The week ahead for Patriots and the NFL


The week ahead for Patriots and the NFL

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Tuesday. Big day for the cellular telephone industry. But it starts tonight. "Post-lockout Player Procurement Panic 2011" has begun. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted that all rookies, signed or unsigned, could begin negotiations with teams tonight, but could not be signed until 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. What does that mean for the Patriots? Well, chances are they're on the phone with first-rounder Nate Solder and all the other draftees right now, as well as undrafted players like Mark Herzlich. They can also start talking totheir ownfree agents who may be headed out of town, their own franchise players, restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents. That means Matt Light (free agent), Logan Mankins (franchise) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RFA) can be contacted. And the Patriotscan do the same with any and all free agents from other teams. Can't sign 'em yet. Have to wait until Friday at 6 p.m. to sign 'em. Thursday at 4 p.m., teams can start to waive players or terminate their contracts. Nick Kaczur, Bret Lockett and Tully Banta-Cain could be in danger. Banta-Cain's situation is interesting because, while he had his sports hernia during 2010, he eschewed the chance to have it fixed after the season then re-aggravated it during the lockout. Still trying to determine whether that's an injury that would preclude Banta-Cain from being cut without an injury settlement. By August 4, all teams have to be under the 2011 salary cap of 120.375 million. Top 51 salaries will count against cap beginning that day so August 3 could be a big day for bloodletting. A few points we're still trying to lock down are 1. when padded practices can begin; 2. when unsigned rookies must vacate team (allowed to report Tuesday it seems); 3. when media and fan access begins. Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl


Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

NFL Siberia can’t be all that bad. The Cleveland Browns have signed Jamie Collins to an extension that keeps him off the free agent market.

The former Patriot, stunningly shipped out of town on Halloween, has agreed to a reported four-year, $50 million deal with $26M in guaranteed money.

As eyebrow-raising as the move was at the time, this is an all’s well that ends well story.

Collins, a reluctant Patriot once it came clear the team wouldn’t to aim a confetti cannon of money at him, gets the desired big-dough deal. He didn’t drape himself in glory with his level of play this year in New England, but his agitation over making $900K this year was understandable.

The Patriots -- who made the deal not knowing exactly how it would work out with Collins’ fleet of replacements (primarily rookie Elandon Roberts and, October acquisition Kyle Van Noy) -- have played better defense since Collins has been gone and are headed to the Super Bowl.

Would they have been better if Collins stayed? The answer to that is a question: Which version of Collins, the irked one or the motivated one?

Collins did nothing to veil his desire for a huge contract, saying at the end of the season he’d stay with the hapless Browns if the money was right. Now that he’s decided the money was right, what kind of Collins will the Browns get? With $26M guaranteed, the Browns have tethered themselves to the 27-year-old Collins for a chunk of his prime. The shorter term is ideal for Collins because -- if he performs to his capability -- he’ll be able to see another lucrative deal before he’s too aged.

The deal will certainly be noticed by Collins’ former teammates, primarily Donta Hightower who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots could franchise Hightower (last year’s tag number was more than $14M) but that’s not going to be ideal for either side. Hightower will want to get the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal and the Patriots may be reluctant to pay that much to a player that’s got an injury history and plays one of the game’s most violent positions.

A lot’s going to happen between now and the time the Patriots have to make their decision. A good deal of it will happen in the next 12 days. If Hightower stealthily saves the Super Bowl as he did in 2014 with his first-down tackle on Marshawn Lynch … how do you put a price on that?

Andy Dalton named Tom Brady's Pro Bowl replacement

Andy Dalton named Tom Brady's Pro Bowl replacement

With Tom Brady spending this week and next preparing for the Super Bowl, Andy Dalton has been named his replacement in the Pro Bowl. 

This will mark Dalton’s third Pro Bowl appearance. He finished fourth in the AFC in passing yards (4,206) and tied for 10th with 18 passing touchdowns. Brady threw 10 more touchdowns in four fewer games. 

Though he’s often skipped the actual games, this was the 12th season in which Brady was named to the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster. He’s been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last eight seasons.