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Patriots players who potentially could get asked to take pay cut for 2017 02.27.17 at 3:16 pm ET
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Danny Amendola is a candidate to take a pay cut for 2017. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

Danny Amendola is a candidate to take a pay cut for 2017. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

With the new league year set to begin March 9, this is the time of year where teams like to cut some money off the cap by either releasing players, or re-doing a players’ contract to lower his salary for the next season.

Currently, the Patriots have $63 million in cap space so it doesn’t seem likely they will flat out release players, but the team does have a few that might be asked to take pay cuts for 2017.

Here are four players we see potentially falling into that category.

Danny Amendola — This is the most obvious one, and it is the only way the receiver will return to New England in 2017. As it stands now, Amendola has a cap hit of just under $8 million, which is the fourth-highest on the team. Amendola knows in order to return he will need to re-do his deal once again and by all reports seems interested in doing so. The 31-year-old likely won’t have a large role next year if he does return, but it is an important one. He’s relied on heavily by Tom Brady on third-down and also he’s a major part in the punt return game to take some of the load off of Julian Edelman.

Nate Solder — The left tackle is in the final year of a two-year contract, which has him on the books for a $11.2 million cap hit in 2017, the second-highest on the team. Left tackles are very valuable across the league, but Solder should not be the second-highest paid player on the Patriots. When it comes to a new deal, the team could potentially look to add another year or two to his contract and lessen the cap hit for the upcoming year. Solder is 28 years old and overall has done a solid job protecting Brady’s blindside over the years.

Patrick Chung — Chung has two years left on his contract, but has a cap hit in 2017 of $5.4 million, the second-highest on the defensive side of the ball. If the Patriots want to keep both Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, as well as potentially pay Malcolm Butler, they need as much free money as they can and lowering Chung’s salary next year a little could be a way to do that. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but Chung appears to enjoy playing in New England and could be a player to take a pay cut in order to benefit the team.

Shea McClellin — The former Bears linebacker signed a three-year deal last offseason for just over $9 million and had a cap hit of $2.3 million last year which goes up to $3.2 million this season. Every dollar counts, so McClellin could be a player the team asks to take a small pay cut to use towards key players like Donta’ Hightower, Harmon and Ryan.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Nate Solder, Patrick Chung, Shea McClellin
Why it makes sense for Patriots/Danny Amendola to re-work contract so he can return in 2017 02.19.17 at 12:34 pm ET
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Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) celebrates after winning Super Bowl LI while Tom Brady (12), wide receiver Julian Edelman (11), tackle Nate Solder (77), and center David Andrews (60) are in the background. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28 at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Amendola would have a role with Patriots in 2017. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

As it stands now, Danny Amendola likely won’t be back with the Patriots in 2017 considering he is on the books for a base salary of $6 million and the team likely would release him.

But, as Amendola has done each of the last two seasons, the wide receiver could take a pay cut in order to play for the Patriots next year and it would make sense for both sides to make this happen.

Amendola is 31 years old and has only played a full season in two of his nine years in the league, but when he has been on the field with the Patriots, he’s been a valuable asset, especially in the playoffs.

Just look at what Amendola did in Super Bowl LI when the Patriots needed him most.

Playing in his home state, Amendola caught eight passes on 11 targets for 78 yards and a touchdown, as well as converting the second two-point conversion to force overtime. Also, look at what he did in 2014 when the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX. He hauled in five passes for 48 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to help beat Seattle.

Over the last three seasons, Amendola has caught close to 70 percent of the passes thrown his way, which is among the top five among NFL receivers, and always seems to make a big play when the team needs one on third down.

Bottom line with Amendola is when the Patriots and Tom Brady need a play, he always seems to make one.

The Patriots typically carry five receivers on their 53-man roster and Amendola deserves to be one of those five, likely as the fifth. Going into 2017 the Patriots will have Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell definitely returning and then likely two open spots. New England probably will add a younger receiver either through the draft or via free agency, and then Amendola would make the perfect fifth.

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Danny Amendola: Patriots invited Roger Goodell to post Super Bowl party 02.07.17 at 5:54 pm ET
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After defeating the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots had a postgame party at NRG Stadium with many family, friends and invited guests in attendance.

According to Danny Amendola on Jimmy Kimmel Live Monday night, commissioner Roger Goodell was invited, but didn’t show up.

“Roger Goodell, the commissioner, did he come to the party? Was he invited to the party?” Kimmell asked.

“I think we invited him,” Amendola said.

Added Amendola: “I don’t know that he came, though. I was with Snoop, so…”

Read More: Danny Amendola, roger goodell,
Tom Brady: Super Bowl LI ‘a hell of a football game’ 02.06.17 at 12:26 am ET
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HOUSTON — It was Tom Brady’s finest hour.

The 39-year-old quarterback threw for 466 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Patriots back from a 25-point deficit to win Super Bowl LI in overtime, 34-28. For his work, he received his fourth Super Bowl MVP honor.

“A hell of a football game,” he said after the game. “We played our tails off all season to get to this point. It’s hard to win a game in the NFL. This team, to get down 28-3, it was just a lot of mental toughness by our team. We’re all going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”

Brady wouldn’t try to compare Sunday’s historic victory with the heart-stopping with over the Seahawks two years ago. But in terms of overall drama, it certainly compares. The quarterback led New England back from the biggest deficit in Super Bowl history to come away with the fifth Super Bowl title in the history of the franchise, putting the capper on the comeback with an eight-play. 75-yard drive in overtime when he handed the ball to James White for a 2-yard touchdown run that clinched it.

“They’re all special,” Brady said. “Two years ago, it came down to Malcolm [Butler] making a play. This year, down 25 points, it’s hard to imagine us winning. It took a lot of great plays. That’s why you play to the end. It’s a 60-minute game.

“They’re all sweet. They’re all different. It’s been an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it. It’s just a great group of coaches and teammates. We overcame a lot of different things, and it was worth it.”

The undersized White was immense in victory, coming away with 14 catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns (one receiving and two rushing).

“A hell of a game he played. It was awesome,” Brady said of White’s performance. “He’s everything you want in a teammate and a football player. Consistent, durable. The best attitude, Brings it every day. We just kept going to him. I think that speaks for itself.”

But in the end, it was Brady who was transcendent. With the season on the line, the quarterback kept making big plays over the last quarter-plus, leading his team to 19 points in the final quarter and guiding the game-winning drive in the first-ever overtime in NFL history.

“He was the same as he always is, cool, calm and collected,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said of Brady’s performance. “He’s the leader, the general, the best ever. And that is the end of the story.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Tom Brady,
Danny Amendola: Patriots fans have sick accents, drink a lot of Dunkin [Donuts] coffee and are awesome 01.31.17 at 8:00 am ET
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Danny Amendola had some good things to say about Patriots fans on Monday. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Danny Amendola had some good things to say about Patriots fans on Monday. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

HOUSTON — Danny Amendola has been a member of the Patriots for four seasons, so he has a good idea of what Patriots fans are like.

The Patriots receiver was asked to describe Patriots fans on Monday during the NFL’s Opening Night festivities at Minute Maid Park.

“Patriots Nation is loud, they have sick accents, they drink a lot of Dunkin [Donuts] coffee and they’re awesome. They’re the best,” he said.

It’s also a homecoming game for Amendola, as he grew up close to Houston in The Woodlands, Texas.

He will have plenty of support at the game on Sunday.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. It hit me today coming off the plane, and I could smell Houston. I could feel it, and it’s awesome.”

“All my friends are here,” Amendola added. “All the boys form the high school are coming—all my closest friends and family, so it’s fun coming home to play in front of them.”

Given all the potential distractions that could come with what has happened to the Patriots the last two-plus years, the team never lets egos get in its way. Amendola believes it’s been the key to their success.

“There’s a sign on the door as you walk in. You have to come to work with the right focus, the right energy to get better every day,” he said. “If you don’t, then it’s not going to be the place for you. It’s refreshing. It kind of takes the pressure off the players because you can lose the ego and still try to be a good teammate and be a good player.”

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Malcolm Mitchell reportedly expected to play vs. Steelers, how does this impact Michael Floyd, Danny Amendola? 01.22.17 at 12:04 pm ET
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Malcolm MItchell reportedly is expected to play against the Steelers. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm MItchell reportedly is expected to play against the Steelers. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots will have a gameday roster decision to make in advance of Sunday’s AFC championship game.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell will play against the Steelers after missing the last two games with a knee injury. The report also adds Chris Hogan (thigh) is good to go as well.

With Mitchell out against the Texans last weekend, the Patriots went with Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd. This could be altered a bit Sunday with Mitchell appearing to be ready to go.

It seems unlikely the team will have five receivers active against the Steelers because of other needs on the roster. Edelman and Hogan are locks to play. Mitchell is playing, according to Schefter, so this leaves the Patriots seemingly deciding between Amendola and Floyd for the last wide receiver roster spot.

Amendola returned last week from an ankle injury that kept him out of the last month of the season. He was the fourth receiver on the depth chart, but it’s hard to say if that was just a case of him working his way back and not ready for a full work load.

Floyd, who joined the Patriots in December, played in the last two regular season games before the playoff game. The former Cardinals receiver didn’t have the best of games last Saturday, as his chemistry with Tom Brady appeared a tick off. Brady led Floyd too much on one of his interceptions and there seemed to be some issues with Floyd’s breaks on routes.

This reporter sees the Patriots going with Amendola over Floyd because of Amendola’s chemistry with Brady (remember how important he was in the playoffs the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl?) and the fact he has some special teams value returning punts. Floyd doesn’t have any special teams value.

Ultimately, the final decision will be known around 5:10 p.m. Sunday when inactives are released.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Floyd,
Scouting Report: What you have to know about Texans-Patriots 01.13.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

This may not be a big component of the game in the early going, but it will be before things are all said and done. LeGarrette Blount (299 carries, 1,161 rushing yards, a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns) was able to run for big yardage when these two teams met back in September (24 carries, 105 yards, 2 TDs), and while it’s dicey to try and compare these two teams now to what happened a few months ago, stats tell us that the Texans are still vulnerable when it comes to rush defense; they finished the year 12th in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 99.7 rushing yards per game. One thing with Blount, as we saw in September? There are few guys in the league better when it comes to executing in a four-minute offense. In the second half of that win over Houston, he had 17 carries for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s not so much Blount’s total yards that matter, but when he gets them. One other guy worth watching will be Dion Lewis (64 carries, 283 yards), who got a significant uptick in reps between the tackles over the last month of the season as a changeup offering to the wrecking-ball approach of Blount.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

If they’re all healthy, we’re an advocate for the idea of dressing all five receivers and giving New England the sort of depth in the passing game that they haven’t had in a playoff game in a long time. Basically, give Tom Brady (67 percent completion rate, 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs) as many options as possible when it comes to the quick hitters; you get the ball out as fast as possible, it minimizes the chances of the Houston pass rush getting after the quarterback. Expect the bulk of the targets to go to Julian Edelman (98 catches, 159 targets, 1,106 yards, 3 TDs), who has been as rock solid as they come over the second half of the season. Martellus Bennett (55 catches, 73 targets, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and Chris Hogan (38 catches, 58 targets, 680 yards, 4 TDs) will also figure into the mix.

Over the course of the season, the Texans were second against the pass (201.6 yards allowed per game), while their 17 takeaways were tied for 26th in the league. Safety Quentin Demps, who has been dogged by a hamstring issue, leads Houston with six interceptions. Per Football Outsiders, the Texans aren’t great at slowing backs in the passing game, which means there could be more chances for Lewis (17 catches) and James White (60 catches) on Saturday. Meanwhile, Whitney Mercilus (7.5 sacks), Jadaveon Clowney (6 sacks) and Benardrick McKinney (5 sacks) lead one of the better pass rush groups in the league. Look for lots of heavy sets with an extra blocker (Cam Fleming) when it comes to helping the tackles keep Brady as clean as possible. For what it’s worth, Brady has gone up against a Romeo Crennel-led defense on three occasions, and has averaged 20-for-32 (63 percent) for 242 yards, just over two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks per game.

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Read More: A.J. Bouye, Brock Osweiler, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola
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