Takeaways from OTAs and minicamp: Cooks, Gilmore already impressing

Takeaways from OTAs and minicamp: Cooks, Gilmore already impressing

FOXBORO -- OK. Now it's the offseason. Really. This time we mean it. 

The Patriots had their last spring practice on Thursday, meaning that until the end of July, when training camp begins, everyone is on vacation. Players, coaches, executives. All off. 

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With no on-the-field access for more than a month, here's one last run-through of the things we learned in Patriots OTAs and minicamp.

* Tom Brady is still decidedly out of his mind when it comes to his energy and level of competitiveness. During one of the first OTA practices open to reporters, he hit DJ Foster with a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone toward the end of the session and celebrated the thing as though they had just clinched the AFC East. Physically, Brady looks the same as he has in recent "passing camps." He was generally very accurate with the football. 

* For as good as Brady looked, Jimmy Garoppolo still probably throws the tightest deep ball of any Patriots quarterback. He had several opportunities to put that on display before suffering a leg injury that kept him on the sidelines for the final few snaps of minicamp and all of Tuesday's workout. 

* Jacoby Brissett is moving in the right direction. He impressed with his ability to make checks at the line and complete long throws with touch. At this time last year, the strong-armed passer could be found chucking throws into the stands when he wasn't sure about where to go with the football. During spring work, he seemed to make progressions quickly and take the short-to-intermediate throws when they were there. He knows he's not a "young pup" anymore, and he's hoping to move up the depth chart. 

* Brandin Cooks is able to reach a different gear than most of his teammates. At one practice, he caught a crossing route from Garoppolo and was able to out-run three defensive backs on his way to the end zone. He's also shown good early chemistry with Brady, catching a high-degree-of-difficulty back-shoulder throw deep down the sideline with Malcolm Butler in tight coverage. He went out of his way to spend a little extra time with Brady following one spring session that was open to media, and it appears as though those mini-summits have already started to pay dividends. 

* Rob Gronkowski declared himself "100 percent" early this spring, and he looked it. He did not hesitate to leave his feet for contested catches, and there were plenty -- particularly with Patrick Chung or Jordan Richards in coverage. We'll get a better sense of what Gronkowski can do in training camp when the pads come on, but the early returns have been positive for the tight end who recently was given an incentive-laden restructured deal for 2017. 

* While Cooks may have another gear in terms of his speed, there's another newcomer to the Patriots whose athleticism stood out at OTAs. Stephon Gilmore is smooth. He transitioned quickly from his backpedal into a sprint, and when he showed good body control when contesting passes at their highest point. Gilmore often seemed to be in tight man coverage, and he didn't let up when passes were completed in his direction. Though there was no contact during these practices, he was consistently reaching in and trying to pry footballs loose at the last minute. 

* Let's continue to roll through the veterans in their first year with the Patriots. Dwayne Allen admitted that he wished his first on-the-field work with his new club had been a little more hiccup-free. He dropped a handful of passes during practices open to the media, and he looked a little tight as he attacked throws that forced him to try to extend his catch radius. Following Tuesday's practice, he spent extra time with Brady and fellow tight end James O'Shaughnessy to get a few more reps in before heading inside for the day. 

* Rex Burkhead had his share of up and down moments in spring work as well. Though he showed good hands in his opportunities catching passes out of the backfield with Brady and Garoppolo, he needed a little additional coaching from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels at times to decipher the nuances of certain routes based on the coverages in front of him. How Burkhead is able to pick up the Patriots offense, particularly his responsibilities as a route-runner and pass-protector, will be fascinating to track in training camp. If those things come to him quickly, he could be an interesting dual-threat option out of the backfield. Burkhead also saw kick-coverage responsibilities during OTAs.

* Here are a few names you may not know yet, but who could garner more attention as real football gets closer: 1) O'Shaughnessy, acquired in a draft-weekend trade with the Chiefs, appeared to be the smoothest-receiving tight end of the group after Gronkowski. 2) Undrafted rookie safety David Jones out of Richmond is an intriguing athlete at 6-foot-3 and a shade over 200 pounds. He was used as a returner in the kicking game, and there was a point during Tuesday's practice where he got a little work with what would be considered primarily the first group of Patriots defensive backs. He missed half of last season for the Spiders due to a fractured forearm, but if he can stay healthy he's an NFL athlete. He ran a 4.43-second 40 at his pro day and jumped 34 inches in the vertical. 3) Harvey Langi is a name you may have heard because he was the highest-paid undrafted rookie in this year's class. He saw time as an off-the-ball linebacker this spring and made an interception of Brissett off of a tipped pass during the last sequence of 11-on-11 work Thursday. Langi could have an opportunity to earn a roster spot based on the fact that he plays a position that could potentially use some depth behind Dont'a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy. But he was also working extensively with special teams coach Joe Judge this spring. Another off-the-ball linebacker who saw plenty of work on "teams" was Arkansas product Brooks Ellis. 

* Injuries are always part of the story for any team during the spring and summer, and the Patriots are no exception. Malcolm Mitchell, Hightower, Duron Harmon, Lawrence Guy and Kony Ealy all missed practice time at various points. Alan Branch was a limited participant during mandatory minicamp practices and was not present for OTAs, as is typically the case for him as he chooses to stay with family in Arizona during optional offseason workouts. Because all of those players figure to play important roles on this year's club, their status bears watching when training camp begins. Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Andrew Jelks also missed time. He missed Vanderbilt's last two seasons with knee injuries. Back in March, Vandy coach Derek Mason -- who was invited to watch Patriots spring practices by Bill Belichick -- said Jelks "was the best player coming into this program when I got here."

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.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.