|Free agent snapshot: Wide receiver Brian Hartline||02.16.13 at 12:39 am ET|
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 next 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. Thursday, it was Brent Grimes. And we close it out with Brian Hartline:
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 26 (will turn 27 on November 22)
Weight: 199 pounds
The skinny: On a team that didn’t have many dependable options in the passing game, Hartline really managed to distinguish himself as a dependable presence for Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, finishing the 2012 season with 74 catches for 1,083 yards (both career highs) and a touchdown. That came on the heels of him missing all of training camp and preseason with a calf injury — and that was after Hartline needed an emergency appendectomy in which he told NFL.com that he lost 25 pounds in the process. Hartline, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of Ohio State, heads into free agency with a leg up — while he won’t command elite money, he’s in line for a handsome payday.
By the numbers: Hartline was the only pass catcher in the league who finished with more than 1,000 receiving yards (1,083), but only one touchdown. The only other wide pass catcher who was close was Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who had 1,039 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Why it would work: As we noted when it came to our profile of Danny Amendola, the Patriots’ wide receiver corps is in a state of flux right now with only three receivers under contract for the 2013 season (Brandon Lloyd, Kamar Aiken and Matt Slater), and Hartline could be a part of a new generation of pass catchers in New England. If he did sign with the Patriots, a lot would depend on how the rest of the offseason played out, but he would likely project as a No. 2 receiver in the New England offense.
Why it might not work: Hartline is apparently looking for an annual salary in the $5 million to $6 million range, which might price the Patriots out of the market. (One report said he was looking for Laurent Robinson money: something comparable to the five-year, $32.5 million deal Robinson signed with the Jags last offseason.) That, combined with the fact that the Dolphins have a colossal amount of dough — Miami is approximately $42 million under the cap, one of the best situations in the league — means the Dolphins have the money to burn when it come to this offseason.
Quote: “You [bleeping] me?” — Hartline on finding out from a reporter than he finished a September game against the Cardinals with 253 receiving yards
Our take: When it comes to following in Wes Welker’s footsteps, there’s a obviously compelling argument as Danny Amendola being Welker, Version 2.0. But while Hartline isn’t a slot guy, he also has one big Welkerish quality: the fact that he’s a relatively underappreciated pass-catcher who managed to put up big numbers as the No. 1 option in the passing game for a Miami team that missed out on the postseason. Of course, Welker was able to get to the next level when he left Miami for New England prior to the start of the 2007 season. If the Patriots feel like Hartline is a similar diamond-in-the-rough type of receiver who is ready to bust out on a bigger stage, they should make a play for him. (One thing to remember — Hartline is repped by Drew Rosenhaus, and while the popular misconception is that Rosenhaus is a hard-liner who doesn’t get along with anyone around the league, he actually has a good relationship with the Patriots. New England has had several happy Rosenhaus clients on the roster over the years, including tight end Rob Gronkowski and offensive lineman Donald Thomas.)
|Free agent snapshot: Cornerback Brent Grimes||02.14.13 at 11:39 pm ET|
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:
Age: 29 (will turn 30 on July 19)
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.
|Free agent snapshot: Wide receiver Danny Amendola||02.13.13 at 1:56 pm ET|
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 next 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. Today, it’s Danny Amendola:
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 27 (will turn 28 on Nov. 2)
Weight: 186 pounds
The skinny: Wes Welker must look at Danny Amendola and shake his head. A younger — and likelier cheaper — version of me? Son of a … The comparisons between the two are really something: both went to Texas Tech, both were undrafted free agents who saw two teams give up on them before they achieves success in the NFL, and both made their bones as special teamers before becoming big-time targets in the slot. And now, with Amendola set to hit free agency and the Patriots (possibly) thinking about life after Welker, the stage could be set for New England to welcome a new generation of slot receiver to Foxboro. As a member of the Rams, Amendola had 63 catches in 11 games in 2012 and a career-high 85 catches for 689 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.
By the numbers: Over the last three seasons, Amendola has caught 153 passes on 230 targets for a catch rate of 67 percent. By way of comparison, over the last three years, Welker has 326 catches on 469 targets — a rate of 70 percent.
Why it would work: If you look at the pre-Patriots stretch of Welker’s career, he didn’t turn into the receiver that is until the age of 25 when he caught 67 passes for 687 yards for a Dolphins’ team that finished 6-10. He then took that to the next level when he joined the Patriots — at the age of 26, he caught 112 passes. (For comparisons sake, Amendola had his breakout year with the Rams at the age of 25 when he caught 85 passes for 689 yards. That team ended the year 7-9.) If there’s one guy out there who appears poised to continue on the same sort of career path, it’s Amendola, particularly if the Patriots decide to move on from Welker this offseason.
Why it might not work: There’s the very real possibility that the Rams decide to hit Amendola with the franchise tag, although recent reports indicate that both sides are looking for a long-term deal. Two other big things: one big area where Amendola certainly doesn’t follow Welker’s lead is durability. (Google “Danny Amendola” and “injury” and you get back 169,000 results.) Amendola has played in 12 games the last two season because of a variety of injuries, including heel, foot and clavicle problems. We don’t mention this because we’re necessarily questioning Amendola’s toughness. It’s just that when compared to Welker’s durability (he’s played in all 32 regular-season games over the last two seasons), it comes up short. And two, Brady and Welker possess an almost creepy ability when it comes to knowing what the other one wants, a knowledge that has been built up over the last seven years with thousands of passes between the two — and not just during games or practices. (They go on vacation together, for goodness sakes.) That level of comfort and ease isn’t easily replicated, and it would be on the quarterback and the receiver to make that new relationship work.
Quote: “He does things for our offense. He creates opportunities for other people.” — Rams coach Jeff Fisher on Amendola
Our take: It’s complicated. The similarities between Amendola and Welker are really quite something, but it’s important to know that if/when Amendola arrives in New England, you won’t necessarily get an instant 90-catch guy. While Amendola would have some previous working knowledge of the system based on his time with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis, it takes time to learn the scheme, and in addition, build that level of trust and confidence between the quarterback and receiver. (For what it’s worth, I would love to know Brady’s impact on the Welker contract negotiation — any quarterback in his mid-30s couldn’t be too enthused about possibly losing his most trusted and valuable target, as well as a good friend. I know Brady’s eyes are wide open, especially after losing pals like Lawyer Milloy and Deion Branch over the course of his career, but this is something else.)
The Patriots receiving corps is in a massive state of flux this offseason, and if they do decide it’s time to move on from Welker, Amendola would certainly offer a worthy facsimile. (That is, if they recuse themselves from the Percy Harvin Sweepstakes.) There’s no law saying you can’t have two slot receivers on the same team — if anyone can do it, it’s the Patriots. After all, they’ve managed to utilize two elite-level tight ends the last three seasons. But the addition of Amendola would mean Welker’s days in New England were numbered. In the end, if he’s available and you think Welker is done, then you have to have to make the move. While an Amendola-for-Welker switch would be consistent with the Patriots’ long-term vision for success (namely, cutting ties with a guy a year too early as opposed to a year too late), it would create short-term questions regarding the passing game that would have to be addressed, namely a belief that younger targets like Amendola, Julian Edelman (if he returns), Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez can steer clear of injury and stay on the field on a consistent basis.
|Free agent snapshot: Defensive lineman Mike DeVito||02.12.13 at 11:42 am ET|
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 next 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. Next, it’s Mike DeVito.
Position: Defensive lineman
Age: 28 (will turn 29 on June 10)
Weight: 305 pounds
The skinny: A sturdy and dependable presence up front for the Jets for the last five seasons, this New England native — he grew up on Cape Cod and played collegiately at Maine — was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2007. One of the few holdovers from the Eric Mangini era, he flourished under Rex Ryan when he took over in 2009. Since the start of the 2008 season, DeVito has played in 75 of a possible 80 games, starting 38 of them. He’s not an every-down guy — he’d likely come off the field on third downs in the New England defense — but his versatility has been impressive, as he’s lined up at defensive tackle, defensive end and nose tackle over the course of his career. He’s known primarily as a run-stopper — per Pro Football Focus, DeVito has graded out in the top 10 in run defense among 3-4 defensive ends each of the past three seasons, including a top-four finish in 2011. When it comes to free agent defensive ends, there are some relatively big names out there, including Cliff Avril, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora, which likely will reduce DeVito to a spot on the secondary level of contracts. If the Patriots land DeVito, it certainly wouldn’t qualify as a big splash, but whoever lands him will be getting a highly regarded player who could be an important part of an elite defense.
By the numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, DeVito played 635 defensive snaps in 2012, the second most of his career. He finished the 2010 season (including the playoffs) with 697 snaps.
Why it would work: DeVito’s versatility would allow him to work at multiple spots in the New England offense. While he’s spent the bulk of his career at defensive end, he’s also lined up at defensive tackle and nose tackle as well, and could provide a complementary presence for fellow linemen/linebackers like Vince Wilfork, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis. And as with Bryant, the Patriots could compensate him relatively fairly but also structure a cap-friendly deal that wouldn’t break the bank. (For a reference point, DeVito is coming off a three-year contract that had him making base salaries of $1.04 million in 2010, $1.475 in 2011 and $1.31 million in 2012.)
Why it might not work: DeVito underwent shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2012 season, and he also suffered an injury to his left MCL late in the 2011 season. But other than that, there don’t appear to be too many medical red flags. There’s also the possibility that the Jets could prioritize him in free agency, but their cap situation is such that they had to make some cuts, and DeVito could be available as a result.
Quote: “I can tell you this about Mike DeVito: He is an outstanding football player. There is no question about it.” – Jets coach Rex Ryan
Our take: It’s hard to find someone with a bad word about DeVito — my “NFL Sunday” partner Matt Chatham played with him briefly in New York and raved about his skill level and how well he would mesh with the New England system. His versatility is impressive, as well as his willingness to see the bigger picture. (He took a cut in his base salary before the start of the 2012 season to help the Jets’ try to get some cap relief; he was able to make a chunk of it back by hitting playing-time incentives.) In 2010, the Patriots were able to swipe Danny Woodhead off the New York roster, and the running back went on to great success in New England. DeVito isn’t as an underrated presence as Woodhead was, but it appears he can bring the same sort of under-the-radar impact. Don’t break the bank for him, but he could be the sort of guy who could end up playing a lot of snaps in New England’s system if he signed with the Patriots.
|A final reset of our ‘Free Agent Snapshot’ series||03.13.12 at 1:45 pm ET|
Here are the players we profiled as part of our free agent snapshot series. (We initially included cornerback Brent Grimes but have since decided to remove him after he was hit with the franchise tag.)
|Free Agent Snapshot: Brandon Carr||03.04.12 at 7:21 pm ET|
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:
Age: 25 (turns 26 on May 19)
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.
|Another reset of our ‘Free Agent Snapshot’ series||at 5:01 pm ET|
Here are the players we’ve profiled so far as part of our free-agent snapshot series:
What do you think of this group so far? Which one of these guys — other than Grimes, who has already been franchised — do you think the Patriots have the best shot at landing when free agency begins on March 13?
Here are the players who have been franchised so far:
Arizona: Defensive end Calais Campbell
Baltimore: Running back Ray Rice
Chicago: Running back Matt Forte
Cincinnati: Kicker Mike Nugent
Cleveland: Kicker Phil Dawson
New Orleans: Quarterback Drew Brees
Oakland: Safety Tyvon Branch
Philadelphia: Wide receiver DeSean Jackson
San Francisco: Safety Dashon Goldson
Washington: Tight end Fred Davis
2013 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS
2013 NFL DRAFT
- Patriots Sign Fourth Round Pick Josh Boyce
- Report: Patriots Restructure Julian Edelman's Contract
- New England Patriots Links 5/24/13 - Chandler Jones 'Ramping Up' for Year...
- Bill Belichick and The Greatest Coaches Ever
- New England Patriots Links 5/23/13 - Amendola, Jenkins Top Receivers at...
- Patriots Claim OT Kevin Haslam; Waive R.J. Mattes
- Patriots Spend League High $140K In Guaranteed Money For UDFAs