Bill Belichick

Patriots Notes: Kraft, McClellin, Rowe

Back in January, an explosive piece from ESPN.com detailed a major rift within the Patriots organization. Since that time, there have been continued whispers about the tension in Foxborough, particularly between head coach Bill Belichick and franchise quarterback Tom Brady. Owner Robert Kraft has continually denied those rumors, and he did that once again on Friday. Appearing on CNBC, Kraft attributed the reports to “envy and jealousy.”

“We’ve been together 19 years, which is unheard of for a head coach, a quarterback and an ownership group,” Kraft said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “Thankfully, we have had a lot of success and whenever that happens you become a target. We understand that and there is always tensions and issues and different things you’ve got to deal with. That is part of the privilege of owning a team and being successful. I have a little saying that envy and jealously are incurable diseases. You’d rather be a recipient than a donor. That is what is going on now.”

A new book by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor has renewed interest in the dynamic between Belichick and Brady. In “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,”O’Connor reports that Brady would “divorce” Belichick if he could, but feared alienating New England fans after the Patriots traded backup (and possible successor) Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of New England…

  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that retired Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin filed for Injury Protection last night, which entitles him “to 50 percent of the base salary he was supposed to make this year.” Therefore, the team ended up losing another $1.075MM worth of cap space, dropping them down to $1.17MM of room. As Volin observes, it’s an interesting predicament for the Patriots, who haven’t been so close to the cap in at least a half decade. The team doesn’t have a whole lot of high-priced players, leading the reporter to wonder whether the issue is by design or due to “poor cap management.”
  • Eric Rowe returned to practice yesterday, but Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal points out that the cornerback was limited after having missed the past two sessions. It’s still no guarantee that the 25-year-old will end up playing this weekend, and he’s currently listed as questionable (along with 10 other teammates, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, and defensive end Trey Flowers).
  • Despite adding Josh Gordon to the mix, the Patriots are still eyeing some reinforcement as wide receiver. Over the past week, the team has auditioned three wideouts: Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Kerley, and Dontrelle Inman.

East Rumors: Patriots, Cowboys, Bills

Reports of discord within the Patriots‘ organization are nothing new, but a new book by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor has shed even more light on the dynamic between head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. In “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,” O’Connor reports that Brady would “divorce” Belichick if he could, but feared alienating New England fans after the Patriots traded backup (and possible successor) Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last season. “If you’re married 18 years to a grouchy person who gets under your skin and never compliments you, after a while you want to divorce him,” a source told O’Connor. Brady will return for yet another season with the Belichick and the Patriots after agreeing to a revised contract that includes multiple performance-based incentives.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • The Cowboys, perhaps unsurprisingly, don’t have any interest in re-signing veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant, as executive Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). “Don’t necessarily see that at this moment, but we’re always looking for ways to improve,” Jones said. “Obviously we’re focused on the guys that are on our team at the moment.” Dallas is currently fielding arguably the league’s worst receiving corps, as complementary options such as Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, and Allen Hurns top the club’s depth chart. Bryant, though, wouldn’t be a clear improvement after a disappointing 2017 campaign. Now 29 years old, Bryant has been linked to multiple clubs this offseason, but only came close to a contact with the Browns, who could still opt to sign him.
  • Speaking of Bryant, the veteran receiver was a factor in Brice Butler re-signing with the Cowboys this week, per Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram, who notes Bryant told Butler to head back to Dallas if the opportunity presented itself. As Hill tweets, the Cowboys called Butler after a Week 1 loss to the Panthers, so his addition was in the works for awhile. Butler, who had spent his entire career in Dallas before signing with the Cardinals this spring, signed a two-year deal, per Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). He’ll earn the veteran minimum of $790K in 2018.
  • Before signing with the Vikings earlier this week, defensive tackle Tom Johnson drew interest from the Bills and Browns, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Johnson, whose release from the Seahawks precipitated his free agency, was in fact close to signing with Buffalo before Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson — who led Johnson in Minnesota from 2014-17 — reached out. Seattle also expressed interest in re-signing Johnson, but his number of suitors allowed to him to a land a one-year, $1MM deal from the Vikings, one that includes $500K in incentives.

49ers Inquired About Tom Brady Trade

Before being given the green light on a seminal Jimmy Garoppolo trade, John Lynch discussed the Patriots’ other prominent quarterback with Bill Belichick. It was not a long conversation.

The then-first-year 49ers GM did not receive the answer he wanted regarding a Garoppolo deal when he spoke will Belichick early in the 2017 offseason, and he said he then asked if the Patriots would trade Tom Brady.

Yeah, we were calling about Jimmy and we did have that conversation and got quickly rebuffed,” Lynch said of the Brady trade inquiry during an appearance on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast (via the San Francisco Chronicle). “I figured what the heck, you gotta take your shot right? You can’t score if you don’t shoot, so I had to summon up the courage. Bill laughed at me and basically hung up on me. But hey, I took my shot.”

Kyle Shanahan was told at the 2017 Combine Garoppolo wasn’t available, but at the trade deadline, he received a phone call from Belichick and quickly agreed to send the Patriots a second-rounder for the player who is now entrenched as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future. Shanahan had Kirk Cousins on his radar prior to that move.

Brady enters his 19th season with the Patriots and is set to start Week 1 for a 17th straight season. This figures to be an amusing footnote associated with Lynch’s GM legacy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Darnold, Patriots, Allen

Two rookies remain unsigned: Sam Darnold and Roquan Smith. The Jets are working on a deal with a quarterback they’ve been thrilled about throughout the offseason, one who was supposed to have a legitimate chance at a Week 1 starting job, but Darnold’s camp absence isn’t doing him any favors. Offset language was thought to be a sticking point here, but NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes (video link) that isn’t the case (or isn’t any longer). Instead, the quarterback’s guarantees — and how and when they would void — represent why the former USC standout hasn’t signed. Void issues have also come up in the Bears’ discussions with Smith. CAA represents both Darnold and Smith. The Jets began their first practice this afternoon.

Here’s the latest from the AFC East:

  • A former AFC East quarterback was not planning to leave during what turned out to be his final offseason in the division. Jimmy Garoppolo was searching for Boston-area real estate last summer, Joon Lee of Bleacher Report notes. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe adds this should help put an end to speculation the Patriots were planning all along to unload their former backup quarterback. Volin writes Bill Belichick was indeed overruled about a plan to keep Garoppolo as the heir apparent — which would have induced complex math because of the current 49ers quarterback’s rookie contract expiring and Tom Brady not yet retired — before an 11th-hour trade to San Francisco.
  • Brady did not deny that he communicated with Josh McDaniels during the period after the Super Bowl when he backtracked on accepting the Colts’ HC job, the longtime Patriots quarterback said Saturday (via James Palmer of NFL.com, on Twitter). When asked if he spoke with his then-outgoing OC about potentially staying in New England instead, Brady said he “always” talks to McDaniels, who is now back for a seventh season in his second stint as Pats OC.
  • Julian Edelman addressed his suspension Saturday and said this second straight September off will allow him to get his knee fully ready to go. “It’s disappointing with the penalty and the findings,” Edelman said, via Doug Kyed of NESN.com. “And I’m definitely accountable for that. I have to follow the protocols a little better and make sure this never happens again.” Edelman contested the suspension but saw his appeal fail. The 10th-year slot receiver tore an ACL during the 2017 preseason but is expected to be ready to go upon his now-October debut date.
  • Josh Allen‘s been the best Bills quarterback in camp thus far, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW observes. The raw Wyoming-honed talent outshined A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman on Saturday, per Buscaglia. Both of the older QBs are believed to be competing for Buffalo’s Week 1 job, with Allen believed to be set to watch as his career begins.

AFC Notes: Bridgewater, Pats, Dareus

Teddy Bridgewater has looked very good in OTAs, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, and if his strong performance continues, the Jets could be faced with a difficult decision. They could trade Bridgewater — which was the plan when they signed him — or they could name him their starting QB for at least the beginning of 2018 while they continue to groom Sam Darnold. Starting Bridgewater would likely mean keeping three quarterbacks on the roster, as the nearly 39-year-old Josh McCown doesn’t really have any trade value. But head coach Todd Bowles, who is coaching for his job this year, will want to start the best quarterback he has, and he is a big believer in Bridgewater.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors and notes from the AFC:

  • Cimini also details Christian Hackenberg‘s last few months with the Jets before he was shipped to the Raiders. We already knew that Bowles was not aware Hackenberg changed his throwing motion until after the fact, but Hackenberg first approached Jets QB coach Jeremy Bates about making the change, and Bates was skeptical. That caused some friction between the two men, and it forced Hackneberg to go outside the organization to seek help with his mechanics.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady continue to (needlessly) fan the flames of controversy that owner Robert Kraft keeps trying to extinguish, and that the apparent tension between Belichick and Brady may be one of the reasons why Brady has not attended spring practices. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Brady’s absence has not created as big of a leadership void as one might expect, as younger players are taking a more active role in that regard and veteran players like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower are back after their 2017 season was marred by injury.
  • The Broncos released C.J. Anderson last month, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the top candidates to become the team’s next No. 1 RB. However, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post says Royce Freeman, whom the team selected in the third round of last month’s draft, has the durability and history of production to suggest he can be an every-down back at the next level, and he will get a chance to make a major impact right away. His heavy collegiate workload could have contributed to his falling to the third round.
  • Marcell Dareus more than wore out his welcome in Buffalo, leading the Bills to ship him to the Jaguars before last year’s trade deadline. Dareus, though, found new life in Jacksonville, and per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Mike Kaye of First Coast News), Dareus continues to be a good soldier for the Jags. Head coach Doug Marrone said, “I’m very happy with the way he’s worked, the way he has come into camp. I think those are things he has done a much better job of than what maybe he had done in the past. I can appreciate that and see that in him.” That is not an insignificant statement, as Dareus’ effort in Buffalo seemed to evaporate after he signed his big-money extension, so perhaps he has matured and will continue to be a solid contributor to Jacksonville’s talented defensive front. Marrone, of course, was also Dareus’ coach in Buffalo during Dareus’ best two seasons to date (2013-14), so he has a pretty good reference point.

East Rumors: Kendricks, Jets, Patriots

The long-rumored Mychal Kendricks/Eagles divorce will officially be classified as a post-June 1 cut, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The defending Super Bowl champions will see a $6MM cap spike on June 2 instead of seeing $4.4MM in savings by eschewing the post-June 1 cut category. That will help a franchise that, as of Tuesday night, holds barely $300K in cap space. As for why Kendricks was finally axed after years of being the subject of trade rumors, the defender’s standing as the No. 3 linebacker on a team that spends most of its time in sub-packages was not a status he preferred, per Zach Berman of Philly.com (on Twitter). Former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, indicating he spoke with Kendricks on Tuesday, confirmed as much (via Twitter).

During Chip Kelly‘s year running football operations, the Eagles signed Kendricks to a four-year, $29MM extension that ran through the 2019 season. But Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the latter being recently re-signed for $40MM over five years, reside as Philly’s top-two linebackers under optimal circumstances. Kendricks played a key role in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title, stepping in alongside Bradham after Hicks went down, but the previous status quo is now back in place. And Kendricks should be a coveted commodity on the market.

Here’s the latest on Tuesday’s other big transaction, as well as more from some eastern-based franchises.

  • The Jets tried to trade Christian Hackenberg during the draft, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reports. This began after Sam Darnold went to the Jets at No. 3, per Cimini, but judging by the terms of Tuesday’s trade, no strong interest came New York’s way for its 2016 second-round pick. “We had one too many (quarterbacks) to get all of them reps,” Todd Bowles said Tuesday. “We just want to go with the three quarterbacks we have and let these guys battle it out. … I like the talent (Hackenberg) had. Obviously, it didn’t cultivate here. Sometimes it takes a team or two or three to find your spot.” After cutting Bryce Petty and trading Hackenberg, Gang Green’s quarterback setup is clear now. Darnold, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the team’s three passers heading into training camp. However, as Calvin Watkins of Newsday notes (on Twitter), Bowles aid the Jets are open to adding another quarterback. This could be contingent on Bridgewater’s health.
  • Despite these circumstances centering around one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Bill Belichick still opted for a time-honored cliche. Asked if he’s spoken to Tom Brady, the 19th-year Patriots coach said via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter), “I’m not going to talk about the people that aren’t hereThe guys who are here are improving, they’re working hard. Those are the guys we’re going to focus on.” Brady remains absent from OTAs, and the 19th-year quarterback is rumored to want a revised contract. With Josh McDaniels spurning the Colts and remaining in place as OC, New England’s system likely will not change much, lessening the impact of Brady missing these voluntary workouts.
  • Recent Hall of Fame inductee Brian Dawkins will step down from his role in the Eagles front office, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. The former Eagles safety will stay on as a part-time consultant.

Rob Gronkowski Angling For New Contract?

Still not committed to playing in 2018, Rob Gronkowski will not be in attendance Monday when the Patriots begin their offseason program. But the All-Pro tight end’s been working out independently, and some of his reported dissatisfaction with Bill Belichick may again be contract-related.

Gronkowski wants a raise from his current contract, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports, adding that it appears to be an open secret the superstar pass-catcher is upset. Gronk signed his current contract way back in 2012; that deal that still has two years remaining on it.

Belichick’s issues with trainer Alex Guerrero also factor into this, with Volin writing that Gronkowski is “openly feuding” with the New England head coach about his relationship with Guerrero. Gronk has taken Tom Brady‘s side when it comes to Guerrero, per Volin, crediting the trainer’s methods with helping him stay healthy last season — which came after a back injury cut his 2016 slate short.

Gronk will turn 29 next month and must attend 90 percent of the Patriots’ offseason workouts to collect a $250K bonus, per Joel Corry of CBS Sports (on Twitter). That works out to a maximum of three absences, and Volin notes Gronkowski appears fine with forgoing that six-figure check. The Pats can only dock Gronk $84K if he misses their June minicamp.

Set for a base salary of $8MM this year, Gronkowski has seen another wave of pass-catchers cash in for far more than what he’s making. Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson play a more valued position, but their accomplishments and per-year salaries ($16MM and $14MM, respectively) look strange when compared directly with Gronkowski’s. He stands to earn $9MM in base salary in 2019. While that’s not entirely out of step with tight ends, career backup Trey Burton just signed for $8MM AAV. And Gronk could make an argument he’s not only the best tight end in the game, but with four first-team All-Pro distinctions (only one other Patriot, John Hannah, has more), is on his own tier at this position presently and deserves to earn significantly more than his peers. Of course, his injury history affects this situation as well.

Gronkowski’s grumbling about his deal last year prompted the Patriots to add an incentive package to it, and by virtue of that All-Pro honor, he maxed out those incentives. It may take more than that to get Gronkowski back to the facility this time around.

Patriots Notes: Brady, Belichick, Guerrero

It’s no secret that there is some tension among the three most prominent figures in the Patriots’ organization: owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, one of the sources of conflict between Belichick and Brady is the role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero.

Belichick, of course, wants one voice when it comes to his team’s strength and conditioning program, so he wants his players to adhere to programs established by head strength coach, Moses Cabrera, and head trainer, Jim Whalen. But by the middle of last season, approximately 30 of the Patriots’ 53 players were seeing Guerrero regularly, either in Gillette Stadium or at the TB12 facility at Patriot Place. Guerrero’s methods clash with the more traditional approaches set forth by Cabrera and Whalen, and Belichick revoked Guerrero’s special privileges after the bye week last season (although he did not ban players from seeing Guerrero).

We heard back in January that Guerrero’s presence was creating some problems in New England’s locker room, and Volin’s story provides some interesting context to those reports.

Now for more news out of Foxborough:

  • Kraft is not concerned about extending Brady’s contract, and Volin notes that there is no reason for the team to do so at this point. Brady is under club control through the 2019 campaign, and his cap number of $22MM is reasonable given his ability, importance to the franchise, and the quarterback market.
  • For the second consecutive year, Brady is unlikely to be present for the first day of the Patriots’ offseason program, per Volin, which is somewhat curious given that he has been a “devout offseason participant” in prior years. But as Brady’s absence is tied to his appearance as a Best Buddies Global Ambassador in Qatar, Volin is not putting much stock in it until Brady starts to miss more time. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Belichick “went out of his way” to hint that he and Brady have at least one talk in that regard. Belichick said, “[The offseason program] will be heavily attended, but I know there are a couple players that I’ve talked to that have other commitments, but that’s the way it always is. So, not really anything new there.”
  • Volin says the Pats do have the ammunition to move up in the draft to select one of this year’s top signal-callers if they want to, though it remains more likely that they will stand pat.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss reports that the Patriots have hired Cameron Achord as an assistant coach. Achord has ties to special teams coach Joe Judge, and he has already been on the scouting trail on behalf of the Patriots.
  • It was previously reported that Brady was a big reason for Jordan Matthews‘ decision to sign with the Patriots, but as Reiss notes, Matthews was impressed with the organization as a whole. Matthews said, “There was a lot of intentionality during the visit. They were very detailed. They were very specific with me on what they thought about me and areas they thought I could grow. I appreciated that more than anything. I appreciated that type of honesty.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Patriots did not come close to matching the two-year, $12MM deal that Danny Amendola signed with the Dolphins, which made Amendola’s decision to leave New England a little easier.

East Notes: Amendola, Cowboys, Giants, Dez, Jonathan Allen

After playing five seasons with the Patriots, receiver Danny Amendola signed with the rival Dolphins in the 2018 offseason. The move happened, in part, because New England did not come close to matching the two-year, $12MM deal he received from Miami, the receiver told Jimmy Hascup of USA Today.

After taking pay cuts in the past to stay with the Patriots, the veteran wideout was expecting to have a chance to stay with the team. That did not happen with the notoriously stingy Bill Belichick.

“When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn’t going to really come close to any of the other offers I had,” Amendola said. “I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there.”

Amendola also commented on playing for Belichick, saying, “It’s not easy, that’s for sure. He’s an (expletive) sometimes,” Amendola said. “There were a lot of things I didn’t like about playing for him, but I must say, the things I didn’t like were all in regards to getting the team better, and I respected him.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Cowboys will be looking for a new go-to receiver after the departure of Dez Bryant. One of those candidates is Terrance Williams, who will be ready for work in June after recovering from a broken foot earlier in the offseason, ESPN’s Todd Archer writes. Though he will be ready to go, Williams is best used as a No. 2 or 3 wideout due to his inconsistency.
  • Speaking of Bryant, the receiver reportedly left his meeting with Jerry Jones saying he would see the team twice next season. If he is going to join a division foe, the Giants seem like an unlikely spot, SportsNet New York’s Ralph Vacchiano writes. The team’s depth at receiver with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shephard seems to indicate there is no room for Bryant.
  • The Redskins are expected to have defensive tackle Jonathan Allen when the team resumes activities next week, NBC Sports’ JP Finlay writes. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 5 of 2017 and did not play the rest of the season. A healthy Allen could helped Washington improve on its last-ranked run defense in 2017.

AFC Notes: Patriots, Amendola, Broncos, Browns

Similar to many draft pundits, Bill Belichick is also participating in his own mock drafts. Yesterday, the Patriots head coach provided some insight into the organization’s draft preparation to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe.

“Sometimes we do that, yeah,” Belichick said about mock drafts. “I’d say sometimes it just sparks a conversation. We might internally say, ‘OK, how about Player A and Player B? Player B and Player C?’ And if you did a mock draft where kind of each [staffer] has a team and, ‘OK, it’s your turn. You pick this.’ And now you look at the board, it’s our turn to pick, and ‘Gee, here’s a scenario we hadn’t really thought about. We hadn’t really pictured that this guy would be there.’ So that can kind of stimulate some [conversation].”

Belichick also explained the risks of not evaluating many of the potential prospects.

“Again, it’s just an exercise to, I’d say, just kind of complete the process of preparation,” he explained. “That’s the way it is on draft day, too. A lot of times you’re sitting there looking at players that I thought this player would be there and he’s long gone, or I didn’t think this player would be there and he’s still there…If you haven’t done enough work on the player and he’s still there but you really don’t know the player as well as you should because you thought he wouldn’t be there, then that puts you in a little bit of a dilemma.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes out of the AFC…

  • Wide receiver Danny Amendola told ESPN’s Mike Reiss that the Patriots‘ offer didn’t come close to the two-year, $12MM ($8.25MM guaranteed) deal he took with the Dolphins. “I came in with an open mind,” Amendola said. “I understand Bill runs a tight ship, and he hasn’t been known to pay his players, really. I understood that I gave money back to him so I could play for him and play for my teammates and fulfill my side of the contract, and at the end of the day, I had faith that he was going to give me an opportunity to stay. When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn’t going to really come close to any of the other offers I had. I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there.”
  • The Broncos claimed C.J. Smith from the Browns yesterday, and Mike Klis of 9News in Denver writes that the team has had interest in the cornerback for some time. The organization had been eyeing Smith since his days at North Dakota State, and they expressed interest in him when he wasn’t selected during the 2016 draft. The 24-year-old initially joined the Eagles before signing with the Browns’ practice squad.
  • The Browns have named Larry Jackson as their new head of strength and conditioning, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Jackson had previously served as Texas A&M’s director of football sports performance, and he also served as the school’s NFL liaison. He’ll be replacing Adam Beard, who will stick around the organization in an advisory role. The Browns have also added Dale Jones and Monty Gibson as assistants, and they’ve retained Evan Marcus and Josh Christovich.