Patriots

NFL rumors: Patriots scouts 'gushed' over this wide receiver at Senior Bowl

NFL rumors: Patriots scouts 'gushed' over this wide receiver at Senior Bowl

It's no secret the New England Patriots need to upgrade their talent and depth at wide receiver before the 2020 NFL season.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn't have enough playmakers at the position to help lead the defending champs back to the Super Bowl this past season. Injuries played a part in that, but overall, Patriots wide receivers didn't produce enough.

The good news for the Patriots is they likely will have 12 picks (including compensatory selections) in the 2020 NFL Draft, and this year's class is absolutely loaded at wide receiver.

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The Patriots reportedly found at least one wide receiver they liked at the Senior Bowl this week in Alabama. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network witnessed Patriots scouts "gushing" over SMU star James Proche.

Keep this in the back of your mind: New England Patriots scouts were gushing over James Proche during today’s practice – I heard it firsthand. This doesn’t mean they are automatically drafting Proche, but he fits the bill for the type of receiver they love and have great success with.

Proche played four seasons at SMU. He caught 93 passes for 1,199 yards with 12 touchdowns as a junior in 2018, and then tallied 111 receptions for 1,225 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior this past season. He's listed at 6-foot and 193 pounds.

Here's some footage of Proche at this week's Senior Bowl practices, per Connor Brown of SB Nation:

The Patriots selected Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry in the first round (32nd overall) of last year's draft. Harry was the first wide receiver drafted by Bill Belichick in the first round since he took over as Patriots head coach in 2000. Harry showed flashes of first-round talent, but injury derailed much of his rookie season. It's still way too early to give up on Harry, but 2020 is no doubt an important year for him.

The Pats would be wise to bring in a veteran wide receiver via free agency or the trade market, but it absolutely makes sense to also draft one or two players at the position given the quality of this year's class.

Curran: Can Patriots re-tool like they did a decade ago?

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

We can understand Derrick Henry supporting Ryan Tannehill amid speculation that Tom Brady may consider joining to the Tennesee Titans.

Tannehill is Henry's quarterback after all. He's not going to throw him under the bus.

But Chris Simms has no stake in the game -- and still believes the Titans would be better off with Tannehill than the six-time Super Bowl champion in 2020.

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Here's Simms on Wednesday's edition of NBC Sports PFT Live with Mike Florio:

"Everybody out there: You're crazy!" Simms said. "Tom Brady is not better than Ryan Tannehill right now! I'm just sorry! 

"I know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever, certainly the most accomplished. (He's) the man. But that doesn't mean he's the best in 2020."

Simms didn't stop there, suggesting the Titans may not have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round if Brady was under center instead of Tannehill.

Got all that, Patriots fans?

This kind of take is nothing new from Simms, who ranked Brady as the NFL's ninth-best quarterback last summer and put Matthew Stafford ahead of the 14-time Pro Bowler at the midseason point.

He's also not wrong that Tannehill was excellent last season, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and ranking second in touchdown percentage (7.7 percent) while going 7-3 as Tennessee's starter.

But the 10 starts does not an elite quarterback make -- especially a QB who had the NFL's 2019 leading rusher (Henry) taking the heat off him.

Were Brady's numbers worse than Tannehill's in 2019? Sure. His 6.6 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his career, while his 3.9 touchdown percentage represented his lowest rate ever.

As Patriots fans will tell you, though, Brady also helped a team with a revolving door of mediocre offensive weapons score the seventh-most points in the NFL while finishing 12-4.

All debates aside, the money could prove Brady's worth compared to Tannehill: The former may command north of $30 million in free agency, while the latter might be several million below that number.

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NFL odds: Where Patriots rank in new Teddy Bridgewater free agent betting lines

NFL odds: Where Patriots rank in new Teddy Bridgewater free agent betting lines

Drew Brees' expected return to the New Orleans Saints could force Teddy Bridgewater to take his talents to a new team in the 2020 NFL season.

Bridgewater spent the 2019 season as Brees' backup in New Orleans, and he played very well. The 27-year-old went 5-0 in Brees' absence, helping the Saints win the NFC South division and ultimately finish with a 13-3 record.

Bridgewater should have no shortage of suitors if/when he hits the free agent market. In fact, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently reported that, "Multiple teams expect Teddy Bridgewater to have a strong free agency market as a starting or bridge quarterback for a team in transition."

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Oddsmakers have pegged the Carolina Panthers as the betting favorite to land Bridgewater in free agency at +200. This makes sense given Carolina's uncertainty at quarterback. Cam Newton missed most of last season due to injury and has no guaranteed money remaining on his contract. It's probably time for Newton and the Panthers to part ways, and Bridgewater would be a solid replacement. 

The New England Patriots are longshots to sign Bridgewater at +1500 odds. Here's the full list of Bridgewater's free agent odds, via Sportsline:

The Patriots still don't know who will be their starting quarterback next season. The best-case scenario is signing six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady to a new contract. Brady is able to test free agency for the first time in his 20-year career, but if he wants to win a seventh championship, returning to New England makes the most sense for him. 

If Brady goes somewhere else, it's possible the Patriots look to free agency to find a new quarterback, where Bridgewater would be among the best players available. They also could just go with Jarrett Stidham, who New England drafted out of Auburn in the fourth round last year.

Regardless of what happens with Brady, the Patriots acquiring Bridgewater just doesn't seem realistic, and it appears oddsmakers agree.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency