Patriots

Postcard from Camp: Brady finding some chemistry with Berrios vs. Lions

Postcard from Camp: Brady finding some chemistry with Berrios vs. Lions

ALLEN PARK, Michigan -- The Patriots and Lions got back together on Tuesday for a practice that featured a slight uptick in intensity from the day prior. Here's everything you need to know...

ROLL CALL

The Patriots got Patrick Chung back on the field Tuesday after he sat out Monday's practice. He continues to wear a red non-contact jersey. 

Cam Meredith, Lance Kendricks, Yodny Cajuste, Ken Webster and Nate Ebner weren't available, but you knew that. They didn't make the trip.

Rex Burkhead was once again a non-participant. Julian Edelman (NFI) and Demaryius Thomas (PUP) also remain out.

Isaiah Wynn was in pads once again and did take part with other starters during the walkthrough. He was limited, though, and didn't take part in team drills. Kyle Van Noy was limited as well, leaving reps available for Shilique Calhoun, John Simon and Chase Winovich.

N'Keal Harry ended up being a limited participant because he tweaked his right leg midway through the session. He sat out an offensive period, later returned, and did some blocking. He didn't run a route after getting hurt, nor did he go through the team's full hill workout after practice.

QUARTERBACKS IN FOCUS

Tom Brady didn't have his best day. He went 5-for-9 in 7-on-7 work, getting picked in the end zone by linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin early in the session. He went 5-for-10 in 11-on-11 work and was "sacked." Three of his best completions went to Braxton Berrios, including two late scores -- one of which earned the second-year wideout "attaboy" recognition from the Patriots quarterback in the form of a headbutt. Perhaps his best throw of the day went deep down the left sideline to Phillip Dorsett in a hurry-up period where the Patriots were down four points late in the game. Dorsett -- who couldn't find separation on a similar route moments earlier -- hauled in the well-placed pass for a touchdown. Brady was, again, fired up and chased Dorsett into the end zone to celebrate.

Brian Hoyer went 6-for-6 in 7-on-7 work, completing a pass to Harry that was just . . . ridiculous. Harry looked late for a back-shoulder throw, tipped it up, and he ended up catching it while laying on his back on the ground. Remember Jermaine Kearse? Super Bowl XLIX? Pretty similar. Stakes slightly different. In 11-on-11 work, Hoyer went 2-for-3. He had one rep taken from him when he dealt with some kind of helmet malfunction and Brady had to come on for him for a play.

Jarrett Stidham had a rep that lasted an eternity in 7-on-7 work. Can't give him credit for a completion when that happens. He was otherwise spotless, however, going 10-for-11 in those 7-on-7 periods. He completed two to Danny Etling and had one more pass that would've picked up yardage as Etling drew a pass-interference penalty. In 11-on-11 periods, Stidham went 0-for-1 and mostly handed off.

ONE-ON-ONE NOTES: RECEIVERS VS. CORNERS

*Berrios was the star of this session Tuesday. He created significant separation on an early rep with Brady. He later ran under a perfectly-placed corner route from Brady for another win. Another contested-catch attempt from Brady fell incomplete, but two of Brady's four completions in the one-on-one period went to Berrios. 

*The other two Brady completions went to Maurice Harris, who had an acrobatic grab early and remains one of the team's most consistent wideouts through camp. 

*Quick notes: Brady's 50-50 shot at the end of the period to Harry fell incomplete; Gunner Olszweski was targeted three times and his targets resulted in one incompletion, a drop and a Brian Hoyer interception; Brady made two attempts to Jakobi Meyers and didn't complete either; Stidham found Ryan Izzo for a contested grab that was one of the best of the day for Patriots tight ends.

ONE-ON-ONE NOTES: PASS-RUSHERS VS. O-LINEMEN

* Derek Rivers had a couple of decisive victories as he continues to impress in one-on-one situations in training camp. He looks like a different player than the one we saw get limited action last year. He's part of a crowded outside linebacker group, but he looks like someone who should be on the 53-man roster.

*Deatrich Wise showed an intriguing blend of quickness and power in one-on-one work. He had two victories where he won off the snap, getting little resistance from the blocker across from him. He also put a Lions linemen on the ground to win another rep. In all, he won four, lost one and had one draw.

*Chase Winovich put on a show in front of family and friends in Michigan jerseys. He won all three of his one-on-one reps, using his quickness on one rep, bending around a tackle on another and powering through a holding penalty on a third. (He also steamrolled receiver Brandon Powell in a kickoff period. Almost a 60-pound difference between the two, and Winovich made Powell pay for getting in his way.)

*Trent Harris, who spent last year on the Patriots practice squad, shows good quickness in these settings. He won three reps, by my count, losing one and picking up a draw in another. Again, that outside linebacker room is crowded and so Harris could face an uphill climb. But he had a good run in this drill Tuesday. 

*Not much else doing for other Patriots rushers. Danny Shelton, Shilique Calhoun, Byron Cowart, Lawrence Guy, David Parry and Michael Bennett (one rep) went winless.

OBSERVATIONS OF NOTE

*The intensity was a little bit better on Tuesday than it was on Wednesday. There was the Winovich collision on a kickoff. Mike Pennel jawed at Lions linemen during one-on-ones. James Ferentz and PJ Johnson seemed to get into a post-play scuffle that got Johnson tossed from practice by coach Matt Patricia. 

*To that point . . . Harry, before getting hurt, had a tremendous one-handed catch over Amani Oruwariye that led to a flexing, shouting celebration. 

*Quarterbacks are still a protected species in these practices, even when the pads are on. But that doesn't mean there aren't "sacks," when players scoot by the quarterback without touching him. Michael Bennett drew a hold and picked up a sack on one rep, one of the best reps for any Patriots defender on the day. Winovich had a sack on a play where Ja'Whaun Bentley drew a holding penalty. Jason McCourty had a sack as well on a corner blitz. Dan Skipper allowed a sack playing left tackle with the first-team offense yet again. 

*Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins all had pass breakups during the practice. Collins has consistently gotten his hands on footballs throughout camp. We've said it before and we'll say it again: He looks like a fascinating sub linebacker option. 

*Special teams notes: Harry, Berrios, Meyers, and Olszweski returned punts cleanly on Tuesday; Unclear who lost their block, but Ryan Allen had a punt blocked with Bentley serving in the "personal protector" role often occupied by Nate Ebner or Patrick Chung.

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Patrick Mahomes contract will be an albatross for dynasty-chasing Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes contract will be an albatross for dynasty-chasing Chiefs

“We’re chasing a dynasty.”

That’s how Patrick Mahomes closed his ode of gratitude after signing the richest contract in pro sports history.

Of course you are, Patrick. You and everyone else.

But are you chasing “a” dynasty? Do you just want to be mentioned along with the Packers, Steelers, Niners, Cowboys and Patriots, the only dynasties of the Super Bowl era?

Or are you using chasing as in following? As in the dynasty that came immediately before you? Specifically, New England. The only dynasty of the salary cap era.

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Because if you’re chasing the Patriots, modelling yourself after the Patriots, thinking you and the Chiefs might be the Patriots and go to four Super Bowls in one decade and five in the next, you and your team just made a fundamental mistake. You went “pig at the trough.”

That phrase is one I heard from key folks in the Patriots organization several times in the early 2000s. Tom Brady? Not a pig at the trough when it came to contract time. Peyton Manning? Pig at the trough.

What difference does it make?

Without a piggish quarterback, you can still go 11-5 because there’s talent all over the roster. The Patriots did that in 2008. But when you have to feed and feed and feed that position? The roster gets so thin elsewhere that – without the quarterback – a team might go, say, 2-14 after nine straight seasons of double-digit wins as the Colts did in 2011 without Manning.

This isn’t to say that the Chiefs did the wrong thing in signing Mahomes. Business-wise, they win. And Mahomes wins as well. But lack of funds because of fat cap hits will inevitably make the on-field product suffer and make the chase for a dynasty that much harder.

You can’t blame the Hunt family.

Mahomes is the most important and impactful player in the NFL.

What he authored in the 2019 playoffs is unprecedented - erasing a 24-0 deficit and winning 51-31 in the Divisional Playoffs, going on a 35-7 run in the AFCCG to erase a 10-point deficit then score 21 unanswered in the fourth to erase another 10-point deficit in the Super Bowl. All that coming after the AFCCG nut punch from the Patriots at Kansas City when Mahomes did all he could in the second half to resuscitate KC but came up short because the Chiefs defense sucked.

Having Mahomes sewn up for a dozen years makes their already-skyrocketing asset that much more valuable.  

Consider this: according to Forbes, the Chiefs were the 28th most valuable franchise in the NFL with a total value of $986 million in 2011. By 2018, they were 24th in the league worth $2.1 billion and last September they were still 24th worth $2.3 billion. That will likely rise to nearly $3 billion when Forbes' new list comes out given the Super Bowl win and the presence of Mahomes, which will bring in way more revenue over the next 12 years than the $503 million they pay him.

The Chiefs made the deal as easy-to-swallow as they could in the first two years. Plus, the so-called “guarantee mechanisms” give the Chiefs an escape hatch they can use basically every year.

As for Mahomes, what’s he going to do, turn down a half-billion? Take the money and run, especially since the NFL could be approaching a bit of a recession.

The cap is going down in 2021 because local revenues are going to suffer with the pandemic. The changing media landscape, the financial fallout networks may experience because of COVID-19 and the fact this season may not deliver the same product the networks signed up for all may serve to diminish the next TV deal. The wrangling over how to deal with the drops has just begun.

So the deal is good for the Hunts and it's good for Mahomes.

But the cap hits begin getting big in 2022 ($31.5 million) and they are around $40 million for the next five seasons after that before ballooning to $60 million. If the NFL spreads out the revenue loss and cap decline it’s going to realize this season over a three-year period to soften the blow, the cap is not going to rise at the anticipated level.

And that’s not that good for the football team. Right now, defensive end Chris Jones is playing on a $16 million franchise tag and is pissed about it. Travis Kelce will make about $9 million the next two years as the best tight end in football. The Chiefs have six players this year with cap hits over $15 million. They can do that because Mahomes is a bargain with a $5.3 million cap hit.

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“If the Kansas City Chiefs can keep all the players together, we’re going to be a dynasty,” Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins said on Tuesday. Yeah, well, about that.

It’s virtually impossible to keep all the players together when A) one guy is making a huge percentage of the cap and B) your team starts getting pilfered because it plays well every year.

There will be pooh-poohing about Mahomes’ cap percentage and insistence on TV and gambling money rolling into the coffers. Again, post-pandemic, I don’t see the cap rebounding that quickly.

And if the cap gets to $225 million by the time Mahomes starts seeing his $40 million hits beginning in 2023? That’s 17.7 percent of the cap.

Tom Brady’s highest cap percentage in the past decade was 12.2 percent in 2018. His average cap hit since 2011 was 9.8 percent.

Brady’s willingness to take less for so long enabled the Patriots to pay Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Stephon Gilmore, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Donta’ Hightower really well (ever notice how many of the fat deals are on defense for Bill Belichick?). And it also allowed them to make sure the so-called middle class was squared away too.

By the end of it, when Belichick blanched at every Brady request to give him a bump, it was obvious the head coach was dying to be unburdened of a big-ticket quarterback.

We’ve gone over this at length already this offseason. And the benefit of Brady allowing himself to be lowballed was annually highlighted at Super Bowl time by national media.

People (Mike Felger) want to pretend the cap isn’t real. It is. You can ignore it. You can delay it. But eventually bills come due as they have for the Patriots this year.

New England’s stay in cap hell should be short. Meanwhile, a team like the Ravens who will now have Lamar Jackson using the Mahomes contract as a comp? Hell is on the horizon. Same for the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Teams like the Rams, Raiders, and Eagles are already in hell now or approaching it next year having paid maybe really good but maybe not first-round picks like Jared Goff, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz huge amounts.

Mahomes is a unicorn. We can all agree on that. But his contract is going to be an albatross.

DeAngelo Hall calls himself 'greedy knucklehead' for not joining Patriots in 2009

DeAngelo Hall calls himself 'greedy knucklehead' for not joining Patriots in 2009

DeAngelo Hall was one of the top cornerbacks of his era and earned a lot of money and individual accolades, including three Pro Bowl selections. One thing missing from Hall's résumé is a Super Bowl ring, and that might not have been the case if he joined the New England Patriots in the middle of his career.

Hall isn't shy about saying one of the biggest regrets of his career was re-signing with the Washington Redskins instead of joining the Patriots in free agency after the 2008 season.

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"When I signed to play half the season with Washington in 2008, there was a line in my contract that said the team could not franchise tag me that next season. I remember negotiations for a new deal with Washington weren't going well, and there were other teams in the picture, including New England," Hall said, per an NFL.com article posted Tuesday. "At that time, players didn't take short-term deals, but Randy Moss had just signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Patriots. I couldn't believe it.

"In my own contract discussions with the Pats, I recall Bill Belichick telling me they couldn't give me the contract Moss signed. Being a young and greedy knucklehead, I chose to stay in Washington on a long-term deal (six years, $54 million), which ultimately had me making the same per-year salary as Moss. Over a few million, I could've changed my legacy by being part of that dynasty. That was on the table for me, and I wish I would've made the decision to take less money and play for Belichick."

Hall played for the Redskins through the end of the 2017 season before retiring. The Redskins made two playoff appearances in that span -- NFC Wild Card Round losses in 2012 and 2015. The Patriots, over that same span, played in four Super Bowls and won two. New England's active playoff appearance streak of 11 seasons began in 2009, and it's the longest such streak in league history.

There's no guarantee Hall would've won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. They didn't win another Lombardi Trophy until Year 5 of Hall's six-year extension with the Redskins. But Hall definitely would've been a nice upgrade for the Patriots defense in the second half of his career.