|02.15.12 at 4:02 pm ET|
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. The Patriots are picking 28th and 31st overall in the first round and have two picks in the second round, and Mayock said they would be wise to focus on defense early.
“They have two picks in the first round — what a surprise,” Mayock said. “Bill [Belichick] is a master at letting the board come to him, so I don’t even think Bill will know really until that last week prior to the draft what specific players he’s interested in. The way I look at it is it’s got to be all about defense. You’re sitting there with two picks, with the ability to move up, down or stay at 27 and 31. In a league where it’s a pass-first league, I was kind of happy to see the return of defense in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, but let’s be honest about it — there are a lot of teams, including the Patriots, that want a track meet every week, which means you have to rush the quarterback and you have to defend on the back end. I think those are the two areas of need that kind of cry out for some help in the draft for the Patriots.”
Mayock said that when it comes to offense, the Pats should focus on getting a vertical receiever. He noted that he believes the draft features four first-round receivers, and many big receivers who need to run well at next week’s combine to prove their worth.
“[Wes] Welker has had career years and those two tight ends are exceptional, which has kind of changed the way a lot of people look at offense in this league,” Mayock said. “I think you have to give Bill and his coaching staff a lot of credit for crafting what they’ve crafted with that offense. However, having said that, between Welker and the tight ends, they’re based in the middle of the field more than they are vertically. I think a vertical wide receiver could really help them.”
As for projected first overall pick Andrew Luck, Mayock said the Stanford quarterback is “not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning,” but that he is a better prospect than the likes of Matt Ryan and Cam Newton have been in recent years.
|02.15.12 at 2:25 pm ET|
After he was introduced to Twitter this past season, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker embraced the medium, interacting with fans on a regular basis (and even taking one of them up on a suggestion for a touchdown dance).
But in the wake of his missed connection with quarterback Tom Brady late in Super Bowl XLVI, Welker stayed away from Twitter … until Wednesday. That’s when the veteran posted his first update in roughly three weeks, Tweeting: I would like to thank all of my fans for your love and support. I looked outside and the sun came out. #vacationtime
Welker, who is scheduled to become a free agent next month, finished the season with 122 catches for 1,659 yards and nine touchdowns. The 2011 season marked the last year of a five-year contract he signed with New England shortly after joining the Patriots in 2007.
|02.15.12 at 2:10 pm ET|
We continue our on 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Offensive guard
Weight: 343 pounds
Two points: One, we’ve been down this road with Nicks before. And two, this whole entry should be led with the following disclaimer: If Brian Waters decides to retire, then Nicks would be the next best option for the Patriots. Waters said after the Super Bowl that he’d taken two to three weeks to decide on his future, and if he does choose to return, then the whole idea of Nicks to New England is moot. But if Waters does choose to hang ‘em up, the Patriots should focus their attention on landing Nicks, a Nebraska product who was a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2008.
This wouldn’t be the sort of marquee, skill position signing along the lines of a Vincent Jackson (or even Reggie Wayne) that would get people talking, but the addition of Nicks — who is expected to leave the Saints — would certainly give a big boost to New England’s offensive line. A two-time All-Pro, he’s finished first (2009), first (2010) and second (2011) in Pro Football Focus rankings the past three years, and PFF has him as the fourth-best free agent on the market.
There are some hard decisions to make regarding the interior of the New England offensive line this offseason, as center Dan Koppen and center/guard Dan Connolly are both free agents. The Patriots have Ryan Wendell as a quality backup at both positions, as well as center Nick McDonald, but if Waters does decide to retire (or they don’t re-sign Koppen and/or Connolly) and they don’t believe Wendell is a long-term answer as a starting guard, they would be wise to at least kick the tires on Nicks.
Why it might not work: We already covered the Waters angle. In addition, Nicks could balk at the idea of moving from left to right guard. I’ll also be curious to see how the market for free-agent guards shakes out — Nicks is presumed to be the best of the bunch, but it’s a group that also includes Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs and Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis. And historically, other than Waters, the Patriots have been reticent to bring in veteran offensive linemen, choosing instead to cultivate their own younger talent under the guidance of veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
|02.14.12 at 9:35 pm ET|
The Patriots have re-signed Eric Kettani to their 80-man roster, according to multiple reports.
If the 5-foot-11, 235-pound running back is cleared by the Navy to resume his football career, he could ultimately find a spot on New England’s reserve/military list. The 24-year-old Kettani originally signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009, before spending two seasons on active duty with the Navy.
Kettani returned to the Patriots last July for training camp, and was on the practice squad for the first five weeks of the regular season before he was unexpectedly denied leave by the Navy, which forced New England to release him from the practice squad in early October.
|02.14.12 at 4:19 pm ET|
When it comes to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Patriots have an interesting decision to make.
The running back is a free agent, and while he’s not considered an elite back, he remains an excellent fit for the New England system. He consistently hits four yards a carry, he’s never fumbled as a professional and he’s never complained about not getting enough touches. And this past season, he averaged one negative play for every 19 times he touched the football. When you add that to a thousand-yard season (in 2011), it’s an impressive resume.
But what’s he worth? With the Patriots currently employing a running back in Stevan Ridley who just came off an occasionally impressive rookie season (not to mention another young back in Shane Vereen), should New England gift Green-Ellis a long-term deal? It certainly appears that the Patriots have started talks with Green-Ellis’ agent Joel Segal regarding a long-term contract. Segal joined “Pro Football Talk Live” on Tuesday and indicated that he and the Patriots have had “on and off” talks about a new deal for the running back.
In the context of a new deal for Green-Ellis, Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk Tweeted Tuesday that Kansas City would make a lot of sense as a possible landing spot for the running back. Silva said: The Chiefs have tons of cap room [and] will likely sign at least one [running back]. BenJarvus Green-Ellis logical fit. History with [GM Scott] Pioli. Silva added that Kansas City running backs Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones are both scheduled to become free agents, and said that Green-Ellis might be able to command a deal similar to that of New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas, who signed a 4-year, $11.2 million contract prior to the start of the 2011 season.
|02.14.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
Today begins a series on 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window runs from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 198 pounds
It certainly appears that Indy, with a new coach and GM, is looking to break up the band, so it should come as no surprise that Wayne has said the Colts haven’t reached out to him regarding his future. He has made it known — at least through a third party — that he’d be open to playing for the Patriots, as the Boston Herald reported that he told Willie McGinest that he’d welcome a chance to play in New England. He’d be a welcome alternative to Chad Ochocinco — he’s a similar size (Ocho is 6-foot-1, 198 pounds) and is almost a year younger. And even on short money, Wayne would be a better fit with the Patriots than this guy.
In 2011, Wayne had his worst season statistically since 2003, as he finished with 75 catches for 960 yards and four touchdowns. (I’ll let you think about that for a second — it might be the only time you see the words ‘worst’ and ‘960 yards’ in the same sentence.) The drop in numbers could very well be because Manning was sidelined for the bulk of the season and Wayne had to make do with the likes of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins throwing him the ball. Despite that, he still managed to lead Indy in receptions and receiving yards.
Unless he gets knocked sideways by a ridiculous offer, he’s not going to go somewhere and start all over again. He also passes what might best be described as the Rosevelt Colvin test: in 2002, before a game against the Bears, Belichick waxed rhapsodic about Colvin’s greatness. In 2009, Belichick was effusive in his praise of Wayne, saying after the infamous fourth and 2 game (a contest where Wayne had 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns), ‘I can’t say enough about Reggie Wayne. That guy’s the best receiver we cover every year. It seems like he just keeps getting better. I thought the routes he ran and the catches he made were nothing short of spectacular — the go-route, the two touchdown catches, the third-down conversion on the corner route in front of our bench. He’s a tremendous receiver.’
Why it might not work: As is the case with Moss, the Patriots need to get younger at wide receiver, and signing a 33-year-old like Wayne isn’t a good way to do that. While on the surface, he would appear to be a good fit in many respects, New England isn’t likely to pony up multiple years and a ridiculous signing bonus to get him — he’d probably have to take less money to come to the Patriots. It also depends on how the rest of the market shakes out. This is a very good year for high-end wide receivers: Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker. And then, there’s the Peyton Factor. With the two of them having spent more than a decade together, some reports indicate that Wayne would follow Manning wherever the quarterback decided to land.
|02.13.12 at 10:52 pm ET|
When he went home to visit his family this past week, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington had just one request.
‘My folks, they watch NFL Network and SportsCenter 24/7 during the season, and even in the offseason. So when I came home, they had a replay of [the Super Bowl] on,’ he said. ‘I said, ‘For the next two months, there will be no football, no NFL Network in this household.’’
It’s been a long week for Arrington, as he attempts to try and put the Super Bowl loss in the rear-view mirror and start on what will be an eventful offseason, one that includes a March wedding. Despite the fact that he had an excellent game (holding celebrated New York receiver Victor Cruz in check for most of the night), he says he’s seen a ‘tidbit’ of the contest, but has tried to stay away until he gets to a point where he can look at the game with a critical eye.
‘Yeah, I’ll eventually watch it. But right now, I’m just trying to relax and get away from football for the moment,’ he said Monday afternoon while doing a signing event for charity at Smoothie King on Newbury Street. ‘Right now, it’s only been a week, but for me, it’s been cold tub, hot tub, cold tub, as much as I can. I’m still really trying to get the legs back. The body, really, but more so the legs back.’
Arrington’s season was one of the better in recent history for any New England defensive back. The Hofstra product, who led all Patriots’ defensive backs in snaps this season with 1,177 (according to Pro Football Focus), had seven picks, and was tied for the league lead in interceptions with San Diego’s Eric Weddle and Green Bay’s Charles Woodson.
‘It’s a great accomplishment to lead the NFL in any individual stat. It’s a great accomplishment,’ he said. ‘But that’s not really what we’re here for as a team. Individual awards, accolades, you name it. We’re here for a championship. We fell just short, but we have a young team and we have a lot of confidence that we’ll have more opportunities.’
Over the course of the season, Arrington built a case as New England’s most consistent cornerback, and he’s ‘confident’ that with a lockout-free offseason, the Patriots’ secondary will respond with an excellent 2012.
‘Thankfully, we have an offseason program this year, so that’s even more time we get to talk the same language, be on the field together and be off the field together,’ he said. ‘The more we’re around each other, the more it’ll benefit us.’
The offseason — at least, before the organized team activities start in the spring — are a good time to decompress and get away from the game for at least a month or two.
‘I can only speak for myself personally, but I just kind of like to get as far away from football as possible,’ Arrington said. ‘That process starts up again when you get back into your training regimen. That’s the offseason focus for a lot of guys. They have personal trainers of whatever they do in their home, so that’s big too. That starts up again. Thankfully, we have an offseason this year, so that’ll start up later in April. It’s one step after another, with OTA’s and minicamps, and then back into it.’
In the meantime, Arrington has thrown himself into his community work. His signing over the weekend served as a benefit to help raise money for the family of fallen Peabody firefighter James Rice. And money raised at Monday’s signing will also be donated to an area school, according to his agent, Sean Stellato.
‘He’s getting more involved in the community,’ Stellato said of Arrington, who also has designs on launching a local football camp sometime this summer. ‘He likes to have an intimate relationship with his fans, and being able to go out there and raise hundreds of dollars this weekend for the Rice family, who suffered a tragic loss, being able to spend some time with them, it was pretty gratifying and pretty moving.’