Fells could provide leadership for young tight ends

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Fells could provide leadership for young tight ends

FOXBORO -- The full Gronkowski Experience has not yet hit new tight end Daniel Fells. How to be sure? Fells had to ask.

"Him and Aaron Hernandez . . . I've heard stories about both those guys," Fells laughed. "But they're good guys. They're competitors. They're out here and they're working hard so that's always a good thing."

So it seems Gronkowski got the watermelon spiking, scooter rides, and Zubaz pants out of his system before OTAs.
Indeed, Fells has nothing but respect for New England's tremendous tight end tandem. Their on-field production in 2011 -- 169 catches for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns -- impressed Fells as a testament to New England's brilliant manipulation of the offense.

"They're both real good tight ends," Fells said. "They went out there and they produce. They're two of the top guys in the league. But, traditionally, just looking at this offense, Tom Brady's going to find the open man and that's something that appeals to everybody."

One has to think Fells can provide a positive influence for the younger tight ends the way Alge Crumpler did in the duo's rookie year. Fells learned from Crumpler himself, during his first NFL season. They shared one year-and-a-half in Atlanta, and the way Fells tells it, the relationship was priceless.

Just coming in as a rookie, you don't know what to expect. I went into Atlanta not knowing if guys are going to try to sabotage you, because you're competing. That's what it's all about, because you're competing for a job, for a position, so you don't really know if you can trust anybody. But Alge welcomed everybody with open arms.

"He's the type of guy who had me over to his house for Thanksgiving," Fells said. "He had his family in town and I didn't have any family in Atlanta and I wasn't going home. He invited me over to his house and fed me. He made the Pro Bowl that year and took all his tight ends out to Hawaii with him. Paid for the flight and everything. That's just the type of person that he was. Very giving and very humble about all his blessings. I just learned a lot from him."

That kind of presence Crumpler was for Fells -- supportive, gracious -- is what Fells can be for Gronkowski and Hernandez. And it sounds like that's where he's comfortable. Fells is first concerned with proving himself a productive player in New England -- something the other tight ends have already done.

"I can just go out here and be me That's what's gotten me around the league. That's what's gotten me to the point of being able to play for seven years is just going out and being myself, being professional. Just doing my job.

"As far as guiding those two? Like I said, they are two great athletes, two great competitors. I don't really need to guide them in that sense. I'm just going to go out here and try and fill in where I can."

It will be an interesting dynamic, at least.

Fells is a guy nicknamed "Rev" at UC Davis because his demeanor matched that of Jerry Harris from the movie "Remember the Titans." You know, the the football player who aspired to be . . . a reverend.

Sound like Gronknandez to you? Not really.

"I'm a little bit older. I've been around the block," Fells said, laughing at the reputation of his new teammates. "I was young once myself, but now I'm married and have a son. Things change. Times change. They'll grow up. They're enjoying their youth right now."

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.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.