Patriots await Pro Bowl voting results

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Patriots await Pro Bowl voting results

By MaryPaoletti
CSNNE.com

The NFL Pro Bowl teams will be announced Tuesday night. In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, Both Nick Caserio and Bill Belichick were asked about how they thought the Patriots players should and would fare in the voting.

"I think it's hard to reward every player that's here," Caserio said. "The Pro Bowl, it is what it is. It's a fan vote. It's a player vote. There are a number of things that go into it. I'd say that there are a number of players this year that have made a significant contribution to our team in some capacity.

"It's nice to be recognized league-wide, but the most important thing is the recognition they receive and the respect that they receive from the players that they are with on a day-to-day basis. I think our players . . . you can ask them what they think, but I think its nice just when you get contributions from as many players and you can within your program, and you want them to do well and be successful."

Unsurprisingly, Jerod Mayo was mentioned when talking about the league's best players. Mayo leads the NFL in tackles by a margin of 14 (169 total). The linebacker had some particularly punishing hits in New England's 34-3 win over Buffalo on Sunday.

Belichick said that, while he isn't sure how the entire field stacks up, Mayo and some of his teammates deserve the nod.

"Jerod's done a very nice job as a captain, providing a lot of plays on the field and a lot of leadership and preparation off the field,'' the coach said. "I havent seen all the players play - just the ones weve played against and Im familiar with them, but I know there are a lot of other outstanding players in the league. If I could vote for our own players, Id vote for a lot of them, but, again, the people that see them all play Well see how it all comes out. But, hes certainly done a good job for us and hes had a real good season."

Other players commended by the coaching staff on Tuesday? Tom Brady, of course. The Patriots quarterback seems to be setting records every time he takes the field this season. In Buffalo, Brady reached 319 consecutive passes attempted without an interception to surpass Bernie Kosar's previous record (309).

Caserio couldn't help but but give credit.

"Tom is probably one of the most prepared players. He prepares as hard as anybody on our team and anybody in the league. He makes good decisions with the football. I think one of the most important things as a quarterback is you want to try to make good decisions with the football. You have to make them quickly. Theyre going to be under duress.

"He wants to be perfect. He tries to be perfect on every throw," Caserio continued. "In the end, Tom is the one thats pulling the trigger and hes very diligent and very conscious taking care of the football. Quite frankly, its a remarkable achievement and its a credit to him."

Not even Brady's battle with the flu could keep the QB down in Week 15. And he wasn't the only one fighting. Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Deaderick and James Sanders also missed time for being sick.

So how does a team to get by this season?

"Its fairly common; it can go around. Weve had some of that,'' Belichick said. "What the exact diagnosis of it is and all that, I dont really have a whole lot to add as far as the symptoms and the strand of it and so forth. But our medical staff takes care of it the best they can and the players have to do as much as they can to stay healthy at this time of year."

Doling out flu shots might be the only part of team maintenance that Belichick isn't involved in.

According to defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, the Patriots boss does it all. Johnson didn't even hesitate when asked about New England's success despite not having a defensive coordinator.

"I think we have the ultimate defensive coordinator in Bill Belichick," he stated. "He will always be my coach, to me. With him just coming in and some of the things he does in our meeting rooms, and just orchestrating the meetings, with the players and the tips and all that stuff, to me it's priceless."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.