Patriots To-Do List: First priority is to get their Gronk right

Patriots To-Do List: First priority is to get their Gronk right

With the glow of Super Bowl LI finally beginning to fade -- a little -- it's time to start looking ahead to 2017. Over the next few days, we'll look at the Patriots' to-do list: Things they need to care of as the offseason begins. We start today with Rob Gronkowski, and the need for him to becone more durable.

Conventional wisdom for the past few years has held that, without a full-go Gronk, the Patriots wouldn’t win a Super Bowl. 

The 2011, 2012, 2013 and -- especially -- the 2014 seasons were seen as proof of that maxim. 

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

Well, they just won a Super Bowl without him. But the team’s relationship with Gronk going forward shouldn’t be impacted by the fact they reeled off 31 unanswered points and won, any more than if Atlanta’s Robert Alford had sealed a Falcons win by intercepting Tom Brady on the deflected pass Julian Edelman hauled in. 

Gronk stands apart. But his availability and health will impact the team’s decisions. Speaking to those close to the tight end, I got indications the surgery was a full-on success and not terribly invasive. As I reported in early January, he’ll be ready to go for offseason workouts. The question is how committed he’s going to be to embracing a different way of training. A tight end needs some meat on his bones and muscle mass to do his job effectively, especially in the running game. But, at 27, Gronk is a rocked-up, beefcake poster trending towards lumbering. He’s spent his athletic life training for strength. His training camp and early season were ruined by a hamstring pull. 

If he wants to avoid those soft-tissue injuries and add years to his career and give himself a shot at walking without a limp in his 40s, he has to commit to the pliability, resistance band, hydration, rest and diet training that Alex Guerrero espouses. It doesn’t just work for Tom Brady. It’s what helped Julian Edelman go from being an oft-injured wideout to one who survives some of the most punishing hits of any wideout in the league. It’s what helped Willie McGinest go from tearing a muscle a week to being able to play most effectively at the end of his career. 

Brady, speaking this week to MMQB poobah Peter King, was speaking generally about health but his words apply very easily to Gronk. 

“If you’re a receiver, and you have a great game, say you have eight catches,” Brady explained. “And you play eight games a season and you're hurt the other eight. Eight catches times eight games is 64. That's a below-average season for any receiver. If you play 16 games with an average of eight catches you're an All-Pro.

"The difference is durability. How do you work on durability? That’s what I’ve figured out. I know how to be durable. It’s hard for me to get hurt, knock on wood. Anything can happen in football. But I want to put myself in a position to be able to withstand the car crash before I get in the car crash. I don't want to go in there and say, ‘Oh, God, I know this muscle is really tight and ready to go, let’s see if it can hold up to someone falling on me who is 300 pounds.’ Then someone lands on you, and a rotator cuff tears. I could have told you that was probably going to happen. It’s going to be really hard for me to have a muscle injury, based off the health of my muscle tissue and the way that I try to take care of it. Your muscle and your body allow you to play this great sport.”
 
The disposition of Gronk affects other decisions. Martellus Bennett’s made it clear that the warm fuzzies of playing for the Patriots haven’t dulled his desire to get maximum return in free agency.  Michael Floyd says he wants to be back and Gronk ripples may extend to those conversations. And there are draft considerations to take into account as well. 

And then there’s the money aspect. Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was trying to get Gronk’s deal redone last summer. He’s signed through 2019 and the salaries are below-market for a tight end of Gronk’s ability but they are very reasonable given the questions of availability.  For Gronk to get a bump, he needs to show his durability issues are being addressed. And even then, the Patriots may need to see it for a full season, not just a few months in the summer. How will this fly with Team Gronk? Probably not well. But it is, as they say, what it is. 
 

Does Saints selection of top CB Lattimore take a Butler deal off the table?

Does Saints selection of top CB Lattimore take a Butler deal off the table?

We knew the Saints were in the market for a corner. What we didn't know was that the top player at the position in this year's draft would fall to them at pick No. 11 overall. 

New Orleans sat and watched the board as Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore slipped and slipped and slipped all the way out of the top-10. When they were on the clock for the first of their two first-rounders, they scooped up the 6-foot, 193-pounder. 

Lattimore has dealt with hamstring injuries that have nagged at him even into the pre-draft process, but when healthy he's an explosive athlete with the potential to lock down No. 1 receivers. 

MORE:

The Saints will pair Lattimore with Delvin Breaux as their top cornerback pairing, but is there room for one more? 

It seems unlikely that they'd be willing to pay top-half-of-the-first-round money to one corner and then offer Malcolm Butler a long-term extension, but it may not be totally off the table. Both Lattimore and Breaux have injury histories that may warrant insurance. 

The question is . . . How much will the Saints be willing to pay for the policy?

NFL DRAFT: Myles Garrett 1st to Browns, Bears trade up for QB Mitchell Trubisky

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NFL DRAFT: Myles Garrett 1st to Browns, Bears trade up for QB Mitchell Trubisky

PHILADELPHIA - No surprises at the top of the NFL draft: Roger Goodell got booed, then Myles Garrett was picked first overall by the Cleveland Browns.

"C'mon, Philly, C'mon," Goodell said Thursday night amid the boos, not even wincing at the reception. Moments later, he was back onstage announcing the Texas A&M defensive end's name. Garrett, a junior and All-American considered the best pass rusher in this crop, is the first Aggie selected No. 1 overall.

Garrett was not on hand, but promised Cleveland fans "great things are coming."

Cleveland went 1-15 last season and has holes everywhere. It ranked 31st defensively and had only 26 sacks.

There was speculation the Browns might go for a quarterback at the outset, but this draft didn't seem to have any QBs considered that talented a prospect. Except the Bears thought otherwise, making a mammoth trade to move up one spot.

Chicago sent a third-round pick, a fourth and a 2018 third to San Francisco to switch and take Mitchell Trubisky, who started only 13 games for North Carolina.

"It was crazy," Trubisky said. "There was no call. I didn't think I was going to be picked until the commissioner said my name."

San Francisco was up next, and new general manager John Lynch already was looking good for bringing in such a haul to drop back to No. 3. The 49ers took DE Solomon Thomas from just down the road at Stanford.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who some scouts compared to Adrian Peterson, went to Jacksonville; new Jaguars boss Tom Coughlin is enamored of powerful running backs.

Another LSU player, safety Jamal Adams, was taken by the New York Jets, one pick after Tennessee, needing an upgrade at wide receiver, selected Corey Davis of Western Michigan. Davis is the FBS career leader in receiving yards with 5,285 and was a key to the Broncos' turnaround last season.