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Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Patriots win Super Bowl LI

03.17.17 at 3:04 pm ET
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Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Tom Brady win the Super Bowl. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

When the Patriots defeated the Falcons and pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, there was at least one person in the Tri-State area who was pleased: Judge Richard Berman.

In a recent interview with The MMQB, Berman spoke at length for the first time about the Patriots’ big win. He said he thinks the victory finally put an end to Deflategate.

“I think Deflategate is finally put to rest by that Super Bowl,” he said. “I always thought in the back of my mind when I had the case, that this is a case that should be settled on the field. Not in the courts, not with an arbitrator, and ultimately, that’s what happened. And in such a dramatic way that it left no doubt.”

When Judge Berman negated Brady’s four-game suspension in September 2015, he skewered the NFL for what he considered to be a flawed arbitration process. Even though a federal appeals court overturned his decision, he said he would rule the same way if the case were presented in front of him today.

“I concluded that the NFL arbitration process was fundamentally flawed –– principally because of lack of notice of the alleged infraction and of a potential four-game suspension; inappropriate comparison of football deflation to use of steroids; failure to allow Brady’s counsel to question NFL general counsel [Jeff] Pash; and refusal to share with counsel the notes of witness interviews,” Berman said. “The commissioner’s arbitration award was not entitled to ‘deference’ by the courts also because he had a personal stake in the outcome of the appeal. That is, he had an incurable conflict of interest, evident partiality, and could not possibly be fair.”

In April 2016, eight months after Berman’s ruling, the NFL won its Deflategate appeal. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said commissioner Roger Goodell possesses broad authority to discipline players at his behest. Berman said it stung to read the ruling, but now he’s moving on –– largely thanks to the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI late-game heroics.

“It took awhile [to let it go], so the Super Bowl was good for me too,” he said.

Read More: Deflategate, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Duron Harmon weighs in on Malcolm Butler situation: ‘People have to do what is best for them’

03.17.17 at 2:47 pm ET
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Duron Harmon spoke about Malcolm Butler on Friday. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

Duron Harmon spoke about Malcolm Butler on Friday. (Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports)

It remains unclear where cornerback Malcolm Butler will play next season.

He could return for his fourth year with the Patriots, or he could play elsewhere because another team put in an offer sheet for him, or the Patriots could trade him. Butler met with the Saints this week and coach Sean Payton had nothing but good things to say.

Butler is on the books for $3.91 million with his first-round tender, but feels he deserves more money.

Safety Duron Harmon would love to have him back, but understands Butler needs to do what is best for him.

“I love Malcolm. I love being his teammate,” Harmon said on a conference call Friday. “What he brings to the football field, what he brings to the locker room. I would love being his teammate, but it’s a business more than anything. I know people have to do what is best for them. I am rooting for him that he gets to do whatever he feels is best for him.”

The Patriots added Stephon Gilmore to the secondary and Harmon noted how important communication is to the success of the unit.

“We have to put the work,” Harmon said. “We have to work hard on the practice field and in the classroom. We have to stay after it. We know how much we like to run around here and communication is very key to how we play good defense. It will always be that way so we have to make sure the communication is up to par and it’s going to be on us to make sure everybody is communicating the right stuff.”

Read More: Duron Harmon, Malcolm Butler,

ESPN reportedly hires Rex Ryan to be NFL analyst

03.17.17 at 1:14 pm ET
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The Bills fired Rex Ryan last year after two seasons. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bills fired Rex Ryan last year after two seasons. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in 17 years, Rex Ryan won’t be coaching in the NFL next season. Instead, he’ll be bloviating on TV.

According to the New York Daily News, ESPN has signed Ryan to a multi-year deal to serve as an NFL analyst. The ex-Jets and Bills coach will have a spot on “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

ESPN is in the process of overhauling its signature NFL studio show. With longtime host Chris Berman stepping down, the program will take on a different feel next season. Though Trey Wingo and Suzy Kolber have long been considered the favorites to succeed Berman, sideline reporter Sam Ponder has reportedly gained momentum as a surprise candidate to fill the chair. Last year, ESPN added Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck and Charles Woodson to the analyst desk. They replaced Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson.

Ryan’s bombastic nature may have worked against him as a head coach, but it should suit him just fine as a talking head.

Read More: ESPN, Rex Ryan,

Report: Jets had injury concerns with Dont’a Hightower

03.17.17 at 12:12 pm ET
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The Jets reportedly had injury concerns wth Dont'a Hightower. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The Jets reportedly had injury concerns wth Dont’a Hightower. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Why did it take so long for Dont’a Hightower’s market to come in free agency?

Maybe it wasn’t just because teams didn’t see how they could use him properly, but rather teams had some injury concerns.

Hightower battled shoulder and knee issues in 2016 and has only played a full season once in his five-year career, not playing more than 13 games in each of his last three seasons.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Jets’ interest in Hightower “zeal diminished” after giving him a physical when he was in for a visit on Sunday. The report added the Jets made an initial offer of $62.5 million over five years, but after the physical the guarantees wouldn’t be something Hightower would agree to.

The MMQB’s Albert Breer added the Jets actually pulled their offer after the physical, so it appears there were legitimate concerns with the linebacker.

The Patriots know Hightower better than anyone in the league given he’s spent five years with the organization, and were seemingly comfortable signing him to a four-year deal, but it definitely is worth noting a possible reason it took so long for his market to develop was because of injury concerns.

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Read More: Dont'a Hightower,

Since Sean Payton is gushing over Malcolm Butler following visit, does it hint CB is likely leaving Patriots?

03.17.17 at 11:20 am ET
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Malcolm Butler appears destined for New Orleans. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler appears destined for New Orleans. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Restricted free agent Malcolm Butler visited with the Saints on Wednesday and Thursday, and according to coach Sean Payton, the visit went well.

So well that Payton was comfortable talking about the 27-year-old on Xtra 360 radio in San Diego on Friday morning.

“You know, coming out of a small town in Mississippi and through junior college and into West Alabama, it’s pretty amazing,” Payton said courtesy of “And the first three years he’s had in this league, shoot, he’s had a tremendous amount of success, winning two Super Bowls in three years and being a big part of a team that’s accomplished a lot. So I’d say he’s humble, but when you watch the tape, he plays with a chip on his shoulder.”

Payton added: “We’ve practiced with New England now in that three-year time frame twice, so there’s a lot of additional practice tape that we have a chance to look closely at. And I’m sure Bill [Belichick] and his staff were the same way when evaluating [Brandin] Cooks.”

Butler is a restricted free agent, not an unrestricted free agent, which is where things get tricky.

Since the Patriots gave him the first-round tender, he’s on the books for $3.91 million in 2017 once he signs the deal and if another team places an offer sheet on him and the Patriots do not match, the Patriots get that team’s first-round pick in return. In the Saints’ case it would be the No. 11 overall pick. New Orleans appears hesitant to do that, but probably would be willing to part ways with their No. 32 pick, which they got from New England in the Brandin Cooks trade.

The way to get to that point would be working out a trade after Butler agrees to sign his tender offer. Given the relationship between Bill Belichick and Payton, this could happen. It’s also worth noting this could have came up last week in the Cooks trade talks and some agreement could have already been made, as Butler was rumored to be included in the deal, but ultimately wasn’t. Once Butler gets to the Saints, it’s likely he will get a long-term deal.

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Read More: 2017 NFL free agency, Malcolm Butler, sean payton,

Sean Payton explains why Saints traded Brandin Cooks to Patriots

03.17.17 at 10:26 am ET
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Sean Payton said the move to trade Brandin Cooks was to improve the defense. (Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports)

Sean Payton said the move to trade Brandin Cooks was to improve the defense. (Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports)

Although it wasn’t much of a surprise given all the rumors last week, once it became official last Friday there were some questions of why exactly did the Saints trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots.

Did Cooks want out? Did the Saints not want him?

Speaking to Mile High Sports in Denver, head coach Sean Payton said it had nothing to do with wide out Michael Thomas turning into a No. 1 receiver.

“I don’t know that in part that it had anything to do with our decision to trade Brandin,” Payton said. “I think for us it’s improving defensively, and we’re looking closely at all of our options to do that. He was a player — when I talk about Brandin — we weren’t actively shopping him. A handful of teams had called regarding possibly acquiring him. He’s a fantastic guy, someone who worked really, really hard here.”

The Saints acquired the Patriots’ first-round pick (No. 32 overall) in the trade, which could either be used to draft a good player, or potentially be used in a trade for Malcolm Butler.

Ultimately, it seems like the trade was to help a poor defense.

“I think ultimately one of the challenges sometimes especially here in this offense is the ball gets spread around some, and yet you’re looking at a player who had over 1,200 yards receiving,” Payton said. “And it really got down to an opportunity to help improve our team possibly defensively. We’ll be able to look at it three years down the road with what we’re able to do with the first-round pick and also the third-round pick.”

Read More: Brandin Cooks, sean payton,

Former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi thinks Malcolm Butler will play 2017 with Patriots

03.17.17 at 6:00 am ET
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Maybe Malcolm Butler will not be traded. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Maybe Malcolm Butler will not be traded. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Over the past week or so, a lot has happened with Malcolm Butler and the Patriots.

It appears the 27-year-old cornerback is not happy playing for $3.91 million as a restricted free agent on a first-round tender, especially after the team signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year deal worth a reported $65 million.

Butler visited with the Saints on Thursday where the two sides reportedly started talking about a long-term deal. For the Saints to acquire him, they would need to present Butler with a deal the Patriots would not match, and then give up their No. 11 overall pick, or the two teams could work out a trade.

While momentum is trending towards Butler playing 2017 with the Saints, Michael Lombardi, a former Patriots executive and current The Ringer staffer, believes he will return to the Patriots and play for his $3.91 first-round tender.

“I think Malcolm Butler signs his tender, goes to New England, and puts the onus on New England,” Lombardi said on The Ringer’s football podcast Thursday. “‘Play great, I’ll make a huge deal next year. I’ll be 28 in March. I’ll make a huge deal out on the open market.’ New England’s not going to franchise him.”

Lombardi doesn’t think he’s a fit for the Saints at this time.

“Why pay Malcolm Butler $13 million or $14 million a year, sign him to a long-term deal, and then have to turn around a draft pick, when you are basically buying a 27-year-old player?” Lombardi said. “You’d be better off drafting a young corner and hopefully developing him.”

Lombardi added: “I don’t understand why they would pay as much as they’re going to have to pay to get Malcolm Butler financially, and then reward the [Patriots] with a draft pick. I think they’re better off looking in the draft.”

Certainly, this is a situation worth monitoring in the coming days and weeks.

Read More: Malcolm Butler,
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