When it comes to talent, Pats can still pick it

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When it comes to talent, Pats can still pick it

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - The release of Brandon Meriweather on Saturday meant that not a single player from the 2007 draft remains on the Patriots. That draft - and the 2006 and 2008 ones - have been rightly labeled as awful and discussed throughout the last few days. But just how bad are the Patriots at collecting personnel? Despite those drafts, a look at the waiver wire claims on players the Patriots let go shows they still know how to collect useful players. A total of 16 teams put in claims on five of the players the Pats let go. Five claims were put in on tight end Lee Smith (he wound up in Buffalo). Four were put in on guard Thomas Austin (Houston). Three each were put in on tight end Will Yeatman and Brandon Tate (Miami and Cincinnati). And one was put in on Landon Cohen (Seattle). The Cowboys had the second highest level of interest in released players. Five total claims were put in on three of their players. Add in James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather, signed by the Falcons and Bears respectively in short order after they were cut, and it's obvious that the guys at the end of the Patriots roster are good enough to play elsewhere. Or at least seem to have value. As Bill Belichick points out, there are a number of ways to collect players. The draft - important as it is - is just one of them. Yeatman was undrafted out of Maryland and signed by the Patriots. Austin was picked up last September after the Vikings released him. Smith was a fifth-rounder. Tate was a third-rounder. Cohen was picked up after being waived last year by the Jaguars.The Patriots deserve to have those drafts bashed. And free agent signings during the same period like Adalius Thomas and Shawn Springs. But a more complete picture shows that they are still at the top of the league when it comes to collecting players and putting them to good use. Asked about the number of released players who attracted interest, Belichick said on Monday, "Ithink weve had a competitive camp. We have whatever it is, what 11 guys on other teams now. We had a competitive camp. We had a lot of guys battling it out in a lot of different positions. I cant really speak to what other teams did, but the fact that they are with other teams probably says something about what the level of competition was at different positions on our team."Undeniably. Belichick would have no doubt liked to have a shot at adding players like Yeatman and Smith to the practice squad. But he says he has no illusions about what might happen when a player is let go. "Anytime you release a player I think you have a pretty good expectation that hes not going to be here," Belichick explained. "If you want him then you keep him on the roster. Once youve put him out there then you can expect to lose him. "I just dont think you can release a player and expect to keep the player. If you do thats pretty its nice if it happens if thats what you want, but theres got to be a good probability that that isnt going to happen. Its certainly not anything you can count on; its not anything that we ever count on, I can tell you that. Once theyre on the wire then 31 other teams if anybody wants him, hes theres."Belichick downplayed the impact the rookie Yeatman can have in Miami where he can give the Dolphins intel on what the Patriots plans are for the season opener next Monday. "I think theres a lot more to it than that," said Belichick. "Could they tell you something that may be helpful? I dont know. I know we worked on a lot of things in training camp. We had however many practice it was for preseason games thats a lot of stuff. We hadnt begun our game plans for Miami yet, and I doubt that theyd begun their game plans for us either. I mean, theres a whole volume of stuff there its all on film. I think we have a pretty good idea of what Miamis going to do not exactly, but Im sure they have a pretty good idea of what were going to do. We play each other twice a year, so I dont know. "Whatever information anybody gets on that I think is very marginal, very marginal," he added. "In all honesty, sometimes it can be more harm than good. They do this, they do that, watch out for this, watch out for that, then they dont do it, then its just a waste of time working on stuff that you didnt know they had, and they still didnt use it. So, I think its marginal."Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

FOXBORO -- Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium gave reporters their first opportunity to see both Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore on the field at the same time.

Once Gilmore signed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, there was no guarantee he'd actually team up with the 27-year-old in his fourth season out of West Alabama. But Butler wasn't given an offer sheet by the Saints or anyone else, he wasn't traded, and now together they make up one of the most talented cornerback duos in the NFL. 

"Um, nothing much really," Butler replied when asked for his initial reaction to the Gilmore deal. "Nothing much really. We got a better player. We got another player. We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team win, I'm down with."

Depite the fact that Gilmore is the one who received the big-money contract from the Patriots earlier this year, Butler had nothing but good things to say about his teammate following Thursday's workout. 

"He brings the size and the coverage skills," Butler said. "One of the best guys in the league. Very underrated. [He's] come in, head down, working hard. Just trying to build off each other no matter what."

Butler acknowledged that the corner group, which also includes Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones, has some work to do when it comes to their communication, but he indicated he'll be happy to chip in wherever he's needed. The Patriots could use some help in the slot following Logan Ryan's departure to Tennessee, and Butler said he'd be open to playing inside.

"Wherever they put me, I'm gonna play that role," he said. "I'm ready to play the slot if that's what it is."

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."