Report: Welker, Pats working toward deal this week

562840.jpg

Report: Welker, Pats working toward deal this week

The clock is ticking on Wes Welker and the Patriots.

July 15 is the deadline for the two sides to come together and come to a long-term deal. After that, if an extension has not been reached, Welker will play under the franchise tag during the 2012 season.

There may be hope for Welker, though, even despite the fact that time is getting short. According to a Boston Globe report, both sides will be "working hard" to get a deal done this week. The Globe had reported over the weekend that the two sides were about 6 million apart in guaranteed money. But now the biggest hang-up in coming to an agreement appears to be Welker's insistence on getting a third year in his new deal.

From PFT:
However, its fair to ask whether any amount of hard work is really going to bridge the 6 million gap between the two sides. Welker may be calculating that anything less than 20.933 million guaranteed in the first two years of the contract is simply not enough, considering that hell get 9.515 million guaranteed this year as the franchise player and would get at least 11.418 million if the Patriots use the franchise tag on him again next year. But the Patriots may have decided that theyre not going to guarantee him that much because they dont know for sure if theyll franchise him again next year if Welker gets hurt this season or starts to show signs that hes on the decline at age 31, the Patriots could decide to let him test free agency.

Should be interesting to see if there's a number -- of both dollars and years -- that both sides can agree to before next week.

Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

sheldon-richardson.jpg

Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

The NFL announced this week that Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has been suspended without pay for Week 1 of the 2016 regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. 

Richardson will miss his team's season-opener against the Bengals and will be eligible to return to the Jets active roster on Sep. 12. The Jets and the Patriots meet for the first of their two division games on Nov. 27. 

Richardson responded to the news of suspension on Thursday. 

In July of 2015, Richardson led police on a high-speed chase -- hitting speeds as high as 143 miles per hour -- in suburban St. Louis. Police reported a strong odor of marijuana in the car and inside found a loaded, semiautomatic handgun that was possessed legally. Richardson had a 12-year-old relative riding with him in his Bentley at the time of the incident.

In January, Richardson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. Though he avoided jail time, he was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. 

Richardson has been one of the league's best defensive linemen since entering the league as a first-rounder in 2013. He served a four-game suspension to start last season after violating the league's substance abuse policy.

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

collins-gallery_0.jpg

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.