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Resetting the depth chart in Patriots secondary

03.17.13 at 1:24 pm ET
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There have been some notable moves so far this offseason for the New England secondary. With free agency continuing and the draft now just over a month away, the Patriots can still add to the defensive back spot. But right now — with the addition of veteran safety Adrian Wilson, the re-signing of cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington and the departure of Patrick Chung — here’s a quick look at how the depth chart for the Patriots’ secondary shakes out at this point:

Outside cornerbacks
Talib: The 27-year-old, who will return for his first full season with the Patriots, projects as the No. 1 corner for New England in 2013.
Alfonzo Dennard: The Nebraska product, who played very well as a rookie last season in New England, faces something of a murky future, but if he’s available, he should go into the 2013 season as a starting corner.
Ras-I Dowling: The injury-plagued Dowling enters his third season in New England with a lot to prove. When he’s been healthy, he’s been an important part of the secondary — the problem is he hasn’t been healthy all that often. He’s played just nine games in two years.

Slot cornerbacks/special teamers
Arrington: After the acquisition of Talib, Arrington moved back inside to the slot — his more natural position — and flourished. Should start 2013 as the leader in the clubhouse for this spot once again.
Malcolm Williams: Primarily a special teamer, Williams provides depth at the defensive back position.

Devin McCourty: The lead dog in the secondary. He admitted late last season the transition from young guy to leader took some time, but he goes into 2013 as the No. 1 free safety on the team.
Steve Gregory: Gregory started slow and had issues staying on the field early in the season, but he and McCourty played well together at the end of the season.
Adrian Wilson: A bigger safety who can contribute down in the box, one of the early position battles worth watching could be between Wilson and Gregory. While Gregory and McCourty played well together, Wilson (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) is more of a big, strong safety when it comes to overall body type than Gregory (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) and could swipe some snaps from Gregory as a result, depending on the defensive game plans.
Tavon Wilson: Wilson started strong as a rookie — four interceptions in his first 10 games — but the acquisition of Aqib Talib affected his playing time maybe more than anyone else ‘€” the trade for Talib meant the Patriots moved Devin McCourty from corner to safety, and left Wilson on the sidelines. He projects as a backup right now.
Nate Ebner: Ebner did see some significant snaps on defense at the start of the season, but made his niche as a special teamer. Currently figures as someone who can provide depth at the strong safety spot, not unlike Matthew Slater.

Read More: Adrian Wilson, Aqib Talib, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington

Pro days continue for rest of month as teams try to get handle on prospects

03.17.13 at 12:37 pm ET
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We’re going to take a quick break from the lunacy of free agency to remind you that pre-draft prep work continues in earnest for each of the NFL teams. To that end, one of the staples of the late winer and early spring are the regional Pro Days, which are held throughout the month of March and often give teams a final chance to evaluate a prospects chances. Here’s a look at the schedule of notable pro days for the rest of the month, courtesy of

Monday: Air Force, Albany State (Ga.), Houston, Howard, Idaho State, Indiana, Memphis, Montana State, Rice, Valdosta State, Villanova, Virginia Union, Wake Forest

Tuesday: Florida A&M, Florida State, Louisville, Richmond, San Diego State, Virginia

Wednesday: Ball State, Baylor, Central Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina State, Ohio, Sacramento State, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky

Thursday: Boise State, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia, Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), New Mexico State, Old Dominion, Stanford, Stony Brook, Temple, William & Mary

Friday: Missouri Western, Tennessee State, Vanderbilt

March 25: Duke, Iowa, Middle Tennessee State, Stephen F. Austin

March 26: Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, McNeese State, North Carolina, North Carolina Central, Notre Dame, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas

March 27: LSU, South Carolina, SMU, USC

March 28: BYU, Central Arkansas, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, Sam Houston State, Yale

March 29: Southeast Missouri State

Four final Saturday thoughts on Patriots and free agency

03.17.13 at 12:36 am ET
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Four Patriots-related thoughts as business comes to a close on Saturday:

Brandon Lloyd: There’s extreme makeover, and then, there’s what the Patriots are doing at wide receiver. As it stands right now, the Patriots don’t have a single receiver on the roster that caught a pass for them last season. That doesn’t mean that they won’t bring back Lloyd (who was cut Saturday afternoon) or re-sign Julian Edelman (who is still an available free agent). But right now, New England is looking at a depth chart at wide receiver that includes newcomers Donald Jones and Danny Amendola. Strange days, indeed.

Two more notes on the wide receiver position: First, as of this moment, there’s no offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders. The receiver, who will turn 26 on Sunday, caught 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 2012 for Pittsburgh, starting seven games. In his three-year career, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five TDs. And two, this little nugget showed up late Saturday night: the Patriots were initially interested in Greg Jennings. According to Bob McGinn, “According to an NFL source, the New England Patriots offered Jennings a deal averaging $6 million but didn’t get very far. Then the Patriots turned to St. Louis’ Danny Amendola as the replacement for Wes Welker.” Jennings ended up signing with the Vikings, a five-year deal valued at $47.5 million with $18 million guaranteed.

Sebastian Vollmer: The right tackle is playing the waiting game at this point — along with most of the other elite free agent offensive linemen like Jake Long and Andre Smith — as the market continues to shake itself out. The first domino that is expected to fall is Long, who is still picking and choosing after a ridiculously long visit with the Rams. After Long’s deal sets the marketplace, Vollmer should follow soon after that. If he did come back to New England (and right now, it’s my guess that he does return, eventually), the Patriots might build some playtime incentives into his deal like they apparently did with Amendola. The new receiver has incentives for staying healthy — if he plays all 16 games all five years of his contract, he’ll make an extra $500,000 a year. Vollmer, who has also struggled with injuries over the last couple of years, has been an elite tackle when healthy, but injuries have slowed him in the past (particularly in 2011). But considering the market, the Patriots were wise not to use the franchise tag (it would have been $9.7 million) on him this year.

Aqib Talib: You rarely see two sides display such astounding common sense when it comes to negotiations, but the Patriots and the veteran corner handled this situation about as well as could be expected. New England read the market perfectly in this case — it’s a depressed year for corners — and instead of panicking and slapping the franchise tag on him (particularly in the wake of Alfonzo Dennard‘s murky legal future) which would have cost them $10.7 million, they waited it out and let the market set. As for Talib, he’s betting on himself to have a top-level year, and test the market again in 2014. The Patriots get a motivated player, while Talib gets a market-value deal and one more chance to prove to the rest of the league he deserves a big payday. Both sides get a big thumbs up for this one.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Andre Smith, Aqib Talib, Brandon Lloyd

Release of Brandon Lloyd concludes year of unfulfilled hopes with Patriots

03.16.13 at 4:38 pm ET
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With Brandon Lloyd, there’s no easy answer. You look at his numbers — 74 catches, 911 yards, four touchdowns — and when you consider he was the third (or even the fourth) option in the New England passing game over the course of the 2012 season, it’s hard to say he failed in the Patriots’ system.

But the receiver, who followed Josh McDaniels to New England prior to the start of 2012 out of a sense of loyalty to his former head coach in Denver and offensive coordinator in St. Louis, simply may not have been the receiver the Patriots thought they were getting. In the spring and summer, players and coaches raved about his abilities. He showed an extraordinary connection and grasp of the offense early on. But when the games began, it seemed like he struggled to fit into New England passing game.

It wasn’t as much of a struggle as it was for Chad Ochocinco, who approached the entire 2011 season like he was playing Jenga, afraid of making everything collapse. Instead, Lloyd just appeared to be an odd fit at times.

While New England was looking for a deep threat, Lloyd either didn’t get much of an opportunity to show what he could do when it came to getting behind a defense, or the Patriots didn’t use him properly — his 12.3 yards per catch was the lowest for a full season for the course of his career. And there clearly were times where he was underwhelming, including seven games where he finished with three catches or fewer. Part of that is on the offensive game plan, but it’s hardly the sort of thing you’re looking for from someone who was targeted 130 times over the course of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Josh McDaniels,

Patriots release wide receiver Brandon Lloyd

03.16.13 at 3:27 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Saturday that they have released wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. The news was first reported by the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe. Lloyd was due a $3 million roster bonus this weekend and had been reportedly negotiating a restructured deal with the team. The veteran receiver was due a base salary of $1.9 million in 2013, with a salary cap charge of $4.9 million.

The 31-year-old Lloyd had 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, his first season in New England. He’s played for five other teams since joining the NFL in 2003.

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Updates on the Patriots and Emmanuel Sanders, John Abraham and Dwight Freeney

03.16.13 at 2:42 pm ET
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With the understanding that things can change quickly when it comes to free agency, here are a couple of updates on what are very fluid situations involving the Patriots at this hour:

‘€¢As of this moment — which means it could change instantly — the Patriots have not signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. There have been conflicting reports regarding New England and Sanders over the last 24 hours, but as of right now, there’s no deal between the two sides. Sanders, who turns 26 Sunday, caught 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 2012, starting seven games. In his three-year career, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five TDs. A third-round pick in 2010 out of SMU, he was expected to start in 2013 for Pittsburgh, which already lost free agent receiver Mike Wallace to the Dolphins this week.

‘€¢As for Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, Rapoport is indicating that both veteran defensive ends had left town as of Saturday afternoon, which would indicate that there is no short-term deal imminent regarding ether player. The 34-year-old Abraham, who recently was cut loose by the Falcons after seven seasons in Atlanta, has spent a total of 13 seasons in the league, and has a similar resume to Andre Carter: The 6-foot-4, 263-pounder has at least 9.5 sacks in each of his last three seasons, and has 122 sacks over the course of his career. As for Freeney, the Connecticut native is an 11-year veteran who was taken in the first round by the Colts out of Syracuse in 2002. Over the course of his impressive career, the 33-year-old Freeney racked up 107.5 sacks, including 13.5 over the last two seasons with Indy.

Read More: dwight freeney, Emmanuel Sanders, John Abraham,

Donte’ Stallworth involved in hot-air balloon accident

03.16.13 at 2:14 pm ET
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Free agent wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth was involved in a hot-air balloon accident in Florida on Saturday. ESPN’s Mike Reiss is reporting that Stallworth, who has played for the Patriots on two separate occasions, and his girlfriend were shocked and burned when the balloon hit power lines. Reiss also reports that Stallworth is in stable condition while ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the receiver’s injuries are not serious and he will be able to resume his career.

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