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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
RB Shane Vereen takes to Twitter to thank Patriots fans and clarify ‘step up’ statement 03.12.15 at 1:48 pm ET
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After taking some heat Wednesday night when he said going from the Patriots to the Giants represented a “step up,” running back Shane Vereen took to Twitter Thursday to clarify his statements, say farewell to New England fans, and express his thanks for the support he received in his four years with the Patriots.

Read More: NFL free agency 2015, Shane Vereen,
Shane Vereen: Giants are ‘a step up’ from Patriots 03.11.15 at 10:51 pm ET
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After spending the first four years of his career in New England, running back Shane Vereen signed with the Giants on the first day of free agency on Tuesday.

Vereen did have an interesting quote in a video on the team’s website announcing his signing — a three-year, $12.35 million contract.

“[I made this] decision with my family,” Vereen said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to make a decision that was right for us, right for them, and this is a great organization. I was fortunate enough to play in New England with another great organization. This is not a step down; if anything, it is a step up. I am looking forward to the opportunity, and I am enjoying being in New York.”

The Patriots will face the Giants at MetLife Stadium this year, so Vereen could have provided his former team with some bulletin board material.

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Read More: NFL free agency 2015, Shane Vereen,
Report: RB Shane Vereen set to sign with Giants 03.10.15 at 1:04 pm ET
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The Giants are set to sign running back Shane Vereen, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Vereen, 26, has spent four seasons in the NFL, all with the Patriots. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, a second-round pick out of Cal in 2011, has 217 carries for 907 yards and 159 catches for 1,023 yards in his time as a pro. This past year, he was one of only five backs to finish with at least 50 catches and 50 carries, and capped off the year with 11 receptions in the Super Bowl, setting a mark for most catches in a Super Bowl by a running back.

The Patriots have already started planning for life after Vereen ‘€” according to as league source, they expressed an interest in Roy Helu during the legal tampering period over the weekend. They also have youngster James White under contract for 2015, a fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin last year who has shown an ability to work as a third-down back while as a collegian.

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Read More: NFL free agency 2015, Shane Vereen,
Report: Giants have ‘very serious’ interest in Shane Vereen at 7:26 am ET
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The Patriots are expected to have two free agent running backs by the time 4 p.m. rolls around Tuesday afternoon, and it appears at least one of them is already getting “very serious” interest.

According to the New York Daily News, the Giants have “very serious” interest in running back Shane Vereen. The report added it was possible a deal could get done soon after the market opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Vereen has played four seasons in the league, all with the Patriots, after the team selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft. Known for his pass catching ability out of the backfield, Vereen has caught 107 passes for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns over the course of his career, while adding seven rushing touchdowns.

The Patriots currently have LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney as running backs already signed to the roster. Stevan Ridley is also set to become a free agent as well.

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Read More: New York Giants, NFL free agency 2015, Shane Vereen,
Source: Patriots have ‘expressed interest’ in RB Roy Helu 03.09.15 at 11:52 pm ET
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Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Patriots “expressed interest” in running back Roy Helu during the legal tampering period over the weekend, according to a league source.

The 26-year-old, a 5-foot-11, 215-pounder, has struggled with injury over the last couple of seasons, but when he’s been healthy, he’s done well as a multidimensional threat who can serve as an option in the running and passing games.

As a rookie with Washington in 2011, he rushed for 640 yards on 151 carries, while adding 49 receptions for 379 yards, but those numbers have slipped as of late because of Achilles and turf toe injuries. (Over the past two years, Helu has totaled 490 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 73 passes for 728 yards and two touchdowns.)

It certainly appears that Helu is set to test the market.

“I’m very excited, because it’s the first time I’ve gone into an offseason where I guess I get to see what else is out there and I’m not restricted to a rookie pay scale,” he told reporters at the end of the 2014 regular season. “There’s great possibilities out there that I’ll probably look into for the benefit of my family’s future. But, at the same time, I had a great experience these last four years. If I’m back, that’d be amazing. It’s two parties that would have to get together and have a common goal in mind.”

It’s safe to say New England’s interest stems from a possible of losing third-down back Shane Vereen in free agency, as he’s set to hit the market on Tuesday afternoon at the start of the new league year.

The Providence Journal was first to report the information.

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Read More: NFL free agency 2015, Roy Helu, Shane Vereen,
3 Patriots-related thoughts as clock ticks down to official start of free agency at 1:50 pm ET
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It appears that two of Tom Brady's old backups -- Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer -- are headed for a reunion in Houston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It appears that two of Tom Brady‘s old backups — Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer — are headed for a reunion in Houston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The free agent running back market is expected to receive a bit of a jolt with the news that LeSean McCoy and the Bills have set on a five-year deal with $40 million with $26.5 guaranteed. (In addition, any deal free agent running back DeMarco Murray receives should also be in that same range.) Those will undoubtedly impact the Patriots and any plans they may have for Shane Vereen. While Vereen won’t be in that neighborhood, McCoy’s deal could be a sign that the market for third-down backs like Vereen could be better than it has been in recent years.

For the Patriots, the idea of facing Ndamukong Suh twice a year certainly isn’t appealing, especially when he’s paired up with two excellent edge rushers in the likes of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. Suh is one of the most complete young defensive tackles in the league, as he’s managed to build a resume not just as a run stopper but as an interior pass rushing presence as well. But at the same time, New England has always found a way to neutralize Suh — in two career regular-season games against the Patriots, he is 0-2 with one sack and seven tackles. Ultimately, in a division that was already full of really good young defensive fronts, this creates an even greater priority for New England when it comes to protecting quarterback Tom Brady. Several mock drafts have already marked the Patriots as needing an interior offensive lineman in the draft, and Miami’s pickup of Suh likely adds to that need.

Tom Brady‘s backups continue to find work, as it was reported Monday that Brian Hoyer appears to be on the move to Houston to join the man who supplanted him in the No. 2 role in New England back in 2011, Ryan Mallett. (Mallett reportedly agreed on Monday to a two-year, $7 million deal to stay in Houston.) Meanwhile, it’s expected that Hoyer’s move will be made official when free agency officially begins on Tuesday, although ESPN reported Monday that Hoyer will get an offer from the Jets. Including Matt Cassel (who signed with the Bills), the Patriots could face former QBs in as many as three games in 2015.

Read More: Brian Hoyer, DeMarco Murray, Ndamukong Suh, New England Patriots
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