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Wednesday morning NFL free agent/trade roundup: Ryan Fitzpatrick reportedly set to become next Jets QB 03.11.15 at 11:40 am ET
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Ryan Fitzpatrick will reportedly be the next quarterback of the Jets (    Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Ryan Fitzpatrick reportedly will be the next quarterback of the Jets (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The NFL new league year got started with a bang on Tuesday with a number of big trades and free agent signings. Things continued on Wednesday morning with more moves being made across the league.

Here’s a quick roundup of the moves made late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning:

— According to Pro Football Talk, it is expected the Texans will sign quarterback Brian Hoyer. Once that happens they are expected to trade Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Jets, making him New York’s next quarterback. Fitzpatrick is in his 11th year in the league, most recently playing for Houston last year, playing in 12 games. He threw 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

[UPDATE, 12:10: ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the trade is a go with the Jets and New York will send a late-round pick back to Houston.]

— Jacksonville signed tight end Julius Thomas. Thomas spent last season in Denver, but signed a five-year, $46 million deal to move to North Florida.

— The Jaguars also announced they have signed Jared Odrick, formally of the Dolphins. Odrick is a quality pass rusher, a former first round pick.

— Running back Frank Gore has officially signed with the Colts, after deciding to back out of an agreement to sign with the Eagles. It is a $12 million deal over three years, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus.

— San Francisco will cut wide receiver Stevie Johnson, according to The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.

— According to Fox Sports 1’s Mike Garafalo, former Chargers running back Ryan Matthews is expected to sign with the Eagles.

— Former Boston College standout Mark Herzlich has re-signed with the Giants. It’s a two-year deal.

For more Patriots/NFL free agent news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Jared Odrick, Julius Thomas, NFL free agency 2015
3 Patriots-related thoughts as clock ticks down to official start of free agency 03.09.15 at 1:50 pm ET
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It appears that two of Tom Brady's old backups -- Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer -- are headed for a reunion in Houston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It appears that two of Tom Brady‘s old backups — Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer — are headed for a reunion in Houston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The free agent running back market is expected to receive a bit of a jolt with the news that LeSean McCoy and the Bills have set on a five-year deal with $40 million with $26.5 guaranteed. (In addition, any deal free agent running back DeMarco Murray receives should also be in that same range.) Those will undoubtedly impact the Patriots and any plans they may have for Shane Vereen. While Vereen won’t be in that neighborhood, McCoy’s deal could be a sign that the market for third-down backs like Vereen could be better than it has been in recent years.

For the Patriots, the idea of facing Ndamukong Suh twice a year certainly isn’t appealing, especially when he’s paired up with two excellent edge rushers in the likes of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. Suh is one of the most complete young defensive tackles in the league, as he’s managed to build a resume not just as a run stopper but as an interior pass rushing presence as well. But at the same time, New England has always found a way to neutralize Suh — in two career regular-season games against the Patriots, he is 0-2 with one sack and seven tackles. Ultimately, in a division that was already full of really good young defensive fronts, this creates an even greater priority for New England when it comes to protecting quarterback Tom Brady. Several mock drafts have already marked the Patriots as needing an interior offensive lineman in the draft, and Miami’s pickup of Suh likely adds to that need.

Tom Brady‘s backups continue to find work, as it was reported Monday that Brian Hoyer appears to be on the move to Houston to join the man who supplanted him in the No. 2 role in New England back in 2011, Ryan Mallett. (Mallett reportedly agreed on Monday to a two-year, $7 million deal to stay in Houston.) Meanwhile, it’s expected that Hoyer’s move will be made official when free agency officially begins on Tuesday, although ESPN reported Monday that Hoyer will get an offer from the Jets. Including Matt Cassel (who signed with the Bills), the Patriots could face former QBs in as many as three games in 2015.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, DeMarco Murray, Ndamukong Suh, New England Patriots
How have Patriots played it in past when they’ve wrapped up top seed before last week of regular season? 12.23.14 at 1:02 am ET
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With the top seed in the AFC now locked up, how will Bill Belichick and Tom Brady play it this weekend against the Bills? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the top seed in the AFC now locked up, how will Bill Belichick and Tom Brady play it this weekend against the Bills? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Patriots’ win over the Jets on Sunday and the Broncos’ loss to the Bengals Monday night, New England clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the fifth time under head coach Bill Belichick. Previously, they held the top spot in the conference entering the playoffs in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

However, this year will mark the first time since 2010 where New England will have wrapped everything up before the last week of the regular-season. How have Belichick and the Patriots utilized their personnel in years’€™ past when they’€™ve been locked into the top spot entering the last week? With the understanding that every year is different and playing time will be dictated by a variety of things, history says the starters will likely get the call early, but expect the Patriots to give backups and other youngsters some time as well as the afternoon continues. Here’€™s a year-by-year look at what has happened.

— In 2011, the Patriots clinched the No. 1 seed in the regular-season finale with a 41-23 win over the Bills.

— In 2010, the Patriots clinched in Week 16 with a 34-3 win over the Bills in Buffalo on Dec. 26. In the regular-season finale the following week against the Dolphins in Foxboro, New England started the regulars, but yanked many after about a half. Quarterback Tom Brady actually left the game briefly in the second quarter for Brian Hoyer, but Brady was re-inserted after a few plays. Ultimately, Brady gave way to Hoyer for good with 10:15 left in the third quarter and the Patriots holding a 31-0 lead. New England ended up winning in a runaway, 38-7, as Brady went 10-for-16 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while Hoyer ended up 7-for-13 for 122 yards and a touchdown.

One thing that certainly stood out about that game was the fact that the Patriots were really trying to help BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season. Green-Ellis ended up hitting the plateau in the second half (he ended with 1,008 yards), and was removed from the game after reaching the mark. That’€™s certainly something that could come into play for a variety of starters on Sunday who might be nearing personal records or other meaningful statistical milestones.

— In 2007, New England clinched home field earlier than ever under Belichick with a 20-10 win over the Jets in a cold, wet rain at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 23. However, the Patriots kept their foot on the gas for the duration of the regular-season, as they were chasing a 16-0 record. Accordingly, New England played its€™ regulars for the bulk of the last two regular-season contests, wins over the Dolphins (28-7 at home) and Giants (38-35 in North Jersey).

— In 2003, New England clinched home-field advantage with a 31-0 win over the Bills in the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Tom Brady
Fantasy Football: Week 13 starts, sits 11.28.14 at 10:14 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 13 starts and sits! I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, and I really hope that none of you started Tony Romo. It’s money time for a lot of us, and I have some suggestions below as I always do. Full Week 13 lineup rankings have been posted at Rotobahn. So, if you want my take on players not listed here, check them out.

Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon every Sunday.

If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.

QUARTERBACK

Start

Eli Manning, Giants at Jaguars

This is not a hard call. The Giants may be out of it, but they still are trying to get their new offense perfected, and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. has breathed some life into things. I expect starting-caliber numbers from Manning in Week 13.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins at Jets

I still have some trust issues with Tannehill, but he has a lot going for him in this game. The Jets defense may not be awful, but you clearly throw to beat them. That will help Tannehill, as will his improved cast of receivers, led by rookie Jarvis Landry, who has given him the go-to option he’s lacked since taking over the job back in 2012. The Jets also will be susceptible to deep threat Mike Wallace, as they have issues on the back end. I see fantasy success for Tannehill on Monday night.

Zach Mettenberger, Titans at Texans

He’s not an option to consider for most of you. Having said that, if you need help in a deep format, Mettenberger has proven worthy of consideration. He’s an interesting case in that his college skill talent was better than his NFL skill talent. The rookie played at LSU and his outside weapons were Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. He also had Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue in his backfield. Not bad, right? The plus in this is that Mettenberger has a natural inclination to trust his receivers, and that’s probably rooted in playing with Beckham and Landry — who both make ridiculous catches with stunning regularity. The point of my long-winded explanation is that Mettenberger has a weapon in Justin Hunter, and the key to unlocking him is trust, because he’s a receiver who is never really covered due to his size advantage and leaping ability. This is a quarterback-receiver relationship that could go either way over the long haul, but if things click, they could click in a major way. This is a connection to watch over the rest of 2014, and Mettenberger is a player to consider in 14-team leagues.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Zach Mettenberger
Tom Brady sends good wishes to former backups Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer via Facebook 11.13.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gave a Throwback Thursday shoutout to two of his former backups — Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer — who are slated to meet this weekend when the Texans face the Browns.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Tom Brady,
Tom Brady thinks Brian Hoyer against Ryan Mallett is ‘pretty cool’ 11.12.14 at 11:20 am ET
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Ryan Mallett will be running the show for the Texans this Sunday in Cleveland. (Getty Images)

Ryan Mallett will be running the show for the Texans this Sunday in Cleveland. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Tom Brady can’t wait to see his last two back-ups square off against each other.

Brian Hoyer will lead his 6-3 Cleveland Browns into battle against the 4-5 Houston Texans Sunday in Cleveland. The Texans starting quarterback will be Ryan Mallett, getting his first career NFL start.

Hoyer has his team all alone in first place in the AFC North while head coach Bill O’Brien decided to make a change, giving Mallett the chance after Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled heading into last week’s bye.

“It’s pretty cool,” Brady said. “It speaks to their work ethic and I think what they’ve been able to accomplish. They’ve both overcome quite a bit in their career, so it will be fun to see. We play at 8 o’clock, so I’m sure a lot of guys from our team will be paying attention.”

Of course, Brady will have some extra time to pay attention Sunday afternoon if he’s not napping. The Browns and Texans play at 1 p.m. in Cleveland while the Patriots don’t kick off in Indianapolis until 8:30 p.m.

Brady has already faced another former back-up this season head-to-head, when the Patriots beat Matt Cassel and the Vikings, 30-7, in Week 2.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns, houston texans, Matt Cassel
Bill Belichick on Tom Brady Backup Bowl: ‘Lot of respect’ for Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer at 6:30 am ET
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Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett will get his first professional start this weekend against another ex-New England signal-caller in Brian Hoyer. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Former Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett will get his first professional start this weekend against another ex-New England signal-caller in Brian Hoyer. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — This weekend marks the Tom Brady Backup Bowl, a contest that will feature Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer going up against Houston’s Ryan Mallett in a duel of former New England second-string quarterbacks.

Mallett will be making his first career start after taking over the No. 1 job with the Texans. Meanwhile, Hoyer has led the Browns to a 6-3 start, completing 58 percent of his passes for 2,212 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Both those guys worked really hard here,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “They both did a good job for us. I have a lot of respect for both of them and a personal liking for both guys. We wish them well.”

On the topic of ex-New Englanders, Belichick was also quizzed earlier in the week about two former Patriots who have found a home with the Colts in safety Sergio Brown and cornerback Darius Butler.

‘€œWell, I’€™d say Darius has been in pretty much the same role that he was in last year as a nickel back [with Greg] Toler and [Vontae] Davis usually outside and Butler usually in the slot,” Belichick said of the 28-year-old Butler, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2009 before joining Indy in 2012.

As for Brown, he was an undrafted free agent who spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons with New England before joining the Colts.

“Sergio’€™s had a big role in the kicking game,” Belichick said, “and then when [Laron] Landry was out the last four or five weeks then he had a lot of playing time at safety on defense and has been a little bit less involved in the kicking game.

“He’€™s been in those two roles. It looks like they’€™re kind of independent of each other, so the more involved he is on defense, the less in the kicking game; the less on defense, the more in the kicking game. He’€™s done both.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Darius Butler, Ryan Mallett

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