By Tom E. Curran
INDIANAPOLIS - Setting the table for Thursday here at the NFL Combine: Neither Patriots coach Bill Belichick nor GM Nick Caserio are on the schedule to speak, but we've got Jets coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum at the podiums at 3:30 so they'll make up for it. Offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers, punters and long snappers are on the menu for the media today. The Patriots performed prospect interviews Wednesday night at the Crowne Plaza. The Patriots are absolutely exhaustive in their interview process, regardless if the players are in a position of minimal need. New England was going at it late Wednesday night. We'll concentrate on catching up with the offensive line prospects since the Pats are solid in those other spots. There will be a steady stream of GMs and coaches stepping to the podium today as well. We'll poke our heads in on the AFC East guys - Bills coach Chan Gailey at 10 a.m., Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland at 10:45 and the Ryan-Tannenbaum tandem later. Meanwhile, the NFL Competition Committee has been meeting since Tuesday here working out rules tweaks. Ray Anderson, the NFL's Vice President of Operations, says there's "nothing dramatic" in the offing for rules discussions. A tweaking of the "through the ground" rule to help clarify possession after a catch is one of the areas the committee is looking at. Any rules change recommendations will ultimately be voted on at the NFL Owner's Meetings next month in New Orleans. Follow us all day and we will update with player interviews and nuggets from team decision-makers.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
Big night, Philadelphia. How you gonna treat the man NFL owners pay $35 million to be their meat shield? The first round of the draft is one of the few Roger Goodell appearances the league can’t manage. Released from the protection of John Mara’s coat pocket, Goodell has to hear a voice vote from fans every time he approaches the mic. He can grin, bang nipples and backslap all he wants with the first-rounders and sling that “Welcome to the family!” line of BS. He can hit the stage with the ghosts of Reggie White, Buddy Ryan and Chuck Bednarik. Philly’s too smart to get caught watching the paint dry.
Got into a brief and spirited debate on the topic of Jimmy Garoppolo this morning on our “Boston Sports Tonight” email chain. I opined that perhaps Garoppolo is a bit overrated. Overvalued may have been a better adjective. Here’s why. With a fleet of teams dying for a quarterback they can build around, the Patriots squelched all Jimmy G suitors by declaring him untouchable. We may ultimately find out it was all a ruse and the team winds up getting a boatload of picks in exchange for him but from everything I’ve been told since September that’s not happening. Garoppolo will stay a Patriot and the team will figure out later how to proceed with him once his contract is up in March.
If Garoppolo isn’t franchised and doesn’t sign an extension to back up Tom Brady until Brady either retires (not on the horizon) or is traded (gasp), then why did the team pass on the haul it could have had? The theory most often posited is that Garoppolo is Brady insurance. If Brady gets hurt in 2017 and Jacoby Brissett is the next-man-up, the team is cooked. But that reality has existed throughout Brady’s tenure whether he had Rohan Davey, Matt Gutierrez, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett behind him. It didn’t faze them then. Garoppolo is better than all of them. Potentially. And that’s probably why the Patriots don’t want to make a decision on him before they have to. They look at all these forever .500 teams trying to find a quarterback answer and think, “There, but for the grace of God and the presence of Brady, go I.” Garoppolo isn’t going to be better than Brady. But he fits the suit better than anyone they’ve ever had and they like the fact they found him, developed him and were right about him. Clearly they believe he is a greater asset as a backup with a soon-to-expire contract and a complicated future than the collection of young players they’d be able to draft with whatever picks they got back in a deal. This, of course, runs counter to the way the team has traditionally done business. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have found innovative ways to acquire, stockpile and flip picks. The fact the team’s already got its 2017 draft haul of Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen and Mike Gillislee thanks to pick-flipping. Garoppolo could yield the next batch of picks the Patriots could use in the “rent-to-own” model they’ve shrewdly adopted. But Garoppolo is the extreme outlier. And the Brady-Garoppolo-what’ll-they-do dance is fascinating because it highlights the confluence of everything – draft, free agency, cap management, trades, potential vs. proven, old vs. young, icon vs. phenom – at the most important position in sports on the greatest franchise of this era.
Which brings me to this: we’ll have former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in studio tonight at 9pm on Boston Sports Tonight helping us through the first round of the draft. Looking forward to his insight on why Garoppolo is persona-non-tradeable. Put the over-under on “Tommys” at about 47.
In order to shake things up a bit in our third and final mock draft of the pre-draft season -- you can find our first two here and here -- we went ahead and made a trade for the Patriots.
In a move silimar to the one they pulled off involving Chandler Jones last year, in this mock draft the Patriots dealt Malcolm Butler to the Saints in order to pick up some draft capital. But instead of receiving the No. 32 pick overall in return, Bill Belichick pulled in a haul of picks that provided nearly equal value: No. 42 overall (second round), No. 103 (third round) and No. 196 overall (sixth round).
That deal bumped the total number of Patriots selections from six to nine, and by picking up a second-rounder they gave themselves an opportunity at a top-end talent.
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