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Potential Patriots: Brian Williams

02.12.11 at 12:30 am ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Brian Williams
Position: Cornerback
Team: Atlanta
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 202
Age: 31

Why the Patriots would be interested: Assuming that the Patriots get Leigh Bodden back healthy next season, the duo of Bodden and Devin McCourty could be one of the top corner tandems in the league. However, New England still needs to build depth at the position, and the possibility of a well-traveled veteran like the 31-year-old Williams providing quality snaps in relief of Bodden or McCourty or as a slot corner would make a lot of sense.

Why it would happen: There figure to be other, higher-profile corners on the market this offseason (Nnamdi Asomugha, Champ Bailey), but the Patriots are simply looking to build depth at the spot this offseason, and Williams, an unrestricted free agent, is as good a choice as any. He’€™s not a starter ‘€” age and injury have made sure of that ‘€” but he’€™s a smart veteran with a good rep. Williams has some positional versatility, as he’€™s played both corner and safety over the course of his career. It doesn’€™t appear the Falcons will franchise Williams, and he would almost certainly come at a reasonable price. He won’€™t remind anyone of Ty Law, but could provide a bridge year to younger corners or even step in in a pinch.
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Read More: Brian Williams, Carlos Rogers, Champ Bailey, Chris Carr

Report: Mike Woicik will leave Patriots for Dallas

02.11.11 at 8:26 pm ET
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Mike Woicik has decided to leave the Patriots after 11 seasons as the strength and conditioning coach, and will take the same job with the Cowboys, according to a report from ESPNDallas. Woicik, who joined the Patriots shortly before the 2000 season, returns to Dallas, where he won three rings as the strength and conditioning coach with the Cowboys in the mid-1990s before doing the same with New England. He is the only player or coach with six Super Bowl rings.

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A closer look at the coaching changes made by the Patriots on Friday afternoon

02.11.11 at 4:07 pm ET
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When it comes to the coaching changes that were announced by the Patriots on Friday afternoon, the biggest news was the move of Bill O’€™Brien from assistant to offensive coordinator, as well as the move of Matt Patricia from linebackers to safety coach.

However, for O’€™Brien, the shift is a move in title only. Much was made of the Patriots not having an offensive or defensive coordinator the last couple of seasons. While coach Bill Belichick and Patricia appeared to handle most of the duties on the defensive side of the ball last season, on the offensive side of the ball, play-calling was something of a collective effort. Players said that O’€™Brien, Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all had serious input. But it’€™s been O’€™Brien who has had his fingerprints all over the offense. As a result, don’€™t look for a dramatic shift in New England’€™s offensive philosophy in 2011.

The biggest move on the defensive side of the ball involved Patricia, who was considered the closest thing to a defensive coordinator New England had in 2010. He will now coach the safeties after spending the last five seasons as linebackers coach. But as was the case on offense, don’€™t look for much to change in 2011. Patricia is well-schooled in the Belichick system, and considered the closest thing on the staff to a rising young star who could eventually become a head coach.

One sure sign to see how much ‘€” if anything, really ‘€” has changed on the defensive side of the ball next season will be to see which defensive assistant is wearing red. That’€™s the assistant who players look to for calls. If Patricia is wearing the red jacket or sweatshirt in 2011, he will still be regarded as the most important defensive assistant on the team.

Meanwhile, the biggest promotion comes with the move of Patrick Graham to linebackers coach after serving as a coaching assistant in 2009 and defensive assistant in 2010. (This is a move that’€™s been made by several young assistants under Belichick ‘€” previous coaching assistants under Belichick on both offense and defense include O’€™Brien, Patricia, Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels.) In addition, Brian Flores ‘€” a former linebacker at Boston College ‘€” appears to be moving into the role formerly held by Graham.

It was also announced that Corwin Brown, who shared responsibilities with Josh Boyer as a defensive backs coach in 2010, would not return to the team in 2011. The Brown move was reported earlier this week, and while Patricia will be moving to coach the safeties, it appears Boyer will focus on only coaching cornerbacks in 2011.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Brian Flores, Corwin Brown

Patriots shake up coaching staff, name Bill O’Brien offensive coordinator

02.11.11 at 3:32 pm ET
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The Patriots announced several changes to the coaching staff on Friday afternoon. On offense, Bill O’Brien has been named the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Meanwhile, on defense there are three positional changes ‘€” Matt Patricia will now coach the Patriots’ safeties, Patrick Graham will serve as linebackers coach and Brian Flores was named defensive assistant. In addition, it was announced that Corwin Brown, who shared responsibilities with Josh Boyer as a defensive backs coach in 2010, will not return to the team in 2011.

Read More: Bill O'Brien, Brian Flores, Corwin Brown, Josh Boyer

A closer look at the impact of Mike Woicik on the Patriots franchise

02.11.11 at 2:25 pm ET
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While the possible departure of Mike Woicik probably doesn’€™t register with many casual Patriots fans, it’€™s the sort of move that will resonate in the locker room. Woicik has been part of some of the most successful teams in recent NFL history ‘€” he is the only player or coach with six Super Bowl rings (three with the Cowboys and three with the Patriots), and is one of the most well-respected strength and conditioning coaches in the NFL.

A hard-nosed, old-school guy who began his career in 1978 at Springfield College, he was one of the first major hires of the Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli team when they took over in New England in 2000. You will be hard-pressed to find a member of the Patriots or Cowboys to say a bad thing about Woicik ‘€” he was even given a shout-out in Michael Irvin‘€™s Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2007.

While in New England, he’€™s pretty much hid behind a veil of anonymity. Players and other coaches rave about him, but he’€™s steered clear of the media. The closest thing to a definitive look at Woicik and his impact can be found in this NFL Films piece.

According to ESPN, Woicik is in talks to return to Dallas. It’€™s believed Woicik would be replaced by Harold Nash, who has served as Woicik’€™s assistant since 2005. Nash also runs the team’€™s player-development program, which was named as the best in the NFL this past year. While Nash’€™s credentials are impressive, Woicik’€™s departure is another sign that the glory days of the early 20th century are truly a thing of the past ‘€” only Tom Brady, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk and Stephen Neal still remain as players from Super Bowl XXXVI, while Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia and Pepper Johnson are the only members of the coaching staff left.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Harold Nash, Kevin Faulk

Adam Schefter on D&C: Everything is on hold until CBA is solved

02.11.11 at 10:12 am ET
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ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter made his final regularly scheduled appearance of the season on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning. He talked about the collective bargaining agreement, Logan Mankins and the draft. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Schefter started by talking about the one thing that is sure to dominate any and all NFL discussions for the next few months ‘€” the CBA. ‘€œThere will be no offseason because, essentially, there can be no free agent signings, there can be no comings and goings and there cannot be any trades until there’€™s a new CBA,’€ Schefter said.

‘€œI don’€™t mean to bum you out, but really, everything is on hold until then. We’€™re going to have the combine at the end of this month and the draft in April, but short of that, there’€™s nothing.’€

Schefter said the CBA negotiations change his offseason as well. ‘€œWhereas this time ordinarily I’€™d be gearing up for free agency and really digging into that to see where people could be going and talking to teams about who they want and whatnot, you’€™re not really doing that right now because teams don’€™t know what to do,” he said. “On the other hand, you have this behemoth hanging over you because you don’€™t know when it’€™s going to be solved.

‘€œWhereas ordinarily June and the first half of July would be very quiet for me, I get the sense that I’€™m going to be getting calls as I’€™m trying to take a mid-afternoon summer nap. ‘€˜Oh, they’€™re now making some progress in the CBA talks.’€™ And we’€™re trying to figure out whether or not the bus tour’€™s going to be going to training camp and where we’€™ll be going and when they’€™ll get free agency and all these unresolved questions that will just linger in the air and be there.’€

The guys asked Schefter when he thinks a new deal will be reached. ‘€œEverybody wants to know an answer to that, and I think the truth of the matter is that nobody knows. If I was going to guess ‘€¦ I would tell you this gets solved late August, early September.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adam schefter, Cam Newton, Logan Mankins, Nick Fairley

Potential Patriots: Carl Nicks

02.11.11 at 1:16 am ET
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Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.

Carl Nicks
Position: Guard
Team: New Orleans
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 341
Age: 25

Why the Patriots would be interested: Odds are good the Patriots will lose at least one of their starting guards, either to free agency or trade (Logan Mankins) or retirement (Stephen Neal). If he isn’€™t franchised, Nicks figures to be targeted by New England as a possible replacement. According to Pro Football Focus, he yielded only four quarterback sacks in 2010, and was durable enough to play every one of New Orleans’€™ 1,216 offensive snaps over the course of the season. And while teammate and fellow guard Jahri Evans got a big payday last offseason from the Saints, Nicks could provide great value for New England at the position.

Why it would happen: As previously stated, the Patriots are likely going to lose one of their starting guards ‘€” maybe both of them ‘€” and while Dan Connolly played well in relief of both Mankins and Neal over the course of the 2010 season, there’€™s some question about his ability to be a long-term starter. (Some believe he’€™s better suited to the role of Russ Hochstein ‘€” a versatile and important backup who can play multiple positions along the offensive line.)

In the wake of last year’s payday they delivered to Evans, the Saints seem unlikely to tie up so much money in their guards. In addition, the Saints have some other contractual questions about some other spots on their offensive line (Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin). If New Orleans is hesitant about paying Nicks, or if it turns its focus to another one of its 27 potential free agents with three or more years of experience, that could open the door for New England.
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Read More: Carl Nicks, Damien Woody, Dan Connolly, Daryn Colledge
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