Patriots Rumors

AFC East Notes: Pats, Gronk, Jets, Anderson

Will Rob Gronkowski come out of retirement to rejoin the Patriots? There’s a “40% chance” of that happening, a source close to the tight end tells Mike Florio of PFT.

Much has been made about Gronkowski’s apparent weight loss, but the tight end claims that he’s lost only 18 pounds since the Super Bowl. Assuming that only a fraction of that weight is muscle mass, it might not be hard for Gronk to get back into football shape, should he decide to retake the gridiron.

Florio speculates that a direct appeal from Tom Brady to Gronkowski could convince the veteran to give it one more go. Furthermore, while coach Bill Belichick isn’t crazy about players cherry picking their activity participation, he believes that Belichick has taken a softened stance and would not stand in the way of Gronkowski rejoining the team later this year.

While we wait to see what happens with everyone’s favorite party animal, here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson can cash in with a huge 2019 season, Brian Costello of the New York Post writes. Anderson had 50 catches for 752 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games last year. More importantly, he averaged 15 yards per catch and showed that he is one of the best deep threats in the league. New coach Adam Gase has already said that he wants to better utilize Anderson’s blazing speed, so he could set himself up for a sizable payday in 2020.
  • This week, the Jets added to their analytics department with the hire of Matt Sheldon as their new director of football research and strategy (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com). Sheldon held the same title under Adam Gase with the Dolphins in ’17 and ’18. It’s a sign that the Jets are putting greater emphasis on advanced stats and also another sign of Gase’s serious influence in the organization.

Patriots Notes: Gordon, Berrios, Wynn

A WR depth chart topped by Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Josh Gordon could make Patriots quarterback Tom Brady quite happy, but Gordon’s status obviously remains uncertain. Jim McBride of the Boston Globe writes that it would make sense for Roger Goodell to lift Gordon’s indefinite suspension and reinstate the troubled wideout in time for training camp, especially in light of the commissioner’s statement that he wants to get Gordon back on the playing field. After all, the nurturing environment and structured routine of training camp would theoretically be good for Gordon and may allow him to continue to keep his personal demons at bay.

There have been no reports suggesting that Gordon has actually applied for reinstatement, but there were earlier indications that the NFLPA may begin to “lay groundwork” for his return in May, and that there was a chance he could return by training camp. As of right now, though, Gordon is still in a holding pattern.

Let’s round up several more items from the defending champs:

  • Speaking of wide receivers, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes 2018 sixth-rounder Braxton Berrios will crack the 53-man roster and could give the Patriots the type of Danny Amendola-like slot option that Brady loves. On the heels of a strong performance this spring, Berrios, who spent his entire rookie season on IR, has already arrived at the team’s facility well in advance of training camp. His chances of making the team are enhanced by his ability to return punts.
  • Both Reiss and McBride discuss the importance of Isaiah Wynn, who is expected to become the Patriots’ starting left tackle in 2019. Like Berrios, Wynn missed all of his rookie season due to injury, though all reports this year have suggested that he would be ready for training camp. Per McBride, the coaching staff has been pleased with Wynn’s progress in the mental aspect of the game, and Wynn says he physically feels ready to go. However, Reiss says the 2018 first-rounder could still open camp on the PUP list.
  • The Patriots stayed out of the supplemental draft for the 20th year in a row, though Reiss suggests the team could have been intrigued by safety Jalen Thompson (who was the only player to be selected this year). But surrendering a 2020 mid-round selection to add to a position group that already has quite a lot of depth just did not make sense for New England.
  • Gil Brandt of NFL.com examines the best fits for some of the top remaining free agents, and he believes the Patriots would make the perfect landing spot for DE Allen Bailey. New England did meet with Bailey back in March, and the 30-year-old fits the profile of the type of versatile D-lineman that the Pats have a history of signing on the cheap.

Extra Points: 2020 NFL Draft, Gronk, T-Rich

The wide receiver crop in the 2019 NFL draft left much to be desired, but it’s a different story in 2020, as Kalyn Kahler of The MMQB writes. This year, there was not a receiver chosen until No. 25 overall when the Ravens took Marquise Brown. This year, there are several players with high-end potential.

On the surface it looks as though there are much better route runners with legit gas in this class,” one scout told Kahler. “Not just big jump-ball guys. There could be several Calvin Ridley-types, which could play multiple roles in offenses, increasing their value.”

Among 2020’s top WRs is Alabama junior Jerry Jeudy, who boasts impressive route running despite being undersized at 6’1″ and 192 pounds. Last year, Jeudy reeled in 14 touchdowns and dropped just four of his 72 catchable balls.

Others to watch: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Clemson’s Tee Higgins.

As you gear up way, way too early for the 2020 NFL Draft, here’s more from around the league:

  • The NFL and the NFLPA are set to meet on Monday-Wednesday to discuss a new CBA and Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that the players are interested in creating shorter rookie deals for incoming players. Currently, draft picks are signed to four-year contracts, with teams holding fifth-year options for first-round picks. With shorter rookie deals, players would be able to reach free agency at an earlier date and earn market-value deals sooner.
  • Take this with a grain of driveway salt, but as Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports writes, a recent interaction captured between former Patriots star Rob Gronkowski and Drew Brees has conspiracy theorists (and amateur lip readers) buzzing. Gronk, some say, told the Saints quarterback that he is “coming back [to football].” For now, we’re assuming that the tight end is staying retired, especially since he has slimmed down considerably since the Super Bowl.
  • Running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Connor Cook are participating in the XFL’s “Summer Showcase” in St. Louis on Saturday, as Michael David Smith of PFT writes. T-Rich, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, is apparently still focused on getting back to the NFL. Last year, he led the AAF with 12 touchdowns before the league went belly-up. Cook, meanwhile, was never able to do much in the NFL despite some buzz heading into the 2016 draft.
  • CAA, one of the most powerful agencies in the NFL, is driving a hard bargain for rookies, Mike Florio of PFT writes. This year, four of the five remaining unsigned first-round picks are repped by CAA. And, last July, five of seven unsigned players in the top 10 were repped by CAA. As of this writing, the following first-rounders are unsigned: 49ers defensive end Joey Bosa (No. 2; represented by CAA), Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (No. 3; represented by Nicole Lynn of Young Money APAA Sports), Bucs linebacker Devin White (No. 5; CAA), Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (No. 6; CAA), and Panthers linebacker Brian Burns (No. 16; CAA).

NFL Supplemental Draft Order

The NFL’s Supplemental Draft order does not go by the inverted win/loss records of clubs. Instead, the order is dictated by a weighted lottery that uses a team’s win percentage as just part of the equation. Here, via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) is the complete order of the supplemental draft:

1. Lions
2. Broncos
3. Jets
4. Cardinals
5. Giants
6. Bills
7. Raiders
8. 49ers
9. Jaguars
10. Packers
11. Bengals
12. Bucs
13. Falcons
14. Vikings
15. Redskins
16. Titans
17. Dolphins
18. Steelers
19. Panthers
20. Browns
21. Ravens
22. Patriots
23.Cowboys
24. Seahawks
25. Eagles
26. Texans
27. Bears
28. Colts
29. Saints
30. Chiefs
31. Chargers
32. Rams

The supplemental draft is conducted via email. If multiple teams submit a pick for the same player in the same round, this order dictates which club gets the player. Of course, any team picking a player in the supplemental draft will sacrifice the corresponding pick in the 2020 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which 2018 Playoff Team Will Miss The Postseason?

It happens every year. A handful of top-tier teams will inevitably miss the playoffs. In 2018, a staggering seven teams who made the postseason in 2017 missed it the following season. So which of the 2018 playoff squads will underperform and miss the tournament in 2019?

The Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions, haven’t missed the postseason since 2008, when Tom Brady missed most of the season with an injury. The team has also produced double-digit wins in every campaign since 2002. Though they seem like a lock to extend that streak, the aforementioned Brady isn’t getting any younger, Rob Gronkowski retired following 2018 and the team’s defensive coaching staff is being headed by head coach Bill Belichick after the departure of Brian Flores to Miami and a deal with Greg Schiano fell through. Though the AFC East is perennially one of the worst in football, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets all have young quarterbacks who could take the next step and challenge New England in 2019. 

The Ravens surprised in 2018, using an opportunistic defense and an unorthodox rookie signal-caller in Lamar Jackson to roll to a 10-6 record and a spot in the postseason. With an offseason to build the offense around its young quarterback, the Ravens could take another step in 2019. Or they could take a step back as opposing defenses catch onto the team’s run-heavy schemes. The Steelers are also due for a bounce back and the Browns have overhauled their roster in recent years to make a push not only for the playoffs, but for a Super Bowl run.

The Texans, the AFC South division champions, and the Colts, a Wild Card squad, have squads loaded with young talent. Houston boasts a loaded offense behind Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, and a strong defensive unit led by J.J. Watt. The Colts caught fire down the stretch, winning nine of their final 10 games to advance to the postseason. The team also fields the reigning Comeback Player of the Year (Andrew Luck) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (Darius Leonard). Though both teams should be strong again in 2019, only one can win the division, leaving the other to compete for one of the two Wild Card spots.

A pair of Super Bowl favorites, the Chiefs and Chargers both won 12 games in 2018 and are stacked with talent to inflate that number in 2019. Though the field the league’s MVP in Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have had a tumultuous last few months that has seen the departure of running back Kareem Hunt and legal troubles for Tyreek Hill. Though stacked on both sides of the ball, the Chargers have posted just one double-digit win season since 2009. Again, only one squad can win the division.

In the NFC, both the Cowboys and Eagles appear to be the class of the East, with solid quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott leading the charge. Both squads field excellent defenses and have plenty of talent at the skill positions. The question in Philly, however, is if Wentz can stay healthy. An MVP candidate when on the field, Wentz has missed eight regular season games and every postseason outing in the last two seasons. Though a strong unit in 2018, the Cowboys defensive front is not a deep one after Demarcus Lawrence and could be the weak link in 2019.

The Bears improved from a 5-11 squad in 2017 to a 12-win team in 2018. With a young quarterback at the helm and a loaded defense, Chicago is in good position for another division crown. However, how much will the team miss defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? The new Broncos head coach oversaw a unit that allowed the fewest points and third-fewest yards in the NFL. Chicago also plays in a strong division that features a Vikings squad poised to bounce back and an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team.

In 2017, the NFC South placed three teams in the playoffs. In 2018, only the Saints escaped the tough division. Atlanta and Carolina look ready to challenge for a postseason berth and a Bruce Arians-led Bucs squad could surprise. New Orleans is sure to be a Super Bowl favorite, but a tough division could see them underperform a hair and miss the tournament.

The NFC representatives in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams are still led by Sean McVay, a high-powered offense and a stout defensive front. The question with Los Angeles is an easy one, however, how will Todd Gurley fare in 2019? The NFL leader in touchdowns in each of the past two season, Gurley was a non-factor in the postseason and his health is a mystery. The Seahawks returned to the postseason following a one-year hiatus but can they do it again in 2019? The teams has to replace Russell Wilson‘s top target in Doug Baldwin, who retired in the offseason. How quickly DK Metcalf assimilates into that offense could determine Seattle’s postseason fate.

If you had to plant your flag on one of these teams missing the 2019 playoffs, which one would it be? Vote in the poll and give us your reasoning in the comments.

Ex-Patriots Receivers Share Advice For Harry

Bill Belichick did something he had never done before when he drafted N’Keal Harry 32nd overall in April. During his time in New England, the Patriots had never drafted a receiver in the first round before, so they must’ve been high on the Arizona State product. That being said, Harry won’t be handed anything because of his draft status. Plenty of receivers have come and gone without making much of an impact on the Pats, so Nick Underhill of The Athletic tracked a few of them down to see what advice they might have for Harry.

Bill Belichick did something he had never done before when he drafted N’Keal Harry 32nd overall in April. During his time in New England, the Patriots had never drafted a receiver in the first round before, so they must’ve been high on the Arizona State product. That being said, Harry won’t be handed anything because of his draft status. Plenty of receivers have come and gone without making much of an impact on the Pats, so Nick Underhill of The Athletic tracked a few of them down to see what advice they might have for Harry.

Underhill talked to 2006 second-round pick Chad Jackson, 2004 fifth-round pick P.K. Sam, and Chad Johnson, who joined the team toward the end of his career in 2011. Underhill asked them about their advice for working with Belichick and Brady and Jackson, one of the Patriots’ biggest draft busts, had some interesting comments. “Some people say Brady’s an asshole, and he can be at times – everybody can be an asshole at times,” he said. “The guy wants perfection. He wants everything done right. I’m sure he makes his mistakes too, but it’s not like everybody else.”

Jackson said Harry will have to be prepared for a lot, and that he wasn’t ready for it. “I think I went to the wrong organization when I first got drafted,” he said. “They expected a lot from you, which is, of course, OK, but I think they put the expectations a little bit higher than for any type of rookie coming in.” All of them stressed that developing a chemistry and a relationship with Brady were important, with Johnson saying he “didn’t really have time to come in and build that currency with Tom.” The whole piece is worth a read, and provides an interesting glimpse into life on the Patriots. Harry should have an easier time than any of those three did, but it’s not a given.

Former Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi Suffers Stroke

Former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke Thursday, per a statement from his family. The statement, which can be found on the Tedy’s Team Instagram page, reads as follows:

“Yesterday afternoon, Tedy had a stroke, known as a TIA. He recognized his warning signs immediately: arm weakness, face drooping and speech difficulties. Tedy is recovering well, and would like to thank the nurses, doctors and staff at Sturdy Memorial Hospital for all they have done. Tedy and his family thank you for your ongoing encouragement, and kindly ask for privacy at this time.”

The good news is that Bruschi is, as the statement indicates, recovering well. The bad news is that this is not the first stroke Bruschi has suffered. Just three days after playing in Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, Bruschi had a mild stroke that stemmed from a congenital heart defect. He returned to the playing field later that same year, appearing in nine games (all starts) for New England during the 2005 campaign.

That experience, which led to the creation of Tedy’s Team — a foundation dedicated to raising funds for stroke research — also apparently helped Bruschi to recognize his symptoms on Thursday and to immediately seek medical attention.

One of the most beloved players in New England franchise history and a member of the club’s Hall of Fame, Bruschi spent his entire career with the Pats, winning three Super Bowls during that time. Although it took a couple of years for the Arizona product to become a full-time starter after New England made him a third-round pick in the 1996 draft, he ultimately played in 211 games for the team, starting 156 of them (including playoffs). He racked up over 1,100 tackles in his career, along with 35 sacks, 14 interceptions, and four pick-sixes. He received one Pro Bowl nod and shared 2005 Comeback Player of the Year honors with Steve Smith.

We at PFR wish Bruschi the best in his recovery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brown, Branch, Faulk Possible Pats Coaches?

  • Jerod Mayo looks set for a key role on the Patriots‘ coaching staff this season, and some fellow recent acclaimed Patriot players may join him in the near future. Troy Brown, Deion Branch and Kevin Faulk helped run drills during Patriots offseason workouts, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes spots are likely waiting for them on Bill Belichick‘s staff if they are ready to pursue coaching. Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge also instructs Pats wide receivers, leaving a possible role open. Both Brown and Faulk have been Boston-area media presences since their respective careers concluded. Neither played for another organization, while Branch returned to New England after being traded to Seattle in 2006.
  • Although the Patriots have 90 players on their offseason roster, they still have an open spot. Because fullback Jakob Johnson is part of the NFL’s International Pathway program, Reiss notes the Pats can carry 91 players this summer.

Patriots OL Isaiah Wynn Expected To Be Ready For Training Camp

The Patriots are coming off yet another Super Bowl win, but they had a lot of turnover from last year’s roster. Notably, they lost left tackle Trent Brown in free agency, so they’ll have someone new protecting Tom Brady‘s blindside in 2019.

By all accounts, that’s supposed to be second-year player Isaiah Wynn. The Patriots drafted Wynn in the first round last year, but he missed his entire rookie season due to a torn Achilles he suffered during the preseason. He appears to be on track for the season, as sources told Jeff Howe of The Athletic that “is expected to be ready for training camp.” Achilles injuries can be very tricky, so that’s good to hear.

Howe also adds that Wynn has already begun running at full speed, which is another good sign. Recently we heard that the Patriots were preparing left guard Joe Thuney to play some tackle if Wynn wasn’t ready. It sounds like he will be though, and the Pats will need him. After Jared Veldheer retired during OTAs, New England was suddenly left very thin at tackle.

The 23rd overall pick of last year’s draft, Wynn was a standout at Georgia. He earned a first-team All-SEC selection in 2017, and had been competing for a starting job before going down with the Achilles injury. The Patriots have often shuffled around their offensive line in front of Brady, and this will be their third straight year with a new left tackle.

Nate Solder left in free agency following the 2017 season, which prompted them to bring in Brown. They have one of the league’s best offensive line coaches in Dante Scarnecchia, and things have always seemed to work out fine no matter who they throw in there. It’ll be very interesting to watch Wynn during preseason action to see how he holds up, although they may not want to push him too much.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Patriots, Caserio

The prospect of the Patriots receiving compensation from the Texans for VP of player personnel Nick Caserio does not appear to be completely off the table, despite the recent Texans statement indicating they were no longer pursuing him. But the Patriots’ asking price might dissuade the Texans. The Patriots would likely demand a first-round pick from the Texans for Bill Belichick’s right-hand man, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston writes. This would be a steep price for an executive, especially one whose contract is up in 2020.

Conflicting reports have emerged about Caserio’s desire to leave New England, but the longtime Patriots exec seemingly has a great chance of becoming a GM after the contract that prevents him from doing so expires. Interestingly, Curran adds that Caserio and current Texans executive vice president Jack Easterby — a former Patriots staffer who has been in the middle of this story — share an agent. The Texans, however, admitted they were not aware of the clause in Caserio’s deal that prevented GM interviews.