Curran: No sizzle, just Solder for Patriots

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Curran: No sizzle, just Solder for Patriots

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Patriots took a left tackle. A good, solid left tackle. Nate Solder is a 319-pound plate of broccoli for the program. He's good for them. His next 10 years will likely be spent making sure Tom Brady's retirement years are fairly pain-free, then protecting the blindside of Brady's much-scrutinized successor. "Hes played left tackle and I think that will be his position in the National Football League," Bill Belichick said early Friday morning after the first round of the 2011 draft was put to bed. "I think his position is the one hes been playing. Its still obviously a different level of play and his techniques and there are a lot of things that hell have to improve on. But hes a smart guy, hard-working kid, hes already graduated (from Colorado), hes a good worker, so hopefully hell take the coaching that he gets from our staff and Dante (Scarnecchia, the Pats' offensive line coach) and be able to improve and develop at a position that he has some experience at."And that, as they say, is that. No oohhs, no aaahhhhs, no posters, minimal jersey sales. I appreciate what some people may be wondering: "WHERE'S THE PASS RUSHAHHHHH!?!?!?!?"It's a valid question. Pocket crushers, edge crashers and all manner of havoc-causing front-seven players were on the board in the first round. The Patriots could have jumped up a couple of spots from 17 and gotten North Carolina's Robert Quinn who went to the Rams at 13. Or Ryan Kerrigan who went to Jacksonville at 16. Or simply taken Cam Jordan at 17 (the Cal defensive end went to New Orleans at 24). They spent some time trying to trade down at 17 but nothing materialized. So, in the end,a left tackle to succeed Matt Light and protect the franchise's most valuable commodity was just as strong a need.Wes Bunting of the National Football Posttold me,"Solder is agood fit for New England. His best football is still ahead of him. A little more athlete than football player at this point because he's still learning how to play."You'd have to expect the Patriots to make a pitch to keepLight -- an unrestricted free agent -- for another year or two just to keep the spot warm while Solder develops. Light, judging by 2010, still has good football left in him. When the 28th pick rolled around, you knew the Patriots would again look to deal. And that time they did, sending No. 28 to New Orleans and picking up another first-rounder for 2012 and adding a third second-round pick for Friday. They passed on Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (who went to the hated Jets at 30) and Ohio State's Cam Heyward (31 to the Steelers). But, as Belichick pointed out, "We feel like there are players on the board that will give us good value at our picks that we have tomorrow." Will they use those picks? Specifically No. 33? That's the question. New England will surely get an offer similar to the one they got at 28 -- a first-rounder next year and a fourth second-rounder in 2011. But will they be down with letting so many good players go off the board between 17 and whenever their next pick arrives? That's what the Patriots will weigh between whenever you read this and 6 p.m. Friday evening. Take a front-seven guy -- Justin Houston from Georgia, Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson, Jabaal Sheard, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year from Pitt, Arizona's Brooks Reed -- or trade down again. The Patriots didn't do anything to make your heart race Thursday night. But their priority is to make September through January exciting, not April. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

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Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week. 

Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.

Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons. 

Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.

Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England. 

Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

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Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter. 

Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well. 

The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season. 

Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.