In addition to putting the finishing touches on their big board, the Patriots have a number of personnel decisions to make before draft day, writes Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald. Specifically, New England needs to decide whether to pick up the fifth-year options on linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive end Chandler Jones (the deadline for teams to exercise that option is May 3, one day after the conclusion of the draft).
The fifth-year option would prevent both players from becoming free agents after the 2015 season, so on the surface it appears like an easy decision. And for Hightower, Guregian believes it is. She says not only should the Patriots exercise the option, they should lock Hightower up long-term. Guregian points to Hightower’s critical role in the team’s Super Bowl run last season, which included establishing himself as a playmaker, a leader, and a play-caller in Jerod Mayo‘s absence.
Although Jones represents something of a more difficult decision, as injuries and his struggles against the run tip the scales towards the one-year option rather than a multi-year extension, Guregian writes that Hightower, along with Jamie Collins, are the future of the New England’s defense and should be treated accordingly.
Let’s take a look at a few more notes from the AFC:
- The Dolphins will have an official visit with LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins next week, writes Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel. One league source pegs Collins as the frontrunner for Miami’s first-round pick, No. 14 overall, if he is still available when the Dolphins are on the clock.
- Mike Klis of The Denver Post expects the Broncos to trade up from their No. 28 overall pick, noting that the team has 10 picks but is in win-now mode and does not have 10 available roster spots.
- In the wake of the persistent Philip Rivers-to-Tennessee rumors, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe offers his two cents, asserting his belief that a trade will not happen. For one, although Rivers is by no means a young man relative to other professional athletes, his durability and consistent level of play suggest it is far to soon to worry about his performance taking a sudden downturn. Furthermore, Marcus Mariota, who the Chargers would presumably draft to replace Rivers, is by no means a surefire prospect, which suggests San Diego should stay put at the No. 17 overall pick in the draft and continue to roll with Rivers.
- Similarly, Volin believes the Titans‘ statements regarding how much they like second-year quarterback Zach Mettenberger are not a ruse. Given the stalled progress of passers like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick, Volin believes Tennessee did not make those statements in an effort to disguise their desire to draft Mariota.