Help isn't on the way, so here's how Patriots will address areas of need


Help isn't on the way, so here's how Patriots will address areas of need

Other than Brian Hoyer, there's no help on the way for Bill Belichick's club. 

The trade deadline passed on Tuesday with the Patriots standing pat after dealing Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco in exchange for a second-round pick. Malcolm Butler stuck. All four of their running backs stuck. All of the 2018 draft picks that they came into the week with stuck as well. 


It could be argued that top-end draft picks to infuse some youth into the club was an area of need, which the Patriots addressed with the Garoppolo deal. But in terms of immediate help? They steered clear, whether it was by choice or because they couldn't find a team willing to trade.

The Patriots roster, as Belichick would say, is what it is. So what does his team do about some of its apparent areas of need? Let's roll through those needs and lay out some options . . . 

PASS RUSH: This seemed to be a spot where the Patriots could use a boost, particularly when Dont'a Hightower went out. Trey Flowers is playing a ton -- he has seen the second-most snaps of any edge defender, according to Pro Football Focus. Behind him on the depth chart are Deatrich Wise, who produced well at the end of Sunday's win over the Chargers, and Cassius Marsh. Adam Butler has been used as a sub rusher from the interior, but edge depth could be an issue if another player went down. What was interesting about Sunday's game was that Kyle Van Noy played more on the end of the line, leaving Elandon Roberts and David Harris more playing time in the middle of the field. The Patriots avoided using Harris early in the season, but they may need to rely on the veteran more moving forward if they try to make up for their pass-rush deficiencies by moving Van Noy down onto the line of scrimmage more often. Another name to keep an eye on as a potential pass-rush boost: Shea McClellin. He has experience both off the line and on the edge, and he's eligible to return off of injured reserve after the bye week. Between McClellin, Van Noy, Roberts and Harris, my opinion is that the team's off-the-line linebacker spot is actually pretty well-stocked in terms of numbers. But finding consistent edge help behind Flowers and Wise will require someone to step up. 

TIGHT END: The Dwayne Allen Experience has not gone as planned to this point. He has seen more time over the last two weeks as the Patriots have used multiple tight end sets in order to establish their running game, and he was able to sustain some effective blocks against the Chargers. But over the course of the season, he's been inconsistent as a blocker and invisible in the passing game. He has not been targeted since Week 4 and he does not have a catch this season. It was interesting to see Jacob Hollister get the No. 2 tight end reps during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half against the Chargers. Though Allen is probably viewed as the better blocker, Hollister seems to be the more viable target at the moment in passing situations. Practice squad tight end Will Tye is in the building and has more experience than most p-squadders. Would the team ever turn to him if it felt like it wasn't getting what it wanted from Rob Gronkowski's backups? Helping Hollister (40 snaps this season, three catches) and Allen (195 snaps) is the fact that both contribute on special teams. 

RECEIVER: Chris Hogan has been banged up with a rib injury since Week 6 and now a shoulder injury that could jeopardize his availability following the bye week. Danny Amendola played against the Chargers and returned punts, but he's dealing with a knee issue suffered in Week 7. Phillip Dorsett has managed a knee issue for much of the season. Brandin Cooks is healthy, but he may be the only one. If the Patriots need help here, odds are the team would turn to its depth at running back to fill in the gaps. But if they're looking for a receiver to chip in, they have Cody Hollister, Jake Kumerow and Riley McCarron on the practice squad. And don't forget: Malcolm Mitchell is eligible to return off of IR if he's able. Each team can bring back two players from IR, and McClellin looks like he'll be the first. The Patriots could also choose to bring back defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, but the decision between Valentine and Mitchell will come down to multiple factors, including how the rehab process is going for each, and what the depth chart looks like at their positions.


Report: Bortles receives 3 year, $54m contract extension

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Report: Bortles receives 3 year, $54m contract extension

The Jaguars had plenty of talent last season, especially on defense.

But question marks remained due to some of their offensive players.

Could Blake Bortles play well enough to support the strong play of the Jacksonville defense?

He delivered this past season and helped bring the team to the AFC Championship. 

Now he will be in Jacksonville for several years to come.

According to a report from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Bortles and the Jags have agreed to a new 3-year contract worth $54m. 

Adam Schefter of ESPN confirmed the extension, adding that Bortles can earn up to $66.5m with incentives. The contract includes $26.5m guaranteed. 


Anyone care to interpret this Rob Gronkowski tweet?

Anyone care to interpret this Rob Gronkowski tweet?

As he contemplates retirement to either become a wrestler or an action movie hero, Rob Gronkowski appears to be contemplating more than that.

OK, that's great. So, are you coming back to catch to touchdown passes from Tom Brady or not? 

Not quite as easy to translate as Gronk's famous "pay cut" tweet from spring 2016, is it?

The tweet doesn't shed much light on it and whether the retirement talk is for real or a "contract ploy", the Gronk question looms over the Patriots' offseason as much as the Malcolm Butler mystery. It's actually more impactful since Butler's days in Foxboro are over. Are Gronk's?

As NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran put it this week: 

They can’t just sit with their hands folded in their laps and wait until Gronk gets around to deciding. They need to know is he in or is he out? Or if he’s completely ambivalent, at which point, would trading him be a horrific idea?

"...your destiny will be not just be reached, it will just be starting." Hmmm.