Patriots

Last in line for waiver claims, Patriots could be inclined to deal

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Last in line for waiver claims, Patriots could be inclined to deal

Tom Brady says it every year. He usually says it more than once a year. "Nobody," he explains matter-of-factly, "feels bad for the Patriots."

It's important to remember that before pointing out that the Patriots are last in line to claim players off waivers because they won Super Bowl LI. If they want to claim one of the non-vested players who will be released this weekend as teams reduce their rosters from 90 players to 53, they'll have wait for every other team in the league to pass on that player first.

Tough times for them.

That means Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio probably won't have a quality player -- someone worthy of an active roster spot -- fall into their laps this weekend. If they want one, they may have to get aggressive. 

One way to jump the line? Offer up a trade. If the Patriots see a player on another team's roster that they like, and if they think that player will be released, they know they'll probably have to acquire him by sending off a sweetener.

Belichick explained the situation on WEEI Friday when he was asked about how the Browns offered Joe Haden to teams via trade but ended up releasing him.

"If you can find a partner it's not [difficult to trade]," Belichick told the Dale, Holley and Keefe program. "Sometimes it's hard to find a partner where your needs and compensation are what the other side wants. In our case, you know, Haden is a vested player so he terminated immediately, could sign with whoever he wanted to sign with.

"It's a little bit different situation than a player who has to go through waivers. A player who has to go through waivers, of course we're the last claim, so the chances of us getting a player through waivers, 31 other teams would have pass on him. Realistically if we wanted that player, we would have to trade for him. That's the reality of it."

So what can the Patriots offer to snag a player who is about to be cut? Something like the seventh-round pick they picked up in Friday's trade with the Seahawks -- which sent corner Justin Coleman to Seattle -- could be ammunition. 

The Patriots already pulled one such move earlier this week when they sent a seventh-round pick to the Bengals and received linebacker and special-teamer Marquise Flowers in return.

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.