|Wes Welker returns to Twitter, thanks fans for their support||02.15.12 at 2:25 pm ET|
After he was introduced to Twitter this past season, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker embraced the medium, interacting with fans on a regular basis (and even taking one of them up on a suggestion for a touchdown dance).
But in the wake of his missed connection with quarterback Tom Brady late in Super Bowl XLVI, Welker stayed away from Twitter … until Wednesday. That’s when the veteran posted his first update in roughly three weeks, Tweeting: I would like to thank all of my fans for your love and support. I looked outside and the sun came out. #vacationtime
Welker, who is scheduled to become a free agent next month, finished the season with 122 catches for 1,659 yards and nine touchdowns. The 2011 season marked the last year of a five-year contract he signed with New England shortly after joining the Patriots in 2007.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Carl Nicks||02.15.12 at 2:10 pm ET|
We continue our on 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Offensive guard
Weight: 343 pounds
Two points: One, we’ve been down this road with Nicks before. And two, this whole entry should be led with the following disclaimer: If Brian Waters decides to retire, then Nicks would be the next best option for the Patriots. Waters said after the Super Bowl that he’d taken two to three weeks to decide on his future, and if he does choose to return, then the whole idea of Nicks to New England is moot. But if Waters does choose to hang ‘em up, the Patriots should focus their attention on landing Nicks, a Nebraska product who was a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2008.
This wouldn’t be the sort of marquee, skill position signing along the lines of a Vincent Jackson (or even Reggie Wayne) that would get people talking, but the addition of Nicks — who is expected to leave the Saints — would certainly give a big boost to New England’s offensive line. A two-time All-Pro, he’s finished first (2009), first (2010) and second (2011) in Pro Football Focus rankings the past three years, and PFF has him as the fourth-best free agent on the market.
There are some hard decisions to make regarding the interior of the New England offensive line this offseason, as center Dan Koppen and center/guard Dan Connolly are both free agents. The Patriots have Ryan Wendell as a quality backup at both positions, as well as center Nick McDonald, but if Waters does decide to retire (or they don’t re-sign Koppen and/or Connolly) and they don’t believe Wendell is a long-term answer as a starting guard, they would be wise to at least kick the tires on Nicks.
Why it might not work: We already covered the Waters angle. In addition, Nicks could balk at the idea of moving from left to right guard. I’ll also be curious to see how the market for free-agent guards shakes out — Nicks is presumed to be the best of the bunch, but it’s a group that also includes Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs and Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis. And historically, other than Waters, the Patriots have been reticent to bring in veteran offensive linemen, choosing instead to cultivate their own younger talent under the guidance of veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
|Reports: Patriots re-sign RB Eric Kettani||02.14.12 at 9:35 pm ET|
The Patriots have re-signed Eric Kettani to their 80-man roster, according to multiple reports.
If the 5-foot-11, 235-pound running back is cleared by the Navy to resume his football career, he could ultimately find a spot on New England’s reserve/military list. The 24-year-old Kettani originally signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009, before spending two seasons on active duty with the Navy.
Kettani returned to the Patriots last July for training camp, and was on the practice squad for the first five weeks of the regular season before he was unexpectedly denied leave by the Navy, which forced New England to release him from the practice squad in early October.
|Agent: Patriots have discussed new deal for BenJarvus Green-Ellis||02.14.12 at 4:19 pm ET|
When it comes to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Patriots have an interesting decision to make.
The running back is a free agent, and while he’s not considered an elite back, he remains an excellent fit for the New England system. He consistently hits four yards a carry, he’s never fumbled as a professional and he’s never complained about not getting enough touches. And this past season, he averaged one negative play for every 19 times he touched the football. When you add that to a thousand-yard season (in 2011), it’s an impressive resume.
But what’s he worth? With the Patriots currently employing a running back in Stevan Ridley who just came off an occasionally impressive rookie season (not to mention another young back in Shane Vereen), should New England gift Green-Ellis a long-term deal? It certainly appears that the Patriots have started talks with Green-Ellis’ agent Joel Segal regarding a long-term contract. Segal joined “Pro Football Talk Live” on Tuesday and indicated that he and the Patriots have had “on and off” talks about a new deal for the running back.
In the context of a new deal for Green-Ellis, Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk Tweeted Tuesday that Kansas City would make a lot of sense as a possible landing spot for the running back. Silva said: The Chiefs have tons of cap room [and] will likely sign at least one [running back]. BenJarvus Green-Ellis logical fit. History with [GM Scott] Pioli. Silva added that Kansas City running backs Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones are both scheduled to become free agents, and said that Green-Ellis might be able to command a deal similar to that of New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas, who signed a 4-year, $11.2 million contract prior to the start of the 2011 season.
|Free Agent Snapshot: Reggie Wayne||02.14.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
Today begins a series on 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window runs from February 20 to March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 198 pounds
It certainly appears that Indy, with a new coach and GM, is looking to break up the band, so it should come as no surprise that Wayne has said the Colts haven’t reached out to him regarding his future. He has made it known — at least through a third party — that he’d be open to playing for the Patriots, as the Boston Herald reported that he told Willie McGinest that he’d welcome a chance to play in New England. He’d be a welcome alternative to Chad Ochocinco — he’s a similar size (Ocho is 6-foot-1, 198 pounds) and is almost a year younger. And even on short money, Wayne would be a better fit with the Patriots than this guy.
In 2011, Wayne had his worst season statistically since 2003, as he finished with 75 catches for 960 yards and four touchdowns. (I’ll let you think about that for a second — it might be the only time you see the words ‘worst’ and ‘960 yards’ in the same sentence.) The drop in numbers could very well be because Manning was sidelined for the bulk of the season and Wayne had to make do with the likes of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins throwing him the ball. Despite that, he still managed to lead Indy in receptions and receiving yards.
Unless he gets knocked sideways by a ridiculous offer, he’s not going to go somewhere and start all over again. He also passes what might best be described as the Rosevelt Colvin test: in 2002, before a game against the Bears, Belichick waxed rhapsodic about Colvin’s greatness. In 2009, Belichick was effusive in his praise of Wayne, saying after the infamous fourth and 2 game (a contest where Wayne had 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns), ‘I can’t say enough about Reggie Wayne. That guy’s the best receiver we cover every year. It seems like he just keeps getting better. I thought the routes he ran and the catches he made were nothing short of spectacular — the go-route, the two touchdown catches, the third-down conversion on the corner route in front of our bench. He’s a tremendous receiver.’
Why it might not work: As is the case with Moss, the Patriots need to get younger at wide receiver, and signing a 33-year-old like Wayne isn’t a good way to do that. While on the surface, he would appear to be a good fit in many respects, New England isn’t likely to pony up multiple years and a ridiculous signing bonus to get him — he’d probably have to take less money to come to the Patriots. It also depends on how the rest of the market shakes out. This is a very good year for high-end wide receivers: Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker. And then, there’s the Peyton Factor. With the two of them having spent more than a decade together, some reports indicate that Wayne would follow Manning wherever the quarterback decided to land.
|Kyle Arrington moving on from Super Bowl loss||02.13.12 at 10:52 pm ET|
When he went home to visit his family this past week, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington had just one request.
‘My folks, they watch NFL Network and SportsCenter 24/7 during the season, and even in the offseason. So when I came home, they had a replay of [the Super Bowl] on,’ he said. ‘I said, ‘For the next two months, there will be no football, no NFL Network in this household.’’
It’s been a long week for Arrington, as he attempts to try and put the Super Bowl loss in the rear-view mirror and start on what will be an eventful offseason, one that includes a March wedding. Despite the fact that he had an excellent game (holding celebrated New York receiver Victor Cruz in check for most of the night), he says he’s seen a ‘tidbit’ of the contest, but has tried to stay away until he gets to a point where he can look at the game with a critical eye.
‘Yeah, I’ll eventually watch it. But right now, I’m just trying to relax and get away from football for the moment,’ he said Monday afternoon while doing a signing event for charity at Smoothie King on Newbury Street. ‘Right now, it’s only been a week, but for me, it’s been cold tub, hot tub, cold tub, as much as I can. I’m still really trying to get the legs back. The body, really, but more so the legs back.’
Arrington’s season was one of the better in recent history for any New England defensive back. The Hofstra product, who led all Patriots’ defensive backs in snaps this season with 1,177 (according to Pro Football Focus), had seven picks, and was tied for the league lead in interceptions with San Diego’s Eric Weddle and Green Bay’s Charles Woodson.
‘It’s a great accomplishment to lead the NFL in any individual stat. It’s a great accomplishment,’ he said. ‘But that’s not really what we’re here for as a team. Individual awards, accolades, you name it. We’re here for a championship. We fell just short, but we have a young team and we have a lot of confidence that we’ll have more opportunities.’
Over the course of the season, Arrington built a case as New England’s most consistent cornerback, and he’s ‘confident’ that with a lockout-free offseason, the Patriots’ secondary will respond with an excellent 2012.
‘Thankfully, we have an offseason program this year, so that’s even more time we get to talk the same language, be on the field together and be off the field together,’ he said. ‘The more we’re around each other, the more it’ll benefit us.’
The offseason — at least, before the organized team activities start in the spring — are a good time to decompress and get away from the game for at least a month or two.
‘I can only speak for myself personally, but I just kind of like to get as far away from football as possible,’ Arrington said. ‘That process starts up again when you get back into your training regimen. That’s the offseason focus for a lot of guys. They have personal trainers of whatever they do in their home, so that’s big too. That starts up again. Thankfully, we have an offseason this year, so that’ll start up later in April. It’s one step after another, with OTA’s and minicamps, and then back into it.’
In the meantime, Arrington has thrown himself into his community work. His signing over the weekend served as a benefit to help raise money for the family of fallen Peabody firefighter James Rice. And money raised at Monday’s signing will also be donated to an area school, according to his agent, Sean Stellato.
‘He’s getting more involved in the community,’ Stellato said of Arrington, who also has designs on launching a local football camp sometime this summer. ‘He likes to have an intimate relationship with his fans, and being able to go out there and raise hundreds of dollars this weekend for the Rice family, who suffered a tragic loss, being able to spend some time with them, it was pretty gratifying and pretty moving.’
|Five reasons why Randy Moss won’t be back with the Patriots||02.13.12 at 4:51 pm ET|
Randy Moss announced Monday morning that he hopes to return to the NFL in 2012. While he will inevitably be linked to the Patriots when it comes to a possible return to the NFL, here are five reasons why Moss won’t be walking through that door in Foxboro any time soon:
1. Moss’s skills have declined: Moss had a combined 28 catches for the three teams he played for in 2010 (nine for the Patriots, six for Tennessee and 13 for Minnesota). For most receivers in their thirties, that sort of stat line is a red flag, and that was more than a year ago. And history tells us that any time a player on the other side of 30 takes that much time away from the game, the skill set just isn’t there when they return. In his prime, Moss was a freakish athlete who did things on a football field that almost no one had ever seen before. (His 2007 season was one of the best of all time.) But the 35-year-old Moss isn’t going to be the same guy after a year away. It remains to be seen how he’d come to terms with his diminished skills (and role), and whether or not be accept a different job other than designated deep threat.
2. The Patriots offense has changed: When Moss was traded in October 2010 to Minnesota, it was the first step in a complete overhaul of the New England offense. Prior to that, the Patriots passing game could stretch the field and taking their shots deep. Now, the Patriots are more of a horizontal passing game, with slot receiver Wes Welker one of the best in the league when it comes to going over the middle, and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski now a complementary set of tight ends the likes of which the league has never seen. Deion Branch is not the receiver he once was (he no longer has the kind of wheels that he used to have), but has managed to get by on smarts and dependability. Even if Welker and/or Branch do not return, it seems unlikely the Patriots would try and reintroduce Moss into the offense. Remember — the Patriots had their opportunity to re-sign Moss last year. When they needed another receiver, they went for Tiquan Underwood instead of Moss, which should tell you all you need to know about where they think of Moss’ skill set at this point.
3. The Patriots must get younger at wide receiver: New England needs to go in the other direction at the receiver position. Branch (32), Welker (30) and Chad Ochocinco (34) are all closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. While the Patriots are a relatively young bunch at all of the other skill positions, they are starting to show their collective age at wide receiver, and the return of the 35-year-old Moss does nothing to make them younger. The free-agent market for wide receivers also doesn’t help Moss — it’s a group that includes Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Welker, all of whom are younger than Moss.
4. His return would impede the progress of young pass catchers like Hernandez and Gronkowski: In 2012, the two young tight ends combined to form one of the most dynamic offensive options in the game. With Moss on the scene, that would mean fewer chances in the passing game for both Hernandez and Gronkowski, which would certainly set their development back.
5. The Patriots know that with Moss, you’re always living on borrowed time, and most of the time, on his terms: Since the end of the 2007 season, the Patriots knew they were in for a short marriage with Moss, one that ultimately came to an end early in the 2010 season following a much-discussed incident with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. At some point along the way, Moss transitioned from someone who was clearly interested in putting the team first to someone who was worried about himself and his numbers. (Remember this?) With the Patriots having spent the better part of the last two years meticulously building a positive infrastructure in the locker room, it would be a risk to reintroduce a historically combustible individual like Moss back into that environment.
Moss is still beloved by many in New England. He showed up to owner Robert Kraft‘s house as Kraft sat shiva following the death of his wife, and Kevin Faulk told NESN in an interview that Moss was waiting for him in his driveway a week ago when the running back returned from the Super Bowl. In addition, Patriots Bill Belichick — who has had plenty of opportunities to publicly lambaste Moss — continues to have nothing but good things to say about the receiver. Meanwhile, Moss has taken every chance to tell everyone how much he loved his time in New England with Tom Brady and Belichick.
But even with all that, don’t look for Moss to rejoin Brady and Belichick. The bottom line is that Moss needs the Patriots more than they need him. And considering the New England passing game has enjoyed unparalleled success since he was shipped out of town 16 months ago, at this point in Moss’ career, the risk far outweighs the reward.
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