Bracing for a free agent frenzy in the NFL

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Bracing for a free agent frenzy in the NFL

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran When the NFL lockout ends, free agency soon begins. And it's going to look a little like this(that's Rex Ryan at the 15-second mark). Between unrestricted free agents and undrafted college players, there could be morethan 700 players hitting the open market in the next few weeks. GMs, coaches,agents and - mostly significantly - players and their families are going to be heavily impacted by the newly hatched free agent rules. Action on the available players is going to be fast, especially if training camps are going to open as scheduled in late July. And so much is still unknown. For instance, the answer to the basic question of whether free agency will begin for players with four vested seasons (the old model), six vested seasons (a possibility) or the middle ground of five. "First of all, nobodys talking about it," said player agent Joe Linta. "Is (free agency) going to be after six (seasons)? Four? Will we do what happened in 2010? This is a huge concern to at least a quarter of the players or more. You dont see any discussion about that. You dont hear (NFLPA Executive Director) De Smith say what exactly they're fighting toward. It's such a mountainous point of will it besix or fouryears. You have 250 guys who are in that boat."In terms of their own roster, the Patriots don't have major concerns because their 2006 and 2007 draft were so awful. Only one player from each draft is still on the roster. There'sBrandon Meriweather from 2007, signed through the 2011 season.And there's Stephen Gostkowski from 2006 who missed out on free agency because of the 2010 rules change that delayed free agency to players with fewer than six years played. Gostkowski signed an extension through 2014 last year while he was a restricted free agent. But the Patriots are affected because they'll need to know who they can target, how much they can spend (the final owners proposal in March had a salary cap of 114 million, down from the approximately 126 million teams had in the last capped year, 2009) and how quickly they must act. There won't be much time for foreplay. "I dont know if there will be a lot of time for recruiting trips," said Linta. "The player and agent will, in most instances, get together, look at the opportunities and move from there. In phone calls with the teams, you would do the preliminaries of the contract so that the recruiting trip almost becomes the signing trip. I don't think you'll see the reunion tours you usually do when free agency starts in March."Agent Rick Smith of Priority Sports and Entertainment notes the two other unknowns in the equation - undrafted rookies and rookie contracts for players who were selected in April's draft. Those will also have to be done before camps begin."The way I look at how that works is it will be really, really busy," said Smith. "It will force everyone to get to deals a lot quicker. It will force teams and agents to get to a number pretty quick and not go through the dance we normally go through. Our office did basketball free agency after their lockout (in 1998-99) and we went in a conference room and laid out 30 contracts on the table and got to work. It will be like that in football. Go to work and grind." Because there's so much at stake, no details have leaked from recent negotiations. Information on the rookie salary cap, team salary caps, who will be a free agent, when free agency begins - it's all unknown. And, as internet strongman Mike Florio wrote Friday morning on PFT, front offices will need time to digest the new rules. Meanwhile, GMs and coaches - who have traditionally flouted the league's tampering rules prior to free agency at the NFL Combine in February - have seemed to hew to the cone of silence the lockout brought. "None of that stuff is going on right now," said Linta. "There are some pretty serious repercussions from tampering and you're just not seeing it."That leaves it to the agents and players to determine whatpossible destinations exist.
"The reality is, there'snot a lot that can be done besides internal research," said agent Jon Perzley from SportStars.

Perzley represents LSU wide receiver Terrence Tolliver, a promising 6-3, 212-pound target that went undrafted. "There arecertain teams he'll fit; certain teams he won't," Perzley said. "Hell have a job real quick, that we know."Where he'll be working, living, and how much he'll be paid, though, Tolliver can't know. Nor can the hundreds of other free agents who are waiting in limbo before the free agent gold rush of 2011 begins.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Tom Brady explains why he thinks Bill Belichick is the best of all time

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Tom Brady explains why he thinks Bill Belichick is the best of all time

Tom Brady may be biased, but he believes that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the best to ever walk a sideline. 

That's what Brady told Westwood One's Jim Gray in an interview before the radio broadcast of Monday night's game between the Falcons and Saints. After Belichick helped cook up a game plan for the Patriots to beat the Texans on short rest with rookie third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett behind center, Brady may not have many people argue with him. 

"I definitely think so," Brady answered when he was asked if Belichick was "the best coach to have ever done this."

"I think whatever hand he's been dealt, he finds a way to win. That's the mark of a great coach. Sitting in those meetings for the last 16 years and watching him prepare the team, there's no [other] coach I'd ever want to play for. He's just remarkable in every aspect. It's a privilege to play for him. I look forward to going back out there and, you know, getting yelled at by him. He's tough on the players and he expects the very best out of each of us every day. That ends up getting the best out of players. He's so consistent with his approach, and it's paid of for our team for a long time."

Brady said it's that consistency that stands out to him and separates Belichick from any of his peers.

"I think his consistency is just what's remarkable," Brady explained. "It's so much of what you don't see on these Sunday afternoons. But it's the way the offseason program is run in April. It's his urgency and enthusiasm at that time of year when no one's watching. His OTA schedule and his emphasis over the course of those practices in May and June when no one's really watching. There's no scoreboard to compete against. But we always feel like we're in competing against the other teams, even when there is no scoreboard.

"You go to training camp, and you can't waste days in training camp because you don't get those days back. Those days in training camp are going to prepare you for what's going to happen in Septmeber. There's urgency throughout the entire offseason to get us to the month of September, and then once September comes it's all about winning games and making improvements towards October.

"Then once you make improvements toward October, you can be in a really good position to really capitalize come November. That's when the playoff races start to shape up and you really see where you're at and there's a lot of scouting done at that point. That's whenn you really see the team develop and how the depth of the team really takes place. Coach Belichick is always understanding where the roster needs to be at and which positions we may need a little more depth at based on injuries over the course of the season.

"Then comes December when it's the last stretch of the season when you need to be at your best. He prepares us all the way throughout the season. His consistency has been remarkable. It's been fun to see from this point obvously for the last four weeks, but I've experienced that every day. That part of it doesn't really surprise me, but to see the way that my teammates have come out and played and performed under pressure on a Sunday night game, and the first home game, and a Thursday national TV game, it's just been so much fun to watch."

Rex and the Bills can’t afford to go belly-up vs. Patriots

Rex and the Bills can’t afford to go belly-up vs. Patriots

An unexpected – and convincing – win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday put some bounce back into the step of Rex Ryan.

Now, instead of gazing at his cavernous navel, wallowing in an 0-3 start and ticking off the reasons it isn’t really his fault, he’s buoyant.

After opening his press conference by mocking Bill Belichick’s deadpan approach to injuries, Ryan was asked what a win over the Patriots would do.

“It would mean a lot to our football team,” he said. “I think when you look at it, they’ve been the standard of this league. Not just in our conference or division or whatever. They’ve been the standard of the league. So you want to put yourself up against the best. I think everybody saw what happened when everybody’s: “No Tom Brady, this team is going to be a disaster.” Well they’re 3-0 last time I checked and beat some pretty good football teams. So, yeah, it’ll mean a lot. We need a win in the worst way. But, as far as the Patriots, I think, my admiration is really for Belichick more than anything. As a coach, that’s the guy, that’s the best. He’ll go down as probably the best in the history of the game. So, I like poking fun at him and all that stuff but there’s no coach I respect more than him.”

We are now in Year Seven of having Rex as an AFC East foil for Belichick. Given the start in Buffalo and the way things ended last year, we may not see a Year Eight. So the candor – even if it’s nonsense – will be missed when it’s gone.

With Tom Brady down for one more week, Jimmy Garoppolo likely being a close call with his AC joint separation and Jacoby Brissett having injured his thumb, there is uncertainty for Ryan to deal with. And he knows it will drag.

“I expect them immediately to tell us,” Ryan responded when asked when he thought he’d find out who the Bills would be defending. "As soon as they tell us, we’ll be like, 'yeah, ok.' Nobody would believe it anyway, Nah, I don’t know. We’re not going to find out until kickoff…

“We’ll we’ll be prepared for them,” he added. “We’re looking at all their talents and all that. The Patriots are a little different. They may take an entire game plan, and throw that away and look at you differently then they look at other teams. So, I’m watching them play Miami, and they’re chipping their defensive ends. Will they do that to us? I don’t know. Looks like to us, they do a lot of empty. So, we’ll see how they decide to play us, we’ll be ready for everything.”

Ryan gave due credit to the Patriots for their 3-0 start, saying, “Brady’s probably the best player in the league. So, it’s hard to replace guys like that. But, they are a team. They’ve always been built as a team anyway. But it has been impressive. …They have an excellent football team. They do a great job, guys, they know their roles. They have a lot of veteran players that have been in systems for a long time. You take Julian Edelman, he replaces a [Wes] Welker. They just keep rolling on. So they draft and they get players to fit their system and they do a phenomenal job of it.”

Sunday's win over Arizona probably afforded Ryan only a little bit of time. If the Bills go belly-up in Foxboro against a third-string rookie, he'll be back on the clock.