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Peter King on M&M: Aqib Talib a better option than Darrelle Revis for Patriots

03.03.14 at 2:40 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated writer Peter King joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about the possibility of Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis being on the move, Aqib Talib and his future, and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With rumors that the Patriots and Broncos are interested in trading for Revis, King said the biggest hurdle is money.

“I think that you have to restructure his contract if you’re the Patriots,” King said. “€œAnd that’s, to me, I think one of the issues that you start with when you start asking about whether you want a guy, is you have to find out, OK what exactly is that guy going to cost?”

Added King: “In essence Tom Brady, last year, his cap number was about [$]13.8 [million]. It’€™s going to go up a million bucks this year. It’€™ll be about 14.8. It’€™ll never be, under his current deal, his money will never be what Revis’ money is. So you have to ask yourself, ‘Are we going to bring somebody in that’€™s going to make more money than Tom Brady?’ ”

King favors keeping Talib over Revis due to his familiarity with the system plus the cost of a draft pick.

“€œIf you’re able to sign Talib, who’s a proven player in your system, for less,” King said, “€œI would, and you get to keep, say, your number one either this year or next year, I know that’s something I would prefer to do.”

Cornerback Brent Grimes signed a four-year, $32 million extension on Monday with the Dolphins. King points out that Talib is younger and healthier than Grimes, but has more off-field issues.

“€œIf I’m Aqib Talib, I’m saying, as a player, I’m worth a little bit more than Brent Grimes,” King said. “The only issue then becomes, well, what about the problems you’ve had off the field that Brent Grimes hasn’t had. So, I think it could counterbalance itself, but that’s why I think if I’m talking about Aqib Talib, I’m talking not very long term and about 8 or 9 million [dollars] a year, I think that would be fair.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

03.03.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

SAMMY WATKINS

Position: Wide receiver

School: Clemson

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 205 pounds

Achievements: Three-time first-team All-American, two-time first-team All-ACC selection (media), finalist for 2013 Biletnikoff Award

What he brings: After taking a step back in his sophomore year, Watkins excelled in his third season at Clemson and became one of the best wide receivers in the nation. In just three years he broke the school record for receptions and receiving yards, and he is tied for first in receiving touchdowns. While scouts have pointed out his average height as a weakness, they have pointed out his above average ball-handling skills as one of his many positives.

Where the Patriots could get him: Watkins is likely a top-10 pick, so the Patriots would have to trade up to get him.

Notes: In 12 starts and 13 total games this season, Watkins had 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. in the final game of his Clemson career, Watkins had 16 catches for 227 yards in an Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State. ESPN projects that he will be the first wide receiver chosen in the draft. … Watkins was arrested last May on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession. Watkins admitting making a mistake, saying in a statement: “I am truly sorry for my actions. I let the team down, the coaches down and this university down. I will learn from this.”

Related articles:

The Post and Courier: Clemson’s Sammy Watkins: ‘I accomplished every goal’

NFL.com: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans head list of WRs who could go early

Video: Here is a highlight reel of Watkins’ 2013 season.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Sammy Watkins,

Could Brent Grimes deal with Dolphins help set market for Aqib Talib and Patriots?

03.03.14 at 11:36 am ET
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With the Dolphins coming to an agreement on a reported four-year, $32 million deal for cornerback Brent Grimes (with $16 million guaranteed), that should start to set the market for the Patriots and cornerback Aqib Talib.

While they’re different players with different skill sets and different responsibilities in their respective systems, at the end of the 2013 season, both Talib and Grimes were considered among the best in the league at their position. And if Grimes had hit the open market as a free agent, he would have been one of the most sought-after defensive backs in free agency — the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder had 16 passes defensed and four picks for Miami last year, and landed a Pro Bowl berth as a result. (Those numbers are remarkably similar to the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Talib, who reached his first career Pro Bowl after finishing the year with four interceptions and 13 passes defensed in 2013.)

However, it’s not a perfect model: if Talib and his agent argue for a comparable deal, the Patriots will likely counter with Talib’s injury history, one that includes a failure to finish back-to-back AFC title games because of injury. And if New England tries to make a case for Grimes’ deal as a template, Talib and his agent can say that Grimes is three years older (Grimes will be 31 by the start of the 2014 season, while Talib just turned 28), and arguably closer to the end of his career than Talib.

Regardless, it’s a good starting point for both sides. One thing worth remembering going forward is that the franchise tag deadline is set for Monday at 4 p.m. If Talib isn’t hit with the tag — $11.834 million for cornerbacks — or signed to a new deal by March 11, he will hit the open market.

Read More: Aqib Talib, Brent Grimes,

Sunday NFL Notes: With deadline looming Monday, could this turn out to be a slow year for franchise tags?

03.02.14 at 6:00 am ET
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1. With the franchise tag deadline set for Monday, even though there’s plenty of talk about players getting tagged between now and then, we could be in for one of the slowest years ever when it comes to the tag. At this point, three players have been tagged: Jets kicker Nick Folk, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (which could turn into quite a fight) and Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy. By way of comparison, eight players were tagged last year, an NFL-record 21 players were tagged in 2012, 13 players in 2011 and six in 2010. Locally, if the Patriots elect not to use the franchise tag on anyone between now and Monday afternoon, it would mark the first time since the turn of the century they have gone back-to-back years without using the tag. Overall, New England has used the tag eight times since 2002, with Wes Welker being the last player tagged in 2012. For more on the Patriots tag history, check out our past story here.

2. Much was made Saturday about a report saying the Patriots had floated Danny Amendola‘s name in trade talks, and that the team had even considered cutting him if they couldn’t find a taker for the wide receiver. From this viewpoint, it’s likely the idea was simply a trial balloon, a hypothetical proposed by the Patriots as a way of trying to gauge the market for the receiver. In the short-term, the Patriots would lose money against the cap if they did release Amendola. (In this context, it’s important to note that Amendola is due a $2 million payout if he’s on the roster on the first day of the new league year, March 11. If they were going to cut him, they would make the move before then.) Two reasons: one, when you consider the financial implications — detailed here by capologist Miguel Benzan of Patsfans.com — it doesn’t appear to make much financial sense. And two, if the Patriots do release him, they wouldn’t have any veteran receivers on the roster with the exception of Julian Edelman, and Edelman is no slam-dunk to return as he heads into free agency. After signing a five-year, $28.5 million contract last offseason, there was no denying that Amendola cleared struggled at times over the course of the 2014 season, and disappeared for large chunks of the season as he dealt with concussion and groin issues. But it would seem to be a bit premature to cut ties with the receiver relatively early in his career with New England.

3. In the wake of the Patriots’ decision Friday to release safety Steve Gregory, I tweeted out the idea that with Gregory’s departure, this should open the door for more work for linebacker Jamie Collins going forward. By the tone of many of my responses, it turns out I did a bad job of explaining why I felt that way. (In my defense, a 140-character limit doesn’t allow much room for a nuanced discussion. That, and I hadn’t had any coffee at that point.) Collins played a ton of snaps down the stretch and into the postseason, so it’s clear he can’t play much more than he did late in the year. (He played roughly half the snaps over the last two weeks of the regular season and almost all the snaps in the two playoff games.) What I should have said was that if the roster stays relatively the same, there will likely be a change in the way Collins is utilized. A lot of it depends on what the Patriots do at the strong safety spot going forward, but as a rookie, Collins had a versatile skill set that allowed him to stay on the field in running and passing downs, and he showed a nice ability to run with tight ends and backs on passing routes out of the backfield. According to the analytical website Pro Football Focus, Collins played 302 snaps last season, and was in coverage on 156 occasions. Collins, who spent a year of his college football career as a safety, will get more snaps in 2014, but he could be called on to work more in coverage this coming season than he did as a rookie. Again, a lot of it will depend on how the Patriots approach the strong safety spot going forward, but expect Collins to be a key part of New England’s pass defense in 2014.

4. Going back over some of the notes from the combine, one guy who really stuck out to me for a number of reasons was Minnesota safety Brock Vereen, and not just because he’s the brother of Patriots running back Shane. The defensive back was extremely impressive in his session with the media, enduring several questions from New England reporters about his brother. (He was asked about possibly playing alongside his brother, and he joked, “€œI think the biggest part of me wants to hit him.”) And while it’s important to remember that every case is different, that usually translates to a good session in his meeting with teams. The 6-foot, 199-pounder then also had a terrific on-field session — he led all defensive backs and safeties with 25 reps on the bench press, and his 40-yard dash time of 4.47 was the second-fastest time among safeties. His all important 3-cone drill time was a 6.9, good enough to likely garner the attention of the Patriots. He’s played more free safety over the course of his college career at Minnesota, and if he can display some positional versatility (as well as special teams value), he would almost certainly be in the mix as a possible pick either late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 for New England.

5. While the Patriots have been paired up with several tight ends (Jace Amaro, Eric Ebron, C.J. Fiedrorowicz, Austin Seferian-Jenkins) throughout the pre-draft process, one notable tight end who hasn’t been linked much to New England is Oregon’s Colt Lyerla. From a pure football perspective, the 6-foot-5, 246-pound Lyerla has a lot going for him: he played in an NFL-style offense while in college, he developed a rep as a dynamic playmaker who can fit at multiple spots, and had a terrific combine. He posted a 4.61 40, and led all tight ends in the vertical (39 inches) and broad jumps (10-feet 8). “I watched film, what little tape I could get on him from 2012,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s a gifted, gifted kid.” But there are a ton of red flags around Lyerla — he left school last October for “personal reasons,” there was an arrest for cocaine possession, and he was entangled in a bizarre series of Tweets where he insinuated that the Newtown school shootings were somehow the result of a governmental conspiracy. (He later deleted the Tweets.) Prior to last year, New England was seen as the sort of franchise that would take a chance on a player who might have some character issues, but in the wake of what happened to Aaron Hernandez, the landscape has certainly changed. Despite the fact that Lyerla showed contrition when he met with the media at the combine, despite their needs, it now seems unlikely the Patriots would pursue him this spring.
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Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard reports to jail to begin serving sentence for assault

03.01.14 at 2:37 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard reported to a Lincoln, Neb., jail on Saturday to begin his 60-day term for a 2012 assault on a police officer, according to the Associated Press.

According to corrections officers with the Lincoln facility, the 24-year-old Dennard was at the Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility Saturday morning. After credit for good behavior and the three days he’s already spent in jail, he will have to serve at least 35 days in the wake of the incident involving a police officer outside a Lincoln bar, which took place days before the 2012 draft.

In April, a judge sentenced Dennard to two years’ probation, 30 days in jail and community service for the 2012 incident. However, the judge later extended his probation to three years and doubled the jail time after Dennard was again arrested in Lincoln in July, this time on suspicion of drunken driving. That charge was later dismissed in exchange for Dennard’s no contest plea for refusing to submit to a chemical test. He was fined $500 and placed on probation for the incident.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard,

Franchise tag and transition tag numbers revealed for 2014

03.01.14 at 12:00 am ET
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The salary cap information for 2014 has been released. Now, the franchise tag numbers have been unveiled. Here’s the complete list:

Franchise tags
Quarterback: $16.192 million
Running back: $9.54 million
Wide receiver: $12.312 million
Tight end: $7.035 million
Offensive lineman: $11.654 million
Defensive end: $13.116 million
Defensive tackle: $9.654 million
Linebacker: $11.455 million
Cornerback: $11.834 million
Safety: $8.433 million
Kicker/punter: $3.556 million

Transition tags
Quarterback: $14.666 million
Running back: $8.033 million
Wide receiver: $10.176 million
Tight end: $6.106 million
Offensive lineman: $10.039 million
Defensive end: $10.633 million
Defensive tackle: $8.060 million
Linebacker: $9.754 million
Cornerback: $10.081 million
Safety: $7.253 million
Kicker/punter: $3.205 million

As of Friday night — and with the deadline looming Monday afternoon — three players had been hit with the franchise tag: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, New York Jets kicker Nick Folk and Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy. While it’s expected that Folk and Hardy will sign their tenders without an issue, an interesting situation could be brewing with Graham, who is a tight end in name only. The Saints’ premier pass catcher, he lined up in the slot and split wide more often than in a tradition tight end position over the last year, and as a result, could argue that he should be identified more as a wide receiver than a tight end. That would significantly impact his franchise tag number — the one-year franchise tag numbers for a wide receiver ($12.312 million) and tight end ($7.035 million) are considerably different. As more and more hybrid players like Graham emerge, expect more and more of these cases to pop up.

Read More: Greg Hardy, Jimmy Graham, Nick Folk,

Answering some questions about NFL’s 2014 salary cap

02.28.14 at 8:54 pm ET
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Courtesy of the National Football League Players Association, here’s a quick primer on the 2014 salary cap, which is set for $133 million.

What is the 2014 salary cap?
The 2014 salary cap is set at $133 million per club, a $10 million increase over the prior year.

How does that number impact each team?
The $133 million is the per club salary cap. However, each team may, at its own discretion, carry over unused salary cap room from the prior League Year. Most clubs elected to carry over salary cap room from 2013 to 2014. The average carry over for those teams that elected to do so was $6.1 million per club. Thus, those clubs have an average of $139.1 million to spend on player salaries in 2014.

How is the salary cap calculated?
The salary cap is calculated by taking a percentage of all projected NFL revenues, subtracting projected benefits for the upcoming season, and dividing by 32 teams.

What are team minimum cash spends?
Under the current CBA, clubs have minimum cash spending requirements. For the years 2013-2016, clubs are required to spend an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period. Leaguewide, clubs must spend an average of 95 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period. This creates a cash-spend floor, forcing historically low-spending clubs to offer overall competitive compensation for packages.

Are player benefits taken out of this $133 million?
The $133 million salary cap is the cap on active player salaries. In addition, each club will spend in excess of $33 million in benefits. This includes pension, severance, workers’€™ compensation, insurance premiums, disability benefits, etc.

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