FOXBORO - Patriots owner Robert Kraft now has his historic tight ends sewn up practically through the end of the decade. And he likes that fact."We're privileged to have two of the best young players on this team we know are gonna be here for quite some time," Kraft said after signing Aaron Hernandez to a five-year extension on Monday. Earlier this offseason, the team signed Rob Gronkowski to a six-year deal in excess of 50 million. Kraft took a verbal victory lap over the fact the Patriots got the two players at lower costs in the 2010 draft. Gronkowski was a second-rounder who dropped because of back issues. Hernandez was a fourth-rounder who dropped because of failed drug tests at Florida. "We know that both players had issues coming out so where we drafted them was really not indicative of how good they really are and both of them have really shined here," Kraft said. Kraft revealed that Hernandez made a 50,000 contribution to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund after agreeing to his deal. "I said, 'Aaron you don't have to do this.' He said, 'It makes me feel good and I want to do it,' " Kraft recounted."That makes me feel good because part of what we learned early on, we have a lot of young men who come into this business and come from humble financial homes and part of what we've tried is make them understand is that the psychic income involved in giving back your time and your resources." Kraft opined that it's incumbent on the team to shepherd players into affluence. "To flip the switch from living modestly to all of a sudden having a lot of income, I think we have to work very hard to help these young men adjust to that," Kraft said. "I just think he's a super player and a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think ...10 years ago, I was in that class (and I would) think, 'Wow.' But this guy's a good guy."Meanwhile, with the season looming and the league and its officials still at an impasse, it appears the season will open with replacement officials. Asked about the threat this poses to the integrity of the game, "Yeah, well. I'm gonna let the league office deal with that."Kraft was asked why, given the time, effort and billions expended during the past few years to get a new CBA in place, this reality would be tolerated. "I'm sure you're intelligent to know you don't make judgments until you know all the facts and all the sides," Kraft admitted."So I'm gonna respectfully stay out of that issue.
Jerod Mayo still has faith in New England Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones.
The cornerback, who was the Patriots' top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, struggled mightily in his rookie season. He fumbled his way out of a role on special teams, where he served as a returner.
He then failed to perform at nickel cornerback, and the Patriots traded for Eric Rowe, who pushed Jones down the depth chart and often onto the inactives on game day. Jones' emotional outburst during Week 5 when he got ejected for punching Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins didn't help.
Despite all that, Mayo thinks Jones will turn things around.
"I think Cyrus Jones will probably be most improved this year," Mayo said in the latest edition of "The Ex Pats" podcast. "I want people to remember a rookie [Matthew] Slater. A rookie Matt Slater was terrible. He would sit here on this podcast and tell you he's terrible, and I think Cyrus Jones is more athletic than Matthew Slater. I think -- I know for a fact, because I've seen it time and time again, the biggest leap not only in athleticsm but also in confidence is from year one to year two."
Jones admitted to the Baltimore Sun that his rookie was "hell." He added he felt "embarrassed." The 23-year-old cornerback said he didn't feel like he was a part of New England's Super Bowl LI win.
“Failure is another opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” Jones wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.
Mayo seems to think Jones has learned his lesson, and will rebound with the help of Bill Belichick. And the Patriots may need Butler to be the most-improved player. Malcolm Butler's future with New England has become uncertain, and the remaining top cornerbacks are over 6-feet.
The Patriots need a slot corner. Jones is the next man up.
"As much as the media has kind of battered this young kid, Bill's going to boost him up this entire offseason," Mayo said. "Bill -- he's the best at putting lowlights up after a game . . . But during the offseason, he kind of -- it's individualized coach. He knows this guy's confidence is in the toilet. He's going to boost him up as much as possible.
"You know [Jones] can play football. He played in the SEC. He played on the top team on the country, and was a standout performer. So this is a confidence issue. This entire thing is a confidence issue, and I think they fix that."
PHOENIX -- The Patriots pulled off what many considered a surprise free-agent signing when they acquired corner Stephon Gilmore. As it turns out, before they picked up the former Bills cover man, they inquried about a separate move that would have been even more eye-opening.
According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, ahead of coming to a deal with Gilmore, the Patriots were among the teams that spoke to the Seahawks about a potential trade for Richard Sherman.
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During the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore, Seattle coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that multiple teams have contacted the Seahawks about Sherman. But, Carroll said, "I don't see anything happening at all."
Sherman, who turns 29 next season, will make $11.431 million for 2017. He's due $11 million in the final year of his contract in 2018.