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Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jerseys are a major embarrassment for NFL 03.20.17 at 4:23 pm ET
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Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jerseys are back in Boston. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jerseys are back in Boston. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

A man who was posing as an international journalist was able to get credentialed for Super Bowl LI and make off with Tom Brady’s jersey after the game. The NFL has some explaining to do.

In a statement Monday, the league announced the more than six-week hunt for the missing piece of memorabilia is over. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the alleged thief is Mauricio Ortega, a former Mexican newspaper executive. He was found in Mexico, thanks to an effort spearheaded by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, who was the first person to report the jersey had been recovered, released a video of Ortega seemingly leaving the Patriots’ locker room with Brady’s uniform top tucked underneath his arm.

This doesn’t appear to be one-time incident with Ortega. He also reportedly swiped Brady’s jersey after Super Bowl XLIX and may have taken Broncos linebacker Von Miller’s cleats following Super Bowl 50. Both items were found Monday.

In a press conference, Houston police chief Art Acevedo blasted the NFL’s security protocols.

“I just hope the NFL security takes a look because they are the one’s responsible for securing the locker rooms,” he said. They really need to check their protocols and their efforts because there are these two jerseys we are aware of and required a response from the Houston Police Department and other partners to recover them,” he told reporters. “Quite frankly, they are going to end up in the hands that they belong as in Mr. Brady and his family.”

At this point, it’s unclear how Ortega was credentialed for Super Bowl LI. He may have legally obtained press passes, or more troublingly, falsified documents in an effort to pose as a working member of the media. Either way, the NFL must reassess its credentialing policy. It’s an embarrassment for a $14 billion business to experience a security lapse of this magnitude at its biggest event of the year. This episode makes the league look like a Mickey Mouse operation.

While it’s amusing to think about the FBI dedicating resources to find a missing jersey, the item has been valued at $500,000. Last month, Patriots owner Robert Kraft compared the heist to to the robbery of a “great Chagall or Picasso.” And it happened moments after the Super Bowl, where a finite number of people, such as players’ friends and family members, are allowed to be in the locker room.

It appears as if Ortega was able to steal valuable Super Bowl memorabilia from the winning team for three straight years. In a world of near constant surveillance, that seems to be impossible.

The NFL is wearing egg on its face. Big time.

Read More: New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady,
Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Patriots win Super Bowl LI 03.17.17 at 3:04 pm ET
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Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Tom Brady win the Super Bowl. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Judge Richard Berman says he was pleased to see Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

When the Patriots defeated the Falcons and pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, there was at least one person in the Tri-State area who was pleased: Judge Richard Berman.

In a recent interview with The MMQB, Berman spoke at length for the first time about the Patriots’ big win. He said he thinks the victory finally put an end to Deflategate.

“I think Deflategate is finally put to rest by that Super Bowl,” he said. “I always thought in the back of my mind when I had the case, that this is a case that should be settled on the field. Not in the courts, not with an arbitrator, and ultimately, that’s what happened. And in such a dramatic way that it left no doubt.”

When Judge Berman negated Brady’s four-game suspension in September 2015, he skewered the NFL for what he considered to be a flawed arbitration process. Even though a federal appeals court overturned his decision, he said he would rule the same way if the case were presented in front of him today.

“I concluded that the NFL arbitration process was fundamentally flawed –– principally because of lack of notice of the alleged infraction and of a potential four-game suspension; inappropriate comparison of football deflation to use of steroids; failure to allow Brady’s counsel to question NFL general counsel [Jeff] Pash; and refusal to share with counsel the notes of witness interviews,” Berman said. “The commissioner’s arbitration award was not entitled to ‘deference’ by the courts also because he had a personal stake in the outcome of the appeal. That is, he had an incurable conflict of interest, evident partiality, and could not possibly be fair.”

In April 2016, eight months after Berman’s ruling, the NFL won its Deflategate appeal. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said commissioner Roger Goodell possesses broad authority to discipline players at his behest. Berman said it stung to read the ruling, but now he’s moving on –– largely thanks to the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI late-game heroics.

“It took awhile [to let it go], so the Super Bowl was good for me too,” he said.

Read More: Deflategate, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
Patriots are rightfully taking cold-hearted approach with Malcolm Butler 03.14.17 at 11:40 am ET
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Malcolm Butler shut down Antonio Brown in the AFC championship game. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler shut down Antonio Brown in the AFC championship game. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Butler is the kind of player who should be rewarded. As an undrafted rookie out of the University of West Alabama, he parlayed an impressive preseason into a spot at the bottom of the Patriots’ roster in 2014. Three years later, after a Super Bowl-winning interception and two seasons of playing lockdown defense at cornerback, he wants to cash in. If Bill Belichick acted on sentimentality instead of rationality, he would probably acquiesce to Butler’s wishes.

But that’s not the way he operates, which is why Butler doesn’t have a lucrative long-term contract offer in front of him. Instead, he has a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million. For a player who’s earned just $1.53 million combined over his first three NFL seasons, that’s a nice raise. But it’s a far cry from the $40 million guaranteed the Patriots handed to Stephon Gilmore in free agency last week.

There’s little doubt Butler, 27, deserves to be paid like an elite corner. Last season, he broke up 12 passes and had nine games in which he allowed two or fewer completions. Butler also surrendered fewer than 20 receiving yards seven times.

But unfortunately for Butler, he’s not an unrestricted free agent. That means he doesn’t have any leverage, and the Patriots know it. If Butler refuses to sign his tender by June 15, his salary will fall to $660,000. If he wants to be defiant and skip minicamp, it will cost him more than $80,000. He would be docked $40,000 per day if he were to miss training camp.

It seems cruel for the Patriots to treat Butler this way, especially considering they reportedly lied to him about what they would be willing to pay a cornerback. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe says the Patriots told Butler they don’t want to outlay more than $10 million per season for a corner, but then they went and signed Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. That averages out to $13 million annually, for those keeping score at home.

Perhaps feeling stung, Butler’s agent is reportedly trying to get his client out of New England. He’s reportedly visiting the Saints Thursday. But any team that signs Butler would be forced to surrender a first-round pick, due to his restricted free agent status. It’s unlikely any club would ink Butler to a market value contract and give up significant draft capital.

Maybe an organization that’s enthralled with Butler could justify surrendering its first-round selection if it could sign him to a bargain rate deal. But then the Patriots would have the option of matching it. Or they could let him walk and collect the draft pick, replacing what they traded to the Saints to acquire star wideout Brandin Cooks. Under that scenario, the Patriots would essentially be swapping Butler for Cooks, Gilmore and a first-round pick. (ESPN’s Mike Reiss speculates the Saints and Patriots could pull off a sign-and-trade, with New Orleans sending the Patriots’ first-rounder back to them.)

The Patriots have options. Butler doesn’t. That’s the way the system works, and they’re taking advantage of it. One may assume this callous way of doing business affects the Patriots’ relationships with their players, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Butler himself would still reportedly prefer to stay in New England. The allure of competing for a Super Bowl every season is difficult to pass up.

Giving Butler a big contract now would be putting his interests ahead of the team’s. Belichick and the Patriots seldom do that. Their approach here shouldn’t be shocking to anyone.

Read More: Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots,
No asking price is too high for Jimmy Garoppolo –– and teams should be willing to pay it 03.13.17 at 1:47 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo's future with the Patriots will likely be a story all year long. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Garoppolo’s future with the Patriots could be a story all offseason. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

If the Patriots are going to deal Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s apparent they want multiple first-round picks in return. Recent history suggests that’s a more than appropriate demand. Teams would be crazy to turn it down.

Despite Adam Schefter’s insistence that Garoppolo will stay in New England, trade rumors involving him will likely persist throughout the offseason –– and possibly into training camp. The Browns, due to their abundance of draft picks and pressing need for a quarterback, are often cited as the most sensible landing spot for Garoppolo. But apparently, they’re not willing to pay the necessary price.

According to Mary Cay Kabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns refuse to part with two first-round picks in order to bring Garoppolo aboard. She reports Cleveland insists on hanging onto the No. 1 overall selection, which it will likely use to draft defensive standout Myles Garrett.

While surrendering at least a couple of high draft picks to acquire somebody who’s played just five and a half impressive quarters in the NFL may seem outlandish, it’s the market rate for Garoppolo. Teams give up that kind of draft capital to bring in quarterbacks who haven’t even stepped onto a professional field.

Five years ago, the Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Rams for the chance to draft Robert Griffin III. Following his Heisman trophy win as a senior with Baylor in 2011, Griffin looked like he was ready to dominate in the NFL. Washington gave up a lot to get him, of course, but a franchise quarterback is priceless. RGIII took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, but then injuries derailed his career. The Browns released him earlier this month.

The Rams and Eagles followed in the Redskins’ footsteps last year, when they each traded two first-round picks for the opportunity to draft Jared Goff (No. 1) and Carson Wentz (No. 2), respectively. Though Wentz showed some flashes of brilliance, neither quarterback impressed in his rookie campaign. Goff didn’t even start until Week 10.

There’s no guarantee Garoppolo, 25, will be a perennial Pro Bowler, but he has a better chance than rookies like Wentz and Goff. Garoppolo played spectacularly well during last year’s season-opener, posting a 106.1 rating in the Patriots’ 23-21 win at Arizona. His first half against the Dolphins the following week, in which he threw for three touchdown passes before leaving with a shoulder injury, was even better. It’s a small sample size, but Garoppolo has shown he can dissect NFL defenses. Oh, and he’s been learning behind Tom Brady for three years as well. That must be worth something.

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Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots,
Browns could still be suitors for Jimmy Garoppolo after Brock Osweiler trade 03.09.17 at 4:24 pm ET
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Brock Osweiler signed a $72 million contract with the Texans last year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Brock Osweiler signed a $72 million contract with the Texans last year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Browns have traded for a quarterback, but it might not take them out of the running for Jimmy Garoppolo.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Browns have acquired Brock Osweiler, a 2018 second-round pick and 2017 sixth-round selection from the Texans in exchange for a fourth-rounder this year. Cleveland, which had over $100 million in cap space entering free agency, will take on the entirety of Osweiler’s contract.

Osweiler, 26, was abysmal in Houston last season, completing only 59 percent of his passes and posting a QB rating of 72.2.

With those numbers in mind, it’s apparent the Browns aren’t counting on him to be their next franchise quarterback –– or even start next season. Schefter reports Cleveland will likely try to trade Osweiler, though it remains uncertain how many suitors they’ll be for his services. With the Bears signing Mike Glennon and the 49ers bringing Brian Hoyer aboard, it looks like Osweiler’s market will be limited.

Given the Browns’ plethora of cap space, they could be willing to pay Osweiler his full $16 million salary this season and then cut bait with him next year, or cut him now.

Essentially, they’ve bought Houston’s 2018 second-round pick, which is a strategy teams often employ in the NBA.

Throughout the last several months, the Browns have been viewed as a likely destination for Garoppolo. That still doesn’t change, despite Osweiler’s presence. It seems like he was acquired just so Cleveland could secure another draft pick. The Browns are still apparently looking for a quarterback, and Garoppolo remains one of the most enticing options out there. That is, if the Patriots make him available.

Read More: Brock Osweiler, Cleveland Browns, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots
Patriots Stephon Gilmore signing is one of most bizarre in recent franchise history at 4:00 pm ET
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Stephon Gilmore is now the highest-paid cornerback in Patriots history. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Stephon Gilmore is now the highest-paid cornerback in Patriots history. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Contrary to popular opinion, the Patriots pay top dollar for players. They’re just selective about who they hand their money to.

Two years ago, the Patriots signed Devin McCourty to a five-year, $47.5 million contract with $28.5 million guaranteed, more than any other safety in the league at the time. They also once made Logan Mankins the highest-paid guard in the NFL and Vince Wilfork the highest-paid nose tackle. All three of those players were drafted and developed by New England, earning their paydays after years of work with the organization. So it’s not unusual to see the Patriots shell out big bucks to sign elite talent. But it’s peculiar to see them do it on the first day of free agency, especially to acquire somebody who’s never played under Bill Belichick.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots have inked former Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. That’s the most guaranteed money the Patriots have ever given a defensive player by more than $11 million. With a $13 million yearly salary, Gilmore is now in the same financial neighborhood as Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Trumaine Johnson, Josh Norman and Joe Haden –– all of whom make more than $12 million annually.

On paper, Gilmore’s resume is exemplary. As the No. 10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he came into the league with high expectations. Gilmore grew into a No. 1 corner with the Bills, snatching five interceptions last season to earn his first ever Pro Bowl appearance. At 26 years old, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back appears ready to break out.

But there are concerning signs if you look deeper into the numbers. Gilmore played an abysmal first half of the season in 2016, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 82nd among cornerbacks. Perhaps his low point came in Week 8 against the Patriots, when the Bills’ secondary allowed Tom Brady to throw for 315 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-25 whooping.

The last time the Patriots plucked a big-ticket cornerback off the open market was Darrelle Revis in 2014, but he was signed to a glorified one-year deal. New England failed to exercise his exorbitant $20 million option in 2015, letting him return to the Jets. Coming off an injury-riddled season with the Buccaneers, Revis was a value signing. The same can’t be said for Gilmore, who’s now getting paid like a perennial Pro Bowler. It seems as if the Patriots have decided to hitch the future of their secondary on him.

With Gilmore signed for the next five years, Malcolm Butler’s future is now in question. He was recently slapped with a first-round tender, which means if he can’t work out a long-term deal with the Patriots, he’ll make $3.91 million next season. It’s a substantial raise from his $600,000 salary in 2016, but far below Gilmore’s value.

Butler, 27, profiles as the perfect Patriot. The undrafted rookie out of West Alabama was the hero in Super Bowl XLIX, snatching the game-winning interception on the goal line. Since then, he’s developed into a legitimate No. 1 corner. Last season, Butler broke up 12 passes and had nine games in which he allowed two or fewer completions. He also surrendered fewer than 20 receiving yards seven times.

With that kind of progression, Butler seemed to be a prime candidate for a long-term extension this offseason. But with Gilmore now on board, he’ll probably seek a similar contract. It’s difficult to see the Patriots allocating that kind of money to one position.

Since no NFL team has surrendered a first-round pick for a restricted free agent since 2003, it’s possible Butler will be back with the team next season. The Patriots are reportedly considering sending him to the Saints for wideout Brandin Cooks, but it’s rare to see trades of that magnitude come to fruition.

If Butler sticks around next season, the Patriots could have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. But it seems as if his time in New England is coming to an end. The Gilmore acquisition is a bizarre move for a franchise that traditionally prefers to give big contracts to its own guys.

Read More: Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots, Stephon Gilmore,
Mike Florio on Kirk & Callahan: Bill Belichick may be using Adam Schefter to increase Jimmy Garoppolo’s value at 11:01 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo's future in New England promises to be a hot topic all offseason long. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Garoppolo’s future in New England promises to be a hot topic all offseason long. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter sent shockwaves through the football world when he said the Patriots aren’t expected to trade Jimmy Garoppolo this year. In an interview with WEEI’s OM&F, Schefter doubled down on his report, saying he guaranteed Garoppolo would be with New England next season.

On Kirk & Callahan Thursday, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said he doesn’t share Schefter’s certainty. While he thinks it’s possible Garoppolo could stay with the Patriots, he’s not ready to dismiss the possibility of a trade.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘I guarantee you that Garoppolo will be on the Patriots.’ It’s another thing to say they’re not expected to trade him,” Florio said. “When you say ‘not expected to trade,’ that very well may be true at the time, but a message that is being sent by Bill Belichick through Adam Schefter to the rest of the league that ‘I am not going to enter into any negotiations from a position of weakness. I am going to enter into those talks from a position of strength.'”

When informed about Schefter’s guarantee, Florio brushed it aside.

“I think that it’s a safe guess to make. What’s going to happen? Are they going to fire him if he’s wrong about that?,” he asked.

Later in the interview, Florio floated out his own Garoppolo theory. He says he can envision the 2014 second-round pick signing a contract extension with the Patriots and waiting to take over for Tom Brady –– even if it takes several more years.

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Read More: adam schefter, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mike Florio, New England Patriots
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