Free agent primer: Running backs

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Free agent primer: Running backs

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

This is the first in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position: Running back.

Who's Here?
Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Thomas Clayton, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley.Who's Out There?
Mike Hart (Colts), Kevin Smith (Lions), Ricky Williams (Dolphins), Brian Westbrook (49ers), Kenneth Darby (Rams), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins), Cedric Benson (Bengals), Derrick Ward (Giants), Brandon Jackson (Packers), Michael Bush (Raiders), Joseph Addai (Colts), DeAngelo Williams (Panthers), Jason Snelling (Falcons), Tim Hightower (Cardinals), Noel Devine (UDFA, West Virginia).What's The Need?
Let's call it a 5.

Between them, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead combined for 1,555 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in 2010. They got 4.8 yards per carry combined. Not bad seeing as they were Plans C andZ respectively. Really, there hasn't been a duct-tape job successful as what the Patriots pulled in their backfield since (insert well-known instance of duct-tape use here). But they're not banking on that happening again. The draft told us that. So it's going to be out with the old (Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris - both free agents), in with the new (rookies Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley) and see what Law Firm and Woody can do for an encore. It's going to be a tough fit for soon-to-be 35-year-old running back Kevin Faulk to make the roster. Vereen will become the heir apparent to Faulk and a complement to BJGE. Ridley becomes the short-yardagereplacement for Morris and another complement if BJGE goes down. Who Do They Chase?
They have the young legs, they just don't have an old head. Ricky Williams would be a reasonable bet. Also the underrated backup to Steven Jackson in St, Louis, 28-year-old Kenneth Darby. Who Do We Look At Next?
Wide receivers.Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."

Patriots promote coaching assistant Nick Caley to tight ends coach

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Patriots promote coaching assistant Nick Caley to tight ends coach

As the Patriots so often like to do, they promoted from within to fill an open coaching position on Monday. 

The team announced that they've named Nick Caley as their tight ends coach, filling the vacancy left behind when Brian Daboll accepted the offensive coordinator position at the University of Alabama last week. 

Caley was a coaching assistant with the Patriots for the past two seasons after spending a decade in the college ranks at John Carroll (2005-06), Akron (2006-07), Auburn (2008), Iowa State (2009-11), Eastern Illinois (2012), Arkansas (2013) and Florida Atlantic (2014).

Caley is one of several John Carroll products -- including director of player personnel Nick Caserio, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Shuplinski -- working for the Patriots at the moment. He graduated from the Jesuit university situated just outside of Cleveland in 2006.