Allen admired New England before arrival

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Allen admired New England before arrival

FOXBORO -- One thing you always hear from new Patriots -- rookies and veterans alike -- is awe for the team machine. Will Allen, a 33-year-old cornerback who signed with New England as a free agent, is no exception.

"It's been great," Allen said of the team's OTAs. "The kind of workouts these guys are doing, it's just impressive. It just reminds me of college and what it's about, as far as trying to get in shape to play at the level you need to play at this game. I think strength coach Harold Nash does an excellent job. He's been kicking my butt for the last week-and-a-half, so I'm excited about that."

The veteran of 11 NFL seasons spent the last five years in Miami's secondary as a mostly-corner, sometimes-nickel back. He signed a one-year, 1 million deal in New England in March.

Though the Patriots do need more men at the position and love veterans, especially former first-round picks, Allen's job isn't guaranteed. New England has worked out at least five college cornerbacks set to be rookies with this weekend's NFL draft.

That's fine with Allen.

"I think to be around for a long time, you have to embrace competition," he said. "I've been in competition since I came into this league and you have to embrace it. In my position, if you don't like competition you're not going to survive out there."

This is where the years of NFL experience help. Allen believes, if anything, the need for full-time nickel backs is growing.

"If you look at where most of the balls are thrown, a lot of the balls are thrown in there, especially where the game is turning now, where a lot of slot guys are getting lot of balls," he said. "If you take a guy like Wes Welker, Wes gets the ball a ton. And tight ends, it's easier throws for the quarterback and the fact that guys are spreading guys out and you're creating most mismatches out there."

The respect for Welker is genuine, and it extends to the rest of the Patriots offense. Allen's time in Miami taught him all too well what kind of damage New England can inflict on defenses; he laughed in obvious joy when asked about working with, instead of against it.

"I've faced Tom Brady quite a few times," Allen said. "To be a teammate of his, I'm grateful for that. I'm happy I'm here. I think, if I had to pick a team to go to, this would be the team."

Allen might have gotten his hopes up in the past. When the Dolphins released the defensive back at 2011's final cuts on September 3, he visited the Patriots in the next three days. But Miami, freed of guaranteeing Allen's contract and able to bring him back at a lower rate, re-signed him on the 14th.

Allen doesn't hide the fact he feels the visit was an opportunity lost. How could he? The Dolphins went 6-10 last season; they missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years. When asked why he wanted to play for the Patriots, Allen practically scoffed.

"Why do you think? This team wins," he said. "We play this football game to win. We play this game because we love it, first and foremost, but most importantly we want to win. This place has a great reputation for winning ball games."

Collins' new contract may influence Patriots' negotiations with Hightower

Collins' new contract may influence Patriots' negotiations with Hightower

FOXBORO -- Jamie Collins and the Cleveland Browns are reportedly closing in on a contract that will turn the ex-Pat's place of exile into his long-term place of work. 

That's interesting in itself. The Browns must have made it clear to Collins he was getting franchised, otherwise you'd think Collins would want to get out there and test the market for at least a couple of days when free agency rolled around. 

It will also be interesting for Collins' former teammate in New England, Dont'a Hightower. While the Patriots aren't going to let the Browns dictate their market and offers when it comes to negotiating with Hightower, Collins' contract will be a useful comp for Hightower. 

Whatever Collins gets, Hightower can make the case for a fair amount more. Hightower is the centerpiece of the Patriots defense, a run-stopper, blitzer, leader and tone-setter. From the jersey number (Tedy Bruschi's old number 54) they encouraged him to wear, to selecting him captain, the team and Hightower's teammates have stated how important he is to the club. 

Hightower on the open market would be in line for a contract in the $10 million-per-year range, with a total value of around $50 million (using Luke Kuechly, Navarro Bowman, Bobby Wagner and Lawrence Timmons as comparable players). The Patriots can franchise Hightower just as easily as the Browns could have franchised Collins. The sticking point for the player is that he doesn't realize the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal. The injury Sword of Damocles dangles every day. 

In other words, Collins' influence on the Patriots isn't done yet. 

Report: Chip Kelly was scheduled to meet with Bill Belichick recently

Report: Chip Kelly was scheduled to meet with Bill Belichick recently

FOXBORO -- Might Chip Kelly be working for the Patriots at some point in the near future? One report calls New England a "logical" landing spot for the former Eagles and 49ers head coach. 

According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Kelly "was headed to New England to meet with [Bill] Belichick" once he found out that he was no longer in the running for the offensive coordinator job in Jacksonville. 

Kelly was fired by the 49ers after one season as head coach and has been interested in continuing his career as an NFL coach, per Mortensen. Kelly coached the Eagles for three seasons, going 26-21.

Belichick openly threw his support behind Kelly after he was let go by Philadelphia on New Year's Eve in 2015.

"I would say it's actually disappointing," Belichick said at the time. "Chip Kelly to me is a really good football coach. He does a great job. I think he's done a good job with that team. It's disappointing to see . . . Pretty much everybody's on a one-year contract in this league. I don't know how you build a program in one year. 

"Chip's a great coach. He'll end up somehwere and he'll do a great job there. I'd say a lot of the players that were on the Eagles that are no longer on the Eagles aren't really doing too much for anybody else, either."

Mortensen opines that the Belichick-Kelly connection would make sense because of their tight bond. 

"The friendship between Kelly and [Belichick] is no secret," Mortensen wrote. "They have exchanged football concepts since Kelly's fast-tempo offense became the rage at Oregon."

Per Mortensen, Kelly was considered an asset by executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, and he was in the running for a job there, yet new coach Doug Marrone saw Kelly as a bad "philosophical fit." 

Apparently that led to Kelly's planned visit here. 

There is history of the Patriots hiring friendly faces during the postseason. In 2012, Belichick re-hired Josh McDaniels to work with then offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who was set to take over Penn State's program after the season. McDaniels -- who had been the offensive coordinator for the Rams earlier that year -- re-claimed his role as offensive coordinator in New England the following season and has been in-house ever since. 

Kelly has no experience as one of Belichick's employees -- McDaniels, of course, rose through the coaching ranks in New England before being hired as head coach in Denver in 2009 -- but perhaps he is a candidate to fulfill a role similar to the one McDaniels was given before Super Bowl XLVI.