Branch release ties in to tight ends


Branch release ties in to tight ends

FOXBORO - Bill Belichick has said that official titles don't matter. Usually, he's referring to members of his coaching staff. He might as well be referring to his players too. The release of Deion Branch on Friday leaves the Patriots with just two single-purpose veteran wideouts on the roster: Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. The other veteran players who carry a WR next to their names are also special teams staples (Julian Edelman and Matt Slater). The tenor of feedback I've received Friday afternoon on this news has been, "Two wide receivers on the roster?! HERESY! They need more guys! Who are they bringing back? Is this a temporary thing?"
Hold on. What does one call Aaron Hernandez?He's certainly closer to a wideout than a tight end. So that brings the count to three wideouts. And Rob Gronkowski? Classic tight end shape, but he'slined up wide and in the slot as well. Three-and-a-half?Meanwhile, tight ends like Daniel Fells and the phantom, Visanthe Shiancoe, have been signed to take up Hernandez' slack (don't forget, Hernandez and Gronkowski were the only tight ends to do anything at all last season). Better to maybe call these guys "perimeter targets"and forget what convention demands they be described as. Which brings us to Branch. Brilliant player. Certainly capable of catching 40 to 50 balls this year. But his time is running short and the team's offensive emphasis has moved away from players like him. There are better targets out there. Might they bring Branch back? Or Jabar Gaffney? Maybe. But for now, this is what they'll run with at the top of the perimeter target list. Sometimes, the Patriots make out-of-the-blue moves and, after a second's reflection, you see where they were coming from. Branch fits that bill. Two other big releases made simple sense as well, Dan Koppen and James Ihedigbo.
Koppen's release was expected. He's having trouble getting to the second level of the defense, he's 32 and he's coming off an injury that stole his 2011 season. Plus, he only plays center and all the other guys who play center can also fill in at guard. Koppen is probably just about done. He was a free agent this offseason and only got a nibble from the Titans who ultimately passed.. As for Ihedigbo, the emergence of Nate Ebner as a Big Nickel safety who can go and play at the linebacker level and also cover kicks rendered the hard-working Ihedigbo moot.

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lada Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lada Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade


It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.