Curran: Tire-kicking time for Patriots, rest of NFL

191543.jpg

Curran: Tire-kicking time for Patriots, rest of NFL

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
On August 30, more than 450 players will be released across the NFL as teams cut down from 90 players to 75. That's a lot of names for NFL personnel men to wade through but wade they will. Through every one of them. One team's trash, another team's treasure and all that. Between now and then, it's vital that front offices get versed on the players currently "unattached." The ones who have been proven players in the league but aren't signed currently because of age, injury or having not found the right opportunity. On Monday, the Patriots will host three veteran players for workouts that fall into this category. Wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh and safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill. Sharper is 35 and two seasons removed from a spectacular season of playmaking with the Saints when he was an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate with nine picks and three TD returns. He played in eight games for the Saints last year. Housmandzadeh will be 34 in September. He's a precise route-runner with good hands and would be depth for a player like Deion Branch. Hill is 32 and, like Sharper, is a free safety. He had 67 tackles with Denver last year. Unlike the mass of mostly young players who will be released league-wide on the 30th, these veterans would be "plug-and-play" type replacements that - most likely - would be summoned if a veteran goes down at some point in the season.Understand that there's every possibility the Patriots could go bring one of them in this week and put him on the roster. But more likely, these workouts are a matter of finding out if all parts are in working order and that nobody is woefully out of shape. Personnel men don't want to be walking into the head coach's office on the Monday after the season opener saying they have no idea who can come in and replace awideout who suffered a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. The idea that Bill Belichick is writing up pink slips for safeties tonight because he's having some 30-something safeties work out on Monday is a little simplistic. This isn't a matter of turning up the heat on players on August 15 after one preseason game. It's making sure that you know what's out there if worse comes to worse with injuries or performance. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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

browns-collins-jamie-collins-012017x.jpg

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.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.