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Checking in with rest of AFC East at league meetings 03.26.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Jets coach Rex Ryan chats with reporters at the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday morning in Orlando. (AP)

Jets coach Rex Ryan chats with reporters at the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday morning in Orlando. (AP)

ORLANDO — While Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and the Patriots have been making news this week at the NFL annual meetings in Central Florida, the rest of the AFC East was involved in the action as well. Here’€™s a look at some of the news from New England’€™s divisional foes over the last few days.

Jets – It wasn’€™t the old-school bravado we’€™ve come to know from coach Rex Ryan, but it was still a fairly brash statement for a team that hasn’€™t finished better than .500 since 2010.

“€œWatch out for the Jets, man,”€ Ryan said at Tuesday’€™s AFC coaches breakfast. “I’€™m just telling you.”

Ryan and the Jets have made a few moves to this point in the offseason, picking up wide receiver Eric Decker and swapping out Mark Sanchez for Mike Vick at quarterback. (Ryan indicated Tuesday that Geno Smith will remain the starter.) They’ve made some moves that give them some financial flexibility, which means they could be in on the race for DeSean Jackson if the receiver can be pried loose from Philly.

However, beyond an impressive front seven, the Jets still have questions at corner (Ryan has lamented the situation in the secondary), and despite the addition of Decker, still need to add offensive oomph this offseason. Look for them to target skill position players and defensive backs in the draft.

And look for Rex to stay Rex.

“€œMy expectations have never changed: I want to win and I expect to win,”€ Ryan said. “œI’€™ll say this: It’€™s time to deliver. It’€™s time to deliver for this community, for New York, for this entire area. We got to step up and deliver. I’€™m not running from it. Let’€™s put it that way — I expect a lot out of this football team.

“Nobody’€™s really talking about us, and that’€™s fine and dandy. They’€™re going to.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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Could Brent Grimes deal with Dolphins help set market for Aqib Talib and Patriots? 03.03.14 at 11:36 am ET
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With the Dolphins coming to an agreement on a reported four-year, $32 million deal for cornerback Brent Grimes (with $16 million guaranteed), that should start to set the market for the Patriots and cornerback Aqib Talib.

While they’re different players with different skill sets and different responsibilities in their respective systems, at the end of the 2013 season, both Talib and Grimes were considered among the best in the league at their position. And if Grimes had hit the open market as a free agent, he would have been one of the most sought-after defensive backs in free agency — the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder had 16 passes defensed and four picks for Miami last year, and landed a Pro Bowl berth as a result. (Those numbers are remarkably similar to the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Talib, who reached his first career Pro Bowl after finishing the year with four interceptions and 13 passes defensed in 2013.)

However, it’s not a perfect model: if Talib and his agent argue for a comparable deal, the Patriots will likely counter with Talib’s injury history, one that includes a failure to finish back-to-back AFC title games because of injury. And if New England tries to make a case for Grimes’ deal as a template, Talib and his agent can say that Grimes is three years older (Grimes will be 31 by the start of the 2014 season, while Talib just turned 28), and arguably closer to the end of his career than Talib.

Regardless, it’s a good starting point for both sides. One thing worth remembering going forward is that the franchise tag deadline is set for Monday at 4 p.m. If Talib isn’t hit with the tag — $11.834 million for cornerbacks — or signed to a new deal by March 11, he will hit the open market.

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Recapping our free agent snapshot series 02.09.14 at 4:39 pm ET
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Here’s our complete list of free agent possibilities for the Patriots we’ve profiled so far with links to each post, complete with a snapshot as to how each might fit in Foxboro. (We’ll add to this in the upcoming week.)

Defensive lineman Michael Bennett
Defensive lineman Michael Johnson
Cornerback Brent Grimes
Defensive lineman Arthur Jones

Tight end Dennis Pitta
Wide receiver Eric Decker
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin

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Free agent snapshot: Brent Grimes 02.05.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Brent Grimes figures to be one of the best corners on the market this spring if he's not franchised by Miami. (AP)

Brent Grimes figures to be one of the best corners on the market this spring if he’s not franchised by Miami. (AP)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. We started our series with looks at Anquan Boldin, Emmanuel Sanders, Dennis Pitta, Eric Decker, Jacoby Jones and Arthur Jones. Now, it’€™s Brent Grimes.

BRENT GRIMES
Position: Cornerback
Age: 30 (will turn 31 on July 19)
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 190 pounds

The skinny: Here we are, back again to advocate for Grimes as a Patriot. (If you’€™re just tuning in, we did this the last two years. Hey, you can’€™t say we’€™re not consistent, right?) Anyway, very little has changed when it comes to our feelings on Grimes — a tough, dependable corner who is the sort of underdog story the Patriots love. He was an undrafted free agent out of Shippensburg who battled his way into the Falcons starting lineup and ended up starting 44 games in just over five years in Atlanta, and came away with 13 picks in that stretch, including 11 interceptions in 2009 and 2010. For his efforts, he landed a Pro Bowl spot in 2010. After an Achilles€™ injury sidelined him for almost all of 2012 — his last year with the Falcons — he bounced back to play in all 16 games with the Dolphins last season and had 16 passes defensed and four picks for Miami. (He was one of four Dolphins to reach the Pro Bowl — the second Pro Bowl nod of his career.) While age is becoming an issue, his smarts, durability and versatility (he’€™s played both left and right corner) make him a very good corner in the league.

By the numbers: +16.4 – The final grade given to Grimes for his work this past season by Pro Football Focus. It was second among all corners in the NFL, trailing only Tampa Bay’€™s Darrelle Revis, who was at 18.2.

Why it would work: If the Patriots aren’t able to re-sign Aqib Talib, Grimes figures to be an excellent Plan B. As we said, he’€™s got the underdog approach that certainly would fit in Foxboro. He’€™s a well-respected locker room guy who would also bring a positive attitude to Gillette Stadium. And the chance to swipe the best cornerback from a division rival is something that can’€™t be overlooked.

Why it might not work: Grimes enters the market as one of the best corners available, and as a result he’€™ll likely be in line for a pretty good payday. While he fits the Patriots’ traditional body type when it comes to cornerbacks, if New England is interested in following in the Seahawks‘€™ footsteps when it comes to the secondary, the slightly undersized Grimes probably won’€™t measure up. And there’s always the possibility he’s franchise by the Dolphins — it happened to him once when he was with the Falcons, and given the state of the market and Miami’s need at corner, it certainly could happen again.

Quote: “I like it here. I like the coaches, I like the players and it’€™s a good team. Obviously, we didn’t finish how we wanted to and close out the season well. But I just let my agents handle everything. If [the Dolphins] want to keep me here, they’€™ll see how it goes.” — Grimes to ESPN following the end of the 2013 season

Our take: As we stated, Grimes would be a good fallback plan if the Patriots are unable to come to terms with Talib, but he certainly wouldn’t come cheap. Several folks around the league regard Grimes as the No. 1 corner available this spring in free agency — and that’€™s even if he reaches the market. (The Dolphins might be forced to franchise him.) If he is available and Talib walks, New England should make Grimes a priority. And if they don’t, we’€™ll likely be back here once again next year.

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Free agent snapshot: Cornerback Brent Grimes 02.14.13 at 11:39 pm ET
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Brent Grimes is a free agent possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

Brent Grimes is a free agent possibility for the Patriots. (AP)

We’ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the week, we’ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Tuesday, it was Mike DeVito. Wednesday, we featured Danny Amendola. Today, it’s Brent Grimes:

BRENT GRIMES
Position: Cornerback
Age: 29 (will turn 30 on July 19)
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 183 pounds

The skinny: We’ve been down this road before with Grimes, but we feel so strongly about him — particularly if the Patriots lose Aqib Talib in free agency — that we’ll revisit the idea of him signing with New England again. (Last year, any ideas that the Patriots would be able to acquire him as a free agent were scuttled when the Falcons slapped him with the franchise tag.) It’s worth noting that Grimes is not the same guy we profiled last year for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he suffered an Achilles injury last September and spent virtually the season on injured reserve as a result.

Despite the injury, it appears that Grimes has the sort of up-by-your-bootstraps story that the Patriots love. An undrafted free agent out of tiny Shippensburg University, he started 44 games for Atlanta in just over five years with the Falcons, and came away with 13 picks in that stretch, including 11 interceptions in 2009 and 2010. For his efforts, he landed a Pro Bowl spot in 2010. Not an elite corner by any means, but if Talib leaves and the Patriots deem Grimes as being healthy, he would fill that void as an outside corner who would allow Devin McCourty to stay at safety and Kyle Arrington to remain as a slot corner. (For another take on the possibility of Grimes joining the Patriots, click through to this podcast I did with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, who backs the idea.)

By the numbers: Grimes had his best season in 2010 with the Falcons, when he finished with 87 tackles (76 solo), 23 passes defensed and five interceptions. In addition, it was the first (and only) time in his career where he started all 16 games.

Why it would work: Because of the injury, you have the potential of finding a very good corner from the bargain bin. He has some positional versatility, having played both the left and right corner spots. If Talib departs as a free agent, the Patriots could have their next veteran corner. And if the Patriots are going to build depth in the secondary, history says that they’ll have better luck doing it through free agency as opposed to the draft.

Why it might not work: The injury is a double-edged sword. You’ll be able to get him at a reduced rate, but at the same time, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be getting someone who is at 100 percent. For what it’s worth, the knee surgery he faced as a result of the September injury is the second surgery that will cause Grimes to miss games in the past two seasons. He had right knee surgery he needed in November 2011 that caused him to miss three of the last four regular-season games that year, as well as Atlanta’s January playoff loss to the Giants.

Quote: “Brent’s made a number of plays. Since we’ve been here, he’s been a cornerstone at the position, both left and right [cornerback].” — Falcons coach Mike Smith

Our take: A few things are in play here: One, with Grimes, it all comes down to his health. If the Achilles is healthy, there’s a chance he could return to something close to his old form, which was working as a pretty good corner. Not a lockdown guy, but still better than most. Two, Grimes comes from Atlanta, a team cut from the same cloth as the Patriots — Atlanta personnel chief Thomas Dimitroff made his bones in the New England organization. And if Grimes isn’t in Atlanta’s plans going forward, he would almost certainly give Bill Belichick the unvarnished truth when it comes to whether or not Grimes has anything left. And three, if Talib is gone and they don’t feel like some of the younger possibilities (like Ras-I Dowling) aren’t going to be able to contribute on a regular basis, then Grimes could work. If the Patriots feel good about all three of these points, then it would appear to be a pretty good match.

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Free Agent Snapshot: Brandon Carr 03.04.12 at 7:21 pm ET
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Brandon Carr intercepts a pass intended for Chicago's Johnny Knox last December.

We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of cornerback Brandon Carr. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from now until 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:

Brandon Carr
Position: Cornerback
Age: 25 (turns 26 on May 19)
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 207 pounds

At the combine late last month, Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel was asked about the possibility of a Patriot free agent adjusting to life with the Chiefs relatively quickly because, at least on the surface, there are some similarities between the two systems. The question came in the context of free agent New England running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis possibly signing with Kansas City, but that situation is a two-way street when you’re talking about some of the Chiefs’ free agents, like Carr.

With Brent Grimes now franchised and Cortland Finnegan likely to command a big deal (if he’s not franchise quickly), Carr could represent the best value on the market if he doesn’t get the franchise tag. He’s going to get good money if he’s available, but he had a lot in his favor: he’s the youngest premiere free agent corner available, he has excellent coverage skills (he had four picks last season and has eight over the course of his career) and has shown himself to be extremely durable (he hasn’t missed a game in his four seasons in the league with the Chiefs).

According to Pro Football Focus, Carr allowed fewer than half the targets into his coverage area to be completed (39 of 79, or 49 percent), and yielded 511 yards in coverage over 1,030 snaps over the course of the 2011 season. As was the case with Richard Marshall’s numbers, the closest example to a New England defensive back was the model presented by Kyle Arrington, who saw 54 of the 100 passes in his direction be completed (54 percent), and allowed 810 yards in 991 total snaps.

The Chiefs just added former Oakland corner Stanford Routt in free agency, which clouds Carr’s future in Kansas City. As for Crennel, he’s on record as saying the Chiefs would love to have Carr return. “We would still like to have Carr back, because Carr is a good player for us and he did a good job for us,” he said at the combine. “But he’s in that unrestricted free agency pool. We’re going to try to keep him, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”

This is not the sort of signing that will lead sportscasts. But Carr represents an upgrade in several areas from the current group of New England cornerbacks. He has experience in both man and zone schemes, and would give the Patriots some positional versatility if they chose to move Devin McCourty to safety (and possibly bump someone like Arrington to slot corner) at any point during the 2012 season.

Why it might not work: There’s still a lot of moving parts when it comes to Kansas City and free agency: the Chiefs could still franchise Carr, but that would leave Dwayne Bowe available. Then, there’s the fact that if Carr does get to free agency, the Cowboys would make him their top priority. In addition, New England has had mixed success when it comes to picking up veteran corners in free agency.

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Resetting our ‘Free Agent Snapshot’ series 02.20.12 at 5:10 pm ET
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We started our free-agent snapshot series last week, and here are the players we’ve profiled to this point:

Defense
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan
Cornerback Brent Grimes

Offense
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne
Offensive guard Carl Nicks
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd

We have another 10 possible free-agent possibilities in tap, but what do you think of this group so far? Which one of these guys do the Patriots have the best chance at landing in free agency?

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Brent Grimes, Carl Nicks, Cortland Finnegan Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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