|03.14.10 at 4:42 pm ET|
Multiple outlets are reporting Sunday afternoon that free agent running back LaDainian Tomlinson will sign with the Jets in the next 24-48 hours. The San Diego Union-Tribune, quoting three sources, is reporting the move is a “done deal.” (UPDATE, 6:11 p.m.: ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Tomlinson has signed a two-year deal with New York.) Tomlinson, who was recently released by the Chargers, is a former NFL MVP who struggled in 2009, finishing the season with 730 rushing yards, the lowest total of his nine-year career.
It will be interesting to see how much the 30-year-old has left in the tank, as well as how he fares playing in the chilly Northeast as opposed to warm and sunny Southern California. (One of the selling points for bringing Tomlinson to the Jets was the opportunity to work with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was quarterbacks coach in San Diego with Tomlinson and runs the same offense in New York.)
As far as the Patriots are concerned, they will now face a distinctly different running game than the one that led the NFL in rushing offense last season. After the release of No. 1 back Thomas Jones earlier in the offseason, Shonn Greene has been elevated to the role of feature back, while Tomlinson will serve as a backup and third-down specialist.
|03.14.10 at 1:25 pm ET|
Here are a few Patriots-related notes for a rainy Sunday afternoon:
•It’s been covered a little previously, but the NFL Player Development Department has now officially awarded the Patriots with this year’s Outstanding Overall Player Development Award. At the annual meetings last week, awards were given to the NFL Player Development departments in the areas of financial education, continuing education, career development and life skills, with the Outstanding Overall Player Development Award honoring the club that excels in programming in all four areas of player development.
In addition to their financial education, the NFL Player Development Department identified a few of the Patriots’ recent initiatives as strengths of the program, including a safe boating program that was designed to raise awareness of risks after the boating tragedy that claimed the lives of two NFL players in the Gulf of Mexico last year. The team was also credited with their creative implementation of life skills training sessions. Celtics coach Doc Rivers was a guest speaker at one of the sessions this year.
•The next time we stop by Ty Warren’s locker, we’re going to make it a point to ask him about his fishing expertise. It was called to our attention here that the defensive lineman set a Massachusetts mark this season when he landed a 61-pound, 3-ounce mahi-mahi dolphin fish at Vetch Canyon in August. (For more on his mark, check this out.)
•We know that Bill Belichick and Tony LaRussa are pals, and by the sounds of this account from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the two spent part of the day Saturday hanging out before the Cardinals-Astros game in Jupiter, Fla.
|03.14.10 at 1:13 am ET|
Faced with the prospect of losing tight end Alge Crumpler to the Patriots in free agency, it sounds like the Titans are stepping their game up.
The Patriots hosted the 32-year-old Crumpler on a free agent visit at Gillette Stadium last Monday, but according to The Tennessean, discussions between the Titans and the unrestricted free agent tight end are expected to continue this week. New England is expected to put the full-court press of its own on Crumpler, as they have lost tight end Benjamin Watson to Cleveland in free agency and released tight end Chris Baker last month.
Known primarily as a blocker, Crumpler had 27 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown for the Titans last season.
|03.12.10 at 10:52 pm ET|
Multiple outlets have reported that Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker recently underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
Welker, who has led the NFL in receptions the last two seasons, suffered an injury to his left knee in the regular-season finale against Houston but has since undergone a procedure on his shoulder that could push back a possible return to the field.
The news was first reported on the Web site of blogger Seth Davis and later verified by ESPN.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker has been one of the most important parts of the New England offense since he arrived prior to the 2007 season. In that time, he has more receptions (234) than any player in the league, and has amazed his teammates and coaches with his grit and toughness.
“He’s just been such a big part of the offense since he’s been here,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after a December win over Carolina where Welker had 10 catches for 105 yards. “Consistent, reliable, durable, explosive player. Catches the ball every time you throw it to him. He’s pretty awesome.”
While Davis’ report suggested that Welker would be out for the coming season, ESPN.com reported that the injury does not rule out Welker for the season. In fact, noted sports injury expert Will Carroll sounded an optimistic note when asked about the shoulder Friday night.
“It’s not that big a deal,” he said in an e-mail to WEEI.com. “I think they’re taking the chance to fix as much as they can. The delay probably means he’s off crutches and they can do this. I’m curious how and when he tore it, but it seems that if it happened during the season, then he was playing with it and not even showing signs. I certainly didn’t suspect it.
“[Brett] Favre had a rotator cuff tear at the end of ’08, had surgery and came back to play pretty well. [Former Bruins forward] Phil Kessel’s a local guy who had a similar issue in a contact sport and came back without problem. I just can’t see Welker missing a significant portion of the season [because] of this. The knee is still, to me, the primary issue.”
If Welker is sidelined for an extended stretch — many believe that the sort of knee injury Welker suffered against Houston could keep him sidelined until the midway point of the 2010 season — more of the burden would likely fall on Julian Edelman. Edelman, a converted college quarterback, saw extensive action as a slot receiver with the Patriots in 2009, finishing the season with 37 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown. With many of the elite free agent wide receivers already snapped up, New England would likely put more of an emphasis on finding a receiver in April’s draft.
|03.12.10 at 8:00 pm ET|
Opinions vary on the relative worth of Patriots inside linebacker Gary Guyton, but the Georgia Tech product was able to cash in handsomely for his 2009 performance on Friday. According to Brad Biggs of the National Football Post, Guyton received a $349,347 bonus as part of the league’s performance-based-pay system.
Under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the performance-based-pay system allows players who are making the league minimum to earn bonuses based on their playing time. Each team puts a set amount into this fund, which is then doled out to the players based on a “players index.” The index is calculated by taking a player’s regular-season playtime (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) and dividing it by his regular-season compensation. Each player’s index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his bonus.
According to Pro Football Focus, Guyton played 83 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2009 (including the playoff loss to Baltimore). He finished second to fellow inside linebacker Jerod Mayo in tackles with 91 and also contributed 1.5 sacks.
According to Biggs, the bonuses were paid out Friday by the NFLPA. Only two other players benefited more than Guyton — Minnesota center John Sullivan ($397,555) and Chicago cornerack Zack Bowman ($355,355).
|03.12.10 at 3:12 pm ET|
Each Friday leading up to next month’s NFL Draft, WEEI.com will focus on one player the Patriots could be targeting with the 22nd pick. Last week we took a look at Clemson DE/OLB Ricky Sapp. Up next is Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham, who is currently projected to the Patriots at pick No. 22 by both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Like Sapp, Graham is a college defensive end who would play outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4.
Combine height: 6-foot-1 3/8
Combine weight: 268 pounds
40-yard dash time: 4.72
Bench reps: 31
Best season: 2009 (64 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks).
Many see Graham as the next Elvis Dumerville. After being named Senior Bowl MVP (five tackles, TFL, two sacks, FF) in a game in which he embarrassed Ciron Black and Selvish Capers, he won’t be around in the fourth round like the NFL sack leader to whom he is often compared. Statistically he seems like everything the Patriots’ pass rush is missing, but the biggest question regarding his path to the Patriots is how he measures up.
The Belichick Line (6-foot-5 outside linebackers or bust) came into question when we looked at Sapp, and the fact that Graham is four inches short of what they want could be a serious deal-breaker. Despite his being undersized, Graham is viewed by many as one of the highest-energy defensive players in this draft and has spoken highly of the Patriots in the past.
WHAT HE’S SAID
On former Wolverine and current Patriots linebacker Pierre Woods:
“He told me a lot about the Patriots and what they expect of you. He just said it was a great experience. He said it was just like Michigan — you love to hate them. They have a swagger about them and they take pride in what they do, and everybody in the building works hard. So get ready if you become a Patriot.”
On being undersized:
“I watch [Elvis] Dumervil now because he was the leading sacker last year. I just look at myself as the next one. He’s 6-1, he’s small. A lot of people don’t think he could do it, but I believe whoever gets me is going to love me. No matter what size I am, I’m going to get to the ball. I’m going to cause havoc.”
WHAT THEY’VE SAID
ESPN Scouts, Inc. Director Todd McShay, in Thursday’s mock draft:
“[New England] needs to continue to address the position and bolster its pass rush. Graham has been impressive during the pre-draft process and has the burst, tenacity and consistency to make an immediate impact.”
NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock:
“From the Patriots’ perspective, they typically like the longer outside linebackers. Brandon Graham, at the Senior Bowl, was 6-foot-1, 263 [pounds]. That’s really short for an outside linebacker in the Patriots’ scheme, and he had 30 1/2 inch arms, which is extremely short.
“Just from an initial cosmetic overview, he fits what they do from a rush linebacker perspective, but he doesn’t fit the prototype. It doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take him, but he’s not as long as they like.”
|03.12.10 at 3:00 pm ET|
No surprises here, but the Patriots just officially announced the signings of cornerback Leigh Bodden and linebacker Marques Murrell. Here’s the press release the team just issued on the move:
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots announced today the re-signing of CB Leigh Bodden and the signing of LB Marques Murrell. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
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