Gronkowski not highest-paid tight end in NFL


Gronkowski not highest-paid tight end in NFL

When news dropped that Rob Gronkowski signed a 6-year, 54 million extension, he was quickly dubbed the highest-paid tight end in the history of the NFL.

Not so fast.

A closer look at Gronk's contract, thanks to the Globe's Greg Bedard, shows that Rob Gronkowski is actually the fifth-highest paid tight end in the league.

Gronkowski's current deal is really an 8-year, 55.23 million dollar deal since the next two seasons are included. The last four seasons of his new deal are not guaranteed -- the Patriots would need to pick up a 10 million bonus in order to keep Gronk for 2016-2019 -- but even if they were, Gronkowski's per-year salary is still below that of four other tight ends.

Jason Witten, Dallas: 7.4 millionyr, 18.5 million guaranteed
Vernon Davis, San Francisco: 7.35 millionyr, 23 million guaranteed
Antonio Gates, San Diego: 7.235 million, 20.4 million guaranteed
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay: 7 million, 1 million guaranteed
Rob Gronkowski, New England: 6.9 million, 18 million guaranteed

By being locked up by the Patriots through 2019, Gronkowski may lose out on a big-time pay day down the road. But for a guy who sustained a serious back injury in college and continues to play as hard as he does, the 18 million guaranteed couldn't be passed on.

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE - Tom Brady didn't merely fly to Carolina because he likes having his ears pop. 

The Patriots quarterback will indeed play Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Given Bill Belichick's stated objective of making Jimmy Garoppolo's preparation for the season's first four games a priority, it was uncertain whether Brady would be on the field even though he traveled. But with Brady a late scratch last Thursday against the Bears after gouging his thumb just before kickoff, his chances for game reps before his exile were waning. 

Brady made it very clear this week that he doesn't just want the game reps for tuning up and getting knocked around but because he believes it's his job and responsibility to be out there leading the team, regardless of where he'll be the first four weeks of the year. With him feeling that strongly about playing being important for his preparation and for his standing within the team, it makes sense for Belichick to give him reps. 

It's not known whether Brady or Garoppolo will start or how many series either quarterback will play Friday night. 

Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension


Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

Alan Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots after the team suspended him prior to last week's preseason game with the Bears, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Branch's absence last week, he replied, "It's a club matter."

What got Branch suspended by the team is still unknown, but he is expected to be a contributing player on the interior of the Patriots defensive line in 2016. He started in 17 games last season, including both playoff games, often lining up alongside fellow defensive tackle Malcom Brown. 

Through training camp the Patriots have also used Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson and Joe Vellano on the interior of their defensive front. Branch, however, has consistently been used with the team's first defensive grouping. It's unclear how a week away from the team might impact his spot on the depth chart. 

Field Yates of ESPN was the first to report the news that Branch had been reinstated.

Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina


Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

Tom Brady traveled with the Patriots to Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, ahead of the third preseason game Friday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald was first to report the news. 

There’s no word on if Brady will play. He missed the opener against the Saints and, after cutting his thumb with scissors, missed the second exhibition game last Thursday against the Bears, both at Gillette Stadium.

Brady, of course, will miss the first four games of the regular season serving his NFL-imposed Deflategate suspension.