Dan Connolly

AFC East Notes: Gostkowski, Marshall, Jets

When he announced his decision to retire this week, veteran offensive lineman Dan Connolly was a free agent, no longer under contract with the Patriots. However, that didn’t stop New England head coach Bill Belichick from issuing a statement on Connolly’s retirement through the Patriots’ website today.

“Dan Connolly exemplified everything our program requires of players,” Belichick said in that statement. “He was tough and dependable, smart and team oriented and his work ethic ensured he improved on an annual basis to reach his potential. From where his career began as a developmental player to where it finished as a team leader and champion, Dan Connolly was a player I was proud to coach.”

Let’s round up a few more Friday notes on the Patriots and one of their AFC East division rivals….

  • Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links) provides the exact details on Stephen Gostkowski‘s four-year, $17.2MM contract with the Patriots. The extension includes a $6MM signing bonus and fully guaranteed salaries of $1.8MM in 2015 and $2.3MM in 2016, for a total of $10.1MM in guarantees. There are also annual $100K workout bonuses and per-game roster bonuses worth up to $200K per season.
  • Brandon Marshall‘s new team will be his last team, according to a tweet from the veteran receiver himself. In a Q&A session on Twitter on Thursday night, Marshall was asked what team he would eventually retire with, and the ex-Bear answered, “If I’m cut tomorrow. I’ll retire. This will be my last team.” Of course, considering the Jets traded for Marshall and gave him a slight pay bump earlier this offseason, the club doesn’t intend to release him anytime soon. When the time comes for the two sides to part ways, we’ll see if Marshall does indeed call it a career.
  • The Jets are already weighing a possible extension for Muhammad Wilkerson, with Sheldon Richardson nearing extension eligibility as well. As Brian Costello of the New York Post, nose tackle Damon Harrison is also entering a contract year, and the Jets will have some tough financial decisions to make if he gets any better.

Dan Connolly Announces Retirement

Veteran offensive lineman Dan Connolly has decided to retire from the NFL, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Connolly, who says the Patriots’ Super Bowl win last season helped him become more “at ease with the decision,” also cited health reasons when explaining why he’s ending his playing career. The SE Missouri St. alum has suffered four concussions throughout his NFL career, and made his decision to retire after speaking to his wife and doctors.

“It’s important to me to leave the game healthy,” Connolly said. “I’m able to be here for my kids and walk away on my own terms. I feel like I got everything I could out of football in playing 10 years, winning a Super Bowl, and playing alongside some truly great players.”

Connolly, 32, began his career with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2005, then later caught on with the Patriots. Connolly became a regular contributor in New England in 2009, and a full-time starter on the interior offensive line in 2010. Over the last five years, Connolly has played at left guard, right guard, and center for the Pats, appearing in 70 regular-season contests (67 starts).

A free agent this offseason, Connolly drew interest from a handful of teams, paying a visit to the Buccaneers back in March. However, we heard last month that, despite a strong pitch from Tampa Bay, Connolly wasn’t interested in moving so far away from his family, meaning he wasn’t likely to continue playing unless he got a strong offer from New England.

As the Patriots prepare to move on to younger, more inexperienced options at guard, Connolly expressed gratitude to the team for having given him a shot: “With my football career coming to a close I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Kraft family and Coach [Bill] Belichick. It is an honor to have been part of such a great organization for the past eight seasons.”

AFC East Notes: Jordan, Pats, Glenn

Dion Jordan has had a pretty disappointing beginning to his NFL career. After the Dolphins traded up to select Jordan with the third overall pick of the 2013 draft, he has been suspended on three separate occasions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and the third suspension is a year-long ban that will force him to miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Even when he has seen the field, he has done little to live up to the potential that compelled Miami to jump up in the draft to nab him.

In fact, prior to the announcement of his year-long suspension, the Dolphins were nearing a trade that would send Jordan to Philadelphia. Combined with his on-field disappointment and off-field struggles, those trade discussions would seem to indicate that Miami has no plans to hold onto Jordan once the 2016 season rolls around. But as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald and Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk write, that may not be the case. Per Jackson and Gantt, the Dolphins are not actively trying to collect the bonus money they are entitled to recoup as a result of Jordan’s suspension–roughly $3.35MM–which suggests that they may give him one more chance to prove himself on what promises to be a talented defensive front next year.

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

  • Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com says that if Roger Goodell does not wholly vacate Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension, Brady and his legal team will continue the fight in court. However, as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe writes, “going to court carries risk of Brady exposing himself and the Patriots to the discovery process, which could put a famously secretive organization in the open, not to mention the potential that Brady loses in court and has to serve his suspension late in the 2015 season, when the Patriots are trying to clinch a playoff spot.”
  • In the same piece cited above, Reiss writes that former Patriots guard Dan Connolly may have played his last snap. Reiss reports that the Buccaneers made a pretty strong pitch to Connolly, who would have had the chance to reunite with Logan Mankins in Tampa Bay, but Connolly did not want to move so far away from his family. So unless New England decides to extend an offer, which it is unlikely to do unless the team suffers an injury along the offensive line, Connolly appears prepared to hang up the spikes.
  • Cordy Glenn, whose contract expires at the end of this season, does not even know if he will be lining up at right or left tackle for the Bills in 2015, writes Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News. Although Glenn has been the team’s regular left tackle since 2012, he spent much of the offseason practices this year alternating between left and right tackle with Seantrel Henderson. But Glenn is trying not to concern himself with his contract situation as he focuses on learning a new position. “I’m just going to come to work and see what happens,” Glenn said. “That’s all I can do.”

NFC Notes: Mathis, Flowers, Rams

Offensive lineman don’t always make the most headlines, but when a high-profile blocker like Evan Mathis gets released everyone starts to pay attention.

Aside from fans, analysts, and general managers, the NFLPA has also taken interest in the All-Pro guard’s release, according to Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com (via Twitter). The Association is currently in the “information-gathering” phase of the process.

The NFLPA could be investigating whether the team’s decision to cut Mathis was a direct result of his absence at voluntary offseason workouts, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

The more likely explanation for the investigation, writes Florio, that the Eagles cut him after reports that the team removed an offer to rework his contract because Howie Roseman was no longer the team’s general manager.

Here are a few more nots regarding offensive linemen in the NFC:

  • With Mathis and Todd Herremans no longer on the team, the Eagles will have a tall task to replace both starting guards from 2014. Zach Berman of Philly.com lists all of the teams options, including a number of names already on the roster and a few free agent options, like Davin Joseph and Dan Connolly.
  • Giants’ first-round pick Ereck Flowers is one of the last unsigned draft picks left, which is notable because he is also one of the few rookies who has elected not to hire an agent. However, he still is confident that he will get a deal done, writes Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, saying that negotiations are “going good.”
  • With Scott Wells out of the picture, the Rams will have three players competing to start at center, writes Joe Lyons of STLToday.comTim Barnes, Barrett Jones, and Demetrius Rhaney are battling for the job, and all three are still in the running to start. “We’re not going to make a decision real early,” said head coach Jeff Fisher. “We’ll let them all play. We’re rotating them. They’re all getting opportunities to work with (new quarterback Nick Foles), so he’s familiar, not only with the exchanges, but also the communication. We’ll make that decision when somebody shows us he’s earned the job.”

Extra Points: Connolly, Foster, Titans

Within a span of a week earlier this month, four prominent NFL players walked away from lucrative salaries. There are split opinions on whether this is the start of a trend, as Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “It’s the flavor of the month. It is a hot topic,Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Patrick Willis, Jake Locker, Jason Worilds, and Chris Borland retiring. “I imagine it’s been going on since the beginning of time, guys choosing to walk away from the game seemingly at an inopportune time when they had youth and health.

  • The Bucs are bringing former Patriots guard Dan Connolly for a visit tomorrow, Ross Jones of FOX Sports tweets. On Sunday, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reported that Connolly wasn’t receiving a ton of interest from other clubs, leaving him in a holding pattern with New England. At one point, the 32-year-old was receiving interest from the Seahawks and Bears as a center and from the Dolphins as a guard. The Bucs reportedly saw Connolly as a guard as well.
  • The Bears‘ contract for linebacker Mason Foster is a one-year, minimum salary deal, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). The pact carries a $745K base with an $80K signing bonus, good for a total value of $825K.
  • Titans offensive lineman Chance Warmack told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that he believes in both quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the direction that the Titans’ front office is going in.
  • Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com broke down the specifics on Kenny Britt‘s two-year deal with the Rams. While the reported total value was $14MM, it’s really more like a $9.15MM pact when considering that he’d have to accomplish feats in the NFL that he never has before in order to achieve the total value.
  • Washington‘s pursuit of Marcus Mariota doesn’t make a great deal of sense given the team’s recent decisions, Zac Boyer of The Washington Times writes.

East Notes: Ridley, Jets, Garcon

The Patriots under Bill Belichick have frequently utilized a merry-go-round of sorts at the running back position, leading to matchup confusion for opposing defenses and perennial consternation for fantasy owners. But out of all the backs to come and go over the years, Stevan Ridley is one of the more intriguing talents. Ridley had a breakout campaign in 2012, compiling 1,263 yards on 290 attempts (4.4 YPC) and crossing the goal line 12 times. He received fewer opportunities in 2013 but still played well, but in 2014 his season was cut short by a torn ACL and MCL that he sustained in early October.

The 26-year-old free agent therefore enters the free agent market as something of an unknown commodity, albeit one with a great deal of upside. As Christopher Price of WEEI.com writes, Ridley will likely have to accept a one-year deal to reestablish his value, but he could represent a steal for a team looking to plug a hole in its backfield. As we learned several days ago, Ridley is not likely to return to New England, and the Vikings and Cowboys have been rumored as potential fits. He is expected to make his first free agent visits this week, and he could simply be waiting for the Adrian Peterson situation to be resolved before choosing his next home.

Let’s have a look at a few more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com passes along news on Patriots linemen on both sides of the ball. Although he does not hear that there is any long-term concern about Chandler Jones‘ health, the fact that Jones is still walking with the aid of crutches and is on more of a rehab track than a regular offseason workout track is worthy of note. Reiss also says that free agent guard Dan Connolly has not received a ton of interest from other clubs, so he and the Patriots–who were willing to let Connolly establish his value on the open market–are in a holding pattern. Without Connolly, though, New England’s guard depth looks fairly thin.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com believes new Jets head coach Todd Bowles is sending mixed messages with his statements regarding the team’s quarterback situation. While Bowles has said that it’s hard to get a feel for Geno Smith, he added that Smith will get the majority of first-team reps when training camp opens. Cimini believes it should be an open competition between Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
  • Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com takes a look at whether there are players other than Marcus Mariota who would make Washington‘s No. 5 overall pick a hot commodity. Tandler believes Kevin White or one of the draft’s premier edge rushers could garner some interest from other teams looking to trade up.
  • On the topic of young wideouts, Tandler believes that if Washington selects Kevin White or Amari Cooper with their No. 5 pick, the team could look to deal Pierre Garcon to a receiver-needy club either during the draft or in training camp.


FA Notes: Connolly, Gresham, Ellis, Barksdale

After passing along several updates on free agency this morning, we’re back this afternoon with another round-up. Here’s the latest on a handful of players still on the market:

  • The Patriots would like to re-sign Dan Connolly, but the veteran offensive lineman is also receiving interest from the Seahawks and Bears as a center, and from the Dolphins and Buccaneers as a guard, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The 32-year-old has been a mainstay in New England for the last few years, but had a down year in 2014, placing among the bottom 10 guards in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham is meeting with a doctor tomorrow to determine the severity of a back injury, and could be headed for surgery later this week, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). Greshman still expects to be ready for training camp, but that’s a giant red flag for potential suitors, and explains why he remains unsigned. Teams in need of a tight end – such as the Bills, Raiders, and Browns – figure to monitor Gresham’s situation, tweets Rapoport.
  • Free agent defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis could potentially make the move from one New York team to another. According to Brian Costello of the New York Post (via Twitter), the former Jet is visiting the Giants today.
  • The Titans have maintained interest in Joe Barksdale, arguably the top tackle left on the market, says Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Since hitting free agency last week, Barksdale has frequently been linked to the Titans and the Rams, who are still interested in re-signing him.
  • Veteran free agent Samson Satele is looking for a team that will give him the opportunity to compete for a starting center job, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

AFC East Notes: Williams, Thomas, Johnson, Kelly

Bills newcomer Mike Williams sat out portions of minicamp to rest his troubled hamstring, but the veteran wideout has no worries heading into training camp.

“I’m fully ready to go,” Williams told Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News. “I trained this whole offseason. There was really no offseason for me. I kinda had to get my leg better. I had to get back to feeling like Mike again, like my mom always tells me. Today running that conditioning test made me feel like I was Mike again.

“At the start of camp, just did the conditioning test and I feel real good. I feel great. I feel I got an A-plus, if there was a grade for it. I feel I’m ready to go.”

Williams finished 2013 with 22 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns – all career lows. The Buccaneers traded the wideout to the Bills in early April for a sixth-round pick.

Let’s look at some more notes from the AFC East…

Patriots Notes: Connolly, Ridley, Aiken

It’s tough for athletes to find work once their playing days are over. However, former Patriots offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka is proving otherwise. Earlier this week, Ring of Honor Wrestling (a second-tier pro wrestling promotion similar to WWE) announced that they have signed the 30-year-old.

Ojinnaka, or “Moose” as he’s known in the ring, was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2006 draft by the Falcons. He stuck around Atlanta for four seasons, appearing in 39 games. He spent 2010 with the Patriots before bouncing around to the Colts and Rams.

At the very least, we can be assured that the group of players still seeking a job for 2014 have a fallback plan.

Let’s take a look at some more Patriots notes from ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss

  • If the team were to release a veteran, Reiss thinks it would be offensive lineman Dan Connolly. The 31-year-old is set to earn $3MM next season, and the writer thinks the team could turn to cheaper, younger players.
  • In regards to a “surprise” release, the writer points to Stevan Ridley. Reiss ultimately believes that Ridley will make the team, but things could get interesting if undrafted running back Stephen Houston impresses.
  • If Rob Gronkowski misses time, Reiss thinks we’ll see “a de-emphasis on the tight end position” in New England. However, the writer could still see the team making a move for a veteran such as Dustin Keller.
  • When asked which undrafted rookie could stick around, Reiss said long snapper Tyler Ott has the best shot. The player’s cheap, three-year commitment would allow the Patriots to move on from the more expensive Danny Aiken.