|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.’
|02.13.12 at 4:51 pm ET|
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.
|02.11.12 at 7:50 pm ET|
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.
Read the rest of this entry »
|02.11.12 at 6:29 pm ET|
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: ‘Oh 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: ‘This 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: ‘Ricky 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: ‘The 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: ‘It’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:
|02.10.12 at 6:06 pm ET|
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 SI.com 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.
‘He just had it cleaned out, from what I understand,’ Carroll said. ‘I 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.
‘There’s not really a perfect comparison because he’s half tight end and half wide receiver,’ he said. ‘There’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.