Bill Belichick

Latest On Antonio Brown, Patriots

The Patriots’ decision to end Antonio Brown‘s stay after 11 days may not have been as unanimous as originally reported. Robert Kraft led the charge for the Patriots to jettison the embattled wide receiver, and while Bill Belichick went along with it, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston notes the 20th-year Pats HC probably would have retained Brown had Kraft not insisted he be released.

Kraft has not been known to intervene in personnel matters, with Curran adding this is believed to be the first time (though, Kraft was reported to have played a role in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade process — something the owner denied). Tom Brady was not on board with Kraft’s decision to cut Brown, Curran adds, noting the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s practice work with the four-time All-Pro was nearly flawless and that Brown’s talent was “beyond anything Brady ever worked with.”

Kraft was reportedly “enraged” upon learning of Brown’s text messages to his second accuser, and it led to the team cutting ties with the perennial Pro Bowler. This led to a mostly deleted Brown Sunday-morning tweetstorm, with the disgruntled receiver referencing Kraft’s involvement in the reported prostitution sting. The Brown saga will still include the Patriots going forward, considering an NFLPA-backed grievance centered around his $9MM signing bonus is likely forthcoming.

While the Patriots will face an obstacle in keeping that $9MM off their books because they deployed Brown in Week 2 after learning of the civil suit filed against him (per Albert Breer of SI.com, on Twitter), the organization will be in line to lean on the contract’s morals clause as well as language indicating Brown’s failure to disclose “any situations that may prevent continued availability” in this upcoming battle. The NFLPA will likely argue that CBA language requires a higher standard to void signing bonus money and would supersede these team-implemented clauses, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry writes.

The Pats are set to carry $5.75MM on their 2019 cap because of this process, with Corry adding a grievance likely will not be settled until 2020. A $4.5MM cap credit would come the Pats’ way, in addition to Brown’s $4.75MM 2020 charge being removed from New England’s books, should the team prevail in the grievance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Antonio Brown Rumors: Kraft, Suitors, Cap

Antonio Brown‘s latest stay in free agency is, as expected, lasting longer than his brief unattached period between his Raiders and Patriots stints. He remains unemployed as Week 3 Sunday nears. Here is the latest from the Brown rumor mill, beginning with more on the Patriots’ decision to cut him:

  • Robert Kraft became “enraged” while learning the details of Brown sending texts to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, and Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports (subscription required) he and Bill Belichick then spoke of the receiver’s status in New England. The two Pats power brokers agreed Brown had to go, after only 11 days with the team. The report from SI.com’s Robert Klemko about the messages broke late Thursday night, and barely 12 hours later, Brown had seen a third team part ways with him in less than seven months.
  • While the Patriots are expected to have an avenue to avoid paying Brown anything beyond his Week 2 and Week 3 base salaries, Field Yates of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) the receiver is still counting $4.5MM on New England’s cap. As it stands currently, Brown represents a $4.5MM cap hold on the Pats’ 2019 and ’20 cap sheets.
  • If and when a Brown grievance comes regarding his $9MM signing bonus — which was set to be paid in two installments, Monday and then in early 2020 — Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap writes a Patriots victory in that setting would give them more than $5MM in 2020 cap credits.
  • The Seahawks have already come out and said they are not interested in Brown this time around. Another suitor who was interested earlier this month is bowing out this time, too, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (video link). This may be a common refrain, as Brown is dealing with far more troublesome issues than he was when the Raiders cut the cord.
  • It would be hard to imagine the Redskins pursuing Brown, considering what Jay Gruden saw his brother go through over the summer in trying to manage the mercurial talent, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes the NFC East franchise should not be ruled out. This is the team that placed a waiver claim on Reuben Foster when no one else did, and Florio adds this could be more of a Dan SnyderBruce Allen decision. Foster had been arrested on multiple occasions when Washington claimed him, and it does not appear an arrest is in the cards for Brown. The Redskins are also 0-2 and thin on skill-position talent. For now, the 31-year-old superstar is in the clear to seek NFL employment, though a commissioner’s exempt list stay may be on the horizon if he signs anywhere. That will hurt his chances of playing for another team in 2019.

East Notes: Belichick, Patriots, Jets, Giants

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is known for finding diamonds in the rough. He’s turned MAC quarterback Julian Edelman into a star receiver, and made numerous other brilliant discoveries. The draft apparently isn’t the only place he looks for these unheralded gems, as Zach Cox of NESN.com pointed out in a recent interesting piece. The Patriots are holding joint practices with the Lions right now, and Cox points out that Belichick always uses these joint practices to scout the opposing team’s players for guys he might want to pick up when they’re later cut.

“From 2012 to 2017, New England participated in 11 rounds of joint practices with seven different opponents. In all 11 cases, at least one member of the opposing team went on to sign with the Patriots,” Cox writes. That’s a pretty incredible streak, and it shows that the Patriots are paying extremely close attention during these joint sessions. It’ll be interesting to see which current member of the Lions ends up signing with New England later this year.

Here’s more from the league’s eastern divisions:

  • We’ve got the full details on Ryan Kalil‘s contract with the Jets, courtesy of Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The one-year, $8.4MM pact includes a $3MM signing bonus, 2.4MM in base non-guaranteed salary, and a $3.4MM roster bonus. The total guarantee is just the $3MM signing bonus. Kalil recently came out of retirement, and the veteran center’s presence should be a huge boost to the rest of the offensive line and Sam Darnold‘s protection. Even though the majority of his money is non-guaranteed, it would take something truly shocking for him not to end up collecting it all.
  • The Giants have had a brutal stretch of luck with their receivers. Just in the past few weeks, Corey Coleman tore his ACL, Sterling Shepard suffered a broken thumb, and Golden Tate was suspended for the first four games of the season. Shepard will likely be back for Week 1, but the options after him aren’t too appealing. As of right now it looks like Cody Latimer will be the second receiver to open the season, while Bennie Fowler will be the third, according to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. Latimer is a former second-round pick of the Broncos who is looking to reinvent himself with the Giants. He spent last year in New York, catching 11 passes for 190 yards in only six games. Fowler is also a former Bronco who caught 16 balls for 199 yards in his first season with the Giants last year. Eli Manning (or Daniel Jones) won’t be in an easy situation when the season opens.
  • In case you missed it, the Dolphins signed former Cardinals first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche

AFC East Notes: Brady, Dolphins, Bills

A potentially important situation that has been flying a bit under the radar is Tom Brady‘s contract. The Patriots quarterback is quietly entering the final season of his deal, and there hasn’t been any word on if there’s even been any extension talks. Right now both sides appear set to let things play out, which is interesting to say the least. If they don’t get something done then, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, New England “will have a big decision to make in early 2020.” Florio writes that the Pats will have four options, “to re-sign Brady before he becomes a free agent, whether to let him become a free agent and then try to re-sign him, whether to not even try to re-sign him at all, or whether to apply the franchise tag.”

Florio writes that in the franchise tag scenario, Brady would have “a ton of leverage,” since the tag would pay him $32.4MM, the most ever on a tag. Florio speculates that the Patriots could be hesitant to pay him that much, and he wonders whether Brady will be willing to again take a discount like he has in the past. He writes that “other teams may start poking around agent Don Yee to see if Brady wants to make a late-career change of venue, and they may start throwing around numbers that Brady would not be able to refuse.” It’s all speculative at this point, but it’s fascinating to think about. Bill Belichick can be stubborn, but the thought of him letting Brady walk is still pretty hard to believe.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Speaking of Belichick and Brady’s contract, signing Brady to a new deal “that will pay him upwards of $30M for his 43- and 44-year-old seasons gives Bill Belichick the vapors,” writes Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston. Curran writes that Brady wants an extension that ensures he retires with the Patriots but that “he’s been put off, mildly placated or — in the case of last year — downright disrespected with incentive-laden ‘sing for your supper’ incentive bonuses.” Curran seems to think that there’s real tension between the two sides, that Belichick isn’t too eager to commit anything major, and that Robert Kraft ultimately might end up intervening. Curran writes that his “feeling is that he’s going to let Kraft do this deal so that Belichick has plausible deniability in case Brady faceplants.” This will be an important situation to monitor moving forward.
  • The Dolphins fired offensive line coach Pat Flaherty earlier this week and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo, and DeGuglielmo has wasted no time retooling the unit. The “Dolphins made wholesale lineup changes in practice Tuesday,” to their offensive line, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. In DeGuglielmo’s first day as the offensive line coach, “rookie Michael Deiter and Will Holden took over the first team left and right guard spots, replacing Chris Reed and Jesse Davis,” Jackson writes. Davis kicked over to right tackle, sending Jordan Mills to the second team. DeGuglielmo received a lot of praise for his work as the Colts’ offensive line coach last year, and it was a surprise when he was ousted in January. He’s clearly taking charge in Miami, and it sounds like the only two locked in players on the Dolphins’ line are Laremy Tunsil at left tackle and Daniel Kilgore at center.
  • Potentially troubling news for the Bills, as center Mitch Morse is still in the concussion protocol, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (Twitter link). Morse is one of the league’s best centers when healthy, but he’s dealt with concussion issues and other injuries in his last two seasons with the Chiefs. In 2018 he played in only 11 games, and in 2017 only seven. Buscaglia notes that Bills coach Sean McDermott wouldn’t comment “about the amount of concern they might have with Morse suffering a fourth documented concussion,” since the protocol won’t allow him to. The Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year, and signing Morse to his huge four-year deal was supposed to help revamp the unit. Normally a concussion this time of year wouldn’t be big news, but given Morse’s lengthy history of concussion issues this could be something that lingers. It’ll be important to monitor how he progresses.

AFC East Rumors: Gronk, McCoy, Fins, Jets

The AFC East’s teams will report to training camp this week. Here is the latest surrounding the Patriots and their perennial challengers:

  • The Rob Gronkowski comeback talk has escalated considerably, with Gronkowski doing the speculating and predicting how restless he will be when Patriots camp and games begin. It won’t be Gronk’s relationship with Bill Belichick that stands in the way, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston notes. After 2017 featured tension between Gronkowski and Belichick, Curran adds that the two “greatly” improved their relationship last season. This came despite the Patriots at one point planning to trade Gronk to the Lions last year. This improved relationship could point to Belichick signing off on a Gronk mid- or late-season return. The Patriots’ shaky tight end depth chart would seemingly have the defending champions eager to have the 30-year-old back in uniform.
  • One of Gronkowski’s former sidekicks in New England, Dwayne Allen will not begin camp on time with his new team. The Dolphins placed the veteran tight end on their active/PUP list on Sunday. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and linebacker/special-teamer Mike Hull joined Allen in receiving this designation before Miami’s camp. Tankersley tore an ACL in November, so this additional delay was not unexpected. He started 11 games at corner as a rookie but played in only six, as a reserve, last season.
  • Might third-round rookie Devin Singletary‘s performance put a potential Hall of Famer on the outs in Buffalo? LeSean McCoy is entering the final season of a five-year, $40MM Bills contract, and his cap savings ($6MM-plus) would benefit the Bills more than releases of Frank Gore or T.J. Yeldon. This led an NFL scouting director to call the McCoy situation one to monitor, per Albert Breer of SI.com. On a limited Bills offense last season, McCoy averaged a career-low 36.7 yards per game. His 3.2 yards per carry were nearly a yard shy of his previous-worst figure. The idea of a McCoy trade has surfaced this offseason, too.
  • Despite Leonard Williams being one of Mike Maccagnan‘s highest-profile investments, the New York Post’s Brian Costello predicts, barring unrealistic contract demands, Williams will end up staying on a long-term deal. The defensive end’s positive off-field reputation and standing within the locker room supports the notion the new regime, in Costello’s view, regarding him as a cornerstone player going forward. Speculation in league circles emerged that Adam Gase wanted to move on from Williams, but nothing has developed on that front in weeks. Williams, 25, is set for a fifth-year option season at $14.2MM.

Patriots Rumors: Caserio, Belichick, Mayo

After his flirtation with (and near departure to) the Texans, it has been rumored that Patriots exec Nick Caserio badly wants out of New England. That’s not necessarily the case, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, who likens Caserio’s situation to that of any player in a contract year.

While Caserio could leave next year when his contract expires, Howe says that it’s too early to predict the outcome of the situation. It has been speculated that Caserio is eager to take on more responsibilities, so one has to wonder whether he could be convinced to stay if he is given more power – and perhaps a different title – within Bill Belichick‘s operation.

Here’s more on the Pats, via Howe:

  • The Patriots technically will not have a defensive coordinator in 2019 after Greg Schiano‘s latest flip-flop. Inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo called the defensive plays for much of minicamp, but the plan is still for Belichick to handle those responsibilities during the season, Howe hears. Howe’s educated guess: Belichick could grant play calling responsibilities to Mayo in 2020 and hand him the DC job as early as 2021, which would be consistent with the team’s previous handling of the role.
  • Much has been made of the departure of team chaplain Jack Easterby to the Texans, but his absence has been described as “overrated.”
  • So far, the Patriots coaching staff is enthused by what they’ve seen from linebacker Jamie Collins, who returned to the club this offseason after being let go by the Browns. That goes for Collins’ on-field and off-field work, which is good news considering the way he clashed with coaches before he was traded to Cleveland.

Mayo Taking Leadership Role On Pats Staff

Entering his first year as an assistant coach with the Patriots, former linebacker Jerod Mayo is emerging as a leader in the team’s rebuilt defensive staff, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes

Mayo, who spent all eight of his seasons in New England, was brought in to coach inside linebackers for the 2019 campaign after spending the last three seasons away from the game. The former star linebacker has quickly made his presence felt.

“He was obviously a tremendous player, but he’s a tremendous leader as well. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a player lead a team like the way Mayo led us [when he played in 2008-15]. He did things where he could bring players along and help raise their level of play. As an older guy now, you can only imagine what he could do for that locker room based on his leadership,” safety Duron Harmon said.

It’s been a tumultuous few months for the Patriots defense, as the team said goodbye to defensive coordinator Brian Flores and a handful of assistants after the team won Super Bowl LII. Then came the arrival and quick departure of Greg Schiano, who was tasked to take over for Flores, who took the head coaching gig in Miami. Since then, the team has settled on head coach Bill Belichick serving as defensive coordinator, with Belichick also, at this moment, expected to call plays.

A first-year assistant coach isn’t likely to take those reins, but the Patriots always manage to find and develop coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Players already noticing Mayo’s emergence is a good sign the two-time Pro Bowl selection could be the next hot name to come out of Foxborough.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bill Belichick Expected To Call Patriots’ Defensive Plays?

Nearly two months after Greg Schiano backtracked on his commitment to become the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, the job remains unfilled. Should it stay vacant, the Pats would have a fairly reliable contingency plan.

With Bill Belichick towering over his defensive staff in terms of NFL experience, the current expectation is he will call defensive plays for the Patriots this season, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

Ceding that responsibility to Matt Patricia and Brian Flores for the past several years, Belichick obviously played a key role in the Pats’ defense. Belichick would often determine when Patricia or Flores would call blitzes, Volin adds. The eight-time Super Bowl champion, counting his two as Giants DC, is coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s defensive masterpiece — the Rams’ three-point night — and his teams have fielded a top-10 scoring defense 15 times in his 19-year New England tenure.

However, Belichick in a dual role is not the Pats’ official plan just yet. They will use the OTAs and minicamp period to determine their strategy here, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link). Flores’ exit leaves the Patriots light on experience among their defensive staff, with former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema — previously viewed as a DC option — bringing the most seasoning. And most of that came in college.

After a year of consulting with the team, Bielema is slated to coach New England’s defensive line. Jerod Mayo, whom Garafolo adds is viewed as a possible future defensive coordinator, will split linebackers coaching duties with DeMarcus Covington — with Mayo working with the inside ‘backers and Covington assigned to help the outside players. Mike Pellegrino will oversee the cornerbacks, the team announced. Mayo, Covington and Pellegrino will be first-year position coaches.

Barring an outside hire, or the Patriots handing the reins to Bielema, Belichick would seem the logical choice to play the lead role on defense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bill Belichick Could Become Patriots DC

Thursday began with the news that Patriots defensive coordinator Greg Schiano would be stepping down from the post. Later in the day, news trickled out that head coach Bill Belichick could assume a larger role with the defense or even take over the role of defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes

Following their victory in Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots saw a mass exodus from their defensive coaching staff, which included former defensive coordinator Brian Flores take the head-coaching gig in Miami and a number of assistants leaving. Schiano, highly trusted by Belichick, was expected to help the transition, but his abrupt departure puts the Pats in a tough situation.

Reiss notes Belichick assuming defensive coordinator duties is the most likely of scenarios but is not the only one. Another possibility is a “Hail Mary” call to former defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who left to become the Chiefs run-game coordinator. Considering his family’s roots in K.C. area, however, it could be a tough sell.

Another potential candidate would be Bret Bielema, the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin tweets. Volin mentions that Bielema, the former University of Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach and current defensive consultant with the Pats, thought he was getting the job earlier this year.

Belichick, of course, is no slouch as a defensive coordinator. With the Giants, he won a pair of Super Bowls under head coach Bill Parcells while running the defense. As the head coach of the Patriots, Belichick has always played a large role on the defensive side of the ball, except in 2009 when he contributed largely to the offense following Josh McDaniels‘ departure to Denver.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Foles, Kitna, Belichick

It is all but certain that the Eagles will part ways with Nick Foles this offseason, and there has been plenty of speculation as to how that might happen given Foles’ present contract situation. The most-discussed scenarios involve the team basically forcing Foles to buy his way into free agency for $2MM, and even then, the Eagles could put the franchise tag on Foles and trade him, thus eliminating any voice that Foles might have in the matter.

But as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Foles and the Eagles have an excellent relationship, as evidenced by the team’s most recent gesture of goodwill. As such, JLC suggests that Philadelphia could pick up Foles’ 2019 option, thereby triggering a $20MM salary, and then orchestrate a trade to a team of Foles’ liking. Realistically, there are only a handful of teams that will be in the market for Foles, so by going that route, Foles could keep the above-referenced $2MM and still end up with a team that he would have signed with anyway (and he and his new team would likely enter into a long-term pact whether he is traded or signs as a free agent). As La Canfora observes, the Dolphins and Jaguars are the two clubs who have been linked to Foles thus far.

Now for a quick roundup of a few more east-related items:

  • We learned earlier today that the Cowboys could hire Jon Kitna as their QB coach and name Kellen Moore as their new OC. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), Kitna will indeed become Dallas’ QB coach, which means that Moore — who served as the team’s QB coach in 2018 — may very well take the OC reins. Schefter’s ESPN colleague, Chris Mortensen, reports that head coach Jason Garrett is “in line” to serve as the team’s offensive play-caller in 2019 regardless of who the OC is (Twitter link).
  • In the past couple of years, we have heard a lot about the tension among the three pillars of the Patriots‘ franchise: owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady. But as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes, when Belichick recently commented on the upcoming 25th anniversary of Kraft’s ownership, he said, “[h]ope we can continue it for a long time.” That brief but telling statement is in keeping with what Reiss has been sensing of late, which is that Belichick, 66, will be coaching New England for the foreseeable future.
  • Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio tweets that the Bills could promote offensive assistant Chad Hall to wide receivers coach to replace Terry Robiskie, who recently joined the Jaguars’ coaching staff.