Patriots

OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

FOXBORO -- The Patriots went through their third OTA of the week on Thursday. It was the first that was open to members of the media and lasted approximately two hours.

Here are a handful of observations from the afternoon of work the Patriots put in under the sun on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium . . . 

* The Patriots sported practice jerseys during the workout, which was noteworthy because in years past they have worn blank t-shirts during OTAs and minicamp. With the offense in white and the defense in blue -- and with every player assigned a number -- it made identifying players much easier. Why coach Bill Belichick opted to go this route is unclear, and it remains a possibility that the players will go without jersey numbers later in the spring. Still, it was a welcome sight for reporters trying to track the proceedings. Quarterbacks wore red non-contact jerseys and each player wore helmets and shorts. 

* Belichick appeared to make his players re-start the practice after they finished up their stretching period in a fashion that didn't satisfy the head coach. After breaking into position groups briefly, Belichick ordered players to get back into their warmup lines and finish more crisply. 

* With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis all absent from the practice, new Patriots weapons were given a chance to take extra reps. Running back Donald Brown was lauded by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after completing one particularly well-run route -- a slant-and-go, Martellus Bennett was the beneficiary of several targets from Tom Brady in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. 

* In 11-on-11 work, Brady went 6-for-9. Jimmy Garoppolo went 8-for-9. Jacoby Brissett went 7-for-12.

* In 7-on-7 work, Brady went 3-for-5. Garoppolo went 2-for-2. Brissett went 2-for-4, and he had one rep where he tucked it and ran. 

* During periods focused on special teams, Brady worked in a few side-sessions with different targets. In the past Brady has used these side sessions to get a little extra work in with a handful of players. Two years ago, he threw to Gronkowski with Darrelle Revis in coverage as Gronkowski worked his way back from a knee injury. Last year, Brady worked with Gronkowski and Scott Chandler together in order to develop some on-the-field chemistry there. On Thursday, Brady worked with two new tight ends -- Bennett and Clay Harbor -- as well as fullback James Develin. In another side session, he threw passes to Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Malcolm Mitchell. Tight ends coach Brian Daboll ran the show during both periods.

* Rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones, receiver Chris Harper, receiver DeAndre Carter and undrafted rookie corner V'Angelo Bentley all took turns returning punts. On Wednesday we took a look at how Edelman and Amendola might benefit from relinquishing those duties to another player. Jones would be an interesting choice given his production as a returner in college. 

* Bennett was asked to run a lap after dropping Brady's first offering of the 11-on-11 period. He recovered nicely as the day went on, however, making perhaps the most impressive grab of the day when he reached around Patrick Chung, plucked a Garoppolo pass out of the air and hung on as the two players tangled and fell to the turf. It was a good back-and-forth between the athletic tight end and perhaps the best defender of tight ends on the roster. Chung broke up one pass intended for Bennett, and Bennett later beat Chung to the corner of the end zone, reeling in a soft Brady lob. 

* Brissett appeared to rely on his ability to scramble, as he often did as the signal-caller at NC State. He hit throws on the run to Mitchell and rookie Devin Lucien. We'll see in practice sessions going forward if Brissett will be encouraged to stick in the pocket longer during these non-contact practices. 

* Brissett and Mitchell appear to have a good early connection. They hooked up for four of Brissett's nine completed passes. One was on an impressive pitch-and-catch that saw Mitchell lay out in the back of the end zone during 7-on7s. Later in 11-on-11s, Brissett sensed pressure coming from his blind side and lofted a deep pass to Mitchell that was completed along the sideline. 

* Brissett was picked off by Jones late in the practice but came back two plays later to complete a nice skinny post to Carter from about the 15-yard line.

* Brady's business partner and friend Alex Guerrero was spotted on the sidelines of the session. Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris was also present, shadowing running backs coach Ivan Fears. 

* Among the musical artists blared over the speakers during 11-on-11 work to mimic crowd noise were Guns N' Roses, James Brown, Bon Jovi, U2, Kenny Chesney and Desiigner. 

NFL Rumors: Patriots free up millions in cap space from Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez grievances

NFL Rumors: Patriots free up millions in cap space from Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez grievances

The New England Patriots just got whole lot of financial breathing room.

The Patriots have earned a total of $6.25 million in settlements from compensation grievances involving former wide receiver Antonio Brown and ex-tight end Aaron Hernandez, ESPN's Mike Reiss and Field Yates reported Saturday.

New England now has $7.79 million in cap space, per Reiss and Yates, a huge bump from the less than $500,000 in spending money the team had earlier this week.

Brown, who spent less than two weeks with the Patriots last September, filed a grievance against the team in October 2019 following his release seeking to receive his unpaid Week 1 salary, his $1.025 million guaranteed base salary and his $9 million signing bonus.

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The Patriots will pay Brown $5 million as part of the settlement, per Reiss and Yates.

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the Patriots on Hernandez's behalf in October 2013 seeking over $6 million in guaranteed salary. Hernandez was arrested and later convicted for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd and died in prison in April 2017.

New England was up against the cap after squeezing free-agent quarterback Cam Newton in on a one-year contract and inking all of its 2020 NFL Draft picks to rookie deals. With nearly $8 million in cap space, however, the Patriots have more flexibility to bolster their roster via free agency or trade.

Our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran suggested tight end David Njoku could be a strong fit in New England after requesting a trade from the Cleveland Browns, and there are a number of quality free agents still on the market, as well.

Patriots TE Devin Asiasi joins Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry for workouts

Patriots TE Devin Asiasi joins Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry for workouts

Twelve days ago, Cam Newton was still a free agent looking for work.

But ever since he agreed to a one-year contract with the Patriots, he's been very busy trying to get ready for the 2020 season, learning the playbook and developing chemistry with his new receivers.

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In addition to N'Keal Harry, whose workout with Newton was captured on video, rookie tight end Devin Asiasi was also catching passes from New England's new quarterback. Twitter user amirmehrtash15 took pictures with both Asiasi and Newton at the UCLA practice session and posted them in reponse to the Providence Journal's Mark Daniels.

The workout wasn't limited to Patriots, as Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr. was also in attendance.

Newton trying to fast-track a relationship with his new teammates makes perfect sense. He set up his first practice with Mohamed Sanu on the day he signed his Patriots contract, and in less than two weeks, he's already connected with three of the guys who will be among his top receiving options in 2020.

The Patriots certainly hope all that extra work pays off, as training camps could open as soon as the end of this month once the NFL and NFLPA can finalize preseason dates.