|02.17.15 at 2:45 pm ET|
In what could be a precursor of the tone of talks with the Patriots, Darrelle Revis looked at 2014 as a one-year deal to earn a long-term commitment from the Patriots. Of course, as Jets owner Woody Johnson learned after the season, the superstar shutdown corner is actually signed for 2015 at a $20 million price tag.
According to Pro Football Talk, Revis was thinking along the same lines as Johnson when he actually inked the contract with the Patriots in March 2014.
All of this began last March when the Buccaneers cut him, realizing they didn’t want to give up a high draft pick to the Jets and pay a $1.5 million bonus. Bill Belichick hopped on the chance quickly to get the shutdown corner he desperately wanted to upgrade from the departed Aqib Talib.
The contract, when it was first reported, was for one year, with a handshake agreement that the two sides would both revisit in March 2015. But that was not the case. The Patriots and Revis came to agreement on a second season. That second season provided a degree of insurance for both player and team, at a cost of a $20 million payout for the ’15 season to Revis if a long-term deal could not be struck.
But according to Pro Football Talk, that was not the understanding Revis had.
Revis and his representatives Schwartz & Feinsod felt the second year was designed to allow the Patriots to divide the signing bonus over two years, for cap purposes. In other words, either sign a new contract with the Patriots or be released by March 9 and sign a new deal elsewhere. The placeholder concept, according to PFT, was a bit of a curveball.
The $20 million is fully guaranteed but would preclude him from signing a multi-year deal at the top of his game in free agency that could be worth two or three times that amount on the open market. In a sense, the Patriots have a built-in, negotiated franchise tag of their own with Revis.
A complicated story is sure to have more twists and turns before the two sides come to an agreement on what’s next.
|02.17.15 at 12:00 pm ET|
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee, Charles Clay and Rahim Moore. Today we’re featuring Jerry Hughes.
Position: Defensive end
Age: 26 (Aug. 13, 1988)
Weight: 254 pounds
The skinny: Hughes just wrapped up the end of his rookie contract with the Bills, after he was traded to Buffalo from Indianapolis in April of 2013 for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. The Colts drafted Hughes in the first round, No. 31 overall in the 2010 draft. The change in scenery did a great deal for the TCU product, as in three seasons with the Colts he recorded just five sacks, but in only two as a member of the Bills he recorded 19.5 sacks. He was part of one of the best defensive lines in football last season, as Buffalo finished with 54 sacks as a team, which led the entire NFL. Hughes finished the year with 9.5 sacks and 36 tackles.
With Rex Ryan taking over in Buffalo, it doesn’t seem likely Hughes will re-sign, and he will become a free agent for the first time in his career.
By the numbers: In 32 regular-season games in Buffalo, Hughes has five multi-sack games.
Why it would work: With Akeem Ayers likely not to return to the Patriots next season, New England will be in search for a pass rusher, and Hughes can certainly get after the quarterback. The 19.5 sacks in the past two seasons speak for itself, as no one player on the Patriots had more than that the past two seasons (Chandler Jones is the closest with 17.5). He would be a great complement on the defensive line to line up opposite Jones, and the two could team up to be a force in the pass rush, which the Patriots haven’t been known for over the past few seasons. He’s also been durable, playing in all 16 games the past three seasons, and 12 in his first two years in the league.
Why it might not work: This one is pretty simple — money. With the way Hughes has performed in Buffalo the past two years, he’s made a name for himself as a dominant pass rusher, and with how rare good pass rushers are on the open market, Hughes is sure to cash in. A benchmark for a potential Hughes contract would be around $8 million a year, and with the players on the Patriots defense that need their contracts taken care of, (Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty) the money just likely won’t be there for a player like Hughes. While Hughes is a great player, the Patriots don’t seem to be in a position to go out and sign a defensive end of his caliber.
|02.17.15 at 8:09 am ET|
Lost in the weeks following the Super Bowl has been Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin’s personal foul penalty for his inappropriate touchdown celebration (squatting like he was going to the bathroom) after his third quarter touchdown in the Seahawks‘ 28-24 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Appearing on “The Barbershop” on 710 ESPN Seattle radio Monday, Baldwin said, “that would be Darrelle Revis” when asked who the celebration was directed towards, and went on to apologize for his actions.
“I do regret the fact that it cost my team 15 yards and to the fans, ultimately I apologize to anybody I offended in any way,” said Baldwin. “It wasn’t about that. I just think it was a competitive situation. So to all the 12s, all the fans, that’s not what it’s about. So I apologize to anyone if I offended you.”
“In that moment it was just a reaction,” he added. “So obviously if I could go back, I would take it back.”
Baldwin caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson with 4:54 left in the third quarter, which gave Seattle a 24-14 lead at the time, but those would be the final Seahawks points of the game, as the Patriots went on to score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to earn a come-from-behind win.
The catch was his only catch of the game.
“I spent a lot of time those two weeks prior to getting ready for that game just focused on my individual matchup with [Revis] and I put a lot into it, and in that moment, I guess you could say it was just kind of a built-up frustration I was letting out in that sequence, you know, between him and I,” Baldwin said. “Obviously there was competitive stuff going on in that game, and in that moment, I just let out what I felt personally.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|02.17.15 at 8:00 am ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line, safety and cornerback and linebacker. Now, we wrap it up with defensive line:
Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Chandler Jones (43 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed), Alan Branch (14 tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defensed), Sealver Siliga (27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits), Vince Wilfork (47 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed), Chris Jones (27 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hits), Rob Ninkovich (56 tackles, 8 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery), Joe Vellano (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit), Zach Moore (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery), Michael Buchanan (1 tackle), Dominique Easley (9 tackles, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits) and Akeem Ayers (15 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed). Jake Bequette remains on the practice squad.
Overview: The heart of the New England defense, the line was able to hold strong after a sluggish start and really one together nicely as the year developed and into the playoffs. At the center of it all was a resurgent Wilfork. The veteran had to knock a little rust off at the start of the season, but he was a huge part of the defensive success enjoyed by the Patriots over the course of the 2014 season, not only from an on-field perspective but as a leader and mentor to a group of younger defensive linemen. Along the interior, Wilfork was ably backed by youngsters Siliga and Jones, who returned to their roles as mostly complementary players.
On the edge, Ninkovich and Chandler Jones weren’t an overwhelming pass rush duo, but Ninkovich became the first member of the Pats to register three straight seasons of at least eight sacks since Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. Jones struggled with a hip injury and missed roughly two full months in the middle of the year, but Ayers — acquired from Tennessee in October — was able to provide relief as a pass rusher while holding up relatively well against the run. And Branch, who was plucked off the street in October, managed to find a role as a run-stopper and steadying part of the rotation up front.
Ultimately, it wasn’t an overwhelming defensive front, but in the spirit of good complementary football, it was more than enough to lift the Patriots over the top: In six of their final 11 games (including the playoffs), the Patriots held opposing teams under 100 yards rushing, and finished ninth in the league in rush defense (104.3 yards per game allowed).
Going forward, one of the offseason storylines worth monitoring will be what happens with Wilfork and his contractual situation. The veteran could be one of several players who might be asked to have his deal restructured in hopes of creating more financial flexibility. At the same time, most of the rest of the key parts are under contract for 2015, including 2014’s first-round selection Dominique Easley, who had recurring knee issues through the year and ended the season on injured reserve. Count on him to be a major part of New England’s defensive plans in 2015.
Best moment: Lots of moments to choose from here, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the work that the defensive front did over the course of the six-game gauntlet against (mostly) division leaders that would come to define the Patriots as the physical bunch they turned out to be. In that series, New England yielded an average of 81 rushing yards per game and just one rushing touchdown.
|02.16.15 at 10:31 pm ET|
Monday marked the first day of the NFL’s franchise tag window, where teams can designated one player who is set to be a free agent on their roster the franchise tag.
The most common designation is the non-exclusive franchise tag where the player must be offered a one-year deal based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five seasons and their percentage of that year’s salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year’s base salary, whichever is greater. If a player does get a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can talk with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.
The two-week window ends March 2, right before the start of free agency.
The Patriots have not used the tag since 2012, when New England franchised Wes Welker, only to see him depart via free agency the following offseason. Prior to Welker, the team used it on Vince Wilfork in 2010 and Logan Mankins in 2011 and then eventually settled to contract extensions, which could be the case again this year (For a complete look at the Patriots’ history with the franchise tag, check out Chris Price’s Sunday Notes from this week).
While the Patriots have used the franchise tag on a kicker before (Adam Vinatieri), it doesn’t seem to make much sense this time around. Gostkowski just wrapped up a five-year, $15,759,000 contract where he made just over $3 million a year. According to NFL Media’s Albert Breer, the value of the franchise tag for a kicker for 2015 would be $4.12 million. The highest paid kicker in the NFL is currently Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, making an average of $3.75 million a year.
Gostkowski, who turned 31 during Super Bowl week has emerged as one of the best kickers in the game (finishing second in the NFL in field goal percentage this past year), and will seemingly want to be the highest paid kicker in the game. With plenty of good seasons left in him, why not make him the highest paid kicker in the game (above $3.75 million a year), and sign him to a multi-year extension? There’s no need to mess around with the franchise tag, especially when the value is over $4 million. So by not using it on Gostkowski and making him the highest paid kicker in the game, New England would actually likely save themselves money.
From this viewpoint, McCourty is the more likely to be designated the tag. He’s finished his rookie contract, and could not be at a better point in his career. After being moved from cornerback to safety, he’s become one of the better safeties in the game and it doesn’t hurt he’s coming off a Super Bowl win. From a New England perspective, he seems to enjoy being a member of the Patriots and is well-respected in the locker room, as well as by coach Bill Belichick.
|02.16.15 at 8:35 pm ET|
When the Patriots selected quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second-round of last year’s draft as the fifth quarterback selected overall, the thought was New England made that pick with an eye for the future — both internally with Tom Brady turning 37 years old during the 2014 season, and also the upcoming quarterbacks in the college game.
It seems both have some merit, as along with Brady’s age, the 2015 NFL draft quarterback class isn’t very strong. NFL Network’s draft insider Mike Mayock shared his thoughts on the quarterbacks in this year’s draft compared to Garoppolo in his annual pre-combine conference call with the media on Monday, which lasted close to two hours.
“He would probably fall, I would say three,” Mayock said. “I think he’s a little more advanced and you have a little more confidence in the fact that he can do what you’re asking him to do over [Bryce] Petty or [Brett] Hundley.”
With Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota the only quarterbacks who would be ranked higher than Garoppolo, it would seem the Patriots made the right call drafting him last year, as the two quarterbacks this season are not suited for the Patriots’ system.
The NFL Network’s draft insider also was asked about Super Bowl star Malcolm Butler and how the undrafted rookie wasn’t even being talked about at this time last year, and then went on to make a play to win the Super Bowl.
Mayock, who has covered the combine for 11 years for NFL Network, said Butler actually caught his eye during the Patriots-Redskins joint practices, but there are always going to be players that slip through the cracks who aren’t being discussed before the draft, especially coming from Division 2 West Alabama.
“My first thought is whenever a player comes out of nowhere, a non-combine guy and becomes a good player, my first thought is what a great job that organization did,” said Mayock. “In this case, it would be New England. My first introduction to him came this summer when I went down to Washington to watch the Patriots and the Redskins practice together for a couple days. I remember walking off the field going who the heck is that kid? And he wasn’t even on my board.
“I came away going, wow, great seat. So I don’t get mad at myself on those kinds of kids, because if I didn’t evaluate them, you know, I get basically a list of draftable kids and I just try to watch tape of as many of the draftable kids as I possibly can. He wasn’t even on any lists.
“So bottom line is great job by New England, impressive kid. His change of direction, his feet were explosive. I saw that in training camp. So it’s just amazing how many different places football players come from these days.”
|02.16.15 at 6:11 pm ET|
With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line, safety and cornerback. Now, it’s linebacker:
Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Jamie Collins (109 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 quarterback hits, 2 INTs, 3 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries), Dont’a Hightower (92 tackles, 6 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble), Jerod Mayo (52 tackles, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hits, 1 fumble recovery), Jonathan Casillas (21 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 forced fumble), Deontae Skinner (10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit), Darius Fleming (5 tackles), Chris White (9 special teams tackles)
Overview: After losing Mayo to a season-ending knee injury in October and letting go of vets like James Anderson in the early going, the linebacker position appeared to be perilously thin just six games into the season. But the work of Hightower and Collins throughout the bulk of the season and into the playoffs was, for the most part, excellent. There were occasional missteps here and there, but the two did an excellent job working in tandem as the Patriots utilized a 4-2-5 look for large portions of the season.
Collins possessed the speed to run with backs and tight ends who were occasionally split wide. He also had the strength to work inside, not only against the run, but also as a pass rusher coming up the gut as a blitzer in the A gaps. Likewise, Hightower showed a knack for getting after the quarterback, setting a career-high when it comes to sacks and quarterback hits. The duo were augmented by the addition of Casillas, who was utilized most as a special teamer, but also played significant snaps (51 of a possible 57) when Hightower was inactive with a nagging shoulder injury prior to the win over the Chargers. Meanwhile, Skinner, Fleming and White worked most as special teamers and occasional depth additions over the course of the season.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what sort of role Mayo will have with the team in 2015, as well as whether or not he’s a possibility to have his contract re-done. Figure that Collins and Hightower will continue to work as playmakers, and given his positional flexibility, Collins could be used in a variety of roles next season. But as long as they stay healthy, this positional grouping should continue to be one of the best on the roster.
Best moment: Collins had several impressive games over the course of the season, but it’s hard to argue with his impressive performance on Dec. 7 against the Chargers in San Diego. Without Hightower in the lineup, Collins was all over the field — he finished with a team-high nine tackles, to go along with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pair of quarterback hits.
Worst moment: While there weren’t too many on-field moments that were overly troubling, the loss of Mayo to a season-ending knee injury in an October win over the Bills in Buffalo was a sizable blow to the New England defense. The work of Hightower and Collins down the stretch and into the postseason was excellent, but Mayo’s leadership, knowledge of the system and abilities to defend the run was tough to replace.
By the numbers: 3 – Collins was only one of three defenders to finish the regular season with at least four sacks and two interceptions, joining Green Bay’s Julius Peppers and Seattle’s Bruce Irvin.
Money quote: “I think Jamie is really developing as a great young player. He’s obviously learning the NFL game and trying to improve on just the fundamentals and the understanding of the different looks and the awareness and things like that that he’s seeing. That’s all starting to come together for him, and he’s a very, very smart guy. He’s quiet, so sometimes, you’re hard-pressed to figure it, but he’s pretty smart. He studies a lot and he has a good grasp of what we do. Obviously, athletically it’s unbelievable — his size, his length, and his speed is very rare.” — defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Collins and how he’s developed within the New England defense