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Patriots should be applauded for reportedly passing on running back Joe Mixon 03.29.17 at 4:03 pm ET
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Joe Mixon is widely considered the most talented running back in this year's draft. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Joe Mixon is widely considered the most talented running back in this year’s draft. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

From a value standpoint, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon might be the best catch in this year’s NFL Draft. A first-round talent, Mixon will likely fall down the board due to his violent past. On paper, he seems like a perfect fit for the Patriots, given Bill Belichick’s proclivity for acquiring under appreciated assets.

But instead, it looks like the Patriots are going to pass on him. That’s for the better.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, the Patriots have no intention of drafting Mixon. The 20-year-old running back pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2014, when he punched a woman in the head at a restaurant. Video of the incident surfaced last year, which forced Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops to admit he would’ve dismissed Mixon from the program if it had come to light earlier. Mixon was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 campaign before rejoining the team the following year.

The closest recent parallel to Mixon is Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who strangled his then-pregnant girlfriend in 2014. Despite the gruesome incident, Kansas City selected Hill in the fifth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The outcry was short-lived, probably because no video of the beating exists. But that likely won’t be the case with Mixon. Any team that drafts him is also declaring ownership of the video, which shows him knocking out a woman after a heated exchange.

Belichick is one of the few coaches in the NFL who doesn’t have to be concerned with public perception. Five Super Bowl championships buys a lot of goodwill. If the Patriots were to take Mixon in the third-round –– they don’t have a first- or second-round selection –– there probably wouldn’t be a lot of outrage. When the team brought in wide receiver Michael Floyd last season three days after he was arrested for an extreme DUI, it was chalked up as a prototypical Belichick move. Drafting Mixon, who rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons, would almost certainly be viewed in a similar light.

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Read More: Joe Mixon, New England Patriots,
Robert Kraft’s comments on Tom Brady’s longevity should be taken lightly 03.28.17 at 2:06 pm ET
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The Patriots have won five Super Bowls under Robert Kraft's ownership. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots have won five Super Bowls under Robert Kraft’s ownership. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Robert Kraft is one of the most powerful kingmakers in the NFL. But when it comes to making player personnel decisions with the Patriots, he’s seemingly just a smidgen more influential than the dude rocking a Tedy Bruschi jersey in Gillette Stadium’s cheap seats. It’s important to keep that in mind when reviewing the comments he made Monday at the NFL league meetings in Arizona, where he opined on topics ranging from Tom Brady’s longevity to Malcolm Butler’s status with the team.

Last year, Brady said he wants to play football until he’s 45 years old. Kraft expanded that timeline Monday, telling reporters Brady said to him recently he would like to play for another six or seven seasons. With Brady turning 40 in August, that would mean he intends to stand under center until he’s 46 or 47. Though there hasn’t been any drop off in Brady’s game, the notion that he can keep playing at an elite level into his late 40s is preposterous. But he probably still wants to try. Unlike other superstar athletes, such as LeBron James, Brady doesn’t opine on politics and social issues. He appears to want to be defined solely by his sport. It would serve as validation for his rigid lifestyle, which is marketed in the form of $100 pajamas and $200 nutrition manuals.

It would be shocking for Brady to assign himself an artificial end date. His goal of playing for as long as humanly possible isn’t breaking news. The six-seven-year window is arbitrary.

Kraft’s reiteration of Brady’s comments are also irrelevant to Jimmy Garoppolo’s future in New England. Bill Belichick will likely have the final say on when, or if, he makes a quarterback change. Kraft, who appears to be far more sentimental than Belichick, may want Brady to stick around until the end of his career –– even if his play slips a little bit. But history shows that isn’t how Belichick operates.

Openly advocating for a player isn’t in Belichick’s playbook, either, which is why Kraft’s lauding of Darrelle Revis Monday should also be taken lightly. In an interview with the New York Daily News’ Gary Myers, Kraft said he would “love it” if the veteran cornerback returned to the Patriots. Kraft, perhaps aware of how his comments would be interpreted, followed up his Revis adulation by saying he “only speaks for himself.” When Myers asked if there was any contact between the two sides, Kraft said to “ask his boy,” presumably referring to Belichick.

If Kraft expresses his support for a player, it’s a one-day story and doesn’t hinder the organization’s negotiating ability. His comments about “rooting” for Malcolm Butler to play with the Patriots next season is a similar example. Imagine the fallout if Kraft declared the Patriots want to move on from Butler. Their chances of pulling off a sign-and-trade with the Saints, or another club that may sign Butler to an offer sheet, would likely be non-existent.

Kraft also said Monday he hopes Belichick can coach into his 80s. That’s a nice sentiment, but ultimately meaningless. Much like Brady playing quarterback until he’s 47, it just isn’t believable.

When Kraft speaks about football personnel matters, he isn’t providing keen insight. He heaps praise upon his players and organization, hoping to cause minimal distraction. When important league decisions are made, like the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, Kraft is directly involved. But when it comes to his own team, he cedes decision-making power to Belichick. While it makes him a great owner, it also means his cheerleading should be dismissed.

Read More: New England Patriots, Robert Kraft,
Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jerseys are a major embarrassment for NFL 03.20.17 at 4:23 pm ET
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Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jerseys are back in Boston. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jerseys are back in Boston. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

A man who was posing as an international journalist was able to get credentialed for Super Bowl LI and make off with Tom Brady’s jersey after the game. The NFL has some explaining to do.

In a statement Monday, the league announced the more than six-week hunt for the missing piece of memorabilia is over. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the alleged thief is Mauricio Ortega, a former Mexican newspaper executive. He was found in Mexico, thanks to an effort spearheaded by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, who was the first person to report the jersey had been recovered, released a video of Ortega seemingly leaving the Patriots’ locker room with Brady’s uniform top tucked underneath his arm.

This doesn’t appear to be one-time incident with Ortega. He also reportedly swiped Brady’s jersey after Super Bowl XLIX and may have taken Broncos linebacker Von Miller’s cleats following Super Bowl 50. Both items were found Monday.

In a press conference, Houston police chief Art Acevedo blasted the NFL’s security protocols.

“I just hope the NFL security takes a look because they are the one’s responsible for securing the locker rooms,” he said. They really need to check their protocols and their efforts because there are these two jerseys we are aware of and required a response from the Houston Police Department and other partners to recover them,” he told reporters. “Quite frankly, they are going to end up in the hands that they belong as in Mr. Brady and his family.”

At this point, it’s unclear how Ortega was credentialed for Super Bowl LI. He may have legally obtained press passes, or more troublingly, falsified documents in an effort to pose as a working member of the media. Either way, the NFL must reassess its credentialing policy. It’s an embarrassment for a $14 billion business to experience a security lapse of this magnitude at its biggest event of the year. This episode makes the league look like a Mickey Mouse operation.

While it’s amusing to think about the FBI dedicating resources to find a missing jersey, the item has been valued at $500,000. Last month, Patriots owner Robert Kraft compared the heist to to the robbery of a “great Chagall or Picasso.” And it happened moments after the Super Bowl, where a finite number of people, such as players’ friends and family members, are allowed to be in the locker room.

It appears as if Ortega was able to steal valuable Super Bowl memorabilia from the winning team for three straight years. In a world of near constant surveillance, that seems to be impossible.

The NFL is wearing egg on its face. Big time.

Read More: New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady,
Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Patriots win Super Bowl LI 03.17.17 at 3:04 pm ET
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Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Tom Brady win the Super Bowl. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

When the Patriots defeated the Falcons and pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, there was at least one person in the Tri-State area who was pleased: Judge Richard Berman.

In a recent interview with The MMQB, Berman spoke at length for the first time about the Patriots’ big win. He said he thinks the victory finally put an end to Deflategate.

“I think Deflategate is finally put to rest by that Super Bowl,” he said. “I always thought in the back of my mind when I had the case, that this is a case that should be settled on the field. Not in the courts, not with an arbitrator, and ultimately, that’s what happened. And in such a dramatic way that it left no doubt.”

When Judge Berman negated Brady’s four-game suspension in September 2015, he skewered the NFL for what he considered to be a flawed arbitration process. Even though a federal appeals court overturned his decision, he said he would rule the same way if the case were presented in front of him today.

“I concluded that the NFL arbitration process was fundamentally flawed –– principally because of lack of notice of the alleged infraction and of a potential four-game suspension; inappropriate comparison of football deflation to use of steroids; failure to allow Brady’s counsel to question NFL general counsel [Jeff] Pash; and refusal to share with counsel the notes of witness interviews,” Berman said. “The commissioner’s arbitration award was not entitled to ‘deference’ by the courts also because he had a personal stake in the outcome of the appeal. That is, he had an incurable conflict of interest, evident partiality, and could not possibly be fair.”

In April 2016, eight months after Berman’s ruling, the NFL won its Deflategate appeal. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said commissioner Roger Goodell possesses broad authority to discipline players at his behest. Berman said it stung to read the ruling, but now he’s moving on –– largely thanks to the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI late-game heroics.

“It took awhile [to let it go], so the Super Bowl was good for me too,” he said.

Read More: Deflategate, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
ESPN reportedly hires Rex Ryan to be NFL analyst 03.17.17 at 1:14 pm ET
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The Bills fired Rex Ryan last year after two seasons. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bills fired Rex Ryan last year after two seasons. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in 17 years, Rex Ryan won’t be coaching in the NFL next season. Instead, he’ll be bloviating on TV.

According to the New York Daily News, ESPN has signed Ryan to a multi-year deal to serve as an NFL analyst. The ex-Jets and Bills coach will have a spot on “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

ESPN is in the process of overhauling its signature NFL studio show. With longtime host Chris Berman stepping down, the program will take on a different feel next season. Though Trey Wingo and Suzy Kolber have long been considered the favorites to succeed Berman, sideline reporter Sam Ponder has reportedly gained momentum as a surprise candidate to fill the chair. Last year, ESPN added Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck and Charles Woodson to the analyst desk. They replaced Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson.

Ryan’s bombastic nature may have worked against him as a head coach, but it should suit him just fine as a talking head.

Read More: ESPN, Rex Ryan,
Patriots are rightfully taking cold-hearted approach with Malcolm Butler 03.14.17 at 11:40 am ET
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Malcolm Butler shut down Antonio Brown in the AFC championship game. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler shut down Antonio Brown in the AFC championship game. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler is the kind of player who should be rewarded. As an undrafted rookie out of the University of West Alabama, he parlayed an impressive preseason into a spot at the bottom of the Patriots’ roster in 2014. Three years later, after a Super Bowl-winning interception and two seasons of playing lockdown defense at cornerback, he wants to cash in. If Bill Belichick acted on sentimentality instead of rationality, he would probably acquiesce to Butler’s wishes.

But that’s not the way he operates, which is why Butler doesn’t have a lucrative long-term contract offer in front of him. Instead, he has a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million. For a player who’s earned just $1.53 million combined over his first three NFL seasons, that’s a nice raise. But it’s a far cry from the $40 million guaranteed the Patriots handed to Stephon Gilmore in free agency last week.

There’s little doubt Butler, 27, deserves to be paid like an elite corner. Last season, he broke up 12 passes and had nine games in which he allowed two or fewer completions. Butler also surrendered fewer than 20 receiving yards seven times.

But unfortunately for Butler, he’s not an unrestricted free agent. That means he doesn’t have any leverage, and the Patriots know it. If Butler refuses to sign his tender by June 15, his salary will fall to $660,000. If he wants to be defiant and skip minicamp, it will cost him more than $80,000. He would be docked $40,000 per day if he were to miss training camp.

It seems cruel for the Patriots to treat Butler this way, especially considering they reportedly lied to him about what they would be willing to pay a cornerback. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe says the Patriots told Butler they don’t want to outlay more than $10 million per season for a corner, but then they went and signed Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. That averages out to $13 million annually, for those keeping score at home.

Perhaps feeling stung, Butler’s agent is reportedly trying to get his client out of New England. He’s reportedly visiting the Saints Thursday. But any team that signs Butler would be forced to surrender a first-round pick, due to his restricted free agent status. It’s unlikely any club would ink Butler to a market value contract and give up significant draft capital.

Maybe an organization that’s enthralled with Butler could justify surrendering its first-round selection if it could sign him to a bargain rate deal. But then the Patriots would have the option of matching it. Or they could let him walk and collect the draft pick, replacing what they traded to the Saints to acquire star wideout Brandin Cooks. Under that scenario, the Patriots would essentially be swapping Butler for Cooks, Gilmore and a first-round pick. (ESPN’s Mike Reiss speculates the Saints and Patriots could pull off a sign-and-trade, with New Orleans sending the Patriots’ first-rounder back to them.)

The Patriots have options. Butler doesn’t. That’s the way the system works, and they’re taking advantage of it. One may assume this callous way of doing business affects the Patriots’ relationships with their players, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Butler himself would still reportedly prefer to stay in New England. The allure of competing for a Super Bowl every season is difficult to pass up.

Giving Butler a big contract now would be putting his interests ahead of the team’s. Belichick and the Patriots seldom do that. Their approach here shouldn’t be shocking to anyone.

Read More: Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots,
No asking price is too high for Jimmy Garoppolo –– and teams should be willing to pay it 03.13.17 at 1:47 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo's future with the Patriots will likely be a story all year long. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Garoppolo’s future with the Patriots could be a story all offseason. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

If the Patriots are going to deal Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s apparent they want multiple first-round picks in return. Recent history suggests that’s a more than appropriate demand. Teams would be crazy to turn it down.

Despite Adam Schefter’s insistence that Garoppolo will stay in New England, trade rumors involving him will likely persist throughout the offseason –– and possibly into training camp. The Browns, due to their abundance of draft picks and pressing need for a quarterback, are often cited as the most sensible landing spot for Garoppolo. But apparently, they’re not willing to pay the necessary price.

According to Mary Cay Kabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns refuse to part with two first-round picks in order to bring Garoppolo aboard. She reports Cleveland insists on hanging onto the No. 1 overall selection, which it will likely use to draft defensive standout Myles Garrett.

While surrendering at least a couple of high draft picks to acquire somebody who’s played just five and a half impressive quarters in the NFL may seem outlandish, it’s the market rate for Garoppolo. Teams give up that kind of draft capital to bring in quarterbacks who haven’t even stepped onto a professional field.

Five years ago, the Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Rams for the chance to draft Robert Griffin III. Following his Heisman trophy win as a senior with Baylor in 2011, Griffin looked like he was ready to dominate in the NFL. Washington gave up a lot to get him, of course, but a franchise quarterback is priceless. RGIII took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, but then injuries derailed his career. The Browns released him earlier this month.

The Rams and Eagles followed in the Redskins’ footsteps last year, when they each traded two first-round picks for the opportunity to draft Jared Goff (No. 1) and Carson Wentz (No. 2), respectively. Though Wentz showed some flashes of brilliance, neither quarterback impressed in his rookie campaign. Goff didn’t even start until Week 10.

There’s no guarantee Garoppolo, 25, will be a perennial Pro Bowler, but he has a better chance than rookies like Wentz and Goff. Garoppolo played spectacularly well during last year’s season-opener, posting a 106.1 rating in the Patriots’ 23-21 win at Arizona. His first half against the Dolphins the following week, in which he threw for three touchdown passes before leaving with a shoulder injury, was even better. It’s a small sample size, but Garoppolo has shown he can dissect NFL defenses. Oh, and he’s been learning behind Tom Brady for three years as well. That must be worth something.

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Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots,
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