Curran: No sizzle, just Solder for Patriots

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Curran: No sizzle, just Solder for Patriots

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Patriots took a left tackle. A good, solid left tackle. Nate Solder is a 319-pound plate of broccoli for the program. He's good for them. His next 10 years will likely be spent making sure Tom Brady's retirement years are fairly pain-free, then protecting the blindside of Brady's much-scrutinized successor. "Hes played left tackle and I think that will be his position in the National Football League," Bill Belichick said early Friday morning after the first round of the 2011 draft was put to bed. "I think his position is the one hes been playing. Its still obviously a different level of play and his techniques and there are a lot of things that hell have to improve on. But hes a smart guy, hard-working kid, hes already graduated (from Colorado), hes a good worker, so hopefully hell take the coaching that he gets from our staff and Dante (Scarnecchia, the Pats' offensive line coach) and be able to improve and develop at a position that he has some experience at."And that, as they say, is that. No oohhs, no aaahhhhs, no posters, minimal jersey sales. I appreciate what some people may be wondering: "WHERE'S THE PASS RUSHAHHHHH!?!?!?!?"It's a valid question. Pocket crushers, edge crashers and all manner of havoc-causing front-seven players were on the board in the first round. The Patriots could have jumped up a couple of spots from 17 and gotten North Carolina's Robert Quinn who went to the Rams at 13. Or Ryan Kerrigan who went to Jacksonville at 16. Or simply taken Cam Jordan at 17 (the Cal defensive end went to New Orleans at 24). They spent some time trying to trade down at 17 but nothing materialized. So, in the end,a left tackle to succeed Matt Light and protect the franchise's most valuable commodity was just as strong a need.Wes Bunting of the National Football Posttold me,"Solder is agood fit for New England. His best football is still ahead of him. A little more athlete than football player at this point because he's still learning how to play."You'd have to expect the Patriots to make a pitch to keepLight -- an unrestricted free agent -- for another year or two just to keep the spot warm while Solder develops. Light, judging by 2010, still has good football left in him. When the 28th pick rolled around, you knew the Patriots would again look to deal. And that time they did, sending No. 28 to New Orleans and picking up another first-rounder for 2012 and adding a third second-round pick for Friday. They passed on Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (who went to the hated Jets at 30) and Ohio State's Cam Heyward (31 to the Steelers). But, as Belichick pointed out, "We feel like there are players on the board that will give us good value at our picks that we have tomorrow." Will they use those picks? Specifically No. 33? That's the question. New England will surely get an offer similar to the one they got at 28 -- a first-rounder next year and a fourth second-rounder in 2011. But will they be down with letting so many good players go off the board between 17 and whenever their next pick arrives? That's what the Patriots will weigh between whenever you read this and 6 p.m. Friday evening. Take a front-seven guy -- Justin Houston from Georgia, Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson, Jabaal Sheard, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year from Pitt, Arizona's Brooks Reed -- or trade down again. The Patriots didn't do anything to make your heart race Thursday night. But their priority is to make September through January exciting, not April. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

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Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

Rob Gronkowski's contract with the Patriots continues to look like a relative bargain as tight ends around the league haul in big money on a per-year basis. 

On Thursday, Washington announced that it had come to terms on a long-term contract extension with tight end Jordan Reed. The deal is reportedly worth $50 million over five years, including $22 million guaranteed. 

That's not a bad pay day for a player who has missed 14 games due to injury over the course of his first three seasons. When healthy, he's proven to be one of the most dynamic players at his position -- playing more as an over-sized wide receiver at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds than a true dual-threat tight end -- and now he's being paid as such. 

Reed's new contract allows us an opportunity to take another look at Gronkowski's deal, which has come into focus ever since he sent out a tweet in March that indicated he felt as though he was taking a pay cut when the Patriots picked up an option that would keep him in New England through 2019.

In the tweet, Gronkowski said he doesn't play for the money -- and according to him he hasn't spent a dime of what the Patriots have paid him since entering the league -- but it seemed to be relatively clear that the structure of his contract was on his mind when he took to social media.

Gronkowski signed a six-year, $54 million extension in 2012. By then he had proven how important he was to the Patriots offense, but he had a lengthy injury history going back to his college playing days. At the time, a deal that both paid him at the top of the market and gave him a measure of security was welcomed with open arms.

Now here we are in 2016, and the market has shifted. The salary cap has increased and many teams have opted to pay their tight ends bigger chunks of the pie, sliding Gronkowski down the list of highest-paid players at that position based on average annual value. 

Reed and Seattle's Jimmy Graham ($10 million) now top the list. Kansas City's Travis Kelce ($9.4 million) and Jacksonville's Julius Thomas ($9.2 million) also fall in ahead of Gronkowski.

Considering where those players stack up with Gronkowski in terms of production, the Patriots' All-Pro seems to have every right to furrow his brow when he looks at his contract by comparison. 

It could be a while though before Gronkowski sees any alterations to his income, however. First and foremost, he still had four years remaining on his contract as it's currently constructed. The Patriots front office gambled and won with the deal they gave him four years ago, and barring a holdout, they'd have little incentive to re-work it. 

There's also the matter of where Gronkowski's deal falls in terms of the team's list of priorities. He's at least still paid near the top of the market at his position.

There are several of his teammates -- corners Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and receiver Julian Edelman -- who are either a) about to become free agents after the 2016 or b) could make the argument that they're even more significantly underpaid than Gronkowski. Some fall under both categories. 

As great as Gronkowski has been, and as important as he is to his team's success, he may have to take his place in line when it comes to receiving a deal that more favorably reflects his value. 

Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

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Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

Watch out Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Alex Guerrero. Tom Brady just might have a new best friend. 

At an Under Armour event that took place on Wednesday, rapper Vanilla Ice snapped a selfie with the Patriots quarterback, who was grinning from ear to ear. 

In South Baltimore, "Armour Day" was held in order to celebrate Under Armour's 20th year in business. Brady was one of many athletes in attendance, including Jordan Spieth, Lindsey Vonn, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Cal Ripken, Boomer Esiason and Roger Clemens. 

Brady is one of the faces of Under Armour, along with Spieth and Warriors guard Steph Curry. When he signed in 2010, he received equity in the company as part of the deal. 

Palazzolo: Mitchell ‘flashes really good downfield ball skills’

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Palazzolo: Mitchell ‘flashes really good downfield ball skills’

Fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell is the next in a line of receivers the Patriots have drafted in hopes they’d click with quarterback Tom Brady.

As part of the Quick Slants the podcast draft recap episode, Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus told Phil Perry that Mitchell looks to be a fit in the role previously filled by Brandon LaFell and Brandon Lloyd. Palazzolo said Mitchell could serve as a complement to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Martellus Bennett.

“I think that’s where Mitchell fits in. And I think he does a pretty good job there creating separation on the routes the Patriots need him to run,” Palazzolo said. “He flashes some really good downfield ball skills.”

To hear Palazzolo’s analysis on the rest of the Patriots draft picks, use the Sound Cloud player below or search CSNNE on iTunes.