Much undue ado about Brian Waters

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Much undue ado about Brian Waters

There was an alarming amount of hand-wringing on Friday about the Patriots screwing over a guy who apparently can't decide whether he wants to play this year. Brian Waters, who was contracted to play for 1.4 million in 2012, hasn't shown up. Not for offseason training, not for minicamp, not for training camp, the preseason or - at the very least - the first regular season game. But the report by the Boston Herald that the Patriots want to shave Waters' salary down to 950,000 brought people out of the woodwork to decry this as another example of the Patriots squeezing a player.

Which is odd, because last week Aaron Hernandez got a fat new contract and people were hurtling over the barricades to salute the Patriots' generosity. But back to Waters. There's a lot of backstory to the situation that's unknown. For instance, a sourcetold me by text Friday night that "what was reported today is not true." Since the reports - or at least the details - have been foggy, I asked whether every report, including the Boston Globe saying it learned "months ago" that Waters agreed to a deal that would cut his salary but pay him bonuses for every time he was on the 46-man active gameday roster, was untrue as well. The source said he didn't know everything that's been reported. I've had multiple sources tell me the notion of a pay cut is inaccurate. But,perhaps contrary towidely held beliefs, solid sportswriters don't just say, "Maybe I'll make up a story about the Patriots requesting Waters take a pay cut" and go with it. The information was passed on in seemingly vague terms to Jeff Howe who reported it for the Herald. Is the "pay cut" Howe reported part of the deal Waters agreed to where he'd be paid for being on the 46? Seems plausible. Frankly, I'd never heard of that agreement nor was it reported locally although the Globe says it knew about it "for months." My take is that the team's been exceptionally accommodating to a player who has shown no inclination to return and has cold feet about leaving home. I also heard rumblings that, at some point in the offseason, Waters was offered much more to return than the 1.4M but he didn't budge. But there's been nothing concrete enough around that to build a story around. As it's been for much of this odd impasse. Additional reasons for Waters' not wanting to leave Texas have been quietly alluded to.As a result,I think it's wise to tread lightly on questioning his commitment to football too strongly because of that. Nobody's indicated if it's a family illness or some other dynamic but a wide berth has been given.

But the fact he's past the point where he was expected to come in - clearly - means the Patriots are at peace with moving on. They've gone through six weeks of work without him. Might the offensive line be best if Dan Connolly was at center and Waters was at right guard? Definitely, presuming Waters has kept himself in football shape. But Connolly is no slouch and he's shown that in subbing for Logan Mankins in 2010 and locking down the center spot after Dan Koppen went down last year.
The offensive line was nobody's idea of a dominant group in the preseason. But the interior wasn't a glaring problem, it was the edges - most troublingly the right edge when Marcus Cannon was over at right tackle. So where are we? There's a 35-year-old guard who can play for the Patriots if he chooses. The Patriots have moved on but they've left the light on for him. It comes down to this: the Patriots have addressed the position. They don't have aneed for Brian Waters. And he needs them even less.

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.