With franchise tag window open, Patriots have until March 1 to make a call

With franchise tag window open, Patriots have until March 1 to make a call

The NFL hit one of the notable dates on its offseason calendar on Wednesday as the window to apply the franchise and transition tags to pending free agents officially opened. Teams have until Mar. 1 at 4 p.m. to use their tag designations.

Though the Patriots opted not to tag anyone last offseason, they have several key contributors set to hit free agency this year, and applying the tag may make more sense. Chief among the candidates to be tagged? Linebacker and defensive captain Dont'a Hightower.

If the Patriots and Hightower can't reach a long-term extension, the franchise tag might make sense even if the price tag -- about $14.6 million guaranteed -- is steep for an off-the-ball linebacker. Not only is Hightower a leader in the locker room and on the field as the signal-caller for Bill Belichick's defense, he's a proven big-game performer who has made critical fourth-quarter plays in each of his team's last two Super Bowl wins.

Hightower also may have placed himself in the category of too valuable to lose. Should he hit the open market and sign elsewhere, the Patriots would be left relatively thin in terms of experience at the linebacker position with Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin and Elandon Roberts as their holdovers at that spot from 2016. While that group saw valuable time calling plays with Hightower off the field, all three have just one year (or less than that in Van Noy's case) in the Patriots system under their belts.

The drop-off from Hightower to the next man up would be significant, making the franchise tag a valuable tool in that it would keep Hightower off the market, while simultaneously buying the Patriots some time to try to work out a long-term extension.

Asked about the franchise tag last week, Hightower said, "That's a lot of money."

Other impending free agents who played big roles for the Patriots in 2016 will be worth consideration for new contracts, but the cost of the franchise tag at those positions may be prohibitive.

If Belichick wants to keep tight end Martellus Bennett in the fold on the tag, the cost is projected to be about $9.8 million. Others like corner Logan Ryan ($14.3 million if tagged), defensive tackle Alan Branch ($13.4 million if tagged) and safety Duron Harmon ($11 million if tagged) would very likely be deemed to pricey to tag. 

The Patriots last used their franchise tag in 2015 when they applied it to kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Later in the offseason, Gostkowski and the team worked out a long-term deal that made him the highest-paid kicker in the league and will keep him in New England through 2018.

Receiver Wes Welker (2012), guard Logan Mankins (2011), defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (2010), quarterback Matt Cassel (2009), corner Asante Samuel (2007), kicker Adam Vinatieri (2005, 2002) and safety Tebucky Jones (2003) are the others who have been given the franchise tag since Belichick took over as head coach of the Patriots in 2000. 

Darrelle Revis has court date Thursday on fight claims

Darrelle Revis has court date Thursday on fight claims

New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has a court date next week on criminal charges stemming from a fight after he turned himself in to police and was later released on a non-monetary bond.

Revis faces aggravated assault and other charges alleging he was in a fight with two men last weekend in Pittsburgh. He answered no questions from the media as he turned himself in Friday. He later made an initial court appearance, and his next court date was scheduled for Thursday.

Revis' attorney has said Revis was physically assaulted by a group of at least five people. He said Revis "feared for his safety" and sought medical attention, but he didn't offer details about the severity of Revis' injuries.

Police say the fight started when a man began recording a video of Revis and Revis grabbed his phone and tried to delete it. Two men say they were punched and knocked out.

The New York Jets said through a spokesman they would have no further comment on Revis' situation other than their initial statement that they were aware of the matter and had spoken with Revis. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press that the league was looking into the matter.

Attorney Blaine Jones said Saturday in a text message that while he was hired for the pre-indictment phase of the case, he would not be representing the Jets cornerback going forward.

Revis is due $15 million next season, including a $2 million roster bonus due on the second day of the new league year, March 10.

The $13 million in base salary includes $6 million in guaranteed money, which the Jets would owe him even if they decided to cut him before the deadline.

Revis had a bitter breakup with his agents last year and has no formal representation going forward.

Revis, who is from Aliquippa, was a star at the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted No. 14 overall by the Jets in 2007. He quickly established himself as one of the top players at his position - and in franchise history - while also earning the nickname, "Revis Island" for his penchant for routinely shutting down opposing teams' top receivers. He is in his second stint with the Jets.

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Cyrus Jones: 'I'll never take credit for something I don't feel I contributed to'

Cyrus Jones: 'I'll never take credit for something I don't feel I contributed to'

It was a tough rookie season for Cyrus Jones after being selected by the New England Patriots in the second round of the the 2016 NFL Draft.

Despite struggling in the return game all season and being inactive for the playoffs, Jones will forever the labeled as a "Super Bowl Champion" after his team's victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

But you won't hear Jones bragging about the victory.

"I'll never take credit for something I don't feel I contributed to," Jones told Childs Walker of the The Baltimore Sun. "I was part of the team, but I didn't feel a part of it."

The 23-year-old rookie played in 10 games for the Patriots, seeing 147 snaps on defense. But his struggles in the return game were a talking point for most of the season after he came in with such high expectations as a returner out of Alabama. 

"Honestly, it was hell for me," he explained. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

Jones has already turned the page on his rookie season saying, there's "no such thing as an offseason" because he "didn't earn it."