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Patriots look to familiar formula in attempt to give pass rush a boost

03.15.13 at 10:35 am ET
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In the summer of 2011, the Patriots were able to strike gold when they acquired veteran free agent Andre Carter to shore up an occasionally inconsistent pass rush. Despite posting 66 sacks over the first 10 seasons of his NFL career with the 49ers and Redskins, the 32-year-old Carter, was not seen as an exceptionally high-profile addition when he inked his contract that August with the Patriots. And he was a bit of a slow starter — he played just over half the snaps over New England’s first four games that season.

However, Carter quickly became an absolutely integral part of the Patriots defense. Over the course of the season (until he suffered a season-ending injury in a December win over the Broncos), Carter, who was used mostly as a situational pass-rusher, finished with a team-high 22 quarterback pressures and 10 sacks in 14 games, including four in a memorable win over the Jets. (He also had 24 quarterback hurries.) At the end of the year, he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl nod for his efforts — the first of his career.

He didn’t return for the 2012 season — he moved on to the Raiders — but it certainly appears that the Patriots could be trying to replicate the same formula for success they were able to hit on with Carter, as they have Friday visits scheduled with veteran defensive ends John Abraham and Dwight Freeney.

The 34-year-old Abraham, who recently was cut loose by the Falcons after seven seasons in Atlanta because of salary cap issues and Atlanta’s desire to get a little younger at the position, has spent a total of 13 seasons in the league, and has a similar resume to 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.

In 2012, Abraham was utilized primarily as a situational pass rusher by the Falcons — he never played a full game, but did end the season with 690 defensive snaps (according to Pro Football Focus) and PFF had him finishing the season with 39 quarterback hurries and eight quarterback hits. They also had him graded out as a +28.0 for the season when it came to getting after the quarterback.
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NFL free agency update: Matt Cassel lands with Vikings

03.15.13 at 8:44 am ET
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Quarterback Matt Cassel was not a free agent for long, reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Vikings on Thursday night, hours after his release from the Chiefs.

The deal reportedly is for one year and $4 million. Cassel was due to make $7.5 million in Kansas City this year. At Minnesota, he’s expected to have a chance to challenge for the starting job against incumbent Christian Ponder.

The former Patriots backup spent four seasons with the Chiefs, making the 2010 Pro Bowl but struggling the last two years.

‘€¢ Former Rams running back Steven Jackson accepted a reported $12 million for a three-year deal with the Falcons.

Jackson, 29, rushed for 1,042 yards in 2012, his eighth straight season surpassing the 1,000-yard mark. He replaces Michael Turner, who was released by the Falcons two weeks ago.

‘€¢ Linebacker Nick Roach reportedly is leaving the Bears for the Raiders. Roach, 27, had 84 tackles last season. He moved from the strong side to the middle for the final four games following Brian Urlacher‘s injury problems.

‘€¢ The Eagles, who already signed safety Patrick Chung from the Patriots and cornerback Bradley Fletcher from the Rams, continued to work on their defensive backfield Thursday, agreeing to deals with former Ravens cornerback Cary Williams and ex-Giants safety Kenny Phillips. Later Thursday, they added former Texans linebacker Connor Barwin on a six-year deal.

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Report: DE Dwight Freeney will visit with Patriots

03.15.13 at 8:41 am ET
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Free agent defensive end Dwight Freeney will visit the Patriots on Friday, according to Tom E. Curran of Freeney, 33, 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 career, he’s racked up 107.5 sacks, including 13.5 over the last two seasons with Indy.

You never know how much of this part of the dance between a free agent and a team is simply kicking the tires to see how much they have left and how much is genuine interest. However, this appears to be along the same lines as their interest in veteran free agent defensive end John Abraham, who will also be coming in for a visit on Friday. The Patriots were able to squeeze one good year out of veteran end rusher Andre Carter back in 2011 — it appears they could be thinking the same way with their interest in both Freeney and Abraham.

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Our new favorite Danny Amendola video

03.15.13 at 1:13 am ET
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In our continuing quest to bring you all the information you need on the Patriots newest wide receiver, here’s video of Danny Amendola spiking a ball last year after a touchdown with the Rams. We’ll let you watch what happens, but suffice to say that between Amendola and Rob Gronkowski‘s spikes, sideline guys at Gillette should pre-apply now for hazard pay this season.

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DE John Abraham reportedly will visit Patriots Friday

03.14.13 at 10:30 pm ET
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More late-night Patriots news: the Patriots will be hosting free agent defensive end John Abraham on a visit on Friday, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

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 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.

Like the situation around Adrian Wilson, there’s some question as to how much Abraham has left in the tank. However, he could provide some depth at the defensive end spot for New England — the Patriots were able to squeeze good seasons out of both Andre Carter and Mark Anderson in 2011 as situational pass rushers. If they feel Abraham could provide the same sort of boost to a pass rush that was inconsistent at times over the course of the 2012 season, then Abraham has a good shot at making the roster.

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Report: Adrian Wilson to visit with Patriots

03.14.13 at 10:10 pm ET
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The Patriots are going to host veteran safety Adrian Wilson on a visit, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Wilson, who was released last Friday by the Cardinals in a cap-related move, is a five-time Pro Bowler who spent the last 12 seasons in Arizona. The 33-year-old is a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder out of North Carolina State who has a rep around the league as a high-character guy and great locker-room influence.

“In every franchise, there is a select group of players whose contributions earn them iconic status and for us, Adrian Wilson will always be one of those players,” Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said in a statement issued by the team when Wilson was released.

“He joined us at a key time in our organization’s evolution and helped lead us into a new era. We will always be grateful for that and look forward to the day when he’s placed in the Ring of Honor at University of Phoenix Stadium alongside the other all-time great Cardinals.”

Honestly, the question right now might be how much he has left in the tank. His role started to shrink in 2011, and was pulled off the field as a nickel defensive back at several points late in 2012. Still in all, he played in 15 games last season (14 starts) with 54 tackles (39 of them solo), to go along with five passes defensed and an interception. For his career, he has 27 career picks (including five in 2009) and 87 career passes defensed, including 14 in 2011 and 13 in 2009.

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Patriots add ‘blessed’ Leon Washington to their arsenal

03.14.13 at 6:46 pm ET
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Soon after tweeting “negotiations!!!” while in a meeting with the Patriots, kick returner and running back Leon Washington went a step further by tweeting out a picture of himself in a Patriots hat, indicating that he had agreed to terms with New England. At the bottom of the picture, he tweeted, “#blessed Lets Go #Pats.”

About an hour later, the Patriots made it official, signing the veteran return specialist.

Washington, who turns 31 on Aug. 29, is a veteran of seven NFL seasons with the New York Jets (2006-09) and the Seattle Seahawks (2010-12). The 5-foot-8, 203 pounder, originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round (117th pick overall) draft choice by the Jets out of Florida State in 2006. He was traded by the Jets to the Seahawks on April 24, 2010 for a 2010 fifth-round draft choice. Washington was released by Seattle on March 12, 2013.

Washington shares the NFL record with Josh Cribbs (Cleveland) with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He also tied an NFL record when he returned two kicks for a touchdown in a game against San Diego in 2010. Washington earned Pro Bowl honors in 2008 and 2012 and All-Pro honors in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Washington has played in 103 NFL games with 14 starts and has registered 473 rushing attempts for 2,213 yards and 16 touchdowns, and 146 receptions for 1,127 yards and two touchdowns. He has also returned 168 punts for 1,668 yards and 244 kickoffs for 6,315 yards and eight touchdowns.

Indeed, ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report that the Pro Bowler signed a one-year deal to play with the Patriots, who did not reveal terms or length of the contract.

Washington is the leading candidate to replace Wes Welker on punt returns and could also provide insurance in the running game, should the Patriots not retain free agent running back Danny Woodhead.

For more, visit the Patriots team page at

Read More: free agency, Leon Washington, New England Patriots, New York Jets
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