Pocket rocket Demps could be weapon

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Pocket rocket Demps could be weapon

FOXBORO - If Jeff Demps wasn't heading to London for the Olympics, he probably would have been a fourth or fifth-round pick back in April, an AFC personnel man told me Friday.

But Demps, who has reached agreement with the Patriots according to his agent, went to London, won a silver medal for the 4x100 team (he didn't race in the final; just the qualifying) and is now resuming his football career.

What do we know?

That the University of Florida product he is breathtakingly fast. Perhaps the fastest player to ever enter the NFL at 100 meters. That he set the world junior record in the 100 in 2008 (10.01). That he only returned 21 kickoffs in four years at Florida. That he is short (5-8) and built like the proverbial brick outhouse (180 pounds). That he's a gadget guy at this point.

"He's a little shrimp but he had a ton of production at Florida," an AFC personnel man told me Friday. "He can maybe be a third running back, a specialist. He can maybe be a fourth wide receiver. You don't know. But he's had production and he's ridiculously fast."

If Demps were in the 2012 draft, he would have projected as a "fourth or fifth-round pick" according to my source. Pro Football Weekly, one of my go-to sources on college prospects, said Demps merited late-round consideration despite the track plans. They agreed he graded as a "middle-round pick on talent alone."

The need for a dedicated kickoff returner in a league that's trying its best to make the play obsolete is questionable. And punt returning is an art that Demps has no background in while at Florida. He's also not known for his hands.

So if the Patriots are going to get bang for having Demps around, they'll need to find a way to make him relevant in the offense.

With the return of Josh McDaniels and the offense's revival of the screen pass, that could be the spot we see Demps in first. Get him the ball on the perimeter and see if he can crease the defense. The mere threat of it would be a distraction.

Currently, the Patriots have their third-down back in Danny Woodhead. They have a fleet of receivers and - candidly - Demps wouldn't pick up what the hell the Patriots are doing in two weeks.

He will - if he sticks - have a specific role. And it will be one that extends beyond kickoff returns. He can fire off the edge on punt block. He can be a gunner on punts and kickoff team.

How things proceed will be interesting. If the Patriots want to get him to their practice squad, they'll need to release him at some point and hope nobody else claims him. Although Demps could pass on being claimed to another team's roster and choose the Patriots practice squad, that's a risk. So if the Patriots don't want to take that risk, they'll have to use a roster spot on him at the end of camp.

The Jets, Bucs and Colts all had interest.

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

President-elect Donald Trump made sure to thank a few of his supporters from New England -- particularly those at 1 Patriot Place -- during a speech on the eve of his inauguration to the nation's highest office. 

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all earned shout-outs from Trump. Kraft was one of many Trump donors present for a dinner at Washington, DC's Union Station, where he was singled out by the soon-to-be-president. 

"In the audience we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft," Trump said. "Good luck, Bob.

"Your friend Tom Brady just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good. Good luck. You're going to do great."

Trump gave one extra nod to Belichick, who he says taught him to out-work his competition. 

"I out-worked everybody," Trump said. "I think I out-worked anyone who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick."

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.