The Patriots signed veteran wideout Eric Decker to a one-year deal last week, but New England actually had its eyes on Decker as early as the 2010 draft, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com explains. Decker was “squarely in [the Patriots’] sights” at pick No. 90 in that draft, but the Minnesota product ended up going off the board three picks earlier to the Broncos, who at that time were lead by now-New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. After recording 54 receptions for 563 yards a season ago, Decker has effectively replaced Jordan Matthews as the Patriots’ slot receiver, at least until Julian Edelman returns from suspension. Decker received only $75K in guaranteed money, however, so he’s far from a roster lock in New England.
Here’s more from the AFC East:
- Bills receiver Zay Jones has been activated off the active/non-football injury list, but was wearing a red contact jersey during his first day back at practice, tweets Joe Buscaglia of WKBW. Jones underwent knee surgery in May and missed Buffalo’s offseason program, but the club has expressed hope that Jones — who was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft — will be ready for the regular season. After an offseason which included not only an operation but a bizarre arrest, the Bills have been adamant that Jones won’t be handed a starting spot. Buffalo’s wideout depth chart is among the worst in the league, though, so it will be surprising if Jones isn’t lining up opposite Kelvin Benjamin as the Bills’ No. 2 pass-catcher.
- After being traded from the Saints to the Dolphins last season, linebacker Stephone Anthony appears set to open the 2018 campaign as a starting outside linebacker, Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald writes. Anthony has disappointed in four NFL seasons after being chosen as a first-round pick, and the Dolphins subsequently declined his fifth-year option for the 2019 season. That would have paid Anthony nearly $10MM next year, but as Fernandez details, Miami could conceivably extend Anthony if he succeeds this season.
- Veteran Thomas Rawls is now a legitimate candidate for the Jets‘ third running back job after Elijah McGuire suffered a broken foot, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. McGuire is expected to be sidelined for three-to-six weeks, so Rawls is now competing with Trenton Cannon and George Atkinson for the right to play behind Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell. Rawls, of course, was a revelation in limited duty during the 2015 season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on 147 rushes. In the years since, however, Rawls has been beset by injuries, and wasn’t tendered as a Seahawks restricted free agent earlier this year.
- The Jets recently expanded their analytics department by hiring former scout Brian Shields as a senior manager of football research, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. That’s a new role within the New York front office, per Cimini, who indicates general manager Mike Maccagnan is becoming more open to the use of analytics in the NFL.