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As far as veterans are concerned, rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo making the grade 06.09.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo was taken in the second round out of Eastern Illinois. (AP)

Jimmy Garoppolo was taken in the second round out of Eastern Illinois. (AP)

FOXBORO — It’s only been a handful of OTA sessions, but to this point, the Patriots veterans have been impressed with the work of rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The consensus seems to be that he’s not only delivering the goods on the practice field — albeit in limited snaps behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett — but he’s fully aware of his place in the locker room hierarchy as a rookie.

“I’ll tell you, he shocked me, man,” running back Stevan Ridley said after last Thursday’s workout. “He came in [and] he seems confident. He is a rookie, though. Everybody’s going to make mistakes, but he’s quiet, and he has been working hard.

“I didn’€™t know too much about him, but as I watched him, I liked him the more I watched him,” Ridley added. “He’€™s what we expect out of a quarterback. You don’€™t say too much — you just take it in and do your job.’€

In last Thursday’s practice session, the first action for Garoppolo in full view of the media, there were some good throws and some bad throws, including an interception on a ball picked off by linebacker Chris White. All in all, a rookie performance in the rain that was probably about par for the course for a young quarterback at this time of the offseason.

Garoppolo wasn’t made available to the media after the session, but some of the other offensive veterans acknowledged they have been impressed with the rookie, who has managed to emerge as an early leader among the first year players.

“The guy is pretty good — he’s got a lot of talent,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “He’s a rookie, so he has a lot to learn. But he has a lot of potential. If he continues to work, he’ll be a good quarterback in this league.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola had the chance to work out briefly with Garoppolo prior to the draft, and said that the rookie out of Eastern Illinois has impressed him as a “smart” player.

“He’s a smart player,” Amendola added. “I don’t know if they ran the same offense in college, but he’s picked up the system really well. I know he’s been putting in his time and his work getting in the books. He’s been doing good so far.”

In addition, Amendola added that Garoppolo has shown a nice command of the huddle, at least to this point.

“That’s huge. It’s one thing to throw the ball and make the plays on your feet. But to actually control 10 other guys and get them to where they need to be is a huge part of playing the quarterback position. He’s learning from the best [in] Tom and Mallett. He’s doing well.”

Read More: Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett
4 thoughts on Patriots, free agency, who’s still out there at WR 03.17.14 at 6:30 am ET
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Dane Fletcher is off to Tampa Bay. Do the Patriots need to build more depth at inside linebacker? (AP)

Dane Fletcher is off to Tampa Bay. With the loss of Fletcher and Brandon Spikes, do the Patriots need to build more depth at inside linebacker? (AP)

1. Dane Fletcher signed with Tampa Bay on Sunday, the second inside/middle linebacker the Patriots have lost to this point in free agency. (Brandon Spikes went to Buffalo earlier.)

Fletcher isn’t a tremendous loss — he was a backup who provided defensive depth at the position, as well as some special teams value. (His shining moment in 2013 likely came in the regular-season win over the Broncos, when he stepped in for a struggling Dont’a Hightower and played significant snaps down the stretch and into overtime.) But from a personnel standpoint, that means a new generation of linebackers likely will be given the chance to step into the void, a group that includes Steve Beauharnais.

Even with a few guys capable of stepping into that spot, there’s the likelihood that New England tries to go out and acquire one more linebacker/special teamer, either in the draft or free agency. The Patriots tried to go after former Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard, but he ended up signing with the Titans.

From this viewpoint, South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr could be a late-round possibility in the draft. (For more on why he might be a fit with the Patriots, check out our story here.)

It’s not a colossal priority at this point, but it’s a personnel question that needs to be addressed between now and the start of offseason workouts.

2. The last few seasons, the Patriots have made a habit of adding veteran free agent wide receivers in free agency — not household names, but relatively anonymous guys who might be a fit in Foxboro. Last year, that group included LaVelle Hawkins, Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones, none of them ultimately worked out.

And so, on the surface, there might be inclination to link them to Brandon LaFell — who was acquired Saturday as a free agent — to last year’s group. But taking a look at LaFell’s work, he might be a step up from that group. LaFell has some positional versatility, having worked on the inside, in the slot and split wide, and his versatility, combined with his surprising size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), likely puts him a step ahead of veteran wide receivers acquired in year’s past.

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher
Mike Florio on M&M: Patriots might be better off passing on Aqib Talib and making a run at Darrelle Revis 03.04.14 at 12:05 pm ET
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Mike Florio

Mike Florio

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss news from around the NFL, including speculation that the Patriots might be interested in acquiring Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Florio suggested that Revis could be on the move prior to March 13, when he’s due to receive a $1.5 million check, and a 2014 fourth-round draft pick the Buccaneers sent to the Jets in last year’s trade would become a third-rounder.

“Those two things combined suggest that if there is going to be a move, it’s going to happen by next Thursday or it’s not going to happen at all,” Florio said. “That’s what it comes down to — it’s not going to happen if it doesn’t happen by the 13th. And the question becomes, can some other team persuade the Buccaneers to make the move. Last year it was the Jets wanting to move Revis. This year the thinking in league circles is that there are other teams that would like to shake Revis away from Tampa.”

Two teams Florio mentioned as potential landing spots are the Patriots and Broncos.

“I’ve heard from someone I trust very much the speculation that it is the Broncos and the Patriots who are trying to stir this ‘Revis can be/Revis will be/Revis could be,/Revis should be traded’ idea, to put the idea in the Buccaneers’ heads to move on from Darrelle Revis. Would the Broncos or the Patriots like to have a shot at him? I believe they would. Does that mean the Buccaneers are ready to trade him? No. ‘€¦ The question is convincing the Glazers [who own the team] to do it. But they’re going to save $16 million in cash if they do it.”

Meanwhile, the Patriots passed on franchising Aqib Talib as they try to determine if it’s worth spending big money to keep the free agent cornerback in New England.

“I think Talib at least is going to get an $8 million-a-year offer, if that’s what [Brent] Grimes is getting from the Miami Dolphins,” Florio said. “And the problem for the Patriots — and this is an Aaron Hernandez offshoot — you can’t give a big chunk of money to a guy with a history of off-field issues less than a year after Aaron Hernandez blew up in your face. You just can’t do it.”

Florio doubted that Talib would take a hometown discount to return to Foxboro.

“Are the days still around where somebody would take less to stay with the Patriots? I don’t know that that vibe exists anywhere except maybe in Seattle. And it would be more somebody taking less to join the Seahawks than someone taking less to stay with the Seahawks,” he said. “So, I think they’re going to have to compete with the highest bidder. And if the Patriots don’t compete with the highest bidder, then he could very well be going elsewhere.

“And when you’re in a position where from a PR standpoint it’s very difficult to give a guy a bunch of guaranteed money on the hope that he doesn’t revert to the things he was doing in Tampa, allegedly or actually. That’s a big risk to take. And other teams don’t have that same PR risk.”

Added Florio: “That’s where this whole Revis thing comes from. When you think about what it’s going to cost to keep Talib on a long-term deal, what the costs are from an off-field risk standpoint, it’s very easy to get yourself to the point where you can justify making a run at Revis. And you throw in the icing on the cake of sticking it to the Jets. Because one of the reasons the Jets traded Revis last year was to get him out of situation where he could walk out the door and sign with the Patriots as a free agent this year. For him to end up with the Patriots would be the ultimate kick in the pants to the New York Jets. And I’m sure that the Patriots would like to be able to pull that off. If they think it’s a good football move, you throw on top of that tweaking the Jets, and they’re not going to feel bad about doing that.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman
Peter King on M&M: Aqib Talib a better option than Darrelle Revis for Patriots 03.03.14 at 2:40 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

Sports Illustrated writer Peter King joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about the possibility of Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis being on the move, Aqib Talib and his future, and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With rumors that the Patriots and Broncos are interested in trading for Revis, King said the biggest hurdle is money.

“I think that you have to restructure his contract if you’re the Patriots,” King said. “€œAnd that’s, to me, I think one of the issues that you start with when you start asking about whether you want a guy, is you have to find out, OK what exactly is that guy going to cost?”

Added King: “In essence Tom Brady, last year, his cap number was about [$]13.8 [million]. It’€™s going to go up a million bucks this year. It’€™ll be about 14.8. It’€™ll never be, under his current deal, his money will never be what Revis’ money is. So you have to ask yourself, ‘Are we going to bring somebody in that’€™s going to make more money than Tom Brady?’ ”

King favors keeping Talib over Revis due to his familiarity with the system plus the cost of a draft pick.

“€œIf you’re able to sign Talib, who’s a proven player in your system, for less,” King said, “€œI would, and you get to keep, say, your number one either this year or next year, I know that’s something I would prefer to do.”

Cornerback Brent Grimes signed a four-year, $32 million extension on Monday with the Dolphins. King points out that Talib is younger and healthier than Grimes, but has more off-field issues.

“€œIf I’m Aqib Talib, I’m saying, as a player, I’m worth a little bit more than Brent Grimes,” King said. “The only issue then becomes, well, what about the problems you’ve had off the field that Brent Grimes hasn’t had. So, I think it could counterbalance itself, but that’s why I think if I’m talking about Aqib Talib, I’m talking not very long term and about 8 or 9 million [dollars] a year, I think that would be fair.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots
Tom Brady voted most trusted in clutch in poll of NFL players 01.29.14 at 11:07 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was voted the quarterback players would want in the last two minutes of a Super Bowl if the game was on the line. As part of ESPN’€™s NFL Nation Confidential anonymous player survey, the question was asked to 320 players around the league. Brady received 128 votes, 40 percent of the vote. Peyton Manning came in second, receiving 86 votes.

Brady, who has been to five Super Bowls and eight AFC championship games, has put together 30 comeback drives when trailing in the fourth quarter and 41 game-winning drives from a deficit or tie in the fourth quarter. All three of Brady’€™s Super Bowl wins were done by leading the team from a fourth-quarter deficit.

“He’s been there before and done it,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “You just kind of follow him as he takes the lead.”

For Brady’€™s teammates, they aren’t surprised by his calmness in leading comebacks, having been first-hand witnesses.

“He is a very calm guy when the game is on the line,” receiver Kenbrell Thompkins said. “He just says, ‘We live for these moments. Let’s do it.’€™ ”

Michael Hoomanawanui added that his experience in those situations make him trustworthy.

“It just comes from his experience, 14 years, that control he has over pretty much anyone in the huddle. He just takes over,” Hoomanawanui said. “Obviously, the fact he’s done it time and time before helps out a lot, too. That’s pretty much the way he goes out and plays each and every snap.”

Read More: Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots
Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Wide receivers 01.28.14 at 8:53 am ET
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Julian Edelman had a career-year in 2013. (AP)

Julian Edelman had a career year in 2013. (AP)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’€™ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams. Now, it’€™s the wide receivers.

Depth chart: Julian Edelman (105 catches, 1,056 yards, 6 TDs), Danny Amendola (54 catches, 633 yards, 2 TDs), Kenbrell Thompkins (32 catches, 466 yards, 4 TDs), Josh Boyce (9 catches, 121 yards), Aaron Dobson (37 catches, 519 yards, 4 TDs), Austin Collie (6 catches, 63 yards)

Overview: With New England searching for an offensive identity at the start of the season, it was Edelman who filled the void, immediately picking up where Wes Welker left off. The former college quarterback had one of the best starts of any receiver of the Tom Brady era, and was the first receiver in a New England uniform other than Welker to finish a season with 100-plus catches since Troy Brown turned the trick in 2001. He was sturdy and dependable — and, for the first time in his career, he stayed healthy for all 16 games. As a result, he’€™ll hit the open market as a free agent as one of the more intriguing prospects out there. (He should get more interest than he did last year, when he received lukewarm attention from the Giants before returning to New England to sign a one-year deal with the Patriots.)

The rest of the receiving corps was intermittent with its contributions: Amendola had two colossal games (at Buffalo and at Miami) where he hit double-digits in receptions, but appeared to struggle to maintain consistency with the quarterback in his first year in New England. The rookies progressed relatively well over the course of the 2013 — shaking free of the drops that dogged them early in the year — but were up-and-down at times as Brady worked to ease them into life in the NFL. (Sometimes it was quiet and done behind the scenes. Sometimes, it wasn’€™t — although, to be fair, Brady was occasionally barking in frustration over his own mistakes.) And Collie was on and off the roster throughout the season, but appeared to win the trust of Brady down the stretch and into the postseason, so much so that it shouldn’€™t be a surprise if he’€™s back in 2014.

While they got an (mostly) unexpected jolt from Edelman in 2013, there are plenty of questions about this group going forward: Will Edelman return? Can Brady and Amendola get on the same page? Can the rookies continue to progress in the right direction? And will they add depth to this group going forward with a veteran like Anquan Boldin? It won’€™t be as seismic as it was last spring — Welker signing elsewhere, the release of Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch — but this offseason certainly figures to be another interesting one as it relates to the New England receiving corps.

Best moment: Hard to pick a singular moment here, so we’€™ll go with three, in no particular order: Thompkins catching the game-winner in the final seconds to lift the Patriots to a dramatic win over the Saints; Edelman’€™s beastly 13-catch, 169-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Dolphins in Miami; and Amendola’€™s effort in the regular-season opener against the Bills which (in large part) allowed the Patriots to escape upstate New York with the win. (Honorable mention goes to this move Boyce put on Browns cornerback Buster Skrine in the New England-Cleveland game)

Worst moment: Two: Dobson had three bad drops in the home win over the Jets in September; and the stretch drive output from Amendola, who dropped off the radar screen late in the regular season and in the playoffs. (After a really impressive 10-catch outing in a December loss to the Dolphins in South Florida, he had six catches over the final four games of the season — three in the last two regular-season games and three in the postseason.)

By the numbers: Dobson’€™s 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns were the most receiving yards and touchdowns for a rookie receiver in the Brady era.

Money quote: “I think I’ve always tried to do just whatever I thought we needed to do to try to fill the spots that the coaches can’€™t always do. I’ve been around here long enough so I have an understanding of what our coaches ask. I’ve been coached really hard over the years, and I try to convey a lot of those messages as well.”€ — Brady, when asked about working as a mentor to the young receivers

Read More: Aaron Dobson, austin collie, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman
Danny Amendola knows he could’ve done more to help Patriots ‘get the job done’ 01.20.14 at 1:53 pm ET
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DENVER — Of all the Patriots who had a rough day Sunday, Danny Amendola is certainly at the top of the list. He was targeted just once in Sunday’s 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship. The one time he was targeted, he dropped a Tom Brady pass right in his hands over the middle of the field in the third quarter.

“€œCredit to the Broncos,” Amendola said. “They played hard. I feel like we had to play better.”

For Amendola, this was his first taste of postseason after four injury-riddled seasons in St. Louis. As the Patriots were preparing for the eventual loss of Wes Welker in free agency, Amendola signed a five-year, $28.5 million contract last March to come to New England and chase his Super Bowl dreams. One drop on his only target of the day in the AFC championship is not what Amendola or Brady had in mind when the Patriots signed Amendola, who has battled through a torn groin and a concussion this season.

Sunday, he said, was the toughest loss of his career.

“It is, yeah,” Amendola conceded. “I felt like we fought hard for the whole season and it came down to a couple drives at the end and we couldn’€™t get the job done.”

After catching 10 passes for 131 yards in the Dec. 15 loss in Miami, Amendola finished with just six catches in his final four games, a point WEEI’s Chris Price expanded on after the game.

“It wasn’€™t our goal to lose at the end of the season but we have a bunch of fighters on this team,” Amendola said. “We fought through a bunch of adversity throughout the season. We just have to get better.

“We didn’€™t win the game so I’€™ll always think we could do better. Like I said, we have a bunch of fighters and we just couldn’€™t get it done today.”

Read More: AFC Championship, Danny Amendola, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots
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