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Matt Cassel analysis

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 28, 2009 02:00 PM

The Patriots could not keep two quarterbacks on their roster that took up $29.2 million of salary cap space, so it wasn't a matter of if the Patriots would trade Matt Cassel, but when.

The Chiefs, with former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli in his first year as general manager, were the perfect fit.

The first step was Pioli going through a thorough analysis on his incumbent quarterback, Tyler Thigpen. Pioli learned a great deal of football from Bill Belichick, and one of the things Belichick always says about quarterbacks is that nothing is more important that decision-making and accuracy. Thigpen's 54.8 completion percentage in 11 starts last season probably gave Pioli pause.

The other factor in play with Cassel was determining what type of market would exist for him.

Part of what made his situation so compelling is that there are only 32 starting quarterback spots in the NFL, and many of those spots were already filled. Add in the finances and draft-pick compensation involved, and the projected field figured to be narrow from the start.

In the end -- when factoring in the combination of quarterback need and market conditions -- the Chiefs turned out to be one of the only horses in the race.

(more analysis to come when trade compensation is confirmed)

Patriots trade Cassel to Chiefs

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 28, 2009 01:03 PM

The Boston Globe has confirmed that the Patriots have a trade in place with the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Matt Cassel.

At this time, the compensation is not known.

The official paperwork has been filed with the NFL.

Cassel, who turns 27 in May, will be reunited with former Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, the Chiefs' first-year general manager.

Cassel was one of the NFL's surprise stories in 2008. Despite having not started a regular-season game since high school, he stepped in for the injured Tom Brady in the Patriots' season opener against the Chiefs, and ultimately led the team to an 11-5 season.

Cassel completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 3,693 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel is part of the trade agreement with Cassel.

NFL.com reports Cassel traded

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 28, 2009 12:57 PM

NFL.com is reporting that Patriots QB Matt Cassel has been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Adam Schefter of NFL Network had the report.

The Boston Globe has confirmed that a deal is in place.

More details to come...

Patriots had prior visit with WR Furrey

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 28, 2009 12:00 PM

With No. 3 receiver Jabar Gaffney signing with the Broncos in free agency, the Patriots could be seeking reinforcements. One name to keep on the radar is former Rams and Lions receiver Mike Furrey.

Furrey visited with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium prior to the start of free agency. The visit came early because Furrey was released by the Lions Feb. 9, and thus didn't have to wait until Friday to sign with another club.

Furrey, who had a career-high 98 catches in 2006, has yet to sign with any team at this point.

The timing of Furrey's visit adds important context to the situation.

Teams that bring in players on the first day of free agency are generally aggressive in trying to sign them. This appears to be a case in which the Patriots did their due diligence, and could potentially have interest at some point, but nothing appears imminent.

Kyle Brady talks Fred Taylor

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 28, 2009 10:55 AM

Former Patriots tight end Kyle Brady blocked for new Patriots running back Fred Taylor for eight seasons when both played for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When Brady first heard that Taylor was released, one of his first thoughts was "I bet the Patriots show an interest; he's their type of guy, and they do a great job getting the most out of guys at that point in their career."

Brady spent some time recapping his thoughts on what the Patriots are getting in Taylor, and here were three points that stood out:

  • 1) He still has something left in the tank. "In his prime, I don't know if there was anyone more explosive in the league. It might sound biased, because I played with him, but I watched a lot of film on players in the 13 years I played and his strengths, as far as pure game-breaking explosiveness, there just weren't many like him -- he could hit another gear in a hurry. Maybe he doesn't have that top gear at this point, but if he's in good health, he still has a gear in there not every guy has, especially for a guy his size."

  • 2) Consummate locker-room guy. "I really enjoyed playing with Fred. I played with him for eight years, which is as long as I played with anyone in my entire football career. He is a classy guy off the field. When you look back on it, a guy like him is one of the reasons you miss the game, when you're sitting around and thinking of the guys that you particularly enjoyed playing with and being around. In hindsight, once you're out, you realize how much more you should have savored it. Fred is one of those guys I think of. It was an honor to play with him, because of what he did on the field, and the way he was off it."

  • 3) The play will do the talking. "He's a pretty quiet guy for the most part. He grew to be a bit more vocal in the locker room as the years went by, but he was someone who was more about letting his actions do the talking. In a new place, I think you'll see him go about his work and business and seek to earn the respect of the guys through his actions and what he does, as opposed to what is said."

  • Bodden leaves Foxborough

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 10:14 PM

    Free agent cornerback Leigh Bodden, who visited the Patriots today, has left Foxborough without a deal.

    His agent, Alvin Keels, said that Bodden's trip went "really well, however."

    But the sides were not able to reach a deal.

    "We will continue to talk over the next couple of days," said Keels.

    With the Jets set to pick up cornerback Lito Sheppard via a trade it would appear that Bodden would be the best option for the Patriots to acquire a quality cornerback.

    With his experience with Romeo Crennel in Cleveland, Bodden is a better fit and a better bet than the other top remaining free agent cornerbacks, Bryant McFadden, and Ron Bartell.

    Gaffney comments on leaving Patriots

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 09:21 PM

    Former Patriots wide receiver Jabar Gaffney checked in and was asked his thoughts on leaving the team to join the Broncos. This was his response:

    "I loved New England and being a Patriot. The fans up there are great and it's just a great place to be. I'll always have love for New England but the unfortunate part of the NFL is that it's a business and I had to go; it was too good of an opportunity for me and my family to pass up. But I will always love the Patriots organization and fans for taking me in and treating me like family. Maybe one day something will work out where I can be a Patriot again."

    Fred Taylor Q&A

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 07:30 PM

    New Patriots running back Fred Taylor held a conference call with reporters tonight (6 p.m.). The following is a transcript of that call, as transcribed by the Patriots' media relations department (click "full entry" for complete interview):

    Q: Were there other teams that were interested that you didn’t meet with? And can you sum up how difficult this decision was, or maybe it was pretty easy?
    FT: The Patriots and Buffalo were the only teams to show early interest. The visit in Buffalo went real well, but the Patriots just felt like it was the place to be. After talking to Coach Belichick and looking at everything, looking at the type of players they have, it was pretty much a no brainer. Who wouldn’t want to play in New England? They have been the most successful organization in the last decade or so. It feels like a good fit with Tom [Brady], Randy [Moss], Wes Welker, Kevin [Faulk], Laurence [Maroney] and all the other guys. It’s going to be a good fit. And they have great defense that get you the ball back. When you weight all those options, for me it was a no brainer. We got the deal done quick. They said they would and that’s why they are a first class organization that knows how to win. That’s why it’s easy to choose them.

    Q: Their background has a lot of players with NFL credentials. How do you see your role fitting in with all the guys who are already on the team?
    FT: I fit in with all of my teammates in college, high school and here in the NFL for 11 years in Jacksonville. I always tell people my mom had five kids and I’m the oldest, so I had to learn how to share with my siblings. Just like the guys I play with, we always work well no matter what and it will be the same way in New England.


    Gaffney joins Broncos

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 05:42 PM

    Receiver Jabar Gaffney has agreed to terms with the Broncos today.

    The agreement was first reported by NFL Network's Adam Schefter and has been confirmed by the Boston Globe.

    Gaffney joins long snapper Lonie Paxton as the second Patriot to join the Broncos on the first day of free agency.

    First-year Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, knows what he's getting in Gaffney, who served as the team's No. 3 receiver in 2008.

    Gaffney's pact is reportedly for four years, $10 million, with $3 million guaranteed.

    Patriots make Taylor signing official

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 05:25 PM

    The Patriots formally announced the signing of free-agent RB Fred Taylor today.

    "I have tremendous respect for Fred Taylor, both as a person and as a player whose production is outstanding," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Fred as he joins the rest of our running back group."

    Taylor is scheduled to hold a 6 p.m. conference call with New England media members.

    Linebacker breakdown

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 05:00 PM

    In the wake of today's news of a Patriots-Chiefs trade involving Mike Vrabel, here is a breakdown of the Patriots' linebacker corps:

    Projected starters:

  • OLB Adalius Thomas
  • ILB Jerod Mayo
  • ILB Tedy Bruschi
  • OLB Pierre Woods


  • OLB Shawn Crable
  • OLB Vince Redd
  • OLB Darrell Robertson
  • OLB Angelo Craig
  • OLB Tully Banta-Cain
  • ILB Gary Guyton
  • ILB Bo Ruud
  • ILB Eric Alexander

    ANALYSIS: The natural question today is "Who replaces Vrabel at outside linebacker?" Pierre Woods was the top backup in 2008 and if the season started today, he'd probably get the nod. The Patriots have 2008 third-round pick Shawn Crable -- who didn't play in 2008 -- as a possible option. Vrabel's trade will shine a bit of a brighter spotlight on Crable's development this offseason. The team also re-signed Tully Banta-Cain, who was with the Patriots from 2003-2006 as a No. 3-4 outside linebacker, as another possibility. The draft and/or free agency could also add reinforcements.

  • Mike Vrabel analysis

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 03:10 PM


    After stepping back to digest the surprising news of a Patriots-Chiefs trade with Mike Vrabel, two thoughts came to mind:

  • 1) How much are finances a part of this decision?

  • 2) Could this be part of a larger deal with the Chiefs that might involve Matt Cassel?

    The 33-year-old Vrabel was entering the final year of his contract in 2009. He was due to earn $2.2 million in base salary, would receive a $1 million roster bonus, and count $4.3 million against the salary cap.

    Given Vrabel's contributions to the Patriots -- on the field and in the locker room -- that doesn't seem like much to digest.

    So why make the deal?

    From a Chiefs perspective, they had one of the youngest rosters in the NFL last season, and new general manager Scott Pioli understands the importance of veteran leadership in the locker room. Vrabel will provide that in Kansas City, likely as a team captain.

    The question is why the Patriots would trade Vrabel.

    Until more details become available on the trade itself -- and if this is the first domino to fall on a larger deal -- the answer to that question remains open-ended.

  • Vrabel trade confirmed

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 02:57 PM

    When reached via e-mail, Patriots outside linebacker Mike Vrabel confirmed that he has been dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs, as first reported by the NFL Network.

    In response to an e-mail that asked, "Have you been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs?" Vrabel responded with a one-word answer: "Yes."

    And so ends his eight-year career with the Patriots, which includes three Super Bowl titles and the only Pro Bowl berth of his career, which came in 2007, when he had 12.5 sacks, the most by a Patriot since 1987 and the most by a Patriots player under coach Bill Belichick.

    Vrabel, who will turn 34 in August, finished fifth on the Patriots in tackles last season with 67, according to coaches' calculations, but his sack number dropped to four. He also had an interception.

    Vrabel denied rumors that he was hampered by a shoulder injury that was affecting his production.

    He was acquired by someone who knows him well: Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is of course the former player personnel director for the Patriots.

    A veteran of 12 NFL seasons, Vrabel, who signed with the Patriots as a free agent in 2001, was entering the last year of his current contract and was due to make $2.2 million in base salary, but count $4.3 million against the cap. It's possible his trade was done with an eye towards creating more cap space for the Patriots.

    It is uncertain what the Patriots will receive in return for Vrabel, though ESPN's John Clayton is reporting it is an undisclosed draft choice.

    Pats close to trading Vrabel to Chiefs

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 02:31 PM

    The Patriots and Chiefs are discussing a trade that would send OLB Mike Vrabel to Kansas City.

    Adam Schefter of NFL Network first reported that the deal is in the works. Schefter noted that Vrabel is currently in Kansas City taking a physical.

    More on this development to come . . .

    Lonie Paxton agrees with Broncos

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 02:11 PM

    Long snapper Lonie Paxton has agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos, according to a league source.

    Paxton's deal makes him the second highest paid long-snapper in the NFL. It is a five-year, $5.3 million package that includes a $1 million signing bonus.

    More on Leigh Bodden

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 11:30 AM

    The Patriots are hosting free-agent CB Leigh Bodden today, and after speaking with a scout familiar with Bodden, here are a few nuggets to consider about him:

  • 1) Cover-2 style corner. His style of play would fit the Patriots' scheme. It probably helps the Patriots' projection that he played in a similar system while with the Browns, under head coach Romeo Crennel.

  • 2) Size is a positive for a player at the position. At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, Bodden is considered a bigger corner, and thus, he can play on the outside. When looking at the available cornerbacks in the draft, there aren't many that fit this profile, and thus Bodden would fill a need that the Patriots might feel they couldn't fill in the draft.

  • 3) Has displayed solid ball skills. One of the things the Lions liked about Bodden when they acquired him in a trade last year was his ballhawking. He had a career-high six interceptions in the 2007 season. Bodden had just one last season.

  • 4) Why will he be on his third team in three years? That is the question that interested teams figure to ask, because good corners are hard to come by. Bodden struggled in Detroit last season, and the Lions didn't pick up a sizeable bonus to retain him this offseason. The Browns traded him to the Lions at this time last season in a deal for NT Shaun Rogers.

  • Patriots close with TE Chris Baker

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 09:58 AM

    The Patriots are close to finalizing a contract with free-agent TE Chris Baker. The sides have agreed to the financial terms to make Baker a Patriot.

    The Patriots currently have Benjamin Watson, David Thomas, Tyson DeVree and Brad Listorti at the position. Watson and Thomas both have contracts that expire after the 2009 season.

    Baker is a veteran presence who the Patriots know plenty about from facing him twice a year with the Jets.

    He was considered a top tight end on the free-agent market -- a combination type who contributes in the blocking and passing game.

    Fred Taylor picks Patriots

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 08:20 AM

    Two reports over the last 12-14 hours indicate that a pairing between Fred Taylor and the Patriots is imminent.

    Shalise Manza Young of the Providence Journal was first with the news that the Patriots had offered Taylor a contract and that Taylor was likely to sign with New England.

    Adam Schefter of NFL.com has followed up with a report that Taylor plans to sign with New England.

    The Boston Globe can confirm that the sides are moving closer to finalizing a deal.

    The 33-year-old Taylor enters his 12th NFL season in 2009. He has spent his entire career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, rushing for 11,271 yards and 62 touchdowns, and previously said that he plans to retire as a member of the franchise when his playing days are over.

    Taylor, who hopes to play another 2-3 years, was released by the Jaguars earlier this month. Taylor's release appeared to be based on salary cap considerations and the Jaguars adopting a more youthful approach.

    Gaffney to visit Broncos

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 07:50 AM

    Free-agent Patriots WR Jabar Gaffney is scheduled to visit the Denver Broncos today.

    The website profootballtalk.com first reported the Broncos' plans with Gaffney, and those plans have since been confirmed by the Boston Globe.

    This appears to be an example of how the spreading of Patriots executives and coaches around the NFL has boosted the market for players from New England.

    First-year Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, has first-hand knowledge of the kind of versatility and steadiness that Gaffney brings to a team. McDaniels figures to run a similar offense in Denver, with three receivers in a base package, and Gaffney would appear to be a nice complement with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.

    Depending on how aggressive the Broncos are with their offer, and how willing the Patriots might be to match any financial package, Gaffney is still an option to return to New England at this point.

    Gaffney shared some of his strong feelings about the Patriots in this January piece in the Boston Globe.

    Pats to host Bodden

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 06:45 AM

    The Patriots are scheduled to host free-agent CB Leigh Bodden on a visit at Gillette Stadium today, the first day of free agency.

    The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Bodden played for the Lions last season after spending the first five seasons of his career with the Browns. He had a career-high six interceptions with the Browns in 2007 while playing under former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

    The Patriots have Ellis Hobbs, Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite as their top returning corners. Hobbs enters the final year of his contract in 2009, and adding personnel at the position -- through free agency or the draft -- would presumably be one of the Patriots' top items on the offseason agenda.

    Woods: 2nd round tender

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 27, 2009 12:19 AM

    The Patriots tendered restricted free agent OLB Pierre Woods at the second-round level today. The one-year tender for Woods is for $1.54 million.

    This was the expected tender for Woods. Had the Patriots given Woods the low tender, they would have risked losing him without receiving compensation.

    Now, if a team signs Woods to an offer sheet and the Patriots don't match, the Patriots would receive a second-round draft choice.

    The Patriots did not submit a tender offer on OL Wesley Britt, another restricted free agent. Britt could potentially stick with the team with a reduced contract.

    Evans, Hochstein to market

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 11:15 PM

    Recent talks on contract extensions for FB Heath Evans and OL Russ Hochstein did not result in a deal, and thus both players are headed for the unrestricted market. Both could still potentially return to the Patriots.

    This is always one of the more anticipated nights of the year, as carefully drawn out free-agent plans come to life after midnight.

    The plan is to pass along any Patriots-related information as it becomes learned.

    Sanders set for free agency

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 06:14 PM

    With Matt Cassel under the franchise tag, the Patriots highest-profile free agent is arguably safety James Sanders.

    Sanders started all 14 games he played in for the Patriots last season and finished with 66 tackles and an interception.

    Sanders doesn't have a deal with the Patriots to keep him off the market yet, and it doesn't appear one is going to be reached to keep Sanders from entering free agency, which kicks off at midnight tonight.

    When asked if he expected Sanders would enter free agency, his agent, Steve Feldman, replied: "I think we're this far down the road with it, so probably yes."

    Sanders, 25, would be an attractive option for teams in the market for a safety and would garner interest from other teams. But Feldman said that Sanders would definitely not close the door on the Patriots if he reached free agency.

    "The Patriots are a tremendous organization. We'd be crazy not to try to work something out with them," said Feldman.

    NFL.com charts salary cap space

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 05:50 PM

    Adam Schefter of NFL.com and NFL Network blogs the teams with the most salary cap space and the least salary cap space.

    The Patriots, according to Schefter's accounting, have the second-least amount of space ($3.2 million).

    The Globe can not confirm those figures at this time.

    Examining Mike Wright & his potential market

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 02:45 PM

    With more NFL teams switching to a 3-4 defense this year, the free-agent market for a player like defensive lineman Mike Wright could expand.

    Wright is scheduled for unrestricted free agency, which begins at midnight. Barring an unexpected change today, he plans to test the market.

    “We anticipate there will be a lot of potential opportunities for Mike,” said Buddy Baker, Wright’s agent, in an interview today. “I’m not going to negotiate [in the media] and discuss where we are at this point [with New England]. The Patriots expressed an interest in Mike returning, and Mike loves New England and all the coaches, so that’s a consideration, too.”

    Wright, who played last season under a one-year, $1.43 million restricted free agent tender, seems to be hitting the market at the right time. Wright has experience at both nose tackle and end in the 3-4 defense, which could make him an early target for teams planning to switch to that alignment (e.g. the Broncos).

    From Wright’s perspective, the chance to be a starter – and be paid accordingly – is going to be enticing. He currently has Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green ahead of him on the Patriots’ depth chart.

    When the Jets signed free-agent defensive end Kenyon Coleman after the 2006 season, Coleman was in a similar spot as Wright. Coleman had been a backup with the Cowboys who was projected to move into a starting role, and was awarded a reported five-year, $20 million contract.

    From the Patriots’ perspective, losing Wright would be a blow, as he often came onto the field on third down and was a fill-in starter groomed in the team’s system. The question from the team's side seems to be: “Can we afford a potential $3-4 million per year deal and address other areas of need?”

    Long snapper in focus

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 11:05 AM

    How much is a top-notch long snapper worth?

    It's a question that the Patriots likely are asking on the eve of free agency.

    Long snapper Lonie Paxton, who has been with the club since 2000 and thus is one of the few players who was on the roster in all three Super Bowl-winning seasons, is scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

    Last year, as an unrestricted free agent, Paxton signed a one-year contract with a $730,000 base salary and $150,000 signing bonus. His salary cap charge was $886,000.

    Barring a change today, Paxton plans to test the open market.

    "I've spoken with the Patriots several times. We're not under the gun to get an extension done, and we know they'd love to have Lonie back," Paxton's agent, Paul Sheehy, said in an interview this morning. "The only issue is how much is the long-snapper position valued on that team vs. elsewhere in the league? If there's interest out there from other teams, it has to be huge by long-snapper standards for us to consider leaving New England."

    What would be huge by long-snapper standards?

    Cleveland's Ryan Pontbriand is one comparable player. In 2007, he signed an extension that included $1.1 million in the form of a signing bonus, with the deal averaging more than $1 million per season.

    These are the tough decisions that players and teams must make in free agency every year.

    Paxton, who helped two different kickers earn Pro Bowl recognition, is considered one of the top long snappers in the game.

    From a player's perspective, he wants to get fair market value. To do so, he might have to leave New England if the Patriots aren't willing to extend themselves to those levels.

    From a team's perspective, the questions are probably these: "How does having a long snapper who counts $1 million against the cap affect us in other areas? Can we get by with an unproven long snapper who counts around $310,000 against the salary cap, and then sign another player who can help us somewhere else?"

    No tender for Alexander; 1-year deal instead

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 11:04 AM

    Patriots ILB Eric Alexander will not receive a restricted free agent tender from the Patriots; instead, he's agreed in principle to a one-year deal, according to a league source.

    The one-year agreement, which has not been signed, is less than the $1.01 million low tender in restricted free agency.

    It includes a minimum base salary ($620,000) and workout bonuses.

    Alexander's primary contributions with the Patriots have come on special teams.

    Deadline today for restricted free agent tenders

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 26, 2009 05:00 AM

    Today marks the deadline for teams to make tender offers to their restricted free agents, which impacts the Patriots with OLB Pierre Woods, OL Wesley Britt and LB Eric Alexander.

    The details of the restricted free agency were broken down earlier this month. While Woods is expected to receive a second-round tender -- assuming he hasn't signed a contract extension -- the cases of Britt and Alexander are a bit less clear.

    Britt and Alexander would seemingly be in line for the low tender.

    But with the low tender at $1.01 million, that might be viewed by the Patriots as too rich for both players, considering that Britt was the fourth offensive tackle in 2008, while Alexander has mostly been a special teams performer.

    If the team feels that way, it has two options:

  • Not tendering either player, thus making them unrestricted free agents.
  • The sides agreeing to a reduced contract.

    EXTRA POINT: In an Associated Press article that was posted on Boston.com Wednesday, noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews is quoted regarding Tom Brady's surgery and ensuing infection. Andrews was consulted by Brady's doctor at the time of the infection. Andrews said Brady, despite the infection, is likely to see excellent results from the surgery because doctors were aggressive treating the infection.

  • Jason Licht analysis

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 25, 2009 07:30 PM

    The hiring of Jason Licht as director of pro personnel marks another step in the re-shaping of the Patriots' personnel department following the departure of Scott Pioli to become Kansas City Chiefs general manager.

    In Licht, the Patriots get someone who understands the team's system-specific scouting. He previously worked for the team from 1999-2002.

    "When I was in New England, I learned how you can win with smart, disciplined, hard-working guys and how important that is for a team to have your roster filled with those type of guys," Licht said in an interview with the Boston Globe at Super Bowl XLIII (see third section of story). "The No. 1 thing you learned there is the motto that we're building a team, we're not collecting talent. It's easier said than done."

    The Patriots did not have a director of pro personnel last season. Brian Smith served as a pro scout, and Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio presumably had their hand in pro scouting as well.

    With Pioli in Kansas City, Caserio perhaps set to devote more time to evaluating college prospects and managing all college scouts, and senior adviser Floyd Reese overseeing contracts and the salary cap, Licht will ensure that the Patriots are well covered with their pro evaluations.

    His prior background in the team's system, and his strong pro personnel acumen, should ensure a smooth transition.

    Licht hired in personnel department

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 25, 2009 06:55 PM

    The Patriots announced that they have hired Jason Licht as director of pro personnel. Licht joins the Patriots personnel department after previously spending four seasons (1999-2002) with New England. Last season, Licht served as a personnel executive for the Arizona Cardinals.

    The team also formally announced that they have hired Chad O’Shea as receivers coach.

    Here is a bit more on Licht from the team's press release:

    Jason Licht (pronounced LIGHT) is entering his 14th NFL season and re-joins the Patriots personnel department after previously spending four seasons (1999-2002) with New England. Last season, Licht served as a personnel executive for the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals after spending five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles as vice president of player personnel (2006-07) and assistant director of player personnel (2003-05).

    Licht first joined the Patriots personnel department in 1999 as a college scout. In June 2001, he became the team’s national scout, responsible for evaluating top college prospects and NFL players. After the Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI championship in February 2002, Licht was promoted to assistant director of player personnel, a position he held through the 2002 season.
    During Licht’s five seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles reached the NFC Championship Game three times and won the 2004 NFC Championship, representing their conference against the AFC Champion Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

    Licht began his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, serving a two-year stint in South Florida from 1995-96. In his first season in Miami, he was an assistant in the college and pro personnel departments, and in 1996 served as an offensive assistant/quality control coach. In 1997, he worked for National Football Scouting, a college football scouting service, and in 1998 served as an area scout for the Carolina Panthers.

    Licht was an all-conference defensive tackle at Nebraska-Wesleyan from 1993-94. He was originally a walk-on at the University of Nebraska and played linebacker on the freshman team in 1989, then switched to guard and earned a letter in 1991 before transferring.

    More details to come.

    Extra points

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 25, 2009 02:15 PM

    MORE ON THE MATT CASSEL MARKET: John Czarnecki of Foxsports.com looks at QB Matt Cassel and teams he feels should pursue him. Czarnecki is high on Cassel and believes he could be a difference-maker for teams like the Lions and 49ers.

    MORE MOCK DRAFTS: SI.com's Don Banks and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Charles Davis have their post-combine mock drafts. Banks slots Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis to the Patriots at No. 23. Kirwan has a scenario with the Patriots taking Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno, while Davis gives them Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton.

    You make the call

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 25, 2009 12:55 PM

    The terrific sports staff at Boston.com recently asked for some background information on the Patriots' offseason. What resulted from that information was the creation of an interactive photo gallery that details some of the issues on the team's offseason agenda -- in free agency, the draft, and with contract extensions.

    The gallery has been posted today and includes some questions for readers to answer, such as "What should the Patriots hold out for in a potential trade for Matt Cassel?"

    The gallery can be found by clicking this link.

    Coaching staff re-set

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 25, 2009 10:00 AM

    With news that Chad O'Shea has been hired as Patriots receivers coach, a look at the team's coaching staff at this time:

  • Head coach: Bill Belichick
  • Offensive coordinator: Open
  • Defensive coordinator: Dean Pees
  • Special teams coach: Scott O'Brien
  • Offensive line/assistant head coach: Dante Scarnecchia
  • Quarterbacks: Bill O'Brien
  • Running backs: Ivan Fears
  • Wide receivers: Chad O'Shea
  • Tight ends: Shane Waldron
  • Defensive line: Pepper Johnson
  • Linebackers: Matt Patricia
  • Defensive backs: Josh Boyer
  • Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik/Harold Nash
  • Coaching assistants: Brian Flores, Patrick Graham

    ANALYSIS: At the NFL combine, Bill Belichick noted that the staff was not yet complete. That came before Chad O'Shea was hired as receivers coach. It is not known if Belichick plans any more additions. Like 2005, it appears the offensive coordinator spot will remain open, which would mean QB coach Bill O'Brien takes on more responsibility coordinating the offense.

  • 4 on Chad O'Shea

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 25, 2009 07:36 AM

    Four nuggets on new Patriots receivers coach Chad O'Shea (as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and later confirmed by the Globe):

  • 1) Diverse football coaching background. A college quarterback at Houston, O'Shea has been responsible for a variety of coaching duties in college and the NFL over the last 13 years. He's coached or assisted with receivers, tight ends and special teams, and also served as a recruiting coordinator.

  • 2) Family ties to sports. O'Shea's father, Mike, is highly regarded in the athletic trainer community. Mike O'Shea has mostly worked in the collegiate ranks. His time in the NFL came with the Baltimore Colts, when he was hired in 1973.

  • 3) Pro connections. O'Shea broke into the NFL in 2003 with the Kansas City Chiefs, working with special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. When O'Shea was a quarterback at the University of Houston, Gansz was on the Houston coaching staff.

  • 4) Personal background. The 36-year-old O'Shea received a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston in 1995. He is married with two children.

  • O'Shea expected to be named WR coach

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 24, 2009 06:47 PM

    Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune blogs that Vikings assistant coach Chad O'Shea is expected to be named Patriots receivers coach.

    The Globe has now confirmed this report [updated 8:45 p.m.].

    O'Shea, who was born Dec. 18, 1972, coached in college at Houston (1996-99) and Southern Mississippi (2000-2002). In the NFL, he's coached for the Chiefs (2003-2005) and Vikings (2006-2008).

    Fred Taylor en route to New England for visit

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 24, 2009 05:25 PM

    RB Fred Taylor visited with the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., today. The Bills make their free agents available to media members, and Taylor told reporters that he was headed to New England later this afternoon.

    Bills reporters passed on some comments from Taylor today, as Taylor talked about how he is used to sharing the load in the backfield, has respect for Bills coach Dick Jauron, hopes to play another 2-3 years, and covets a Super Bowl ring.

    "I do have to go to New England later this afternoon, but after I visit with those places, visit with the staff, I just want to put everything on the table, get back with my agent (Drew) Rosenhaus and just see. At my age, it has to be a fit. It has to be that right fit from an offensive standpoint, as far as the staff, just everything. At the end of these visits, or wherever I have to go from here, I’ll just put every team on the plate and say this place, these are the pros and cons, and this place, these are the pros and cons."

    The Bills also hosted former Patriots WR Kelley Washington on a visit today.

    Mail is delivered

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 24, 2009 11:25 AM

    Every Tuesday on Boston.com, questions from Patriots fans are answered as part of a weekly mailbag. This week's mailbag has been posted and includes some of the following topics:

  • Matt Cassel and the latest with his franchise tag and trade possibilities.

  • Looking at some draft-eligible players who catch the eye.

  • Scanning the free agent market and considering options for the Patriots, such as Jets TE Chris Baker and Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall.

  • A closer look at Vince Wilfork and what type of contract he might expect in the form of an extension.

  • Do the Patriots really need an outside linebacker in the draft?

  • Bruschi at Bryant

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 24, 2009 05:00 AM

    SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi spoke to a crowd of more than 1,500 Monday night at Bryant University. Bruschi was a guest of the Student Arts and Speaker Series, which is an impressive group to stage such an event.

    In a presentation that lasted an hour, Bruschi, wearing his 2001 Super Bowl ring, shared stories from throughout his career -- touching on different parts of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl-winning seasons and overcoming his stroke and returning to football. He answered questions from fans at the end.

    Some areas that stood out from this perspective:

  • 1) Revering Drew Bledsoe. In reflecting on the team’s Super Bowl season of 2001, Bruschi told the crowd that he learned a lifetime lesson from Drew Bledsoe. “He was the player who showed me how to really be unselfish and put the team first,” Bruschi said. “No one really remembers what Drew Bledsoe went through that year. How would that affect you when you had a job, and you did it very well, and all of a sudden it’s taken away from you, and when you come back from whatever setback you had, you expect to have it back and it’s not given to you. How would you react? The way Drew reacted was ‘I’m going to help this kid out, and put the team first.’ I hope that’s an example a lot of people remember when you think of that team, Drew Bledsoe’s example of being unselfish.”

  • 2) Post-career plans. Bruschi didn’t put a timeframe on how much longer he hopes to play (he’s under contract through 2009), but said he hopes to remain connected to football when his playing days are over. “When is it going to be? Is it going to be 1 year? 2 years? That’s a question that you always have to deal with in the offseason,” he said. “Coaching is always an option. I love this game. I love being around it. I see a lot of players going into coaching. I see a lot of players on TV doing analyst jobs. Whatever I’m doing, I hope I’m still in football – coaching it, talking about it.”

  • 3) Toughest opponents. In the Q&A session, Bruschi was asked the toughest linemen and toughest running back he’s faced. He picked Philadelphia Eagles guard Shawn Andrews. “When we play them, he’s a guy that is always circled, that they’re going to run behind and has some great skill,” Bruschi said. In terms of running backs, Brandon Jacobs got the nod. “You don’t see many running backs who are 6-foot-4, 270 pounds,” Bruschi said.

  • 4) A career highlight. Bruschi recited his stat line from Oct. 30, 2005. “I’m not a big stat guy, but I’ll never forget my stat-line that day -- 10 tackles, 75 plays, on the punt team, exhausted at the end of the game, and we beat the Buffalo Bills,” he said. The game is most meaningful to Bruschi because it was his first back from his stroke.

  • Shift in QB market

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 23, 2009 03:27 PM

    In a move that seems to eliminate one potential landing spot for Matt Cassel in a trade, the Vikings are near a deal to acquire QB Sage Rosenfels from the Texans, according to the Houston Chronicle.

    When assessing a potential trade market for Cassel, the Vikings have been included because they have Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte as their top two options. Rosenfels is a quarterback they targeted last offseason as well.

    From a Patriots perspective, a smaller market for Cassel is naturally less desirable.

    Safety first?

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 23, 2009 03:20 PM

    INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Patriots decide to use their first-round pick in April's draft on a safety a name to keep in mind is Louis Delmas from Western Michigan.

    A four-year starter, Delmas played corner for Western Michigan as a true freshman then switched to safety where he showed the versatility to play both free and strong safety and cover the slot in nickel situations.

    The Patriots could have a need at safety with Rodney Harrison eyeing retirement and James Sanders a free agent.

    Delmas, who measured in at 5-11 1/4, 202 pounds, said today that he spoke with Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees on Saturday.

    "I talked to the D-coordinator for a good 15 minutes," Delmas said. "We got along well. He let me know out front that I'd be able to fit into the defense, but he told me that it's going to require a lot of film work, a lot of time in the playbook. I'm willing to do that. That's the type of person I am. I love to watch film. I can find the little things about the opposing teams. I'd think I'd be able to fit into there."

    Delmas certainly sounded like a Patriot when asked whether he was a free safety or a strong safety at the next level.

    "At the school I was at I was always playing free and strong," said Delmas. "There were positions where I had to drop down into the box and play linebacker and play deep middle as a man free. Going into the league, I see myself as just a safety. I can play strong or free. I can play nickel [corner]. You got to be able to play multiple positions in the league."

    Two more players the Patriots could potentially be interested in helped themselves at the combine today.

    Cincinnati defensive end/outside linebacker/tight end Connor Barwin, who has drawn comparison to Mike Vrabel, clocked a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash, the second-fastest time among the defensive line group, which was the position group Barwin ran with.

    USC linebacker Clay Matthews ran the 40 in 4.67, the fourth-fastest time among linebackers.

    Banta-Cain: 1-year deal

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 23, 2009 01:05 PM

    The contract signed by OLB Tully Banta-Cain is a one-year deal, with a base salary of $620,000. The base salary is the minimum for a player of Banta-Cain's experience.

    Banta-Cain's contract includes a $25,000 roster bonus, and about $30,000 in a workout bonus.

    The contract qualifies for the veteran minimum benefit, meaning that Banta-Cain's salary cap charge is reduced.

    The contract signed by TE Brad Listorti is a one-year package wth a $310,000 base salary.

    Assessing the possible trade market for Cassel

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 23, 2009 08:10 AM

    Peter King of SI.com devotes part of his weekly "Monday Morning Quarterback" column to Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel.

    King analyzes the possible landing spots for Cassel in a trade. His opinion is that he'll be surprised if Cassel is a Patriot by July 1, but that it's difficult to project a landing spot for him.

    Kansas City, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and San Francisco are listed as five "logical places" that Cassel could land, although Minnesota and San Francisco could be ruled out because of the draft picks required to acquire Cassel and that neither franchise is cash-rich.

    King's analysis, from this view, touches on the most interesting aspect of Cassel's situation: What type of market will develop for Cassel?

    With free agency starting Friday, any potential market for Cassel should start to come into clearer focus.

    Mike Florio of SportingNews.com also breaks down possible suitors for Cassel.

    Remember Pat O'Neill?

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 23, 2009 05:00 AM

    The last time the Patriots utilized a draft pick to select a punter was 1994, when Pat O'Neill was tabbed in the fifth round (135th overall) out of Syracuse. Head coach Bill Parcells was seeking an upgrade over Mike Saxon, who had three punts blocked in 1993, and the Patriots took the unconventional step of using a fifth-round pick to fill the void.

    O'Neill ended up punting just two seasons for the Patriots. By the Super Bowl season of 1996, he had been replaced by Tom Tupa.

    Whatever happened to O'Neill?

    The Sarasota Herald Tribune provides the answer, as O'Neill is an orthopedic surgeon with a speciality in ankle replacement.

    Belichick on a change in evaluation of safeties

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 22, 2009 12:43 PM

    Bill Belichick’s Q&A session with reporters included some of the following topics:

  • The defensive back prospects in the draft and how safeties are evaluated differently now. “There are some interesting guys here. There are some corners, there are some safeties, and then there are some guys that kind of fall in between. We’ll have to determine how they’ll fall in a particular system. I think that the safety position has become more and more of a corner position in the National Football League. There were times when some of the safeties, particularly the strong safeties, fit more almost like linebackers than they did as defensive backs. I think that’s changed gradually, but now to the point where your [safeties] a lot of times have to cover wide receivers or they have to cover tight ends who are very, very good in the passing game. It’s not guys running 5-yard hook routes, and stuff like that. The tight ends in the league, and it seems like just about every team in the league has one, can get down the field and make athletic and acrobatic catches … I think the demand for that position has changed and I think that’s changed the evaluation a little bit. So maybe some of those hybrid guys who played corner and played safety – like [Malcolm] Jenkins, for example, is a guy who played both, what his best fit would be for a team, where he’s most valuable, is certainly an interesting discussion for all teams.”

  • More on Floyd Reese and his addition to New England as a senior football adviser. Belichick reflected on his past with Reese, saying that “as much as anybody, [he] kind of mentored me when I got to Detroit [in the 1970s]. Our staff was an older staff and Floyd and I were the two youngest coaches on the staff. We ended up living a couple blocks away from each other, and we kind of hung out together, rode to work, rode to the games, worked together in the kicking game. We communicated a lot, we had a friendship as well as a coaching relationship, and I’ve always admired and respected Floyd for what he’s able to do.”

    Other questions Belichick was asked before his interview ended included:

  • His thoughts on first-year Jets coach Rex Ryan
  • Why he thinks long-tenured coaches like Mike Martz, Jim Haslett and others are currently out of the league
  • His memories of his time in Cleveland with the Browns

  • More from Bill Belichick

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 22, 2009 12:18 PM

    Bill Belichick’s Q&A session with reporters at the combine included some of the following topics:

  • Evaluating the outside linebackers in the draft for 3-4 teams. “The 3-4 outside linebacker/4-3 defensive end group, I think it’s an interesting group. I think there are some very talented players there, guys from different backgrounds – guys who have been in coverage, guys who haven’t been in coverage, with pass rush ability. The [Brian] Orapkos and [Larry] Englishes, guys like that. That will be part of the process as we go forward, to try to figure out how they would fit in, in our case, to our system.”

  • How the proliferation of teams running the 3-4 scheme has altered the draft-preparation dynamic. “There are an awful lot of teams playing the 3-4 defense now, certainly compared to 2000 when I came to New England, it was pretty much us and Pittsburgh. Now you have teams in our division, many teams in the AFC, couple teams in the NFC. You probably have 8-9-10 teams based out of a 3-4 defense. That’s made those positions – the outside linebacker position, the 3-4 nose tackle position – very competitive and very unique from the 4-3 complementary spots. Scheme has an awful lot to do with how those players are evaluated.”

    More to come…

  • Bill Belichick's 12-minute opening statement

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 22, 2009 11:47 AM

    Bill Belichick’s opening remarks at the combine, which spanned more than 12 minutes, included some of the following topics:

  • The growth of the combine.

  • His thoughts on that it has been nice it was to catch up with some of his former staff members from different times in his career, such as Scott Pioli, Josh McDaniels, Thomas Dimitroff, George Kokinis and Jim Schwartz. Belichick drew some laughs when talking about how he almost fired Kokinis, who worked for Belichick in Cleveland, when he got in an accident while driving to the airport. Belichick also said that he tried to hire Schwartz as an assistant in 2000 when he was named Patriots head coach.

  • Belichick called the addition of Floyd Reese as a senior football adviser, and continuing to work closely with director of player personnel Nick Caserio, as “invigorating.” He made those remarks while touching on the reshaping of the team’s personnel department with Scott Pioli now in Kansas City as general manager.

  • Changes on the coaching staff were addressed, and Belichick said he was sorry to see special teams coach Brad Seely depart, but felt fortunate to add Scott O’Brien to the staff as special teams coach. “There is no coach that I respect more than Scott O’Brien,” he said. Belichick said his offensive staff is “not quite complete” at this time – the club has yet to hire a receivers coach. He called former secondary coach Dom Capers, now defensive coordinator in Green Bay, "a class guy, one of the classiest people in our business. I'm happy for him in his new position at Green Bay." His replacement, Josh Boyer, has "worked his way up, worked hard and done a great job for us." Belichick said it was similar at tight end, with Pete Mangurian departing to coach the offensive line at Tampa Bay -- "a passion of his" -- with Shane Waldron taking over in a "responsibility that he deserves." He spoke at length about the departure of Josh McDaniels, calling it a great loss -- both professionally and personally.

  • Belichick spoke passionately about some of the more accomplished head coaches in the NFL, such as Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, not being in the league. He said it “doesn’t seem right.”

  • Belichick said “as we head into free agency, I’m sure there will be changes, as there always are.” He said he wasn’t prepared to give updates on personnel, injury situations or contract issues.

  • Summing up the last six weeks, Belichick said: “It’s been a busy offseason, I feel like it’s been a productive one.”

  • Belichick talks combine

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 22, 2009 11:32 AM

    Bill Belichick opened his press conference with reporters reflecting on how the combine has grown. This was part of his opening statement before taking questions:

    “It’s kind of interesting to be here at this stadium, as the combine has kind of moved along, it’s come a long way. I remember being at Arizona State, as it was getting dark, standing out there watching the Fridge [William Perry] do his vertical jump. It was quite a sight to see. Coming to the dome, and now coming in here [to Lucas Oil Stadium], it’s amazing how the combine has grown at every turn really – the media, the agents, the players, and the preparation for it, and all these guys who spend months getting ready for it. It’s become quite an event.

    “It’s fun to be a part of it. It’s good to see the college players. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a little bit more of them this year than I have in a couple of the previous years. But that being said, it’s always an enjoyable part of the process to start to get to know them.

    “The interviews, I think that’s always one of the most interesting parts of the combine. I’ve never thought, and I don’t think, that you can ever analyze a player in a 10-minute interview. I think that’s really stretching it, but I really find it interesting to see where some of these kids have come from, what their background is, who is important to them in their life – what coaches, what teammates, what situations they’ve been through that have kind of shaped the way they are, the way they approach the game, the way they prepare and things like that. I find that very interesting and we’ve certainly had a lot of interesting ones this week.”

    More to come...

    Belichick to chat at combine

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 22, 2009 10:45 AM

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick is scheduled to speak with reporters this morning in Indianapolis at the combine.

    Colleague Christopher L. Gasper is standing by and will be passing along some comments to be posted here shortly.

    Highest paid Patriots

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 22, 2009 08:45 AM

    A look at the highest paid Patriots players for 2009, accounting solely for base salary and not including any bonuses paid this year:

  • QB Matt Cassel -- $14.6 million (under terms of franchise tender)
  • WR Randy Moss -- $6.4 million
  • QB Tom Brady -- $5 million
  • LT Matt Light -- $4.25 million
  • DE Richard Seymour -- $3.68 million
  • RB Kevin Faulk -- $2.9 million
  • DE Jarvis Green -- $2.5 million
  • G Stephen Neal -- $2.5 million
  • C Dan Koppen -- $2.4 million
  • LB Jerod Mayo -- $2.25 million
  • LB Mike Vrabel -- $2.2 million
  • LB Tedy Bruschi -- $1.9 million
  • LB Adalius Thomas -- $1.9 million
  • WR Wes Welker -- $1.65 million
  • DE Ty Warren -- $1.22 million

  • Pioli talks Patriots

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 21, 2009 04:29 PM

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, now the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, took to the podium here at the NFL Scouting Combine and a lot of the questions he faced were about his old team.

    One thing Pioli didn't want to talk about was the notion of him trading for franchised Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. Kansas City would seem like a logical landing spot for Cassel, if the Patriots elect to trade him.

    Sticking to the Patriots code of silence, Pioli respectfully avoided the subject of trading for Cassel.

    "Free agency hasn't started. He's under the franchise tag, so I don't think it's anything we can even talk about or want to talk about," said Pioli, who was repeatedly asked about Cassel.

    Here is a sampling of Pioli's answers on some other Patriots-related topics:

    On Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio:
    "Nick is a very bright, hard-working football guy. He's got a strong background. He's got a business background. He worked out in the private sector before he came back to coaching. He came into New England and worked in the scouting department and then went into coaching and scouting and back and forth. Nick is a great guy. He's one of hardest workers I know. He's a good football guy, but he also has a background in a lot of areas."

    On competing with the Patriots for the same types of players:
    "Todd [Haley] is a different coach from a different system, who is looking for different types of players skill set-wise. We're looking for big, tough, smart, disciplined football players, but what we're going to do schematically is not necessarily -- I'm not going to be coaching -- going to be the same thing that we did in New England.

    "There will be different types of players that we'll be looking at for different positions. I don't think we're necessarily battling over the same players as New England. The players that I have to go out and get are different because we have a different coach, and he's running a different system with a different philosophy. Makeup-wise, they're very similar, but from a positional and skill-set standpoint it will be a little bit different."

    Patriots express interest in Fred Taylor

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 21, 2009 01:56 PM

    The Patriots have expressed interest in free agent RB Fred Taylor, and it's possible that Taylor could be visiting with the team this week, according to a league source.

    Shalise Manza Young of the Providence Journal first reported the Patriots' interest today. In the Providence Journal report, the Bills were noted as another team interested in Taylor.

    The Patriots have Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis under contract at running back. Fullback Heath Evans is a free agent who could return.

    Taylor, who has played his entire career with the Jaguars, was released Monday.

    The next Mike Vrabel?

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 21, 2009 11:20 AM

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Patriots have a saying, "The more you can do..." What it means is that the more versatile you are, the more value you have to the team.

    Potentially no prospect in this draft offers more Patriot-like versatility than Cincinnati defensive end/outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who is drawing comparisons to Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel because of his ability to play on both sides of the ball.

    Barwin was a tight end for his first three seasons at Cincinnati -- he caught 31 passes for 399 yards and two touchdowns as a junior -- before the Bearcats switched him to defensive end as a senior.

    He responded by leading the Big East in sacks with 11.

    Teams see Barwin, who also blocked three punts last season, as a player who like Vrabel can be a defensive starter and then moonlight as a tight end in short-yardage or goal line situations.

    "The question you get asked a lot is, 'Who do you emulate your game after?' " said Barwin. "I don't emulate my game after anybody; I think you pick up things here and there, but the one player that you guys have heard that I get compared to a lot is Mike Vrabel, just because of the size and playing defense and then being able to catch touchdowns in the red zone as a tight end. That's the one obvious comparison that I hear about so far."

    Although Barwin was a 4-3 defensive end in college, some teams see him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

    "I'm very confident I can play [linebacker]," said Barwin. "It's very intriguing that a lot of teams see me rising in the draft at that position because that's the one I haven't played. It's exciting for me to think about playing that position, knowing my own personal skill set."

    Barwin said he met with Patriots tight ends coach Shane Waldron yesterday, but hasn't had a formal sitdown interview with the team yet.

    Like Vrabel, Barwin is a straight shooter who isn't lacking for confidence. When asked what he would say if teams asked why they should draft him, he responded:

    "The obvious thing that I think is that I am, if not [the best], one of the best athletes in this draft," said Barwin, who played two years of college basketball for the Bearcats as well. "I don't know too many guys that can compare their value with what I can do. I think right away no matter what situation I'm in, I'm going to contribute on special teams, which I hear from every NFL team is a huge concern. I know a lot of guys that are here haven't played special teams, but I've played them throughout my whole career."

    A trip to the Hall

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 21, 2009 06:00 AM

    FOXBOROUGH -- The voice of Patriots great Gino Cappelletti greets visitors as they ride the elevator up to the Patriots Hall of Fame. It's the start of an enjoyable journey into the history of football in the region, naturally focused on the Patriots.

    The Hall itself opened in the fall, but it wasn't until this past week that I had the chance to visit it in a relaxed, non-working capacity. It was well worth the trip.

    Summed up briefly, it's first-class.

    Stepping off the elevator on the third floor, I spent about a half-hour in the "Building Blocks" exhibit. It features glass cases for each decade of the team's existence, stocked with photos, letters, and memorabilia. The 1960s segment had a copy of the letter Billy Sullivan received from Lamar Hunt granting him an American Football League franchise. If I read the letter correctly, the cost was $25,000. I also learned that the team had a logo before Pat Patriot, a tri-corn hat, used for one season (1960).

    "Building Blocks" turned out to be my favorite part of the entire Hall. It captured the different parts of the history of the Patriots, including the not-so-great moments of the early 1990s. The digital touch screens were also impressive in that area. When I picked Bill Parcells, it showed video of Parcells from his introductory press conference in 1993, when fans suddenly had more reason to hope.

    The Raytheon Theater was impressive, too, where there is a superb video that tied the history of the New England region to its professional football team.

    After exploring the other parts of the third floor -- such as a wall that featured various team records and a New England football exhibit -- it was time to move to the second floor.

    This was more interactive.

    At the bottom of the stairs, I stepped into the size 17 shoeprints of Richard Seymour. The "Once a Patriot" exhibit had the feel of being in a study and then it was time to get "In the Moment" -- watching highlights of all Patriots Hall of Famers and recapping their careers.

    Moving on, I stepped under the instant replay hood and made like an official, and then attempted a 45-yard "Snow Bowl" field goal. There were plays to choose that Bill Belichick broke down, and even a chance to step into the locker room and huddle with Tom Brady and his teammates.

    This trip was nearly two hours, and it could have been longer.

    For the adult admission price of $10 (kids are $5, seniors are $7), it was well worth it.

    For those with an interest in football and the Patriots, it's highly recommended, and easy to come away from with an appreciation for the efforts of the Kraft family.

    McDaniels vouches for Cassel, O'Brien

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 20, 2009 05:27 PM

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Josh McDaniels is no longer Patriots offensive coordinator, but he still has great insight into the organization he spent eight seasons with before leaving in January to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.

    McDaniels, who was one of the 20 NFL head coaches or front-office personnel that addressed reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine today, gave glowing reviews of both his former quarterback, Matt Cassel, and his ostensible replacement as playcaller, Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien.

    One knock on Cassel that has picked up some momentum in recent weeks is that the backup-turned-franchise tagged QB isn't valuable in the trade market because he's strictly a product of McDaniels’s tutelage and the Patriots system; he wouldn't be able to experience the same success playing for another team.

    McDaniels shot down that notion.

    "There are a lot of things about Matt that are very ideal for that position, he's got size and all the rest of it,” said McDaniels. “I was a small part of his success, and he was a big part of my success. I think whatever challenge Matt Cassel has in front of him, whether that be in New England or if it happens to be somewhere else, I think he's going to respond to it the same way he has responded since he walked in the door in New England, which is to meet it head on with a great attitude, an incredible work ethic and to try to do everything he can to make himself better.

    "So, if that's what you're looking for in an NFL quarterback you probably got a shot."

    As for O'Brien, who replaced McDaniels as the team's quarterbacks coach and presumptive playcaller, but was not given the title of offensive coordinator (the Patriots don't have one), McDaniels said O'Brien is "very, very deserving" of his promotion from wide receivers coach.

    "I know he'll do a great job, very well prepared, awesome, awesome to work with," said McDaniels. "[He is] a very, very good friend of mine, who will be a good friend forever, and I know he's going to do a great job. He's ultra-prepared, and the players respond to him. He got the opportunity to work with the receivers last year, and I think that's vital, and he'll do a great job I know he will."

    McDaniels was in a similar role in 2005, when he replaced Charlie Weis as lead offensive coach, but was not given the title of offensive coordinator.

    Just how much input did Patriots coach Bill Belichick have in 2005, when McDaniels was in O'Brien's role?

    "As much as Bill needed to give us," said McDaniels. "If he felt like it was going ok then it might not be a lot. If he felt like we needed more then he would give us more. He has a great sense of the pulse of that. If he really needs to step in, and do a lot then he will. But that's something that I'm sure he'll sense as he goes through this process."

    When asked if he had called the plays in 2005, when he was in O’Brien’s position, McDaniels only offered a wink.

    Surprise on the links

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 20, 2009 04:20 PM

    Patriots FB Heath Evans is holding a charity softball game tonight at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, with proceeds benefiting the Heath Evans Foundation, which is dedicated to fostering hope and healing in the lives of children and families affected by sexual abuse.

    As part of the build-up to the event, Evans hosted a golf tournament today at the Breakers, and it included two special guests -- owner Robert Kraft and his wife Myra.

    "We always extend an invitation to him for what we're doing, because he has a home in the area," Evans explained today. "He's been highly supportive of our foundation through Kraft Sports Productions since he’s grown aware of the cause. We’ve had his blessing. Like any other year, he had an invitation and this year, he was able to take advantage of it."

    Evans put Kraft and his wife Myra in a pairing with one of his top donors, Byron Thomas. Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork rounded out the foursome.

    Evans was impressed with what he saw from the Krafts.

    "Matter of fact, they're both pretty good golfers," he said.

    In addition to the Krafts and Wilfork, others from the Patriots at the golf tournament included Adalius Thomas, Jabar Gaffney, Randy Moss, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

    A closer look at No. 23

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 20, 2009 06:45 AM

    The Patriots have a full contingent at the NFL combine, which continues in Indianapolis, and part of their focus is what to do with the 23rd overall selection in the draft.

    No. 23 has been kind to the Patriots in the past.

    The last time the Patriots had the 23rd pick was 1995, when they selected CB Ty Law. That is also the slot where they selected OT Bruce Armstrong in 1987.

    Looking back at the last 10 years of selections at No. 23, the list seems to reflect what people often say about the draft -- it's an inexact science, you hit on some players, and miss on some others.

    The last 10 picks in the No. 23 spot, and the team drafting them:

  • 2008: RB Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers)
  • 2007: WR Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs)
  • 2006: OG Davin Joseph (Buccaneers)
  • 2005: CB Fabian Washington (Raiders)
  • 2004: DT Marcus Tubbs (Seahawks)
  • 2003: RB Willis McGahee (Bills)
  • 2002: LB Napoleon Harris (Raiders)
  • 2001: RB Deuce McAllister (Saints)
  • 2000: FS Rashard Anderson (Panthers)
  • 1999: CB Antoine Winfield (Bills)

    EXTRA POINT: On his recent trip to Israel, Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett sat down with the Jerusalem Post to talk about a variety of topics.

  • Billy Yates set to re-sign with Patriots

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 19, 2009 11:50 AM

    Offensive lineman Billy Yates, who was released by the Patriots on Tuesday, is set to re-sign with the club. A league source indicated that the contract will be for one year.

    Why the quick change with Yates?

    This is a situation that is directly related to the uncertain labor situation in the NFL, a league source explained.

    Because the 2010 season is currently scheduled to have no salary cap, some of the rules regarding the way contracts are interpreted have changed.

    In Yates' case, he had unlikely-to-be-earned incentives in his previous contract that -- due to the uncapped year looming -- became likely-to-be-earned incentives. That raised his salary and salary cap charge by approximately $550,000, and led to the Patriots' decision to cut him.

    Now, Yates will return with a new deal, and a more manageable salary cap number.

    Combine & Wes Welker

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 19, 2009 10:30 AM

    The scouting combine is underway in Indianapolis, as more than 300 draft-eligible prospects will be analyzed by all 32 NFL teams. But if history is any indication, not every player that will ultimately play in the league will be there.

    Wes Welker is a classic example.

    In 2004, Welker wasn't invited to the combine.

    This morning, I perused the archives of the Dallas Morning News to recap how things unfolded with Welker as he was coming out of Texas Tech. Here is part of what prophetic Dallas Morning News writer Rick Gosselin penned about Welker on Feb. 22, 2004:

    The NFL scouting combine is the annual showcase of college football's best talent.

    The NFL invites the top 300-plus draft-eligible players to Indianapolis for a weekend of tests and interviews. At least that's what the NFL would have us believe.

    But if the best players from college football are indeed gathered under one roof at the RCA Dome this weekend, where's Wes Welker? There weren't 25 seniors more productive than Welker in 2003 and there weren't a dozen who enjoyed better college careers. ...

    With NFL special-teams play at a premium in a salary-cap world and playmakers always at a premium at any position, Welker certainly deserved an invitation to Indianapolis this weekend. But none was forthcoming.

    "I was surprised," said Welker by telephone. "But things don't always go the way you plan. I'm not mad at anyone. I'm not bitter. You live with it and move on."

    TBC, Listorti analysis

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 18, 2009 10:30 PM


    A look at what the signings of free-agent outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and free-agent tight end Brad Listorti might mean for the Patriots:

    The Patriots are well stocked at outside linebacker, with Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel, Pierre Woods (restricted free agent), Shawn Crable, Vince Redd, Darrell Robertson and Angelo Craig on the roster. Banta-Cain adds more competition to the mix, as well as a potential pass-rushing and special teams presence. When Banta-Cain was at his best in New England (2003-2006), he was creating havoc rushing the passer on third down and obvious passing situations (5.5 sacks in his final season). He was not a full-time starter.

    Should Banta-Cain emerge and land a roster spot, his presence could add more flexibility with other personnel, such as with Vrabel and/or Thomas moving inside at times in the 3-4 alignment.

    Listorti joins Benjamin Watson, David Thomas and Tyson DeVree on the roster at tight end. At this point, he faces longer odds to earn a roster spot, but with Watson and Thomas both entering the final year of their contracts, the Patriots could be viewing him as a developmental prospect with the future in mind.

    EXTRA POINT: Some e-mailers have asked the question: How can the Patriots sign players when free agency doesn't begin until Feb. 27? The free agency period that begins Feb. 27 is for players whose contracts expire after the 2008 league year (which technically ends Feb. 26). In the case of Banta-Cain, he had his contract terminated with one full year remaining, making him an immediate free agent.

    Patriots sign Banta-Cain, Listorti

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 18, 2009 05:34 PM

    The Patriots announced the signings of free-agent linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and free-agent tight end Brad Listorti today.

    Here is a bit from the team's press release:

    The New England Patriots have signed free agent linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and free agent tight end Brad Listorti. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

    Banta-Cain, 28, was originally drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round (239th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound linebacker played for the Patriots for four seasons from 2003-06, playing in 54 games with five starts over that period. Banta-Cain was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an unrestricted free agent on March 3, 2007, and played for the 49ers for two seasons (2007-08), playing in 28 games with 10 starts for San Francisco. For his career, Banta-Cain has played in 82 games with 15 starts and has recorded 97 tackles (65 solo), 12.0 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 71 special teams tackles. As a rookie in 2003, the Sunnyvale, Calif. native played in the final nine games of the regular season and had nine special teams tackles. He also appeared in two playoff games for the Patriots following the 2003 season, including Super Bowl XXXVIII. In 2004, he played in every regular-season and playoff game, and his 23 special teams tackles in the regular season ranked second on the team. In 2005, he played in 13 games and had 10 special teams tackles. In 2006, he played in every game for the Patriots and started five regular-season contests while making 40 tackles (27 solo) and finishing fourth on the team with a career-high 5.5 sacks. He started four of the final five regular-season games in 2006, after Mike Vrabel moved to inside linebacker following a season-ending injury to Junior Seau. The California-Berkeley product joined the 49ers prior to the 2007 season, and in his first year in San Francisco played in every game with a career-high 10 starts and had a career-high 59 tackles (37 solo), 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in the end zone for his first career touchdown. Last season, Banta-Cain played in 12 games and recorded seven tackles (3 solo) and 19 special teams stops. He was released by the 49ers on Feb. 11, 2009.

    Listorti, 24, was originally signed by the Atlanta Falcons as a rookie free agent from the University of Massachusetts on May 21, 2008. The 6-foot-4-inch, 255-pound tight end was waived by the Falcons on Aug. 11, 2008. During the 2008 season, Listorti had two stints on the New York Jets’ practice squad - from Sept. 11-23 and from Oct. 22-Nov. 4.

    Tom Brady, Part II

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 18, 2009 02:02 PM

    ALLSTON – The first five minutes of Tom Brady’s interview with reporters is in the previous blog post. Parts of the remainder of the interview are included here, as Brady was in town to provide 1,000 laptops as part of his work with the Patriots Charitable Foundation and the One Laptop Per Child program.

    Brady was asked to clarify that the infection in his knee is now cleared, and if he has concern with the infection going forward.

    “I’m not worried about, I don’t think anybody is … when you have infections, they say ‘five years later, something could happen.’ There is nothing I know of. I’m not being treated for anything," he said. "I’m going through as if this was our offseason conditioning program. I’m lifting and running, and focusing on strength, and working on the game film, and those types of things. It’s exciting to be back doing things that I like and enjoy.”

    Asked if he was able to move and put torque into a throw at this point, Brady said: “Yeah. You wouldn’t know that I had surgery if you watched me.”

    He then joked that his biggest problems are on the golf course.

    “I can’t putt the ball,” he cracked.

    Brady was asked if he’s been working out at Gillette Stadium in the Dana Farber Field House, or if he’s been on the West Coast.

    “I’m doing both,” he responded. “I’ve been out on the West Coast – I had some family obligations that are part of my life, so I spend time out there. Then I come back here and do my rehab. Everyone is feeling good about that.”

    Brady was then asked “So Patriots fans have nothing to be worried about?”

    “I mean, I hope not. I’m not worried. I don’t think our coaches are worried. When you’re sitting here in February, and not out there in minicamp, you can make all the predictions in the world. But I’m just excited to see my teammates back here in March, we’re all going to be working toward our goal. Unfortunately we didn’t make the playoffs this year, and didn’t have an opportunity to try to win the Super Bowl. Obviously, that’s what our goal is every year.”

    Brady was asked questions about his involvement in the “One Laptop Per Child” program, a trip to Africa a few years ago, and his sister’s current trip there.

    The discussion later turned back to football and his rehabilitation.

    “I’m moved on, I really have, that happened a long time ago. To me, it’s a non-issue," he said. "Now it’s about trying to move on with the normal getting ready for the season – you get ready by lifting weights and running, you get ready by studying film and getting to know your coaches, by getting to know your teammates. I know a lot of us are excited to get back and do those types of things. When you’re injured, no one likes to come back and rehab from injuries, because you can’t do the normal stuff. I think I’m at the point now where I’m back doing what I need to do.”

    Brady was then asked about having the year off, and how hungry he is to come back.

    “The hard part is, I said, it’s like you’re stuck outside that door and all the kids are in here playing basketball and you’re like the one kid out there watching. But that’s part of it,” he said. “You play this game, it’s physical. You’re not sitting behind a desk. You could probably get injured sitting behind a desk, too, but you’re a lot more injury prone when you have 300-pound guys running after you. It happened, and I dealt with it, and I’m moving on. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead. Like I said, I’m a positive person and I try to focus on the great things, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

    Brady was then asked why he didn’t attend games and join his teammates on the sidelines in 2008.

    “Bill and I talked about it, and I don’t think he wanted me to be a distraction. He said ‘I don’t want you to stand there and every time we throw an incomplete pass, the camera is focused on you.’ I said I agree. I don’t want to be that either. I want us to go about our job. I’m going to be in there every day doing the rehab. I’m there for whoever needs me, and to see my teammates. He didn’t want me to stand there and be a cheerleader all day, and I said that’s fine with me.”

    Brady was asked if he is counting the days down to opening day.

    “Yeah, that will be great,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do in the meantime. We have mini-camps and passing camps, the offseason conditioning program. Training camp is always a fun time for the players – it is for me at least. Some guys hate it. The 300 pounders hate it. But I’m excited for it.”

    Brady was asked about the time that he learned he had an infection, and if he feared his career might be over because it was a situation that was out of his control.

    “I never looked at it like that,” he said. “Like I said, I don’t focus on the worst case. I said ‘What is it? What do we need to do? How do we treat it? And if it’s not the case, and it gets to the point where there needs to be something, then we’ll do it. There is nothing as far as I know that we need to do.

    “I’m always uncomfortable answering injury questions, because Bill never want me to. He’s going to [razz] me so bad. It is what it was. Like I said, I’ve moved on. I’ve had so many great people help me. I had trainers and doctors. I said before I’m like the most well taken of knee patient in history.”

    Brady was asked about his new quarterbacks coach, Bill O’Brien.

    “I’ve been around him for two years – he’s very qualified, he’s very smart, works hard,” Brady said. “He’s a great addition. Obviously, any time Bill hires someone, you know they are very qualified.”

    More from Tom Brady

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 18, 2009 01:20 PM

    ALLSTON -- The first question Brady was asked was about his knee.

    Tom Brady tossed a football at a charity event today in Allston.
    Tom Brady tossed a football at a charity event today in Allston. (Globe Staff Photo / Mike Reiss)
    “I’m feeling great. I’m feeling really good. Everything is progressing just as I expected," he said. "There is a lot of hard work that needs to take place, by myself, by my teammates, by our coaches, to get us back to where we want to be.”

    Brady was asked if he had a setback.

    “I think initially I said there was,” Brady responded. “Since then, there has been nothing. Just working hard on my rehab. There is not much to say when you’re not playing. I’m just trying to focus on what I need to focus on – get stronger, and mentally stronger, so I can go out and try to perform as best as I can next year.”

    Brady was then asked if he was throwing at this point.

    “Oh yeah,” he said.

    Brady was asked if he could forecast if he’ll be ready for minicamps, training camps or the home opener.

    “You know, Bill never likes us to forecast anything. It’s like me asking you guys ‘are you going to be doing your job in eight months?’ Yeah, you certainly think so. There is no reason why I shouldn’t,” he said.

    “It’s just a matter of getting to that time. I wish it was right around the corner. I wish it was here now. It’s not, but the competitor in me has to sit back and wait and continue to work and try to get stronger. We have to build a foundation as a team. There have been a lot of changes. Along with guys who have had surgery and are improving, there are coaches there who have to learn our system. There are a lot of things that have to take place.”

    Brady was asked what he is able to do as part of his rehab.

    “I’m doing everything,” he answered. “I’m playing quarterback, that’s what I’m doing … I’m doing everything. I’m golfing.”

    After saying that, Brady was then asked by a reporter that he has no reason to believe that there have been any setbacks that wouldn’t have him ready to go.

    “There is nothing, no, there is nothing that I’ve experienced or been through that would lead me to believe [that],” he said. “This is just a normal rehab process.”

    Brady was then asked a hypothetical – if training camp were to start today, would he be ready to go?

    “I’d be ready, but I don’t know if my trainer would [feel that way],” Brady said. “I was out there working out yesterday with him, and he feels great, and I feel great. I was out there with Billy O’Brien, our quarterback coach, and we’re doing our work. It’s hard to say – I’ve never been through injured, I’ve never been through anything like this. But it’s those things that happen. You play long enough in this game, you get injured, you focus on your rehab, and you move on. There are a lot of guys on this team who have surgery – or you don’t have surgery but you’re dinged up and need other types of rehab. You just go forward as best you can.”

    Brady was then asked about Matt Cassel.

    “Matt and I, we’re great friends. I actually worked out with him on Sunday, he’s doing great," Brady said. "He’s a great person, a great player, I’m lucky to have him as a teammate and I wish we could play together for our entire careers. We’re great friends. He did an incredible job.”

    Brady was asked about how much fear he had initially when he first learned that his surgically repaired knee had an infection.

    “Well, it’s unexpected, so like a lot of things in life that are unexpected, I listened to it, I made the decisions we had to make, and we moved forward,” he said. “I did the best I could do, and people that helped me through this entire process did everything they could do. I’m never one to dwell on bad news. We lose a game, I move on. I get hurt – you get hurt two minutes into the season, and everybody moves on – that’s the way it is. That’s part of this game, you have to be mentally tough and you have to understand that this is part of your profession, part of the environment we’re in. I’m looking forward to getting out there playing – I think that’s what I enjoy most. The training part is fun, but at the same time, the playing part is the best. That’s what I miss the most.”

    Brady was asked if he is now married.

    “I said may – maybe, maybe not,” he responded. “No, all those reports are, unfortunately, not true. I’m in a great spot in my life. I have a lot of people that care about me and that I love, and love being around. My girlfriend is certainly one of them.”

    Tom Brady says he's on course

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 18, 2009 01:13 PM

    ALLSTON -- Quarterback Tom Brady made a charity appearance today at a Boys and Girls club as part of the Patriots Charitable Foundation and answered questions for more than 12 minutes in his most expansive comments since his knee injury.

    Brady indicated that his recovery remains on schedule and he sees no reason why he won't be ready for the Patriots' season opener.

    We'll have much more in a bit ...

    Yates & '06 Vikings game

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 18, 2009 08:15 AM

    Say the name of a Patriots player and sometimes a specific game or performance comes to mind.

    When the Patriots released C/G Billy Yates on Tuesday, the first thought that came to mind was "2006, Vikings, big road win."

    I couldn't exactly remember why, but after flipping back through the team's media guide, the picture came into a clearer focus.

    That game had some significant pre-game hype. The Patriots were 5-1, the Vikings at 4-2. It was on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Patriots were having their issues at receiver, and the game, from a Vikings perspective, was considered a test to see if they were legitimate contenders.

    That was Yates' first career start -- he was subbing in for an injured Stephen Neal -- and it wouldn't have been as notable had the Patriots not come out with a spread-the-field, pass-first approach.

    It was a significant change in strategical approach, made in part because the Vikings had the No. 1-rated run defense with defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams plugging the middle.

    Given the noise in the cramped, steamy Metrodome, it was a tough spot to leave the offensive linemen on an island in pass protection, especially someone like Yates making his first career start. Tom Brady, with the luxury of some pretty solid protection, ended up throwing for 372 yards that day in a resounding 31-7 win.

    Right guards like Yates don't make many headlines. In all, he played in only 25 games with 11 starts in his time with the Patriots (2004-2008).

    Yet that Vikings game stands out.

    Washington & Yates cut

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 17, 2009 06:30 PM

    The Patriots released WR Kelley Washington and C/G Billy Yates today.

    Washington, 29, has primarily been a special teams contributor in each of the last two seasons since signing with the Patriots.

    Yates, 28, has been a valuable reserve at center and guard, filling in as a starter in seven games in 2008.

    Both players were entering the final year of their contracts.

    Washington was scheduled to earn $800,000, with a $57,000 workout bonus. His salary cap charge was $1.08 million.

    Yates was scheduled to earn $650,000, with a $32,000 workout bonus. He did have an escalator in his contract that could have upped his salary by another $200,000. Not counting the escalator, his salary cap charge was $790,600.

    Mail is delivered

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 17, 2009 10:30 AM

    Every Tuesday on Boston.com, questions from Patriots fans are answered as part of a weekly mailbag. This week's mailbag has been posted and includes some of the following topics:

  • An overall look at the draft and if it is considered a strong crop of prospects.

  • Identifying a few defensive players to keep on the draft radar.

  • Is outside linebacker really a top need for the Patriots?

  • Assessing some possible veteran free agents, like Ravens CB Chris McAlister, and asking if they might be a fit for the Patriots.

  • How might the Patriots view TE Benjamin Watson and RB Laurence Maroney in their future building efforts?

  • Extra points

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 17, 2009 07:30 AM

    IZZO TO TESTIFY IN BONDS CASE: Writing in Tuesday's editions, Boston Globe colleague Bob Hohler provides a detailed account of Patriots LB Larry Izzo and his upcoming testimony in Barry Bonds' criminal trial. Hohler cites some of the prosecution's court filings regarding Izzo: "Mr. Izzo will testify that he was a professional football player and that he first contacted Greg Anderson by phone in approximately January 2003. Mr. Izzo will also testify that he first met Anderson in person in approximately May 2003 at BALCO and submitted a urine sample at BALCO at Anderson's request. Mr. Izzo will also testify that [he] submitted additional urine samples to Anderson at later times as well. Mr. Izzo will also testify about receiving performance-enhancing substances from Anderson, about instructions from Anderson about how to administer the substances, about the schedule Anderson gave to him for administering the substances, and about what Mr. Anderson told him about the efficacy of those substances."

    49ERS NOT IN POTENTIAL MARKET FOR CASSEL: When assessing the potential trade market for Patriots QB Matt Cassel, the 49ers can be crossed off the list. Speaking at a "state of the franchise" event Monday night, San Francisco general manager Scot McCloughan said acquiring a top quarterback like Cassel was "not feasible", according to the thorough Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The 49ers do hope to add a quarterback, though.

    ANOTHER MATT CASSEL PERSPECTIVE: Vic Carucci of NFL.com details the Patriots' situation with Matt Cassel, noting that the team has executed a sound plan by assigning him the franchise tag.

    Tom Brady set for Boston charity appearance

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 16, 2009 05:30 PM

    Patriots QB Tom Brady is scheduled to be in Boston on Wednesday for a charity appearance in which he will provide 1,000 laptops to schoolchildren as part of the "One Laptop Per Child" program. Children from 31 countries and Boys & Girls Clubs across New England will receive new laptops from Brady.

    The Patriots disseminated information on Brady's appearance to media members this afternoon.

    Brady is expected to be joined by New England Patriots Charitable Foundation President Josh Kraft and One Laptop per Child Chairman Nicholas Negroponte at a local Boys & Girls Club. Children at the Boys & Girls Club will chat live with a classroom of their peers in Uganda and establish virtual “pen pals.”

    Last week as a guest on Howard Stern's Sirius Radio program, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that Brady has been rehabilitating between the East Coast and the West Coast.

    Raji draws link to Wilfork

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 16, 2009 08:45 AM

    The NFL combine is set for this week -- Thursday is the first day -- and that means it's an opportunity to become more familiar with some of the prospects eligible for this year's NFL Draft.

    Comparisons are often drawn to NFL players and in the case of Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who is a projected first-round draft choice, a link has been drawn to the Patriots.

    "The first tape I put on of him, the first person I thought of was Vince Wilfork when he was in college -- he reminded me of Vince at Miami," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "He's interesting because some kids can only play in one scheme and other kids are scheme diverse. With B.J., a 3-4 team would look at him and say 'he can play the nose'. I think the 4-3 teams will like him as well. So he's not just one scheme."

    Mayock believes that Raji will be the first defensive tackle off the board.

    Cautioning that things can change between now and the draft -- and that he's yet to put together a mock draft -- Mayock projected that Raji would be around the 19th overall selection, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Extra points

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 15, 2009 04:05 PM

    SHOTGUN SPARKED CASSEL'S RISE: Greg Cosell of NFL Films, writing for the Sporting News, details how the shotgun formation sparked Matt Cassel's success in 2008. Writes Cosell: "What the Patriots learned as the season progressed was that Cassel was far more comfortable and relaxed playing in the shotgun. Their overtime loss to the Jets in mid-November solidified that belief. The Patriots fell behind 24-6 in the second quarter, and from that point on, Cassel was exclusively in the shotgun. That defeat was the first of six consecutive games in which 88 percent of Cassel's pass attempts came out of the shotgun."

    SAMMY MORRIS AND HIS TRIP TO IRAQ: Patriots RB Sammy Morris, writing on NFL.com, files the final entry of his journal from his trip to Iraq. Writes Morris: "As this is my last entry about my visit to the troops in Kuwait and Iraq, I have to start by saying that I have a newfound respect for what the men and women serving our country do over here ... I've been here just over a week and I'm already a wreck ..."

    ANOTHER MOCK DRAFT TO CONSIDER: Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com joins the mock draft party and has the Patriots selecting Northern Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker Larry English in the first round.

    Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel & the QB market

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 15, 2009 08:35 AM

    Quarterback Matt Cassel's potential trade value has been a lively topic of discussion this offseason.

    In gauging the possible market, it helps to look at the other options available to teams. The free-agent quarterback crop was nicely broken down on the National Football Post website (remove Luke McCown, who has since re-signed in Tampa Bay).

    Another name to consider is Cleveland's Derek Anderson, whose situation is dissected in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Tony Grossi.

    If an interested team was deciding between Cassel (15 career starts) and Anderson (27 career starts), one would assume that Cassel gets the nod.

    The only wrinkle is economics, and as Grossi points out, Anderson would be more of a bargain in that regard.

    Projecting a system fit

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 14, 2009 10:30 AM


    One of the most difficult aspects of NFL personnel evaluation is projecting how a player in one team's system will fit in another system.

    This thought came to mind because of two situations that have unfolded in recent weeks:

  • 1) The 49ers releasing former Patriots OLB Tully Banta-Cain after two disappointing seasons.

  • 2) Listening to a handful of analysts opine on what Patriots QB Matt Cassel might be worth in a trade.

    Banta-Cain was one of the 49ers' significant free-agent signings in March of 2007, inking a reported three-year, $12.2 million contract. In four seasons in New England (2003-2006), he had worked his way into the No. 3 role at outside linebacker, playing primarily in sub packages as a rush specialist, and filling in as a starter in spot duty.

    The 49ers looked at that body of work and made a projection that Banta-Cain was ready to make the jump to full-time starter in their scheme.

    It turned out to be a mistake.

    While Banta-Cain and Cassel are obviously two significantly different situations -- two different players at different positions with different resumes -- they do share a link when it comes to teams making that all-important projection.

    Because the Patriots have one of the top coaching staffs in the NFL, they do a terrific job putting their players in position to succeed -- highlighting their strengths and not leaving them in situations where they will be overly vulnerable.

    The Patriots seemed to get the most out of Banta-Cain ... just as they did Randall Gay ... Eugene Wilson ... Dante Stallworth ... Tom Ashworth … all players who were awarded larger contracts elsewhere but haven't/didn't thrive like they did in New England.

    There are cases where other teams make the correct projection with a Patriots player (e.g. Eagles, Asante Samuel), although one has to look a little harder to find them.

    So the most important question that interested teams must ask themselves when it comes to Cassel is: How will Cassel transfer from the Patriots’ system to our system?

    It’s the ultimate challenge for any personnel evaluator, and it seems to take on an added importance when assessing players from the Patriots because of the excellence of the coaching staff and the strong system in place.

  • Part IV: What is Matt Cassel worth in a trade?

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 13, 2009 01:25 PM

    Over the last few weeks, the opinions of analysts have been sought to answer the question “What might Matt Cassel be worth in a trade?”

    Part of what makes the situation compelling is that there has been no consensus.

    Former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci, for example, believes Cassel would command a first-round draft choice and something else. Those thoughts were echoed by former NFL personnel executive Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper also touted Cassel as being first-round worthy.

    Meanwhile, former NFL quarterback Jim Miller – now an analyst on Sirius NFL Radio – set the bar a bit lower.

    Today, former NFL coach Dan Reeves was posed the question.

    “When I look at it, you factor in that he did a great job for them for one year, with a really good supporting cast. There are a lot of teams that don’t have the supporting cast – the offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers, a good coaching staff that has been together for a while. There were a lot of things going for him. That’s not to diminish what he did, because I thought it was an incredible job, and all you can control is what you can control and Matt did a fantastic job. So he certainly made himself a lot of money. What is that worth? A lot will depend on what those other teams have in terms of a salary cap situation, what their draft situation is. There are a whole bunch of things and all it takes is one team. Giving up a number-one draft choice, though, I think that’s a steep price to pay in this case.”

    Extra points

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 13, 2009 07:30 AM

    WATSON BELIEVES IN CHANGE: Patriots TE Benjamin Watson caught up with Boston Globe colleague Christopher L. Gasper Thursday night at a charity appearance, and said that he believes Shane Waldron is a good fit as the team's new tight ends coach. "Last year he was doing a lot with the offense, and he was in all of our meetings and everything. He didn't have the title of coach, but he was definitely involved in the planning and the breaking down of film and stuff like that, so it's great for him to have a chance to move up and have an official title. ..."

    BUSINESS-FILLED OFFSEASON FOR MIKE VRABEL: One of the big stories of the NFL offseason is the NFL Players Association and its search for a new executive director. As Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports, the list of finalists has been narrowed to three by an executive committee that includes Patriots LB Mike Vrabel. Vrabel is the Patriots' player representative and has taken an active role in helping the players association transition following the death of Gene Upshaw.

    RANDY MOSS TD CATCH VS. JETS: NFL.com has video of the Top 10 catches of the 2008 season -- from a segment aired on NFL Network -- and Randy Moss's end-of-regulation touchdown reception against the Jets is in the mix. After viewing the catches, co-hosts Rich Eisen and Rod Woodson seem to agree that Moss's grab should be ranked higher.

    Coaching, scouting analysis

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 12, 2009 02:55 PM


    Analysis from the Patriots’ announcement today – naming Shane Waldron tight ends coach, Jon Robinson director of college scouting, and Monti Ossenfort national scout:

    All three moves are promotions from within, which reflects Bill Belichick’s general philosophy of rewarding those who have been with the team and understand the Patriots’ specific system.

    Coaching-wise, Waldron replaces Pete Mangurian as tight ends coach. Coupled with Josh Boyer’s promotion from coaching assistant to defensive backs coach (Boyer replaces Dom Capers), the Patriots’ staff will be younger in 2009.

    In addition to coaching tight ends, Waldron figures to work closely with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia on the team’s running schemes.

    Belichick still has an opening for a wide receivers coach.

    On the personnel side, Robinson fills the position previously held by Thomas Dimitroff, who was hired as Atlanta Falcons general manager in January of 2008. The Patriots did not have someone with the director of college scouting title last year. The promotion puts Robinson one step closer to possibly running his own department in the future.

    Ossenfort’s bump to national scout gives the Patriots two people with that title. Last season, Bob Quinn was the team’s only national scout.

    Patriots coaching, scouting moves

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 12, 2009 02:08 PM

    The Patriots announced today that Shane Waldron is the team's new tight ends coach, and Jon Robinson has been named director of college scouting.

    Also, Monti Ossenfort has been named national scout.

    Here is some of the text of the team's official release, with analysis to come:

    Tight Ends Coach Shane Waldron will enter his second season as a member of the Patriots coaching staff and his fifth season with the organization in 2009. Waldron spent the 2008 season as an offensive coaching assistant for New England. He previously spent three seasons with the Patriots as a football operations intern and a football operations assistant from 2002-04.

    Director of College Scouting Jon Robinson will enter his eighth season in the Patriots’ personnel department and served as the assistant director of college scouting in 2008. He joined the Patriots in 2002 as an area scout and served in that position for four seasons from 2002-05. In 2006, he became a regional scout and served in that role for two seasons from 2006-07.

    National Scout Monti Ossenfort will enter his eighth season in the NFL and his fifth year with the Patriots, joining Bob Quinn as a Patriots national scout. Ossenfort was an area scout for the Patriots for three seasons from 2006-08 and was a personnel assistant for New England in 2003. He gained his first player personnel experience in 2002 as an intern in the Houston Texans’ pro personnel department. After spending the 2003 season with the Patriots, he returned to the Texans and served as a pro and college scouting assistant in 2004 and as a college scout in 2005.

    Honor for Andre Tippett

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 12, 2009 08:00 AM

    Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in April. As the New Jersey Jewish News reports, Tippett is one of seven members of the Class of 2009.

    The Class of 2009 includes:

  • Ed Block (former Baltimore Colts athletic trainer)
  • Linda Cohn (ESPN)
  • Gary Gubner (Olympics)
  • Marvin Miller (former executive director of MLB Players Association)
  • Dick Schaap (media)
  • Andre Tippett (football Hall of Famer)
  • Dara Torres (Olympics)

  • Kraft talks Brady on Stern

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 11, 2009 09:02 PM

    During an appearance on "The Howard Stern" show this morning on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, Patriots chairman/CEO Robert Kraft touched on the quarterback's progress in his rehabilitation from a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee.

    Kraft, who said he is a listener of Stern's show, said Brady is "doing very well," but didn't go into specifics.

    Stern's co-host, Robin Quivers, asked Kraft what was wrong with Brady.

    "I don't think anything is wrong with him," Kraft said. "He tore his ACL in the first game. He's been rehabbing. He rehabs between the East Coast and the West Coast. Our people, our trainers have worked with him. He's doing very well."

    Stern asked (somewhat facetiously) if Brady would be replaced if he didn't play well in the first three or four games of the 2009 season. Kraft said no.

    "He is your guy?" Kraft was then asked.

    "He's our guy," said Kraft.

    Much of the beginning of the interview was Stern trying to engage Kraft in talk about how Brady's relationship with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen could be having a negative effect on the QB's career.

    A topic Kraft dismissed.

    "I've learned in life it's hard for anyone to make a judgement on what's right for somebody else," the Patriots owner replied. "He's such a high-quality guy. He knows what's right for him. We're so lucky to have him in the Patriots organization."

    Kraft on Sirius NFL Radio

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 11, 2009 07:30 PM

    Patriots owner Robert Kraft was an in-studio guest on Howard Stern's Sirius Radio show this morning, and he also had a brief visit on Sirius NFL Radio's "Opening Drive" program with Bob Papa, Randy Cross and Peter King. Kraft explained that he was at Sirius visiting CEO Mel Karmazin.

    Boston Globe colleague Christopher Gasper transcribed the football-specific parts of Kraft's interview on the "Opening Drive" program (the other parts of the interview were economy-based), and it started with Papa reflecting on his meeting with Kraft prior to the Patriots' Nov. 13 loss to the Jets. Papa was the play-by-play man for NFL Network that night.

    "Not making the playoffs was very painful and that particular game -- I remember that drive that Matt [Cassel] engineered at the end and the great catch that Randy Moss made to tie it up, and then Brett Favre probably had one of his best drives in overtime. Unfortunately that game didn't go our way, but it was a great game for the NFL Network," Kraft said on the program.

    "I think Coach Belichick and his staff probably did one of their finest coaching jobs this year. They've had nine seasons with us, and I think what they accomplished with this team and what the players did and the way Matt Cassel rallied the team it was a real fun season, but then we dropped off a cliff at the end of the year. I'll tell you the story, we became Jets fans for three hours."

    At the end of the interview, King asked Kraft if he had a gut feeling that another team would make a mega-offer, with a first-round draft pick, for Cassel.

    "I try to talk about things I know," Kraft answered. "I would say I'm rooting for the economy to take on. ... I'm rooting for things to happen in the NFL that put the New England Patriots in the best position to win. What that means, that could go any number of paths. But in life it's always good to have more good people than you really need. I think that right now the New England Patriots are blessed at the quarterback position."

    Kiper likes Cassel over Stafford, Sanchez

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 11, 2009 10:55 AM

    ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper is holding a conference call today and the Patriots came up a few times.

    Kiper was asked to put himself in the position of the Lions (picks 1, 20, and 33) and Chiefs (picks 3 and 34), assuming they were considering taking quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez in the draft.

    Given that, would he take Stafford or Sanchez, or would he rather have Matt Cassel in a trade?

    "If I were Detroit or Kansas City, I would make that move in a heartbeat. If you’re asking me if I would rather have Matt Cassel or Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez, I’d rather have Matt Cassel," Kiper answered.

    Kiper doubted that Cassel would be available, however, saying he's an insurance policy for Tom Brady.

    “He looked like he should have been the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. It’s amazing. To watch him play this year, if he would have been the No. 1 pick in the draft, people would have been very happy with the way he’s playing right now,” Kiper said.

    “He came out the same year the other three quarterbacks did [Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell] and right now he’s better than those other three – and I’m including [Jay] Cutler in that. I would rather have Cassel than Cutler. So, to me, I think Cassel is more than worthy of being a guy that the Kansas City Chiefs or Detroit Lions go after. He’s played to the level of a No. 1 pick overall this year.”

    At one point, Kiper was asked if he sees good value where the Patriots are picking in the first round (23rd selection) when it comes to defensive backs and linebackers.

    “Yeah, I think linebacker could be a very good position – the Clay Matthews, the Brian Cushings, Larry English, those type of players would probably be there for New England at that point,” Kiper answered.

    “In the secondary, the same thing. There are going to be some guys possibly there at the cornerback spot. Maybe a safety like William Moore [of Missouri]. But more likely a corner will still be there at that point. That could be a D.J. Moore at Vanderbilt, a Sean Smith at Utah – a player like that could still be there.

    “I would say, linebacker, it could fall pretty well for New England. The player I had them taking in the projection I made was Brian Cushing of USC.”

    Kiper said that Cushing is versatile and could play a lot of different roles in a defense.

    Agent: Favre retiring ... for good

    Posted by Chris Forsberg, Boston.com Staff February 11, 2009 10:52 AM

    Is Brett Favre hanging up his helmet for good? Reports today suggest Favre told his agent to relay to the New York Jets his plans to retire ... and stay retired.

    Favre (Marc Serota / Getty Images)

    From the Associated Press:

    Brett Favre's agent says the New York Jets quarterback will retire.

    The 39-year-old Favre instructed agent James "Bus" Cook to tell the team Wednesday that he won't return for a 19th NFL season -- and second with the Jets.

    In an e-mail to ESPN, Favre says he has no regrets about ending his career in New York and praises the team's owner, front office and fired coach Eric Mangini.

    Favre wrote he enjoyed his time with the Jets, despite a late-season slump that saw New York go from 8-3 to missing the playoffs. Favre threw nine interceptions as the Jets went 1-4 down the stretch, and a torn right biceps might have contributed.

    From NFL.com:

    After ESPN broke the news Wednesday that Jets quarterback Brett Favre was planning to retire, a simple question was posed to Favre’s agent, Bus Cook.

    Cook was asked whether this retirement was for good or whether Favre could change his mind this summer.

    Cook responded, “For good.”

    And so it is that Favre is finished, finally, as many thought he was close to this time last year.

    It also means that the trade compensation on Favre is complete. New York will surrender its third-round pick in April to Green Bay and the Packers will send the Jets their seventh-round pick in 2010.

    What are your thoughts? Is Favre retired for good? Leave your opinion in the comments section.

    Mayock, the Patriots, & outside linebackers

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 11, 2009 09:10 AM

    With the 23rd draft pick in the first round – and two selections in the second round (47th and 58th) – what areas might the Patriots target?

    Draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network thinks outside linebacker could be one area, citing the age of the team’s starters at the position (Mike Vrabel turns 34 in August, Adalius Thomas is 32 in August).

    “This is, I think, the best year for outside linebackers that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Mayock, who answered questions on a conference call Tuesday, and later followed up with reporters whose questions weren’t answered due to overflowing demand.

    “So this is a situation where need lines up with depth in the draft. In that 3-4 scheme, there are at least four college defensive ends – 4-3 defensive ends – that I think are going to be rush linebackers.

    “Aaron Curry [of Wake Forest] will be gone very early, obviously. Brian Orakpo from Texas, he’s a defensive end who I think is going to be a 3-4 rush linebacker -- I think he’ll be gone somewhere in the top 10 or 12 picks. Brian Cushing [of Southern California] is more of a 4-3 [strongside] linebacker, and some people think he can be an inside ‘backer in a 3-4 and that the Patriots would look at a guy like Cushing, and maybe they would. But I would think the outside is more of their priority.

    “Which then brings in guys like Aaron Maybin from Penn State, an explosive edge rusher. Larry English, from Northern Illinois, another 4-3 defensive end who is going to be a rush linebacker. He’s kind of a late-1 to a mid-2, I think. Everette Brown, from Florida State, kind of the same thing – a late-1 to a late-2 – a defensive end who will probably be a rush linebacker. Clay Matthews from USC. Clint Sintim, who played in the 3-4 at Virginia and Al Groh, obviously the same system as Bill [Belichick], so it’s a little easier to evaluate.

    “Those are some names, all guys who go by the end of the second round.”

    Vince Wilfork in focus

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 11, 2009 07:15 AM

    With the Patriots currently committing $29.2 million of their salary cap on two quarterbacks -- Tom Brady and Matt Cassel -- it makes it harder for the team to spread the wealth to more players. That spreading-the-wealth approach has been a staple of the team's success.

    Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, whose contract expires after the 2009 season, is one player who could be directly affected if this becomes a longer-term situation.

    Colleague Christopher L. Gasper caught up with Wilfork for a piece in Wednesday's editions of the Boston Globe.

    Wilfork indicated that it's been a year since there has been dialogue on a contract extension.

    "The ball is not in my court right now. Nothing has happened. No progress has been made. I thought maybe there would be some sort of move forward, but everything is at a standstill. I'm sure they'll do whatever they have to do. I have that last year, and I'm preparing to play and play well. It's not going to change me. But they know the longer it takes the more it costs."

    Mail is delivered

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 10, 2009 12:00 PM

    Every Tuesday on Boston.com, questions from Patriots fans are answered as part of a weekly mailbag. This week's mailbag has been posted and includes some of the following topics:

  • More on QB Matt Cassel, what teams might be interested in a trade, and what he might be worth.

  • Free agency and how the Patriots might approach that part of the offseason.

  • Possible targets in the draft.

  • Assessing the team's coaching change on special teams.

  • Graham joins staff as coaching assistant

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 10, 2009 10:25 AM

    The Patriots have confirmed today's Toledo Blade report that University of Toledo assistant coach Patrick Graham has resigned to accept a position with the club. The team also confirmed that the position Graham will fill is a coaching assistant.

    Graham was a graduate assistant under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame in 2007-2008.

    A coaching assistant is generally considered an entry-level position. The Patriots, like other clubs, sometimes promote their coaching assistants to coach specific positions in future years (e.g. Josh Boyer and defensive backs in 2009).

    The club employed three coaching assistants in 2008 -- Boyer, Brian Flores, and Shane Waldron.

    Coaching addition

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 10, 2009 07:10 AM

    The Toledo Blade reports today that University of Toledo assistant coach Patrick Graham has resigned to accept a position with the New England Patriots.

    The University of Toledo's official website has more detail on Graham, who was a graduate assistant on Charlie Weis's staff at Notre Dame in 2007-2008.

    Given his experience, Graham could be tabbed for a position as a coaching assistant in New England. He played football at Yale and is a native of Waterbury, Conn.

    Phifer back in the game

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 10, 2009 04:45 AM

    Linebacker Roman Phifer, who played for the Patriots from 2001-2004 and was a member of the franchise's three Super Bowl championship clubs, is back in the NFL.

    He's been hired by the Denver Broncos as assistant linebackers coach.

    Phifer gives first-year head coach Josh McDaniels a New England-type presence on his staff, and someone players can look to and see multiple Super Bowl rings.

    Phifer's name still pops up in New England from time to time, mostly when Bill Belichick is asked what type of role a player might have on the club. Belichick often recalls how Phifer's role with the Patriots evolved quickly after he was signed as a veteran free agent in 2001.

    "We'll kind of teach you everything, then we'll define your role. His role, it turned out, was to play almost every play," Belichick says, noting that Phifer ended up playing about 98 percent of the snaps two years in a row.

    Kirwan's 10 points

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 9, 2009 04:40 PM

    In an informative piece that has connections to the Patriots and includes a picture of QB Matt Cassel at the top of the page, Pat Kirwan of NFL.com writes on 10 points to consider this offseason.

    One of the first points made by Kirwan is that new coaches like Josh McDaniels are likely to "reach back to the rosters with which they just worked to grab players who know the system, can bring the right message to the locker room and provide the sense of security that all leaders want."

    So that will be something to watch as the Patriots negotiate with their free agents, a group including WR Jabar Gaffney, RB Heath Evans, LB Larry Izzo, LS Lonie Paxton, RB LaMont Jordan and S James Sanders.

    Two other points from Kirwan that stood out were No. 3 (stockpiling draft picks due to labor uncertainty) and No. 8 (marrying the draft to free agency).

    Waiver period begins

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 9, 2009 08:30 AM

    Today marks the first day of the waiver period for the 2009 NFL season.

    Players with less than four previous pension-credited seasons are part of the waiver system. When they are waived, other clubs have a 24-hour claiming period.

    Players with at least four previous pension-credited seasons are not subject to the waiver system until after the trading deadline.

    Cassel to sign franchise tender

    Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 8, 2009 09:35 PM

    An NFL source has confirmed, as first reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, that Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel and his representatives sent a letter Saturday notifying the Patriots that Cassel accepts the non-exclusive franchise tag and the one-year, $14.65 million tender that goes with it.

    This is akin to the sides agreeing to contract terms.

    All that remains is for the Patriots to send Cassel a formal contract with the tender offer and he will sign it, guaranteeing himself a significant raise from the $520,000 he made last season. (Unlike standard NFL contracts, franchise tenders are guaranteed for the full amount.)

    The Patriots notified Cassel via a letter Thursday that they were designating him as their franchise player. Cassel's letter is a response to that letter.

    The franchise tender number for Cassel is the average of the top five salaries at the quarterback position.

    Cassel's acceptance of the $14.65 million tender means that the Patriots will have $29.27 million of the $123 million salary cap allocated to two quarterbacks, Cassel and Tom Brady, who will make $5 million in base salary in 2009 and an additional $3 in bonus money, but will carry a $14.62 million salary cap number due to the amortization of past bonus money.

    Having that much money tied up in two quarterbacks suggests the Patriots most likely will trade one of them, with the 26-year-old Cassel being the obvious candidate, for salary cap relief.

    Another option would be to try to keep both quarterbacks, but either extend the contract of Brady, whose contract runs through the 2010 season, or work out more than a one-year deal with Cassel.

    Patriots special teams rank highly

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 8, 2009 04:55 PM

    Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News publishes his annual special teams rankings today, and the Patriots rank seventh among the NFL's 32 teams.

    Gosselin uses 22 different categories when compiling his rankings, which are respected in many NFL circles, particularly among special teams coaches.

    The Patriots are in transition with their special teams units, as their coach of the last 10 years -- Brad Seely -- has moved on to the Cleveland Browns.

    The Patriots' new special teams coach, Scott O'Brien, was with Denver the last two seasons. The Broncos, with O'Brien as special teams coach, ranked 31st this past season in Gosselin's rankings.

    The Buffalo Bills top this year's rankings.

    ESPN: Cassel accepts tender offer

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 8, 2009 07:30 AM

    ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Saturday night that QB Matt Cassel faxed his acceptance of the non-exclusive franchise designation to the club, the NFL, and the NFL Players Association.

    The Globe has not confirmed the news, which was an expected course of action, at this time.

    The move is expected because it secures Cassel's future, as he would be guaranteed $14.65 million. Cassel earned a base salary of $520,000 in 2008.

    The Patriots can still trade Cassel.

    Because any trade essentially has to include two elements -- Cassel agreeing to a long-term contract extension with the club acquiring him, and the club acquiring him agreeing to trade compensation with the Patriots -- this doesn't change much.

    Connection in KC

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 7, 2009 07:45 AM

    The Kansas City Chiefs named Todd Haley their new head coach on Friday, and Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski draws a connection between Haley and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

    Posnanski pulls a snippet from Belichick's book "Education of a Coach" that reads:

    "Other kids had their hobbies. Some collected postage stamps and others had baseball cards. But Bill studied film."

    Posnanski then compares that to what Haley's father, Dick, said in a recent interview:

    "Todd loved looking at film when he was, I don't know, 11 or 12. And he was good at it right away."

    Later in the piece, first-year Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said: "You know, they do have similar backgrounds. ... It doesn't hurt. They do have a lot in common in their background. They have a few differences, too."

    Assessing possible Cassel trade options

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 6, 2009 11:25 AM

    Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post writes on the teams that might be in the market for a quarterback, and thus, could be an option to pursue Matt Cassel.

    Lombardi, in an educated guess, picks eight teams that he puts into the "obvious" category. He adds two sleepers at the end.

    Lombardi writes:

    "This is going to be very interesting to watch, but one thing all these teams must do is decide how Cassel compares with the draft class at quarterback. It is that evaluation that will allow teams to make the right decision.

    Extra points

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 6, 2009 07:55 AM

    CASSEL IN FOCUS ON SI.COM: Bucky Brooks of SI.com asks the question "Is Matt Cassel a one-year wonder of the next great quarterback?"

    MORE CASSEL ON NBCSPORTS.COM: Tom E. Curran of NBCSports.com writes on "The curious case of quarterback Matt Cassel" and details why the Patriots would spend $14.65 million on a backup quarterback. Former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist is quoted in the piece and talks about a "cost-opportunity" situation.

    WELKER AT PRO BOWL: The Honolulu Advertiser has a photo gallery of Pro Bowl practice on its website, which includes a shot of Patriots WR Wes Welker catching a pass.

    ON THIS DATE: Four years ago today, the Patriots captured Super Bowl XXXIX, defeating the Eagles, 24-21, in Jacksonville, Fla. Receiver Deion Branch was named the game's Most Valuable Player after tying the Super Bowl record with 11 receptions, as the Patriots joined the Cowboys as the only NFL teams to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span.

    Wilcots, Mort on Cassel

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 5, 2009 10:57 PM

    Analyst Solomon Wilcots, appearing on the "NFL Total Access" program on NFL Network, shares his opinion on what it means that the Patriots assigned the franchise tag to QB Matt Cassel. The video from NFL.com can be found here. Wilcots doesn't believe the Patriots will keep Cassel as a backup at $14.65 million.

    Meanwhile, Chris Mortensen shares his thoughts on Cassel on ESPN. Mortensen believes that Cassel is more than likely to remain with the Patriots. The video can be found here.

    Matt Cassel analysis

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 5, 2009 06:35 PM


    The Patriots’ decision to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel today – on the first possible day – creates a larger negotiating window with teams that might be interested in acquiring Cassel in a trade.

    The Patriots had until Feb. 19 to make the decision.

    The Patriots could also give Cassel’s representatives permission to speak with interested teams about a possible contract – a key piece because any trade for Cassel would have to include a long-term contract extension.

    With those pieces needed to fall into place – working out trade compensation, as well as Cassel’s representatives working out a new deal – the team might be thinking that "the more time, the better."

    It also allows more time for a potential market for Cassel to take shape.

    This is the time of year when most clubs are finalizing their free-agent and offseason strategy, the calm before the storm. The official start of free agency, which is the first day that any trade could be finalized, is Feb. 27.

    Patriots franchise Cassel

    Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 5, 2009 05:02 PM

    The New England Patriots announced today that they have utilized their 2009 franchise designation on quarterback Matt Cassel.

    The decision to do so is hardly unexpected and gives the club two main options: They can trade the 26-year-old quarterback if all continues to go well with Tom Brady's rehabilitation from a knee injury, or they can keep him.

    The cost of the franchise tag (the average of the top five highest-paid players at a given position) on Cassel is a one-year tender for $14.65 million, according to the transition and franchise tag numbers released Jan. 30 by the NFL Players Association.

    Since the franchise tenders are guaranteed, Cassel would count more against the cap than Brady, who is scheduled to carry a cap charge of $14.62 million for 2009. Brady is slated to have a $5 million base salary in 2009 and is due a $3 million roster bonus, so Cassel's take-home pay for '09 would also be more than Brady's.

    There is a strong possibility the Patriots will trade Cassel, though Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not indicate that as an option in his comment in today's press release.

    "Matt has been a pleasure to coach his entire career and last season in particular, when his years of hard work and commitment resulted in a most impressive performance," said Belichick. "We look forward to working with Matt again in 2009."

    Today was the first day teams can designate franchise and transition players.

    The 26-year-old Cassel, who made 15 starts after Brady's injury, completed 63.4 percent of his passes and threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.

    He becomes the first offensive player and just the fourth Patriot to be franchised by the team, joining Adam Vinatieri (2002 and 2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Asante Samuel (2007).

    Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

    No ticket price increase

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 5, 2009 01:10 PM

    The Patriots will not be raising ticket prices in 2009.

    The team sent its renewal forms to season-ticket holders this week, and is keeping prices at the same level as they were in 2008. In the letter to season-ticket holders, chairman/CEO Robert Kraft and team president Jonathan Kraft wrote:

    "On behalf of the entire New England Patriots organization, we want you to know how much we all appreciate the support you have given this franchise over the years. Our season ticket holders continue to provide our foundation and you should take great pride in all that the team has accomplished in recent years. Without the dedicated support of our fans, we could not have built the championship tradition that we now celebrate in New England. ...

    "In 2008, our family enjoyed its 15th season of ownership. While we are proud of the many championships that we have celebrated together, it is most gratifying to know that we have been able to sustain our success since 1994. Since then, we have won more Super Bowl championships, more conference titles and more overall games than any other team in the NFL. In addition, our fans have celebrated 11 consecutive home playoff victories since 1994, a stark contrast from the 0-1 home playoff record in the first 34 years of the franchise. Even though the 2008 season did not end the way we had all hoped, we certainly felt that the team improved each week and was playing its best at the end of the season."

    Last season, ticket prices ranged from $49 for Standing Room to $169 for Lowel Level Sideline seats. Other prices -- which again, will remain unchanged for 2009 -- are as follows:

    Lower Level Corner/End Zone and Mezzanine Level Corner/End Zone: $117

    Upper Level Sideline and Upper Level Corner (Rows 1-7): $89

    Upper Level Corner (Rows 8-26): $65

    Get ready for throwbacks

    Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff February 5, 2009 12:30 PM

    In a letter mailed to season-ticket holders this week, the Patriots relayed news that the team will be wearing red-and-white throwback jerseys from the 1960s era for two games during the 2009 season.

    The 2009 season marks the 50th anniversary of the American Football League.

    In wearing the throwbacks, the Patriots will honor the 1963 team, which won the franchise’s first divisional championship.

    Also, the team informed season-ticket holders that Phil Bissell will provide illustrations for game programs like he did during the AFL era. Bissell's comical illustrations of Pat Patriot getting the better of the opponent will also grace each ticket.

    Furthermore, the Hall at Patriot Place is planning to have a unique AFL exhibit to commemorate the golden annivesary of the AFL.

    Fans will also be asked to help select the most memorable moments in franchise history.

    QUICK HITS: Patriots WR Wes Welker, one of two New England players in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, visited a local high school with 49ers LB Patrick Willis to talk to students about the importance of money management. The Honolulu Star Bulletin has the details. ... Pete Prisco of CBSports.com picks 10 storylines that will draw attention this offseason and the Patriots are represented. Prisco writes that the New England-based storyline is "Will Tom Brady be healthy enough to start on opening day?"

    Mike Reiss, Christopher L. Gasper and the rest of the Globe team provide regular updates –and a behind-the-scenes look– on the daily happenings of the Patriots.
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