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Rating the Roster, Training Camp Edition (Part 5)

07.27.10 at 1:32 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez kicks off the latest edition of "Rating the Roster." (AP)

Here’s part five of our training camp edition of “Rating the Roster,” which looks at the 31st through the 40th spots spots on the roster. (Nos. 41 through 50 is here and Nos. 51 through 60 can be found here. In addition, No. 61 through 70 is here and No. 71 through No. 82 is here.)

As we previously explained, we settled on these rankings by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.

In this section, some of the younger, higher draft picks come into focus. Almost all of them will be asked to step forward and make an impact on this team — will they be able to contribute?

40. Tight end Aaron Hernandez: The Florida product was moved around like a chess piece through spring practices — he spent almost as much time split out as he did lined up alongside a tackle. He had some usual rookie stumbles, but he spent a sizable chunk of time with first offense, and based on how he looked this spring, the 6-foot-1, 245-pounder could get the bulks of the reps with the first team offense this summer. As long as he (and for his part, Rob Gronkowski) can show he can get separation, it just might signal the return of the tight end as a regular part of the New England passing game. (That is, as long as he remembers what Christian Fauria told me about how to survive as a tight end in the New England offense: “The more plays you make, the more touches you’re going to see,” Fauria said. “The more plays you make, the more consistent you are, the more they will get you the ball. Are you a guy they can count on? They’ll figure it out quickly, and if you aren’t, they’ll get rid of you.”)
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Mortensen on D&C: Brady ‘not happy’ with contract

07.27.10 at 11:19 am ET
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Chris Mortensen

Chris Mortensen

ESPN insider Chris Mortensen joined the Dennis & Callahan show early Tuesday morning to discuss everything football just before the start of training camp. Mort talked about Dez Bryant‘s controversy with the Cowboys, the favorites in the AFC East, the Logan Mankins contract discussions and Tom Brady‘s private ruminations about his unfavorable contract.

“Why would we expect Tom to be happy making $6.5 million? It’s not like they’re going out there and signing a bunch of free agents to truly make this team better,” Mortensen said.

When asked about the AFC East in 2010, Mortensen replied: “If I were rating this division right now, I would be rating it: 1. Jets, 2. Dolphins, 3. Patriots, with all three having a chance to go to the playoffs and filling up all the playoff spots.”

Below are highlights. To listen to the full interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan Show audio on demand page.

On Dez Bryant’s early issues with the Cowboys:

It’s an interesting story because it’s only [about] carrying [Roy Williams’] shoulder pads. We kind of classify it as hazing, but I don’t think that’s hazing. It’s a rite of passage, I’ve heard people say. On the other hand, I can tell you from [the Cowboys’] offseason, I think that there was a feeling that everyone had a good offseason workout. [They] worked their tails off, except for one player, and the problem is the one player asking him to carry his shoulder pads is Roy Williams. So, I’m not sure that there are coaches and veteran players in the locker room that are all that upset with Dez Bryant, because I think they’re more upset with Roy Williams.

On if the Cowboys are siding with Bryant because of Williams’ lack of effort:

Well there’s no question I think you’re right. … Whether it’s coaches or players or ownership, executives in terms of thoughts about Roy. Are there 53 guys all rolling in the same direction or are there 52? I’ve heard that, with Roy being the exception. There’s no question from what they’ve seen, [the Cowboys believe] that Dez will be a star. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be a star or not, generally, if a vet says, “Go carry my shoulder pads,” the rookie does it. It was just interesting that Dez decided not to do it. The other thing, let’s not forget this, it was the only training camp open and it’s the Cowboys and it’s the media. I’ll have to throw ESPN out there because whenever we do something, it becomes bigger. So, it’s probably a little bit bigger deal than it is in actuality in the locker room or amongst the organization.

On the three QBs in the last year of their contracts — Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees:

Well, Peyton is going to make $15.7 million this year. The “Bank of Manning” didn’t have to take any stimulus packages, as I like to refer to them. My feeling is the most urgent [contract] is Tom Brady’s, but if you’re Tom, do you go ahead? Do the Patriots go ahead and get something done? I don’t think anything is imminent. I know he’s the consummate pro, he can’t be happy. He’s at most risk because his salary is so low. Read the rest of this entry »

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Source: Welker among three on PUP list

07.27.10 at 10:24 am ET
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Wide receiver Wes Welker, outside linebacker Shawn Crable and defensive lineman Kade Weston have all placed on the active/physically unable to perform list by the Patriots, according to a league source.

All three players are eligible to come off the list at any time, but in doing so, the team has left open the possibility that they could start the regular season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list — which would force them to miss the first six weeks of the regular season. While they are on the PUP list, it also frees up roster spots.

Welker, who had surgery to repair a turn left anterior cruciate ligament in February, is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab process, while Crable has been dogged by injuries in his two seasons with the team (he has ended both years on injured reserve). Weston, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, dealt with a knee injury as a collegian.

The news was first reported by Mike Reiss of ESPN.

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Source: Pats, Spikes agree on 4-year deal

07.26.10 at 6:51 pm ET
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A league source has confirmed that Patriots second-round pick Brandon Spikes has agreed to a four-year deal worth just over $3.2 million, with a signing bonus of $960,000.

Spikes is the 11th member of New England’s 12-man draft class to agree to a deal, leaving only first-round pick Devin McCourty without a contract.

The 6-foot-3, 249-pound Spikes played inside as a collegian at Florida, and will likely occupy that spot at the next level as well. A first-team All-SEC selection each of the last three years, Spikes started 39 of his 47 games with the Gators, totaling 309 tackles, including 31.5 for a loss and 6.5 quarterback sacks.

In addition, he was accorded as one of the smarter linebackers in college football over the last few seasons, and served as the quarterback of the Florida defense.

“Brandon Spikes is pretty much the middle of our defense like Tim Tebow was the center of our offense,” Spikes’ college teammate Jermaine Cunningham said of the linebacker, who returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his college career. “He was the center of our defense. He goes out there, he’s quick and he holds the defense together.”

The news of Spikes’ signing was first reported by the Boston Herald.

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Rating the Roster, Training Camp Edition (Part 4)

07.26.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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We have new Patriots' tight end Alge Crumpler at No. 42 in our rankings. (AP)

Here’s part four of our training camp edition of “Rating the Roster,” looking at Nos. 50 through 41. (Nos. 51 through 60 can be found here, while No. 61 through 70, is here and No. 71 through No. 82 are here.)

As we previously explained, we settled on these rankings by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.

50. Defensive back Bret Lockett: Like Kyle Arrington, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Lockett is a young and aggressive defensive back who was able to give the Patriots a lot of good reps on special teams last season, which should probably be enough to win him a spot on this year’s final 53. For what it’s worth, he also appears to be the Patriot who is most plugged into social networking. He has a very active Twitter account (where he revealed that he was working out on the West Coast with Tom Brady and Wes Welker), a web site and a Facebook page.

49. Offensive tackle Mark LeVoir: A massive tackle (6-foot-7, 310 pounds) who can provide depth — probably the No. 3 or No. 4 man at the position for the Patriots — he also lined up as an extra tight end on occasion last season. Someone who’s spent the last two seasons with New England, LeVoir isn’t the sort of guy you want as a starting lineman 16 games a year, but he’s certainly proven himself to be a worthy option when called upon in a pinch.
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King on D&H: ‘Never worried about Brady being a holdout’

07.26.10 at 2:03 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

NFL analyst Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday morning to discuss Tom Brady’s contract situation, comparing it to Peyton Manning’s contract situation, and the rumblings that Brady would possibly hold out.

“I never was very worried about Brady being a holdout or a guy who didn’t come in on time, he’s just really not that kind of guy,” King said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a good situation if these talks stall and they don’t go anywhere. I do think they’re going to go somewhere and I think this deal is going to get done at some point this year.”

King also touched on the growing optimism on the Jets with their new acquisitions this upcoming season. King feels that New York improved, but questions if they can come together as a team.

Below are the highlights of the conversation. Visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page to hear the interview.

What are your feelings on the Tom Brady contract situation?

I’m on the optimistic side of this. I thought Albert Breer did a really good job yesterday in the Globe explaining why this contract is so difficult and why in fact it’s more difficult than Peyton Manning’s, because Manning is starting from a position of relative contractual strength and relatively contractual dirt, whereas Tom Brady is starting from $6.5 million. The only answer to do a contract like this really is to do an awful lot of guaranteed money in the contract and an awful lot of upfront money, which obviously entering into a year when you know that there could be no football next or there could be no football for a while next year, it’s kind of a difficult contract to do. I do believe Bob Kraft is going to do the right thing and get Brady done.

I pointed out in Monday Morning Quarterback the absurdity of the Brady contract is that David Garrard is going to make $2 million more than him this year. I just think it’s look past time when it’s done and I do think it will get done. I never was very worried about Brady being a holdout or a guy who didn’t come in on time, he’s just really not that kind of guy. But I don’t think it’s going to be a good situation if these talks stall and they don’t go anywhere. I do think they’re going to go somewhere and I think this deal is going to get done at some point this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Schefter on D&C: Pats and Brady ‘furthest along’

07.26.10 at 10:47 am ET
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Adam Schefter

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about Tom Brady‘s contract talks. Schefter is much more optimistic than others who have indicated the QB is unhappy with the Patriots. Schefter said he believes Brady is on schedule to be signed before Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

“On the basis of everything I’ve heard this weekend, it sounds like the Patriots and Tom Brady are furthest along at this point in time,” Schefter said. “It sounds like something definitely can get wrapped up here this summer.” Added Schefter: “I did not get the sense that it is imminent, but I did get the sense it’s certainly possible in the next few weeks.”

Schefter said he believes concerns about the collective bargaining agreement and how it will affect the salary cap are slowing down the process.

Below are the highlights of the conversation. Visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page to hear the interview.

Why did I think that Peyton Manning was going to sign his deal before Brady? What you’ve written today on ESPN.com indicates that Brady, of all the big quarterbacks, might be the furthest down the road toward an agreement.

Well, I think he is furthest down the road right now. That doesn’t mean that he’ll be the first to get done but I would tell you it would be Brady and Manning or Manning and Brady. My guess right now, on the basis of everything I’ve heard this week, would be Brady first, Manning second. Now, these things change and who knows, Jim Irsay could come in this morning and say, “Hey, let’s just get this done this week, let’s get it done before camp,” and all of a sudden Manning is first. On the basis of everything I’ve heard this weekend, it sounds like the Patriots and Tom Brady are furthest along at this point in time. It sounds like something definitely can get wrapped up here this summer.

Were if not for the looming CBA issues, I really believe it would be done right now, the deal. When you’re talking about a huge contract, and you’re talking about the type of numbers that Brady’s going to make in a year and you don’t know what the salary cap is going to be, it’s not an easy thing to configure. And I think that right now is probably the big hangup. Because the talks are going on. They seem, from everything I’ve gathered, to be very cordial. They seem to be on the same page. It’s just a question of finalizing it and getting it done. Read the rest of this entry »

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