Patriots

Alabama TE Irvin Smith Jr. posts photo with Bill Belichick, Nick Saban

Alabama TE Irvin Smith Jr. posts photo with Bill Belichick, Nick Saban

Alabama tight end Irvin Smith Jr. tweeted out a photo of him shaking hands with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was standing alongside Alabama coach Nick Saban, at the school's pro day.

Alabama has gone to some lengths to emphasize Belichick's presence at Alabama's pro day, with a number of tweets showing the two talking.

But this photo is different.

First, Irvin Smith Jr. tweeted the photo, but as he is photographed in it, obviously was not the one who took it.

Second, with Dwayne Allen's departure, and Gronk's status and durability a question mark, the Patriots have a need at the position. Our Phil Perry has the Patriots drafting Smith in the second round of the draft, at No. 41, so speculation on the Alabama TE is not unfounded.

Or the meeting could just be one of many between Belichick and players that he observes at various pro-days. 

Regardless, we will find out in a little over a month with the 2019 NFL draft kicks off, whether or not the Patriots are in on Smith.

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Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.