Warren ready to work for DL roster spot

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Warren ready to work for DL roster spot

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

FOXBORO Gerard Warren was coming off his first season with the New England Patriots.

It was good, but could have been better.

He wanted more.

And if possible, the 33-year-old veteran would be back; at least, that's what he recalls Patriots head coach Bill Belichick telling him.

"A lot of times when you get that message - 'Don't call us, we'll call you,'" Warren said with a grin, "but he (Belichick) told me, if it was possible for me to be back that he would give me a call. He honored his word and gave me a call."

And now Warren is back in the fold as one of the many talented defensive linemen vying for playing time this season.

Warren, a man of few - but powerful - words, was succinct in describing the competition along the defensive line this season.

"Only the strong will survive," he said.

Which is among the many things he likes about being back with the Patriots.

The competition is thick at his position, obviously.

But as you scan the roster, it's clear that there are a number of players who are battling for prominent roles that, at this point, remain very much up for grabs.

"Everybody is out here working to get better, day-in and day-out," Warren said. "The one thing I like about it; it's always open competition. Not too many positions solidified. You just have to come to work, and the best man win."

And while the signing of Warren was announced on Monday, Belichick made it clear that bringing Warren back was something the Patriots were planning to do for some time.

"It's something that we planned on for a while," Belichick said on Monday. "We delayed it here for a few days. We felt it was the right timing. He did a lot of good things for us last year. I thought he handled himself well on the team."

Warren came to New England after spending the previous three seasons in Oakland where he started every game during the 2008 and 2009 season.

Last season, he appeared in all 16 games (10 starts) and tallied 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

He also developed a strong relationship with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

"That was one of the main reasons I wanted to come back as well," Warren said of his friendship with Wilfork. "Was because of the relationship we bonded and built together last year."

That friendship, on and off the field, was forged with a single-minded desire to win a Superbowl - a goal the Pats fell short of achieving after a 28-21 playoff loss to the New York Jets.

New England's early playoff exit only fueled Warren's desire to return as a Patriot.

"If you fail, do you stop working or do you try and succeed and become better?" Warren said. "Point blank, we didn't succeed on our mission last year, our goal. We get an opportunity to try and do it again this year."

Warren has an "unfinished business" mentality this season, and he'll get a chance to take care of it with the Patriots - the only team Warren apparently gave serious consideration playing for this season.

When asked about his other options for this season, Warren replied, "I told my agent, call me after you talk to New England."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

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.