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Resetting Patriots 2015 draft picks 03.26.15 at 3:52 pm ET
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Now that the compensatory picks have been assigned and the draft is looming larger, here’s a quick rundown of where the Patriots stand when it comes to draft value at this point on the calendar:

1st round (32nd overall)
2nd round (64th overall)
3rd round (96th overall)
3rd round (97th overall — compensatory)
4th round (101st overall — part of 2014 trade with Tampa Bay for Logan Mankins)
4th round (131st overall)
6th round (178th overall — part of 2014 trade with Tampa Bay for Jonathan Casillas)
7th round (219th overall — part of 2014 trade with Tennessee for Akeem Ayers)
7th round (253rd overall — compensatory)

The Patriots have dealt away three of their picks to this point: a fifth-rounder to the Bucs as part of the Casillas deal, a sixth-rounder to the Titans in the Ayers deal, and a seventh-rounder to the Rams as part of a 2012 deal for wide receiver Greg Salas.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, New England Patriots,
League outlaws Patriots unbalanced line approach that New England used against Ravens 03.25.15 at 1:59 pm ET
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John Harbaugh and the Ravens are likely pretty happy after hearing that the unbalanced line the Patriots used in the playoffs is now illegal. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

John Harbaugh and the Ravens are likely pretty happy after hearing that the unbalanced line the Patriots used in the playoffs is now illegal. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The eligible receiver/ unbalanced line tactics the Patriots utilized in the AFC divisional playoff game agains the Ravens have now been ruled illegal. The league announced Wednesday that they have passed a proposal to make it  “illegal for an offensive player with an eligible number to report as ineligible and line up outside the core of the formation.”

The genesis of the rule change came from the postseason contest between New England and Baltimore when Patriots ran a handful of plays using four offensive linemen and a running back (Shane Vereen) or tight end (Michael Hoomanawanui) lined up as the tackle. Before the plays, the Patriots informed the referee of the ineligible player, and on at least one occasion, the referee announced to the crowd that No. 34 (Vereen) was ineligible, adding “don’t cover (Vereen).”

The Ravens were clearly steamed at the legal sequence after the game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh called it “deception,” and took issue with the idea that “they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substations and things like that.”

He added: “We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were. What (the Patriots) were doing was they announce the ineligible player and then Tom [Brady] would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception.”

In the midst of the confusion, the Patriots were able to capitalize — on three plays, New England hit on pass plays of 16, 11 and 14 yards. While it wasn’t the biggest turning point in the game, it was clear that it contributed to the normally unflappable Ravens coming unglued, as Baltimore twice choked up 14-point leads on the way to the Patriots win.

After the game, Brady was asked about the play.

“Maybe those guys (should) study the rule book and figure it out,” said the quarterback with a smile.

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, New England Patriots
Scott Chandler is excited to get to Foxboro and ‘deal with’ Bill Belichick, work with Rob Gronkowski 03.20.15 at 4:53 pm ET
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Scott Chandler is ready to begin a new career in New England. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Scott Chandler is ready to begin a new career in New England. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Scott Chandler knows the situation he’s in coming to Foxboro. He leaves Buffalo where he was clearly the best pass-catching tight end in the Bills’ offense and comes to New England where he will be the second-most recognizable tight end behind Rob Gronkowski.

During a conference call Friday, Chandler called Bill Belichick a straight shooter.

Did Belichick lay out to him what it will mean to be the second tight end in a potent offense behind Rob Gronkowski?

“We didn’€™t get into that too terribly much,” Chandler said. “I think what I want to do is be part of a team that’€™s a winning team. Whatever that role that the coaches define for me there, I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.

“I’€™ve talked to Rob on the field after games and that’€™s about it. I’€™m sure we’€™ll get to know each other and get along well. He seems like a fun guy to be around. Obviously he’€™s a great player. I’€™m looking forward to being able to learn from him and watch him do his thing. He’€™s pretty fun to watch.”

Chandler, like Gronk, is a tall tight end, at 6-foot-7, and – like Gronk – could provide more blocking along the offensive line as he has developed that part of his game.

“I think it’€™s one of those things that it can be tough, but I’€™ve been dealing with it for a while now,” Chandler added. “You learn to sink or swim pretty quick in this league. You want to do whatever you can to get low and stay low. It’€™s hard, but you learn how to deal with it because if you can’€™t get the job done, they’€™re going to find someone else.”

Chandler, who signed a two-year, $5.3 million contract on March 13, will be more than happy to make some personal sacrifices to attain more team glory. In five non-playoff seasons in Buffalo, Chandler caught 17 touchdowns, including 28 catches on 42 targets and four touchdowns in nine games against the Patriots.

“I think you go into a game just wanting to do what it takes for your team to win and sometimes that means catching the ball and sometimes that means blocking well,” Chandler said. “I’€™ve probably had games that I didn’€™t have very good stats, but they were some of my better games throughout my career. It just so happened that in those games I needed to catch the ball a little bit and I was able to do that.”

Belichick can trust that Chandler has been taught well. Before playing for the Bills, he played his college ball under Belichick’s good friend and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 NFL free agency, Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Kirk Ferentz
History, recent personnel losses means Patriots will get defensive early in draft 03.18.15 at 12:28 am ET
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History -- and recent personnel losses -- would seem to point to the idea of Bill Belichick drafting a defensive tackle or defensive back this spring in the first round. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

History — and recent personnel losses — would seem to point to the idea of Bill Belichick drafting a defensive tackle or defensive back this spring in the first round. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Predicting how the Patriots will approach the draft can be a fool’s errand. But history tells us that when it comes to their approach with high-value picks — combined with the recent personnel losses of Darrelle Revis or Vince Wilfork — if they end up sticking with just one selection in the top 50, they’ll try and find a defensive back or defensive lineman.

Since Bill Belichick took over just prior to the 2000 draft, the Patriots have had 24 picks in the top 50, and they have spent half of those on defensive linemen or defensive backs — six each. (In addition, they’ve taken four offensive linemen, three tight ends, two wide receivers, two linebackers and one running back with those selections.)

Of that group of 24, you can easily count 10 players as being long-term starters: Wilfork, Devin McCourty, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Chandler Jones and Nate Solder. You could also make an argument that three others (Benjamin Watson, Ty Warren and Patrick Chung) were in the league long enough to qualify as contributors.

While it’s unclear how that stacks up against the rest of the league — that’s a more in-depth blog post for another day — the fact that the Patriots have been able to hit on 42 percent of those picks is a good number. That stat is made all the more impressive considering the fact that New England has had just two picks in the top 10 in that span (Seymour at No. 6 in 2001 and Mayo at No. 10 in 2008). That’s second on the list of fewest top 10 picks in that span. By way of comparison, since 2000, the Lions and Jaguars have had the most top 10 picks (10 each), while the Colts, Steelers, Broncos and Giants have had the fewest (one each).

How does all this figure into this year? Ultimately, no one throws more curveballs on draft weekend than the Patriots, and the same should be true this time around. (It’s no surprise that no draft expert can seem to agree on what direction New England will go this time around.) But if you’re looking for the Patriots to utilize their 32nd pick on a defensive lineman, history tells us that’s usually a good thing: Of the six defensive linemen they have taken in the top 50, they’ve hit on four of them: Wilfork, Seymour, Warren and Chandler Jones. One was an undisputed miss (Ron Brace) and the sixth (Dominique Easley) gets an incomplete for playing roughly half of his rookie season before going on injured reserve.

However, as successful as they’ve been at targeting defensive linemen and plugging them immediately into the system following those high value picks, they’ve struggled when it comes to identifying and drafting defensive back, at least when it comes to those same high-value picks. McCourty and Chung are the only two defensive backs taken in the top 50 who have enjoyed successful careers — Eugene Wilson had one very good year before a slide in semi-obscurity, but Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler and Ras-I Dowling have all made little to no impact at the NFL level, at least when they were in Foxboro.

Of course, when it comes to drafting and developing defensive backs, maybe the organizational philosophy is more about quantity than quality: Since 2000, the Patriots have used most of their picks at defensive back (26), while defensive line (22) and offensive line (22) round out the top three. They’ve drafted 17 linebackers, 13 wide receivers, 10 tight ends, eight running backs, eight quarterbacks, three fullbacks, two kickers (one, Owen Pochman, also worked sparingly as a punter), one punter and one long snapper.

In the end, no one is suggesting that the Patriots will be able to replace Revis or Wilfork with a rookie. There’s always a ton to consider when the pick is submitted — scheme fit, approach, playing style, how one position stacks up against another. And simply put, there’s no one in this draft class at either cornerback or defensive line who can have the impact on the 2015 Patriots that Revis or Wilfork would have had if he was still a part of the franchise. (That’s not to say that a player taken at that spot couldn’t eventually grow into that role — it’s important to note that Revis was taken 14th overall by the Jets in 2007, while Wilfork was selected 21st overall by New England in 2004.)

But when you consider their historical approach, combined with their recent personnel losses, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see New England lean on a semi-familiar formula when they’re on the clock this spring.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots, Vince Wilfork
Poll: How much will Pats miss Vince Wilfork? 03.16.15 at 4:07 pm ET
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How much will Patriots miss Vince Wilfork?

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Read More: houston texans, New England Patriots, NFL free agency 2015, Vince Wilfork
Report: Stevie Johnson visiting Patriots at 11:37 am ET
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Could Stevie Johnson land in New England as a free agent? (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Could Stevie Johnson land in New England as a free agent? (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The “targeting” of Stevie Johnson picks up in earnest this week.

Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 IN Washington, who reported the Patriots were targeting the former Bills wide receiver, is reporting the wide receiver will be in Foxboro on Monday.

The 28-year-old Johnson left the Bills after the 2013 season when he was traded by Buffalo to San Francisco. This week, he was released by the 49ers after a disappointing season.

Before 2014, Johnson earned a reputation as one of the better route runners in the game. While with the Bills, Johnson caught four touchdown passes in nine games against the Patriots. The Patriots are looking for another perimeter passing threat to join Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and the recently restructured Danny Amendola.

In seven seasons, Johnson has 31 touchdown receptions and over 4,200 yards receiving. His best seasons came in a three-year stretch between 2010-12, when he caught at least 75 passes and had over 1,000 yards receiving in each season. Johnson would figure to immediately be ahead of Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce, Brandon Gibson and Kevin Dorsey on the depth chart.

Read More: New England Patriots, NFL free agency 2015, Stevie Johnson,
Latest NFL Friday Free Agent Roundup: Reggie Bush visits Patriots, Mike Wallace traded to Vikings, Percy Harvin signs in Buffalo 03.13.15 at 9:39 pm ET
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Free agent Reggie Bush reportedly visited the Patriots Friday. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Free agent Reggie Bush reportedly visited the Patriots Friday. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

After a quiet start to the day, Day 4 of NFL free agency heated up late Friday afternoon, including a few moves and rumors with definite Patriots implications.

— The Patriots may have their man to replace Shane Vereen. According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the Patriots hosted Reggie Bush on Friday. The third-down back who is still a multi-talented weapon and pass-catching specialist, visited the 49ers on Wednesday. Rapoport reports that with the Patriots losing out on Percy Harvin and C.J. Spiller in New Orleans (read below), there’s more of an opportunity (read: budget) to sign Bush.

Ben Roethlisberger took a major step Friday toward spending the rest of his career with the Steelers. The team announced that the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback has signed a new five-year deal. He was set to hit free agency after the 2015 season, but general manager Kevin Colbert said recently he was confident the two sides would come to terms. On Friday, Colbert made good on that plan. With Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler getting juicy new deals in the last two years, Roethlisberger was due a reasonable $11.6 million in 2015. Multiple reports hint that figure could double under this new contract.

DeAngelo Williams has a new home. The veteran who spent his first nine seasons with Carolina, will join Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Williams announced the move on Twitter on Friday and the Steelers confirmed the two-year deal.

Mike Wallace will no longer be a concern of the Patriots in the AFC East. The Dolphins traded the receiver and a seventh-round draft pick to the Vikings in exchange for a fifth-round pick, the Dolphins announced Friday afternoon. Wallace, you’ll recalled, benched himself in the season finale against the Jets. He also came with a $9.85 million salary. The Dolphins get rid of his salary while moving up two rounds on the final day of the upcoming draft. Two years ago, Wallace’s father said the Vikings actually offered his son more money after he signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Dolphins in free agency.

— Percy Harvin will be staying in the AFC East. The Bills added to their offseason free agency spree by signing the 26-year-old receiver to a one-year deal worth around $6 million, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Harvin joins an offense that suddenly has Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy. FOX Sports was the first to report the news. Of course, the quarterback position remains a huge question mark in Buffalo as Rex Ryan will have to choose between Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel.

— Earlier in the day, the big move came when defensive lineman Nick Fairley signed with the Rams after being let go by the Lions this week once they added former Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata. The Patriots were reportedly interested in Fairley, as they look to bolster their defensive line. The Rams were set to introduce new quarterback Nick Foles Friday morning and before the press conference began they announced the Fairley signing. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, NFL free agency 2015, Reggie Bush,
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