FOXBOROUGH, Mass. Quick thoughts/notes about the New England Patriots & NFL:
1. Draft fits:The Patriots like to have all positions covered for entry into the NFL draft. This gives them flexibility to choose the best. “best player available.”However, this year is different.
It shows that Bill Belichick and his team still have a lot work ahead of them, and possibly telegraphs their intentions with the draft.
Four “need”These spots stand out and Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl executive Director, gives insight on which Senior Bowl players he believes are a good fit for the team (within 3 or 4 rounds).
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Linebacker (off-the-line of scrimmage: Trading for Mack Wilson (last-year of his contract) was a start. Re-signing Ja’Whaun, a run-specific defender, was a good move but it doesn’t end there.
Nagy’s fit — Chad Muma (Wyoming). “He made a really nice jump from junior tape; we moved him up the board considerably this year. He has a nose for the football and is always around it. He can run and is athletic enough to play in space — a three-down ‘backer who is super smart and really productive. We had [Wyoming’s] Logan Wilson at the Senior Bowl a couple years ago and we saw what he did this year in the Super Bowl — if Cincinnati wins that game, he might have been MVP. In reaching out to Logan during the fall about Chad, he said they always knew he was going to be good because he hit the ground running and knew how to work and prepare. When I heard Logan talk about the makeup part of it with Chad, it screamed ‘Patriot’ to me.”
Receiver: Ty Montgomery, a combo running back/receiver, has been the only addition. His contract suggests that he isn’t a lock to make it on the team.
Nagy’s fit — Bo Melton (Rutgers). “You saw his ability to get open here in Mobile. He’s quick and fast, and he also proved that at the combine [4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash]. You put on the tape and the first thing you like is his toughness and his play-strength with the ball in his hands. In the one-on-ones [at the Senior Bowl], you saw the stuff at the top of the route, the releases, just that suddenness that’s always worked [for former Patriots receivers] whether it’s Troy Brown or Wes Welker or Julian [Edelman]. I think the next step he needs to take is catching the football in traffic and being a little more consistent that way.”
Interior offensive line – The Patriots have a huge hole at left guard following Ted Karras’ free agent departure. They also value the Patriots’ ability to play both center and center.
Nagy’s fit — Zion Johnson(Boston College). Cole Strange (UT-Chattanooga). “I think Zion is a slam-dunk Pro Bowl player. He reminds me of Rodney Hudson. They’d have to take him at [pick No.] 21 — a Damien Woody-type [No. 17 in 1999] in that BC wheelhouse — and that’s not too rich. I think his best position is center, because you’d be wasting his brain playing him at guard — he’s highly, highly intelligent. Work ethic is off the charts. With Cole, I think he will be a second-round pick, maybe a third. Great-looking, trim, good athlete. We invited him to the Senior Bowl based on his Kentucky game alone; Kentucky has two guys on the defensive line that are going to be drafted and he just wore them out. He’s physical. Really strong hands. A really tenacious player.”
Zion Johnson, an offensive tackle from Boston College, could play center or guard for the Patriots. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Cornerback: While signing free agents Malcolm Butler or Terrance Mitchell could provide veteran presence and start experience in the short term, they would be more of a stopgap than long-term solutions for replacing J.C. Jackson.
Nagy’s fit — Marcus Jones (Houston). “I think he’s a Patriots fit because of the versatility. He’s played outside, nickel, safety and receiver this year. And he’s an All-American returner who can do both [punts and kickoffs] and should be able to do that right away. He’s very much like Troy Brown, just more slanted [toward] defense. He’s a fun player to watch — a lot of energy, a lot of burst. One of the highest compliments you can give a DB is that he’s just a ‘baller’ — you can stick him anywhere. He’s sticky in coverage, can mirror anyone, so he’s going to be a really good slot. But he has the speed to match up outside as well, and I know they’ve played with undersized guys up there, like Jonathan Jones.”
2. NFL meeting primerThe NFL’s annual meeting is Sunday-Wednesday in Palm Beach, Florida. Patriots owners Robert Kraft, Jonathan Kraft, and Belichick are expected to attend. It wouldn’t surprise to see Matt Patricia, the director of player personnel, and Matt Groh there. Monday, 7:45-8.15 a.m. ET: The league will host a media availability for AFC head coaches. ET), followed by one for NFC on Tuesday (7.45-8.15 AM ET). ET). This year’s format will be different from previous years where reporters sat at the same table as the coaches. It is expected that this year’s news conference will feel more traditional than past years. While the topic of possible overtime rules changes will be a hot-button topic, it doesn’t actually exist. There seems to be a lot of momentumBelichick’s long-stated OT suggestion.
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3. Mel on mockMel Kiper Jr., ESPN senior analyst for drafts, has the Patriots taking Alabama receiver Jameson WilliamsNo. 21 in his latest mock draft. He also explained how Alabama’s star’s recovery after a torn ACL has impacted his projection in a media call. “Some still think second round, but my intel, and I didn’t talk to all 32 teams, but the ones I did speak to said ‘first round.’ That’s why I gave him to New England. I almost gave him to Green Bay at 22 or 28. Buffalo, some people think at 25.”
4. Agholor checks inNelson Agholor, the receiver, was back in town last Wednesday. His presence highlights one of the emerging themes of the team’s offseason activities — the possibility to get more out of last year’s free-agent acquisitions through possibly adjusting schemes. Agholor was a total of 37 receptions for 473 yard and three touchdowns last year. Not the amount the team was expecting from Agholor after signing a two-year $22 million deal. Agholor may be looking to spend the majority offseason with QB Mac Jones in New England, which is not possible in 2021.
5. Tedy still believes:How far has the team fallen with several AFC teams looking to improve this offseason and the Patriots being quieter in terms acquisitions? Tedy Bruschi, ESPN NFL Sunday Countdown analyst, says that the Patriots are still in the playoffs. Participating on ESPN’s Get Up! Bruschi made his selections for the AFC division winners (Bills Bengals, Titans and Chargers), and wild-card teams. He said that New England still has the edge over the Colts, Broncos, and Ravens.
6. Trent’s finish:Brown’s inconsistency as an offensive tackle over the past three years and his slow finish to 2021 may have contributed towards a stagnant free-agent market. He was then able to return to New England on a contract that included heavy incentives. According to Michael Proia, ESPN Stats & Information, Brown’s pass block win rate was 85.7% from Week 16 until the end of the season (including playoffs), which ranked 42nd out of 63 qualified offensive tackles during that time.
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7. Return engagements:If Butler plays a regular season game for the Patriots, he will be the 27th player to have played at least two seasons with the team since 2000. This would tie the Seahawks with the Seahawks as the most players in this category over the same time period (Seattle maintained pace after bringing back cornerback Justin Coleman). With three different stints in New England, linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. as well as quarterback Brian Hoyer led the way.
8. Follow-up with Bates:Ryan Bates, Bills restricted-free interior lineman and free-agent interior agent, was visiting the Patriots in early last week. But they didn’t push for him to sign an offer sheet. Bates, who has four career starts, went on to visit with the Bears and signed an offer sheet. New England would have projected the fourth-year Penn State professional as a starting left tackle. This is a position where the Patriots-led Belichick-led Patriots have had remarkable success in finding plug-and–play starters in drafts (e.g. Logan Mankins, Joe Thuney, and will presumably do so again this season.
9. Chicago can be portrayed by white:James White, running back, is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. However, his college days at Wisconsin as well as his eight-year NFL career in New England have made him more accustomed to freezing temperatures. White and his wife Diana chose Chicago to be their permanent home. The fact that Diana is from Chicago is a big draw for the family. White, however, isn’t ready to leave Foxborough Massachusetts. After signing a one year deal to return, he says he didn’t take his September hip injury for granted. He was still unable to walk until a few months ago.
10. Did you know?Based on the official contracts as reported by Roster Management System, the Jaguars spent $175.3 Million in guaranteed money on free players this offseason. This is more than the Patriots ($163million in 2021) and is the highest amount of guaranteed money spent on free agents in an NFL offseason.