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Could Patriots make push for Andre Johnson? 05.15.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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The news out of Houston that receiver Andre Johnson has started pushing for a trade has led many Patriots fans to openly speculate about the possibility of New England trying to put together a deal for the former All-Pro receiver.

Given the depth of the relationship between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Texans coach Bill O’€™Brien, the two sides would appear to be natural trade partners. That, combined with the fact that New England and Houston have been talking on and off throughout the offseason about a potential deal involving quarterback Ryan Mallett, would naturally spark conversation on the topic. The starting point between the two sides likely would be Mallett and a draft pick (probably a second- or third-round selection) for Johnson.

Johnson is a tremendous talent. The 6-foot-3, 219-pounder has played 11 years in he NFL, all with the Texans, and has 927 career receptions, 12,661 receiving yards and 61 touchdowns. The most impressive thing about those numbers? The fact that he’€™s had a relatively mediocre (at best) group of quarterbacks throwing him the ball over the course of his career: Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Sage Rosenfels and David Carr. Considering the level of talent on the pre-2012 Texans offense, it’s a remarkable run.

However, when it comes to assembling a trade, the biggest hurdle might be trying to work around Johnson’s sizable contract. According to Rotoworld, Johnson still has $34.5 million remaining on a deal that runs through 2016. For a receiver who is set to turn 33 in July — even one who has been as productive over the last five years as Johnson — that’€™s a major financial hit. While the Patriots could get some cap relief via the recent indictment of former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez, that might still be too much to handle from a financial perspective.

In addition, a Johnson trade would leave $11.96 million in dead money against Houston’s 2014 cap, according to NFL Media’€™s Albert Breer. It is worth noting that overthecap.com reports that the Texans would save $3.68 million against the cap if he was dealt before June 1, so if there is going to be a trade, it would be in Houston’s best interest to do something as soon as possible.

Some have drawn an analogy between Johnson and Randy Moss, who was acquired by the Patriots in the spring of 2007 after two sad and sorrowful seasons in Oakland. While Johnson doesn’t necessarily have the reputation as the third rail of the NFL that Moss had over his first decade or so in the league, both have put up great numbers over the course of their career, and both did it with some decidedly average quarterbacks. Sprung from the Raiders, Moss went on to three-plus seasons of great success with New England before being dealt to the Vikings.

However, it is important to note that Johnson is set to turn 33 this summer, while Moss had just turned 30 when the Patriots picked him up. That’€™s not a colossal age difference, but something that has to be taken into consideration when you are approaching the team-building process for the next few years.

Ultimately, the Patriots should be expected to at least inquire about the possibility of Johnson. But unless the receiver is willing to re-work his contract — or New England is able to move a lot of money around over the next couple of weeks — it seems like a bit of a long shot, at least at this point.

Read More: Andre Johnson, Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Ryan Mallett
Texans feel things could be different if they meet Patriots again 12.11.12 at 2:31 am ET
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FOXBORO — Leading up to this match-up during the week, many were calling this game possibly the biggest in Texans history. Houston has never taken one loss this far into a season, and traveling to face a Patriots team with a 9-3 record on Monday Night Football only upped the ante.

But it was clear who the superior team was on Monday night in Foxboro.

There’€™s probably a lot to be said about experience; the Patriots have it in December, January and February. The Texans, not as much.

Since the Texans and Patriots now account for two of the top three teams in the AFC, the likelihood of them meeting again down the playoff road is a high one. Whether this game takes place in Houston or Foxboro is yet to be seen, if it happens at all. And if it does, several members of the Texans said they now know what to look for from this veteran New England team, and themselves as well.

‘€œIt’€™s a teaching moment,’€ defensive end Whitney Mercilus said after the game. ‘€œThis is a good team and we can’€™t slack off. Too many penalties and things like that; beating ourselves. We’ve got to be able to move the ball offensively and defensively. We’€™ve got to get to the passer and help out our secondary. We can’€™t get gashed in the run. We’ve got to get better.’€

When asked why he thought the outcome might be different should the they meet again, defensive end Antonio Smith paused for a few seconds thinking about the question, and then said, ‘€œWe know what to expect.’€

‘€œNow you know what you’€™re dealing with,’€ he said. ‘€œThere aren’t any surprises. This team hadn’t faced a Patriots team in their house this late in the year when it’€™s playoffs coming since I’ve been here. I think the last time we beat them was in our house. And hopefully we can get our stuff together and win the rest of these games so that they’ve got to come in our house. It’€™s just another battle; we’€™ll see how it is then.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andre Johnson, Danieal Manning, houston texans, Matt Schaub
Bill Belichick explains why Champ Bailey can ‘match up against anybody’ in the NFL 10.06.12 at 1:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker knows how hard it’s going to be to get open on Sunday against the Broncos, especially when perennial Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey is matched up against him.

“He’s just a great ball player,” Welker said of the 34-year-old corner. “I think he just gets out of bed and he’s just great. He’s very patient and does a good job to get his hands on you and plays really well. Smart guy, instincts, all those things and it’s why he’s stayed around so long.”

There’s been so much focus on future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning that it’s easy to overlook another sure-fire Hall of Famer in Bailey. He has more Pro Bowls than any cornerback in history with 11. He is a six-time All-Pro and has been the NFL Defensive Back of the Year twice.

Welker has had a decent amount of success in his battles with him, catching 22 balls in four regular season games for an average of 11.4 yards per reception. He’s averaged just over 64 yards a game but only two touchdowns in the four matchups. He had six catches for 55 yards and a score in the 45-10 romp over Tim Tebow‘s Broncos in the playoffs last January.

“Just have to be very precise and keep him on his toes and make sure you’re really mixing it up on him and being physical and doing things necessary to get open,” Welker said of what a receiver must do against the decorated corner. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andre Johnson, Bill Belichick, Calvin Johnson, Denver Broncos
Free Agent Snapshot: Cortland Finnegan 02.19.12 at 1:55 pm ET
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We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of cornerback Cortland Finnegan. 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:

Cortland Finnegan
Position: Cornerback
Age: 28
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 188 pounds

Now this would be an interesting pickup. Finnegan is a feisty sort who is never been one to back down from a physical confrontation (just ask Andre Johnson), a strong, man-to-man corner who could bring a jolt to the New England secondary. Finnegan has played in the slot and on the outside, and brings the sort of physical, versatile presence the Patriots need at defensive back.

Pro Football Focus had Finnegan as Tennessee’€™s most complete defender, with an overall grade of +15.8 (third among all cornerbacks), with a +9.6 grade in overall pass coverage. (By way of comparison, PFF had Sterling Moore rated as New England’€™s best defensive back, with an overall grade of +5.5, and +4.4 in pass coverage.) PFF also says that when quarterbacks threw at Finnegan, they were 52-for-82 for 456 yards and two touchdowns — not Revisesque numbers, but certainly better than any New England defensive back over the lat season.

It appears unlikely that the Titans will not try and make a move to retain Finnegan — as of last week, Tennessee hasn’€™t made any movement in talks with the defensive back, and would not franchise him. When it comes to him landing in New England, he would come with some baggage — he was named one of the dirtiest players in the league in 2010 — but it wouldn’€™t be the first time the Patriots took a chance on someone with a past.

Why it might not work: As was the case with Brent Grimes, the biggest roadblock might be money. Finnegan and Grimes are two of the best unrestricted free agent corners on the market, and will likely be compensated justly. In addition, this story figures Finnegan might be a good fit in Detroit with former Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and also lists St. Louis, Dallas, Oakland, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville as possible landing spots for the cornerback, while saying that Finnegan would command a contract similar to the five-year, $48.75-million deal Johnathan Joseph signed last offseason with Houston.

Read More: Andre Johnson, Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, free agent snapshot
Patriots Potential Playoff Opponents: Houston Texans 12.27.11 at 9:17 pm ET
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With the Patriots securely in the postseason, it’€™s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is part of a weeklong series of features on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. We’€™ve already profiled the Baltimore Ravens. Today, we’€™ve got a look at the Houston Texans:

The skinny: If the Texans were ever going to win the AFC South, this was the year: without Peyton Manning, the Colts were down, Tennessee was rebuilding and Jacksonville started slowly and made a coaching change. Houston took advantage, and now, they enter the final week of the regular season at 10-5, having already clinched the AFC South championship. (They’€™re currently locked in as the No. 3 playoff seed in the AFC.) They have some impressive wins on their resume, including victories over the Steelers (17-10), Atlanta (17-10) and Cincinnati (20-19). However, they also have more than enough stinkers, including defeats to Oakland, Carolina and Indianapolis. From a distance, the Texans appear to be a competitive young team that has had some occasional struggles with success.

Offense: Houston is down to its third-string quarterback, and while T.J. Yates (78-for-130 for 902 yards with three TDs and three INTs) has played relatively well down the stretch, there are plenty of holes in his game. Offensively, the Texans are powered by running back Arian Foster, who has 1,224 yards on 278 carries for 10 touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average. Houston is anticipating the return of wide receiver Andre Johnson (six games, 31 catches, 471 yards, two touchdowns) for the postseason, and if he is at full strength (he’€™s been slowed by a hamstring problem), he gives the Texans a pair of dynamic skill position players who are among the best at their position.

Defense: Thanks to linebackers Connor Barwin (11.5 sacks) and Brooks Reed (six sacks) and defensive end J.J. Watt (5.5 sacks), the Texans do a good job getting after the quarterback. They’€™re one of the best teams in the league when it comes to the rest of their defense: second in average total yards allowed (280.7), tied for second in the league against the pass (184 yards per game), fourth in the league against the run (96.7 yards per game) and fourth in the league in points per game allowed (17).

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Read More: Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin
Wes Welker: ‘I’m still in my prime’ 08.15.11 at 9:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots veteran wide receiver Wes Welker said Monday that almost two years removed from reconstructive left knee surgery, he’s in the best shape of his career.

“This is the best I’ve felt in my career,” he said. “I think my knowledge of the game and being able to be healthy, I think it’s really helped.”

Tom Brady‘s favorite receiver since 2007 blew out his knee in the last game of the 2009 regular season in Houston, missing the playoff loss that year against the Ravens. He rehabbed his knee aggressively and made it back in time for the season opener against the Bengals.

“As long as you’re working hard and getting better on a daily basis, there is no telling where the curve is as far as the backside of your career,” he said. “For me, I feel like I’m still in my prime.”

Welker had 86 catches for 848 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010, making the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement to Andre Johnson of the Texans.

Welker is now in the final year of his current contract with the Patriots, a deal that’s paying him $18.1 million over five year, including just $2.15 million this season. He said he hasn’t given any thought to his career with the Patriots past 2011.

“Not really,” he said. “I’m just concentrating on the here and now, and whatever I can do to help the team win this year. That’s where my full concentration is. I’m not really worried about that at all. I’m just worried about going out there and playing ball. I love playing on this team and I enjoy every day I’m out here. I’m going to let my play take care of everything else.”

Read More: 2011 training camp, Andre Johnson, New England Patriots, nfl
Fantasy Football 2011: A look at receivers 08.02.11 at 6:27 am ET
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In this article, we look at the elite receivers for fantasy football. With more and more teams running three and four-receiver sets, the true studs are getting harder to come by. You can find tons of flex-level receivers, but guys that you really want in your lineup are getting much more difficult to find. This is just one of the reasons you will see more receivers taken in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts than you did a few years back.

The days of most fantasy teams starting their draft by taking two running backs in the first two rounds have gone the way of pay phones and calm political discourse.

Here are Rotobahn’€™s 12 No. 1’s — the guys who currently receive WR1 grades (in a standard 12-team league) in our rankings. Things could change. For example, Brandon Marshall could make a big move up if Miami lands a better quarterback. But for now, these are the 12 best bets.

1. Andre Johnson, Texans

We all know what a monster Andre2000 is, and he makes a great choice near the end of round one in most fantasy leagues. He’€™s got a solid QB in Matt Schaub and he is healthy as we enter camp. He’€™s the best bet to end the year at the top of the fantasy heap.

2. Calvin Johnson, Lions

Calvin is just a step behind Andre, and the main reason is his quarterback situation. It’€™s not that it’€™s bad, but we still have concerns about Matt Stafford‘€™s ability to stay healthy. And while Calvin put up some nice weeks with Shaun Hill at the helm, it’€™s Stafford’€™s big arm that could really unleash Johnson. In fact, if you could guarantee a healthy season for Stafford, we’€™d bump Calvin up to the top spot. He’€™s that talented.

3. Roddy White, Falcons

Roddy busted out in 2009 with his first big season, and continued to shine in 2010. We expect the trend to continue in 2011, and we like him as a high-end WR1 for fantasy purposes. You can make an argument for him to be at the top of the list, but we expect the presence of Julio Jones to cost him a few targets. His yardage could easily slip back to 2009 levels. Not to worry, that still makes him an elite talent.

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Read More: 2011 Fantasy Football, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White
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