Patriots

Patriots sign tight end Jakob Johnson as part of NFL's International Pathway Program

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USA TODAY Sports

Patriots sign tight end Jakob Johnson as part of NFL's International Pathway Program

The New England Patriots have a new tight end from Germany.

The Patriots have added Jakob Johnson to their organization as part of the NFL's International Pathway Program. According to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, "if Johnson doesn't make the Patriots 53-man roster, he'll be granted an extra 11th spot on the team's practice squad, but not eligible to be promoted."

Johnson played tight end for the Stuttgart Scorpions in Germany last season. He tallied 43 receptions for 474 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to 12 tackles for the Scorpions in 2018. He's listed at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds.

Johnson played college football at the University of Tennessee from 2014 to 2017. He showed some impressive versatility with the Volunteers, playing tight end, defensive line and offensive line. We know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick values players who can fill multiple roles/positions.

The Patriots, even with this signing, obviously still need to upgrade their depth and talent at the tight end position before next season. Rob Gronkowski's retirement and the release of veteran Dwayne Allen have left the Patriots thin at tight end on the depth chart.

New England has 12 picks in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, including six in the first three rounds. They figure to be in the mix for at least one of the top tight end prospects in this draft class.

Click for our latest Patriots mock draft roundup>>>

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Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

Jerod Mayo was 'shocked' by Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung opt-outs

When he heard the news that Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung were opting out of the 2020 season, Jerod Mayo had the same reaction most people did. 

"I was shocked, disappointed -- a bunch of emotions went through my head initially," said Mayo, who played alongside and is friends with both men.

"Then I took a step back and looked at each situation. These are personal decisions. Obviously, Hightower took a step back and examined his personal situation and so did Chung and I totally respect the decision. I know coach (Bill Belichick) already talked about it.”

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Speaking on a video conference call Friday morning, the Patriots inside linebackers coach said the leadership and play of both players will be missed but added that, “From a football standpoint, you just gotta treat it like an injury.”

“We’ve always had that 'next man up' mentality and that’s how we’re approaching it going forward,” said Mayo. “With that said, even though those guys have opted out, those guys will still continue to mentor some of the younger guys. Guys who haven’t played as much ball.

"And I can totally appreciate it. Hightower is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around and so is Chung. Those guys are not here with us this year on the field but they are still around.”

Mayo saluted the work the organization has done in getting the facility prepared for dealing with football during a pandemic. 

“The staff has done a fantastic job,” he said. “One thing I’ve always respected about this organization is they don’t just try to solve these complex problems in-house, they go out and ask other people what they’re doing. 

“When I walk around the building, I feel safe and I think the players do, as well,” Mayo continued. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job. Our operations people deserve a shout-out.

"This is such a fluid situation. Things change, whether it’s the CDC changing guidelines or any of that stuff. It changes so much and those guys have done a great job around the building so guys feel safe and coaches feel safe.”

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Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

For the better part of three months this offseason, there was no evidence to suggest that Jarrett Stidham wouldn't be The Next Guy in New England. 

The initial wave of free agency came and went. The draft came and went. Still, the 2019 fourth-round selection out of Auburn looked like the choice to replace Tom Brady. Bill Belichick hadn't brought in anyone else outside of Brian Hoyer and two undrafted rookies.

Sure, it was a lot to ask of a Day 3 draft choice who had taken zero snaps of consequence as a rookie. But it looked like the Patriots believed he could be their starter.

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Then on June 29, news broke that the Patriots signed Cam Newton. Stidham was in Texas, visiting family, when he heard.

"Tom (Brady) deciding to go to Tampa, signing Cam and everything . . . it's just kind of a wild offseason," Stidham said. "But I would say my routine hasn't changed at all. My work ethic has kind of been the same throughout everything that's going on.

"I've just really tried to focus on being a good teammate and working as hard as I possibly can to really improve this offseason. It's been a wild ride this offseason, but happy to be back in the building with everybody and kind of get rolling here."

And happy to compete, he explained. 

Even with one of the most gifted quarterbacks in modern NFL history now present in the Patriots meetings, Stidham told reporters Friday he still feels as though that job -- the one that looked like his from the end of March through the end of June -- is up for grabs.

He didn't hesitate when asked if he believed he still had a chance to be named the starter with a good performance this summer.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"Absolutely," he said. "I think I'm definitely ready. I think I've put a lot of work in this offseason to really improve. Mentally, physically and really in a lot of different areas. But at the end of the day, I'm extremely excited to compete with Cam and Hoy as we go forward in training camp and get into the season and things like that.

"I'm really looking forward to the competition. I love competing in whatever it is so I'm really looking forward to it."

And then there was this answer, to a question about his relationship with Brady, where Stidham -- purposefully or not -- shed some light on the fact that he still likes his odds of being The Next Guy.

"I don't really look at it as replacing Tom Brady," he said. "I just want to be myself and I want to be a leader for this team and be the best teammate that I can be for this team. I don't really look at it that way."

Stidham even went so far as to say that he was "excited" when the Patriots signed Newton. Though the rest of the world saw the acquisition as an impediment to Stidham's promotion, he says he took a different approach. 

"What a great opportunity to compete with another great player," Stidham said. "To compete with Hoy and Cam. I was actually really, really excited for the opportunity ahead."

Maybe that's lip service. Maybe that's a young player trying to convince himself there's a real competition ahead. 

But at times on Friday's WebEx press conference, Stidham sounded like he believed he had a real crack to be the No. 1. Even with a superstar 6-foot-5, 245-pound former MVP who wears No. 1 now counting himself among Stidham's teammates.