By Tom E. Curran
With the Patriots telling Nick Kaczur to take a pay cut from his scheduled 3.4 million salary in 2011 or expect to be released, it got us thinking about New England's line depth.And one guy we've forgotten about a little is tackle Steve Maneri. Undrafted out of Temple last April, Maneri was signed by the Texans. They started to convert him from college tight end to NFL offensive tackle. He was released in the final cuts and the Patriots quickly claimed him. He had to be placed on the active roster for his first three games with the team. Then he was passed through waivers and signed to the Patriots practice squad. And there he remained through the rest of the season. The Patriots signed him to a future contract in late January, retaining his rights. At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, the 22-year-old Maneri is a very good athlete (he's run a 4.8 in the 40) and was, according to experts, one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft. He impressed at enough practices in 2010 to earn the coveted black jersey the team gives out weekly to players who showed well in practices. Kaczur had been supplanted at right guard by Sebastian Vollmer in 2009, but Kaczur also had the versatility to play guard. When Kaczur hurt his back and had season-ending surgery last year, Dan Connolly ably took over as the depth guy at guard (he played on both the left and right sides). Now Maneri, it seems, will be the depthdevelopmental guy at tackle, along with Quinn Ojinnaka. What happens with pending free agent Matt Light may determine how much we see of Maneri. Meanwhile, Thomas Austin - a 6-4, 310-pounder out of Clemson - is in a situation similar to Maneri's. He's guardcenter depth and - with Logan Mankins irritated, Stephen Neal coming back from another injury and center Dan Koppen nearing the end, Austin may find a role sooner rather than later.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter.
Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows.
The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.
Tuesday’s announcement from Roger Goodell that the NFL is “relaxing” its rules on celebrations is good news for at least one Patriot.
That would be Brandin Cooks, who began celebrating the rule change on Twitter not long after the league made its announcement.
Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints this offseason in a trade that sent first and third-round picks to New Orleans, lost his favorite celebration last season when it was made clear that miming archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for such a celebration.
Following Norman’s fine, Cooks lamented the league’s decision to punish what Cooks had previously done in reference to a Bible verse (Psalms 144:6).
"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."
Added Cooks: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."
When Tuesday’s news emerged, Cooks and former Saints teammate Mark Ingram were quick to react.