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WEEI NFL Power Rankings

05.23.10 at 8:34 pm ET
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With free agency and the draft behind us, now is a good time to take a look at all 32 NFL teams and see where they stack up at the midway mark of the offseason. No real surprises, as the top two teams — the Saints and Colts — earned their way to the No. 1 and 2 spots following dominating 2009 campaigns and solid offseasons. After a great draft and the addition of some key free agents, the Ravens shoot up to No. 3, while the Packers and Cowboys round out the top 5. As for the AFC East, the “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets” are two spots ahead of the Patriots after a great offseason in which they added more depth in the secondary and at the wide receiver position.

And now, I leave you with the first offseason edition of the 2010 rankings. Give it your best shot and tell me why I’m wrong. I’m waiting.

New Orleans Saints1. The defending Super Bowl champs are poised and ready to make another run at the title. The Saints will benefit from their soft regular-season schedule — based on opponents’ 2009 regular-season record, they have the sixth-easiest schedule in the NFL in 2010. They used their first-round pick to select cornerback Patrick Robinson from Florida State to shore up their pass defense, which was ranked 26th in the NFL last year.

2. The Colts have focused on their defense this offseason with the re-signing of linebacker Gary Brackett to a five-year deal and the drafting of Jerry Hughes, a defensive lineman/outside linebacker, with their first-round pick. Hughes is an extremely fast and dominant pass rusher and will fit in nicely with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Hughes can rush the passer from either side, and Mathis and Freeney will benefit greatly from having a younger defensive end to shoulder some of the load.

3. The Ravens have had an excellent offseason to this point. They certainly transformed the wide reciever position from a position of weakness into a position of strength with the addition of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth. They added great depth to their front seven in the draft with linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence Cody.

Green Bay Packers4. The Packers’ main concern this year will be protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked 57 times last season. Green Bay used its first-round pick on offensive tackle Brian Bulaga. If the Packers can figure out a way to keep Rodgers off the turf, they can get to the Super Bowl.

Dallas Cowboys5. Dallas was in the top 5 in most major offensive categories last year, and now the Cowboys add Dez Bryant to the mix. Not bad. The Cowboys also have a great front seven, highlighted by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Belichick second on Forbes’ list of highest-paid coaches

05.22.10 at 9:10 pm ET
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Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft on the wake of the 2007 AFC championship win over the Chargers. (AP)

A couple of days after it said the Patriots were the No. 10 most valuable sports team brand in the world, Forbes magazine published its list of the 10 highest-paid coaches in professional sports, and it has Bill Belichick at No. 2 with an annual salary of $7.5 million.

The magazine says: “After a so-so run in Cleveland in the early 1990s, Belichick has reeled off a 112-48 record with New England since 2000, including nine division titles and four Super Bowl appearances.”

Belichick’s contract and salary have been a well-guarded secret over the years. The last time we heard talk about it was back in 2007, when it was reported the coach and franchise agreed to an extension that would keep him with the franchise through at least the 2013 season, according to ESPN. And earlier that year, Belichick made a brief mention about his contract situation.

“I don’t talk about contracts, but I would say I like working here, I like the organization — ownership, coaches, scouts, players, and the guys I work with,” he said in July 2007. “I appreciate the opportunity to work here, and it’s a good situation. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Belichick is the highest-paid NFL coach on Forbes’ list — the only coach who makes more annually is Lakers coach Phil Jackson, whose yearly salary is listed as $10.3 million. (Reportedly, Jackson has been asked to take a pay cut after this season.) Other NFL coaches who made the list include Washington’s Mike Shanahan and Seattle’s Pete Carroll (tied for third overall at $7 million a year) and Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher (ninth at $5.75 million annually). In addition, Celtics coach Doc Rivers is 10th overall at $5.5 million a year.

The story does take note of the fact that when it comes to coaching in the NFL, there has been a lot of turnover — and lots of big new contracts — as of late. Forbes says that’s an indication of “confidence in an improving sports economy.”

“To the extent that coaching offers serve as a barometer of confidence in an improving sports economy, some recent NFL moves are certainly encouraging,” writes Tom Van Riper. “Following a period in which several highly paid veterans (Shanahan, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren) walked away or were let go, replaced by younger, cheaper coaches, spending is picking up in some quarters. After a year off following his dismissal by the Broncos, Shanahan was handed a five-year, $35 million deal by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, complete with control over the football operation, with marching orders to turn around the franchise.”

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Welker: Rehab ‘going good so far’

05.22.10 at 5:45 pm ET
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Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker reiterated his stance on Saturday that there is no set timetable for his return, but feels like his rehab is “going good so far.” Speak at his football camp in Braintree, Welker told reporters his plan was to “keep working hard, keep doing the things I’ve been doing to get to where I am right now.”

“It’s a long process, but I feel like we’re making a lot of strides,” said Welker, who injured his left knee in the regular-season finale against the Texans and sat out the playoff loss to the Ravens. “I’m just trying to stay pain free.

“It’s gone as good as expected so far. Hopefully we stay on that track and keep on progressing every day.”

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Patriots unveil OTA and spring minicamp schedule

05.21.10 at 8:31 pm ET
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The Patriots have unveiled their practice schedule for the coming weeks, as well as the schedule for media availability. In all, New England will hold 12 OTA sessions leading up to mandatory minicamp in mid-June. The media will have access to four of them.

May 24, 25, 26 and 27 — organized team activities
May 26
11 a.m. — Practice
12:30 p.m. — Player availability with media

June 1, 2, 3 and 4 — organized team activities
June 2

11 a.m. — Practice
12:30 p.m. — Player availability with media

June 7, 8 — organized team activities
June 7

11 a.m. — Practice
12:30 p.m. — Player availability with media

June 10, 11 — organized team activities
Thursday, June 10

11 a.m. — Practice
12:30 p.m. — Player availability with media

June 15, 16, 17
Mandatory minicamp

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Falcons announce ‘combined practices’ with Patriots this August

05.21.10 at 6:35 pm ET
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The Falcons officially announced Friday afternoon that the Patriots will visit for a couple of days of practices in Georgia before the preseason game between the two teams Aug. 19 at the Georgia Dome. In what they are calling “combined practices,” the Patriots and Falcons will work out together in Flowery Branch, Ga. starting on Aug. 17, two days before the teams battle in a preseason meeting in Atlanta. Both New England coach Bill Belichick and Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff hinted at the idea during a radio appearance Friday in Atlanta.

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Pats will have preseason practices with opponent for first time since 2001

05.21.10 at 6:14 pm ET
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In a Friday afternoon stint on Atlanta’s 92.9 FM with Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff  (a former Patriots front-office staffer), Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Dimitroff talked a lot about music, with a little football thrown in for good measure. But there was one exchange that certainly raised eyebrows — that was when Belichick asked Dimitroff who would get to pick the music when the two teams scrimmaged this summer.

The two teams are going to play a preseason game against the Falcons in Atlanta on Aug. 19, and so the idea of a scrimmage between the two teams wouldn’t be out of the question. In addition, during the preseason, several teams routinely scrimmage against each other.

But preseason scrimmages have been few and far between over the last few years for the Patriots. In the summer of 2000 — his first preseason as head coach in New England — Belichick and one scheduled with Jim Fassel and the New York Giants, which was set for late July at UMass-Amherst. However, Belichick canceled the scrimmage the day before, saying the team — and the offensive line in particular — didn’t have enough healthy players.

The two sides were able to pull it off a year later when Fassel and the Giants spent some time at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I. working out with the Patriots in the days leading up to their Aug. 10 game in Foxboro (a 14-0 win for the Patriots). After the two teams practiced together — sessions that included walkthroughs together as well as full pads —  Belichick later said of the scrimmages “It’s a good rehearsal for the preseason,” and the idea was floated that New England would make the trek to Albany the following summer for a return date with the Giants, but the idea never came to fruition.

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Pats add a quarterback, drop two practice squadders

05.21.10 at 4:52 pm ET
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It appears that quarterback Mike Teel has been claimed off waivers by the Patriots. Teel, who was recently cut loose by Seattle (and tweeted the news of his release by the Seahawks here and here) said “Hello New England” on Friday afternoon. The 24-year-old, a sixth-round pick of Seattle in 2009, served as the team’s No. 3 quarterback last year, but did not appear in a game. A product of Rutgers, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Teel completed 20 of 41 passes for 238 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in four preseason games in 2009 with Seattle.


Jeff Rowe did not see action with the Patriots.

In addition, the Patriots announced the release of tight end Robbie Agnone and quarterback Jeff Rowe on Friday afternoon. Two players who spent last season on the practice squad, Agnone is a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder out of Delaware who was placed on the practice squad/injured list on Nov. 3, 2009, where he spent the remainder of the season before being re-signed to a future contract on Jan. 12. Meanwhile, Rowe is a 6-foot-5, 221-pound quarterback out of Nevada who was signed to New England’s practice squad on Dec. 9, 2009. He was also re-signed to a future contract on Jan. 12.

Here’s the full announcement from the team on the release of Agnone and Rowe:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots released TE Robbie Agnone and QB Jeff Rowe today.

Agnone, 6-6, 260 pounds, was originally signed as a rookie free agent out of Delaware by the Washington Redskins on April 30, 2009. He was waived by Washington during their final cuts and signed to the New England practice squad Sept. 8, 2009.

Rowe, 6-5, 221 pounds, was signed to the New England practice squad on Dec. 9, 2009. He was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth-round of the 2007 draft out of Nevada. After spending the 2007 campaign as the third-quarterback for Cincinnati, Rowe began the 2008 season on the practice squad before being signed to the Seattle 53-man roster in December of 2008. He went to training camp with Seattle in 2009 but was waived prior to the start of the season.

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