Patriots ready to move on after loss

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Patriots ready to move on after loss

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com
FOXBORO Not that you expected much in the way of bitching, moaning or detailed self-reflection in the wake of Sunday's loss, but Monday afternoon at Gillette, the Patriots were predictably tight-lipped surrounding the details of their defeat, and ready to focus on this week's opponent: The Buffalo Bills.

"Any time you lose, you're upset," said safety Brandon Meriweather, one of the few players to speak during Monday's locker-room access, "but I've always been told that you have to have a short memory. You can't let things linger on. Last night wasn't my night to moan and get all the thinking about the Jets out. So now I'm thinking about Buffalo."

Julian Edelman's words carried a similar tone:

"We have to put that game behind us. We've got to have a short memory. That's what we have to preach to our guys right now, and that's what we're doing. We have to take that film we just watched and take all the bad things and learn form them, fix them this week and prepare for the Bills."

Fair enough. But what specifically went wrong on Sunday? What are those things that the Patriots need to improve upon?

"After watching the tape there's obviously a lot of things we need to do better and think we can do better," said Bill Belichick. "We just have to get back to work this week and get ready for Buffalo and get some things straight on or end. It's pretty much across the board: Offense, defense and special teams. You name it."

While the Pats certainly made their fair share of first-half mistakes, it's the latter half that's come into question. It was over the final 30 minutes where the Jets officially took control of the action, caught the Pats off guard and had them scrambling (in vain) to make the proper adjustments. It's those adjustments (or lack thereof), which has New England buzzing on Monday, but the team stopped short of citing any specific Jets moves as the reason for their triumph.

"Nah, I don't think they made many adjustments," Meriweather said. "They came out and pretty much did the same things. Maybe threw one or two wrinkles in there, but other than that they pretty much did the same thing. They just made the plays when they counted."

"I didn't really pay attention to their adjustments," said Fred Taylor, who had five carries for 11 yards, all in the first half. "I was just paying attention to what we were trying to do throughout the course of the game. And every time we kind of started out or whatever, I think those are things I pay most attention to. They did whatever was necessary to win the game."

And that was that. Sunday's loss can still be felt throughout New England on Monday, but their team is ready to move on.

Although Taylor admitted that no matter what anyone says, the team won't soon forget the feeling of walking off the Meadowlands in defeat.

"The Jets will definitely be in the back of our mind somewhere," he said. "If a guy says that it isn't he'd be lying to you. It's just human nature. Especially if you get beat up by somebody. You remember it."
Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Patriots contract dance is a daunting one

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Patriots contract dance is a daunting one

We are in the Patriots’ silent spring. Aside from the ongoing mud wrestle Tom Brady’s engaged in with the NFL and the noise surrounding that, it’s quiet with the football team.

Minimal personnel outflow. An interesting haul of B-list free agents. A workmanlike draft of players who won’t likely make much impact in their rookie seasons.

But this calm precedes a roster storm the team is facing over the next nine months.

Nine players of major consequence are entering the final year of their contracts. On offense, it’s not a crisis. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is the only expiring contract.

Defensively? Different story. Linebackers Donta Hightower and Jamie Collins, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, defensive backs Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Malcolm Butler (restricted free agent) are all expiring. As is special teams ace and captain Matthew Slater.

But wait, there’s still more. A bunch of the free agent/trade imports the Patriots made are here on one-year deals: tight ends Martellus Bennett and Clay Harbor, defensive linemen Chris Long and Terrance Knighton and guard Jonathan Cooper.

Add in OL Marcus Cannon, RB LeGarrette Blount, DL Alan Branch, WR Aaron Dobson, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Jonathan Freeny, FB James Develin, WR Chris Harper, TE Michael Williams, G Cameron Fleming and lower-tier free agent signings like DT Markus Kuhn, WR Nate Washington, LB Ramon Humber, CB E.J. Biggers and DE Frank Kearse and overall there are 30 (!!) players with expiring deals.

A few of those players won’t even make it through the summer with the team. And the fact others, like Bennett, Long, Knighton, Cooper, Blount and Washington, are on one-year “show us” deals isn’t bad. It’s smart.

But the volume of consequential players – especially on defense – who’ll be looking for new deals means there’s an interesting dance for Bill Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio to engage in.

The Patriots have to do what’s best for their football team. But some of the players whose contracts are up are obligated to do what’s best for themselves business-wise.

And a lot of them are in line for their second contracts. They are facing what will probably be the most pivotal financial period in their lives over the next few months.

Consider a player like Jamie Collins. A second-round pick in 2013, his initial contract was for $3.76M. You take out taxes, agent fees, expenses, etc. and how much money do you think Collins has to show for the three seasons in which he’s been a rising star in the league? Certainly not enough to feel financially comfortable for the rest of his life.

But – barring catastrophic injury – Collins’ next contract is going to be a huge financial haul that should set up him and his family for decades.

By comparison, Lavonte David of the Buccaneers signed a five-year $50M contract with more than $25M guaranteed last August. Both play outside linebacker at a high level. Both were initially second-round picks (David, No. 58 in 2012; Collins, No. 52 in 2013).

Then there are players like Harmon and Ryan – good rising players who are not going to be paid like stars and may never be Pro Bowlers but are going to play in the league for a long time. Last season, Ryan took a huge step forward, starting opposite Malcolm Butler, putting up some outstanding advanced statistics and increasing his profile around the league. Harmon had a similar year. Ryan will have made $2.77M by the end of his rookie deal; Harmon will make $2.71M.

Unlike Collins, who is a freak talent and is going to get teams throwing tens of millions at him, Ryan and Harmon have a little more uncertainty. If the Patriots present them with offers prior to this year, do they take the security of knowing they are program mainstays or do they wait it out and test the market.

Ryan can look at a player like Buster Skrine who signed a $25M deal with the Jets last year and say, “Whoa… that could be me.” Harmon will have to see the offer he gets from the Patriots and compare it to the one the team gave his good friend Devin McCourty last year ($47.5M). Is Harmon half the player McCourty is? One-third? Will another team see in Harmon the potential to be comparable to McCourty?

Hightower, a former first-round pick, is more financially set than the other guys staring at second contracts. Hightower was down to make $7.724M from 2012-15. The Patriots picked up his fifth-year option for 2016 which will pay him $7.75M. So he’s in position to make more than $15M by the end of the season. He’s another player who could command more than $50M in a new deal if he goes to free agency. Would he be willing to take the security of staying in New England for a deal that may not be as lucrative as what he could command on the open market?

That’s what Jerod Mayo did and it proved to be the right move. Mayo – who came into the league under the previous CBA that was more lucrative for rookie first-rounders – agreed to a five-year extension in December of 2011 before his fourth NFL season was up, 15 months before he would have become a free agent. The extension was worth $48.5M. Mayo wound up on season-ending IR in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and he renegotiated his deal a couple of times but there was good security built into that deal. He retired recently having made more than $42M in the NFL.

We could go on with individual situations – Malcolm Butler could reasonably expect to make more than Janoris Jenkins who signed with the Giants for $62M this offseason, but Butler’s two years from unrestricted free agency and making less than $1M in salary this year; Jabaal Sheard needed to prove himself after a slow start to his career in Cleveland led him to a the two-year, $11M deal he signed with the Patriots. He’s en route to doing that and is – thanks to signing that short-term deal – in line to get another crack to cash in while in his prime.

And nobody should begrudge these players for doing so. We all know by now the future physical peril they put themselves in and we will never run out of stories related to young men who blew their money thinking it would never dry up. The players owe it to themselves and their families to make sure they are compensated as well as they can be.

Belichick, Caserio and the Krafts are aware of that too. Their chore is to do right by as many of these guys as they can against a hard salary cap and make sure the team isn’t mortgaged to its eyeballs.

It’s as complex a contractual puzzle as I can recall.

Stork: 'So far so good' working with Scarnecchia

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Stork: 'So far so good' working with Scarnecchia

CAMBRIDGE -- Brian Stork and several of his teammates on the Patriots offensive line will have to deal with a new voice in their positional meetings this season.

As a fourth-round draft pick in 2014, Stork is one of a handful of Tom Brady's personal protectors who've never played for Dante Scarnecchia before this season. Now that Scarnecchia is back on staff as Patriots offensive line chief after two years of retirement, the third-year center and his teammates are getting accustomed to their new boss. 

"So far so good," said Stork, who spoke to reporters at Harvard Satdium following a football clinic for disabled students run by AccesSportAmerica. "Just do what I'm told and try to get better."

Patriots offensive tackles Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon as well as guard Josh Kline were all on the team during Scarnecchia's last season in 2013 so they have some sense of what they're in for.

The others -- including Stork, center David Andrews, guards Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson, Joe Thuney and Ted Karras and tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming -- will find themselves following orders from someone other than Dave DeGuglielmo, whose contract wasn't renewed at the end of last season, for the first time in their pro careers. 

It might be a bit of a wakeup call, according to one former Patriots offensive lineman who knows Scarnecchia well.

“[Scarnecchia will] just [bring] a demanding style, which he coaches with," Logan Mankins told the Providence Journal earlier this offseason. "He’ll always have his guys prepared and if they’re not prepared he’ll find someone that is prepared. That’s the best thing about Dante. Those young guys have a rude awakening coming. They have never had anyone like him. They better be in shape because he’s going to test you."

Though many of the offensive linemen on the Patriots haven't played for Scarnecchia, they knew who he was before he was re-hired. Even in retirement, he helped the Patriots during the pre-draft process in each of the last two years, working out linemen and reporting back to coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio. 

Scarnecchia is close with Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett so both Stork and Jackson have interacted with him in the past. He also worked out Mason during Mason's pro day last year. 

Phase Two of the Patriots offseason training program began on Monday, meaning that coaches and players are now able to work together on the practice field to perform drills and do some instruction. While offense versus defense sessions are prohibited, it's the first time Scarnecchia will be able to teach some of his new pupils. 

From the sounds of it, Stork likes the way it's going.

"It's nice to be home," he said. "I definitely missed it. It's great to be back with all the guys and just getting ready for next year. Definitely really excited."

Belichick convinces UDFA to sign, tells him to be in shape

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Belichick convinces UDFA to sign, tells him to be in shape

The moments following the final round of the NFL draft are always a whirlwind because the work done by those in their respective war rooms isn't finished. Every year, coaches and personnel staffers work their phones calling undrafted free-agents in order to round out their rosters with passed-over talent.

Arizona State receiver and running back D.J. Foster was one of those fielding calls on Saturday, giving his cell battery a workout. The Cardinals, Texans and Patriots all came calling, and he was leaning toward what he considered his hometown team in Arizona.

Then the Patriots deployed their top recruiting weapon: coach Bill Belichick.

You can watch Foster's draft day ordeal here with this video put together by 12News.com in Phoenix.

When he's made his decision he gets a call from one team employee telling him how "fired up" they are to have him on board. Then Belichick calls again, his mission accomplished, to first congratulate Foster and then order him to be in shape for rookie minicamp.

Foster was barely in elementary school when Belichick and Tom Brady helped the Patriots win their  first Super Bowl. Ever since, they've been one of the most consistently successful teams in football.

That track record couldn't have hurt Foster in his decision-making process, but it seems as though he was proposed the best financial deal by the Patriots. They're also a team that won't be afraid to try players at multiple positions. The fact that Foster considers himself both a running back and a receiver could be seen as beneficial in regards to him making the team. Being labeled a "'tweener" isn't always a detriment.

In the Patriots offense, there is room for a player with Foster's skill set. Perhaps he will work alongside Dion Lewis and James White as a "sub back," who specializes in the passing game and poses a threat either lined up in the backfield or out wide like a receiver. The other option would be for Foster to serve as a full-time receiver -- something he focused on last season -- who might be best suited for the slot. As an undrafted rookie, he'll also likely be expected to contribute in the kicking game in some way shape or form.