Patriots

Patriots excited to have Bennett back in the mix, banged-up shoulder and all

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Patriots excited to have Bennett back in the mix, banged-up shoulder and all

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett's injury history will be combed through and parsed, it seems, until we find out exactly what percentage of his shoulder looks like confetti and how it got that way in the first place.

Here's what we know: Bennett had shoulder issues last season as a member of the Patriots; during the Packers Week 8 bye, he said on Instagram that he was "pretty sure" he would retire after this season; he landed on the injury report with a shoulder injury following the team's first practice after the bye; he did not play in a Week 9 loss to the Lions; Green Bay released him this week with a "failure to disclose a physical condition" designation.

MORE ON BENNETT

Since then, both NFL Media and ESPN have reported that Bennett is dealing with a torn rotator cuff. ESPN said Bennett has a torn labrum as well.

Indications are that Bennett will try to play through any ailments he's coping with at the moment. According to one Patriots player who has been in touch with Bennett, the tight end is happy to be back in New England given that he was available for any team in the league to claim after the Packers waived him. Even if Bennett thought he was destined to pass through waivers -- it's relatively unusual for vested veterans like Bennett to be claimed -- he'll take comfort in the fact that the place where he's headed is somewhere he's been before.

His old teammates, now his teammates once again, said on Friday morning that they're excited to know he's back in the mix. 

Danny Amendola, who has known Bennett and his brother Michael since they were athletes growing up in the Houston area, couldn't stop smiling when speaking about the recent addition to the Patriots offense. The two entered the league together in 2008 as Cowboys rookies.

"I’m excited," Amendola said, acknowledging that he may have lost his locker-room DJ duties with Bennett's arrival. "He’s been my friend for a long time. We came in this league together in Dallas, so 10 long years. He’s a great guy. We’re all happy to have him back."

Bennett's contributions off the field were widely noted by teammates last season since he was someone who kept things light in what is oftentimes a hyper-serious environment.

"Energy and thoughtfulness, and he’s a great teammate," Amendola said when asked what Bennett will bring to the locker room. "He’s gonna help us out a lot, as he did last year. It’s going to be fun."

On Bennett's on-the-field talents, Amendola added: "He can run and catch. He blocks well in the run game, obviously, and an all-around good football player. He knows the system, he knows the environment, he knows the energy when you walk into the building every day, and he’s familiar with that. Marty B’s back."

How healthy he is, and how much he'll be able to help the Patriots remains to be seen. But from the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players Bennett will share a locker room with at Gillette Stadium, they're clearly ready to give this marriage another go.

It makes too much sense not to.

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Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

Young, talented safeties available for Patriots entering 2018

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 at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today, we put the safety position in focus keeping in mind that this is one position that’s morphing as quickly as any in the NFL.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


Fine. OK. Pretty good sometimes. But certainly nothing that can be confused with dynamic. In a league stocked with playmaking safeties. They are in the right place and – aside from Jordan Richards - are sure tacklers. They communicate well. They get the concepts of the defense and do their bit on special teams. But the safety group combined for six picks and four of those came from Duron Harmon. Patrick Chung was murder on tight ends in coverage but the third-down performances in some of the team’s biggest games was abysmal. The Steelers and Eagles were both 10 for 16 on third down and the Jags were 4 for 6 in the first half of the AFCCG. Devin McCourty played with an injured shoulder down the stretch that has since been surgically repaired but he just didn’t have a lot of impact plays in 2017. Richards, after three seasons in the league, has a handful of nice tackles as a box safety. Other than that, he’s got a very long way to go in a very short amount of time to approach the level of play expected from a second-round pick. 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Devin McCourty, David Jones, Damarius Travis

WHO ISN'T?
Nate Ebner

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Not dire at all. But looming. McCourty is signed through 2019 and has a $13.4M cap hit next season when he’ll be 31. Chung is 30 and entering the last year of his deal. Harmon is signed through 2020 and is just 27. Unless the team thinks Richards is the heir apparent to Chung – which would be alarming – they need to get back in the draft pool to find someone at what I believe is one of the NFL’s most important positions. The team puts so much on both Chung and McCourty that it will take years for a new player to gain the depth of knowledge and nuance at the spot. And then there’s the versatility and kicking game expectations they deal with. Whether its in the draft or in free agency, spending needs to be done. But for this year, the need is a 5.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY


This is a position stocked with talented young players. Here are some of them: Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner, Kenny Vaccaro from the Saints, San Fran’s Eric Reid and Tre Boston from the Chargers. Vaccaro’s coming off an injury. Burnett and Joyner are both going to be high-cost options. Reid is already anticipating some teams steering clear of him because of his outspoken support for Colin Kaepernick.  Further down the free agent chain are players like Boston who was outstanding in 2017. Reid, Vaccaro and Boston are players the Patriots could target. Boston is the youngest and healthiest of the group and already theorizes that he will probably move on from the Chargers.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


Alabama has a pair of safeties who’ll be coveted, the first being Minkah Fitzpatrick who is a top-10 prospect. The other is Ronnie Harrison. Stuck in between those two as a top-20 prospect is Derwin James from Florida State. The reason I could see the Patriots taking a safety in the first two rounds is because the right one can address myriad needs – coverage at the linebacker level, run-support and playmaking. Stanford’s Justin Reid (6-1, 204 pounds) and Va. Tech’s Terrell Edmunds (6-2, 220) are bookends to the type of safety builds the Patriots could use. 

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT?


Make a run at Tre Boston. If the price is too high, settle on Edmunds or Reid.

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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. 

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