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How smart were Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio to trade up twice in the first round? 04.27.12 at 10:22 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots under Bill Belichick had traded up in the first round just twice since he came to Foxboro in 2000.

On Thursday night, they matched that total in a span of 15 minutes.

At 10 p.m., the Patriots struck a deal with the Bengals to trade them their 27th overall pick and their third-rounder to move up to 21st so they could take Chandler Jones, the 6-foot-5 defensive end from Syracuse that had rocketed up the draft boards in the last three days.

Once the Bears nabbed defensive end Shea McClellin out of Boise State at No. 19, the Patriots knew they had to make their move. So, with Tennessee on the clock, they consummated the deal with Cincinnati as the Titans were selecting wide receiver Kendall Wright.

It marked the first time since 2003 the Patriots moved up, when they made a move for Ty Warren.

But alas, Belichick and personnel chief Nick Caserio weren’t finished.

They wanted an every down linebacker who could play inside and outside. They had a name in mind – Dont’a Hightower from Alabama.

To get him, they knew they’d have to move from No. 31. So, they entertained offers and the one from the Broncos sounded very reasonable. Denver simply wanted New England’s fourth-round pick this year and the Patriots could move up six spots to No. 25. Deal.

Ten minutes, two first-rounders and the Patriots had their guys.

“They had nothing to do with each other,” Belichick said, sporting a suit and tie in the Gillette Stadium press box. “We made our first pick and, we don’€™t know if a team’€™s going to trade or not. They might. As usual, there were teams we called that didn’€™t want to trade and teams that called us and we didn’€™t want to trade and there have been times when we’€™ve been called and did want to trade.

“You can’€™t count on that. We were focused on our first pick. After we made it, then we looked at what was on the board and what other teams are doing, made some calls, fielded some calls, whatever it was. I don’€™t know. There’€™s a lot of communication in the draft room. Nick handled most of that. So, that’€™s how it worked out.”

Belichick seemed very pleased with the unusual deals he struck.

“I thought we had a good day,” he said. “As usual, the draft always takes some interesting twists and turns. You just never know how it’€™s going to go, but as the players came off the board we were able to execute a couple trades there and still hang onto our two second round picks, which I thought if we moved up I wasn’€™t sure that we would be able to do that, but it worked out that way. Nick really did a good job of handling those.

“I felt like we got good value for them. [We] took Dont’€™a and Chandler. Probably could have been in either order, but we felt like we would have a better chance to end up with both players if it went that way, not that we were sure we would get the second one but we thought we might have a shot at it. Looking forward to working with both guys.”

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick, chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower
Winners, losers from first round of NFL draft at 1:19 am ET
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With first round of the draft in the books, there’s time the breathe a sigh of relief and take in the hectic night, which featured the quickest first round in history. Now, we take a look at the five winners and losers of Day 1.

WINNERS

1. Bruce Irvin, DE, Seahawks Many teams knew of Irvin’€™s explosive — but raw — pass-rushing skills, with some seeing him as the most talented pass rusher in the draft. However, Irvin had a lot of character concerns coming into the draft, leading some teams to take him off of their boards completely. Mock drafts anticipated him going anywhere between the late first and late second rounds, so his selection at No. 15 wasn’€™t too many picks ahead of where some had him going. What’s surprising is that Irvin was the first edge rusher off the board in what was perceived to be a decent class for the position.

2. Rams – During much of the draft process, the Rams made it clear to other teams that they were looking to trade down from the No. 2 spot and collect as many picks as possible to rebuild their roster. After trading down to No. 6 weeks ago and again to No. 14 on draft day, the Rams have picked up two second-round picks to use on Friday in addition to two future first-round picks. They also grabbed dynamic LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers at No. 14 once they were finished wheeling and dealing.

3. Patriots fans – While a fan base tends to call for a lot of things heading into the draft, there was a near consensus with Pats fans as to what they wanted this year: They wanted Bill Belichick to draft a top-flight pass rusher early on, and they wanted him to stop trading down in the draft and to trade up to get an elite player. Much to their surprise, they got exactly what they wanted.

4. Cowboys — The Cowboys are always an aggressive team on draft day (Jerry Jones‘€™ trade up to No. 6 on Thursday night marked his 59th draft-day trade). However, the move to grab LSU corner Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick was a perfect strike in a draft class that was considered to have six ‘€œelite’€ prospects. The ability to grab one of those six (the Cowboys reportedly had Claiborne as the second-best player on their board) at the last available spot all the way from No. 14 was a great move for the Cowboys, despite having to sacrifice a second-round pick for it.

5. Jets — The Jets had only a few basic needs heading into the draft: a premiere edge rusher and a safety, mainly. In the end, they landed Quinton Coples, possibly the most talented pass-rusher in this draft class, without having to trade up with their choice at safety long off the board. There are questions about Coples’ work ethic and there will always be concerns about a player who is a bit of a head case in that locker room. On the other hand, Rex Ryan having that type of talent at his disposal should be a concern for the Patriots.

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick, Bruce Irvin, Jerry Jones
Mike Lombardi on D&C: Being in Bill Belichick’s war room like ‘being an analyst for a brokerage house’ 04.26.12 at 11:07 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning less than 12 hours before the NFL draft to discuss his last-minute thoughts on the draft and share his knowledge of what it is like to be in the war room with Bill Belichick.

Lombardi was director of player personnel under Belichick with the Browns and has been in the war room with Belichick during previous drafts. As such, he is one of the few people who can provide a insider assessment of what Belichick might do on draft day.

Belichick traditionally trades down to acquire additional picks, and since the Patriots have two first-round draft picks this year (No. 27 and No. 31) along with two second-rounders, Belichick certainly has picks to spare for trades. Lombardi, however, said Belichick likely will not plan anything with his picks until the first 10 picks of the draft are made.

“Ultimately, where Bill is going to start getting interested is right around Kansas City at 11,” Lombardi said. “That will probably give him an idea of what potentially can be there for him, whether he needs to move up or move back. What makes Bill so good is that there’s no sense that he’s in love with a player. He’s always going to react to the board. He’s always going to make decisions based on what’s good for the team, not necessarily what he has to fall in love with for a player.”

In Lombardi’s mock draft on NFL.com, he predicted that the Patriots will select 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive end Vinny Curry with their first pick. Curry is a pass rusher who is versatile enough to fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme but has been criticized as a weak player in the running game. Lombardi was the only analyst of the seven NFL analysts to release mock drafts this week to predict that the Patriots would take Curry at No. 27.

“It’s someone from the outside,” Lombardi said to explain his choice. “He’s long. He’s athletic. He can play [multiple] positions. He can play in a 3-4. He can play in a 4-3. He can do some different things.

“I think when you get picked by the New England Patriots, especially defensively, you better be multidimensional. You better have the ability to do things, whether it’s play in the kicking game, whether it’s play two positions, whether it’s being able to feature yourself around the scheme of their 4-3 or 3-4.”

Lombardi also gave an account of what being in a draft room with Belichick is like, noting that Belichick’s draft atmosphere is controlled and sparse in personnel.

“It’s very quiet with Bill,” Lombardi said. “Everything’s very, you know, you’re studying things. It’s no different than being an analyst for a brokerage house. You’re analyzing what’s going on. You’re handicapping yourself. You’re looking at the possibilities. You’re working the trade phones. You’re trying to find out information on things to help set up what you want to do.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi, Vinny Curry,
Five players who are on the hot seat this offseason 04.21.12 at 12:51 pm ET
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On the heels of our post last week that detailed six players who are still in limbo as we near the midway point of the offseason — and keeping in mind that the offseason workout programs started this past week at Gillette Stadium — here are five Patriots who need a good offseason to help solidify their status before training camp rolls around in July.

Defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham Bill Belichick fell in love with Cunningham as a collegian, but the Florida product has been underwhelming in his first two seasons in the NFL. There were occasional flashes as a rookie — he had 35 tackles and a sack in 15 games in 2010. But 2011 was forgettable for the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder, as he had just one tackle and spent most of the year on special teams. By the time he was placed on injured reserve in December with a hamstring problem, it marked the end of a disappointing year. He’€™s just 23, but he’€™ll likely find himself in a fight for a job come July. The former second-round pick is entering the third year of a four-year deal he signed with the Patriots as a rookie.

Defensive lineman Ron Brace The 25-year-old has been plagued by injury and inconsistency in his relatively short career in the NFL. Despite the fact that the Patriots picked up several veteran defensive linemen before the start of the 2011 season, he showed some flashes last season, but never really managed to break through, playing just 62 snaps all year, according to Pro Football Focus. The 6-foot-3, 330-pounder is entering the final year of a four-year deal he signed as a rookie.

Safety Sergio Brown The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Brown had issues, mostly in coverage, for a bulk of the 2011 season. (He had three crippling pass interference calls last year, and as a result, was assessed more penalty yardage — 86 — than anyone on the team.) After starting the year as a regular part of the rotation, he slipped down the depth chart, and didn’€™t play a single snap after Week 16 of the regular-season. Despite the fact that the Patriots picked up safety Steve Gregory, he could be helped by the fact that the safety market (in free agency and the draft) is pretty bad. A former undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, the 23-year-old is entering the third year of a four-year contract he signed as a rookie.

Running back Shane Vereen The 23-year-old Cal product was slowed by a hamstring early on, and by the time he got fully healthy, the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder was buried so deep on the depth chart it was essentially a lost year when it came to playing time. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis departing as a free agent, he should get some opportunities to prove himself over the summer. (His opportunities in 2012 could be tied to whether or not the Patriots pick up a veteran free-agent running back: New England reportedly kicked the tires on Tim Hightower, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai this past week.)

Safety Josh Barrett The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Barrett is a relatively young safety who had four starts last season and was starting to play better, but fell out of favor as the year went on last season. (He went on injured reserve with a calf injury in November, and was dogged with a thumb injury along the way as well.) With some moving parts in the secondary — including the arrival of Gregory and the appearance of Devin McCourty as a part-time safety — Barrett needs a good offseason and to prove that he’€™s healthy in order to reclaim his spot in the defensive back rotation. This year marks the last season of a two-year contract the 27-year-old signed last February.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Jermaine Cunningham
Could Jabar Gaffney find his way back to the Patriots? 04.18.12 at 1:54 pm ET
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Less than a week after his infamous Twitter rant — one that left him trending worldwide — Redskins wide receiver Jabar Gaffney told Washington’€™s 980 ESPN on Wednesday that the Redskins ‘€œare trying to trade me.’€

If Washington is indeed interested in dealing Gaffney, one possible destination could be the Patriots. The 31-year-old, who played in New England from 2006 through 2008, still has great affection for the Patriots. In the days leading up to the New England-Washington game this past season, Gaffney reminisced fondly about his time with Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

‘€œIt was the best,’€ Gaffney said of his time playing for Belichick. ‘€œHe pretty much … he gave me a lot of insight on the NFL. A great coach. He makes his players be students of the game. He helped me out a lot. He’€™s the man.

‘€œI’€™ll never forget what I learned there, playing under Belichick. Like I said, he taught me a lot about the NFL and how to survive in the NFL and how to be a great player.’€

Those feelings were returned in kind by both Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

‘€œOf course, we know Jabar’€™s an excellent route-runner,’€ Belichick said of Gaffney. ‘€œHe’€™s a good receiver. He’€™s a very disciplined, dependable guy. He and (Santana) Moss do a good job for them on the outside. They do a number of different things. They change their passing game around from week to week.

‘€œAnd Jabar, we know, is a real intelligent receiver and very instinctive and I’€™m sure he handles those things well for them, taking routes they haven’€™t really run before and putting them in for that game and then running them in a way that hurts the team they’€™re playing. That’€™s a big part of what they do, also.’€

‘€œJab could do everything well,’€ Brady recalled. ‘€œI think that’€™s his versatility, he’€™s got good size, he’€™s got long arms, he’€™s got good speed, he’€™s got good quickness, he plays every position, he’€™s smart.

‘€œHe’€™s just one of those guys that, from the day we got him here, he was just so reliable and dependable because he knew what to do and he did it well. You gain a lot of trust from the quarterback when all those things match up. I was bummed when he went to Denver, and I was bummed when he went to Washington.’€

New England has already brought in several new faces at wide receiver this offseason, including Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez and Donte Stallworth, and wouldn’€™t likely offer the Redskins much in the way of a trade, seeing that Gaffney has gone public with the news that Washington is trying to deal him. (This report indicates that the Redskins could simply cut him loose after the draft.)

However, Gaffney’€™s experience in the Patriots’€™ system, Belichick’€™s good working relationship with Washington coach Mike Shanahan, Gaffney’€™s overall production while with New England (he caught 85 passes for 1,059 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons) and the fact that he’€™s been the best and most consistent No. 3 wide receiver that Brady has had since he assumed the starter’€™s job in 2001 could at least be enough to cause the Patriots to inquire about his services.

Read More: Anthony Gonzalez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Lloyd, donte stallworth
Some notes on the Patriots and Melvin Ingram, Bruce Irvin and Jordan Bernstine 04.11.12 at 1:16 pm ET
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Three very interesting college prospects have recently connected with the Patriots: South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, West Virginia defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and Iowa safety/return man Jordan Bernstine:

1) Ingram, who told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday night that he was headed to meet with the Patriots, is an intriguing name. He’s considered by many to be one of the best pass-rushers in the draft, and at 6-foot-1 and 264 pounds, has some positional versatility as a 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s likely to be a Top 10 selection, which would mean the Patriots, who have picks at No. 27 and No. 31, would have to trade up to try and draft him.

2) Irvin is one player who has seen his stock increase as the draft draws closer — one theory is that despite some initial concerns about his character, the West Virginia product is getting a chance to meet with teams, and because of those sitdowns, he’s taking advantage of the chance to nip any of those questions in the bud. According to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is scheduled to take 12 visits to NFL teams, including the Patriots. Considered a hellacious pass-rusher, he projects to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Our DJ Bean wrote a great piece on him after talking with him at the combine in February.

3) The Patriots are one of three teams thus far who have conducted a private workout with Bernstine (that group includes the Eagles and 49ers, and he’s also reportedly scheduled a visit with the Raiders, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com). Considered to be a late-round/undrafted free agent possibility who could provide depth at safety and work as a special teamer, Bernstine has some interesting Pro Day numbers, which included a 6.98 time in the 3-cone drill. (And we all know how much the Patriots value a good 3-cone time.) The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder also has the Belichick University angle working for him as well — as a collegian, he was coached by former Bill Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bruce Irvin, Dan Pompei, Jordan Bernstine
Some thoughts on the Patriots acquisition of linebacker Bobby Carpenter 04.06.12 at 12:18 am ET
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The Patriots added linebacker Bobby Carpenter to the roster on Thursday, and it likely represents a fresh start for the Ohio State product who has struggled to match the expectations that come with being a first-round draft pick.

The 28-year-old Carpenter was taken in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Cowboys, but was never able to make it work in Dallas. The 6-foot-2, 249-pounder played in 58 games for Dallas over four seasons, making three starts. He was dealt to St. Louis in May 2010, but did not make the Rams’ 53-man roster. He spent time with Miami and Detroit in 2010, and played 16 games last season in Detroit (three starts), recording 29 tackles.

At this point, he likely faces an uphill battle for playing time, but Carpenter does have some positional versatility, as he has played inside linebacker in the 3-4 base defense and outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme over the course of his career, and has also served as a special teamer.

(Carpenter’s father Rob was a fullback with the Giants from 1981 to 1985 — during that stretch, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was an assistant coach in New York.)

In a move that might not be unrelated, Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton will visit with the Dolphins in the next week, according to a league source. Guyton, a free agent, slipped down New England’s depth chart over the course of the last year. While it’s not likely that Guyton’s departure would open up a lot of snaps for a potential replacement, it would create a possible roster opening that could be filled by someone like Carpenter going forward.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter, Gary Guyton,

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