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Sunday NFL Notes: With deadline looming Monday, could this turn out to be a slow year for franchise tags?

03.02.14 at 6:00 am ET
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1. With the franchise tag deadline set for Monday, even though there’s plenty of talk about players getting tagged between now and then, we could be in for one of the slowest years ever when it comes to the tag. At this point, three players have been tagged: Jets kicker Nick Folk, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (which could turn into quite a fight) and Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy. By way of comparison, eight players were tagged last year, an NFL-record 21 players were tagged in 2012, 13 players in 2011 and six in 2010. Locally, if the Patriots elect not to use the franchise tag on anyone between now and Monday afternoon, it would mark the first time since the turn of the century they have gone back-to-back years without using the tag. Overall, New England has used the tag eight times since 2002, with Wes Welker being the last player tagged in 2012. For more on the Patriots tag history, check out our past story here.

2. Much was made Saturday about a report saying the Patriots had floated Danny Amendola‘s name in trade talks, and that the team had even considered cutting him if they couldn’t find a taker for the wide receiver. From this viewpoint, it’s likely the idea was simply a trial balloon, a hypothetical proposed by the Patriots as a way of trying to gauge the market for the receiver. In the short-term, the Patriots would lose money against the cap if they did release Amendola. (In this context, it’s important to note that Amendola is due a $2 million payout if he’s on the roster on the first day of the new league year, March 11. If they were going to cut him, they would make the move before then.) Two reasons: one, when you consider the financial implications — detailed here by capologist Miguel Benzan of Patsfans.com — it doesn’t appear to make much financial sense. And two, if the Patriots do release him, they wouldn’t have any veteran receivers on the roster with the exception of Julian Edelman, and Edelman is no slam-dunk to return as he heads into free agency. After signing a five-year, $28.5 million contract last offseason, there was no denying that Amendola cleared struggled at times over the course of the 2014 season, and disappeared for large chunks of the season as he dealt with concussion and groin issues. But it would seem to be a bit premature to cut ties with the receiver relatively early in his career with New England.

3. In the wake of the Patriots’ decision Friday to release safety Steve Gregory, I tweeted out the idea that with Gregory’s departure, this should open the door for more work for linebacker Jamie Collins going forward. By the tone of many of my responses, it turns out I did a bad job of explaining why I felt that way. (In my defense, a 140-character limit doesn’t allow much room for a nuanced discussion. That, and I hadn’t had any coffee at that point.) Collins played a ton of snaps down the stretch and into the postseason, so it’s clear he can’t play much more than he did late in the year. (He played roughly half the snaps over the last two weeks of the regular season and almost all the snaps in the two playoff games.) What I should have said was that if the roster stays relatively the same, there will likely be a change in the way Collins is utilized. A lot of it depends on what the Patriots do at the strong safety spot going forward, but as a rookie, Collins had a versatile skill set that allowed him to stay on the field in running and passing downs, and he showed a nice ability to run with tight ends and backs on passing routes out of the backfield. According to the analytical website Pro Football Focus, Collins played 302 snaps last season, and was in coverage on 156 occasions. Collins, who spent a year of his college football career as a safety, will get more snaps in 2014, but he could be called on to work more in coverage this coming season than he did as a rookie. Again, a lot of it will depend on how the Patriots approach the strong safety spot going forward, but expect Collins to be a key part of New England’s pass defense in 2014.

4. Going back over some of the notes from the combine, one guy who really stuck out to me for a number of reasons was Minnesota safety Brock Vereen, and not just because he’s the brother of Patriots running back Shane. The defensive back was extremely impressive in his session with the media, enduring several questions from New England reporters about his brother. (He was asked about possibly playing alongside his brother, and he joked, “€œI think the biggest part of me wants to hit him.”) And while it’s important to remember that every case is different, that usually translates to a good session in his meeting with teams. The 6-foot, 199-pounder then also had a terrific on-field session — he led all defensive backs and safeties with 25 reps on the bench press, and his 40-yard dash time of 4.47 was the second-fastest time among safeties. His all important 3-cone drill time was a 6.9, good enough to likely garner the attention of the Patriots. He’s played more free safety over the course of his college career at Minnesota, and if he can display some positional versatility (as well as special teams value), he would almost certainly be in the mix as a possible pick either late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 for New England.

5. While the Patriots have been paired up with several tight ends (Jace Amaro, Eric Ebron, C.J. Fiedrorowicz, Austin Seferian-Jenkins) throughout the pre-draft process, one notable tight end who hasn’t been linked much to New England is Oregon’s Colt Lyerla. From a pure football perspective, the 6-foot-5, 246-pound Lyerla has a lot going for him: he played in an NFL-style offense while in college, he developed a rep as a dynamic playmaker who can fit at multiple spots, and had a terrific combine. He posted a 4.61 40, and led all tight ends in the vertical (39 inches) and broad jumps (10-feet 8). “I watched film, what little tape I could get on him from 2012,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s a gifted, gifted kid.” But there are a ton of red flags around Lyerla — he left school last October for “personal reasons,” there was an arrest for cocaine possession, and he was entangled in a bizarre series of Tweets where he insinuated that the Newtown school shootings were somehow the result of a governmental conspiracy. (He later deleted the Tweets.) Prior to last year, New England was seen as the sort of franchise that would take a chance on a player who might have some character issues, but in the wake of what happened to Aaron Hernandez, the landscape has certainly changed. Despite the fact that Lyerla showed contrition when he met with the media at the combine, despite their needs, it now seems unlikely the Patriots would pursue him this spring.
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Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard reports to jail to begin serving sentence for assault

03.01.14 at 2:37 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard reported to a Lincoln, Neb., jail on Saturday to begin his 60-day term for a 2012 assault on a police officer, according to the Associated Press.

According to corrections officers with the Lincoln facility, the 24-year-old Dennard was at the Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility Saturday morning. After credit for good behavior and the three days he’s already spent in jail, he will have to serve at least 35 days in the wake of the incident involving a police officer outside a Lincoln bar, which took place days before the 2012 draft.

In April, a judge sentenced Dennard to two years’ probation, 30 days in jail and community service for the 2012 incident. However, the judge later extended his probation to three years and doubled the jail time after Dennard was again arrested in Lincoln in July, this time on suspicion of drunken driving. That charge was later dismissed in exchange for Dennard’s no contest plea for refusing to submit to a chemical test. He was fined $500 and placed on probation for the incident.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard,

Franchise tag and transition tag numbers revealed for 2014

03.01.14 at 12:00 am ET
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The salary cap information for 2014 has been released. Now, the franchise tag numbers have been unveiled. Here’s the complete list:

Franchise tags
Quarterback: $16.192 million
Running back: $9.54 million
Wide receiver: $12.312 million
Tight end: $7.035 million
Offensive lineman: $11.654 million
Defensive end: $13.116 million
Defensive tackle: $9.654 million
Linebacker: $11.455 million
Cornerback: $11.834 million
Safety: $8.433 million
Kicker/punter: $3.556 million

Transition tags
Quarterback: $14.666 million
Running back: $8.033 million
Wide receiver: $10.176 million
Tight end: $6.106 million
Offensive lineman: $10.039 million
Defensive end: $10.633 million
Defensive tackle: $8.060 million
Linebacker: $9.754 million
Cornerback: $10.081 million
Safety: $7.253 million
Kicker/punter: $3.205 million

As of Friday night — and with the deadline looming Monday afternoon — three players had been hit with the franchise tag: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, New York Jets kicker Nick Folk and Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy. While it’s expected that Folk and Hardy will sign their tenders without an issue, an interesting situation could be brewing with Graham, who is a tight end in name only. The Saints’ premier pass catcher, he lined up in the slot and split wide more often than in a tradition tight end position over the last year, and as a result, could argue that he should be identified more as a wide receiver than a tight end. That would significantly impact his franchise tag number — the one-year franchise tag numbers for a wide receiver ($12.312 million) and tight end ($7.035 million) are considerably different. As more and more hybrid players like Graham emerge, expect more and more of these cases to pop up.

Read More: Greg Hardy, Jimmy Graham, Nick Folk,

Answering some questions about NFL’s 2014 salary cap

02.28.14 at 8:54 pm ET
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Courtesy of the National Football League Players Association, here’s a quick primer on the 2014 salary cap, which is set for $133 million.

What is the 2014 salary cap?
The 2014 salary cap is set at $133 million per club, a $10 million increase over the prior year.

How does that number impact each team?
The $133 million is the per club salary cap. However, each team may, at its own discretion, carry over unused salary cap room from the prior League Year. Most clubs elected to carry over salary cap room from 2013 to 2014. The average carry over for those teams that elected to do so was $6.1 million per club. Thus, those clubs have an average of $139.1 million to spend on player salaries in 2014.

How is the salary cap calculated?
The salary cap is calculated by taking a percentage of all projected NFL revenues, subtracting projected benefits for the upcoming season, and dividing by 32 teams.

What are team minimum cash spends?
Under the current CBA, clubs have minimum cash spending requirements. For the years 2013-2016, clubs are required to spend an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period. Leaguewide, clubs must spend an average of 95 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period. This creates a cash-spend floor, forcing historically low-spending clubs to offer overall competitive compensation for packages.

Are player benefits taken out of this $133 million?
The $133 million salary cap is the cap on active player salaries. In addition, each club will spend in excess of $33 million in benefits. This includes pension, severance, workers’€™ compensation, insurance premiums, disability benefits, etc.

Updated: Upcoming list of notable Pro Days

02.28.14 at 5:20 pm ET
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With the combine completed, the next step in the pre-draft process is the on-campus Pro Days. Thanks to various sites, here’s an updated list of some of the more notable Pro Days that have been scheduled –€” we’€™ll add to this list as more information becomes available.

March 3: Pitt, Ole Miss, Minnesota
March 4: Auburn, Buffalo, Eastern Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Slippery Rock, SMU
March 5: Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Wisconsin, Central Michigan, New Mexico State
March 6: Missouri, Cincinnati, Clemson, Illinois, Nebraska
March 7: Ohio State, Arizona State, Southern Miss, South Alabama, Arkansas State
March 10: San Diego, South Florida, Troy, Villanova
March 11: UConn, Kanas State, Michigan State, UCLA, Temple, Toledo
March 12: Southern Cal, Michigan, Alabama, Boston College, Colorado, Colorado State, Marshall, Rutgers, Oklahoma
March 13: Oklahoma State, Hawaii, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Princeton, Wyoming, UNLV
March 14: Texas Tech, Kentucky, BYU, Kansas, Oregon State
March 17: Florida, Boise State, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rice, Virginia, Wake Forest
March 18: Florida State, Delaware, Montana, Murray State
March 19: Central Florida, Baylor, Cal, Central Florida, Utah
March 20: Fresno State, Notre Dame, Kent State, Missouri, Stanford
March 21: Vanderbilt, West Virginia
March 24: Iowa, Maine, North Carolina State
March 25: UMass, North Carolina
March 26: Duke, Indiana, Syracuse, Texas
March 27: Ball State, Georgia Southern, Johnny Manziel’s individual workout
March 28: Georgia Tech
April 2: South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington
April 3: Miami
April 8: Maryland, Penn State
April 9: Louisiana State
April 11: Tulane
April 16: Georgia

Three thoughts on Seahawks release of Red Bryant and how it relates to Patriots

02.28.14 at 5:05 pm ET
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From a Patriots’€™ perspective, three thoughts on the Friday release of defensive lineman Red Bryant:

1. Bryant is a veteran body in the middle — the 6-foot-5, 328-pound veteran has played multiple spots as a pro, lining up both at defensive tackle and defensive end, and has made a name as one of the more underrated linemen in the league. As a result, it was no surprise New England really went hard after him when he was a free agent in 2012. (He ultimately ended up signing a five-year, $35 million contract with $14.5 million guaranteed with the Seahawks, and won a ring for his efforts.) But his experience with the Patriots left a lasting impression on him. During Super Bowl week, was asked about New England, and he told the Boston Globe: “€œ[The Patriots have] got a great history, great tradition, I have the utmost respect for coach Belichick and Tom Brady and Mr. Robert Kraft. My big brother, Ty Warren, he played there, and I called him and he gave me a background on what it would be like and the expectations and it would have been a great opportunity. The only thing that kept me was my love for the Seahawks, and I envisioned us one day making it to a Super Bowl.”

2. If he was going to be a fit with the Patriots at this point in his career — he turns 30 in April — he would be more of a situational player, a two-down lineman who comes off the field on third down and other passing situations. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 561 defensive snaps in 2013, the fewest since he had 291 snaps in 2010 (when his season was cut short by injury), and is known more as a run-stopper than a pass rusher, at least as it stands right now. According to this really detailed breakdown on Bryant, he played on 46 percent of Seattle’€™s defensive snaps this past year, 51 percent of snaps against the Niners in the NFC title game, and 18 snaps in the Super Bowl against the pass-heavy Broncos. If Bryant and the Patriots could come to a match on money, contract (two years with a relatively modest signing bonus) and expectations (a two-down player who could augment the work of other veteran linemen like Vince Wilfork), the two could make for a good fit.

3. Bryant is also really well regarded as a locker room presence. A smart and well-respected veteran, he was an extremely popular figure with the Seahawks. Even if he does have to take a pay cut, it wouldn’€™t be a surprise to see him stay in Seattle: He’€™s a fan favorite on a Super Bowl champion, his father-in-law is former Seahawks great Jacob Green, and he’€™s credited Pete Carroll for helping revitalize his career with a shift from defensive tackle to defensive end. While Bill Belichick has had an affinity for collecting veteran defensive linemen at the end of their careers and trying to squeeze another year or two out of them before they rode off into the sunset, it would likely take a lot to pry Bryant from the Seahawks.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Red Bryant, Tom Brady

3 thoughts on Patriots decision to cut Steve Gregory

02.28.14 at 1:26 pm ET
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A couple of thoughts on the Patriots decision to release safety Steve Gregory:

1. Gregory signed a three-year deal with the Patriots worth $7.05 million in March 2012, and the decision will reportedly free up between $2 million and $3 million in cap space. With the new year — and free agency — just around the corner, this is as much about money as it is overall performance. As a result, New England will have a little more financial flexibility going forward.

2. In 2014, Gregory was the starter at the strong safety spot, and according to Pro Football Focus, was third among all defensive backs in total snaps with 849 (he trailed only Devin McCourty and Aqib Talib). Gregory, who missed two games with a finger injury last season, appeared to struggle at times over the course of the year with angles, but he was very highly regarded by the coaching staff and his teammates for his smarts. Several of his teammates indicated over the course of the 2013 season he was one of the smartest players they had ever been around, and indicated that he would make a very good coach.

3. Looking forward, the Patriots have a variety of options currently on the roster at strong safety, including Duron Harmon, who just finished his rookie season, as well as Kanorris Davis, who spent the bulk of the season on the practice squad. In addition, it appears that Adrian Wilson is rehabbing with an eye toward returning for 2014. Regardless, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots seek out another strong safety-type in free agency or the draft in hopes of replacing Gregory.

Read More: Steve Gregory,
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