Passionate Kraft makes case for deal-making

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Passionate Kraft makes case for deal-making

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com
DALLAS - Robert Kraft has drawn praise over his 17-year tenure as one of the most forward-thinking, influential owners in the NFL. Now, with players and owners in an ugly squabble over how to divide the mountain of revenue the game generates, the Patriots owner seems to be taking it personally. Friday afternoon at the Super Bowl 45 media center in Dallas, Kraft's eyes got glassy when talking about the squabbling that's ongoing. Asked if would take it as a personal failing if accord can't be reached, Kraft said, "I think I will have failed if I can't help get ... I've never seen the health of a business be as bright as this one. I'm involved in a lot of businesses and this is an awesome business. It's a privilege to be able to own an NFL franchise and to have a labor disruption at this point in time of the evolution of the game, it's criminal. It will be sad. It will fall on both sides."And emotional?"It is emotional," he acknowledged."Most businesses you're in, you're fixing problems where there's not a lot of upside. There's tremendous upside. The whole digital media opportunities and what our content can drive and partnering with the right companies. ... We have the essence of a business that can prosper and flourish for the next 15 years if we get this right. And it's not very hard to do."Frustrated would probably be the best way to describe Kraft's mood on Friday. Calling repeatedly for the two sides to get the lawyers away from the table and let the businessmen hammer out an accord, Kraft was pointed in many of his comments. "There's no reason for us to have a lockout, I'll say it again," Kraft stressed. "There's enough elements there that we can do a deal and everyone's going to come out a winner. We've just got to get the lawyers away from the table."With both sides lawyered up to their eyeballs, how pragmatic is it to think that's possible? "Put them in the background," Kraft said. "Lawyers are deal-breakers, not deal-makers. That's what my union experience has shown me. I mean, you need them, you play a good role, but they're all there to show how smart they are and always looking at the downside."Kraft twice raised an instance he thought was evidence of legal-wrangling gone bad. The players, according to Kraft, spent 15 million on a case trying to prove owners were negligent in hammering out the new TV deal and getting provisions to allow the owners to be paid in the event of a stoppage. "They collected 15 million in fees that the players paid, think about that! If it's coming out of your pockets, and I'm managing our lawyers, if they're not adding value, tell them to zip it," said Kraft. "I need them to keep, to protect me from myself, but business people do business deals, not lawyers."The problem is, the union does not trust the owners. That's why they are going to battle so hard in the courts and will never get their lawyers off the front line. In the situation Kraft referenced, the owners were reportedly fined 7 million for doing a deal that hada provision for them to be paid during a work stoppage. To get that provision, they took less from the networks to get that provision. Yet theywere supposed to negotiate in good faith tomaximize revenues for bothowners and players, since players get 60 percent ofthe revenue. "The irony," Kraft said. "I worked very hard with the commissioner to extend these contracts when the financial world was falling apart and we realized the main source of our revenue was these media contracts. We went out ina very difficult environment and were able to conclude extensions of these contracts to protect the players income and the owners income. For them to sue over soemthing like that, it just shows you how out of touch....there are so many things we can do to create new partnership opportunities and grow and we have to get the lawyers away from the table and get business leaders on both sides." Kraft will be in a Saturday negotiating session. What does he plan on saying?
"I'd like to say exactly what I'm saying here," he stated. "From my point of view, how lucky are we to have a business, to be part of a business, we're in today, where the American wants it, where people want to partner with us and they don't want to hear, people don't want to hear about our squabbling And it's criminal if we don't get a deal done. I mean, there's enough business opportunities where the players can make out well, owners can make out well and we can grow the sport. We just gotta sit down and start talking business. It's all legal posturing now.".AOLWebSuite .AOLPicturesFullSizeLink height: 1px; width: 1px; overflow: hidden; .AOLWebSuite a color:blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer .AOLWebSuite a.hsSig cursor: default
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

What positions were not addressed by Patriots in draft?

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What positions were not addressed by Patriots in draft?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the negatives for the New England Patriots in the NFL, including not selecting a running back and not adding depth for linebackers.

Diving deeper on Patriots UDFAs: WR/RB Foster an intriguing weapon

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Diving deeper on Patriots UDFAs: WR/RB Foster an intriguing weapon

FOXBORO -- Few teams in the NFL can boast the kind of success that the Patriots have had with undrafted players during Bill Belichick's tenure as head coach.

David Andrews, Malcolm Butler, Brandon King, James Develin, Josh Kline, LeGarrette Blount and Danny Amendola have all played significant roles in recent Patriots winning seasons -- and those are just the players on the roster as it currently stands.

In the hours following the end of this year's draft, the Patriots added new list of undrafted free agents to their rookie class. By the very nature of their path to pro football, it will be an uphill climb for any of them to make the Patriots 53-man roster. But judging by the track record that Belichick and his coaching staff have compiled with players that never saw their name scroll across the bottom of a TV screen on draft day, it would come as no surprise if one or two made some kind of impact in 2016. 

Here's a quick look at the nine undrafted players the team has signed thus far, according to NEPatriotsDraft.com

V'Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois
At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Bentley doesn't possess prototypical NFL size for a defensive back, but he was a productive tackler in college and he holds the distinction as the only player in school history to score on a punt return, kick return, interception return and fumble return. 

Devonta Burns, CB, Texas A&M
According to the Aggies website, Burns (6-feet, 211 pounds) played in 12 games last season and made 13 tackles. At his pro day he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and jumped 33 inches in the vertical. 

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State
A college teammate of Patriots seventh-round pick Devin Lucien, the 5-10, 193-pounder was the only FBS player to enter last season with 1,500 career yards rushing and receiving. He finished his career at Arizona State with 666 total touches for 4,813 yards and 32 touchdowns. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and had one of top three-cone times among receivers at the combine (6.75 seconds). 

Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Ole Miss
Helped by a solid pro day workout, which was attended by area scout Brandon Yeargan, Hamilton was projected by some as worthy of a late-round draft pick. At 6-5, 312 pounds, he recorded a 4.8-second short shuttle, a 26.5-inch vertical leap, and he did 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press. 

CJ Johnson, LB, Ole Miss
With a diverse playing background as both a defensive end and a middle linebacker in the SEC, it's no shock the 6-1, 234-pounder landed in New England. Though plagued by knee and ankle injuries in his career, Johnson was consistently productive whenever he was on the field. At linebacker, despite missing a month to a torn meniscus, he made 43 tackles and two picks. 

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
A four-year starter for the Tigers, Jones racked up 125 tackles and seven picks in his career. He was named a second-team All-SEC honoree as a junior, and he popped at the combine with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash -- the fastest among all corners at the combine. Though his size (5-9, 186 pounds) may limit him to playing in the slot as a pro, he has the athleticism to match up with NFL receivers. 

Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic
He's not the fastest (4.65-second 40-yard dash) or the tallest (5-9), but LeBlanc is a strong corner who tips the scales at 194 pounds and plays with good aggression. He also has good quickness and an ability to change direction without slowing down, which he exhibited with a 6.91-second three-cone drill at the combine. 

Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt‚Äč
Sort of a 'tweener at tight end, Scheu may not have the size to be a pure blocking tight end as a pro, and he didn't play as a true "move" tight end at Vanderbilt. The 6-5, 250-pounder was an AP All-SEC selection in 2014, and he was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy (also known as the "Academic Heisman"). 

De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
At 6-5, 224 pounds, Wilson has the size to present any corner with a mismatch. He's able to wall off defenders with his frame, and he has the concentration and the hands to make contested grabs. Still relatively new to the sport -- he was named Alabama's Mr. Basketball and only played football as a senior in high school -- he has improved each season he's been on the field.  He was productive in the SEC last year, making 60 catches and scoring 10 touchdowns on his way to second-team All SEC honors. Though he's a good athlete -- he actually played basketball at Mississippi State for one season -- his speed may limit him in the NFL. He ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at the combine. 

Belichick on Brissett pick: Always try to plan at quarterback

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Belichick on Brissett pick: Always try to plan at quarterback

FOXBORO -- When Bill Belichick took the podium back in the spring of 2014 to discuss his decision to draft Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, he raised some eyebrows when he professed his belief that it was a position of need. 

"The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out," Belichick said. "I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position."

He added: "We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

At the time, Tom Brady was about to turn 37, and his contract was scheduled to keep him in New England through 2017. The team also had backup Ryan Mallett entering the final year of his rookie deal. 

Given Belichick's reasoning, and given the team's willingness to spend a second-rounder on him, it sounded as though the Patriots were ready to plan for a future with Garoppolo taking Brady's place. 

Two years later the Patriots spent another Day 2 draft pick on a quarterback when they selected North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett in the third round on Friday.

The situation isn't exactly the same as it was in 2014, but there are some similarities.

As was the case in 2014, Brady is still one of the top quaeterbacks in the league. And as was the case in 2014, Brady and the incoming rookie quarterback now have contracts that will run out at the same time; both players are on parallel paths to hit free agency after the 2019 season. 

Unlike Mallett, Garoppolo is not entering a contract year. He still has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal, but Brissett's addition could be an indication of New England's plans for their backup.

If Brissett develops to the point that he's ready to be a No. 2 in 2017, and if Brady remains healthy and among the best in the game, Garoppolo could quickly become a valuable trade chip. There will almost certainly be a quarterback-needy team next offseason willing to pay handsomely for a quarterback who has spent three years under Belichick and Brady and held his own in preseason action.

If the Patriots choose not to deal Garoppolo before the 2017 season, they'll end up keeping three quarterbacks on their roster for two consecutive years. That's not completely out of the realm of possibility, but for a team that turns over the bottom of its 53-man roster as often as the Patriots do, it seems like a situation Belichick might like to avoid if at all possible.

One would assume that at the end of his contract, Garoppolo would like to find a starting job -- and starter's money -- elsewhere. If he were to leave, the Patriots could receive a compensatory pick in return that might pale in comparison to whatever they would receive in a trade before the 2017 campaign. 

I asked Belichick on Saturday night if Garoppolo's contract situation played a role in the Patriots selecting Brissett at pick No. 91 overall. 

"There’s always an element of team planning, especially at that position," Belichick said. "If you can you try to look ahead a little bit. If you can’t, then take it as it comes. Things change but there’s an element of planning at all positions on your team, certainly that one."

Bottom line: It's the one position at which the Patriots never want to be unprepared. They don't want to be the 2011 Colts with Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. They don't want to be the 2015 Ravens with Mallett, Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen rotating behind center. 

They want to make sure they have capable bodies to man their most important position. By drafting Brissett -- a toolsy quarterback who took care of the football in college  andwas respected as a leader -- they may have found a future backup. At the same time, they've given themselves some flexibility next offseason to seek value for Garoppolo via trade if they so choose.