Patriots

Could Antonio Brown join Tom Brady on Buccaneers? Here's what reports say

Could Antonio Brown join Tom Brady on Buccaneers? Here's what reports say

A recent report suggested Tom Brady and Antonio Brown have kept in "consistent contact" and still hoped to play together wherever the New England Patriots quarterback landed in free agency.

We now know where Brady will land in free agency. So, will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make a run at Brown?

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NFL Media's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday morning that teams courting Brady in free agency were "under the impression" the QB wants Brown to play with him.

The NFL still hasn't reinstated the free-agent wide receiver, who faces multiple allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct and was arrested in January on burglary charges. If Brown is reinstated, it's possible he may be suspended, and we don't know when the league will rule on his status.

But if Brown is eligible to play at some point in 2020, him reuniting with Brady would be an intriguing storyline, to say the least.

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While the Bucs already have two talented wideouts in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, adding a seven-time Pro Bowler who seemed to jell with Brady in New England would give Tampa Bay arguably the best wide receiver trio in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the cap space (roughly $60 million) to sign Brown, while head coach Bruce Arians spent two years as Brown's offensive coordinator on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's still unclear whether Brown will play football in 2020, and he's already burned bridges with three franchises. If he does return, though, Tampa Bay seems like a fitting destination for the Florida native.

Will Patriots suffer similar fate as Broncos have post-Peyton Manning?

Will Patriots suffer similar fate as Broncos have post-Peyton Manning?

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Denver Broncos with Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post.

The Denver Broncos took a chance on an aging Peyton Manning before the 2012 season and it paid huge dividends.

Manning played the final four seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Broncos, and Denver made the playoffs each year, highlighted by two Super Bowl appearances.

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The legendary quarterback retired after winning Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season, and the Broncos have yet to fully recover. Denver has failed to reach the playoffs in each of the four seasons, and oddsmakers don't expect the Broncos to end that postseason appearance drought in 2020.

The New England Patriots could soon be in a similar situation.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady recently left the Patriots in free agency after playing the first 20 years of his career and winning six Super Bowl titles with the franchise. Like the Broncos after Manning's exit, the Patriots likely will turn to a young quarterback to lead the offense.

Will the Patriots suffer the same fate as the Broncos have post-Manning and struggle to make the playoffs?

"Maybe there's that initial little backtrack, which is understandable," O'Halloran told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "But I think the Patriots are probably constructed better than the Broncos at that point with the continuity of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, and Jarrett Stidham at least having been there for a year, if he ends up being the starter, or Brian Hoyer being a veteran. The Broncos, I think the real thing for them was Gary Kubiak retired a year after Manning retired, for health reasons, and that started a cycle they're still trying to get out of, having missed the playoffs four straight years."

The quarterback of the present, and potentially the future, for the Broncos is Drew Lock. He had a very good finish to his rookie season in 2019, and after the Broncos drafted two of the best wide receivers in the 2020 class in Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Penn State's KJ Hamler, expectations for Denver's offense are high entering 2020.

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"(Lock) deserves to be the guy, and he is the guy, for this year," O'Halloran said. "All bets are off, I think, because it's a second-round contract. If he struggles, then you go back to the drawing board. He went 4-1 as a starter down the stretch last season, granted it was the equivalent of NFL garbage time, but he showed mobility, he showed a willingness to throw into traffic, and throw guys open and make plays on the run.

"I think what you saw, especially, was guys rallied around him, saying, hey, this could be their quarterback for the next couple years, and definitely in 2020. So, I think he gave a lot of reason for optimism, while also saying, OK, he has to learn a new offense from (offensive coordinator) Pat Shurmur, he has a new quarterbacks coach in Mike Shula, and a lot of new players he has to learn without the benefit of an offseason program."

Lock will get an early challenge from the Patriots defense in 2020. Denver is scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium in Week 5. Fortunately for the Broncos, they play on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 4, so they'll have a few extra days to prepare for their matchup with the Patriots.

Jason McCourty explains how Patriots' Joejuan Williams 'got better' as a rookie

Jason McCourty explains how Patriots' Joejuan Williams 'got better' as a rookie

Joejuan Williams didn't play much as a rookie in the 2019 NFL season, but one of his teammates is confident he'll be ready when the opportunity arrives.

The New England Patriots selected Williams out of Vanderbilt in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The 22-year-old cornerback played in nine regular season games for the Patriots in his rookie campaign, and he played more snaps on special teams (84) than he did on defense (80).

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Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty liked what he saw from Williams last season despite his limited playing time. In a video conference call with reporters Wednesday, McCourty explained how Williams' compete level was a huge factor in his improvement during the 2019 campaign.

"He loves to compete," McCourty said. "I think that’s something that you need. Obviously, at our position, when you’re in the back end, any mistake can be a 70-yard touchdown or a game-changing play, so I think you’ve got to have guys that are willing to go out there every single day and compete your butts off and get better. That’s what he did last year. As a rookie, he came in, he was willing to learn, he was willing to listen, and I felt like every day when we went out there on the practice field, he got better.

"I think not only for him being a rookie, but for all of us as a team, that’s what the process is about. Whether you’re in year one or you’re in year 12, every day you’ve got to show up with a willingness to compete and to prove that you belong there and a willingness to get better and listen to coaching. I think whether it’s Joejuan, whether it was D’Angelo (Ross) before he got here, Malik (Gant), all of those young guys came in and they were willing to listen to the older guys, listen to the coaches and really do everything that was asked of them on a daily basis to make sure they were making the necessary movements forward to get better as a football player."

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Did Williams prove he belonged? McCourty said he did, but not before getting in a friendly jab at Vanderbilt.

"I mean, he went to Vanderbilt, so that’s a little bit of a knock on him. In the SEC, they’re one of the weaker schools, but other than that, yeah, he definitely did."

One way for Williams to play more snaps in 2020 is by learning to play safety. The ability to fill in at cornerback and safety would provide the Patriots defense with valuable versatility, and we know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick very much values players who excel at multiple positions.

The Patriots have tons of depth and loads of talent in their secondary -- highlighted by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner Stephon Gilmore -- but that doesn't mean Williams won't fill a key role for that group next season, especially if he's able to play both cornerback and safety.