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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw

03.22.12 at 7:43 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2012 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

COURTNEY UPSHAW

Position: Outside linebacker

School: Alabama

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 265 pounds

Achievements: Coaches’ All-SEC first team (2011), AP All-America second team (2011), BCS national championship defensive MVP (2012)

What he brings: Upshaw was one of the standout talents on an Alabama defense that was among the nation’s leaders in scoring and total defense, a skill that was evidenced when the Crimson Tide shut out LSU in the BCS national championship game. He is a top-level pass rusher who seemingly always finds his way to pressure the quarterback. Upshaw has also been repeatedly praised for his defensive and pass rushing instincts that extends well beyond his natural talent and ability.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Upshaw’s college coach, Nick Saban, said that he believes Upshaw can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense as well as defensive end in other schemes. En route to winning the game’s defensive MVP award in a game in which Alabama didn’t allow LSU to cross midfield until the fourth quarter, Upshaw had a game-high seven tackles, including a sack, and spent much of the night in the LSU backfield.

He has also been routinely praised for having a keen ability to not only pressure opposing quarterbacks, but also in stopping screens, draws and reverses. Upshaw’s athleticism has also been noted as a strength. He participated in the NFL combine and had 22 reps with 225 pounds on the bench press, the only combine test in which he took part.

Related Articles:

SI.com: Courtney Upshaw: Why I didn’t participate in all of the combine tests

NFL.com: Upshaw draws energy from Saban, Indy visit

Video: Here’s Upshaw in his defensive MVP performance in the BCS national championship against LSU.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, Courtney Upshaw,

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady restructures contract

03.21.12 at 11:28 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has restructured his contract.

Brady, who signed a four-year, $72 million extension in September 2010, was initially scheduled to make $5.75 million in base salary with a $6 million roster bonus and $250,000 workout bonus this season. Under the new agreement (first reported by Brian McIntyre of Mac’s Football Blog), Brady’s base salary was reduced to a fully guaranteed $950,000, with the remaining difference ($4.8 million) combined with the roster bonus and converted into a $10.8 million signing bonus that will be prorated over the three remaining years on Brady’s contract.

By restructuring Brady’s deal, the Patriots freed up $7.2 million in cap space.

This is not the first time Brady has restructured his deal. In the spring of 2007, he reworked his deal to allow for more cap flexibility when it came to adding wide receiver Randy Moss. On that occasion, Brady initially had a base salary of $6 million, but the quarterback and the Patriots did some shuffling, and redid the deal so Brady received a signing bonus of $5.28 million and had his base salary reduced to $720,000.

Read More: Brian McIntyre, Randy Moss, Tom Brady,

Mark Anderson talks about joining the Bills, his time with the Patriots and his future

03.21.12 at 6:14 pm ET
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Former Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson met the media in Buffalo shortly after agreeing to a new deal with the Bills. Courtesy of Buffalobills.com, here are a few highlights of his Q&A:

On what he liked about Buffalo and why he chose the Bills: That’€™s a good question because when you think of Buffalo you think of a nice, small blue collar town. The fans are great. When I was waiting at the airport I had fans coming up to me, a lot of fans with Buffalo Bills hats. A lot of them came up to me and asked about my free agent visit. I thought that was amazing that they keep up with everything that goes on around the league with this organization. I just love the whole college atmosphere and I feel that it’€™s what you need. You need that type of support in order to be successful in this league.

On how much Mario Williams had to do with him signing with the Bills: He played a big part but I knew Mario in Houston. I knew the type of guy he was. He played a big part. The whole defensive line played a big part, the coaching staff and the team. I’€™ve seen how hard the team worked last year. They were close. They had a few injuries along the way. Everyone seems like they’€™re back and ready to go. I’€™m just happy to be part of this organization.

On what went right last year in New England during his breakout year: It was confidence. Bill (Belichick) and that whole organization had confidence in me to come in and do what I do which is to rush the passer and be a playmaker for the team. I worked real hard with everything I had to do. Everything just gelled at the right time. Like I said, I thank God for everything. I’€™m in a blessed situation right now. I’€™m going to try and help the Bills and the Bills nation right now and try and take it to a whole other level.
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Vikings punter Chris Kluwe goes on a long rant about Bountygate

03.21.12 at 5:33 pm ET
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Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was one of many NFL players who took to Twitter on Wednesday to react to the NFL’s punishment for the Saints Bountygate scandal. It’s what he had to say, though, that made him stand out from the rest of the pack.

In a series of tweets Kluwe stated, “It’s rant time! Hold on tight boys and girls, it’s about to get dangerous in here. To everyone who thinks the source was a “snitch” and a bad person – [expletive] you. [Expletive] you and your glorification of criminality. [Expletive] you and your degradation of ethics and morality. [Expletive] you and your short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrisy. [Expletive] you and your idiocy. Try doing the right thing for once and standing up for what’s important in life – the proper treatment of your fellow man. #[Expletive]”

Read More: Bountygate, Chris Kluwe,

Where does the Patriots’ ground attack go from here without BenJarvus Green-Ellis?

03.21.12 at 4:32 pm ET
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The departure of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis — who agreed a three-year deal with the Bengals on Wednesday — likely means the focus of the Patriots’ running game will shift to the young running back duo of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in 2012.

The ultra-reliable Green-Ellis has been new England’s primary ground gainer the last two seasons, but the duo of Ridley and Vereen showed an occasional flash last season, with Ridley having the better 2011. The LSU product had 87 carries for 441 yards (an impressive 5.1 yards per carry average) and one touchdown as a rookie. However, he had fumbles in back-to-back games late in the year, and those ball-security issues likely led to the fact that he was a healthy scratch in the AFC championship game against Baltimore.

As for Vereen, he struggled with a hamstring injury at the start of the season and never really managed to get on track. In the end, he was limited to 26 snaps (according to Pro Football Focus) and finished the season with 15 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown.

When it comes to the rest of the running backs, the Patriots will bring back Danny Woodhead, who is considered more of a third-down back in the mold of Kevin Faulk. Then, there’s also the possibility that Faulk returns — the veteran running back has floated the idea of retirement, but that’s still up in the air at this point. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see New England perhaps kick the tires on a veteran free agent between now and the start of camp.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen

Thoughts on the Patriots’ loss of DE Mark Anderson and the addition of CB Will Allen

03.21.12 at 2:46 pm ET
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Catching up on a couple of Patriots personnel moves from Wednesday:

‘€¢The Patriots have lost defensive end Mark Anderson to the Bills, who signed the 28-year-old to a four-year deal and figure to use him as a pure pass-rusher. Anderson was able to parlay a big season with New England into a four-year deal with Buffalo worth $27.5 million, including $8 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Anderson, who was signed to a one-year deal before the start of the 2011 season, finished the year with 10 sacks (plus 2.5 more in the postseason), two forced fumbles and 14 quarterback hits. (Overall, Pro Football Focus had Anderson as the Patriots’€™ best pass rusher, grading him at +13.2. Andre Carter was second at 5.1.)

The Patriots seemingly started preparing for life without Anderson last week with the acquisition of Trevor Scott from the Raiders. Now, Scott figures to have more of an important role with New England going forward. It also appears likely the Patriots will lean on a return of fellow defensive end Andre Carter, who has expressed an interest in returning to the Patriots, even after he suffered a season-ending calf injury in a December win over the Broncos. New England also has Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham as defensive end/outside linebacker types, as well as Markell Carter, who spent the 2011 season on the practice squad.

‘€¢According to Mac’s Football Blog, the Patriots have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with cornerback Will Allen. The 33-year-old, who was a first-round pick of the Giants out of Syracuse in 2001, has 527 tackles, five sacks, 15 interceptions and 109 passes defensed during his 11-year career. Allen, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee that sidelined him for much of the 2009 and the entire 2010 season, had his best year in 2008 when he started 16 games for Miami and finished with 50 tackles (42 solo) and three interceptions for the Dolphins.

Despite his age — he’ll be 34 by the time the 2012 season begins — Allen had very good numbers as a slot corner last season with Miami. According to Pro Football Focus, he was in the slot for 419 snaps last season (tops in the league) and he yielded 0.81 yards per coverage snap for 3rd best in the league.In addition, he allowed a catch once every 11.6 coverage snaps, a rate that was sixth best in the league.

Read More: adam schefter, Andre Carter, Jermaine Cunningham, Mark Anderson

Five Thoughts on the Jets, Tim Tebow, Sean Payton and the Saints

03.21.12 at 2:15 pm ET
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Five thoughts on an absolutely crazy afternoon in the NFL:

1. From a football perspective, the Jets’ decision to acquire Tim Tebow makes very little sense. (In truth, it’s one borne out of a desperate front office, hoping to retake the back pages of the New York tabloids after seeing the crosstown Giants win two Super Bowls in five years.) The Jets recently gave starting quarterback Mark Sanchez a three-year extension after losing out on Peyton Manning, a move designed to provide Sanchez with some sort of comfort — a confidence booster designed to tell the world that come hell or high water, No. 6 was their man. And they follow it up by creating an absolutely no-win situation for him — the first time Sanchez stumbles, the cries for Tebow will start. The Jets have guaranteed themselves a quarterback controversy even before training camp starts.

2. So you have Tim Tebow — what exactly do you do with him? New Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was the man who helped bring the Wildcat to South Florida when he was head coach of the Dolphins, and you have to figure that’s what he has in store with the acquisition of Tebow. It’s also not like the Jets and Rex Ryan aren’t familiar with the Wildcat package, as they used it extensively in 2010 with Brad Smith. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith was the best Wildcat quarterback in the NFL that year, as Smith ran the ball from the wildcat 30 times for 212 yards and a touchdown, an average of 7.1 yards per run. (Half the time he handed the ball off, and the Jets other rushers had 4.0 yards per carry and a touchdown.) Per PFF, in Week 17 of the 2010 season against the Bills, when the Jets had their playoff spot secured, they used him at QB 13 times, and in those plays he managed runs of 20 and 40 yards.

3. What does this mean for the Patriots? Wildcat package or not, with the exception of one quarter — the first quarter of the regular-season game where Tebow and the Broncos ran up 224 yards and 16 points the first three times they had the ball — the Patriots have done a very good job of defending Tebow over the course of his relatively brief professional career. In two games against New England (one regular-season start and one playoff start, both last year), Tebow is 20-for-48 for 338 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. In addition, he has 17 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns. As for big picture analysis on what this might mean for the Jets’ offense as a whole, while they will still throw the ball with regularity, expect New York to use more gadget plays on the ground, and that includes the Wildcat. (One think to remember — the Patriots were occasionally vulnerable to gadget plays last season, as both the Broncos and Redskins used them against New England, with varied levels of success.)

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Read More: Bob Dylan, Brad Smith, Gregg Williams, Mark Sanchez
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