Belichick loves Larry Fitzgerald

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Belichick loves Larry Fitzgerald

When it comes to his press conferences, Bill Belichick's about as likely to break into a seductive belly dance as he is to gush over one of the 53 players on his roster. But when it comes to the opposition, the coach is always more than willing to lay on heavy helpings of praise, and convince the world that his Pats are up against the NFL's best . . .

And sometimes, he doesn't even have to lie.

For instance, Larry Fitzgerald. You know about Fitzgerald. He'll go down as one of the best to ever play the wide receiver position. He's only 29 years old, but already finds himself in the Top 5 among active players in receiving touchdowns and, by the end of this season, will likely have more than 800 career receptions and well over 10,000 career receiving yards. He's a 6-foot-3, 225-pound freak of nature, who strikes fear in the eyes of any NFL coach even perhaps the greatest of all time.

Anyway, here's what Belichick said about Fitzgerald this afternoon, as the Pats prepare for Sunday's home opener against the Cardinals (courtesy of Mary Paoletti):

"He does everything well," Belichick said. "Hes a great, great receiver; will go down as one of the all-time greats and might end up being the best one ever, I dont know. He has size, quickness, ability to separate and gets open, exceptional hands. Hes good short, deep, with the ball in his hands after the catch; strong, very smart, sets up his routes well. They move him around, they put him in a lot of different spots, its hard to even find him; you have no idea where hes going to line up from play to play. He has a very big route tree; he runs all the routes with double moves off of them and complementary moves so one route sets up another."

And here's what Belichick didn't say: "It's just lucky for us that the Cardinals are starting Kevin Kolb at quarterback."

But he could have, and should have.

Listen, I love Larry Fitzgerald as much as the next guy. The dude transcends NFL allegiance. And no one will be surprised if he puts up massive numbers on Sunday.

I also realize that Kolb who's extremely likely to start for the injured John Skelton in Week 2 was very effective in relief against the Seahawks last Sunday. Not that it would take much, but it's very safe to say that he'll have more confidence coming into Week 2 than he's had in more than a year.

But come on, it won't last long.

It's one thing for Kolb to sneak up on Slappy Carroll and the Seahawks in the comfort of his own Arizona home (although, there were a few boo birds as he took over for Skelton.) It's another thing to start on the road against Bill Belichick and the fully-prepared Pats. At the end of the day, even if Fitzgerald puts up his numbers, it won't be enough to offset Kolb's.

Although I'm sure Belichick will still have plenty of nice things to say about them both.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.