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How DeAngelo Hall’s new deal could affect Aqib Talib’s future

02.19.14 at 1:53 pm ET
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The Redskins decision to re-sign cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a deal worth reportedly $20 million over four years will likely have an affect on the Patriots and their dealings with cornerback Aqib Talib on a couple of levels.

First, it probably removes Washington from the list of potential suitors for Talib — the Redskins went after Talib when the corner hit the open market last offseason before he returned to the Patriots on a one-year deal.

And second, the deal could be the first to provide some sort of idea of the financial landscape that awaits good-to-great cornerbacks this offseason. Hall was probably not going to be among the elite free-agent corners on the market, but if his deal is any indication, Talib’s could look forward to a slightly richer deal if he hits the open market next month.

Read More: Aqib Talib, D'Angelo Hall,

Mike Mayock says RaShede Hageman, Jace Amaro potential first-round fits for Patriots

02.18.14 at 4:56 pm ET
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In a marathon conference call with reporters on Tuesday, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock was asked about what sort of direction the Patriots might go in when it comes to this year’s draft, and the possibility New England addresses defensive line and tight end.

Mayock mentioned a few different names as possible first-round fits for the Patriots, who have their first overall selection at No. 29.

“Depending how you look at this thing and what type of defensive tackle you’re looking for, [Louis] Nix and [Timmy] Jernigan are probably gone,” Mayock said when talking about defensive tackles who could be available to New England. “Then (Dominique) Easley, the kid I really like from Florida, tore an ACL, a second ACL, so he’s not going to go (early). He’s one of those picks that the Patriots tend to get in like the third or fourth round for value — a first-round guy later on.

“I think (RaShede) Hageman from Minnesota is kind of the big question mark there,” he added. “If he’s still on the board — because he’s an explosive kid — he could play a couple different spots, and coach Belichick likes those versatile guys. He’s had some off-the-field questions attached to him, but he’s got a ton of ability and talent. So if Hageman was sitting there, I think he’d be really interesting.”

At tight end, he pointed to Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro as possible fits in Foxboro.

“(Eric Ebron) is going to be long gone [but] there’s a lot of different varying opinions on what you’re looking for,” he said. “Seferian-Jenkins, for lack of a better term, is built like (Rob) Gronkowski, whereas Amaro from Texas Tech is built more like (Aaron) Hernandez. So there are a lot of people that like Amaro and point to Hernandez as that, quote, kind of guy.

“Depending on what you’re looking for — and that’s probably the kind of guy they are looking for — if Amaro is sitting there and they like him, he’d be logical at 29, and I think the other guy would be Hageman. Outside of that, I think the other top guys would be gone.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Dominique Easley, Jace Amaro

Patriots not expected to meet media this week at combine

02.18.14 at 1:09 pm ET
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The Patriots are not scheduled to have any official media availability at the NFL scouting combine this week in Indianapolis.

While Bill Belichick last addressed reporters in 2009 — and delivered an epic filibuster prior to taking a few questions — Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio has occasionally held court with a handful of local reporters away from the podiums in a semi-informal setting. Caserio could still speak with the media, but nothing is officially scheduled at this time. Both are expected to be in attendance.

The Saints and Cowboys also do not have any official media sessions scheduled with a coach or GM, while nine coaches, including Belichick, are not scheduled to speak with reporters.

The combine opens Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio,

Offseason updates on rest of AFC East

02.18.14 at 12:51 pm ET
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While we continue to view the world through a Patriots’€™ prism, here’€™s a quick update on what’€™s been going on in the rest of the AFC East this offseason:

Jets — New York started the offseason with a bang, announcing Rex Ryan landed a multiyear extension. But at the same time, the Jets have some tough calls to make on some veterans, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace. Then, there’€™s the question as to whether or not to release quarterback Mark Sanchez — per salary cap expert Joel Corry, the Jets will gain more than $8.3 million of cap room if they let him go before his $2 million roster bonus is due on March 25. (They’€™ll also get some more financial flexibility if they decide to part ways with wide receiver Santonio Holmes in mid-March.) If Sanchez is indeed gone, that will likely clear the decks for Geno Smith, who was involved in an off-field dustup involving a flight attendant on a Virgin America flight. However, GM John Idzik says he anticipates a competition at quarterback this season. On the other side of the ball, while the New York defense is pretty solid as a whole, they’€™ll almost certainly be the market for offensive skill position players this offseason either in the draft or free agency.

Bills — As is the case at this time of year, the biggest moves for Buffalo to this point in the offseason have come on the coaching staff — following the departure of Mike Pettine, the Bills have added Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. They’€™ve also done some more sideline shuffling, including the addition of Rob Moore as receivers coach and Pepper Johnson as linebackers coach. Schwartz favors a 4-3 scheme, which means the Bills will have to tweak their personnel as a result, but on paper, the Buffalo defense is actually pretty well-positioned going into 2014. Led by linebacker Kiko Alonso and pass rushers Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, the Bills led the league with 57 sacks, and were second in the league with 23 picks. They could add some depth in the secondary, particularly if defensive back Jairus Byrd leaves as a free agent. Buffalo also needs some help on the offensive line, as well as some help at tight end if Scott Chandler walks in free agency. The Bills reportedly have roughly $15 million under the cap, and will likely use some of that to put more offensive skill position players around quarterback EJ Manuel, who needs to make a sizable leap going into 2014 if the Bills are able to break through in the AFC East.

Dolphins — Where to start? Miami is a bit of a mess right now, as the franchise continues to deal with the Richie IncognitoJonathan Martin saga. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins end up making changes on their coaching staff as a result of what’€™s happened, but they’€™ve already parted ways with GM Jeff Ireland, going with Dennis Hickey in his place. (They also fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman after Miami’€™s offense finished 26th in the league with an average of 19.8 points per game. They hired Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor as the new OC.) Hickey will have roughly $17 million in cap space to deal with when free agency opens, and he will almost certainly focus on an offensive line that was struggling, even before the Incognito-Martin situation blew up — quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013, most in the league. From a big picture perspective, it will be interesting to watch the moves that Hickey, coach Joe Philbin and owner Stephen Ross will make this offseason in hopes of trying to repair the Dolphins rep this offseason.

Read More: Bill Lazor, Calvin Pace, Dennis Hickey, EJ Manuel

Which QB does best job spreading ball around in passing game?

02.18.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Piggybacking on a column we did last year about Tom Brady‘€™s ability to work in new receivers and spread the ball around — and with another full season in the books — we figured we should take another look at some of the league wide numbers when it comes to ball distribution in the passing game.

Using the 250-catch barometer as the mark for involvement, three over-30 veterans continue to set the standard when it comes to getting everyone involved in the passing game, as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have managed to make stars out a variety of pass catchers on the way to record-setting seasons.

Using numbers culled from Pro Football Reference — which utilizes stats dating back to 1999 — the three are head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacking field when it comes to finding equilibrium in the passing game:

– Since 2001, Brady has completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 13-year career as a starter: Wes Welker (563), Deion Branch (328), Troy Brown (323) and Kevin Faulk (310). Providing they stay healthy — and, in the case of Julian Edelman, return for 2013 — two more receivers could be added to the mix: Rob Gronkowski had 39 catches in an injury-shortened 2013 season, bringing his total of receptions via Brady to 223. And his 105 catches in 2013 boosted Edelman to 166 career receptions from Brady.

For those of you asking about guys who just missed out on the 250-catch mark with Brady, two jump off the page: one, Randy Moss caught 192 passes from Brady while the two were together in New England, including 98 catches in 2007 and 83 in 2009. And two, Aaron Hernandez finished with 166.

– In that same span, Manning has completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Reggie Wayne (779), Marvin Harrison (677) and Dallas Clark (387). Depending on how long he plays, Denver’€™s Demaryius Thomas could also be part of that group as well — he has 185 catches from Manning over the last two seasons, and could reach 250 in 2014 if he and the quarterback can both stay healthy.

To be fair to Manning, that time frame of 2001-2013 does cut off the first three seasons — from 1998 through 2000 — of his career. As a result, some of his early numbers aren’€™t included, particularly the formative years with Harrison, who had 276 regular-season catches with the Colts in that span. Our cutoff also means the work of an excellent pass-catching back like Edgerrin James goes unrewarded. He caught 230 passes from Manning from 2001-2005 before he departed Indy for the Cardinals. In all, James ended up catching a total of 355 passes from Manning while the two were together from 1999-2005.

– While Brady and Manning have impressive totals, when it comes to finding a variety of targets, they’€™re nowhere near Brees. When you combine his work in San Diego and New Orleans, the 35-year-old has complied at least 250 passes to six different receivers: Marques Colston (605), Lance Moore (346), Jimmy Graham (298 over the last four seasons), Reggie Bush (294), Pierre Thomas (284) and LaDainian Tomlinson (254). And a seventh — Darren Sproles — can hit 250 receptions from Brees in 2014. He’€™s already at 235 catches and counting.

When it comes to the next generation, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to connect with six different pass catchers for at least 250 receptions. Among the quarterbacks who have been in the league for 7-10 seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings (324) and Jordy Nelson (252), but just missed out when Donald Driver (241) called it a career. However, his two wild cards are free agents James Jones (216) and Jermichael Finley (214) — if they both return and are healthy, Rodgers is seemingly a lock to get four pass-catchers to 250-plus receptions.

Ben Roethlisberger also has a good chance of getting to four — he’€™s completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Hines Ward (513), Heath Miller (420) and Antonio Brown (250), and could make it four if free agent Emmanuel Sanders (146) ends up sticking around Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Atlanta’€™s Matt Ryan has three, having connected for 250-plus with Roddy White (520), Tony Gonzalez (383) and Harry Douglas (205). And New York‘€™s Eli Manning has Hakeem Nicks (306) and Victor Cruz (241) — he appears to have just missed with Plaxico Burress (244) and Steve Smith (213).

As for the quarterbacks who have between two and five full years in the league, Detroit’€™s Matthew Stafford has found tremendous success with Calvin Johnson (353 catches from Stafford), but Brandon Pettigrew (215) and Nate Burleson (154) are also within hailing distance of the 250-catch mark, providing Burleson somehow makes it back to Detroit. In addition, Indy’€™s Andrew Luck has Wayne (145), T.Y. Hilton (133) and Coby Fleener (78), while Cincinnati’€™s Andy Dalton has benefitted from working with AJ Green (256), Jermaine Gresham (165) and Andrew Hawkins (85).

Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger

History of Patriots and franchise tag

02.17.14 at 10:56 am ET
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We’ve written about this a couple of times to this point in the offseason, but with the franchise tag window open Monday, it’s worth taking another look at how the Patriots have used the tag in the past and what happened as a result:

2002: Adam Vinatieri, contract extension
2003: Tebucky Jones, traded
2005: Adam Vinatieri, played it out and later departed as a free agent
2007: Asante Samuel, played it out and later departed as a free agent
2009: Matt Cassel, traded
2010: Vince Wilfork, contract extension
2011: Logan Mankins, contract extension
2012: Wes Welker, played it out and later departed as a free agent

To be clear, there are two types of franchise tags:

The non-exclusive franchise tag: The most common designation. Under this agreement, the player must be offered a one-year deal based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five seasons and their percentage of that year’€™€™s salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year’€™€™s base salary, whichever is greater. If a player does get a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can talk with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.

The exclusive franchise tag: With this designation, the player receivers a one-year offer from his own team that’€™€™s the greater of the average of the top five salaries at his position once the restricted free-agent signing period has ended or 120 percent of his prior year’€™€™s salary. A player cannot negotiate with other teams with the exclusive franchise tag.

Teams have a two-week window, starting Monday, to tag their players.

Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Asante Samuel, Logan Mankins, Matt Cassel

NFL Mock Draft, Take 1: Texans need QB, but they can’t pass on Jadeveon Clowney

02.17.14 at 6:00 am ET
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You know the offseason truly has begun with the arrival of the first mock drafts.

This year’€™s draft has some intriguing quarterback options in Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, as well as some potential defensive game-changers in players like Jadeveon Clowney and some potential game-changing skill position players in Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. It’€™s important to remember that this is just the first of what will be several mocks between now and the first weekend of May — we’€™re still in the infant stages of the team-building process for the 2014 season, and with the combine and free agency looming between now and the draft, the needs of each one of the 32 team will no doubt change between now and when Roger Goodell takes to the podium the night of May 8 and announces that the Texans are officially on the clock. So, with that in mind, here’€™s a pre-combine, pre-free agency look at how we see things shaking out:

1. Texans — Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina: My prevailing attitude toward mock drafts is “franchise quarterback above all,” but Clowney is a transformative defensive presence. Teamed with J.J. Watt up front, he’€™ll provide an instant impact for the Houston defensive front. And given Bill O’€™Brien‘€™s offensive background, he’ll be able to take a quarterback in the second or third round and still turn him into a quality starter in rapid fashion.

2. Rams — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Good, safe bet for St. Louis here — Robinson gives the Rams a chance to provide bookend tackles (Robinson and Jake Long) to protect Sam Bradford.

3. Jaguars — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Johnny Football heads to Jacksonville, where his mere presence will breathe life into an occasionally mundane franchise,

4. Browns — Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: Even though folks at UCF don’€™t sound all that enthused about the possibility of Bortles being able to step in and become a franchise quarterback, the feeling is that he sits for a year or so behind Brian Hoyer before taking over the full-time gig.

5. Raiders — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: Oakland is in need of a quarterback, and Bridgewater’s skill set is a good fit for Dennis Allen‘s passing game. If Bridgewater isn’t available, look for the Raiders to go after another signal-caller at this spot, as the top three quarterbacks all come off the board in rapid fashion.

6. Falcons — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Atlanta needs an edge rusher, and Barr certainly fits the bill. (For what it’s worth, if there’s a team in the top 10 that might push all its chips to the middle of the table and go after Clowney, history tells us it’s going to be Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons. If they end up trading down as a result, they could target a tight end later in the first to replace Tony Gonzalez.)

7. Buccaneers — Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Tampa goes one of two directions here. One, it follows a likely directive from new coach Lovie Smith, who made his bones as a defensive coordinator and would love to build that side of the ball. Or two, the Bucs try to find another offensive option for young quarterback Mike Glennon to join Vincent Jackson. Pre-combine and free agency, the pick here is Mack, but much of that depends on how the Bucs approach the team-building process over the next three months.

8. Vikings — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: This feels too high for Carr, but Minnesota is setting the reset button across the board, and so it makes sense for them to go after a guy who has the potential to be a starting quarterback in Carr. A tall, strong-armed QB who could handle the schemes presented by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Carr makes the most sense if Minnesota sticks at No. 7.

9. Bills — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Buffalo needs some help in a few areas — some more depth at linebacker, as well as a tight end. (Jace Amaro and Eric Ebron probably are a reach here.) But Matthews is a safe pick at this spot.

10. Lions — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: A complementary piece in the passing game to take some of the pressure off Calvin Johnson. (Maybe it’€™s just me, but the idea of Detroit drafting a receiver in the first round just sparks Matt Millenesque memories.) The Lions also could go for a linebacker or corner.
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Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, Blake Bortles, Greg Robinson, Jadeveon Clowney
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