Prototypical Patriots: Basham's effort, power would fit on the edge

Prototypical Patriots: Basham's effort, power would fit on the edge

The Patriots made a high-profile addition to their stable of edge defenders when they traded a second-round pick to the Panthers in exchange for Kony Ealy and a third-rounder, but there is still some work to be done in terms of bolstering that spot on their roster. 

PHIL PERRY'S PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS DRAFT PREVIEW

After losing Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to free-agency, the Patriots have three experienced players ready to shoulder some of the edge load in Ealy, Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers. While immediate help would be beneficial, long-term help appears to be imperative with both Ninkovich and Ealy going into contract years. Flowers is locked up through 2018. 

By all accounts, this is a particularly deep draft when it comes to pass-rushers, and even if the Patriots don't pick until the third round at No. 72 overall, they could have a talented piece land in their lap. Below are a few of the names we're keeping an eye on as potential Patriots targets because of their size, athleticism and college production against both the run and the pass.

We're now at the midway point with our Prototypical Patriots series, as this is our sixth. To see the others we've pegged as good fits in New England thus far, head here for boundary cornershere for slot cornershere for linebackershere for safeties, and here for defensive tackles.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee, 6-foot-3, 265 pounds: It came as some surprise when earlier this month Pro Football Talk reported that Barnett had worked out privately for the Patriots. The reason? He's one of the most productive sack artists in the history of the SEC, and many are predicting that he will be selected in the top half of the first round. Should the Patriots land a pick on Day 1 of the draft, Barnett seems like their kind of guy based on his instincts, his uncanny ability to get to quarterbacks and his strength against the run. Physically -- though not in the same class as projected No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett -- Barnett stacks up somewhat similarly to Sheard (6-3, 265). Barnett's arms (32 inches) are shorter than Sheard's (33.5), but they have the same size hands (10 inches) and tested similarly at their respective combines. Barnett had the better broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Sheard had the better 40-yard dash time, vertical leap and 10-yard split.

Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 6-foot-4, 255 pounds: One of the most physically impressive edge players in this year's draft class, he had the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds) of all front-seven players at this year's combine, the second-best vertical (39 inches), the fourth-best three-cone (6.85 seconds) and the 10th-best broad jump (125 inches). He has the motor and the ideal arm length to be able to hold the edge, and he was the second-most productive edge player in college football last season, per Pro Football Focus (80 total pressures). His athletic traits and impressive senior season could get a team to bite at the bottom of the first round.

Tarell Basham, Ohio, 6-foot-4, 269 pounds: Should the Patriots find Basham is available at No. 72, they'll have an opportunity to bolster their rotation on the edge with a player who resembles Ealy in many respects. Both check in at 6-foot-4 and about 270 pounds. Both have 34-inch arms. Both tested similarly at their respective combines in the 20-yard shuttle and the jumps. Basham is not yet a polished pass-rusher, but he's a max-effort guy who earned himself Defensive Player of the Year honors in the MAC. When given an opportunity to play better competition -- against Tennessee during the season and then at the Senior Bowl -- his explosive power to get into the backfield and set a strong edge continued to stand out. The Patriots recently had Basham in for a visit, and Bill Belichick worked him out at Ohio University earlier in the pre-draft process.

Deatrich Wise, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 274 pounds: If the Patriots are looking for a longer player on the edge for the foreseeable future, they could do a lot worse than Wise. His height, weight, arm length (almost 36 inches) and hand size (10.5 inches) all stack up well with Chandler Jones (6-5, 266, 35.5-inch arms, 9.75-inch hands) when he was coming out of Syracuse in 2012. Jones may have had the edge athletically -- he ran a 4.87-second 40 compared to Wise's 4.92, and he jumped 35 inches comparied to Wise's 33 -- but like Jones, Wise seems to understand how to use his long levers. Not a full-time player in either of the last two seasons, Wise was still very productive when on the field, recording 15 sacks, 23 hits and 44 hurries in 227 pass-rushing snaps over the course of the last two seasons, per PFF. It's worth wondering why he didn't see the field more often for coach Bret Bielema.

Ryan Anderson, Alabama, 6-foot-2, 253 pounds: An under-the-radar player on Nick Saban's star-studded defense, Anderson may be undersized, but in many respects he seems to fit the mold of what the Patriots often like in their edge defenders. He has strong hands that help him handle tight ends and tackles in the running game, he's relentless as a pass-rusher, he has experience dropping into coverage, and he has a nose for the football (five forced fumbled in 2015 and 2016). Plus, coming from 'Bama program, he would understand the demands of a professionally-run organization. Anderson doesn't quite stack up to what the Patriots normally want to see in their draftees athletically. He ran an adequate 4.78-second 40 at the combine but jumped just 28.5 inches at his pro day, which was about four inches fewer than Sheard, six inches fewer than Ninkovich and 10 inches fewer than Flowers. Still, his experience under Saban, his advanced technique and his football IQ could make him an intriguing fit in the draft's middle rounds.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.