49ers, given their stout defense, running game with Frank Gore, and recently signings of receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, were the closest team to the Super Bowl. Plug Manning in and the 49ers would have been very tough to beat.
The Broncos are solid team, but they have a lack of weapons and their defense was shredded by better quarterbacks, including Tom Brady. The Titans, the other finalist, had similar positives and negatives.
More than anything -- even more than winning -- Manning wanted to be comfortable. Denver, with team executive vice president John Elway having lived well there, knows how to deal with a mega-star at quarterback. Playing in the AFC also keeps Manning away from having to face his brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, before the Super Bowl. So the possibility of a Manning vs. Manning Super Bowl, probably one of father Archie's secret dreams, stays alive.
With Manning going to Denver, that means a quarterback will be going: Tim Tebow will be traded.
He will immediately be linked to the Patriots because of his pre-draft visit and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who drafted him so high when McDaniels was coach of the Broncos.
Personally, I don't really care. Tebow would just be another guy here -- anonymous, used in certain packages -- so I can't see the Patriots forking over a very high pick for him, if any. Tebow is a good football player, though, regardless of position.
It would make more sense for one of the Florida teams that has attendance problems, the Jaguars or Dolphins, to acquire Tebow. He'd instantly increase their market value, especially the Jaguars. I know the football people there don't want Tebow, but if I'm owner Shadid Khan, I'm directing the front office to acquire Tebow purely for ticket reasons. Let the coaches figure out where to play him.
The Patriots hosted end Luis Castillo, who was released by the Chargers, on a visit Saturday, a league source confirmed.
Castillo, 28, is solid football player, who at 6-3 and 290 pounds has played end for the Chargers but can play anywhere on the line for the Patriots.
Like some of the other players the Patriots have signed, Castillo's available because of injury concerns. He broke his leg in the 2011 season opener and missed the rest of the season. Castillo also missed chunks of the '06 and '07 seasons.
Castillo's medicals are fine now and he should be ready when off-season workouts begin in mid-April.
The Chargers released Castillo instead of paying a $1 million bonus and $3.9 million base salary. They wouldn't mind having him back. Castillo also visited the Chiefs.
Castillo was viewed has one of the top young defensive linemen in the league. His 2010 season was a little disappointing, but he still has a good reputation around the league. He'd be another low risk/high reward guy for the Patriots, should he sign.
The Patriots are basically just adding as many good football players this offseason, and they'll figure out how to use them later.
The Boston Herald first reported the visit.
New England has come to an agreement with Denver free agent tight end Daniel Fells, according to a league source.
Fells becomes a needed third tight end for a team that regularly uses two, and has seen both of those players - Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez - suffer injuries over the last two years.
Last year with the Broncos, Fells played in all 16 games with 15 starts, and had 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. The year before, with the Rams, he recorded 41 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns.
Fells, listed at 6-4, 252 pounds, was an undrafted rookie out of California-Davis in 2006.
Brandon Lloyd finally has his wish: tonight he and the Patriots finalized the terms of a contract that will bring the receiver to New England, a league source confirmed.
The 30-year old Lloyd made no secret of the fact that he wanted to play for the Patriots, where he would be reunited with Josh McDaniels. Over the last couple of years, Lloyd has had success playing for McDaniels, first in Denver and then with the Rams.
NFL Network reported that Lloyd's deal is for three years and $12 million, very reasonable for a player who could be a starter and also seems to confirm that there wasn't much of a market for him. But given that he made it clear he wanted to be in New England, as well as a spotty history, it isn't a surprise that was the case.
Lloyd's deal is a bit less than Chad Ochocinco received from the Pats last year, and as it turned out Ochocinco wasn't a success in his first season here.
With Lloyd in the fold, Ochocinco may not be with New England much longer. Though Ochocinco tweeted in recent weeks that he would be open to renegotiating his contract, according to NFL Players Association records, he is still due to make $3 million in base salary this season.
As a result of his history with McDaniels, now back in New England as offensive coordinator, Lloyd knows the Pats' offensive system and therefore his transition here should be smooth.
A league source said on Friday that the two sides were close to coming to an agreement, which was reiterated throughout the day on Saturday.
We told you on Thursday that the Patriots were hosting former Raider Trevor Scott, and today, according to a league source, the team has signed the defensive end/outside linebacker to a one-year contract.
Scott, who will be 28 at the end of August, played in all 16 games last year for Oakland, though he did not start any games. He tore his ACL in November 2010, which limited him last season.
Listed at 6-5, 255 pounds, Scott has the versatility to play on the line or standing up as an outside linebacker. He could fill the role that Mark Anderson played for New England last year.
The Patriots have announced the signing of free agent wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who spent the first five years of his career with the Colts.
Gonzalez is a slot receiver, and will provide depth at the position.
The big question for Gonzalez will be his health - after catching 94 passes in 29 games over his first two seasons, he played in just 11 games total from 2009-11. Gonzalez lost nearly all of the '09 and '10 seasons to knee injuries and then last year was a healthy scratch for several games.
The 27-year old was highly touted out of Ohio State - Indianapolis made him a first-round pick - but now he's the kind of low-risk, low-cost, potentially big-reward player the Patriots like.
And if you're wondering, signing Gonzalez is not at all related to Brandon Lloyd. A league source said that the two sides are still working to finalize the deal and that it will get done.
He of course was asked about being a free agent for the first time in his career, and told masslive.com that he's basically in wait-and-see mode.
"It's a different process. It's not something that I've been through," Green-Ellis said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I just have to sit back and wait for things to unfold."
The Patriots let Green-Ellis, who has 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons and in 2010 was the team's first 1,000 yard rusher since Corey Dillon, hit the open market, though he could return still return to the team - at the Pats' price.
Green-Ellis told masslive.com that negotiations between his agent and New England have been ongoing, but he will visit the Bengals this weekend.
When asked if he'd like to remain with the Patriots, he said, "It's not a perfect world. I just know that both sides are working on it and hopefully things get done."
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne hinted recently in a journal on his website that he chose to return to Indianapolis instead of signing with the Patriots:
"Well..... kinda four teams at first. Then three and then two. And you Colts fans don't wanna know who other team was. I'll let you figure that one out. Ha! But like I said, I'm thrilled about my decision."
Well, a league source confirmed that the Patriots were indeed the other team.
It's unknown what the Patriots offered compared to the Colts, who inked Wayne for $17.5 million over three years ($7.5 million guaranteed).
Interesting whether it was the money or another factor -- staying at home and retiring a Colt -- Wayne chose not to go for another Super Bowl title since the Colts are clearly in a rebuilding mode, at least for next season.
Patriots end/outside linebacker Mark Anderson will visit the Dolphins, a league source confirmed.
The Patriots and Anderson have had talks, but they haven't been as fruitful as Anderson hoped coming off 10 sacks has a part-time player for much of the season.
For a player like Anderson, the Patriots have a fixed value. He was just a rotational player until Andre Carter was placed on injured reserve, and the plan is likely the same for this season. The Patriots like to a use a variety of players in situational roles in the front seven, and they're not going to pay starter's money for them.
Anderson's visit is part of the negotiating game. Either he's hoping to get a better offer -- and a commitment to more playing time -- from the Dolphins, or Anderson is hoping the interest of a divisional rival will up the Patriots' offer.
I would expect Carter to be back once he's recovered fully from off-season surgery, unless some other team jumps in with a higher offer, always a risk. If Anderson walks, the Patriots are hosting a similar (and maybe cheaper) player in Raiders DE/OLB Trevor Scott.
We'll have to see how it plays out.
Aaron Wilson of Scout.com first reported Anderson's visit.
The Patriots have re-signed center/guard Dan Connolly, according to a league source.
It's not immediately known whether or not this signals the end of Dan Koppen's nine-year run with the Patriots, but Connolly was looking for starting money after playing well in 13 games (11 starts) last season after Koppen went on injured reserve.
Koppen, a fifth-round pick out of Boston College in 2003, started the last two Super Bowls the Patriots won -- XXXVIII and XXXIX against the Panthers and Eagles, respectively. Koppen, was voted second-team All Pro in 2007, was lost for the 2011 season after sustaining a left ankle injury in the opening game against Miami.
Connolly, 29, missed the better part of four games last season with a groin injury. He originally came to the Patriots in 2007 when he was signed to the practice squad. He started 24 games the previous two seasons. In 2010 he filled in for Logan Mankins (holdout) at left guard, and then Stephen Neal (shoulder injury) at right guard.
The Patriots let both Connolly and Koppen, 32, become free agents, and the Patriots were negotiating with both to find the best deal. But they preferred to move forward with Connolly because he's younger.
Ultimately, we'll have to see what the financials are to see how committed the Patriots are to Connolly.
The Patriots reached agreement with former Chargers safety Steve Gregory on a three-year contract, according to a league source.
Gregory received a three-year contract with a max value of $8.8 million ($3.35 million guaranteed). That's close to starter money, but it likely won't preclude them from signing Redskins safety LaRon Landry, who the Patriots will host on a visit on Friday.
Gregory (5-11, 195 pounds) has played 85 games -- all with the Chargers -- since entering the league in 2006 as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse.
He can play a variety of roles in the secondary, and should provide much-needed quality depth at several positions and contribute on special teams. Gregory, 29, has probably played best at free safety, where the Patriots had their struggles last season.
Gregory was suspended for four games in 2010 for violating the league's police on performance-enhancing substances after first testing positive in May of that year.
Other doings by the Patriots:
- The Patriots will host Raiders DE/OLB Trevor Scott on a visit, Shalise Manza Young reported. Scott (6-5, 255 pounds) had 12 sacks his first two seasons, before having a season-ending knee injury 10 games into 2010. He could play a variety of roles, likely on the strong-side behind Rob Ninkovich, but could also provide some pass rush on the other side depending on what the Patriots do with Andre Carter and Mark Anderson.
- The Patriots officially signed special teams standout/WR Matthew Slater to a contract. Terms weren't immediately known.
- The team also signed DT Marcus Harrison (6-3, 316 pounds). The 29-year-old was with the team for one day in October. The third-round pick of the Bears in 2008 had previously failed a physical (knee) with the Panthers in September.
- The Patriots will host Redskins S LaRon Landry on a visit Friday. He has played 17 games the past two seasons and is coming off Achilles surgery. It is not known if he will workout for the team. The Jets were mentioned as a possible suitor, but they will host Bengal S Reggie Nelson the same day.
- The Patriots are also expected to host former Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez this weekend, the Boston Herald reported, but that has not been confirmed.
Globe NFL reporter Greg Bedard talked about the Patriots signing of free agent defensive end Jonathan Fanene and the massive contract the Bills agreed to with defensive end Mario Williams.
While I'm not a huge fan of free agency -- big signings rarely lead to wins in January -- the Bills made a nice move today signing ex-Texans end Mario Williams, even if the price tag was a reported six-year, $100-million deal with $50 million guaranteed.
Rarely does a 27-year-old former No. 1 pick, who is a freak athlete at 6-feet-6-inches, 295 pounds with 4.70 speed in the 40-yard dash, come on the market without having to be a reclamation project.
The Bills can now start a defensive line of, from left to right, Chris Kelsay, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams, with Shawne Merriman in reserve (for now). That's a formidable group. Who do you double? Who do you single block if you're the Patriots? Is Nate Solder ready to face Williams? Maybe the Patriots are calling Matt Light to make sure he comes back.
This is the type of line Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt had to have to make his scheme work. He rarely blitzes so the front four has to generate all the pressure, and they have to keep the blockers off the middle linebacker. Nick Barnett must be ecstatic today.
The addition of Williams will certainly help a solid young secondary with safeties Jairus Byrd and George Wilson, and corners Terrence McGee, Drayton Florence and Aaron Williams.
The Bills, who upset the Patriots in Week 3, had some nice talent on offense before injuries hit. The line will need some work with LT Demetrius Bell and OG Chad Rinehart likely to sign elsewhere, but you can't sign a guy like Williams and be strong all over the field.
Is it good enough to overtake the Patriots? We'll have to see if they have the right pieces when the season starts, but the Williams signing definitely makes the Bills better today.
Slater was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2011, and also was a Pats co-captain for the first time. He led the Patriots with 17 special-teams tackles, but got some snaps on offense and even started three games at safety.
He was a fifth-round pick out of UCLA in 2008.
White was brought to the Patriots at the start of the 2010 season via a trade with the Eagles; he had 18 special-teams tackles in his first year with New England and 14 last season. On defense, the soon-to-be 31 year old had 25 tackles .
Niko Koutouvides was re-signed earlier this week.
The Patriots have signed Bengals defensive end/tackle Jonathan Fanene to a three-year contract, according to a league source.
He would figure to play the left end role where Brandon Deaderick and Shaun Ellis played last season, but the 6-4, 292-pounder can play all over the line. As usual with a Patriots pickup, Fanene has a lot of versatility.
The seventh-round pick by the Bengals out of Utah in 2005 is a good, solid football player who is tough to move in the run game, and has a little pass rush potential -- something that Bill Belichick will probably take more advantage of than the Bengals did. Fanene had 13.5 sacks in past two full seasons, 2011 and 2009 ('10 was basically wiped out with hamstring injuries).
The Patriots are probably hoping Fanene, 29, can fill the role envisioned for Shaun Ellis last season. Deaderick could kick more inside to tackle, but the bottom line is Fanene gives the team a legit run-stuffing end who can get after the quarterback when needed. He could definitely play closer to the ball in subpackages, perhaps to alleviate some of Vince Wilfork's snap count.
Talked to a league source who has studied Fanene and thinks he's a good fit for a 3-4 team at the three technique (outside shoulder of the guard), which is where the Patriots tried to fit Albert Haynesworth. So, all sorts of versatility.
So for those of you who have been waiting to see what New England would do in free agency, we have a little bit of movement to report:
First, safety Steve Gregory will arrive in Foxborough late tonight for a visit with the Patriots, a league source confirms.
Gregory, a sixth-year player who has played his entire career with the Chargers, is listed at 5-11, 195 pounds. He played in 15 games (13 starts) last season, with 67 tackles, 3 pass breakups, and an interception in Week 14 against Buffalo, which he returned for a touchdown.
In 2010, he was suspended four games for violation of the NFL performance-enhancing substance policy.
Gregory was undrafted out of Syracuse in 2006.
Also, the Pats have called about Redskins' safety LaRon Landry, a hard-hitter - when he's healthy. Landry, the sixth overall pick out of LSU in 2007, has played in just 15 games over the last two seasons.
However, several teams have inquired about Landry.
As for Patriots players, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will visit with the Bengals. Reports are that Oakland's Michael Bush will also meet with Cincinnati.
The Patriots have made informal contact with Miami DE Kendall Langford and Bengals DE Jonathan Fanene, according to league sources.
There haven't been any visits setup, and this just seems like the run-of-the-mill, "Hey, just checking in and we have some interest if you can't fleece somebody else" talk.
But this does tell us that after seeing Red Bryant re-sign in Seattle, the Patriots still view left end, where Shaun Ellis failed last year, as a weakness they'd like to address.
Both players have scheme versatility and can rush a little bit.
Rams free-agent receiver Brandon Lloyd, who expressed his interest in becoming a Patriot countless times leading up to free agency and was thought to be a target of the, is expected to visit the 49ers, according to an ESPN report. NFL Network reported the former 49ers draft pick is on his way to San Francisco.
The receiver market is very thin at the moment, so this will likely cause some freaking out by Patriots fans.
We'll have to see what happens. This could be just a negotiating ploy by Lloyd's agent, Tom Condon, who has had a stormy relationship with the Patriots. Or maybe the team wants to go in another direction after seeing the way the market went on the first day of free agency (an offer sheet for Steelers WR Mike Wallace, perhaps?).
We'll just have to see how things play out. They can change rapidly.
A few thoughts after the initial rush:
- The Patriots have been quiet so far. Does this surprise anyone? First of all, the Patriots make it known to interested parties that there will be no loose lips. If something is leaked, the Patriots could very well pull their interest. They're one of the few teams that actually enforce that.
- Secondly, the Patriots don't have a lot of holes -- they were but a few plays from winning the Super Bowl -- and the ones they do have, it's not really necessary to spend a lot of money to fill them. Take cornerback. Provided Ras-I Dowling returns healthy and has a full offseason, the Patriots return with Devin McCourty/Kyle Arrington and Dowling as the starters, the other one as the nickel, and Sterling Moore (also with an offseason) as the dime back. That's not bad in a league where the defensive strategy is trending towards "just try to hold your own once in a while." At safety, remember the Patriots embarked training camp with Josh Barrett as the starter.
- At both those positions, the Patriots should be able to find inexpensive veterans to compete and add depth.
- The Patriots could really use help at the three positions they tried to address after the lockout: DE (Shaun Ellis), DT (Albert Haynesworth) and WR (Chad Ochocinco).
- The Patriots were dealt a little bit of a blow when Seattle stepped up and re-signed DE Red Bryant. He would have been perfect to give them what Ellis did not at left end. Dolphins DE Kendall Langford could be a solid alternative but the Patriots won't overspend with the draft deep in front seven players, and Miami is trying to re-sign him.
- At DT, there are several veterans (including Gerard Warren) who could help if cheap, like Antonio Garay. Again, the draft has depth there.
- As far as WR, that things are all quiet on the Brandon Lloyd front is a good sign for the Patriots. I would be shocked if that doesn't happen in the next day or so. Despite his flaws, Lloyd is worth the risk with Josh McDaniels here.
- QB Brian Hoyer is open to hearing from other teams. I wouldn't expect him to stay in a hermetically sealed room during free agency. I would be surprised if there was much of a market for him, although I would rather get him now at low money then have to play the Matt Flynn game next year.
- Jason Cole of Yahoo!Sports reported RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has suitors and is looking at a contract that pays him $3-4 million per season. It was nice knowing you Benny, one of the toughest and most consistent runners I've been around...but you're not worth that.
- Don't have a handle with what the Patriots are doing with Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen at center. The Patriots would like to retain Connolly, but haven't gone far enough yet. Connolly could sign a team-friendly deal, but likely wouldn't do it until he's assured Koppen is elsewhere and won't be re-signed to be the starter.
Elsewhere in free agency....
- Have to be impressed with the push the Bills are making with Mario Williams likely in the fold, and WR Robert Meachem coming for early visits. Meachem has never realized his talent, and Williams is a genetic freak. A front that includes Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and is pretty darn good -- and exactly what defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt has to have to run his system -- is certainly formidable, but nothing the Patriots' can't handle. The Bills are improving, sure, but I don't think the Patriots are scared or anything.
- Devin McCourty is probably thrilled Brandon Marshall was traded out of the division by the Dolphins. Now we wait to see what the Dolphins' next big move is.
- The Jets...supposedly they have shown interest in Brandon Meriweather at safety. Patriots fans are like..."Sweet!"
Though the Patriots have yet to make a splashy move in free agency (free agency opened about four hours ago, so not to worry just yet), they did apparently re-sign one of their own free agents: linebacker/special teamer Niko Koutouvides.
According to NFLPA records, Koutouvides is on the books for $825,000 in base salary for 2012.
Since the NFLPA website is not updated instantly, it's likely Koutouvides' deal was done within the last day or two.
The 28-year old Purdue product had 8 tackles on defense and 9 special-teams tackles in eight regular-season games, plus one tackle, one quarterback hit and one special-teams tackle in the postseason.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the NFL free agency/trading period begins at 4 p.m.
What will the Patriots do?
Here’s a roadmap for how we see them proceeding:
OUT OF THE BOX
Expect the Patriots to be very active in two of their weakest areas: defensive line and receiver.
Multiple league sources, including those in front offices, expect the Patriots to make a run at Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant.
At 6-4, 332 pounds, Joseph “Red” Bryant would seem to be strictly a power player. But he is much more than that, and that’s what likely attracts the Patriots. He’s very similar to Vince Wilfork in that way, although Wilfork shades more toward being a power player.
Bryant, a 2008 fourth-round pick, flourished last season when the Seahawks started to highlight his versatility. Physically, he can play anywhere on the line in the 3-4 or 4-3, from over the center on passing downs, to over a tight end. Bryant showed off his athleticism by blocking a franchise-record for kicks last year.
However, Bryant is not a natural pass rusher. The Seahawks actually took him off the field on passing downs, which would work with the Patriots because they usually rush another player (Rob Ninkovich or, perhaps, Jermaine Cunningham or Markell Carter). Bryant’s forte is that he’s tough to move on the line, but his game also has some refined finesse. Bryant, who will be 28 next month, is a rising talent who is extremely versatile.
You would think Bryant would make more sense at left end for the Patriots – allowing Brandon Deaderick to kick inside next to Wilfork – but depending on what they get on the other side, Bryant could fill on the right side as well.
The Seahawks would like to retain Bryant, but they haven't gone very far financially. Perhaps they'll dive in harder if another team shows interest. Bryant and his wife, the daughter of former Seahawk Jacob Green, have spent most of their lives in College Station, Tx. (where both went to Texas A&M) and Seattle. So perhaps it would be a tough move for the Bryants to the Northeast.
The Patriots may also be looking to nail down receiver Brandon Lloyd today, according to sources.
He wants to be here, he knows the offense, and the market may not be great for him so the Patriots should get him at an affordable rate. We detailed the good and bad of Lloyd’s well-traveled (the Patriots would be his sixth team in nine years) 11-year career on Sunday. Yes, there are factors that give you some pause, but the presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the staff alleviates much of that, and as long as the Patriots protect themselves a little financially, Lloyd seems to be a solid play by the Patriots. Getting a legit outside-the-numbers receiver done early will allow them to look at other positions.
Bryant seems to figure as more of an end, so a veteran tackle with a little run-stuffing ability will probably still be needed. Possible targets: Broderick Bunkley (Broncos), Paul Soliai (Dolphins), Antonio Garay (Chargers), Adam Carriker (Redskins) and Phillip Merling (Dolphins).
The Patriots will likely check in on the availability of Texans OLB/DE Mario Williams to gauge the market, and possibly mull an offer sheet for Steelers WR Mike Wallace. Both seem unlikely moves because of the cost -- especially if Bryant and Lloyd are locked up -- but you never know.
The Patriots also need to quickly nail down one of their two free-agent centers, Dan Connolly or Dan Koppen. It wouldn’t be surprising if the team is playing both off one another to get either at their number. Think the Patriots would rather have Connolly because he’s younger, but if Koppen is willing to play for less, the team would have to consider that.
The other priority/likely re-signings by the Patriots are WR/special teams demon Matthew Slater, safety James Ihedigbo.
From there, the Patriots will likely play the market in regards to an end/outside linebacker, safety and possibly a cornerback.
As far as their own free agents, guys like DEs Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, WR Deion Branch and LB Tracy White will initially be allowed to test the market. If they don’t find greener pastures, all could return.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Patriots have some sort of understanding with Carter that when he’s recovered from his leg surgery, they’ll sign him and he’ll be back at the open end position where he showed off his versatility. That would give the Patriots a starting defensive line of, from left to right, Bryant, Wilfork, Deaderick/Kyle Love, and Carter.
Anderson is likely looking to get paid as a starter, where the Patriots probably see his value has a situational pass rusher. If Anderson doesn’t get his pay day, he could be back.
Others the Patriots could look at if the price is right: Kamerion Wimbley (expected to be released by the Raiders) and Manny Lawson of the Bengals.
The Patriots will need a veteran running back, so they'll see what the market is for Green-Ellis and some of the other guys available.
There isn’t much talent in the safety pool. Would expect the Patriots to check in and monitor the price of LaRon Landry (Redskins), Reggie Nelson (Bengals), Dwight Lowery (Jaguars), Brodney Pool (Jets), O.J. Atogwe (released by Redskins).
As for cornerbacks, the Patriots will likely play the market and look for some value after the Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr find teams.
Special teams players will get some attention during this time as well.
As expected, the Patriots have tendered exclusive-rights free agent Kyle Love, a league source confirms.
As outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, the defensive tackle, who opened eyes in his second season, will receive a $540,000 base salary for 2012.
However, it's possible that Love and New England could come to a short, multi-year agreement at some point in the near future: when Gary Guyton and Kyle Arrington were ERFAs, each signed team-friendly two-year deals. Love is represented by the same agents as Guyton and Arrington.
Tendering Love was essentially a formality.
The Patriots have just one RFA this year: quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Colleague Greg Bedard has confirmed that the team has tendered Hoyer at the second-round level. This year, the second-round level is a one-year, $1.927 million deal.
It also means, however, that another team could sign Hoyer to an offer sheet, which the Patriots would have an opportunity to match, but if Hoyer went to a new team, that team would relinquish a second-round pick to New England.
As we wrote in today's Globe, a team that loses out on the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes and doesn't want to pony up for Green Bay's Matt Flynn could find Hoyer an appealing option.
Since snagging him as an undrafted rookie in 2009, Hoyer has blossomed with the Patriots, and the team believes that he is ready to become a starter.
Keeping Hoyer is a smart move. If Tom Brady were to get injured, Hoyer should be ready to step right in. Teams only look to Indianapolis last year to see how valuable it is to have a solid backup quarterback.
On his 35th birthday, a little less than one month ago, Randy Moss announced via a UStream.tv chat that he wanted to end his retirement and return to the NFL.
Today, he officially saw that come true.
Hours after a brief workout with the 49ers - former Colts' quarterback/current San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh was the one throwing him the ball - Moss and the Niners agreed to a one-year contract.
Last week, Moss had a workout with the Saints.
In a conference call with San Francisco reporters late Monday night, Moss was asked about wanting to get back into football:
"...I really didn't know who was going to try me out, who was going to hook me up. So I had a tryout with the Saints and came here to San Francisco a week later," he said. "Basically, the organization, Coach Harbaugh and general manager and owner pulled the trigger. So, like I said, I look forward to coming out here to the Bay Area and giving the 49ers fans, organization, something to rave about this season. I look forward to playing."
Though the NFL reportedly repeatedly told clubs not to use the 2010 uncapped season as an opportunity to dump contracts and salary during that time, two teams in particular didn't listen: the Cowboys and Redskins.
According to multiple reports, the league has docked the clubs by taking money from them off the salary cap: $36 million for the Redskins and $10 million for Dallas. The reduction can be spread over the 2012 and '13 seasons in any way the teams choose.
The NFL Players Association insisted that the funds go back into the player-payment pool, meaning that 28 teams will each split the money and get an additional $1.6 million tacked onto their cap amount this year. (The Raiders and Saints were also found to have taken advantage of the uncapped situation in '10 but not to the extent that Washington and Dallas did, thus they won't lose money or gain money.)
For the Patriots, that means they now have approximately $17.8 million in salary cap space heading into free agency, which opens Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The $16.2 million that Mike Florio from ProFootballTalk.com reported as the number the Patriots are currently under the salary cap is correct.
It's almost exactly the number that I have for them.
Here's how that number came about.
The 2012 cap number is $120.6 million. The Patriots have carried over the $6.7 million they didn't use on the '11 cap.
So the Patriots are operating on an individual cap number of $127.3 million.
Right now, including Wes Welker's franchise tag of $9.515 million, the Patriots are committed to $99.8 million to the top 51 contracts this season. They also have about $11.3 million in dead cap space from previous transactions.
So they are committed to $111.1 million at this time.
They can free up more cap space. The easiest way is for left tackle Matt Light to retire. His $8 million cap number would then come right off the books.
Chad Ochocinco counts $4.683 million against the cap right now. His Twitter comments indicate he's going to restructure. That should cut the number in half. If he's cut at some point, it would save $3.1 million against the cap this season.
Of course, the Patriots still don't have a viable center or defensive end under contract yet. And the expected second-round tender to QB Brian Hoyer will count $1.927 million. They also have 15 free agents, not including Welker and Hoyer.
Free agency opens on Tuesday at 4 p.m., and NFL teams were just given the final salary cap for the 2012 season: $120.6 million.
That number is essentially the same as last year, when the cap was $120.375 million, but it was not expected that there would be much of a change.
The cap is expected to make a big jump in two years, the when league does new television deals with a couple of its broadcast partners; the cap is tied to television revenue.
NFL.com has also reported the final franchise-tag numbers for each position; receiver Wes Welker, of course, was designated as the Patriots' franchise player for '12, and if he plays under the tag, he'll make $9.515 million for the season.
Quarterback: $14.436 million
Running back: $7.742 million
Wide receiver: $9.515 million
Tight end: $5.446 million
Offensive line: $9.383 million
Defensive end: $10.605 million
Defensive tackle: $7.96 million
Linebacker: $8.856 million
Cornerback: $10.281 million
Safety: $6.212 million
Kicker/Punter: $2.654 million
Friday night, they turned their attention back to the quarterback who has been their starter for the last three seasons, signing Mark Sanchez to a contract extension.
In a conference call tonight, New York general manager Mike Tannenbaum acknowledged that the Jets inquired about Manning, but said talks with Sanchez's agents had been going on for a couple of weeks, with the two sides coming to an agreement Friday evening.
According to reports, it is a three-year deal beyond his current rookie contract, which still has three-years remaining. The extension is for $40.5 million, $20.5 million of which is guaranteed, with $10 million in escalators, and he will make $58.25 million over the next five years (2012-16).
Though Sanchez's numbers in 2011 - 308-for-543 (56.7 percent) for 3,474 yards, 26 touchdowns, 18 interceptions - were the best of his three-year career, his interceptions often came at the worst times. Sanchez was also sacked 39 times, a high number that can be attributed both to a leaky line and his propensity for holding onto the ball too long.
Judging by the reaction on Twitter, the Jets' move to extend Sanchez was met with confusion by many and happiness from Patriots' fans, who watched the quarterback complete just 55.4 percent of his passes (36-for-65) for 472 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions as New York went 0-2 against New England in 2011.
The Jets did not make the playoffs last season.
After the year ended in disappointment and turmoil, some Jets players asserted that Sanchez, the fifth overall pick in 2009, was coddled by the organization - and the extension would certainly seem to affirm that.
Sanchez will be working with a new offensive coordinator this season, as the Jets have hired former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano after parting ways with Brian Schottenheimer.
Take a look at how much Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski wants your vote in the EA Sports contest to determine the NFL player chosen for the cover of the next Madden NFL video game.
Last year, fans got to choose the player featured on the cover of Madden NFL '12, the wildly popular video game, and through a bracket-style tournament, Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis won, though New England's Danny Woodhead made a run in it.
The voting is back for Madden '13, and this year, fans will choose between two selected players per NFL team in a "play-in" round, and the winner from each team will face the winner from the 31 other clubs in the tournament.
Receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski are the two Patriots players chosen for the play-in round.
Voting for has opened, and will run through March 21.
To make your pick between Welker and Gronkowski (or any other players), vote on the Facebook page for the game.
The Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning are parting ways today, and a news conference with Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay will be held at the team's facility.
Signs have pointed to a split between Manning and the Colts for some time - there is a $28 million option bonus in his contract that's due Thursday and the sides couldn't agree on an incentive-laden restructuring. Plus, after their difficult, Manning-less season, Indianapolis has once again garnered the top spot in the NFL draft, which once again features a quarterback believed to be a once-in-a-generation talent in Andrew Luck.
Some of the best games the NFL has seen over the last decade have included Manning's Colts and Tom Brady and the Patriots. Might the two quarterbacks continue to be rivals?
While there's been discussion about which teams might pursue Manning if he became available for some time, now that it's reality, reports are flying about which teams are serious about pursuing the soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback.
The big question for any team, of course, is Manning's health. He's undergone multiple neck surgeries, and it isn't truly known how much of his arm strength has returned. There's also risk involved - could one hit lead to devastating results for Manning and his new team?
Among Manning's expected suitors: the Dolphins and Jets.
Manning's offseason home is in South Florida, and his Super Bowl title came in Miami. The Dolphins have around $17 million in salary cap space currently, have some good offensive weapons already in place (Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Anthony Fasano) and a good offensive line.
Upping the Miami appeal for Manning? Receiver Reggie Wayne, set to become a free agent on Tuesday, would be open to signing with the Dolphins.
One other big factor: Miami desperately needs something - someone - to consistently put behinds in the seats at Sun Life Stadium. Owner Stephen Ross has made a couple of missteps in recent years, but if he's able to land Manning, he'll have a draw to get fans to the games and the hope that his team will be a real threat in the division.
But the Jets have Mark Sanchez in place and aren't in a great position salary-cap wise, so they're likely a longer shot to land Manning, though playing with Gang Green would put Peyton in the same stadium as younger brother Eli.
Other teams reportedly interested in landing Manning are Arizona and Seattle.
Globe NFL reporter Greg Bedard talked about the Patriots, free agency, Peyton Manning and more during an NFL discussion. Review the chat below.
In case you're not on Twitter - or you weren't up too late last night - receiver Wes Welker took to his feed to make a brief statement on his feelings after having the franchise tag applied to him by New England Monday.
Glad that I will be a Patriot in 2012. and hopefully '13,'14,'15,'16,'17,'18..........
Welker would be 37 in the 2018 season, but clearly he wants to stick around.
Given his public - and positive - statement, it's tough to think he'll hold out if he does not have a long-term deal in place by the start of training camp.
The Patriots have officially placed the franchise tag on Wes Welker, a league source tells colleague Greg A. Bedard.
UPDATE: The Patriots have announced the tag, and released the following statement:
"Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.”
As we've previously said, the tag amount for receivers is expected to be around $9.4 million this year. The exact number is tied to the 2012 salary cap, which hasn't yet been announced, which is why we don't know a final figure just yet.
Teams have until 3:59 p.m. to inform the league if they are using their franchise tag for the coming season and which player they are tagging. As usual when they use theirs, the Pats waited until the the deadline was close.
There are less than two hours for the Patriots to officially place the franchise tag on Wes Welker for the 2012 season. If you're holding out hope that the two sides are hammering out a last-minute long-term deal, it's safe to say you should stop hoping; the two sides are far apart and New England will tag Welker.
It will be the fourth straight year that New England has used its franchise tag, and the eighth time overall, though not always with the same result in mind:
2011 - Logan Mankins. Despite the labor uncertainty in the NFL, teams tagged players before the lockout. Mankins and the Patriots did work out a six-year contract during training camp last summer.
2010 - Vince Wilfork. The Pats tagged Wilfork solely to prevent Wilfork from hitting free agency, and less than two weeks after he was tagged, he signed a five-year deal.
2009 - Matt Cassel. Though Casel's one season as the New England starter came at the expense of Tom Brady's health, it couldn't have come at a better time. He was solid, and the Patriots franchised him with the intent of trading him, sending Cassel (and Mike Vrabel) to Kansas City in exchange for a second-round draft pick.
2007 - Asante Samuel. An interesting case. Samuel and the Pats couldn't come to a contract agreement, so toward the end of the '07 preseason he agreed to sign the franchise tag and return to the team if it promised not to franchise him again. New England agreed (Samuel had to either play in 60 percent of the defensive snaps or the team had to win 12 games), Samuel hit free agency in early '08 and cashed in with Philadelphia.
2005 - Adam Vinatieri. This was the second time the Pats tagged their kicker, and it would be the last season Vinatieri played in New England. He signed a free-agent deal with Indianapolis in early '06.
2003 - Tebucky Jones. New England's first tag-and-trade. The Patriots sent Jones to New Orleans in exchange for third- and seventh-round draft picks in '03 and a fourth-rounder in '04.
2002 - Vinatieri. The first Patriots player to receive the franchise tag, New England and its kicker were able to come to a three-year contract extension shortly after the tag was applied.
As for Welker's future with the Patriots, that's yet to be determined. Both he and team owner Robert Kraft have expressed a willingness to keep the receiver in a Patriots' uniform, and Brady certainly would like to have Welker stay around.
How will the Bills' new contract with Stevie Johnson affect the Patriots' negotiations with Wes Welker? CineSport's Noah Coslov & the Boston Globe's Greg Bedard discuss this & NFL bounty issues.
Given that the two sides aren't close on a long-term contract for Wes Welker, and barring a last-minute change of heart by the team, Welker will have the franchise tag placed on him by Monday afternoon's deadline, a league source said tonight.
The franchise number for receivers is expected to be around $9.4 million this year, though the exact amount has not yet been released by the NFL.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the formula for figuring non-exclusive franchise tag (which does allow a player to negotiate with other teams) amounts is more complicated, and is tied to the 2012 salary cap, which has not yet been set.
In past years, and as it remains with the current exclusive tag (which does not allow players to negotiate with other teams), franchise amount was equal to the average of the top five highest-paid players at a position. However, now the exclusive tag is figured for the coming year's top five instead of the previous year's (ie, 2012 exclusive tags will be based on 2012 salaries, not 2011).
The Patriots offered Welker a two-year, fully-guaranteed contract for $16 million during the 2011 season, which was declined.
If Welker were to be franchised in the 2012 and '13 seasons, he would earn closer to $20 million, and all of that would also be guaranteed.
Teams have until 3:59 p.m. tomorrow to designate a franchise player (though they are not required to do so), and 11 teams have already done so.
Edited to fix salary-cap calculation wording.
For the past month, former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has been working nonstop to rebuild the Penn State football program, which hired him to succeed legendary coach Joe Paterno. But O'Brien has had a hard time putting the Patriots' 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI behind him.
What obviously continues to bother O'Brien is the blame that has been placed on receiver Wes Welker for the infamous incompletion between him and quarterback Tom Brady on second-and-11 with 4:06 to play.
Did Welker get more grief than he deserved?
"Definitely," O'Brien said sternly after an event this morning in Newport, R.I.
"I would tell (Patriots fans) they should be very grateful, I’m sure they are, to have a player like Wes Welker as a Patriot. He is what Boston is all about, in my opinion. He’s a hard-working guy, he’s a tough guy, he’s an honest guy, nothing was ever given to him…he’s what Boston is all about.
"That wasn’t a drop. That would have been a tremendous catch, and he should never think twice about that. And it had nothing to do with us losing the game. There were many, many plays before that where we could have made better coaching decisions, and better plays. That’s just one play of many."
O'Brien, an Andover native, didn't offer a comment on the throw from Brady, and he wasn't asked a pointed question about it.
We'll have more in Sunday's paper from O'Brien, but as for a couple of other lingering questions from the Super Bowl, he said that the ankle injury to tight end Rob Gronkowski affected the offense because "obviously he was hampered." O'Brien said the team "had an idea" that would be the case going into the game.
O'Brien also bristled at some of the criticism for not using more of the no-huddle offense, including the three-and-out drive with 6:37 left in the third quarter when the Patriots held a 17-12 lead. It appeared the team slowed the pace down a bit there.
"Not intentionally," he said. "We always tried to play fast, maybe it looked like it was slowed down. I felt like we no-huddled as much as we had… I didn’t think it was a matter of no no-huddle in that game."
O'Brien's one big regret from the Super Bowl?
"Probably the first play of the game, call a different play," he said of the safety Brady took that put the defense right back on the field. "But it was a play that we worked on that we felt like was going to be a good play, so hindsight is definitely 20-20. But if I could change one, I would change that one. But there’s a lot of plays that we always look back on in any game, especially games you lose, that you always think you could have done a better job on.
"It just wasn’t a good start. It’s not why we lost the game, I want to make sure I’m clear on that, but all year we had started pretty well for the most part. That wasn’t a good start."
As the deadline for teams to designate a franchise player for the 2012 season draws closer, a flurry of teams have used their tag over the last 24 hours or so.
The Eagles were the first to do so, franchising oft-disgruntled receiver/returner DeSean Jackson. Nine teams have followed.
Some of the tags have been applied in an effort to buy the team and player more time to work out a long-term deal, as the Patriots did that with Vince Wilfork in 2010. That likely won't be the case in every situation however.
New England is expected to franchise receiver Wes Welker, and has until 3:59 p.m. on Monday to do so.
Here are the 10 players who have been franchised thus far:
Arizona - DE Calais Campbell
Atlanta - CB Brent Grimes
Baltimore - RB Ray Rice
Chicago - RB Matt Forte
Cincinnati - K Mike Nugent
Cleveland - K Phil Dawson
Oakland - S Tyvon Branch
Philadelphia - WR DeSean Jackson
San Francisco - S Dashon Goldson
Washington - TE Fred Davis
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is continuing his offseason golfing splurge with a hack at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The Palm Beach Post has some nice coverage of Belichick in a column by Dave George:
"I'll just go out there and swing at it and hopefully made contact," Belichick said in the PGA National clubhouse during a pounding midday rainstorm that only added to the suspense of his opening swing.
"If it's a bad shot, just pick it up and play their ball," he said in reference to his best-ball teammates, teenage LPGA star Lexi Thompson, former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann, Grammy-winning saxophonist Kenny G and, of course, the Great White Shark. "No problem."
Belichick participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in Pebble Beach, Calif., two weeks ago.