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Patriots release five players, including Jeremy Ebert and Brad Herman 04.29.13 at 5:08 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Monday afternoon they have released wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, fullback Tony Fiammetta, tight end Brad Herman, defensive lineman Tracy Robertson and defensive back Malcolm Williams.

Here’s a portion of the press release that was issued by the team on the moves:
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Read More: Brad Herman, Jeremy Ebert, Malcolm Williams, Tony Fiammetta
Report: Patriots to release Jeremy Ebert at 8:53 am ET
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The Patriots have informed wide receiver Jeremy Ebert he will be released, according to ESPN. A seventh-round pick out of Northwestern last year, he spent time on New England’s practice squad in 2012. A 6-foot, 195-pounder, he put together impressive back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011 at Northwestern when he had a combined 137 catches ‘€” as a senior, he had 75 receptions, 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. For his college career, he had 156 catches and 20 career receiving touchdowns.

Read More: Jeremy Ebert,
Resetting Patriots depth chart at wide receiver 03.26.13 at 2:10 pm ET
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For the Patriots, the personnel changes at wide receiver this offseason are nothing new. Since he assumed the starting job in 2001, Tom Brady has gone through several different groups of receivers, and as the Patriots’€™ passing game continues to evolve, the 2013 incarnation will be the fifth different group that Brady will work with.

While other ancillary wide receivers came and went — and with the understanding that the Patriots have bolstered the depth at the tight end position as the depth at receiver has diminished — here’€™s the overall nucleus of the wide receiver position since Brady assumed the starting job in 2001.

2001-2004: Troy Brown, David Patten, David Givens, Deion Branch.
2005-2006: Branch, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney.
2007-2009: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte’€™ Stallworth.
2010-2012: Wes Welker, Branch, Brandon Lloyd.

With the understanding that there’€™s still a lot of time in the team-building process between now and the start of training camp (between the end of free agency and the draft) here’€™s a look at depth chart at receiver for the Patriots, as well as some possibilities for New England at the receiver position between now and the start of the season.

Donald Jones: The 6-foot, 208-pound Jones is a Youngstown State product who spent three seasons in the league, all with the Bills, and has 82 career receptions. His best year came in 2012 when the 25-year-old caught 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns.

Danny Amendola: The 27-year-old, who had a career-high 85 catches for St. Louis in 2010, has followed an eerily similar career arc as Welker, who blossomed when he first arrived in New England in 2007. The Patriots hope that the 5-foot-11, 188-pounder can continue on the same path that saw Welker — who was a little-used part of the Miami offense before he arrived in Foxboro — catch 100 passes in five of his six seasons with the Patriots.

(In addition, the Patriots depth chart also includes Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes. Ebert was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots last season who spent some time on the practice squad, while Aiken ended the season on the practice squad and Holmes was added to the roster in January after spending part of the 2012 season with the Cowboys. And while Matthew Slater is technically listed as a wide receiver, he’€™s more of a special teamer.)

There remains a handful of free-agent possibilities for the Patriots, including four guys who have suited up for New England in the past and could be called upon once again:

Julian Edelman: A seventh-round pick out of Kent State in 2009, Edelman has shown flashes over his first four seasons in a New England uniform, including 37 catches as a rookie, and 21 receptions at the start of the 2012 season when he saw an uptick in playing time, mostly at the expense of Welker. Presuming he does return, the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder could pick up some of the targets that went to Welker over the last few seasons.

Brandon Lloyd: Lloyd was released earlier this month before the team was set to deliver a $3 million roster bonus. In his one season with the Patriots, Lloyd had 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns. While he had some terrific moments — including eight catches against Arizona, nine against Baltimore and 10 against the Niners — he was underwhelming at times. However, it wouldn’€™t be a shock to see him ultimately return.

Deion Branch: Branch was able to give the Patriots some snaps last season, but was mostly around to help provide some depth at the position. He ended the season with 16 catches for 145 yards in 10 games for New England. Branch, who will be 34 before the start of the 2013 season, has to be considered a longshot to return, but it still wouldn’€™t be a surprise to see the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder back on an emergency basis if he was needed.

Donte’€™ Stallworth: Stallworth, who has had two different stints with the Patriots (including last year, which consisted of one catch, which ended up going 63 yards for a touchdown against the Texans before he went on season-ending IR), was involved in a hot-air balloon accident earlier this month in Florida. While he has spent some time in the hospital, if the 32-year-old is still able to play come the summer, it wouldn’€™t be a surprise if New England at least kicked the tires on Stallworth to see if he still had anything left in the tank.

And when it comes to free agent possibilities, it’€™s fair to include restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders, who would cost the Patriots a third-round pick but still interests the New England brain trust for all the reasons we listed here. The 26-year-old Sanders, a third-round pick out of SMU in 2010 by the Steelers, caught 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 2012, starting seven games. In his three-year career, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns.

Read More: Andre Holmes, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Amendola, Donald Jones
Revisiting Patriots’ rookies: Measuring overall impact of this year’s group 01.22.13 at 9:04 pm ET
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This year’€™s group of Patriots’€™ rookies collectively made more of an impact in their first season than any other group of first-year players since the 2003 class. (While the 2010 draft class will likely have a greater long-term impact, the 2012 and 2003 groups were asked to do more in their first full season in the NFL — for more on that breakdown, check out the comparison I did on each draft class here.) With their first season now done, let’€™s take a player-by-player look at how each one of them did.

Chandler Jones: The 6-foot-5, 220-pound defensive end — the first of two first-round picks made by the Patriots last spring — started out on a great note. With eight games in the books, the Syracuse product was leading the team with six sacks (including two in a loss to the Seahawks) and 11 quarterback hits. He also had three forced fumbles (including one in the first quarter of his first game as a professional), and was named AFC Rookie of the Month and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September. (We wrote about him as a possible candidate for the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award because of his fast start.) But over the last eight regular-season games, Jones had no sacks, no forced fumbles and one quarterback hit. A sizable portion of that was likely due to an ankle injury he suffered in November that left him on the shelf for a stretch, and probably caused a dip in his play when he did return. (While he wasn’€™t overwhelming statistically in the regular-season finale against Miami, he did play very well against the Dolphins, looking aggressive while doing a good job setting the edge.) He indicated Monday that he could be facing offseason surgery for his ankle issues.

Dont’€™a Hightower: After being slowed by a hamstring problem in September and October, the Alabama product became a steady and dependable member of New England defense, and ended his rookie season with 75 tackles (51 solo), four sacks, nine quarterback hits and three passes defensed. He managed to grow into a complimentary piece at linebacker, alongside veterans Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. No reason to think that the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defender won’€™t be a consistent presence at linebacker for the Patriots for years to come.

Tavon Wilson: The 6-foot, 210-pounder out of Illinois started strong, with four interceptions in his first 10 games, as well as a 10-tackle performance in an October win over Denver that likely marked the high-water mark of the season for the defensive back, who certainly surpassed the expectations of many who initially called him a second-round reach. However, the acquisition of Aqib Talib affected his playing time maybe more than anyone else — the trade for Talib meant the Patriots moved Devin McCourty from corner to safety, and left Wilson on the sidelines. (Wilson was still part of an occasional rotation in sub packages, but his overall snap count drastically decreased.) Overall, he finished the regular-season with 48 tackles (32 solo), but one of the most impressive things you can say about Wilson and what he brought to the field was a nose for the ball: in addition to his four picks, he had six passes defensed and a pair of fumble recoveries.

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Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Brad Herman, Brandon Bolden, chandler jones
Wide receiver Jeremy Ebert could be on his way back to join Patriots 11.27.12 at 11:34 am ET
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It appears that wide receiver Jeremy Ebert is set to sign with the Patriots’ practice squad. Ebert, who was drafted in the seventh round by New England in April, was released by the Patriots shortly before the start of the season. He latched on with the Eagles’ practice squad, but was cut loose soon after that.

Ebert is a 6-foot, 195-pounder who put together impressive back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011 at Northwestern, when he had a combined 137 catches ‘€” as a senior, he had 75 receptions, 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. For his college career, he had 156 catches and 20 career receiving touchdowns.

Read More: Jeremy Ebert,
Countdown to Patriots Camp: Wide receiver 07.24.12 at 8:46 pm ET
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In the days leading up to the start of Patriots training camp, we’€™ll take a quick look at how each position shakes out. We’€™ve looked at quarterback, tight end and running back. Now, it’€™s the wide receivers:

Roster (2011 stats): Brandon Lloyd (70 catches, 966 yards, five touchdowns with Denver and St. Louis), Wes Welker (122 catches, 1,569 yards, nine touchdowns), Deion Branch (51 catches, 702 yards, five touchdowns), Jabar Gaffney (68 catches, 947 yards, five touchdowns with Washington), Donte Stallworth (22 catches, 309 yards, two touchdowns with Washington), Julian Edelman (four catches, 34 yards), Matthew Slater (one catch, 46 yards), Jeremy Ebert, Britt Davis, Jesse Holley (seven catches, 169 yards for Dallas).

THREE THINGS WE KNOW

Brandon Lloyd has the most unique skill set of any wide receiver that Tom Brady has ever worked with. We covered this back in the spring, but it bears repeating — Lloyd’€™s ability to work on both intermediate and deep routes, as well as his ability to compete for jump balls, make him a completely different receiver than anyone Brady has worked with. After getting the chance to throw to Lloyd on a regular basis in the spring, Brady bottom-lined it: ‘€œWe haven’€™t had anyone quite like him,’€ the quarterback said of Lloyd, who followed former offensive coordinator and head coach Josh McDaniels back to New England. (For more on their relationship and Lloyd’s potential impact, click HERE.)

Deion Branch doesn’€™t have the wheels that he used to, but his smarts, knowledge of the system and great working relationship with the quarterback should be enough to keep him in Foxboro for another year. The 33-year-old, who probably played more than he should have last season because of Chad Ochocinco‘€™s inadequacies, will still have a role in this passing game. And while shouldn’€™t have the same sort of production he had last year, there will be at least three occasions in 2012 where he comes up with a big play based solely on his background with Brady.

The acclimation process between Tom Brady and the new receivers should be a little easier than it was for No. 85 last season. You figure that with Gaffney and Stallworth already having spent time in the New England offense, the getting-to-know-you timetable should be minimal. As for Lloyd, he was asked this spring if he believes the Patriots system would be a difficult one to pick up. He responded with a quick, one-word answer: ‘€œNo.’€ OK then.

THREE QUESTIONS

Can Wes Welker ignore the noise? No Patriots’€™ player has had a more eventful six-month stretch than Welker. He had 122 catches last year, but ended the 2011 season glassy-eyed and teary after failing to come up with a Brady pass that would have likely closed out the Giants in the Super Bowl. Since that game, he’€™s been hit with the franchise tag, signed his tender, gone back and forth with the franchise about his contract, gotten married, endorsed adult diapers and revealed the most remarkable story involving Larry Izzo you will ever hear. He starts the 2012 season under the microscope — without a long-term deal, there will be speculation that he’€™s starting his final year in New England. However, Welker’€™s track record indicates that he should be able to block out the distractions and focus on the task at hand. Provided he stays healthy, look for another 100-plus catch season from the slot machine.

How many wide receivers can one team carry? Right now, it looks like six or seven, depending on what they want to do with Donte Stallworth: Lloyd, Welker, Gaffney, Edelman, Slater and Branch, with Ebert, Davis and Holley all practice squad possibilities. To his credit, Stallworth spent time this spring working as a returner on special teams, ostensibly to try and increase his overall value to the team. But right now, he would appear to face an uphill battle in a fight for a roster spot.

Why has this team had trouble developing young wide receivers? It’€™s more of a big picture question (perhaps best answered another day), but when you’€™re talking about wide receivers, it’€™s worth mentioning once again that the Patriots haven’€™t been able to develop a young wide receiver since the Deion Branch/David Givens combo nearly 10 years ago. Since then, they’€™ve relied on imports like Welker, Moss, Gaffney and Lloyd … and Ochocinco, Galloway and Donald Hayes. The veterans have been good enough to keep the passing game humming — and maybe the Patriots have found something with their younger receivers Ebert, Davis and Holley — but for a team that’€™s enjoyed so much success in player development in so many other areas (they turn JAGs into starting offensive linemen on an annual basis), it’€™s an odd anomaly.

By the numbers, courtesy of Nuggetpalooza: Wes Welker’€™s passes dropped (including postseason): 2008 — 3; 2009 — 13; 2010 — 14; 2011 — 15.

The skinny: As we discussed earlier, while the passing game might not reach 2007 levels, they might not be far off. And while the tight ends have emerged as a potent force for Brady, the receiving corps is deep, smart and filled with the sort of veterans you can build an offense around. (‘€œThis group that I’€™m working with, they’€™re as professional and as good a group as I’€™ve ever been around,’€ Patriots wide receiver coach Chad O’€™Shea said this spring.) Lloyd appears poised for a monster year, while there’€™s no reason to think Welker won’€™t have a typical Welkeresque season. Gaffney is as underrated as they come, and Branch remains a steady and reliable presence for Brady. They may be getting a little older, but there’€™s no reason to think that this group of receivers won’€™t be one of the best in the league statistically when the season is done.

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Britt Davis, Chad O'Shea, Chad Ochocinco
A pre-camp look at the status of the Patriots’ rookie contracts 07.17.12 at 12:16 pm ET
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We’€™ve run some of this info a few times over the last couple of months, but it’€™s always worth revisiting, especially with camp looming (rookies are scheduled to report to Gillette Stadium on Thursday). Here’€™s another look at the status of the Patriots’€™ rookies and their contracts:

First round’€¨ — Chandler Jones: The defensive end out of Syracuse inked a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth year. Per Rotoworld, the entire deal is for $8.173 million, with $7.42 million guaranteed. (That includes a $4.384 million signing bonus.) Per NFLPA documents, his base salaries for the duration of the contract are as follows: $390,000 (2012), $761,522 (2013), $1.133 million (2014), $1.504 million (2015).

Dont’€™a Hightower: The only unsigned member of New England’€™s rookie class. The Alabama linebacker, taken with the 25th overall pick, is represented by Pat Dye, Jr., of SportsTrust Advisors. Hightower is one of 14 first-round picks who remain unsigned, a group that includes the top eight picks. (Per ESPN Boston, the deal is being held up because of fourth-year guarantees.)

Second round’€¨ — Tavon Wilson: The defensive back out of Illinois was the first Patriots’€™ draftee to sign, agreeing to a four-year, $4.217 million contract that includes a $1.507 million signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com. Wilson reports that the first two years of the deal have base sslaries of $390,000 and $581,722, and are fully guaranteed, while the last two years (at $773,444 and $965,166), aren’€™t fully guaranteed.

Third round — ‘€¨Jake Bequette: The defensive lineman out of Arkansas, taken with the 90th overall pick, inked a four-year, $2.654 million contract. Bequette has base salaries of $390,000 (2012), $480,000 (2013), $570,000 (2014) and $660,000 (2015), per NFLPA documents. Per a league source, he got a $539,800 signing bonus. And according to Wilson, Bequette received annual workout bonuses of $5,000 over the last three years of the deal.

Sixth round — ‘€¨Nate Ebner: The defensive back/former rugby star has signed a four-year deal that includes base salaries of $390,000 (2012), $480,000 (2013), $570,000 (2104) and $660,000 (2015), per NFLPA documents. In addition, a league source indicates Ebner received a $96,600 signing bonus.

Seventh round’€¨ — Alfonzo Dennard: Dennard signed a four-year, $2.157 million contract that includes $57,848 signing bonus, according to a league source. The former Nebraska cornerback will have base salaries of $390,000, $480,000, $570,000 and $660,000 over the course of the deal.

Jeremy Ebert: The wide receiver out of Northwestern signed a four-year contract worth a total of $2.148 million, according to Wilson. (Ebert’€™s deal includes a $48,200 signing bonus.) He also has the same base salaries of Bequette, Ebner and Dennard: $390,000 (2012), $480,000 (2013), $570,000 (2014) and $660,000 (2015).

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower, Jake Bequette
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