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Some history behind Patriots and franchise tag 03.02.15 at 1:30 pm ET
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Adam Vinatieri is the only player who has been hit with the franchise tag twice by the Patriots. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Adam Vinatieri is the only player who has been hit with the franchise tag twice by the Patriots. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

A few notes as we all wait for the 4 p.m. deadline on the franchise tag:

On four of the eight occasions the Patriots hit someone with the franchise tag, they did it on the last day of the window: Wes Welker (2012), Adam Vinatieri (2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Vinatieri (2002). The Welker announcement came just prior to the deadline.

Three of the eight tags ultimately led to contract extensions with the Patriots: Logan Mankins (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010) and Vinatieri (2002). Wilfork’€™s offseason came at the end of the tumultuous few months for the defensive lineman, who was strongly against the idea of being tagged. He eventually acquiesced, and that set the stage for a new five-year deal that made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league.

In addition, on three occasions, a player played that year under the franchise tag, and then departed as a free agent the following year: Welker (2012), Asante Samuel (2007) and Vinatieri (2005). In retrospect, it was clear that few players wanted to get out of town faster than Samuel. He held out for most of the offseason and into the summer, eventually signing his tender on Aug, 27. He left as a free agent the following offseason –€” he was in Philly at a press conference announcing his signing with the Eagles less than 18 hours following the start of free agency the next year.

And two players were tagged and then traded: Matt Cassel (2009) to the Chiefs and Jones (2003) to the Saints. While a few different scenarios could play out between now and the end of the offseason if one of the Patriots is tagged between now and the deadline, this is probably not one of them.

Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Asante Samuel, franchise tag, Logan Mankins
Gary Kubiak on Wes Welker: ‘I know he wants to play some more football’ 02.18.15 at 1:16 pm ET
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After a report a few weeks back saying Wes Welker was contemplating retirement, it doesn’t seem like the 33-year-old is ready to call it quits just yet, according to new Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak.

Although Welker is a free agent, Kubiak spoke to Welker over the phone — as he did with every every Denver player — and Welker was working out in Arizona.

“I’€™ve spoken to every player on the team,” Kubiak told reporters at the combine. “It’€™s the first thing I did when I got there was pick up the phone and call and say hello and let them know how excited I was to be a part of it. But I had a good conversation with Wes. I’€™ve known him, know people who have known him for many, many years.

“I know he wants to play some more football and, like I said, like any of these free agents we’€™re talking about right now, we’€™d love to have them back. We’€™ll see how this thing works out. But I know he’€™s feeling good, he told me he’€™s feeling good and actually was working down in Arizona, I think, at the time I talked to him.”

Kubiak said he will stay out of Welker’s way and ultimately let him make the decision of first of all whether he wants to come back to the NFL, and secondly if that will be in Denver or somewhere else.

“€œNo, I think that’€™s Wes,” said Kubiak. “No, I do not think that’€™s my place. I’€™m just developing a relationship with Wes from his standpoint. I hope I get an opportunity to coach him and be a bigger part of his career. I have great respect for what he’€™s done and the job he’€™s done, and he did a very good job in Denver. Only he can work through that and know how he’€™s feeling, but he was very positive with me.”

Dealing with injuries in Denver, Welker has totaled 124 catches for 1,242 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two seasons as a Bronco, but finished with just two touchdowns this past year. Welker has played 11 seasons in the NFL.

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Gary Kubiak, Wes Welker,
Report: Wes Welker mulling retirement instead of free agency 02.10.15 at 8:48 pm ET
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Wes Welker is reportedly giving retirement serious thought. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Wes Welker is reportedly giving retirement serious thought. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Is Wes Welker‘s career over?

According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, that is a real possibility. Welker, 33, is set to become a free agent next month but is instead considering retirement after several years of head injuries and declining production.

One of the sources told Garafolo that “no final decision has been made” though Welker has told concerned friends, family members and associates he’s at least giving thought to walking away from the game.

Welker has contemplated the possibility in recent weeks after telling reporters he was “not even thinking about that” after Denver’s loss to the Colts in the division round of the playoffs. A day later, while cleaning out his locker, Welker was asked about returning to Denver and replied, “I don’t know. There are a lot of things I’ve got to figure out in the offseason.”

One of those things might be the future of Peyton Manning. The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) reported Manning is training in New Orleans with the intention of returning to Denver next season. According to multiple reports, Manning is scheduled to meet with general manager John Elway and team president and CEO Joe Ellis before next week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis.

If Welker does decide to hang them up, he will have posted one of the best careers of any slot receiver in NFL history and will have made his case for the Hall of Fame. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder out of Texas Tech has 890 career catches for 9,822 yards and 50 touchdowns. His most productive seasons came with Tom Brady in New England, as he posted five 100-catch seasons before heading to Denver to team up with Peyton Manning before the 2013 season, signing a two-year, $12 million deal.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Wes Welker,
Mr. Consistency: TE Tim Wright setting new standard for reliability in Patriots passing game 11.26.14 at 10:26 am ET
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Tim Wright has caught 23 passes on 26 targets this season, the best target rate on the team. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Tim Wright has caught 23 passes on 26 targets this season, the best target rate on the team of anyone targeted at least 20 times. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Tim Wright is in some rarefied air.

In his first season with the Patriots, the tight end has proven himself to be an eminently reliable part of the passing game — he has 23 catches on 26 targets. Even with the understanding that one of the targets was a throwaway by quarterback Tom Brady (an uncatchable ball), that’€™s an 88 percent catch rate, the best on the New England roster when it comes to players who have been targeted by Brady at least 20 times.

If he continues at his current rate, he’ll set a new standard for the Patriots. Since 2006, no member of the Patriots who has been targeted at least 20 times has a reception rate of better than 80 percent.

Of course, none of this is particularly new for Wright — last season with the Buccaneers, he proved equally sure-handed, as he caught 71 percent of the passes (54 receptions on 76 targets) that were thrown his way. But his target numbers this year — combined with his six receiving touchdowns (second on the team to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski), have made him one of the surprise success stories when you’re talking about the 2014 Patriots offense.

Part of Wright’s success is rooted in the fact that most teams are solely focused on stopping Gronkowski, and have usually dedicated at least two defenders per play in hopes of trying to slow down the big fella. But it’s another thing altogether to take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented to you, and Wright has done just that.

“Every time we throw to him it’s a touchdown — we’ll try to find him more down there,” Brady said after Wright’s two-touchdown performance against the Lions. “He does a great job in the coverage and finds the open spots.”

While the touchdown ratio is impressive — more than one-quarter of his catches have resulted in touchdowns — his work as a reliable target has really distinguished him from the rest of the field. Since 2006 — when targets were first tallied, on five different occasions, a New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 20 times caught 77 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction. The latest high-level connection came in 2010 when running back Danny Woodhead caught 34 of the 44 passes that were thrown his way.

Prior to that, veteran running back Kevin Faulk did it three times: Faulk caught 58 of the 75 passes thrown his way in 2008, while both wide receiver Wes Welker (112-of-145) and Faulk (47-of-61) hit the 77 percent mark in 2007. And Faulk caught 43 of the 56 passes thrown his way in 2006 to reach the same plateau. (While Welker was targeted more than any other receiver between 2007 and 2012 and was consistently over 70 percent between 2007 and 2011, he never topped the 77 percent mark.)

According to Wright, the key to being a good target is simple.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright
A history of Bill Belichick’s best postgame rip jobs: ‘That’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game’ 11.24.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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In 2007, Anthony Smith talked about the Patriots and Randy Moss before the game. Bill Belichick took a shot at Smith after the contest. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In 2007, Anthony Smith (left) talked about the Patriots and Randy Moss before the game. Bill Belichick took a shot at Smith after the contest. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick’s shot at Dominic Raiola on Monday morning got us to thinking about the moments — and they’re few and far between — where the Patriots coach has fired back at an opposing player after the game. (That means Baltimore’s Derrick Mason doesn’t qualify for this list.) In no particular order, here’s our top four:

1) Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell: The chatty pass catcher — who once told the media that he’d “like to thank my hands for being so great” — took plenty of shots at the New England secondary in the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots, saying he only knew the numbers and not the names of the New England defensive backs. (He added that he had “something special” for safety Rodney Harrison.) After New England beat Philly for the title, Belichick told Sports Illustrated: “All he does is talk. He’s terrible. And you can print that. I was glad when he was in the game.”

2) Steelers safety Anthony Smith: In December 2007, the Pittsburgh defensive back guaranteed a win over the Patriots, and dismissed the New England receiving corps: “They’ve got [Wes] Welker and Moss, but they’re not like Cincinnati.” During the game, Smith was targeted on several occasions by the Patriots, who rolled to a convincing 34-13 win. In his postgame press conference, Belichick was asked about Smith. “We’ve played a lot better safeties than him, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

3) Panthers defensive backs Chris Gamble and Chris Harris: In the wake of a December 2009 loss to the Patriots, the duo conveyed that Randy Moss didn’t go all-out in the game. That drew a harsh retort from Belichick, who said the day after the contest: “My response would be that’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game,” Belichick said. The coach then proceeded to pile on Carolina, who dropped to 5-8 on the year with the defeat.  “You can say whatever you want,” Belichick said to the media. “That’s your job. I just told you. I have a lot of respect for Randy. I think he’s one of our best players. I think if you watch other teams defend him, you watch other teams play against him, they think the same way. Other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they didn’t think that way. They haven’t won a lot of games now.”

4) Broncos receiver Wes Welker: In the 2013 AFC title game, Welker collided with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib on a crossing pattern, knocking Talib out of the game on the way to a Denver win over New England. The following day, Belichick hammered Welker. “I feel badly for Aqib, the way the play turned out,”€€ Belichick said. “It was a deliberate play to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’€™€™ll let the league handle the discipline on that. It’€™€™s not for me to decide, but it’€™s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’€™€™s all I am going to say about that.”

Read More: Antony Smith, Bill Belichick, Chris Gamble, Chris Harris
Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve always just kind of believed in each other’ 11.03.14 at 8:28 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about Sunday’s decisive 43-21 victory over the Broncos and discuss the team’s turnaround after the slow start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady played down the importance of Sunday’s game as compared to any other, although he acknowledged it was a nice win for the Patriots.

“They all count. They do. They count the same in the end,” Brady said. “When you play one of the best teams in the league, I think there’s a sense of urgency that’s created by that. Everything can cost you the game, in practice, in the week of preparation, the meetings. There’s such a heightened sense of really accountability. You’re playing a team that can score on defense, they can score on offense, they can put in the 40s and 50s in points. You’ve just got to do as well as you possibly can all week, and then you go out there and you see where you’re at.

“They’re a very good football team. They didn’t play their best yesterday, obviously. I don’t think we played our best, either. But it was a great win for our team. It was one that we really needed. When you play these games at home, you’ve really got to take advantage of it, and we really did yesterday.”

Added Brady: “We got off to a good start. We played from ahead, the way we talked about playing. And we were able to make some plays there in the second half to close it out. But they’ve got a good football team. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch.”

Following the Monday night blowout loss to the Chiefs that left them at 2-2, the Patriots have made a dramatic turnaround. Brady credits Bill Belichick for keeping the team from getting too high or too low.

“We’ve always just kind of believed in each other and believed in what we’re doing,” Brady said. “It’s a great lesson, and coach talks about it: ‘Ignore the noise.’ And I think for a long time when he says it, it’s because we’ve won a lot of games, and people — whether it’s family or friends or people who support you and love you and watch you — they tell you how great you are and all these things that are really positive things. If you get caught up in that, then, yeah, maybe you lose your urgency.

“The other part of that is ignore the noise when things aren’t going well. That’s when people tell you you’re the worst team and you’re the worst players and the worst everything. You’ve got to ignore those things also. None of those things are going to affect the outcome of the game. What really affects the outcome is what we do on a weekly basis, showing up to work and believing that we’re doing the right things to help our team improve.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
Wes Welker gets knocked out as Patriots roll to 22-point win 11.02.14 at 11:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Like many of his teammates, Wes Welker wasn’€™t saying much following Denver’€™s 43-21 loss to the Patriots Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Adding insult to injury, the Denver wide out was hit hard in the back by Devin McCourty in the third quarter following a Brandon Browner interception and he did not return to the game –€“ although the game was pretty much in doubt at that point with Denver trailing by 23 points at the time.

“I’€™m OK,”€ said a visibly worn down and beat up Welker after the game.

Welker finished the game with just three catches for 31 yards on eight targets as Kyle Arrington did a very good job defensively on him in the slot.

It was Welker’€™s second time returning to Foxboro since joining the Broncos before the 2013 season after spending six seasons in New England. He is now 0-2 as Denver fell in overtime last year — a game where Welker muffed a punt in overtime to help set up the Patriots’€™ winning score.

“Any loss is a loss,” Welker said when asked if it was a tougher loss to take having it come against his former team. “It’€™s tough, but you just have regroup and get back to work.”

The Patriots have now won 34 straight home games against AFC opponents, the longest streak against a conference in NFL history. Having spent so long in New England, Welker knows first-hand how tough it is to beat the Patriots at home.

“€œIt’€™s definitely a tough place to place,”€ said Welker. “We knew that going into it. We didn’€™t play our best.”

Denver is now 6-2 on the season and percentage points behind the Patriots for the best record in the AFC. But, at the midway point in the season there is still a lot of football left to be played and one game isn’€™t going to make or break a season.

“It’€™s a long season, we just have to regroup, get back to work and get better,”€ Welker said.

Read More: Denver Broncos, Wes Welker,
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