Patriots

NFL Combine tracker: Patriots have met with these notable prospects

NFL Combine tracker: Patriots have met with these notable prospects

The New England Patriots are still waiting on Tom Brady's free-agent decision. But don't worry: They're making good use of their time.

The Patriots and the rest of the NFL descended on Indianapolis this week for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, where hundreds of top prospects will work out and conduct interviews between now and Sunday.

According to reporters in Indy, New England already has begun talking to several of those prospects as it gears up for the 2020 NFL Draft.

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That's standard procedure, but it's still worth noting who the Patriots meet with to get a sense of what they consider their primary draft needs come April.

With that in mind, below is a running list of the notable prospects who have met with the Patriots (formally or informally) to date:

Quarterback

Jordan Love, Utah State
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Jake Luton, Oregon State
James Morgan, Florida International (at East-West Shrine Game)

Wide Receiver

Tee Higgins, Clemson
KJ Hill, Ohio State
Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
James Proche, SMU
Michael Pittman, USC
Jalen Reagor, TCU
Denzel Mims, Baylor
KJ Hamler, Penn State
Aaron Parker, Rhode Island (at East-West Shrine Game)
Van Jefferson, Florida (at Senior Bowl)
Malcolm Perry, Navy
Tyrie Cleveland, Florida 
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty 

Tight End

Adam Trautman, Dayton
Hunter Bryant, Washington
Jacob Breeland, Oregon
Stephen Sullivan, LSU
Jared Pinkey, Vanderbilt

Offensive Line

Austin Jackson, USC
Jonah Jackson, Ohio State
Solomon Kindley, Georgia
Shane Lemieux, Oregon
Damien Lewis, LSU
John Molchon, Boise State
Lucas Niang, TCU
Matt Peart, UConn
Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
Terence Steele, Texas Tech
Logan Stenberg, Kentucky
Alex Taylor, South Carolina St.

Jake Hanson, Oregon

Running back

Eno Benjamin, Arizona State 
Darius Anderson, TCU
Joshua Kelley, UCLA 

Kicker

Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern

Each NFL team is allowed 45 formal interviews with players at the combine, and the Patriots seemingly are allocating a good amount of those interviews to offensive skill players.

That's no surprise: New England will be in the market for a QB if Brady departs in free agency and could use upgrades at both wide receiver and tight end regardless of whether Brady stays or goes.

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore disagrees with Rex Ryan's critique of Amari Cooper

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore disagrees with Rex Ryan's critique of Amari Cooper

Former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan made waves Friday for his harsh critique of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper.

On ESPN's Get Up, Ryan blasted the Cowboys for signing Cooper to a five-year, $100 million contract this offseason. It's one thing to be critical, but Ryan even went as far as to call Cooper a "turd," which probably isn't the most politically-correct way to evaluate a player.

“I wouldn’t have paid this guy. To me, this is the biggest disappearing act in the National Football League,” Ryan said. “He doesn’t show up on the road. He doesn’t show up against — when the competition’s good, when he’s against the top corners, that guy disappears.

“This is who he is. Doesn’t love football. Hell with it, he stops his routes, he does all this. I wouldn’t have paid this turd. No way in hell. No way in hell would I have paid this guy.”

So yeah, pretty harsh.

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New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who played for Ryan on the Bills from 2015-16, caught wind of his former coach's comments and made it clear he disagrees.

That's some high praise from the two-time first-team All-Pro. Especially after Gilmore locked Cooper down back in November by holding him without a catch.

Both Ryan and Gilmore are entitled to their opinions, but calling Cooper a "turd" was a bit over the line. After all, Cooper is coming off a 2019 season in which he tallied 79 receptions while setting career-highs in both receiving yards (1,189) and touchdowns (eight). Not exactly turd-like.

Anyway, Gilmore definitely has Ryan putting his foot in his mouth after those controversial remarks.

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NFL Rumors: Number of teams interested in Brady 'bigger than people realize'

NFL Rumors: Number of teams interested in Brady 'bigger than people realize'

On the surface, it didn't seem like Tom Brady had a lot of free-agent suitors. After announcing that he wouldn't be returning to the New England Patriots, the two teams he was connected to were the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But evidently, there were more than just a few teams that showed interest in Brady this offseason.

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In a recent appearance on WEEI's OMF show, ESPN's NFL insider Adam Schefter confirmed that many teams had conversations about Brady this offseason.

"There were a lot of teams that went through the conversation of if and when Tom Brady does hit the market, do we make a move," Schefter said. "There were teams out there that had that conversation that you’d be surprised to hear. It wasn’t just a few teams."

But just how many teams were interested in Brady? Schefter couldn't quite say, but he did say "the number was bigger than people realize."

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Throughout the lead-up to free agency, Brady was connected to a number of other teams in rumors, including the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders, and even the San Francisco 49ers. So, it stands to reason that some of those teams, and potentially others, at least discussed the possibility of bringing in Brady.

Of course, all of these teams chose different paths at quarterback. The Colts elected to go with Philip Rivers on a one-year deal for a very specific reason. The Titans handed Ryan Tannehill a four-year extension. The Raiders elected to stick with Derek Carr but added Marcus Mariota to compete with him. And the 49ers, fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, are continuing to trust Brady's former backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, as their starting QB.

Ultimately, the number of teams interested in Brady never mattered much. There only needed to be one to get him to leave New England. That's exactly what happened and now, Brady will be suiting up for the Bucs.

Meanwhile, the Patriots will begin the post-Brady era in 2020. Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer are the only two QBs on the roster, and Stidham is favored to be the starter at the moment.