Patriots

Nate Ebner wants to stay with Patriots as free agency looms

Nate Ebner wants to stay with Patriots as free agency looms

The New England Patriots have some key players set to enter free agency this offseason. Obviously, Tom Brady will take most of the attention, but the team has some important special teams players set to hit the open market as well.

Notably, Matthew Slater and Stephen Gostkowski will be available. And Nate Ebner will be as well.

Ebner, an eight-year pro who was drafted in the sixth round in 2012, has been a big-time special teams ace for the Patriots. In 2018, he ranked second in the league in special teams tackles with 15. He provided another eight last season and continued to be a key cog in that aspect of the game.

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Ahead of his free agency, Ebner opened up about wanting to stay with the Patriots as he looks to continue his NFL career.

“I mean, that would be the best thing, I think, when you consider my entire career has been here,” Ebner said per NESN's Zack Cox. “I understand how things go. I’ve got some true friendships here.

“I understand how things work — that would be great. But right now, it’s out of my hands, so we’ll see what happens and I’ll just take it as it goes. We’ll see.”

It wouldn't be surprising to see Ebner return to the Patriots. After all, Bill Belichick places a lot of value on special teams performance. Given that Ebner should come relatively cheap -- he signed a two-year, $5 million deal last time he was set to hit free agency -- it's well within the realm of possibility that the team could find a way to keep him.

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and if the Patriots use up most of their cap space signing Brady and some offensive weapons to surround him, Ebner might not fit. But if Ebner's first choice is remaining in New England, it seems likely that the team will at least entertain the idea of bringing him back.

Tom Brady, ex-Patriots teammates, coaches react to George Floyd murder

Tom Brady, ex-Patriots teammates, coaches react to George Floyd murder

The death of another unarmed black man at the hands of a police officer has sparked outrage across America.

George Floyd, 46, was murdered Monday in Minneapolis when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes while three other officers stood by.

Floyd's death has led to protests, riots and in some cases violence throughout the country as Americans called for justice in his killing and demanded an end to police brutality against minorities.

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Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady showed his support for that movement Friday, posting the #JusticeForFloyd hashtag on his Instagram story.

Meanwhile, Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who left the Patriots in 2018 to become one of just three African-American head coaches in the NFL, made a powerful statement Friday noting the irony behind the outrage over Colin Kaepernick's protests before NFL games.

Flores' statement hit home with two former Patriots: Detroit Lions safety Duron Harmon and Dolphins cornerback Eric Rowe.

The Patriots' newly-acquired defensive tackle, Beau Allen, also posted a statement to Twitter on Friday night after seeing riots break out in his home state of Minnesota.

Several of Allen's Patriots teammates reacted to Floyd's death on social media, as well: linebacker Ju'Whaun Bentley urged others to take a stand for justice, while defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty called for justice for Floyd and shared a video of rapper/activist Killer Mike's powerful speech to protesters in Atlanta.

The officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested on third-degree murder charges.

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Are Patriots' RBs the best position group in entire NFL? Ex-NFL GM thinks so

Are Patriots' RBs the best position group in entire NFL? Ex-NFL GM thinks so

Some would argue the New England Patriots lack elite offensive weapons.

Mike Tannenbaum would argue they actually have an embarrassment of riches -- at one position, anyway.

During an appearance Friday on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria," the former New York Jets and Miami Dolphins general manager argued the Patriots may have the best position group in the NFL.

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"I think you can make a case that the New England Patriots running back room arguably is the best position room of any position of any team in the league," Tannenbaum said, via WEEI.com.

Notice Tannenbaum didn't say the Patriots have the best running back group in the NFL. He believes New England's running backs are the strong position group, period, in the NFL.

That's a hot take, Mike. Care to explain?

"They go five and six deep," Tannenbaum said. "I had Brandon Bolden with the Dolphins. We rarely get to talk about (Damien) Harris, who is a really good player out of Alabama. Then you think about (Rex) Burkhead, James White and obviously Sony Michel. It is a great group."

The Patriots indeed have great versatility and depth at running back: Michel is the early-down workhorse and White is the passing game threat, while Burkhead and Bolden can give you a bit of both. Harris, the team's third-round draft pick in 2019, couldn't even crack this deep rotation as a rookie.

Pundits seemed to agree with Tannenbaum before the 2019 season, too: SB Nation and Bleacher Report pegged the Patriots' RBs as the best and second-best running back group in the NFL, respectively.

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But that was prior to a 2019 campaign in which New England rushed for 1,703 yards as a team (18th in the NFL) while averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt (25th). The Patriots' leading rusher, Michel, averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, good for 40th among 47 qualified rushers.

Of course, the Patriots' offensive line contributed to their lack of success in the running game. And the team's backs were effective in the passing game, as White finished fourth among all RBs with 72 receptions.

Still, it's difficult to imagine New England's running back room as a better position group than, say, the Kansas City Chiefs' explosive wide receivers or even the Patriots' shutdown cornerback group.

If you buy Tannenbaum's argument, though, quarterback Jarrett Stidham has reason for optimism in 2020.