Bennett: 'I love being a part of this team, this organization and this city'

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Bennett: 'I love being a part of this team, this organization and this city'

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett met with reporters on Thursday while wearing a "Football Marty" hooded sweatshirt and a hat with a cartoon image of his face emblazoned on the front. 

Ever the business man, Bennett is trying to sell, sell, sell.

"It's called micro-branding," he said. "You focus on the area that you're in and then eventually people tell other people about it, then you branch out and do a little bit more so I started a little thing called Football Marty."

He's sold some gear, he explained, but it sounds like the stuff hasn't exactly been flying off the shelves. 

"I'm moving some. Not as much as I would like to," he said. "It's hard being a one-year guy in the market. A lot of people don't know if they want to invest in you because they don't know if you're going to be here next year or not. But I like the coolest stuff. So if you want to invest in cool, you want to invest in me."

Will the Patriots be looking to invest in Bennett? With the playoffs approaching, and with Bennett appearing to round into form physically after dealing with an ankle injury for most of the season, that's one question that faces the team as it looks at its long-term roster configuration. 

Bennett is in the last year of his contract and is scheduled to hit unrestricted free-agency in March. He'll turn 30 this offseason, and could command a deal that looks something like the one tight end Greg Olsen got from the Panthers headed into his 30-year-old campaign.

Asked if he could see himself in New England for the 2017 season and beyond, Bennett made it clear just how much he's enjoyed playing with the Patriots.

"I love it here," he said. "We’ll figure it out when it’s time to figure it out, but my family loves it here, I love being a part of this team, this organization and this city. When it comes around, it comes around. I ain't really tripping, like I said. I save my money pretty good. I’ve got a good, diverse portfolio, so I’m not really tripping right now."

The Patriots, of course, have provided Bennett an opportunity to do something he hasn't done since when he was with the Cowboys in 2009: Make the postseason. While he's used colorful means to describe all the winning he's done with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick this season, he's taking a more subdued approach to playoff football this week.

"I'm not very excited," he said. "It’s the bye week right now so I’m just chilling. I just save my energy, build up as it goes on. There’s no reason to have a lot of highs and lows this week, so I’m just trying to have good focus in practice and get better this week, take some time off and see what I can do to contribute and make the team better for the next game. We don’t know who we’re playing, so it’s hard to get excited about ghosts. But for overall, I’m just chilling.”

Breer on Brady-Garoppolo: I don't think this is a Bill [Belichick] decision

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Mike Felger and Bert Breer discuss a transition of quarterbacks between Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, and when or if a move would happen.

Four-player draft class an indication of Patriots confidence in roster

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Four-player draft class an indication of Patriots confidence in roster

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had only 50 to 75 players on their draft board. From that group they took only four this weekend: Youngstown State edge defender Derek Rivers, Troy tackle Antonio Garcia, Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise and UCLA tackle Conor McDermott. 

What are we to gather from that? Does that miniscule class -- the smallest in team history -- mean this was a particularly shallow pool of talent?

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio seemed to indicate otherwise about a week before the draft during a press conference.

"Look, there's good football players top to bottom, I would say, across positions," he said."Our job is to find the ones that fit for us. The reality is, look, there are some players that fit. There’s some players that don’t. In the end, we end up with 50 to 75 players that we would draft from top to bottom. That’s a small number, but that’s where we end up."

That explanation seemed to be a sign that maybe Caserio, Bill Belichick and their staff felt as though there weren't many players in this class who could compete for spots on what was was a talent-laden roster well ahead of draft weekend. There were good players scattered throughout the class, as Caserio said, but maybe only 50 to 75 were good enough to challenge for jobs in New England.  

Boston Sports Tonight's Michael Holley -- whose book War Room followed closely the draft strategies of the Patriots, Chiefs and Falcons in 2011 -- said something interesting on CSN two weeks ago once Caserio let it be known that the Patriots draft board was looking relatively small. Holley believed the number of names on the draft board was a sign that the Patriots felt very good about their team before they were even on the clock to make a pick.

Because the Patriots will put names of their own players on their draft board, comparing them to potential draftees who might compete with them at a certain position, pegging only a limited number of players as "draftable" may mean that many of the veteran names already on the roster were unlikely to be leapfrogged by rookies.

It was an interesting point. In retrospect, it highlights the fact that this draft probably wasn't devoid of talent. But it may have been short on talent that could "fit" in New England -- or realistically make the 2017 Patriots. 

One area in the draft where the Patriots seemed to believe in its depth? Perhaps the team's most obvious area of need: Edge defender. 

The Patriots had just three established defensive ends on the roster going into the draft in Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy. Ninkovich, 33, is going into a contract season. Ealy is in the final year of his rookie deal and has never played a snap in New England. 

The Patriots had several options on the edge with their first pick at No. 72 overall. Kansas State's Jordan Willis, Texas A&M's Daeshon Hall, Alabama's Tim Williams, Auburn's Carl Lawson and Ohio's Tarell Basham were all on the board . . . yet they traded back. 

As ESPN's Mike Reiss suggested Sunday, that deal could have been the result of a player the Patriots liked -- like defensive end Dawuane Smoot of Illinois -- coming come off the board just before No. 72. Maybe they wanted to regroup and trade back to buy themselves time to make a choice they felt confident in.

But it also could have been a case where they had a handful of edge players on their board graded similarly, and they wanted to pick up some draft capital by moving down the board without sacrificing much in the way of talent. 

They ended up with Rivers, who some believe has the ability to be a top-end pass-rusher and would have been taken much higher had he played for a program in a power-five conference. Then they hung tight at No. 131 in the fourth round and found another added layer of depth for the edge in Wise, who in some ways looks like Chandler Jones when Jones was a rookie in 2012.

Whether or not the they thought of this year's draft as "deep" throughout? That's debatable. That they liked the look of their roster going into the weekend before making a pick is not.