Name: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Overview: A second-team AP All-American, All-SEC first team, and All-SEC academic honor roll member in 2012, Reid has opted to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft. As one of the top safeties on the board, his name is automatically entered into the Patriots' draft lexicon. Reid was more than impressive in his tenure at LSU. He recorded 91 tackles (41 solo), two interceptions and seven passes defensed in 2012. He had 10 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. As a free safety, he's shown that he can be in the right spot at the right time and is a good tackler in space. His highlight tape (above) shows he can break down and take down larger defenders. There's optimism that he can still bulk up and become a more dangerous hitter over the middle of the field. If there's one drawback, as NFL.com notes, he can be overaggressive, jumping on routes in front of him. But he's certainly got the chops to play in the NFL and do so at a high level. He's projected anywhere from the late first to second round.
40-yard dash: 4.53
Vertical: 40.5 inches
Broad jump: 134.0 inches
3-cone drill: 6.99
20-yard shuttle: 4.22
New Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola says he is making plans to connect with quarterback Tom Brady during the offseason.
"I've talked with Tom a couple times," Amendola told ESPN. "I'm ready to get working with him."
Amendola will effectively replace Wes Welker, who departed via free agency for Denver, as a slot receiver for New England.
"We're a month away from getting started," Amendola said. "It's definitely a new chapter in my life ad one I'm excited about."
He said it was bittersweet to leave St. Louis.
"Leading into free agency my plan was to stay a St. Louis Ram," he said. "We had a lot of talks. At the end of the day it seemed to be a better opportunity elsewhere for both parties. I understand it's a business."
But it sounds like he is ready to turn the page and meet up with Brady in the next few weeks to start working on that always important quarterback-receiver relationship.
"Its a unique style of offense," Amendola said of the Patriots. "And I'm ready to embrace it."
Name: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Overview: The Patriots are overhauling their wide receiver corps, so there's reason to believe – as most experts have noted – that they'll select a wide receiver in this year's NFL draft. Woods has been one of the names that have been dropped. He's a talented prospect who has underrated speed (4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) and exceptional route-running skills. The three-year starter at USC had 176 catches in his career for 2,084 yards, and 21 touchdowns. He also returned 55 kickoffs for 1,364 yards and a touchdown, and returned punts (14 for 122 yards) too. His sophomore year he was a Biletnikoff Award finalist – given to the nation's best college wide receiver. In that season, he recorded 111 receptions, 1,292 yards, and 15 touchdowns. Before that, he started all 13 games as a freshman. So he has the resume of a decorated receiver and the highlight tape to back it up (see above). He's a rare talent who thrives in space and provides yards after the catch. However, the worry about Woods is about his frame. His playing weight in college was 190 pounds, but he was weighed at 201 at the combine. He doesn't have the blazing speed to be a returner in the NFL, but is willing to run through traffic, something the Patriots lacked in Brandon Lloyd. He's been projected to be drafted anywhere from late in the first round to the second round.
Workout results (combine):
40-yard dash: 4.51
Bench: 14 reps
Vertical: 33.5 inches
Broad jump: 117.0 inches
3-cone drill: 7.15
20-yard shuttle: 4.47
Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty had minor surgery on his right shoulder and is expected to be ready for training camp.
McCourty's surgery was confirmed by the Globe's Shalise Manza Young after being reported by ESPN.
The three-year veteran played all 16 games for the Patriots, splitting the season between cornerback and free safety. He finished with 82 tackles, five interceptions and 13 passes defensed in 2012. The Patriots intend to keep McCourty at safety going forward.
Name: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Overview: With two brothers already having played professional football, Desmond Trufant will be the third member of his family to crash the pro ranks and second in the NFL as one of the top cornerbacks on the draft board. He's fast (4.38 40-yard dash) and he's known for his coverage skills. And whatever worries there were about his strength, he seemed to dispel that with his 16 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. In his senior year at Washington, he was named first-team All-Pac-12 and recorded 36 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, nine passes defensed and one interception. In his four years, he was far more likely to break up a pass (33) than intercept one (6). Because of his standing among the top cornerbacks, ranked third among draft experts on CBSSports.com, he has the best chance to land with the New England Patriots at No. 29 in the first round. The Patriots still don't know what to expect from Alfonzo Dennard's sentencing and will likely be looking for insurance at the position.
40-yard dash: 4.38
Vertical: 37.5 inches
Broad: 125 inches
20-yard shuttle: 3.85
The Patriots have announced their offseason workout and minicamp dates, which dot the calendar from April to June.
The first day of the Patriots' offseason program is April 15. The team will hold voluntary organized team activities May 20-21, May 23, May 28-30, June 3-4, and June 6-7 before holding a mandatory minicamp June 11-13.
These practices are not open to the public.
The dates for the team's training camp, which generally occurs in late July and is open to the public, have not been announced.
A first-round draft pick of the Falcons in 2004, the 6-foot-4, 215 pound Jenkins has largely been a disappointment -- in seven years with Atlanta, he never recorded more than 53 catches or 777 receiving yards in a season.
He spent the last two years with Minnesota, with 40 catches for 449 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games last season; he missed five games to injury in '11 and recorded 38 catches for 466 yards and three scores.
The Vikings released Jenkins rather than pay him a $2.425 million roster bonus that was due earlier this month.
Jenkins has earned the unfortunate nickname "Molasses Mike" due to his lack of speed, but he is noted for his blocking ability.
The 28-year old was a second-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2009 after a successful career at the University of Houston, though he was regarded as an under-the-radar guy because he wasn't invited to the combine or any of the showcase games that kick off the pre-draft season.
But he has become a valued played in New England, and the only one of the four players the Patriots took in the second round in '09 who is still with the team.
On a conference call with reporters on Thursday, he talked about why he wanted to stay around.
"Overall I'm just happy to be here, this is the place I wanted to be and luckily I'm still here and I think 'thankful' would describe it most," Vollmer said. "Thankful for Mr. Kraft and his family and coach (Bill Belichick) and whoever else was involved. They gave me the opportunity and I want to continue to prove myself and I'm excited and happy to be here."
Asked if he had taken any free-agent visits with other teams, Vollmer said that didn't matter and that he knew he wanted to be with the Patriots.
There were two things that stuck out as likely reasons Vollmer wanted to stay: an allegiance to the team that drafted him and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
"I think a lot of things (are factors in wanting to stay) - I mean, just being drafted here out of Houston four years ago, I certainly haven't forgotten that," he said. "And the whole tradition of winning and the coaches that are here, the players you're with, you know what you have here. I do appreciate the program and the leadership from Mr. Kraft and coach Belichick and the players we have. I really enjoy being part of this and want to continue to be part of this."
Of Scarnecchia, regarded in some circles as the best offensive line coach in the league, Vollmer said, "I can only talk for myself, but he's been a tremendous influence on me. Coming from a smaller program and coming to a program like the Patriots, being with Dante and learning the game under his tutelage and really focusing on technique and schemes and whatever else goes with it, I'm really grateful having him as a coach.
"All the praise goes to him and I'm happy to have a coach like him that makes me better."
The right tackle underwent arthroscopic surgery last month on his right knee; he had just left the weight room before the conference call and declared that he's "feeling really good."
With Vollmer re-signed, the Patriots return the five players who started the majority of the games on the offense line. There's value in that, Vollmer said, but sometimes guys have to miss games.
"I certainly like it; when you play next to a guy for a few years and you practice next to a guy, you get certain things down, you kind of know how the guys play certain situations and you get a feel for each other and I think that is important," he said.
"But injuries do happen and that's why we practice with different combinations."
Vollmer is on his way to his native Germany in the coming days for his sister's wedding.
Name: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Overview: The Patriots are in need of an outside, deep threat at wide receiver and draft experts, including the NFL's Mike Mayock, have billed the Baylor senior as someone who can fill the role. At Baylor, Williams perfected the fly and seam routes, using his 4.52 40-yard dash speed to create separation. (His fastest 40 at the combine was 4.40, while notching a slow 4.58 as well.) He tallied an NCAA leading 1,832 yards receiving, catching 92 passes and 12 touchdowns in 2012. However, the knock on Williams has been his inability to run routes well over the middle of the field, failing to fight for extra yardage, and a preference to catch ball with his body and not his hands. He projects easily as a boundary receiver in the NFL, which is what the Patriots are looking for now that Brandon Lloyd has been dismissed.
40-yard dash: 4.52
Vertical: 32.5 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.32
But when he visited with Mike & Mike in the Morning, he was asked about his left forearm, which broke twice toward the end of last season and then got infected, which required a third surgical procedure.
He updated his rehabilitation progress, and also addressed criticism stemming from his topless wrestling at a Las Vegas nightclub last month.
"It's just unfortunate what happened, it's a rare occasion it happened like that, that it went back in and re-broke in a different spot," Gronkowski said of the second break. "You really can't do anything about it, that's the thing. Rehabbed my first one many hours every day and then go back out in the playoff game, and you catch the ball on the sideline, you land on it and it breaks again.
"It's football though - you're putting your body on the line every time you step out on that field, not just on the game field but practice field. You just gotta live with it. The only thing I can do now is rehab it, get it better, get it 100 percent and get ready for next season."
As for how he's feeling, Gronkowski said he's doing a lot better.
"Right now I'm just rehabbing, getting muscles around it stronger, get everything re-activated because it shuts down a little bit when it's healing. Just rehabbing and when trainers give me 'good to go', hopefully in the next couple of weeks, hopefully as soon as possible so I can get rolling again, get back in the weight room, get back on the field and do what I love doing, running around catching some balls," he said.
When the grainy video of Gronkowski dancing appeared on the internet, his wrist-to-elbow black cast on full display, and then body-slamming a friend on a stage in Vegas surfaced, some fans were angered that the tight end was risking another injury.
But although he appreciates the sentiment, Gronkowski said he wouldn't do anything to intentionally injure himself.
"They're my fans. They're big fans of the Patriots; they just want to see the team do well, and I totally understand where they don't want me to put myself in jeopardy of getting hurt," he said. "I would never do that, put myself in jeopardy. To the max, I love going out there every week to perform to best of my ability and I love going out there playing. I understand where they're' coming from, they just don't want to see me hurt again and that's understandable."
As for what the Patriots' reaction to his offseason so far - Bill Belichick strongly hinted at the recent NFL meetings that he was not pleased - Gronkowski was mum.
"Whatever I talk about with the Patriots, we stay confidential. Coming from myself, I've gotta watch out, who's out there, who's watching everything," he said. "Basically I just keep doing what I've been doing since Day One (as a football player), that's what got me this far and I'm going to keep grinding hard, keep hustling."
Name: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers
Overview: As a Rutgers product, Greene has to be examined, considering Bill Belichick's fondness for the Scarlet Knights. As a converted defensive back, Greene has versatility – a huge plus in Belichick's book – and after improving his 40-yard dash at the Rutgers Pro Day (4.61), he's an interesting selection for both depth at outside linebacker and in sub packages to help the Patriots cover tight ends. Greene is known for his fast play, good tackling skills in the open field, and has contributed to Rutgers special teams play. He's projected to go in the second round or later. There are worries about his physical attributes, specifically whether he is big enough to play at linebacker in the NFL. But if you consider him for a specific role, coverage linebacker, he fits a specific need for the Patriots.
40-yard dash: 4.61 (pro day)
After inking a new four-year pact for $17 million, Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer expressed his thankfulness for the deal on Twitter Tuesday.
Thank you to the Kraft family, Coach Belichick and the entire Patriots organization. I'm truly blessed. Thanks for all the kind words.— Sebastian Vollmer (@SebVollmer) March 26, 2013
Vollmer's deal has incentives that can earn him up to $27 million.
Editor's note: The fourth in an occasional series on NFL draft prospects that would be a good fit for the Patriots. The NFL draft is April 25-27.
Name: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Overview: Think Donald Thomas, the former Patriots OL, but on defense. Williams played football for one year in high school and moved on, thinking there was no chance he could play in college. Unlike Thomas, part of it was his own fault. He had trouble going to classes in high school and was tough to mentor. He wisened up, though, walking on at a junior college before making his way to North Carolina in 2011. In two years at UNC, he finished with 96 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, and 8.5 sacks. He is seen as a run stuffing defensive tackle with the ability to clog gaps and redirect plays. A player like Williams would provide depth on the Patriots's defensive line, which was often undersized in 2012. Williams is also known for his patented swim move, which can be counted as both a strength and weakness, as noted by NFL.com and CBSSports.com draft scouts. But with only a middle second-round to third-round draft projection, he could easily fall to the Patriots at No. 59 overall and be a good addition to the Patriots' roster at a key position.
Weight: 313 pounds
40-yard dash: 5.03
Bench: 27 reps
The Patriots and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer have agreed to a new contract that will keep the 2009 second-round pick in New England for four more years.
USA Today reported that the contract is for $17 million, including a $7 million signing bonus and another $1.25 million in guaranteed money. The deal has a maximum value of $27 million, which can be gained through bonuses and incentives.
Vollmer drew little interest on the open market, and he wanted to remain with the Patriots; those two things led to New England getting a key member of their offensive line -- a player who has been All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in his career -- for a reasonable price.
When Vollmer is healthy, he is one of the two or three best right tackles in the NFL. Through the first 10 games of last season, he allowed just one sack. But he missed Week 12 against the Jets (back was listed on the injury report, though it was his knee) and had some troubles the rest of the season.
Vollmer had a scope on his right knee last month.
Eight months ago, the Patriots lured Olympian and versatile football player Jeff Demps to New England, signing him to a three-year contract, ostensibly to serve as the team's kick returner.
But Demps was placed on injured reserve with a leg injury not long after he was signed, and he didn't play a single regular-season snap.
And it sounds like he might not be suiting up for the Patriots again any time soon.
In a recent interview with Sports Talk Florida, Demps and fellow Olympic track and field medalist Justin Gatlin were asked about trying to be two-sport athletes – track and football. Gatlin unsuccessfully tried to make it in the NFL, participating in the Buccaneers' rookie camp in 2007, while he was serving a four-year track ban for doping.
It looked like things would be different for Demps after singing with the Patriots ... except that a few weeks ago he informed them that he wanted to return to the track.
Demps was asked about trying to be a two-sport athlete, but seems less than committed to returning to football.
"If I'm not able to do football anymore, it's kind of like I'm opening up a different chapter in my life if it's on the track and field side," he said. "I'd be a rookie in the (running) game, I still have a lot to learn, even though I did it four years in college and throughout high school but I still haven't seen or ran with any of the big name guys or the top guys in the world, so I'm looking forward to it; I'm definitely looking forward to it."
The host asked Demps how he'd approach Bill Belichick about his choice:
"'Listen coach, I want to do both but in order for me to get where I want to be on the track and field side, it will take a full year of preparation, and after the (track) season, if you guys are willing to let me come back probably midseason and work out and train and get ready for the season I'll be able to do that, but if not then I guess I'll focus on running,'" Demps said.
If he were to participate in the full track and field schedule, Demps might miss up to a handful of games in the NFL season.
At the league meetings last week, Belichick was asked about Demps and how his concentrating on track would affect his standing with New England, but Belichick didn't give much of an indication.
‘"Well, we’ll deal with each player individually with their specific situations and circumstances, whatever they happen to be ... Demps may have some circumstances. Players with injuries have different circumstances," he said. "We'll deal with them all individually. In the end, we try to do the best we can, what’s best for the team. Same as we always do."
Editor's note: The third in an occasional series on NFL draft prospects that would be a good fit for the Patriots. The NFL draft is April 25-27.
By Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff
Name: Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
Overview: Thomas is a 3-4 linebacker who has played a considerable amount of time with his hands in the grass as a pass rusher – a la Rob Ninkovich – but has also shifted inside on occasion, showing his versatility. No matter where he has played, he has been productive. The Stanford redshirt senior compiled 50.5 tackles for a loss in his tenure for the Cardinal, making him an enticing prospect. Like Jerod Mayo, Thomas has benefited from both a defensive scheme that is linebacker-friendly and instincts that have helped scatter his projections all over the map. Thomas can also thank a slow 40-yard dash (4.91) at the combine for what CBSSports has deemed a fourth-round projection. But prior to the combine, he was projected as being selected as high as the first round and was reportedly getting looks from the Patriots. He tallied 52 tackles last season, including 8.5 sacks. He led the Pac-12 with 17.5 tackles for a loss.
Workout results (combine)
40-yard dash: 4.91
"Whenever coach (Bill) Belichick calls, you answer. Obviously being able to compete every year, able to play not only for the playoffs, play for the division, but a chance to play in the Super Bowl" were appealing, the former Cardinal said.
"At the end of the day I want to come in and compete with everyone else, I have no trouble with that. Coach Belichick was very up front with me."
Wilson added that despite reports that he would want to remain in the western U.S., New England was his first choice. "It wasn't a hard sell, but at the same time, talking to coach Belichick and getting an understanding of what he wanted from me it was a good fit."
Though Wilson did not see much time in nickel sets last year with Arizona, he believed it was not a decision made because of his abilities.
"I feel good. Last year, that was definitely a coaches' decision, I don't think that has anything to do with me losing a step," Wilson said. "Obviously everyone gets older...I take good care of my body. I definitely think that was a coaches' decision."
Wilson, who picked his alma mater, North Carolina St., among his Final Four teams, said he doesn't have a connection with any of the players on the Patriots, but has chatted with Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington since being signed.
Arrington wears No. 24, the same number Wilson has worn throughout his career, and would like to retain it with the Patriots.
He hopes he's made Arrington, who became a father just six days ago, an offer he can't refuse.
"I offered him a year's supply of Pampers," Wilson said. "Hope he gets back to me."
On Twitter, Arrington said Wilson "may have to throw some formula in there too."
The Patriots can and will make a few more moves in the next couple of weeks, but figured this would be a good time to reset the depth chart. The Patriots have hit on a lot of "holes" they had on the chart before free agency started.
And here are the needs we addressed in chart form. Have them almost all filled up heading into the draft, which is the way the Patriots like it:
The Patriots have announced the signings of two veterans: linebacker Niko Koutouvides and cornerback Marquice Cole.
Both played in 14 games last season, primarily on special teams. Cole did get one start and had one interception.
Former Patriots coach Pete Carroll is now enjoying success in Seattle, and drew a good-sized crowd at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning.
He was asked about kickoff returner/running back Leon Washington, who had spent the last three seasons with the Seahawks before signing a one-year deal last week to join the Patriots.
“He’s an amazing kid; a great, competitive kid. Loved him on our team. He was a big factor, and we hated to have to move on without him,” Carroll said. “The Patriots are getting a guy who’s there every minute. He’s a great practice player, very savvy game player, very determined to prove himself, which is what you love about him.
“He has tons of skills. He’s an exciting returner who takes the special teams aspect as seriously as it’s ever been taken. He’s one of the all-time greats. They get a fantastic football player, and he can play from the line of scrimmage, too – catch the football out of the backfield. He’s very elusive, a tough blocker. He’s a complete football player.”
Washington played only sparingly on offense in 2012, with 23 rushing attempts for 83 yards and a touchdown and four receptions for 31 yards. In 2011, he recorded 53 carries and 10 catches.
But Washington has long been one of the best kickoff returners in the NFL, and last season averaged 29 yards on 27 attempts, with one touchdown.
PHOENIX – NFL owners have finished voting on the rules and bylaw changes proposed by the Competition Committee, essentially marking the end of the league's annual meeting.
Among the things voted on was the elimination of the tuck rule – the rule that saved the Patriots' 2001 postseason run. It is now a fumble if a passer loses possession as he attempts to bring the ball back to his body.Pictures: Relive the Tuck Rule Game Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to fumble on Jan. 19, 2002, in an AFC playoff game vs. the Raiders, but the play was reversed because of the tuck rule and the Patriots went on to defeat the Raiders en route to winning their first Super Bowl. The game became known as both the Tuck Rule Game and the Snow Bowl because it was played in a snowstorm in Foxborough.
The Patriots abstained from voting. Owner Robert Kraft said on Monday, "I love the tuck rule and forever will, and I know (longtime Raiders owner) Al Davis, may he rest in peace, is probably smiling."
Kraft said then that he might have to abstain, citing his "great bond" with the largely obscure rule.
On Tuesday morning, when coach Bill Belichick was asked about the possible elimination of the rule, he noted that while the tuck rule went New England's way in the postseason, it went against the Patriots in the regular season that year.
Playing the Jets at home in Week 2, Anthony Pleasant strip-sacked Vinny Testaverde on first-and-goal from the Patriots' 10, and Richard Seymour recovered the fumble.
On review, however, the play was reversed under the tuck rule. Despite retaining possession and being so close to the goal line, the Jets didn't score a touchdown but did get a field goal, tying the game at 3-3. Curtis Martin's third-quarter touchdown gave New York a 10-3 win.
In the final tally of voting on Wednesday, 29 teams voted to eliminate the rule, the Steelers voted to retain it, and two teams – the Patriots and Redskins – abstained.
The Redskins likely abstained because their current general manager, Bruce Allen, was an executive with the Raiders from 1996 to 2003.
The NFL owners meeting has concluded and the tuck rule, infamous of the Patriots' snow game victory over the Oakland Raiders in the lead up to New England's first Super Bowl, has been abolished by the competition committee.
the elimination of the tuck rule has passed...though it will live on in the hearts of #Patriots fans forever— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) March 20, 2013
The Jan. 19, 2002, game is also known as the "Tuck Rule" game because on a play late in the fourth quarter it appeared Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fumbled after being hit by the Raiders' Charles Woodson. But after a replay review, referee Walt Coleman announced that the ruling was reversed based on the NFL's tuck rule, which states if a passer's arm is moving forward when he loses control of the ball, even if trying to tuck it away, it is an incomplete pass and not a fumble.
Coleman explained his call after the game.
“Obviously, what I saw on the field, I thought the ball came out before his arm was going forward," Coleman said. "Then, when I got to the replay monitor and looked at it, it was obvious his arm was coming forward. He touched the ball. And they just hooked it out of his hand. His arm was coming forward, which makes it an incomplete pass."
Over the years the interpretation of the rule has been inconsistent, leading to wide confusion over what was a fumble and what was a tuck.
Here is a more detailed look at the contracts Aqib Talib and Adrian Wilson signed with the Patriots:
CB Aqib Talib, one-year contract
Signing bonus: $3 million
2013 cap: $4,859,375
Base salary: $1.575 million, fully guaranteed
Roster bonus of $350,000 total, broken down per game he's active
$500,000 bonus for making Pro Bowl
$50,000 workout bonus
S Adrian Wilson, three-year contract
Signing bonus: $1 million
2013 cap: $1.333 million -- base salary $1 million
2014 cap: $1.833 million -- base salary $1.5 million
$500,000 bonus based on playing time
2015 cap: $1.833 million -- base salary $1.5 million
$500,000 bonus based on playing time
PHOENIX -- Talked to a few opposing coaches today about the Patriots, Wes Welker, and some other players.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano, on former Patriots guard Donald Thomas, who was signed by Indianapolis: "An explosive player. Run blocking, very effective. Pass [protection], does a great job in pass pro. He’s got position flexibility, he’s played both the right and left guard position. We’re going to start him on the left side. He has snapped [at center] before. There’s a lot of qualities that Donald brings to the table that obviously help our offensive line."
Chargers coach Mike McCoy, on running back Danny Woodhead: "I think he can play on all downs for us. We’re looking to acquire as much talent as we can as a football team, and I think, having worked with Josh McDaniels before in Denver, and knowing the system they run, there will be things that we’ll do that are very similar. So the things he can do in the running game, in the passing game, being able to play on third down, create some mismatches on guys, use his speed and quickness to help get open and separate vs. man to man coverage, there’s a lot of things he can do."
Wes Welker reaction
Broncos coach John Fox: "I think I mentioned this when we signed Wes. This game is about matchups, and depending on what matchups you get defensively. One of
the reasons we went a lot of what we call 12-personnel was if they go to nickel or put a DB in to cover one of those tight ends, all of a sudden they've gotten smaller, so there are some advantages there in the run game. Everybody does this. Now, if they sub base, then it's a matchup you like in the passing game.
"You do the same thing with the three-wide sets, we call it 11-personnel. What do they have against you? How are they going to match up defensively? A lot of it is how the defense matches up. Having had to defend Wes for so many years, you learn to appreciate how tough a matchup he is. It's hard to have one guy cover him.
"I think just having played defense against him so many times, he's definitely a tough matchup. I'm not fortunate enough to be able to put a single guy on him, so there have always been little things that help in coverage. I think that can help other guys, receivers on the field, whether it is Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker."
Fox, on Peyton Manning's reaction to adding Welker: "Oh yeah, he's excited. It's tough for him a little bit because he's good buddies with Stoke [WR Brandon Stokley], and Stoke did a real good job for us. It's back to those relationships -- players build them, too. They've got good buddies. A lot of times, moving in this league can be tough. That was the downside. But I think everybody is pretty excited."
Jets coach Rex Ryan on the Patriots bringing in Danny Amendola: "He’s very similar to Wes Welker. I’m glad Wes is not there. I’m not kidding you. That guy was a pain in the tail and just a great player. Durable, tough. I hated Wes Welker. I’m just kidding -- kinda.
"You know what? I admire him. There is no question about it. In fact, I’m a huge fan of Wes Welker’s, and I am glad he’s not there anymore. Now they bring in this other kid from the same school, and clearly Wes has worked with him based on the way he runs routes and all that type of stuff. So he’ll step right in. I don’t think there’s any doubt. Will he have the same success as Wes Welker? I don’t know, because Wes Welker had historical success. So we’ll see. That’s some big shoes to fill.
Ryan on Welker: "He’s amazing. He’s an unbelievable route runner. He doesn’t run but maybe five routes, but you just can’t cover him. Him and Brady were on the same page. That’s why it was like, ‘Throw it to somebody else!’ One game he caught, like, 15 balls against us and I totally got ripped for it but we tried everything.
"But he’s so talented, and just a great route runner. He’s tough. He’s like a running back when he catches the football. Brady and him were on the same page all the time. Wes Welker is a much better athlete than they give him credit for. I think he’s a great athlete. My son’s bigger than him, although I don’t think he’s got the same ability. That’s what’s really underrated about Welker. Maybe it’s because he wears that big helmet and all that other jazz, but the guy’s a tremendous player."
Pagano, former Ravens defensive coordinator, on Welker: "He’s a difference maker. He’s one of those that, from a defensive perspective, once you turn the tape on and you start talking to your defense when they come in on Wednesday and you’re getting ready to play and defend the guy, he’s a guy we’ve got to take care of. He’s been a tremendous player for a number of years and very, very productive.
"They’ve done a great job up there of bringing guys in. As you know, in the NFL nowadays, guys come and go, and that’s just the nature of the beast. I know they probably hate to lose him, but he’s definitely a guy that can be a matchup nightmare for you in the slot because he’s just a very, very competitive guy and he’s got a unique skill set playing that position. We’ve got Denver and we’ve got them at home. So we’re going to have issues trying to game-plan him and trying to keep him under control."
On how the Patriots will adjust: "They’ve got a system in place and it’s been in place for a long, long time and we’ve seen from Troy Brown to Wes to now Danny, they’ll slide him in there, saw [Julian] Edelman play in there, I’ve seen a bunch of guys play in that position and so knowing Danny, I think it will be a seamless transition for them just because they’ve got a system in place and he’ll go in there. I’m sure he’s a smart guy and he’ll pick it up and he’ll learn it and probably won’t miss a beat."
McCoy, a former Broncos offensive coordinator, on how Welker will fit into his old offense: "He’ll do a great job. He was obviously very productive in New England with Tom. He’s going to another great quarterback. There aren’t many guys like him that are that lucky to play with two of the best of all time. I think there’s a great system there that Adam Gase is going to continue to run with Peyton and they’ll take advantage of what Wes does."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave his on-the-record portrayal of the failed Wes Welker negotiations. Athletes First, headed by David Dunn and Medfield native Brian Murphy, released a statement today to clarify their position. Now that both sides have had a chance to comment, hopefully this ends this chapter.Athletes First has tremendous respect for Mr. Kraft and the entire Patriots organization. We have successfully consummated numerous deals with the team including Drew Bledsoe's landmark 2001 contract and this year's extension for Aaron Hernandez. We are grateful for how the Patriots treated Wes Welker during his tenure in Boston and know Wes will have many fond memories and friendships from his years with this great franchise.
We do not wish to rehash each step of the recent negotiations. Nor would we ever question a team's negotiation approach as each NFL front office is entitled to the presumption of professionalism. However, we are cognizant of Mr. Kraft's close friendship with Wes Welker and understand his frustration. In that light, we are not offended by Mr. Kraft's statements regarding Athletes First's role in the negotiation and are confident that Mr. Kraft has great respect for the work we do on behalf of our clients.
We do, however, feel the need to clarify some of the confusion surrounding these negotiations. Specifically, both sides are clear that the Patriots made one offer to Wes Welker since the prior negotiations ended in July 2012. Both sides also agree that this two-year offer came just hours before the start of free agency despite discussions that began at the NFL Combine. Moreover, this lone offer was presented as a "take it or leave it offer." When we asked if there was room for structural changes, we were told no. We made a counter-offer for the same term and same maximum dollar amount as their offer and it was rejected. We inquired if any of the offer's components were negotiable and were told no. This refusal to actually negotiate made it easy to reject the Patriots offer. Nevertheless, when we received the Denver Broncos' offer, Wes personally talked to Mr. Kraft to give the Patriots the opportunity to match it. The Patriots rejected this opportunity and Wes signed with the Denver Broncos.
Despite Mr. Kraft's impression to the contrary, the Patriots representatives who participated in these phone calls never indicated that the team "would have even gone up" on their offer, or that these discussions occurred "before we thought we were going into free agency." Instead, the Patriots made it abundantly clear that their one offer was non-negotiable. Athletes First has no issue with this approach and casts no blame on either side for a deal not being consummated. However, we believe it is important that the negotiations are accurately potrayed in the media.
Mr. Kraft is an exceptional NFL owner with a track record of not only fielding championship teams, but also helping make the National Football League the tremendous league that it is today. It is a league that absolutely sparks passion amongst its fan base and that passion was evident yesterday from the lifelong Patriots fan Mr. Kraft. Once the frustrations settle down, however, we hope both sides will focus not upon what went wrong, but instead everything Wes did right on-and-off the field during his time with the Patriots. That Wes deserves a lengthy standing ovation when he returns to Foxboro Stadium with the Denver Broncos is one conclusion upon which both sides can readily agree.
PHOENIX -- Every year at the annual NFL meetings, the coaches from the AFC and NFC are split by their respective conferences for hour-long breakfasts with media members.
The AFC was up on Tuesday morning (NFC is Wednesday), which meant Bill Belichick was among the attendees.
A lot of what Belichick said was standard fare -- for any of the players who have left the team, he said rosters change every year, for players the Patriots have signed he said he's looking forward to working with them, and in all things, he's just trying to do what's best for his football team.
But when he was asked about Rob Gronkowski, who has undergone three surgeries on his right forearm over the last four months due to breaking his arm twice and then to clean up an infection, Belichick was measured in his first two responses, and gave an indication with the third that he's probably not too happy with his Pro Bowl tight end.
Question No. 1: "Do you feel Rob is on a good medical track to be ready for training camp?"
Belichick: "Well, that’s a long way away. A lot of players have a lot of things to do between now and then. Coaches, for that matter, in terms of just getting ready for the season. I’m sure, hopefully, everyone will be working hard at it. we’ll see how it comes out."
Question No. 2: "Have you been happy with the way he's been attentive to how he's dealt with his rehab?"
Belichick: "With his rehab? I mean, again, I think every player has a process they go through to get ready for the offseason program and training camp. Every player, or most every player, has to deal with some aspect of it, including the normal things like conditioning, overall training relative to their physical abilities and their position."
"The program hasn’t started yet. When the program starts on April 15, we’ll have a lot better evaluation of where everybody is."
"There’s some limited information now, but I wouldn’t put too much on that at this point. I’d say in most cases, it’s pretty incomplete."
Several minutes later, Belichick was asked if he had caught Gronk's wrestling moves, the grainy video of him dancing shirtless on stage at a Las Vegas nightclub during Super Bowl week, still sporting a black cast and picking up a companion and body-slamming him to the stage.
Reporter: "Guess not?"
Belichick: "Let’s stick to football questions."
During his 50-minute question and answer session, Belichick was of course asked about Wes Welker, and several times he deferred to Robert Kraft's statements from Monday.
The first question was whether it was a tough negotiation with the receiver and his agents - Kraft essentially put the blame for a deal not getting done on Welker's team.
"I think Wes was everything we hoped he’d be when we traded for him," Belichick said. "He was tough, competitive, and very productive. I think what Robert said yesterday covered it pretty thoroughly. I don’t have anything to add to that."
As other reporters arrived at Belichick's designated table in the ballroom, the Welker situation came up again, and he reiterated that he agreed with what Kraft had said.
"I thought he did a good job explaining the situation. I don't have anything to add to it...It's been covered, very thoroughly," he said.
With some of the Patriots' new contracts coming in, we have a better idea of where the Patriots are in regards to the cap.
As best we can tell, the Patriots now have $107,858,353 paid to their top 51 players for cap purposes.
The release of Brandon Lloyd saved the team $4.5 million against the cap this year, but cost them $2 million in dead cap space. Lloyd was not designated a June 1 cut, so the dead money goes on this year to give the Patriots a total of $6,514,529.
That means the Patriots have paid out $114,372,882.
With the 2012 cap carryover, they are operating on an adjusted cap of $129,656,344.
So the total remaining is approximately $15,283,462.
However, the Patriots should be budgeting anywhere from $8-12 million to save for draft picks, incentives, and any possible extensions they would like to do before free agency next year.
So in reality, the Patriots have about $3-7 million to toy with.
Of course, the use of the tuck rule to overturn what looked like a lost fumble by Tom Brady in the Patriots' 2001 AFC Divisional round game against the Raiders gave New England the chance to keep the game going, win in overtime, and ultimately go on to claim the franchise's first Super Bowl title.
So when it comes to eliminating the rule, well...
"I never, to be honest, prior to the Snow Game, I never knew what the tuck rule was," Kraft said. "But I love the tuck rule, and forever will, and I know (longtime Raiders owner) Al Davis, may he rest in peace, is probably smiling."
Asked how he'll vote on Tuesday, Kraft laughed and said, "I might have to abstain on that. That's a hard one. I have a great bond with the tuck rule."
PHOENIX – A few Patriots-related notes from the league meetings:
Most at the meetings think the Ravens will host the Patriots in the NFL kickoff game on Thursday night, Sept. 5 – and in fact, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the team’s website that he’d be surprised if New England was not the opponent.
There's a conflict with an evening Orioles-White Sox game (both share the same parking lot). The NFL can’t play on Wednesday night because of Rosh Hashanah. Commissioner Roger Goodell is hoping Major League Baseball will move the Orioles game to the daytime, and the NFL could put the start time of the Ravens’ game.
"I called Bud Selig twice and spoke to him about that, trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home,” Goodell said. “We think that’s the right thing. We think it would be a great day. As a kid who grew up an Orioles fan, to have an Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration for the kickoff game would be a great day. We hope that’s the way it happens."
The other alternative is for the Ravens to open on the road, which the NFL wants to avoid.
- The Patriots have kicked the tires on free-agent right tackle Eric Winston, the former Texans and Chiefs standout. More due diligence in regards to the Sebastian Vollmer situation than anyone.
- The Patriots have reinstated FB Tony Fiammetta from the reserve/left squad list. Fiammetta left the squad early in training camp to deal with a personal issue, and has been welcomed back with open arms.
WR Donald Jones contract details
Signing bonus: None.
2013 cap: $1,131,250.00
($630,000 base, $200,000 reporting bonus, $125,000 incentives, $14,687/game roster bonus - $176,250 cap value)
2014 cap: $1,415,000.00
($730,000 base, $200,000 reporting bonus, $250,000 incentives, $14,687/game roster bonus - $176,250 cap value)
2015 cap: $1,555,000.00
($730,000 base, $200,000 reporting bonus, $250,000 incentives, $14,687/game roster bonus - $176,250 cap value)
Base salaries are split salaries. Team would only have to pay half if he goes on injured reserve.
Wes Welker's contract with the Broncos
Signing bonus: $4,000,000
Guaranteed money: $12 million for injury, $6 million for skill/cap
2013 cap: $4.150 million
($2 million guaranteed base, $150,000 incentives)
2014 cap: $8 million (guarantees fully if on roster first day of 2014 league year)
($3 million base, $3 million roster bonus, $150,000 not likely to be earned incentives)
Right off the bat, Kraft was asked about what happened with Welker and losing the receiver to the Denver Broncos last week via free agency.
Kraft launched into an unprecedented explanation of the how things went down, including financial details.
"We usually don't talk about contracts, but I'd like to clear up what I think is some misconceptions about the Wes situation," Kraft began. "I'll go into limited financial details. You know, everyone in our organization wanted Wes Welker back. Anyone who doubts that, or thinks we weren't serious just doesn't get it. I've owned the team 19 years and I've known in the end we have to have certain limits and restraints.
"Like I've said many times, I really wanted Wes to be with us through the rest of his career, but it takes two sides to do a deal. The only person in my life who had unlimited financial ability to do whatever they wanted was my late, sweet wife (Myra). Everything else has boundaries."
Even with those boundaries, Kraft feels the Patriots' offer to Welker was very fair.
"In Wes' case, we were willing to go what we considered above his market value. For a couple years, we tried to get a long-term deal done with him," Kraft said. "We couldn't do a deal and we wound up franchising him at a very high number [for 2012, $9.5 million].
"In retrospect, I wish we could have wrapped that into an arrangement where it was part of a longer-term deal. But I really believe in this case, his agents misrepresented, in their mind, what his market value was. When you come right down to the bottom line, he accepted a deal in Denver which is less money than what we offered him.
"In fact, he has a one-year deal in Denver for $6 million. Our last offer, before we would have even gone up and before we thought we were going into free agency, was a $10 million offer with incentives that would have earned him another $6 million if he performed the way he had the previous two years. But in Denver, he's going to count $4 million against the cap this coming year and $8 million the second year. There is no guarantee that he plays the second year there. He will get $6 million the first year. Our deal, he would have gotten $8 million the first year, our last offer to him.
"So in fact, our offer was better than what in fact he got from Denver."
While Welker agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal, there are contingencies that make it possible he might not earn the full value of the contract.
Kraft said he's sad that Welker had to leave, and insisted that everyone in the Patriots' organization wanted the franchise's leader in receptions to remain in New England.
"Wes Welker, just to be very clear, was our first choice to be with the team. When free agency came, his agents (Welker is represented by Athletes First, one of the most powerful agencies in the NFL) kept insisting on a very high number that was beyond our number, we had to go work alternatives.
"Our second alternative was Danny Amendola. (Welker) had offers from other teams. So we made a judgment that Wes, unfortunately, probably wouldn't we be with us. We made this commitment to Amendola."
Kraft continued that Welker called both him and Bill Belichick on Wednesday to inform them of his offer from the Broncos, but with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and, by then Amendola – all players who play in the middle of the field – already under contract, "it was just unfortunately a little bit too late.
"If he had called one day earlier, he would have been with us. And so that is the Wes Welker story. I'm very sad about it and I wish he would have been with our team."
The interview continued, but that was Kraft's opening salvo.
What we reported last month was highly likely -- receiver Brandon Lloyd being released so the Patriots didn't have to pay his $3 million option bonus -- happened Saturday afternoon before the deadline, a league source said.
The Patriots specifically built this protection into the contract because Lloyd had the reputation for being hard to handle in his many previous stops. The Patriots were his sixth team in nine years.
The move will clear $4.9 million off the Patriots' cap, but there is $2 million in dead money. It could be split over two years if he is designated as a post-June 1 cut.
Lloyd was productive for the Patriots last season with 74 catches for 911 yards, but he was very inconsistent on the field as far as staying on his feet, fighting for the ball and having consistency with quarterback Tom Brady.
Lloyd was also a handful with in the locker room and on the practice field with his inconsistent personality, as we explained last month. He was not a favorite among his teammates.
Still, out of desperation at the position, Lloyd could still be back at a cheaper price if there's no market for him. The Patriots like to cover their bases, especially heading into the draft. Whether Lloyd makes the team is another story.
Patriots free-agent receiver Donte' Stallworth was hospitalized today after a being in a hot-air balloon accident Saturday morning in the Miami area.
Stallworth is expected to be fine and able to continue his playing career, though he may be out of action for a bit, agent Drew Rosenhaus said.
According to NBC 6 Miami, Miami-Dade police responded to the accident just after 10 a.m.; the balloon's passenger basket, with three people inside, crashed into power lines while airborne.
One of the other passengers was Stallworth's girlfriend.
A few thoughts on the flurry of activity from the Patriots:
- For both sides, I like the one-year, $5-million deal for Aqib Talib. A five-year deal with the Patriots was discussed (he definitely had two offers elsewhere), but obviously it wasn't a realistic offer or else Talib would have accepted it. I don't think the Patriots wanted to go much beyond one year with Talib. He's too much of a character and injury risk. The team is absolutely right to think that way. Good move.
- A one-year deal also provides a lot of incentive for Talib to behave himself and prove himself on the field. Of course if he does that, the Patriots can just slap him with the franchise tag next year. But that's way down the line. And as soon as Talib signs it, it's guaranteed. A lot of risk there.
- Talib signing for one year and $5 million is further proof that he's not as good as everyone wants to believe he is. Percy Harvin proved again that if you're elite, it doesn't matter how much trouble you are -- you're going to get paid. If Talib was an elite player, he would have received an elite offer -- even for one year -- and he did not.
- More than anything, I would like to see Talib take care of himself physically. Despite having six weeks off in the middle of last season, he only played 39 percent of the snaps he could have for the Patriots. It's not good that he already has a history of hip and thigh problems at cornerback. It's a sign that he's not doing the maintenance that he should. The Patriots should lock him in a hot yoga studio until training camp.
- I expect the Patriots to add at least one more cornerback in free agency, perhaps one in the draft.
- Probably the thing I like most about bringing Talib and Kyle Arrington -- and hopefully keeping Devin McCourty at safety -- back is the stability. There have been too many moving parts in the Patriots' secondary for several years now. It means the team had to start very basic and it took them a while to develop a full repertoire of pressures and coverages -- nearly to the end of the year. Now the Patriots can pick up where they left off last year, which should make them much better at the start of the season. They have stunk for at least three years now early on in the season.
- As far as safety Adrian Wilson, I need to watch more film on him, but I think it's a perfect fit in that he can either grab a big role, or is the type of leader and team player who can be fine with a smaller role and can help mentor Tavon Wilson and McCourty.
- I wouldn't equate him to Rodney Harrison -- who was 30 and possibly using a few things when he came here. Wilson is 33. He was benched last season in passing situations for the Cardinals. Different scheme, so maybe he can do more here. We'll have to see how it goes. But he's a terrific guy to have on the team. They don't come much better.
- As for where things stand with Steelers restricted free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders, there is no signed offer sheet. That's not unusual. First of all, the player has to agree to the terms -- he might not -- and the signing team usually tries to time it so it's harder for the other team to match. Patriots might be waiting for the Steelers to take up more cap space. Lessens the chance they can match. Or help the Steelers wreck their cap.
- I would expect the Patriots to add a veteran end -- John Abraham and/or Dwight Freeney -- at some point soon. Abraham is more of a fit, but the Patriots really respect Freeney.
- Thing about Freeney is that, at least before free agency, he was dead-set on signing with a team where he would be an every-down player. The Colts told him he was only a situational player. That bothered Freeney. But his tune may have changed.
- The way the market is going, wouldn't be surprised to see Sebastian Vollmer have to come back on a one-year deal as well. All the better.
- Patriots have done a great job gauging this market. Stellar. We'll just see if they get the right pieces, again.
Finally, a look at the updated needs list that I had before free agency started. Some of these can be filled in a draft that is deep at receiver, cornerback, offensive line and defensive line:
According to a league source, it is for $5 million; the Patriots had offered a longer-term deal to the 27-year old, but Talib opted not to take it because the market for free market cornerbacks has been so soft this year.
There were offers from three other teams, the source said, but Talib decided to remain in New England.
Acquired from Tampa Bay at the NFL trading deadline Nov. 1, Talib played in eight games, including the postseason, and had an interception return for a touchdown in his first game in a Patriots uniform against the Colts in Week 11 (a four-week NFL suspension for performance-enhancing drugs carried over to his tenure with New England, causing him to miss his first week and game as an official member of the team).
But a hip injury popped up against Houston in Week 14 against the Texans; though he played the next game against San Francisco, Talib played just eight snaps against the Jaguars and sat out the regular-season finale against Miami.
He played in the Divisional round against Houston, but was forced out of the AFC title game vs. the Ravens early, and New England could not adjust.
This has not been a good year for cornerbacks – once players at the position started signing, they were getting deals worth far less than cornerbacks received in 2012.
The first to sign was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who went to Denver on a one-year deal worth a reported $5 million.
Then the Chargers signed former Jacksonville CB Derek Cox for a reported four years, $20 million, with $10.25 million guaranteed. On Thursday afternoon, the Chiefs added former Dolphin Sean Smith. Smith, who had been courted by a few teams, received three years, $18 million with $11 million guaranteed from Kansas City, according to NFL.com.
Contrast that with last year: Lardarius Webb received six years, $52.74 million with $10 million guaranteed to remain in Baltimore; Tampa Bay got Eric Wright away from Detroit with a five year, $37.5 million contract that guaranteed $15.5 million, and Brandon Carr became a Cowboy when he was given five years, $50.1 million and half of it guaranteed.
So the market was definitely on the Patriots' side, but Talib opted to take one year and see if things change next year.
New England hosted three defensive players at Gillette Stadium, and at least one of them has come to a contract agreement with the team: safety Adrian Wilson.
Shortly after a radio host at Phoenix radio station XTRA 910 and NFL.com reported the signing, Wilson's agent, Tory Dandy, announced the news on Twitter with a congratulatory message for his client.
Wilson, 33, was with the Cardinals for 12 years before being released March 8. Though he played in 15 games last season (14 starts), he was not often on the field in nickel situations. He recorded 39 tackles, three sacks, one interception, five pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
With the Patriots, Wilson will give the Patriots some options at safety. Devin McCourty will very likely remain at the position, and colleague Greg Bedard has written that the Patriots like second-year safety Tavon Wilson, but Wilson could be battling Adrian Wilson in training camp.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 222-pound Wilson had also visited the 49ers.
Washington, who spent the last three seasons with Seattle after a draft day trade in 2010, said that after becoming a free agent, his priority was to join an organization that believes in winning and special teams.
“With the opportunity to play with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, you look at the history, the way those guys carry themselves on the football field, and the way they play as an organization, it’s something that the leaders, or myself, want to be a part of,” Washington said. “[I wanted to be part of a team] that can push me and make me a better person and a better football player. When I became a free agent, that's one thing I wanted. I looked at an organization that believes in winning, who wants to win the Super Bowl, and every day they do things the right way… With the opportunity to go to New England, I jumped right on it. It was a perfect fit.”
When it was pointed out that kick returning might be better suited to a younger player, the 30-year-old Washington jokingly replied: "Man, 30 is the new 20. I'm a young man."
Washington said the Patriots provided him with the best opportunity to contribute to a winning organization.
“You need to have the opportunity to help a team out winning games by returning kicks," Washington said. “One thing I did know about New England is that in talking to coach Bill Belichick and talking to [special teams] coach Scott O'Brien, they take special teams extremely seriously. They feel like if you play special teams -- the return game and the coverage part of it too -- you can actually win a football game by doing either one of them… that helped make my decision.”
The 5-foot-8-inch, 203-pound Washington hasn’t been much of a contributor as a running back — he recorded 23 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown last season with the Seahawks.
“I feel great, I feel healthy,” Washington said. “I haven’t carried the ball much the last two years, but that’s what I want to do, I’m a running back … but it’s all about the team. My role is to come in and help the team out anyway I can -- return, run, whatever my role is, I’ll do the best job at it.”
This will be Washington's second time playing for a team in the AFC East. He was drafted by the Jets in 2006 and spent four seasons in New York.
Washington had 1,140 combined kickoff and punt return yards and one touchdown last season with Seattle, averaging 29 yards per kickoff return. He's had eight kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.
Last year Woodhead filled the third-down running back role that Kevin Faulk had previously occupied for the Patriots, with 76 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns plus 40 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
But as the season went on and Shane Vereen started getting more touches, it was easy to wonder if Woodhead would be back with New England when he hit free agency.
The signing of kick returner Leon Washington earlier this week also seemed to portend the end of Woodhead's time with the Patriots.
The 28-year old heads out west after two-plus seasons with the Patriots.
The cornerback wanted to stay with the Patriots, and the team had expressed a desire early on to keep the 26-year old in the fold.
He took to his Twitter feed to share his thoughts:Thankful and Blessed for another opportunity. Extremely grateful for all the support from the New England community and beyond. #Patsnation
Arrington played all 16 games last season, and was moved to the slot when New England acquired Aqib Talib; he seemed to flourish in the new role.
This is quite a week for the Maryland native: in addition to the new contract, Arrington and his wife VaShonda are set to welcome their first child any day now. Their first wedding anniversary is on Sunday.
An undrafted rookie out of Hofstra in 2008, Arrington was initially signed by the Eagles and was on their practice squad out of training camp that season, but he was released little more than a week later.
Tampa Bay picked him up, and he spent the rest of the 2008 season on the Buccaneers' practice squad, stayed with the team through training camp in '09 and played the season opener for the team before being released.
It took a couple of months, but he eventually signed to the Patriots' practice squad, and was elevated to the 53-man roster for the final eight games of the season. In half a season, Arrington recorded 15 special-teams tackles.
He has played every game since his promotion in 2009. In 2011, Arrington tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, with seven.
"Obviously I'm really excited to sign, excited for the opportunity, ready to get this process going and start playing football," Amendola said about signing with the Patriots.
The 27-year old has much in common with Welker: both had successful careers at Texas Tech, both went undrafted, and both didn't end up with the team that initially signed them; Welker was cut by the Chargers before latching on with the Dolphins, and Amendola was with both the Cowboys and Eagles before finding a spot with the Rams.
With St. Louis in 2011, Amendola's offensive coordinator was Josh McDaniels, and though Amendola only played one game that season before going on injured reserve because of a dislocated elbow, reuniting with McDaniels was a big draw for him.
"That was the main thing, was being with Josh for one year, I got to learn his offense and figure out what I could do in his offense, and that excited me," Amendola said, noting that he didn't get to play much that season. "The familiarity with the offense and what I can do (in it) excited me the most."
He said he spoke briefly with Tom Brady on Thursday.
Amendola didn't want to pigeonhole himself as only a slot receiver, saying that he played inside and outside last year with the Rams; "I just try to fit my role," he said.
As for comparisons to Welker, they're nothing new for he Houston-area native.
"I've been hearing them for a long time," Amendola said. "He's a great player, he's been to Pro Bowls, he did a lot of things to help the Patriots win, but my goal ... is to help the Patriots win as well."
Amendola has played in just 12 games over the previous two seasons; after the '11 elbow injury, he missed five games last year to a broken collarbone.
The idea that he's injury prone is not one he concerns himself with.
"Being a football player you have to understand it's a physical game. Injuries sometimes happen. You have to stay positive and work on other areas – get smart in the film room, work in the weight room," Amendola said. "It's just playing the game, stuff like that happens. Trying to stay healthy and trying to stay on the field is the No. 1 priority."
Though Welker's success in New England led to him being considered the best slot receiver in the NFL, Amendola has no such expectations.
"The first goal of mine is to fulfill a role on a team, fill a niche, meet all the guys and start working," he said. "I want to become the best player I can as early as I can for the New England Patriots. All of the accolades that come with it [success] will come in the future, but I can't really control that.
"I can prepare to win (and) work hard. That's the only thing I'll be worried about."
Sanders, who turns 26 on Sunday, is a restricted free agent, and the Steelers tendered him at the original round level, meaning that if another team were to offer him a contract, Pittsburgh would have the right to match it or receive a third-round draft pick, where Sanders was drafted in 2010.
If Sanders stays in Pittsburgh his 2013 salary will be $1.33 million.
Listed at 5-11, 186 pounds, Sanders is a fast, versatile receiver, capable of playing multiple positions.
Playing in all 16 games last year (seven starts), the SMU product had 44 catches for 626 yards (14.2 yards per reception), though just one touchdown.
Pittsburgh is in a difficult cap situation, so depending on the contract the Patriots offered, it could be difficult for the Steelers to match.
The two sides could also work out a trade, as New England did with Miami in 2007 to get Wes Welker, who was also a restricted free agent at the time.
The Patriots have signed former Bills WR Donald Jones, a league source confirmed.
Jones, 25, was due to be a restricted free agent for the Bills but was not tendered.
Jones (6-0, 208 pounds) is a solid and versatile receiver who can line up just about anywhere. He caught 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns last season. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the combine coming out of college.
Jones gives the Patriots more options and competition where they have little right now. He might factor into whether or not the Patriots release Brandon Lloyd.
The book on Jones, from one personnel executive, is that he's a slot/possession receiver whose injury history is a factor. He missed time in 2011 with an ankle injury, and a calf last season. He finished 2012 on injured reserve for a non-football injury.
The 33-year old Freeney is a Connecticut native who was a first-round pick out of Syracuse in 2002. He spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Colts. Freeney has 107.5 sacks in 163 games.
After signing Leon Washington on Thursday, the Patriots are hosting Colts end Dwight Freeney in addition to Falcons end John Abraham and Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson today, according to league sources. Tom Curran of CSNNE.com first reported the Freeney visit.
Analysis: End and safety were both spots that we targeted for veteran competition at the least. Figure the Patriots to sign one end. Abraham (6-4, 263) is much closer to what the Patriots look for at end compared to Freeney (6-1, 268), but the Patriots have great respect for the former Colt. Abraham, who will be 35 in May, is a year older. Both would probably be looked at as situational pass rushers to get in a rotation with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. The Patriots had nothing at defensive end when Jones got hurt midway through the season, and especially when he couldn't play in the AFC Championship game. Patriots can't let that happen again.
Wilson, 33, is a tough, durable and smart safety. He has 27 interceptions and 87 passes defensed in 13 seasons. The Patriots like Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson at safety, but Adrian Wilson would give them options. Most of it would be sorted out in training camp -- no matter what veteran safety they bring in -- depending on healthy, but Wilson could allow McCourty to go back to corner, or keep Tavon Wilson on the bench.
Expect the Patriots to sign a lot of veterans on one-year deals, and then they'll see how the pieces fit in training camp. Remember, there are 90-man rosters. Long ways to go.
NFL.com is reporting that the Patriots will host two free agents Friday: Safety Adrian Wilson and defensive end John Abraham.
Wilson, 33, was with the Cardinals for 12 years before being released March 8. Though he played in 15 games last season (14 starts), he was not often on the field in nickel situations. He recorded 39 tackles, three sacks, one interception, five pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 222-pound Wilson has also visited the 49ers.
Abraham has spent the last seven seasons in Atlanta after beginning his career with the Jets in 2000. The 34-year old was released by the Falcons last week in a salary cap move.
Listed at 6-4, 256 pounds, Abraham played in all 16 games last year with 14 starts and recorded 10 sacks and six forced fumbles, plus 33 tackles and six pass break-ups.
Every year at the NFL spring meetings, the league's Competition Committee presents rules proposals and bylaw changes to team owners. When the meetings start in Phoenix next week, one of the recommendations will eliminate perhaps the most famous -- or infamous -- play reversal in Patriots history.
In a conference call on Thursday, Rams coach and committee member Jeff Fisher announced that Playing Rule Proposal No. 3 "basically changes our tuck rule so that it is a fumble of the player loses possession as he attempts to bring the ball back to his body."
In other words, the very call that made the fumble forced by Oakland's Charles Woodson on Tom Brady in the 2001 divisional playoff an incomplete pass, thus letting the Patriots maintain possession. What happened next is New England lore: Brady completed a pass to David Patten to put the Patriots in field goal range, Adam Vinatieri converted the game-tying kick, and then had the game-winning kick in overtime. Wins in the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl XXXVI followed.
Fisher continued with the proposal: "Obviously, if the passer loses control of the ball as the arm is moving forward, it will still be an incomplete pass, but we now say if in the passing motion he attempts to bring the ball back to his body, even if he completes the tuck, and loses the ball in an attempt to bring the ball back to his body, it will be a fumble.
"The officials on the field now are ruling that it is a fumble and the plays are going to review. We are going to change this to clean this up and eliminate the tuck rule, so to speak."
After the Competition Committee announcement, the Raiders official Twitter page posted, "Tuck Rule? It's been 11 years, 1 month and 23 days...but who's counting?" along with a photo of the play.
Looking to improve their poor kickoff return unit, the Patriots on Thursday signed former Seahawks and Jets running back Leon Washington to a one-year contract.
Washington (5-8, 203 pounds) shares the NFL record with Josh Cribbs (Cleveland free agent) with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns. Washington went to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and '12 and earned All-Pro honors in '07, '08 and '10.
Washington, 30, finished last season averaging 29.0 yards per kickoff (second in the league). The Patriots finished 25th as a team (21.2 yards).
Washington has returned 168 punts for a 9.9-yard average in his career.
Analysis: Wouldn't try to overanalyze what many of these one-year signings mean in the big picture. The Patriots are going to bring in good football players to compete, and whoever wins the job in training camp and stays healthy will win out. So that means Jeff Demps, Danny Woodhead, Washington, and any other elfish running back still on the market could be on the roster heading into training camp. If anything, I think this puts a little more pressure on Demps since he wants to try to participate in both track and football this spring. Doubt the Patriots are thrilled about that.
You probably can't get a better source: free agent kick returner/running back Leon Washington, who was in Foxborough Thursday to visit the Patriots, sent out a tweet Thursday evening saying that he's joined the team and included a photo of himself wearing a team cap.
The Patriots confirmed the signing a short time later.
A fourth-round draft pick of the Jets in 2006, the 5-foot-8-inch, 203-pound Washington has spent the last three seasons with Seattle after a draft day trade in 2010.
Last season, Washington had 27 kickoff returns for 784 yards (29.0 average) and one touchdown, and had 41 punt returns for 356 yards (8.7 average).
A three-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler, including last season, Washington became expendable in Seattle when the team traded for Percy Harvin.
Washington and Josh Cribbs are tied for the NFL record with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
He's not much of a contributor on offense -- he recorded 23 carries for 83 yards and a score last season -- but the Patriots have not had a kickoff return threat in several years. Jeff Demps, signed last year for that purpose, has expressed a desire to return to track.
Former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker joined his new team in Denver Thursday, participating in a press conference at Sports Authority Field at Mile High after signing a two-year deal with the Broncos.
"He brings great experience playing in the playoffs," John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, said to open the session. "There are just so many things that makes this right for us... he's a tremendous fit for us."
Welker was enthusiastic about joining Peyton Manning in Denver.
“Definitely excited about the opportunity," Welker said. "Definitely like to thank New England for the six years there and all the the trust and everything they put in me and the opportunities I got but I'm looking forward to being a Denver Bronco and really trying to help this team win and getting to play with Peyton [Manning] and a good group of receivers, and a good offense, and definitely looking forward to it."
Welker spoke about leaving New England, where he was long a fan favorite.
"As free agency went on, you kind of got the feeling that, start looking for other opportunities," Welker said. "Denver I felt would be a great fit for me with their offense and how they run things, and everything else, so it worked out."
Welker was asked if he thought there was a good chance he would stay with the Patriots after Tom Brady restructured his contract, thus creating more cap space to re-sign the slot receiver.
"You never know with those deals," Welker said. "You just try not to think about it too much, you just try to focus on you, and for me it's just working out and getting ready for the next year and not really trying to worry about all that."
Welker was asked what made the Broncos so attractive to him.
"I think they have a great quarterback, they have a great team," Welker said. "They went 14-2 last year [13-3 actually]. They're a great team, and I want to win. I felt like it was a good opportunity for me."
He was asked how difficult it was to part ways with Brady.
"Yeah, that was definitely probably the hardest part was leaving Tom," Welker said. "He's a great competitor, a great player, a great friend, across the board, so I wish the best to him."
"For me, it was really probably two teams I was very interested in playing for," Welker added. "This was definitely one of them. I was just excited about the opportunity, and really looking forward to it."
Welker said he tried to sell Elway on his services.
"I was probably the one pitching to him," Welker said. "Trying to make this happen and everything else. Finally, we were able to get together and get a deal done.
"I want to win. That above everything, and we figure out the money part, and all that stuff later, and winning was a big thing for me."
Welker was asked if he felt underappreciated or undervalued in New England after six record-setting seasons with the Patriots.
"I think that's all relative," Welker said. "I'm a Denver Bronco now, and I'm excited about it and I'm really not looking in the past on it, just looking forward."
Welker was asked about the differences between playoff football and regular-season football, something Elway alluded to in his opening remarks.
"It's a completely different ballgame," Welker said. "It's a completely different season, and you're out there, the hits are a little harder, the throws are a little tighter, and everybody's laying it on the line every single week and you got to make sure you're up for that challenge and ready to go."
Welker said he's texted Manning a few times and he's excited to start working with the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback.
Welker was asked if he's heard from Bill Belichick since deciding to leave the Patriots.
"No, I mean, we talked and stuff through the process," Welker said. "We wish each other the best and everything else and everything was on good terms."
Welker was asked again by a New England-based reporter if any lingering friction between him and the Patriots coach led to his exit.
"I feel like everything was good," Welker said. "I think any time you're a competitor, you're going to clash at times but overall we've always had a great relationship and everything's on good terms and I have no ill feelings or anything else. I thank the fans there and everything else and I look forward to bringing my same style of play here to Denver and trying to help this team win."
The New England Patriots lost WR Wes Welker to the Broncos in free agency, but signed WR Danny Amendola. CineSport's Noah Coslov and The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard discuss the moves.
Patriots media relations sent an e-mail confirming the signing of wide receiver Danny Amendola to a free agent contract. Terms were not included, but a league source has confirmed it is a five-year, $31 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
What's interesting is that there was a quote from Bill Belichick on the signing:
"We are excited about Danny’s addition to our team and we look forward to beginning work with him this spring and into the future," Belichick said.
The Patriots have yet to release an official statement on Tom Brady's contract extension, and the team doesn't often comment on signings. But it did for Amendola, the replacement for Wes Welker.
The collective bargaining appeals panel has allowed the NFL Management Council, on behalf of the Patriots, to proceed with an attempt to recoup "some or all" of the $3.85 million signing bonus that they gave Jonathan Fanene last March, according to documents obtained from a league source.
No date has been set for the hearing.
The NFLPA, on behalf of Fanene, sought to dismiss the action brought by the NFLMC and the Patriots. That motion was denied.
Fanene is due the final $1.35 million of his signing bonus on March 31. The Patriots have told Fanene and his agent, Angelo Wright, that they won't pay the final installment.
According to the documents, the Patriots are alleging that Fanene, on his physical questionnaire, "falsely concealed his dependency on prescription drugs in order to play effectively." They're going to have to prove that Fanene was self medicating for his arthritic left knee without the team's knowledge. That may be difficult.
Fanene was released on Aug. 21 with a "failure to disclose a physical condition." That allowed the Patriots to, if they chose, to come after Fanene's bonus.
The first to sign was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who went to Denver on a one-year deal worth a reported $5 million.
Also Wednesday night, the Chargers signed former Jacksonville CB Derek Cox for a reported four years, $20 million - with $10.25 million guaranteed.
And Thursday afternoon, the Chiefs added former Dolphin Sean Smith. Smith, who had been courted by a few teams, received three years, $18 million with $11 million guaranteed from Kansas City, according to NFL.com.
So what does all of this mean for the Patriots' free agent corner, Aqib Talib? Probably that he shouldn't expect to break the bank. Smith and Cox in particular were considered the top players available at the position, along with Talib.
But things have clearly changed for cornerbacks: last year, Lardarius Webb received six years, $52.74 million with $10 million guaranteed to remain in Baltimore; Tampa Bay got Eric Wright away from Detroit with a five year, $37.5 million contract that guaranteed $15.5 million, and Brandon Carr became a Cowboy when he was given five years, $50.1 million and half of it guaranteed.
In other words, it's a bad year to be a free agent corner, and the market might be playing into the Patriots' hands if they want to keep Talib around.
Just don't mistake it for a revolution. The Patriots parted ways with Welker because they feel a slightly new direction for the offense is needed to win another Super Bowl.
It’s definitely a road with more risk. The easiest thing in the world would have been to bring the ever-reliable Welker back and continue with the same offense, only with a better, younger and more explosive replacement for Brandon Lloyd as the boundary receiver.
But sometimes you have to risk something to gain something. I think that’s what the Patriots believe. I don’t know this, but it’s been there on film all season. It was only reinforced with the loss to the Ravens in the AFC Championship. And I’m on board with it. Have been for a while.
This has been difficult for me to process because no one is a bigger Welker fan than I am. No one knows his real value – the dependability, how he always gets up after catches – than I do. I covered him since he was an undrafted guy with the Dolphins.
But to grab the ring again, the Patriots needed to let Welker go (and upgrade the defense, but that’s another discussion).
If the Patriots only had one standout tight end, Welker would absolutely be the right guy to go forward with this offense. But because they have invested so much in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Welker became more expendable. Why? Because all three like to work in the middle of the field. It makes the Patriots easier to defend. That’s how the Jets beat the Patriots in 2010, and it factored into how the Ravens beat the Patriots this year.
Basically, the Patriots are better than anyone inside the numbers. But to realize their full potential offensively, they have to get better on the outside. The Patriots can stay the same on the inside without Welker, and other players will, in theory, make them better on the outside.
Look at the past three Super Bowl champions. The Packers had terrific inside and outside receivers. The Giants had Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham on the outside, Victor Cruz inside and solid tight end play. The Ravens had Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside and Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta on the inside.
All three of those teams were much tougher to defend in all areas of the field than the Patriots of the past three seasons. That's what this move is designed to improve.
Do not mistake the Patriots’ move simply as a one-for-one swap, Danny Amendola for Wes Welker. While they may be of similar size, they are completely different players. Amendola is a much more dynamic athlete, is taller, with longer arms and is better down the field. He’s terrific with the ball in his hands. While Welker can break man coverage in the slot better than anyone, Amendola is close to Welker in that regard but much better after the catch in terms of making players miss.
Yes, Welker led the league in yards after the catch again, but Amendola (and Julian Edelman if he’s re-signed) can be better. Welker gets what’s blocked on screen plays – and few follow and set up blockers better – but Amendola can make more people miss. That’s what the Patriots want on the outside at their Z position.
The other part of the Patriots’ offense evolving is finding an explosive boundary receiver with similar traits (but obviously less skill) to Randy Moss. I don’t see many of those types available in free agency, but the Patriots could pull a trade out of the hat (Ryan Mallett and a future pick for Larry Fitzgerald anyone? Was told today there's no chance of that trade happening).
I think that’s a long shot, but the draft has great depth there. I know the Patriots haven’t found anyone there since 2002, but I’m willing to bet the Patriots have spent the offseason, similar to 2010 with the tight ends, examining the draftable receivers. If they do half as well with receivers as they did with the tight ends in the ’10 draft, they’d be thrilled.
They have to find a receiver in a draft. It’s a must. DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Keenan Allen (Cal), Terrance Williams (Baylor), and Markus Wheaton (Oregon State) are among those who have that type of potential.
So by taking Welker out, and bringing in receivers that are better on the edge – of both the boundary and short-area variety – the Patriots think that gives them the best chance to take the offense to the next level.
Obviously it’s a risky move. Probably the most danger lurks in injuries – and not just on the offensive side of the ball. Not only has Amendola missed 20 games the past two seasons (Welker missed three in eight seasons), but Hernandez, Gronkowski and Edelman (if he returns) have had trouble staying on the field. And if the Patriots re-sign the oft-injured Aqib Talib at cornerback, you’re talking about five fairly key players who have alarming injury histories and could greatly affect the Patriots’ chances should they go down.
The argument is there to be made that if the Patriots just maintained the status quo on offense, found a legitimate deep threat, and improved more on defense, then that was the path to another Super Bowl title. That road is certainly less painful and has more known quantities.
But often, to win something, you have to risk something. Jim Harbaugh swapped Colin Kaepernick for Alex Smith, and went to a Super Bowl. John Harbaugh swapped Jim Caldwell for Cam Cameron at offensive coordinator – during the season – and won a Super Bowl. Bill Belichick released Lawyer Milloy days before the 2003 season, and won a Super Bowl.
The Patriots feel moving on from Welker will make them better in the biggest games, and I agree with the plan (though I would have handled the end with Welker differently).
Plans don’t mean anything unless you execute them.
A few things are boiling on the Patriots' front:
- Bills free-agent receiver Donald Jones is visiting the Patriots today, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News.
I like Jones (6-0, 208 pounds) a lot. Think he's a bit underrated. Not sure why the Bills didn't bring him back. He's a very well-rounded receiver. Does a little bit of everything well, including run blocking.
- Seahawks kick returner/running back Leon Washington is visiting the Patriots today, according to Adam Schefter.
Obviously a superb kick returner. I don't think the Patriots need Washington – they have Jeff Demps in this role – but it gives them another option should Demps go nuts with this track thing, or get injured again. The Patriots showed interest in Josh Cribbs, but he's likely going to the Cardinals, though that's not a done deal yet.
- Patriots are still trying to land Aqib Talib as their No. 1 cornerback, but obviously Talib's camp isn't happy with the contract offer or he'd be signed by now. Patriots are playing the market. They have started to get in the mix with more cornerbacks since Talib is dragging his feet, so look for some visits to come to fruition. They still need to sign one or two more beyond Talib.
Globe NFL reporter Greg A. Bedard answered readers' questions about the Wes Welker move, acquisition of Danny Amendola and more. Review the discussion in the chat window below.
No sooner did the Patriots bid adieu to Wes Welker than they brought aboard the player they likely believe will pick up where Welker left off: Danny Amendola.
Amendola, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the St. Louis Rams, has signed a five-year deal reported to be worth $31 million, with $10 million guaranteed.
New England had Amendola in its sights for months, and at 27, he is four years younger than Welker. But Amendola hasn't been a model of durability: He's played 12 games in the last two years, including just one in 2011, when Josh McDaniels was his offensive coordinator with the Rams.
Listed at 5 feet 11 inches, 188 pounds, Amendola has 196 receptions for 1,726 yards (8.8 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns in his career; he also has experience as a kickoff and punt returner.
Amendola is the third player McDaniels coached in St. Louis who is now with the Patriots, following Brandon Lloyd and Michael Hoomanawanui.
Wes Welker is leaving the Patriots.
After six seasons and 672 receptions in New England, Welker has agreed to a two-year deal with the Broncos, according to two league sources.
The Patriots made a late run at retaining Welker, but it likely was too late after their initial contract offer was well below what the receiver was expecting.
Welker's deal with the Broncos is two years at $12 million and could go to $14 million. The Patriots' initial offer to Welker -- after both sides said all the right things about a future together -- was for two years and $10 million.
It is not known what the Patriots' final offer was. They very well could have matched the offer, but by then Welker could have felt so insulted by a perceived lack of respect that he was walking out the door in any event.
As an added bonus: Welker, Peyton Manning and the Broncos play at Gillette Stadium against the Patriots this season.
The Broncos, who tied for the league's best record at 13-3 before losing to the Ravens in the playoffs, now have Welker in the middle with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside.
At this moment, the Patriots have Brandon Lloyd -- who they would prefer to release -- Matthew Slater (special teamer) and three unknowns, Andre Holmes, Kamar Aiken and Jeremy Ebert, at receiver.
As for where the Patriots go from here, expect them to aggressively pursue Rams receiver Danny Amendola, who is more athletically gifted than Welker but has trouble staying healthy.
The departure of Welker allows the Patriots to go with the offensive approach that they showed against the Cardinals in Week 2 last season: Lloyd or another boundary receiver (perhaps in the draft), Aaron Hernandez in the slot for Welker, Rob Gronkowski at receiver, and players in the ilk of Julian Edelman and Amendola on the other side at receiver.
Update, 3:26 p.m. The Globe's Greg Bedard just posted this tweet on Wes Welker:
Broncos deal with Patriots WR Wes Welker "very likely," according to a league source.— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) March 13, 2013
3:03 p.m. The Denver Broncos are in serious talks to sign Patriots free agent wide receiver Wes Welker, league sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter. The report says a decision is expected sometime on Wednesday.
The Patriots used their franchise tag on the 31-year-old Welker last season, but let him reach free agency this season. Welker led the Patriots with 118 catches and 1,354 receiving yards last season to go with six touchdowns.
The Broncos are in serious talks to sign receiver Wes Welker away from the Patriots, two league sources said Wednesday, confirming a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
One of the sources said a deal between Welker and the Broncos was "very likely."
As recently as the combine, Broncos sources said they would not in the bidding for Welker because at least some influential members of the front office didn't see him as a perfect fit because they wanted to get better at tight end first. And there was no interest in Welker from the Broncos on the first day of free agency.
But that changed Wednesday. Not only are the Broncos interested, they're pushing hard for a deal by the end of the day.
The Broncos very well could have been keeping their real interest in Welker quiet -- the majority opinion in the Broncos front office was that Welker was a terrific fit for their team -- in an effort to trick the Patriots into thinking there was no market for Welker, and then stealing him from them.
It may have worked perfectly. After the Welker camp and the Patriots spent considerable time making nice to each other and talking about a future together from the end of the season until the week before free agency, the reality is that when a contract offer did come from the Patriots, it was well below where the sides had been last year and very likely insulted Welker. The offer read like the Patriots thought there was no market for Welker, and that they'd at least have a chance to match. That may or may not happen.
After the Patriots made their offer to Welker, that's when the Broncos, who previously showed no interest, pounced, and it might end up being a huge coup. It takes Tom Brady's most trusted receiver away, and gives Peyton Manning the type of reliable slot receiver he's been lacking to go along with weapons in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
ProFootballTalk reported Thomas received a four-year, $14 million contract from Indianapolis, solid money and likely a sign the 27-year old will be in the mix for a starting job.
Thomas started seven games last year, six of them at left guard when leg injuries forced Logan Mankins to miss time.
The Colts also re-signed another former Patriot on Tuesday, rewarding the strong play of Darius Butler with a two-year deal.
Thomas and Butler are represented by the same agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
Former Patriots director of player personnel Scott Pioli was on NFL Network in his role as analyst a few minutes ago when he was asked about the Patriots' philosophy for accumulating draft picks.
While Pioli was talking, another analyst's microphone was left on -- likely that of Warren Sapp -- and some embarrassing audio came out over the broadcast.
"It's the same [expletive] spew that we had Mike Lombardi do," the voice said. "The [expletive] Bill Belichick [expletive] angle."
With only one viable CB on the roster, the Patriots must add depth to the position. CineSport's Noah Coslov and the Boston Globe's Greg Bedard discuss this and how the new CBA impacts free agency.
The Patriots did tender tight end Michael Hoomanwanui at the minimum level – which gives them the right to match or receive a fifth-round pick in return – for $1.323 million, according to a league source.
It's a little bit of a surprise that the Patriots tendered him at all, considering his play was average and the team has three better tight ends – Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Jake Ballard.
The Patriots could have released Hoomanwanui and re-signed him at closer to the $630,000 minimum salary. They chose to keep him.
Trying to keep up on what's going on around the league as free agency started at 4 p.m.:
- Only Patriots-related report is from Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Patriots are in the lead for WR/KR Joshua Cribbs. I wouldn't view him as a Wes Welker replacement -- Cribbs has a lot to prove as a receiver -- but he is a good all-around player who can definitely help special teams.
- Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com reports Cribbs is leaning towards signing with the Cardinals;
- Welker and the Patriots are going to dance a while -- could be a week. Both sides aren't close on a deal. What the Patriots have offered is not a real offer. Still think he finds a way to return. Both sides know where the other is. All it takes is one call one way or the other and it's over. Not sure how much of a market is out there for him.
- Aqib Talib, Sebastian Vollmer, and Julian Edelman have all apparently become free agents, so anything can happen.
- Browns have reached agreement with Ravens OLB Paul Kruger.
- WR Mike Wallace looks headed to the Dolphins.
- WR Greg Jennings was on ESPN, and his market sounded like crickets. Don't see him as an ideal fit with the Patriots, but maybe they could get in it at some point.
- Eagles have released CB Nnamdi Asomugha.
- TE Martellus Bennett is on his way to the Bears.
- TE Anthony Fasano is headed to the Chiefs and could be signing.
- Titans have reached agreement with former Bills guard Andy Levitre.
- Bills released QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad.
- Titans are hot after 49ers TE Delanie Walker.
- S Dashon Goldson is on his way to the Bucs via plane. Looks strong for him to sign there.
- Former BC OT Gosder Cherilus is headed to the Lions.
- Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe has agreed to terms with the Dolphins, according to the Baltimore Sun. Dolphins have also re-signed safety Chris Clemmons;
- Patriots backup guard Donald Thomas signed with the Colts. Will get a chance to compete for a starting job, which is what he was looking for;
To accompany my Patriots free agency story, here's the way I see the Patriots' depth chart as they begin the team-building period with free agency opening at 4 p.m (click on each image for larger version):
The NFL is unveiled a new partnership with GE in New York City on Monday afternoon, and among the league big wigs on hand was Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Kraft chatted with media members who were on hand, and according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Daily News, Kraft told reporters, "We want Wes (Welker). We really do."
An ESPN reporter also posted some of Kraft's comments on Twitter: "I love Wes Welker. I hope he remains a Patriot for life. Just like Tom Brady."
Signs still point to Welker remaining with New England, with the two sides finally coming to a contract agreement sooner rather than later.
At the Super Bowl in New Orleans last month, Kraft was asked about Welker, and he said at the time, "I’d love him to be around as well. He’s a great guy; like I said all along, it takes two sides to make a transaction, and then we have to manage the lawyers and the agents, that they don’t mess it up. I think Wes wants to be with us and we want him here. It’s just a matter of whether both sides can be intelligent."
- Bold move by the Seahawks to trade for Vikings receiver Percy Harvin. The cost: a first- and seventh-round pick this year, and a mid-round pick next year, plus a new contract that's going to be worth more than $10 million per season;
- There is zero chance the Patriots were going to pay anywhere close to that. I could see them doing it for the picks if the contract didn't have to be adjusted and the player was fine with that (Harvin wasn't). The Patriots have never paid at receiver, and they're certainly not going to throw picks on top of that;
- This is going to be a real boom or bust pick for the Seahawks, who might be good enough to deal with any of the problems that Harvin, a spoiled brat of a diva with injury issues, presents. Teams get in a lot of trouble when they give out big contracts to people who might not see the end of them for various reasons (age, injury, performance, drama). Harvin is a worry in three of those departments;
- Still believe that Wes Welker will be back with the Patriots, and I don't think the timing of it (before free agency) is as important as some people think it is;
- According to multiple sources, the Patriots would like to get cornerback Aqib Talib done soon. This makes sense for a few reasons: a) the Patriots don't have any real cornerbacks beyond Alfonzo Dennard; b) the Patriots gave up a fourth-round pick for Talib so if he walks, it would look pretty bad; c) with a flooded market at cornerback, the Patriots are probably playing the, "You should take our deal because once you get out there, your price is only going to do down.";
- Whether Talib takes the bait could be a different matter, but like I wrote after the combine, the Patriots wants Talib back and he's their top target at No. 1 cornerback;
- The Patriots can't afford Dolphins free agent cornerback Sean Smith. Unless they're laying in the weeds, it would be a longshot for them to land him;
- If the Patriots get Talib back, I would figure them to be in on guys like Keenan Lewis (Steelers), Nnamdi Asomugha (Eagles), Derek Cox (Jaguars), Quentin Jammer (Chargers), Antoine Cason (Chargers), Chris Houston (Lions) and Cary Williams (Ravens). The Patriots could pit Kyle Arrington and Brice McCain against each other at slot corner;
- There is a lot of chatter in the agent community that Roger Goodell's shocking memo before the start of the legal tampering period was, at its basis, a form of collusion by the league. A handful of teams I talked to at the combine thought the three-day negotiating window would be a windfall for the players as they jacked up prices on the top free agents. Funny how that suddenly went away when Goodell issued a memo shortly before the period that scared everyone out of talking numbers. Agents are saying that the teams are now using the three-day window to their advantage by trying to get the players to take the cheaper deals in hand rather than risk losing money once the market stops. We've seen that with some of the deals struck over the weekend for players to stay where they are.
One Patriot who has flown under the radar with NFL free agency set to begin on Tuesday is offensive lineman Donald Thomas.
A league source said on Wednesday that the Patriots have shown interest in re-signing Thomas, but it is “fully expected” that he will test the market.
The 27-year-old Thomas, who is a Connecticut native, played in all 16 regular-season games as well as New England’s two playoff games last season. He started seven games, all but one at left guard.
With Logan Mankins missing time because of leg injuries, Thomas stepped up in his absence and played well, particularly since Thomas said previously he didn’t much like being at left guard.
His performance likely has teams looking at him as a starter, and thus he’ll garner starter’s money. New England has a good amount of money tied up in Mankins and Dan Connolly, and if Thomas would continue to be a backup with the team the Patriots would want to pay him that way.
Since his New Haven high school didn’t offer the sport, Thomas did not play football until he arrived at the University of Connecticut, and in a short time worked his way from scout-team defensive lineman to All-Big East guard, and then a sixth-round draft pick of the Dolphins.
After 17 games and 13 starts over two seasons in Miami, Thomas was cut out of training camp in 2010; a stint with Detroit followed, and he was signed by the Patriots at the start of the 2011 season.
Here are a few of the guidelines that teams must adhere to with the new three-day negotiating period this weekend:
- Period starts at midnight on Saturday and ends at 3:59 p.m. on Tuesday. So, it's actually about 8887 hours long (with daylight savings time begins this weekend);
- Teams can only contact the agents and enter into negotiations. No contracts can be executed until free agency starts at 4 p.m. on Tuesday;
- Teams can't meet with players (other than the player's current club) in any location, and there can be no direct contact between the player and another team;
- Players who don't have an agent, such as Ravens safety Ed Reed, can't be contacted by another team;
- No visits can be lined up until free agency starts at 4 p.m. Tuesday;
- The three-day window only applies to potential unrestricted free agents. It excludes restricted free agents and franchise players.
Everybody take a deep breath and relax.
My advice: Ignore the noise that dominates this time of year because things happen so quickly.
The bottom line is this: Not much has changed since my offseason primer piece -- Welker is expected to remain with the Patriots on a new multiyear contract at some point, according to multiple sources. Yes, anything can happen when a player hits free agency, but the odds are strong that he remains with the Patriots. It would be an upset if that didn't happen.
Don’t read anything into the fact that a deal hasn’t been done yet. It means nothing.
As for Jason Cole’s Yahoo! report on the Welker situation, I had a few thoughts on that as well:
- First off, Cole is one of the best. Been a mentor of mine since my South Florida days. He doesn’t write for clicks or attention, unlike some people out there;
- What he wrote was accurate, but some of the stuff is dated;
- Welker had “mild disdain” – actually, a lot more than mild – for what happened early in the season (specifically the Arizona game) and it did stick in his craw for most of the season. I didn’t write he was being phased out for no reason. But, Welker and Bill Belichick got past that at some point during the season. I think the team began to see Welker in a new light after everyone else kept getting hurt, yet Welker endured, and so did the offense;
- Welker never complained internally or externally about what was going on, which earns points from the Patriots;
- Yes, last season did leave a little paranoia in the Welker camp about how the team sees him. But that’s also a byproduct of the way Belichick operates. There isn’t much communication from him on what’s going on and why, Belichick just expects the player to fill the role they tell him to;
- The improved relations between the team and Welker was the impetus for the story that I wrote before the Texans’ playoff game. Both sides have largely moved past that. But Welker isn’t just going to forget that. However, like I said, that’s in the past and both sides are in a new place.
I expect Welker to remain with the Patriots. Is there a chance it might not happen? Sure. The sides got very close to a deal last year after Welker signed his franchise tag, but couldn’t get it done. This does not seem like the same situation. I think the Patriots have chosen their path, and it’s only a matter of time before it gets done.
Free agency begins March 12, although teams can begin negotiating with players' agents on Saturday.
Welker had 118 receptions for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns in 2012, and he averaged 11.5 yards per catch. He has spent the last six seasons in New England, and made $9.5 million last season after the Patriots used the franchise tag to lock him into a one-year deal.
According to a Yahoo! Sports report Tuesday, Welker still has "mild disdain" for the Patriots because his role appeared to be reduced at the start of last season. He also expressed disappointment over contract negotiations before last season.
Editor's note: The second in an occasional series on NFL draft prospects that would be a good fit for the Patriots. The NFL draft is April 25-27.
Name: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Overview: Patterson's stock shot up after his 2012 season, one in which he was expected to be no more than the third receiver in the Vols' offense. But after an injury to teammate Da'Rick Rogers, Patterson exploded. The junior finished with 46 catches for 778 yards and 5 receiving touchdowns.
He's a fast receiver, able to get separation with his 4.42 speed. But he also is versatile. He scored touchdowns in four ways (receiving, rushing, punt return, kick return). His three rushing TDs were third-best for Tennessee.
With only three receivers under contract at this moment, the Patriots should be eyeing receivers such as Patterson, tall and fast. And as you'll see from his highlights above, his ability to change direction on the fly is phenomenal.
The Patriots would love for him to fall to them at No. 29.
Workout results (combine)
40-yard dash: 4.42
The National Football Foundation released the names of 77 players up for consideration for induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, and eight of them are former Patriots.
Andre Tippett, Tedy Bruschi, Vinny Testaverde, Tony Franklin, Charlie Gogolak, Mike Ruth, Rod Shoate, and Don Trull are all on the ballot.
The Hall of Fame class will be revealed at noon May 7 in New York City. The awards dinner is slated for Dec. 10.
A look at the former Patriots:
Tedy Bruschi, Arizona, defensive end -- Two-time first-team All-American (1994, ’95) … Tied NCAA career record with 52 sacks … 1995 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and three-time first-team All-Pac-10 selection … Helped lead Arizona to three bowls.
Tony Franklin, Texas A&M, placekicker -- Two-time first-team All-American (1976, ’78) … Set seven NCAA records, including most 50-yard-plus field goals (15) and most points by a kicker in a career (291).
Charlie Gogolak, Princeton, placekicker -- 1965 first-team All-American … Set seven NCAA records ... Played on 8-1 Princeton team in 1965 … Two-time first-team All-Ivy … Holds four school records … Revolutionized kicking game utilizing the soccer-style technique.
Mike Ruth, Boston College, nose guard -- 1985 first-team All-American and Outland Trophy winner … Three-time All-East and All-ECAC selection … Member of three bowl teams ... Recorded 344 career tackles, including 29 sacks.
Rod Shoate, Oklahoma, linebacker -- Two-time first-team All-American (1973, '74) ... Finished seventh in 1974 Heisman Trophy voting and twice was named Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year … Ranks third in school history with 420 career tackles.
Vinny Testaverde, Miami, quarterback -- Winner of 1986 Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award, and Davey O’Brien Award … Led Hurricanes to three bowl berths, including 1987 Fiesta Bowl to determine national championship… Had 6,058 career passing yards and 48 TD passes.
Andre Tippett, Iowa, defensive end -- 1981 first-team All-American who led Hawkeyes to 1982 Rose Bowl …Two-time first-team All-Big Ten performer …Holds Iowa record for tackles-for-loss yardage (20 TFL/153 yards).
Don Trull, Baylor, quarterback -- First-team All-American who led the nation with 22 touchdown passes in 1963 … Set school record with 174 completions in 1963 … Twice named first-team Academic All-American.
Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series about NFL draft prospects that would be a good fit for the Patriots. The NFL draft is April 25-27.
Name: D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina
Overview: As a senior last season, Swearinger was a ball hawk, picking up second-team All-SEC honors after recording 79 tackles, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and seven passes defensed.
He is known for his hard-hitting play, which contrasts sharply with the styles of Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, the Patriots' current starting safety duo.
But the key with Swearinger, who reportedly met with the Patriots during the NFL combine, is his versatility. He has played cornerback, defended slot receivers, and has moved back and forth between free and strong safety. In 2012, he split time at corner and free safety.
After performing at a high level in the talented SEC, he is projected to go in the second or third round of the draft. His 40-yard dash time (4.67) did not help his cause. But his quickness, as evidenced by his cone drill (6.70), was outstanding and showed he has the ability to make up for a lack of straight-line speed.
Workout results (combine)
40-yard dash: 4.67
Bench press (225 pounds): 17 reps
Wes Welker, now an un-tagged soon to be full-blown unrestricted free agent, has reservations about his role with the Patriots, according to a report.
The Patriots' star receiver caught a team-high 118 passes this past season, but was upset about his season-low five targets in the opener against the Tennessee Titans, according to Yahoo! Sports, which cites a source close to Welker.
At the time, the Patriots were favoring wide receiver Julian Edelman in the offense, which led to an epic debate about Welker's role as a prominent piece of the offense and Edelman's rise on the team. The situation changed after Edelman hurt his hand in a Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He missed three games and Welker's receptions rose significantly in the weeks ahead. But apparently the issue stuck with him.
That bit of tweaking stuck in Welker's craw all season. So did the notion that if tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski hadn't both gotten hurt at different times, there's a strong belief that Welker would have been limited to far fewer than the 118 receptions he finished with last season. In short, there's a little paranoia in the Welker camp these days about his role with the Pats.
Welker will become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. March 12.
- With only eight franchise tags being issued league-wide, that’s further evidence that most front offices think the supply will outweigh the demand this year on the free-agent market. The franchise tags are just too rich at several positions, specifically receiver and cornerback;
- I expect the Patriots to be trying to hammer out deals with WR Wes Welker, CB Aqib Talib, RT Sebastian Vollmer, CB Kyle Arrington and WR Julian Edelman before free agency starts a week from today;
- Welker stands the best chance to get done, and I’d be fairly surprised if it’s not done by the start of free agency or very early in the period;
- Have a hard time seeing Talib and Vollmer agreeing to a deal before at least seeing what other teams have to offer during the Friday-Monday legal tampering period. Talib especially wants to maximize his value. Vollmer could take a deal fearing a watered down market, but I doubt it;
- I think the Patriots feel they might be able to get two or three good cornerbacks for the price of one Talib – without the baggage;
- Vollmer’s a very good player when healthy, but what exactly is the prognosis for his back? Only the team knows. In any event, right tackles should be replaceable though Vollmer’s real value is that he can play left tackle well if needed. Somebody might pay him to play left tackle. I wouldn’t doubt that at all;
- The Patriots feel very confident in Marcus Cannon taking over at right tackle. I don’t share that same optimism, but my resume is a square of toilet paper compared to line coach Dante Scarnecchia. I wouldn’t rule out a draft pick there.
The Patriots opted not to use their franchise tag for the 2013 season; the NFL deadline to designate a franchise player for the coming season was 4 p.m. Monday.
But New England was not alone: only eight teams opted to tag a player, a far cry from the record 21 who used it last year.
It is the first time since 2008 that the team has not used the tag.
There were three players who were candidates for the Patriots' tag: WR Wes Welker, CB Aqib Talib and OT Sebastian Vollmer. But tagging any of the three would have been cost prohibitive -- the tag for cornerbacks is $10.854 million, and offensive linemen is $9.828 million.
Since Welker was New England's franchise player for 2012, franchising him again would cost 120 percent of his salary from last year. At $9.515 million for '12, the number for Welker for '13 would be $11.42 million.
The Patriots now have to make a decision whether to attempt to re-sign the three.
New England has used the franchise tag eight times.
The next date on the NFL calendar is March 12, when contracts expire at 4 p.m. and free agency officially begins.
Tom Brady's three-year, $27 million contract extension has been praised as being extraordinarily team-friendly. It's also been accused of being phony, as in the Patriots must have some kind of agreement under the table to pay Brady more than the $7 million due in his final season. One of the best quarterbacks in the history of the league must be making more, right?
Patriots owner Robert Kraft answered those questions, telling Sports Illustrated's Peter King that the deal is legitimate.
"No, no, no,'' Kraft told SI. "This is a real deal. Look at our track record. We don't do fake deals. The contract we have with Tom Brady is a real contract we will both live by."
Kraft said the deal was something he'd been thinking about for three or four years, and that he was motivated as a fan of Brady's not to see his quarterback finish his career somewhere else.
"I was just trying to stay ahead of the curve," said Kraft. "If we were going to have to pay him elite-quarterback money and have elite-quarterback cap numbers, I just didn't think we would be able to build a team. We don't want to have a team where we're paying 18 to 20 percent to a player on the cap. I wanted to do something elegant that would work for everybody. I had been talking to him off and on for maybe 18 months, about how I wanted him to finish his career here, and about how we both have to be smart about it. I just really want him to end his career a Patriot.''
The owner and the player brokered the framework of the deal on a six-hour plane ride, Kraft told King.
"I credit Tom for doing the right thing and thinking outside the box," said Kraft. "That's what we're trying to do as an organization, and certainly what Bill Belichick tries to do as a coach. If you don't have a good coach and a quarterback, you don't have much of a chance to win. We are fortunate that we have both who are way above par. Tom is everything that we want."
Hix, an offensive lineman, spent the past two seasons on injured reserve after originally being picked up by the Patriots in 2011. Fullback Larsen joined the Patriots in 2012 as an unrestricted free agent out of Denver, but spent the season on injured reserve with a knee injury.
The Patriots released FB Spencer Larsen and OT Kyle Hix on Friday. Both spent all of last season on injured reserve.
Larsen, 28, was signed as a free agent last offseason after playing for Josh McDaniels in Denver. He was placed on IR with a knee injury on Aug. 27.
Hix, listed at 6-7, 315 pounds, was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2011, but spent both the 2011 and '12 seasons on injured reserve.
As a player with two years experience, Hix is subject to the waiver system.
There has been a lot of talk about the $3 million option bonus the Patriots may or may not pay Brandon Lloyd - it is not expected they will - but when do they have to make that decision?
Lloyd's option must be exercised between the first day of the league year and the fifth. For 2013, that means after 4 p.m. on March 12 but before the end of the day on March 16.
Free agency also starts on March 12. So the Patriots could survey the landscape on the players available at receiver and make a decision on Lloyd based on whether or not they think there is a better option out there.
Lloyd's behavior was erratic in the locker room, both with media and teammates, and on the practice field as well, part of the reason why he's unlikely to return.
If Lloyd is released, the Patriots will save $4.9 million against the salary cap for 2013.