Patriots

Former Patriots DE Chris Long wins Walter Payton Man of the Year award

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Former Patriots DE Chris Long wins Walter Payton Man of the Year award

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, a member of the New England Patriots' Super Bowl LI-winning squad, was named Saturday night by the NFL as the winner of its prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award, honoring a player's humanitarianism and excellence on the field.

Long has garnered world-wide praise for his Waterboys foundation, which brings clean drinking water in underdeveloped countries, as well as the foundation's "Conquering Kili" program, which brings military veterans and NFL players together to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjiro, inspired by his first ascent of the world-renowned mountain years ago. Long also donated all 16 of his game checks this season to helping low-income children, essentially playing for free in 2018.

Long took time to thank the city of Boston in his acceptance speech, which closed out the awards show.

"I see it as more of a challenge than an accomplishment," Long said to the other 31 nominees in his speech. "To be who we say we are, not just on easy nights like this, but when nobody’s watching. For all the evils in the world, I think that apathy is the most dangerous."

Long, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, signed a one-year deal with the Patriots in 2016 on a cap-friendly deal and proceeded to win his first Super Bowl ring. He signed with Philadelphia the following season, and opposed New England in Super Bowl LII, which was won by the Eagles.

His ties to Boston go back a ways. Long's father Howie, one of the NFL's all-time greatest defensive linemen, was raised in Charlestown and attended high school in suburban Milford.

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NFL Rumors: What Joe Thuney, Ted Karras could earn in free agency

NFL Rumors: What Joe Thuney, Ted Karras could earn in free agency

Regardless of whether Tom Brady stays or goes, the New England Patriots may lose two key players who protected the quarterback in 2019.

Offensive guard Joe Thuney and center Ted Karras both are set to be free agents on March 18. And according to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, both offensive linemen could command serious money on the open market.

Here's Howe on Thuney:

Joe Thuney’s market has predictably exploded. One observer estimated Thuney could command $14-15 million annually.

Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowler ($14.1 million) and Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Zack Martin ($14 million) are the only guards making $14 million or more per year. Thuney has played his way into that conversation, though: The 27-year-old was a second-team All-Pro in 2019 and had Pro Football Focus' fifth-highest overall grade among all NFL guards.

In fact, PFF ranks Thuney as the league's eighth-best non-quarterback free agent and tops our list of free-agent offensive lineman in 2020.

Karras isn't on that level but still should get paid handsomely, per Howe:

Ted Karras’ market has also been hot. With the number of interested teams, he could corral upwards of $10 million annually.

Karras started 15 games at center for New England after David Andrews went on injured reserve due to a blood clot issue. He finished as PFF's 20th-ranked center in 2019 and would join just seven NFL centers making more than $10 million per year.

Stephon Gilmore is the only Patriot under contract making north of $10 million per year, so it seems unlikely New England would spend to keep both Thuney and Karras, especially if the team wants to re-sign Brady.

That means whoever replaces Dante Scarnecchia as Patriots offensive line coach will need to work with at least one new starter in 2020.

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NFL odds: Patriots remain betting favorites to sign Tom Brady in latest lines

NFL odds: Patriots remain betting favorites to sign Tom Brady in latest lines

Rumors and speculation are flying with NFL free agency just a few weeks away, and the one player everyone is focusing on is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. 

Brady's contract expires next month, giving him the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback has spent his entire 20-year career in New England with unprecedented success, including a record six Super Bowl titles and multiple league MVP awards.

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It's not often a quarterback of Brady's stature and talent -- yes, he's still a really good player -- hits the open market. A couple teams that need (or could need) a new quarterback include the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers, among others. All of these teams could take the next step as a franchise with a quarterback like Brady leading the offense. 

While it's still too early to definitively know where Brady will be playing in Week 1 of the 2020 season, oddsmakers have weighed in at various sportsbooks with betting lines that are always changing based on the latest reports and information.

Speaking of reports, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington said Thursday that Brady is “looking forward to” free agency. Darlington also added that he’d be “stunned” if Brady stayed in New England.

Here's a look at DraftKings Sportsbook's current Brady odds. The Patriots remain the favorites, but not by the same margin they were a few weeks ago.

Brady isn't the only important free agent the Patriots must consider re-signing. A couple key veterans on defense, including safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jamie Collins, also need new contracts. It's safe to say the Patriots will have plenty to do over the next month as they figure out what their roster will look like next season and well into the future.

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