|When it comes to deciding about Tim Tebow, Patriots have to make value-based judgment||06.13.13 at 1:36 pm ET|
Ultimately, despite the fact that they will both possibly be angling for the role of backup quarterback, Tim Tebow isn’t necessarily be competing against Ryan Mallett for a job. Instead, Tebow will be jockeying with several other players at the back end of the roster as the Patriots try and determine who could offer them the best value when it comes to a roster spot: Would carrying a third quarterback more important than having an extra defensive back, tight end or wide receiver?
While the process of making the final judgment is still months away — and keeping in mind more candidates could pop up between now and the start of camp — based on the recently concluded spring practices, here are five candidates who could ultimately be in Tebow’s way when it comes to finding a spot in Foxboro.
Tight end Zach Sudfeld: A rookie out of Nevada, he took advantage of the fact that Rob Gronkowski wasn’t on the field (and Aaron Hernandez was extremely limited) by utilizing the extra reps. The massive Sudfeld (6-foot-7, 255 pounds) had an excellent series of spring camps, showing good physicality as well as a nice pair of hands. While some of his status could be tied to whether or not Gronkowski starts the year on the physically unable to perform list — as well as whether or not he could offer any value on special teams — he certainly made a positive showing.
Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: Like Sudfeld, Thompkins was an undrafted free agent who had himself a good spring, looking fluid while working as part of the New England passing game, and also showing some special teams value by serving as a punt returner. A cousin of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, Thompkins doesn’t necessarily have elite size or speed, but certainly looked comfortable working as an intermediate option in the Patriots’ passing game. If he can continue to display ability on both levels, the Patriots will find a spot for him.
Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins: New England’s receiver position is in such a state of flux right now, but Hawkins has an under-the-radar quality that could ultimately land him a spot on the final 53. The 26-year-old (who had 47 catches with the Titans in 2011) caught almost everything that was thrown his way over the course of the spring sessions. Like Thompkins, he could certainly take a spot at the back end of the roster, particularly if rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce struggle in training camp.
Cornerback Stephon Morris: The Patriots were able to bring back all of their corners from last year, a group that finished the season on an up note — thanks in large part to the work of Aqib Talib. But with so many wide open offenses piling up the passing yards, you could always use an extra corner, and Morris could fill the bill. In fact, if Morris (who was coached by former Patriots offensive coordinator Billy O’Brien at Penn State last year) is able to show special teams value, the 5-foot-8. 186-pound rookie could push veteran Marquice Cole for a job.
Defensive end Michael Buchanan: To this point in the offseason, the Patriots have not gone out and signed any veteran free-agent defensive ends (although John Abraham is technically still out there on the market), which could allow the seventh-rounder to sneak through a land a spot on the final 53. And while Buchanan appears to be a practice squad candidate at this point, he could force the hand of the coaching staff with a good training camp. (His future could also be tied to defensive end Jake Bequette, who is going into his second season with the Patriots after essentially taking a redshirt season as a rookie with 14 inactives. If New England feels Bequette is ready to assume a larger role, Buchanan could be bumped down the depth chart.)
|Ryan Mallett: ‘I’m still a work in progress’||at 12:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Ryan Mallett has yet something else to push him along.
For two years, Mallett has stayed on the Patriots sidelines, watching and learning from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
With the addition of Tim Tebow in the quarterback mix in Foxboro, Mallett can watch and learn from another quarterback style. Tom Brady is the surgeon. Tebow is the scrambler/running back. Mallett is the strong-armed gunslinger.
“It’s kind of unique how it’s set up but we have three great players in that room that have the ability to go out there and help our team to win games,” Mallett said. “So, we get it done how we can. There’s always competition at every position. It’s part of the job.”
Mallett appears thinner than his previous 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame listed on the Patriots’ roster.
“Now, going into my third year, I just feel like I’ve continued to improve, get my body in shape better and learn how to be the consumate pro,” Mallett said on Wednesday, the final day of a shortened two-day on-field workout. “I have some of the best guys to learn from, so I’m just trying to work hard and get better.”
One thing is for sure, Mallett wants everyone to know that he’s not caught up in the Tebow hoopla.
“I have tunnel vision,” he said. “I don’t know what you all are talking about.
“Tim’s a student of the game. He asks questions of Tom and me. He’s had a little exposure but not a lot so we just try to help him out.”
Mallett was jokingly asked if he had any advice for Tebow in handling the media in Foxboro.
“He would know better than me,” Mallett said. “He’s been doing this for a long time.”
Truth is, Mallett came into the NFL just one year after Tebow. Both are products of SEC schools, with Tebow playing at Florida at the same time Mallett was throwing for Arkansas.
Mallett has attempted just four passes in his career, completing just one pass. Mallett will again get his looks this preseason but until then, he’s just working on feeling comfortable. Read the rest of this entry »
|NFL draft roundup: Patriots reportedly listening to offers for Ryan Mallet||04.25.13 at 1:42 pm ET|
The 2013 NFL draft generally is considered to lack the talent of the past few years, and that could lead to more teams offering up their picks for future selections. It also could lead to teams looking to find talent that already is in the league and might be available in a trade.
Enter Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. The former Arkansas star has had two years learning under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and with the lack of elite quarterbacks in this year’s draft, he is an appealing option (as WEEI.com’s Chris Price covered here last month).
According to multiple reports Thursday, the Patriots have received numerous calls about Mallet’s availability. New England picked up Mallett in the third round in 2011 and reportedly wouldn’t take less than a second-rounder for him.
According to Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe, one team that might have interest is the Browns. New general manager Mike Lombardi raved about Mallett when Lombardi worked for NFL Network, and Lombardi’s son, Mick, was a coaching/scouting assistant with the Patriots and got a first-hand look at Mallett in practices.
(The Browns also reportedly are considering trading up from No. 6 in an effort to land West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.)
The other quarterback on the Patriots roster is Mike Kafka, although the team reportedly has been heavily scouting QBs in this year’s draft.
In 2012, Mallet completed 1-of-4 passes for 17 yards and was intercepted once.
• The 22nd overall pick that the Rams received from the Redskins last year is said to be for sale. ESPN’s Adam Schefter made the Rams’ intentions clear on Twitter.
The team also has the 16th overall pick and likely would attempt to trade down to obtain more picks. Last season, coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead had a good draft, picking up Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, among others.
• ESPN’s John Clayton reports that the Vikings “would like to find a way to take Manti Te’o” in the first round. The Notre Dame linebacker’s future is uncertain following his fake-girlfriend issue and his disappointing in the national championship game.
|Updates on Josh Cribbs, Danny Amendola and how their situations might affect the Wes Welker sweepstakes||03.13.13 at 12:44 am ET|
Three more notes before the end of the night:
• The Josh Cribbs saga continues. After a report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer at the start of the day that linked the return man to New England, a Fox Sports report later dismissed the idea, and said that Cribbs could be ticketed to the Cardinals. But late Tuesday evening, another report from Mary-Kay Cabot of the P-D indicates that Cribbs has narrowed it down to New England and Arizona. (She reports the Niners were in the mix for a bit, but have since dropped out.) Cabot is also reporting that there is interest in both sides in a trade that would send Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Browns. Cleveland’s new personnel chief Mike Lombardi is tight with Bill Belichick, and Lombardi has expressed his admiration for Mallett in the past on more than one occasion.
• Multiple outlets are now reporting that the market has started to narrow for slot receiver Danny Amendola, with the Ravens and Eagles in the market. Amendola, who has had a tough run of injuries as of late, caught 63 passes in 11 games in 2012, with 666 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the NFL in all purpose yards in 2010, with 689 reception yards (on 85 receptions), 452 punt return yards and 1,142 kickoff return yards. Amendola certainly makes sense from a Baltimore perspective, as the Ravens recently dealt slot receiver Anquan Boldin to the Niners for a draft pick.
• Both the Cribbs and Amendola situations would affect Welker, as New England could potentially view the younger slot receiver as a potential replacement for Welker — if Welker signs elsewhere soon (or, at least before Amendola and maybe Cribbs), the Patriots could enter into the bidding.
|Free agent updates on Wes Welker, Michael Hoomanawanui||03.12.13 at 5:02 pm ET|
Five Patriots-related notes as free agency starts to kick into high gear:
• According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, wide receiver Wes Welker is expected to test the market, and Schefter said Tuesday afternoon that it “may take a little time” for a deal to come together for the slot receiver. Earlier on Tuesday, the NFL Network reported that Welker was waiting on a first offer from the Patriots.
• The Patriots have tendered restricted free agent tight end Michael Hoomanawanui at $1.323 million, according to Field Yates of ESPN Boston.
• Defensive lineman Paul Kruger has signed a five-year deal with the Browns for roughly $40 million, according to various reports. The 27-year-old Kruger broke through in a big way for the Ravens this past season with nine sacks and six passes defensed for the eventual Super Bowl champions. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder will fit nicely with the Browns — it’s not believed that the Patriots were ever seriously interested in acquiring the Utah product.
• Buffalo has cut quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Harvard product — you guys know he went to Harvard, right? — signed a big deal with the Bills in 2011, but it never happened for him in Buffalo. The 30-year-old Fitzpatrick finished the 2012 season with a 61 percent completion rate, to go along with 24 touchdowns, 16 picks and 3,400 passing yards, but now becomes the best free agent quarterback available, which could potentially affect the trade market for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett.
• Wide receiver Mike Wallace has reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with the Dolphins. The 26-year-old Wallace, who spent the last four seasons with the Steelers, has 235 career catches for 4,042 yards (an impressive 17.2 yards per catch average) and 32 touchdowns. Now, he’ll face the Patriots twice a year, and in two career games against New England, he has 18 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
|Peter King on M&M: ‘That’s the way Tom Brady is’||02.26.13 at 1:28 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who broke the news about Tom Brady‘s new contract Monday, joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of the deal.
King said he thinks Patriots ownership initiated the discussions.
“I think it started with Bob Kraft, he and Jonathan talking, ‘It’s time to try to put a deal together to make sure that Tom Brady never leaves New England. And in addition to that, we need some cap relief.’ It was a good marriage for the Patriots, I thought,” King said.
“And Don Yee, Brady’s agent, I think deserves a lot of credit. You’ll hear a lot of agents, if you talk to them off the record, they’ll really be critical of this deal: ‘Yee got taken to the cleaners, Brady could have gotten a lot more money.’ Of course he could have. Everybody knows he could have. That’s not Brady’s goal. Brady’s goal is to walk into training camp every year — if you told Tom Brady right now that somebody would write him a check for 3 million more dollars this year or he could use that 3 million as part of a deal to go get Dwight Freeney, what would he rather have? He’ll take Freeney any day of the week, I guarantee you.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh, it isn’t really that way.’ It is that way. That’s the way Tom Brady is.”
There has been widespread speculation that part of Brady’s incentive in accepting a below-market deal was so that the team could afford to pay his friend, receiver Wes Welker.
“I don’t know if Tom has said anything to them about Welker. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I don’t know that it’s happened,” King said. “I think the Patriots are basically going to try to say to free agents, ‘Look at what Tom Brady did. If you want to be on board a team that’s going to have a chance to win the Super Bowl every year, you’re going to have to do the same.’
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they did it with Dwight Freeney or any of the other guys in free agency — if they want to go for a big franchise receiver, a Mike Wallace. I think that’s going to be an interesting thing to watch, whether any guys they sign take a little bit below their market value because Brady did it.”
|Fab Five: The most underrated Patriots||12.04.12 at 5:51 pm ET|
While the Patriots have their share of high-profile superstars, each man in the locker room will tell you that it takes 53 players — and sometimes more, when you add in the practice squadders — to make a team. To that end, here’s our pick for the five most underrated Patriots — the unheralded guys who don’t get the headlines like some of their counterparts, but who are just as integral to the success of the franchise on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.
Tight end Daniel Fells: The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder has assumed the same role that Alge Crumpler had in 2010 — an older tight end who has served as something of a steadying, veteran presence for younger Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And while he hasn’t had much of a statistical impact (he has three catches on nine targets for 77 yards this season), with the recent injury to Gronkowski, he has seen a sizable uptick in his playing time. He was on the field for 103 of a possible 151 snaps over the last two weeks, and while he didn’t have the same impact that Gronkowski has, he was essentially doing his job as an end of the line blocker. Most importantly, he was a consistent presence on the field during New England’s 16-play series in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins, the best offensive sequence of the season for the Patriots.
Running back Danny Woodhead: Woodhead appears so often on these types of underrated lists, he might actually be perfectly rated, but there are few more versatile options in the New England offense. He’s the only guy on the team with at least 25 carries and 25 receptions — he has 58 rushes and 26 catches through 12 games. (The last Patriots player to go over 25/25 in the same year was Kevin Faulk in 2009 — he finished that year with 62 carries and 37 receptions.) He’s also the most dependable receiver on the team — he has 26 catches on 32 targets, and his 81 percent reception rate is the best on the team among pass catchers with at least 10 receptions. He’s seen a recent downturn in snaps (particularly with the recent emergence of Shane Vereen as an option in the passing game), but he remains a steady third-down option. In the wake of the injury to Julian Edelman, the 5-foot-8, 200-pounder could see more action as the regular-season comes to a close.
Center Ryan Wendell: A part-time interior offensive lineman over the course of his first three seasons with the Patriots, the undrafted free agent out of Fresno State stepped into a starting role for the first time this year and has become one of New England’s most dependable offensive linemen. Taking over for veteran Dan Koppen (who was released shortly before the start of the regular season), Wendell has been the centerpiece of one of the best offensive lines in football. Pro Football Focus says the 6-foot-2, 300-pounder is one of the best centers in the league — his grade of +16.2 when it comes to run blocking is best in the league, and his overall grade of +14.4 through the first 12 games of the season is third on the New England offense (he trails only Tom Brady and Gronkowski). In addition, on an offensive line that’s seen it’s share of injury, Wendell has held up very nicely. His 924 offensive snaps this season is second on the offense to left tackle Nate Solder (927).
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