Patriots

#FridayBag: Bennett's back, and he brings a lot of questions with him

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#FridayBag: Bennett's back, and he brings a lot of questions with him

Every Friday, our Patriots guys answer your questions in a joint mailbag, or Friday Bag as they call it.You can it them up on husing the hashtag #FridayBag. Here’s this week’s installment . . . dominated, as you might expect, by Martellus Bennett:

That's the plan as of right now, Jay. The Patriots released Geneo Grissom on Thursday in order to make room for Bennett.

Can we start with catches, Doney? Or targets? He was targeted about four times per game last season. A lot of those came with Rob Gronkowski off the field. Between that, his shoulder, the fact that he's fitting in with some new pieces around him . . . I'd expect that number to drop from where it was in 2016.

Fun to watch? His game isn't really the kind of thing that will consistently rip people from their couches. If you like a good effective run block, or touchdown passes thrown to big targets in tight spaces . . . then yeah. Fun. Insofar as he should make the team better, that would make Bennett's addition fun for Patriots fans too. But I think what you're getting at is, will the team be more fun to follow now that he's here? The answer there is no doubt. The team lost a lot in the way of personality when Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Logan Ryan, Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich didn't return for 2017. With Bennett in Foxboro, some of that is back. Players were very open about what Bennett brought to the team off the field last season, and they're now expecting him to do the same this year

If Tom Brady's evaluation is going to be year-to-year in Bill Belichick's eyes, you can bet that Bennett's will be the same. Couple of key things to consider when thinking about Bennett's future. 1) He's already said he's pretty sure he'll retire after this season. He has the right to change his mind, but oftentimes when you start to talk about retirement, you're not all that far off. 2) The Patriots aren't contractually bound to Bennett. He has no guaranteed money coming to him for 2018 and 2019 so even if he wants to continue to play, if the Patriots want to move on after this season they can without taking any kind of financial hit. 

Nope. That would happen after the fact. Can't get a look at a waived player in person until he's on your team. 

Rich, I think he’s once again been one of their most valuable players. He’s been asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage this year and has been fearless when it comes to sticking his nose in there and making a contested play or a tackle. McCourty’s intelligence and communication skills are unparalleled and the respect he commands in the room is second to none. He’s gotten older but I think the safety has aged well. 

https://twitter.com/whitekid28/status/928340992364875781

Dan, his name comes up frequently in my timeline. Landry’s a talented player and as tough as they come. Understandably, Miami coach Adam Gase is on record as saying he wants Landry to be in the team’s plans for a long time, but they did just cough up around 9 million per for Kenny Stills and selected Devante Parker in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Parker’s growth has been hurt by injury but you have to wonder if you can eventually pay all three. I doubt it, but this is why plenty of organizations are poorly run. Miami has been exactly that prior to Gase;s arrival. We’ll see how it develops going forward. I fully expect if Landry pops free, the Pats will make a call.

Ah, the fullback. Old school, Jacob. I like it. I can’t study every team and every game they play so I won’t make any declarations on whether or not Develin is the best. I will say that he’s been an important piece over the last couple of weeks and that his play has improved considerably since the beginning of the season. Develin is still good for a whiff or two but I don’t think there’s a 100% hit rate at that position. Bottom line, he’s a solid player, a contributor on special teams and well-liked and appreciated in that locker room. That’s worth a lot. 

Man oh man, Sharks, there isn’t much here from those two drafts. The Pats selected just four players in 2017 and only one, Deatrich Wise, is on the active roster. He’s been a nice piece for the them in a specialist role. Love his attitude and his energy, and the dude’s arms are freakishly long. Interesting player going forward. As for 2016. 6 of the 9 players drafted are still in New England. The top pick, 62nd overall, Cyrus Jones, is on IR after blowing out his knee in the preseason. Love Joe Thuney. He’s sound as a pound at guard. Athletic and smart, he will occasionally get overwhelmed by power but he’s a nice player. Belichick got linebacker Elandon Roberts in the 6th round so I’d call that a successful pick even though I think he’s incredibly inconsistent. Ted Karras remains a practice squad guy and a depth piece for the interior offensive line while two of the better players in that class, DT Vincent Valentine and WR Malcolm Mitchell are both on IR. Both have progressed to the point where they could eventually be brought back but with the Pats losing one of the two spots because of Shea McClellin’s status, the Pats will have to decide whether they want one more playmaker or some more beef on the DLine. As for the sports jacket, it’s 9 Tailors all day, every day.

Interested to see just how much support Jerry Jones has from other owners. Powerful as he is, feels like it'll be hard for him to get what he's looking for unless the support is there from a significant chunk of the other 31. 

Like this one. Inclined to go with Guerschon Yabusele as a tight end because of his size (6-foot-8, 260), but how can you not try to find a way for Kyrie Irving to contribute in some way shape or form. His size (6-3, 193) and quickness would make him a pretty ideal fit in the secondary. Could line him up on any receiver imaginable, and he has the speed to play safety. Think that's who I'd go with. Red Sox is a tough one. Let's put Jackie Bradley Jr. back there to field punts. May not give you much in terms of explosive returns, but at least you know he's catching everything. As for the Bruins, I'd make Brad Marchand a slot corner. Or stick Zdeno Chara out there as part of the field goal block unit. Can't teach 6-foot-9. Can't do it. 

Potentially, Chuck. The Pony set would give the Patriots some flexibility in that both Lewis and White can align in the backfield or out wide. If they're in the backfield, and you want to run it, and there are too many men in the box, all Brady would have to do would be to flex one out, make one of those defenders go with him, and open up some space. Don't forget about Phillip Dorsett. He should see an uptick in snaps if Chris Hogan can't go. The Patriots run too much 11-personnel (three-receiver sets) to abandon it altogether. 

In Foxboro, there are a few candidates. Rob Gronkowski is up there. Very football intelligent. I think Kyle Van Noy is probably deserving of a mention here. His teammates have praised his smarts since he joined the team last year. Danny Amendola is one of the smarter football players in that room, too. He plays in a multitude of situations, offensively and on special teams, and the mental mistakes are few and far between. 

Would be surprised to see Eric Rowe back this week since he only began practicing this week after missing about a month. Never say never, but I know he's been focused on just building back up to full speed. May be early for him.

By interacting so frequently with people like you on social media, Jensen. Also, I’m old. Happy Holidays!

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Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

If Rob Gronkowski is serious about leaving football to become a wrestler, it probably won't be for the kind of money the Patriots are paying him, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer tells WEEI.

“I think that is more of a Gronkowski is going to make the call himself and I don’t think it is WWE is trying to — they are not going to outbid him," Meltzer told WEEI "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show on Thursday. "They are not going to spend $10 million a year on him. But, if he’s done with football, are they interested in him? Yeah, it is pretty clear they are."

Meltzer reported last week that World Wrestling Entertainment was interested in signing Gronk to a "similar style" deal to that of Ronda Rousey, who left UFC to join WWE for a reported $5 million a year. Gronkowski is scheduled to make $8.6 million from the Patriots in 2018. 

Meltzer cited NFL-turned-wrestling examples of James Laurinaitis, Kevin Greene and Brock Lesnar as the footsteps Gronk could follow. 

"Now, can you do it on a Brock Lesnar schedule of 10 matches a year? Yeah, probably. Lesnar was a unique type of character. He made probably $5 million-plus a year in wrestling the last couple of years.

Gronkowski is also said to be contemplating a career as an action movie star. 

Here's more on Gronk from NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

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Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent to that area, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today we're looking at a spot where the Patriots are completely set . . . we think: interior offensive line. 

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED: It wasn't always pretty, particularly at the outset of the season when Tom Brady was being hit at a rate that rivaled years when he was most battered. And the way the season ended for this group -- with Shaq Mason allowing a sack to Philly's Brandon Graham that helped end the Super Bowl -- was obviously less than ideal. But that shouldn't overshadow how this group performed, particularly in the second half. Mason was a borderline Pro Bowl talent (Pro Football Focus' fourth-best grade at right tackle for 2017), pairing his devastating run-blocking with a vastly-improved ability to protect. David Andrews continued to play solidly and effectively make calls from his place as the line's pivot, getting through the season as PFF's No. 4-graded center. And while Joe Thuney had occasional issues with power rushers, he graded out as PFF's seventh-best left guard. Three top-10 players at their respective spots? And a reliable all-around backup in Ted Karras (three total pressures and one bad snap in two starts at center)? Plenty of teams around the league would love to be as solid up front. 

 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018: Thuney, Mason, Andrews, Karras, James Ferentz, Jason King

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED: Not dire. At all, really. It's a 1 out of 10. They have three young, relatively healthy, improving players who will come back in 2018 and should slot in as immediate starters. The No. 1 backup at all three interior spots, Karras, is back as well. Ferentz is veteran depth piece who spent last season on the team's practice squad and was given a future contract by the team soon after the Super Bowl. Jason King (and Cole Croston who can play both guard and tackle) will also be back with the team when offseason training begins. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY: The best guard on the market was one of the best guards in the league in 2017: Carolina's Andrew Norwell. Other veterans who will garner interest on the market? Colts 2014 second-round pick Jack Mewhort and former Patriots starter Josh Kline. Jonathan Cooper, briefly a Patriot, will also be back on the market this offseason. Will the Patriots be interested in any of them? My guess is no, unless the team is put in an impossible situation at left tackle and they want to try Thuney on the outside, freeing up their left guard spot . . . but that's a pretty far-fetched scenario at this point. Even though Thuney played tackle in college, the Patriots drafted him to play on the inside. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT: Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will be fascinating to track on draft day. The 330-pound guard is considered by some to be one of the two or three best football players in the draft. He's touted by experts as a surefire longtime starter with All-Pro potential. But he's a guard. Are teams going to be willing to spend a top-10 or top-15 pick on a position that is ably filled by late-round picks and undrafted players all over the league? Nelson's an interesting case study in that regard. It's a pretty strong draft class at the top, it seems. Georgia's Isaiah Wynn and Texas-El Paso's Will Hernandez have received first-round buzz, as have a few centers: Iowa's James Daniels, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow and Ohio State's Billy Price. Then there are the tackles-who-may-be-guards-at-the-next-level. Texas' Connor Williams, who we mentioned in our tackle assessment, is the biggest name who could end up getting kicked inside. 

HOW THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT: There really isn't much to address, in my opinion. However, there's a little wrinkle here that's worth keeping in mind. The Patriots were reportedly interested in drafting Indiana's center/guard prospect Dan Feeney in the third round last year. They had the 72nd pick. He ended up going to the Chargers at No. 71. The Patriots traded down for a pair of picks when Feeney was gone. One was used to get defensive end Derek Rivers. The other helped them snag tackle Tony Garcia. Why the interest in Feeney? His size (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and athletic profile (7.52-second three-cone, 101-inch broad jump) actually compared somewhat favorably to those of Logan Mankins (6-4, 307, 7.52-second three-cone, 95-inch broad jump). The idea of having him at center, between Thuney and Mason, could've been enticing. So will the Patriots jump at the chance to add a similarly-gifted player to play in the middle if the opportunity presents itself? Never say never, but I don't think so. Andrews received an extension after the draft, keeping him in New England through 2020, and he was named a captain before the 2017 season.

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