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Five reasons why Randy Moss won’t be back with the Patriots

02.13.12 at 4:51 pm ET
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Randy Moss announced Monday morning that he hopes to return to the NFL in 2012. While he will inevitably be linked to the Patriots when it comes to a possible return to the NFL, here are five reasons why Moss won’€™t be walking through that door in Foxboro any time soon:

1. Moss’€™s skills have declined: Moss had a combined 28 catches for the three teams he played for in 2010 (nine for the Patriots, six for Tennessee and 13 for Minnesota). For most receivers in their thirties, that sort of stat line is a red flag, and that was more than a year ago. And history tells us that any time a player on the other side of 30 takes that much time away from the game, the skill set just isn’€™t there when they return. In his prime, Moss was a freakish athlete who did things on a football field that almost no one had ever seen before. (His 2007 season was one of the best of all time.) But the 35-year-old Moss isn’€™t going to be the same guy after a year away. It remains to be seen how he’€™d come to terms with his diminished skills (and role), and whether or not be accept a different job other than designated deep threat.

2. The Patriots offense has changed: When Moss was traded in October 2010 to Minnesota, it was the first step in a complete overhaul of the New England offense. Prior to that, the Patriots passing game could stretch the field and taking their shots deep. Now, the Patriots are more of a horizontal passing game, with slot receiver Wes Welker one of the best in the league when it comes to going over the middle, and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski now a complementary set of tight ends the likes of which the league has never seen. Deion Branch is not the receiver he once was (he no longer has the kind of wheels that he used to have), but has managed to get by on smarts and dependability. Even if Welker and/or Branch do not return, it seems unlikely the Patriots would try and reintroduce Moss into the offense. Remember — the Patriots had their opportunity to re-sign Moss last year. When they needed another receiver, they went for Tiquan Underwood instead of Moss, which should tell you all you need to know about where they think of Moss’€™ skill set at this point.

3. The Patriots must get younger at wide receiver: New England needs to go in the other direction at the receiver position. Branch (32), Welker (30) and Chad Ochocinco (34) are all closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. While the Patriots are a relatively young bunch at all of the other skill positions, they are starting to show their collective age at wide receiver, and the return of the 35-year-old Moss does nothing to make them younger. The free-agent market for wide receivers also doesn’€™t help Moss — it’€™s a group that includes Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Welker, all of whom are younger than Moss.

4. His return would impede the progress of young pass catchers like Hernandez and Gronkowski: In 2012, the two young tight ends combined to form one of the most dynamic offensive options in the game. With Moss on the scene, that would mean fewer chances in the passing game for both Hernandez and Gronkowski, which would certainly set their development back.

5. The Patriots know that with Moss, you’€™re always living on borrowed time, and most of the time, on his terms: Since the end of the 2007 season, the Patriots knew they were in for a short marriage with Moss, one that ultimately came to an end early in the 2010 season following a much-discussed incident with offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien. At some point along the way, Moss transitioned from someone who was clearly interested in putting the team first to someone who was worried about himself and his numbers. (Remember this?) With the Patriots having spent the better part of the last two years meticulously building a positive infrastructure in the locker room, it would be a risk to reintroduce a historically combustible individual like Moss back into that environment.

Moss is still beloved by many in New England. He showed up to owner Robert Kraft‘€™s house as Kraft sat shiva following the death of his wife, and Kevin Faulk told NESN in an interview that Moss was waiting for him in his driveway a week ago when the running back returned from the Super Bowl. In addition, Patriots Bill Belichick — who has had plenty of opportunities to publicly lambaste Moss — continues to have nothing but good things to say about the receiver. Meanwhile, Moss has taken every chance to tell everyone how much he loved his time in New England with Tom Brady and Belichick.

But even with all that, don’€™t look for Moss to rejoin Brady and Belichick. The bottom line is that Moss needs the Patriots more than they need him. And considering the New England passing game has enjoyed unparalleled success since he was shipped out of town 16 months ago, at this point in Moss’€™ career, the risk far outweighs the reward.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Chad Ochocinco

Rating the Roster, Part 2

02.11.12 at 7:50 pm ET
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With the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror ‘€” and the Patriots facing a number of key personnel decisions ‘€” it seems like a good time to break down the current 53-man roster, taking a look at who might be the most valuable members of the franchise.

We arrived at this list 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.

A quick note: The 53 players were taken straight from New England’€™s postseason media guide, the most up-to-date listing available. That means injured players such as Andre Carter, Mike Wright, Jermaine Cunningham, Dan Koppen and Ras-I Dowling, as well as practice squadders, are not included for purposes of this exercise.

We started with No. 53 through No. 26. Here’€™s No. 25 through No. 1:

25. Punter Zoltan Mesko: A borderline Pro Bowler, Mesko had an excellent year and was singled out earlier this season by an NFL scout we spoke with who acknowledged his work when it came to helping the Patriots win the battle of field position, especially early in games when New England was struggling to score points. Should be one of the best in the league for years to come.

24. Defensive back Sterling Moore: Released by the Raiders in September, he ended up playing significant minutes down the stretch and into the postseason. He made what was likely the defensive play of the year when he knocked the ball out of the hands of Baltimore’€™s Lee Evans in the AFC championship game. Regardless of what the Patriots do in free agency or the draft, he has played his way into the regular rotation of defensive backs going forward.

23. Tackle Sebastian Vollmer: It was a lost season for the big German, who struggled with back and foot issues for much of the season. Presuming that left tackle Matt Light will return as the starting left tackle in 2012, Vollmer will face a fight for his starting job next year at the right tackle spot with Nate Solder.

22. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski: A very good year for Gostkowski, who remains one of the more steady and consistent kickers in the league.

21. Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Love is likely the best and most consistent young defensive lineman on the roster. He played roughly half the snaps for the Patriots this season at the defensive tackle spot, and gained a wealth of knowledge playing much of the season alongside Vince Wilfork. It will be interesting to watch his progression into 2012, especially with a lockout-free offseason.

20. Wide receiver Deion Branch: He’€™s not the receiver he once was, but he maximizes the tools that are still at his disposal, including his smarts, his knowledge of the game and his relationship with Tom Brady. Prior to a couple of ill-timed drops in the Super Bowl, he still showed a knack for coming up big in big moments. A free agent, he’€™s one of the really intriguing decisions the Patriots face this offseason.

19. Running back Stevan Ridley: An interesting rookie year — he showed genuine flashes of greatness at times, running the ball for 5.1 yards per carry with real explosiveness. But there were a couple of fumbles late in the season, which ultimately meant that an occasionally promising year ended on something of a sour note. With a good offseason (lockout-free), he could push BenJarvus Green-Ellis for the role of lead back in 2012.

18. Defensive end Mark Anderson: One of the pleasant free agent surprises of 2012 (along with Andre Carter and Brian Waters), Anderson saw his role expand over the course of the season from that of a pure third-down pass rusher to a more complete defender. He’€™s not quite a complete three-down player yet in the New England system, but certainly progressed over the course of the season. Like Carter, his better-than-expected performance on a one-year deal will leave the Patriots with a decision to make at the start of free agency.

17. Tackle Nate Solder: The Patriots’€™ Rookie of the Year, he had a very good rookie season, working as a right and left tackle, a part-time tight end as well as getting reps on special teams. (According to Pro Football Focus, he was eighth on the offense in total snaps with 1,044, more than veterans like Dan Connolly, Deion Branch and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.) He struggled in the Super Bowl, but will almost certainly push Vollmer for the starter’s job at right tackle in 2012.

16. Running back Danny Woodhead: An up-and-down season for Woodhead, but when he was on, it was clear he’€™s emerged as a mostly positive heir to Kevin Faulk as the teams’€™ third-down/changeup back. (He’€™s not the blocker Faulk is, but has shown himself to be a statistical equal in several other areas.) Woodhead had a very good Super Bowl, and stands ready to be an integral part of the New England offense going forward.

15. Cornerback Devin McCourty: A mixed bag this season for McCourty, who struggled mightily in coverage over the first half of the season but did show some improvement over the second half, returning to his old physical self. He flashed some versatility late in the regular season and into the playoffs with a move to safety on third down and other passing situations, and he didn’€™t appear overwhelmed when he made the switch. Like Julian Edelman, he’€™ll bear watching in minicamps and other OTA’€™s when it comes to where he lines up. What the Patriots ultimately decide to do with him could have a sizable impact on the rest of the secondary.
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andre Carter, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick and Nick Saban hanging at Pebble Beach

02.11.12 at 6:29 pm ET
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By Greg Cameron

Just six days removed from last Sunday’€™s Super Bowl loss to the Giants, Patriots coach Bill Belichick hit the links as a part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as the amateur playing partner of PGA golfer Ricky Barnes. Currently, the pair sits in a tie for seventh place in the tournament heading into Sunday’€™s final round.

After teeing off on the famed course’€™s par-3 17th hole, Belichick and University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was playing with former Crimson Tide golf standout Bud Cauley in a foursome with the perpetually hoodie-clad  coach (including during play on Saturday) and Barnes, spoke to CBS Sports’€™s Jim Nantz and Sir Nick Faldo. In addition to being critiqued on the finer points of their golf swings, both coaches, who are long-time friends talked about their time playing together in the tournament and blowing off steam after Super Bowl XLVI.

On what it was like playing together at Pebble Beach:
BB: ‘€œOh it is. It’€™s awesome. It’€™s great to spend time with Nick and the pros here at Pebble Beach. It’€™s a great weekend.’€
NS: ‘€œThis is a fantastic place I’€™ve never been here before. This is my old friend and pal, and one of my real mentors in coaching and it’€™s great to be able to spend time with him as well.’€

On playing so well with Barnes in the tournament despite not playing much golf in recent months:
BB: ‘€œRicky Barnes has been playing great. He’€™s having a great tournament and he’€™s been carrying me the entire time out here. He’€™s going to have a back massage out here tonight.’€

On what it’€™s been like after last week’€™s Super Bowl and the reactions from the gallery:
BB: ‘€œThe reaction out here has been great. The fans have been great and it’€™s fun to be out here. It was a tough loss, a tough couple [of] days. But Pebble Beach is a great spot to take your mind off of some of the other problems we had.’€

On making the cut with Barnes:
BB: ‘€œIt’€™ll be fun. I’€™ve never done that before and played here on Sunday. I’€™m looking forward to that.’€

Belichick is joined in the Pebble Beach field with other entrants with NFL ties including 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Packers quarterback and newly minted league MVP Aaron Rodgers, former Jets coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is playing with Tiger Woods this weekend.

Here’s video of Belichick and Saban chatting with the CBS crew after their round Saturday:

Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, Bud Cauley, Herm Edwards

Will Carroll: Rob Gronkowski looking at 4-6 week recovery time after ankle surgery

02.10.12 at 6:06 pm ET
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In the wake of his arthroscopic surgery Friday morning at Massachusetts General Hospital on his injured left ankle, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski should be OK to participate in the majority of offseason workout programs.

Noted sports injury expert Will Carroll of said there’€™s reason to believe New England is looking at a 4-6 week recovery time for the big tight end, which should allow him to be ready by mid-April and the start of offseason minicamps.

‘€œHe just had it cleaned out, from what I understand,’€ Carroll said. ‘€œI think that the fact they just went in and cleaned it out is a big positive. He’€™s got plenty of time to get back, even if it had been more serious.’€

Gronkowski suffered the injury in the second half of the AFC championship win over the Ravens. He wore a walking boot for much of the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl but clearly was not himself in the Super Bowl against the Giants, catching just two balls for 26 yards in the loss.

Gronkowski, who insisted after the Super Bowl he would not have to have surgery, had his scope done by Patriots ankle specialist Dr. George Theodore, according to Pro Football Talk.

There are several other NFL stars who suffered high-ankle injuries over the course of the 2011 season, including Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Jets center Nick Mangold. Carroll indicated that there’€™s no real comparable situation when it comes to Gronkowski’€™s injury and rehab time because of who he is, but indicated that there shouldn’€™t be any concern when it comes to long-term effects.

‘€œThere’€™s not really a perfect comparison because he’€™s half tight end and half wide receiver,’€ he said. ‘€œThere’€™s tons of high ankles out there, but they’€™re not long-term injuries.’€

Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal was the first to report the news of the surgery.

Read More: Adrian Peterson, Ben Roethlisberger, George Theodore, Nick Mangold

Rating the Roster, Part 1

02.10.12 at 1:02 am ET
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With the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror ‘€” and the Patriots facing a number of key personnel decisions ‘€” it seems like a good time to break down the current 53-man roster, taking a look at who might be the most valuable members of the franchise.

We arrived at this list 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.

A quick note: The 53 players were taken straight from New England’€™s postseason media guide, the most up-to-date listing available. That means injured players such as Andre Carter, Mike Wright, Jermaine Cunningham, Dan Koppen and Ras-I Dowling, as well as practice squadders are not included for purposes of this exercise.

We start with No. 53 through No. 26.

53. Safety Sergio Brown: Fewer players slid down the depth chart as precipitously as Brown, who opened the season in a regular rotation at safety (he played every snap of a Week 3 loss to Buffalo) but saw virtually zero meaningful snaps after the Week 12 win over Philadelphia. His low point was a costly pass interference penalty in the regular-season loss to the Giants that set up the game-winning score.

52. Linebacker Gary Guyton: Guyton began the year as a starter, but like Brown, slid quickly down the depth chart. A solid locker room presence and good buddy of Jerod Mayo, he will almost certainly be elsewhere next season.

51. Safety Malcolm Williams: A defensive back who was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots last April, he saw limited action this season as a special teamer, getting into a December win over the Redskins.

50. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco: The Patriots preach value, and there have been few instances of them getting less value for a player than New England got for Ochocinco in 2011. The wide receiver was the recipient of a $6 million base salary, and had just 15 catches on the season. Needless to say, if he does return, it will be with a reworked deal.

49. Defensive end Alex Silvestro: He will always be known to the world as The Guy Who Took Tiquan Underwood’€™s Spot The Day Before The Super Bowl, he’€™s someone the organization likes, but still needs more seasoning.

48. Defensive back Nathan Jones: A late-season pickup who bounced around the league before landing with the Patriots, he was thrown right into the action as soon as he showed up — four days after he was signed, he started at corner against the Colts. A veteran, if he is back next season, it will be to provide depth in the secondary.

47. Long snapper Danny Aiken: No problems this season from Aiken at the long snapper spot, as the New England specialists had a good season.

46. Offensive lineman Donald Thomas: A youngster out of UConn, he was used sparingly for a snap here or there throughout the course of the regular season until the regular-season finale. A youngster who provides good depth along the offensive line.

45. Linebacker Niko Koutouvides: A good complementary player, Koutouvides provided depth on special teams and the occasional snap on defense. (The sight of him split wide in coverage late in the year against the Colts was one of the more interesting images of the season.)

44. Fullback Lousaka Polite: A solid locker room presence in his relatively short time with the Patriots, he played just 24 snaps in his four games with New England, including 14 in the postseason. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do with Polite going forward, as they haven’€™t had a full-time, traditional fullback on the roster for a full season since Heath Evans in 2008.

43. Running back Shane Vereen: The rookie never seemed to recover after an early hamstring issue kept him on the shelf for an extended stretch (he was only involved in three games this past season), but it will be interesting to see what he can do with a full offseason in the facility. There may be some shuffling at the running back position this offseason (veteran Kevin Faulk could retire, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a free agent), and as a result, there could be some opportunities there for Vereen in 2012.

42. Quarterback Ryan Mallett: The rookie didn’€™t play at all in the regular season, but was a good teammate who, by all accounts, kept his eyes and ears open and his mouth shut. As has always been the case, it’€™s curious what the endgame will be between Mallett and the Patriots. Is he trade bait? Or is he in New England’€™s future plans?

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Read More: Alex Silvestro, Andre Carter, Antuwan Molden, Brandon Deaderick

Should the Patriots take a run at Mario Williams or any top free agents?

02.09.12 at 3:18 pm ET
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Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline has released the list of his top NFL free agents heading into the offseason, with Houston defensive lineman Mario Williams topping the bunch. Prisco points out that the 27-year-old Williams — who has totaled 53 sacks in 5 1/2 seasons with the Texans — will most likely not be franchised by Houston due to the $22 million hit Houston would have to deal with.

So, with if Williams does hit the market — undoubtedly primed to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL — would the Patriots be wise to bank of the Brinks truck to find their elusive outside-edge pass rusher?

Williams has played both outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, and defensive end in a 4-3 (which Prisco surmises might fit him better). And it’s not as if the Patriots haven’t gone down a similar road before, having inked free agent outside linebacker Adalius Thomas to five-year, $35 million ($20 million guaranteed) deal prior to the 2007 season. Williams will surely cost more than Thomas did, but he is also hitting the free agent market three years younger. And, as was the case heading into that offseason prior to ’07, the Patriots are currently in solid shape salary cap-wise.

There are some other players in Prisco’s top 10 who should also pique the interest of the Patriots, such as 25-year-old cornerback Brandon Carr of the Chiefs, 25-year-old defensive end Cliff Avril of the Lions (19 1/2 sacks past two seasons), or even 27-year-old Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

Oh, and by the way, Wes Welker is the only Patriot on Prisco’s list, coming at No. 18.

But it is Williams who will raise the most eyebrows when names start flying around this offseason. Let the conversation begin …

(To read Prisco’s entire list, click here.)

Do you think the Patriots will pursue Mario Williams?

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Pressure Points: Which New England defenders did the best job of getting after the quarterback in the postseason?

02.09.12 at 2:23 pm ET
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This postseason, according to official NFL gamebooks, the Patriots had 21 hits and 11 sacks during the 2011 playoffs. When it came to who did the best job getting after the quarterback, we already gave you the regular-season breakdown. Now, here’€™s a look of who did the best job during the 2011 postseason:

Quarterback hits
Defensive end Mark Anderson: 4
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: 4
Defenisve lineman Vince Wilfork: 3
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: 2
Cornerback Kyle Arrington: 1
Defensive end Brandon Deaderick: 1
Safety James Ihedigbo: 1
Linebacker Jerod Mayo: 1
Defensive tackle Kyle Love: 1
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: 1
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: 1
Linebacker Niko Koutouvides: 1

Anderson: 2.5 (16 yards)
Wilfork 2.5 (14.5 yards)
Ninkovich: 2 (12.5 yards)
Deaderick: 1 (2 yards)
Ihedigbo: 1 (12 yards)
Spikes: 1 (4 yards)
Ellis: 1 (5 yards)

Read More: Brandon Deaderick, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, James Ihedigbo
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