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Free agent snapshot: Cornerback Brent Grimes

02.14.13 at 11:39 pm ET
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We’€™ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the week, we’€™ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Tuesday, it was Mike DeVito. Wednesday, we featured Danny Amendola. Today, it’€™s Brent Grimes:

Position: Cornerback
Age: 29 (will turn 30 on July 19)
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 183 pounds

The skinny: We’€™ve been down this road before with Grimes, but we feel so strongly about him — particularly if the Patriots lose Aqib Talib in free agency — that we’€™ll revisit the idea of him signing with New England again. (Last year, any ideas that the Patriots would be able to acquire him as a free agent were scuttled when the Falcons slapped him with the franchise tag.) It’€™s worth noting that Grimes is not the same guy we profiled last year for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he suffered an Achilles injury last September and spent virtually the season on injured reserve as a result.

Despite the injury, it appears that Grimes has the sort of up-by-your-bootstraps story that the Patriots love. An undrafted free agent out of tiny Shippensburg University, he started 44 games for Atlanta in just over five years with the Falcons, and came away with 13 picks in that stretch, including 11 interceptions in 2009 and 2010. For his efforts, he landed a Pro Bowl spot in 2010. Not an elite corner by any means, but if Talib leaves and the Patriots deem Grimes as being healthy, he would fill that void as an outside corner who would allow Devin McCourty to stay at safety and Kyle Arrington to remain as a slot corner. (For another take on the possibility of Grimes joining the Patriots, click through to this podcast I did with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, who backs the idea.)

By the numbers: Grimes had his best season in 2010 with the Falcons, when he finished with 87 tackles (76 solo), 23 passes defensed and five interceptions. In addition, it was the first (and only) time in his career where he started all 16 games.

Why it would work: Because of the injury, you have the potential of finding a very good corner from the bargain bin. He has some positional versatility, having played both the left and right corner spots. If Talib departs as a free agent, the Patriots could have their next veteran corner. And if the Patriots are going to build depth in the secondary, history says that they’€™ll have better luck doing it through free agency as opposed to the draft.

Why it might not work: The injury is a double-edged sword. You’€™ll be able to get him at a reduced rate, but at the same time, there’€™s no guarantee that you’€™ll be getting someone who is at 100 percent. For what it’€™s worth, the knee surgery he faced as a result of the September injury is the second surgery that will cause Grimes to miss games in the past two seasons. He had right knee surgery he needed in November 2011 that caused him to miss three of the last four regular-season games that year, as well as Atlanta’€™s January playoff loss to the Giants.

Quote: ‘€œBrent’€™s made a number of plays. Since we’€™ve been here, he’€™s been a cornerstone at the position, both left and right [cornerback].’€ — Falcons coach Mike Smith

Our take: A few things are in play here: One, with Grimes, it all comes down to his health. If the Achilles is healthy, there’€™s a chance he could return to something close to his old form, which was working as a pretty good corner. Not a lockdown guy, but still better than most. Two, Grimes comes from Atlanta, a team cut from the same cloth as the Patriots — Atlanta personnel chief Thomas Dimitroff made his bones in the New England organization. And if Grimes isn’€™t in Atlanta’€™s plans going forward, he would almost certainly give Bill Belichick the unvarnished truth when it comes to whether or not Grimes has anything left. And three, if Talib is gone and they don’€™t feel like some of the younger possibilities (like Ras-I Dowling) aren’€™t going to be able to contribute on a regular basis, then Grimes could work. If the Patriots feel good about all three of these points, then it would appear to be a pretty good match.

Read More: Brent Grimes, free agent snapshot,

Rob Gronkowski set to work as reporter at Oscars

02.14.13 at 11:09 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski has had an eventful offseason, but it appears he’s got some more sedate activity lined up for later this month when he’ll hit the red carpet at the Academy Awards. The Patriots tight end has been enlisted as a correspondent for the “Rich Eisen Podcast” on (Former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward did the honors last season.) The Oscars are set to take place on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles.

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Free agent snapshot: Wide receiver Danny Amendola

02.13.13 at 1:56 pm ET
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We’€™ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the next week, we’€™ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Tuesday, it was Mike DeVito. Today, it’€™s Danny Amendola:

Position: Wide receiver
Age: 27 (will turn 28 on Nov. 2)
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 186 pounds

The skinny: Wes Welker must look at Danny Amendola and shake his head. A younger — and likelier cheaper — version of me? Son of a … The comparisons between the two are really something: both went to Texas Tech, both were undrafted free agents who saw two teams give up on them before they achieves success in the NFL, and both made their bones as special teamers before becoming big-time targets in the slot. And now, with Amendola set to hit free agency and the Patriots (possibly) thinking about life after Welker, the stage could be set for New England to welcome a new generation of slot receiver to Foxboro. As a member of the Rams, Amendola had 63 catches in 11 games in 2012 and a career-high 85 catches for 689 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.

By the numbers: Over the last three seasons, Amendola has caught 153 passes on 230 targets for a catch rate of 67 percent. By way of comparison, over the last three years, Welker has 326 catches on 469 targets — a rate of 70 percent.

Why it would work: If you look at the pre-Patriots stretch of Welker’€™s career, he didn’€™t turn into the receiver that is until the age of 25 when he caught 67 passes for 687 yards for a Dolphins’€™ team that finished 6-10. He then took that to the next level when he joined the Patriots — at the age of 26, he caught 112 passes. (For comparisons sake, Amendola had his breakout year with the Rams at the age of 25 when he caught 85 passes for 689 yards. That team ended the year 7-9.) If there’€™s one guy out there who appears poised to continue on the same sort of career path, it’€™s Amendola, particularly if the Patriots decide to move on from Welker this offseason.

Why it might not work: There’€™s the very real possibility that the Rams decide to hit Amendola with the franchise tag, although recent reports indicate that both sides are looking for a long-term deal. Two other big things: one big area where Amendola certainly doesn’€™t follow Welker’€™s lead is durability. (Google ‘€œDanny Amendola’€ and ‘€œinjury’€ and you get back 169,000 results.) Amendola has played in 12 games the last two season because of a variety of injuries, including heel, foot and clavicle problems. We don’€™t mention this because we’€™re necessarily questioning Amendola’€™s toughness. It’€™s just that when compared to Welker’€™s durability (he’€™s played in all 32 regular-season games over the last two seasons), it comes up short. And two, Brady and Welker possess an almost creepy ability when it comes to knowing what the other one wants, a knowledge that has been built up over the last seven years with thousands of passes between the two — and not just during games or practices. (They go on vacation together, for goodness sakes.) That level of comfort and ease isn’€™t easily replicated, and it would be on the quarterback and the receiver to make that new relationship work.

Quote: ‘€œHe does things for our offense. He creates opportunities for other people.’€ — Rams coach Jeff Fisher on Amendola

Our take: It’€™s complicated. The similarities between Amendola and Welker are really quite something, but it’€™s important to know that if/when Amendola arrives in New England, you won’€™t necessarily get an instant 90-catch guy. While Amendola would have some previous working knowledge of the system based on his time with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis, it takes time to learn the scheme, and in addition, build that level of trust and confidence between the quarterback and receiver. (For what it’€™s worth, I would love to know Brady’€™s impact on the Welker contract negotiation — any quarterback in his mid-30s couldn’€™t be too enthused about possibly losing his most trusted and valuable target, as well as a good friend. I know Brady’€™s eyes are wide open, especially after losing pals like Lawyer Milloy and Deion Branch over the course of his career, but this is something else.)

The Patriots receiving corps is in a massive state of flux this offseason, and if they do decide it’€™s time to move on from Welker, Amendola would certainly offer a worthy facsimile. (That is, if they recuse themselves from the Percy Harvin Sweepstakes.) There’€™s no law saying you can’€™t have two slot receivers on the same team — if anyone can do it, it’€™s the Patriots. After all, they’€™ve managed to utilize two elite-level tight ends the last three seasons. But the addition of Amendola would mean Welker’€™s days in New England were numbered. In the end, if he’€™s available and you think Welker is done, then you have to have to make the move. While an Amendola-for-Welker switch would be consistent with the Patriots’€™ long-term vision for success (namely, cutting ties with a guy a year too early as opposed to a year too late), it would create short-term questions regarding the passing game that would have to be addressed, namely a belief that younger targets like Amendola, Julian Edelman (if he returns), Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez can steer clear of injury and stay on the field on a consistent basis.

Read More: Danny Amendola, free agent snapshot,

Free agent snapshot: Defensive lineman Mike DeVito

02.12.13 at 11:42 am ET
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We’€™ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the next week, we’€™ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Next, it’€™s Mike DeVito.

Position: Defensive lineman
Age: 28 (will turn 29 on June 10)
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 305 pounds

The skinny: A sturdy and dependable presence up front for the Jets for the last five seasons, this New England native — he grew up on Cape Cod and played collegiately at Maine — was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2007. One of the few holdovers from the Eric Mangini era, he flourished under Rex Ryan when he took over in 2009. Since the start of the 2008 season, DeVito has played in 75 of a possible 80 games, starting 38 of them. He’€™s not an every-down guy — he’€™d likely come off the field on third downs in the New England defense — but his versatility has been impressive, as he’€™s lined up at defensive tackle, defensive end and nose tackle over the course of his career. He’€™s known primarily as a run-stopper — per Pro Football Focus, DeVito has graded out in the top 10 in run defense among 3-4 defensive ends each of the past three seasons, including a top-four finish in 2011. When it comes to free agent defensive ends, there are some relatively big names out there, including Cliff Avril, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora, which likely will reduce DeVito to a spot on the secondary level of contracts. If the Patriots land DeVito, it certainly wouldn’€™t qualify as a big splash, but whoever lands him will be getting a highly regarded player who could be an important part of an elite defense.

By the numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, DeVito played 635 defensive snaps in 2012, the second most of his career. He finished the 2010 season (including the playoffs) with 697 snaps.

Why it would work: DeVito’€™s versatility would allow him to work at multiple spots in the New England offense. While he’€™s spent the bulk of his career at defensive end, he’€™s also lined up at defensive tackle and nose tackle as well, and could provide a complementary presence for fellow linemen/linebackers like Vince Wilfork, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis. And as with Bryant, the Patriots could compensate him relatively fairly but also structure a cap-friendly deal that wouldn’€™t break the bank. (For a reference point, DeVito is coming off a three-year contract that had him making base salaries of $1.04 million in 2010, $1.475 in 2011 and $1.31 million in 2012.)

Why it might not work: DeVito underwent shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2012 season, and he also suffered an injury to his left MCL late in the 2011 season. But other than that, there don’€™t appear to be too many medical red flags. There’€™s also the possibility that the Jets could prioritize him in free agency, but their cap situation is such that they had to make some cuts, and DeVito could be available as a result.

Quote: ‘€œI can tell you this about Mike DeVito: He is an outstanding football player. There is no question about it.’€ Jets coach Rex Ryan

Our take: It’€™s hard to find someone with a bad word about DeVito — my ‘€œNFL Sunday’€ partner Matt Chatham played with him briefly in New York and raved about his skill level and how well he would mesh with the New England system. His versatility is impressive, as well as his willingness to see the bigger picture. (He took a cut in his base salary before the start of the 2012 season to help the Jets’€™ try to get some cap relief; he was able to make a chunk of it back by hitting playing-time incentives.) In 2010, the Patriots were able to swipe Danny Woodhead off the New York roster, and the running back went on to great success in New England. DeVito isn’€™t as an underrated presence as Woodhead was, but it appears he can bring the same sort of under-the-radar impact. Don’€™t break the bank for him, but he could be the sort of guy who could end up playing a lot of snaps in New England’€™s system if he signed with the Patriots.

Read More: free agent snapshot, Mike DeVito,

NFL Mock Draft, Take 1: Patriots try for secondary help … again

02.10.13 at 8:39 am ET
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Ah, the pre-draft process. The Super Bowl is nice, but there might be no better part of the NFL calendar. Either way, the combine is weeks away and has you covered.

This draft class is exceptionally weak at quarterback, which will hurt teams at the top. Traditionally, teams picking in the top five or 10 take the opportunity to get a potential franchise signal-caller, but that won’€™t be an option for teams that badly need an upgrade at the position such as the Chiefs, Jaguars, Eagles, Cardinals, Bills and Jets. It’€™s still early, so quarterbacks will work their way into the first-round discussion, with West Virginia’€™s Geno Smith the most likely candidate to be the first one off the board.

1. Chiefs (2-14) — Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Left tackle isn’€™t the Chiefs’€™ most pressing need (the guy who lines up diagonally behind him would be), but given what they’€™re dealing with in this draft class, they could do much worse than to get a franchise player at the position. Should they want another USC quarterback, the Chiefs could always consider Matt Barkley in the second round.

2. Jaguars (2-14) — Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Another team that would rather spend this pick on a quarterback, the Jaguars (if they don’t wind up with Tim Tebow) might have to stick it out for another year with 2011 first-rounder Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Neither is the long-term solution, but there isn’€™t a guy the caliber of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or maybe even Ryan Tannehill available here. Jones has had injury concerns, but he’€™s a monster of a pass-rusher and the Jaguars were last in the league with 20 sacks, five behind the next team (Raiders).

3. Raiders (4-12) — Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Speaking of teams that didn’€™t get a lot of sacks and the exact stat you just read, the Raiders were 31st in the league with 25 sacks. The Raiders need help all over their defensive line, so Moore or defensive tackle Star Lotulelei should be the pick.

4. Eagles (4-12) — Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
New coach Chip Kelly obviously is an offensive-minded guy, but with the team moving to a 3-4, there is no more important position to address than nose tackle. Good ones are hard to find, so if Lotulelei still is on the board, the Eagles would be wise to pounce on the 320-pounder.

5. Lions (4-12) — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner isn’€™t the caliber of a guy like Patrick Peterson, who went fifth overall to the Cardinals in 2011, but the cornerback group in Detroit is average enough to warrant this pick. If the Lions don’€™t re-sign Chris Houston, who tied for the team lead in interceptions with two (yup, that tied for the team lead), the need will be even greater.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, Jarvis Jones, Luke Joeckel,

Opinion: Rob Gronkowski needs to change his act

02.05.13 at 11:32 am ET
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We’ve reached intervention stage with Rob Gronkowski.

Now, that’s not meant to suggest we are dealing with an alcohol issue when it comes to the best tight end on the planet, though I suspect if he had been completely sober there’s a chance the video we’ve all seen on TMZ wouldn’t exist.

Before we get to the areas of concern, though, let’s be very clear about this: Rob Gronkowski, by every account, works incredibly hard, is a terrific teammate, has production off the charts, plays hurt, has done more than his share of charity and seems to truly enjoy being a professional football player in New England. The fact that there is no filter is a reason for his popularity. And that’s why people, by and large, are OK with all the extracurricular activities. Put it another way: If video surfaces of John Lackey dancing and wrestling at a club in Fort Myers sometime over the next couple of weeks there will be a very different reaction in this city (of course correctly so). Lackey being Lackey isn’t viewed as a good thing.

Also this: I didn’t care about Bibi Jones and whatever they did or not do in his or her bedroom or anywhere else. I’m pretty sure these were consenting adults, I’m not really interested in passing judgement in the (presumed) sexual activities of two single people doing nothing illegal. I thought it was a massively overblown story and absurd that Gronkowski felt the need to apologize to Bob Kraft.

And the dancing controversy after last the Super Bowl last year was equally ludicrous. This was an opportunity for a vocal minority in the media to act outraged over something that didn’t deserve a second glance. Gronkowski was clearly limited with an ankle injury in that game — he would have surgery on the ankle a week later — and deserved praise for trying to play through it, not scorn for failing to grieve about a loss in the way the way some would have liked to see. Do I think Rob Gronkowski was just as upset about the loss to the Giants as everyone else on that team? Yup. Did I care that he chose to blow off some steam by removing his shirt and dancing at a postgame party? I did not.

Now what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night is different. Lots of times we don’t know what right or wrong is but lots of times we do, and what Gronkowski did on that stage was potentially damaging to the New England Patriots. Not the brand, not some image, not the Patriot Way, but the actual on-field product. Lifting a friend in the air and attempting wrestling moves (and that was a hideous DDT) is inviting further damage to a left arm that has been broken twice in the last three months. This isn’t taking a picture with a porn star or dancing a week before surgery, this is pure recklessness. Rob Gronkowski is a $54 million investment for the Patriots ($18 million guaranteed) and a massive part of the future of the franchise. This is a guy who could easily end up in Canton if he can stay healthy. So is there any upside to his actions in Las Vegas, does it make any sense for Gronkowski to risk another setback?

I’m all for Gronk being Gronk — all we in the media do is bash the Patriots for not having personality, for following every Belichick command, so it seems inconsistent that Gronkowski’s individualism is being criticized — but there are limits, and it was crossed in Las Vegas. The act has to change just a little, some tweaking is needed. That’s all, the world isn’t ending, no criminal acts were committed. It was a 23-year-old acting like a 23-year-old without a $54 million contract and all the serious responsibilities that go along with that deal.

So Bill Belichick or Bob Kraft or Tom Brady (maybe all three, who knows?) needs to have the talk with Gronkowski (I’m guessing he’s already had the other talk). The TMZ footage was the tipping point, plain and simple.

And the message should be this: Don’t put yourself or the New England Patriots in danger. Enjoy being a single, famous and rich 23-year-old, but don’t cross the line again.


Based on early results, CBS calls Super Bowl XLVII highest-rated game ever

02.04.13 at 11:05 am ET
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Nielsen’s Monday morning report of metered markets — the most populous regions in the United States — gave CBS promising returns on its Super Bowl investment. Those results, which will be followed by a more detailed analysis later Monday, showed that the broadcast had an overnight household rating of 48.1 with a 71 share, making it the highest-rated Super Bowl ever in metered markets.

A rating point represents 1 percent of the number of TV households tuned in, while share refers to the percentage of TVs in use that are displaying the program.

The previous record was set two years ago in Super Bowl XLV between the Packers and Steelers.

The two cities with the highest rating were Baltimore and New Orleans, site of the game.

CBS said the most-watched part of the game was the final few minutes, which were played between 10:30-10:45 p.m. The Nielsen numbers do not reflect the half-hour from 8:45-9:15 p.m., when the game was delayed by a power outage.

Read More: Super Bowl XLVII,
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