Patriots Rumors

Gilmore Injury Not A Concern

  • Dalvin Cook had his best game as a runner this season last week against the Patriots, but the Vikings only gave him one carry in the fourth quarter. The lack of late game opportunities for Cook cause “a little frustration” within the organization, a Minnesota team source told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said he “absolutely” plans to give Cook more carries moving forward, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be much of an issue.
  • Stephon Gilmore was a late add to the injury report for the Patriots, seemingly indicating he suffered an injury in practice and sparking worries about his status for tomorrow’s game. But despite the brief scare, Gillmore did in fact travel with the team to Miami for the game against the Dolphins, a source told Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Patriots have had a really tough time in Miami in recent years, so it would’ve been a huge blow to be without their top corner. Gilmore has been much better in his second season in New England, earning Pro Football Focus’ second highest grade among all cornerbacks.

Josh McDaniels Eyeing Packers Job?

Could the Packers’ search for a new head coach lead them to Josh McDaniels? The Packers’ interest level in the Patriots offensive coordinator is unclear, but McDaniels could be positioning himself for the job, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports writes. 

[RELATED: Packers Fire Mike McCarthy]

A handful of NFL assistants have indicated interest in joining a McDaniels-led Packers coaching staff, sources tell Robinson. One of those coaches pulled his name from consideration for a college coordinator position in order to keep that possibility alive, so there’s a strong belief out there that McDaniels could wind up in Green Bay.

Earlier this year, McDaniels agreed to become the next head coach of the Colts but ultimately left them at the altar. Despite his offensive knowhow, it remains to be seen whether the Packers or any other team would consider hiring McDaniels in this upcoming cycle. For what it’s worth, McDaniels does not believe he is “burned” when it comes to future opportunities, according to Robinson.

Of course, there are factors working in McDaniels’ favor. In previous years, energetic young coaches such as Sean McVay and Matt Nagy were among the hottest candidates of the offseason, but there’s a serious lack of NFL experience in this year’s group of non-retreads. There’s lots of buzz surrounding coaches like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, but it’s not hard to imagine a club preferring the experience that McDaniels brings.

McDaniels also has experience in managing an elite quarterback, which should be a focus of the Packers after Mike McCarthy‘s relationship with Aaron Rodgers went south.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Should Re-Sign Trey Flowers

  • The Patriots need to re-sign defensive end Trey Flowers, NESN’s Doug Kyed writes in a mailbag. “They either need to bring back Flowers, take a player high in the 2018 NFL Draft, sign a free agent (pass rushers are not cheap) or trade for a veteran edge defender. Isn’t the simplest option just to bring back Flowers?” 

Poll: Who Will Be AFC’s No. 1 Seed?

Five two- or three-loss teams comprise the AFC’s group of surefire contenders. The Chiefs, Patriots, Texans, Steelers and Chargers are almost certain to extend their seasons into January.

But which team will wind up with the No. 1 seed? That question becomes more interesting after the events in Kansas City on Friday.

Although Sammy Watkins has missed time for the Chiefs this season, they trotted out their top offensive threats in every game. The Patrick MahomesTravis KelceTyreek HillKareem Hunt quartet led Kansas City to a 9-2 record — with losses coming by a combined six points against teams with a combined 18-4 record — and a runaway DVOA lead, but the NFL’s reigning rushing champion won’t be joining his former teammates Sunday in Oakland after the Chiefs cut him. Hunt totaled 1,202 yards from scrimmage for the Chiefs this season; no other K.C. back has more than 300. But next-man-up Spencer Ware did amass 1,368 for the 2016 Chiefs.

This may open the door for the franchise that has secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed in five of this decade’s eight seasons. Only two AFC franchises have held home field in the 2010s — New England and Denver — and no other team has represented the conference in a Super Bowl in six years.

The Chiefs have not had home-field advantage since 1997 but entered the week having the inside track to make the playoffs go through western Missouri. Football Outsiders gives Kansas City a 74 percent chance to lock down the No. 1 seed.

They have two games remaining against the 2-9 Raiders and also will be home against the Chargers, who haven’t won this matchup since 2013, and Ravens. The Chiefs must travel to Seattle in Week 16, and their margin for error may be slim.

The Patriots’ AFC East rivals are again cooperating with New England’s hopes of earning a bye and possibly the 1 seed, and three of the Pats’ final five games are against the Bills, Jets and Dolphins. Football Outsiders, however, gives the Patriots merely a 13 percent chance of securing home-field advantage. But they own head-to-head tiebreakers over the Chiefs and Texans. Despite this being a less-than-dominant Patriots edition (ninth DVOA, seventh in scoring offense, 12th on defense), they have an interesting chance to obtain home field again.

New England is 19-3 in Foxborough playoff games under Bill Belichick and 3-4 away from home in January, making that position rather important.

Football Outsiders tabs Houston, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles as long shots, with none carrying better than a 6.9 percent chance (the Texans) to avoid January travel.

Houston, though, leads the contender pack with the No. 4 DVOA defense and plays just one winning team — the 6-5 Colts — the rest of the way. The Texans are riding the longest win streak in football and are the first team to win eight straight after starting 0-3. The Steelers and Chargers will encounter tougher opposition. Games against the Bolts, Patriots (both at home) and Saints still loom for the Steelers. Road trips to Kansas City and Denver are ahead for the Chargers, who also host the Ravens in Week 16.

Los Angeles is fourth in weighted DVOA and, especially with Joey Bosa back, possesses a far superior defense to the Chiefs. Will that end up mattering come Week 15 in what’s been a one-sided rivalry as of late?

So, which one of these teams will end up with the conference’s coveted postseason real estate? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Trey Flowers

Sack artists tend be among the highest earners in free agency, but in 2019 we’ll find out whether the same applies to a defensive end who has generated a ton of pressure against opposing QBs without a ton of sack dances. We’re talking about Patriots standout Trey Flowers, who will look to cash in among a star-studded class of edge rushers. 

This spring, teams will be champing at the bit for free agents like Frank Clark (10 sacks), Dee Ford (9 sacks), DeMarcus Lawrence (9.5 sacks), Jadeveon Clowney (7 sacks). Flowers, meanwhile, has just 3.5 sacks through ten games this season, meaning that he’s on pace for less takedowns than his seven sacks in 2016 and his 6.5 sacks last year.

Of course, sacks don’t tell the whole story when it comes to evaluating edge rushers. Flowers has been terrorizing opposing QBs all season long and Jets signal caller Josh McCown can attest to that after he was hit four times by the Arkansas product last week. Heading into the meat of Week 13, Flowers ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 ranked edge defender, behind only Texans superstar J.J. Watt. That’s not too shabby for a player who won’t turn 26 until August.

Watt, by the way, is under contract through 2021 thanks to the six-year, $100MM contract extension he inked in 2014. Given the widespread need for high-level pass rushers, the increase of the salary cap, and the advancement of the market for DEs, it’s possible that Flowers can flirt with or best Watt’s $16.67MM average annual value.

The Patriots typically don’t shell out big bucks for defensive linemen, but they may want to make an exception here. The Patriots’ group of defensive ends beyond Flowers is far from star-studded and they should have the cap room to make his salary fit. A long-term extension with Flowers would cost no less than $13MM annually, so if they’re unwilling to commit, they can franchise tag Flowers for about $17.1MM.

If Flowers hits the open market, what kind of contract will he command? Which teams do you think will be in the mix for him? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fritz Pollard Alliance Recommends HC Candidates

Every year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance releases a list of recommended minority head coaching candidates. This year’s edition is nearly double in size and features the likes of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes. 

Here’s the complete list of suggested candidates:

  • Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator)
  • Teryl Austin (Former Bengals defensive coordinator)
  • Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator)
  • Jim Caldwell (former Lions and Colts head coach)
  • George Edwards (Vikings defensive coordinator)
  • Brian Flores (Patriots linebackers coach)
  • Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator)
  • Raheem Morris (Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers coach)
  • Hue Jackson (special assistant to the head coach of the Bengals; former Browns head coach)
  • Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator)
  • Duce Staley (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach)

Flores, the de facto defensive coordinator of the Patriots, figures to be a hot coaching candidate this year. The same goes for Bieniemy, who is helping to guide one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.

Others on this list, such as Jackson and Austin, seem unlikely to garner real consideration for head coaching positions this offseason. The Browns turned the corner after dumping Jackson and appointing Gregg Williams as the team’s interim head coach, which isn’t a great endorsement for the offensive guru. Meanwhile, the Bengals hired Austin in January but fired him earlier this month as his defense was one of the lowest ranked in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Opinion: Patriots Could Re-Sign Trey Flowers

While the Patriots haven’t historically paid up for free agent defensive lineman, Trey Flowers could be a special case, as Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets. For one, Flowers is highly respected within the New England locker room — Howe deems Flowers a “model human being” with zero off-field issues. Second, Flowers and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick share the same agent (Neil Conrich), which could theoretically help push negotiations along. Flowers, 25, is part of stacked 2019 free agent edge rusher class that also includes Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Frank Clark, and DeMarcus Lawrence. While he’s posted only 3.5 sacks, Flowers ranks sixth in the NFL with 31 quarterback pressures.

Patriots Activate Rex Burkhead From IR

New England’s backfield will soon be the deepest it’s been since the start of this season. Rex Burkhead will likely be in uniform Sunday after the Patriots activated him from IR, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

The Patriots will waive offensive lineman Matt Tobin to make room on their roster, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter).

This season hasn’t been the smoothest for the Pats’ backfield. Sony Michel has missed time due to injury, and Jeremy Hill was lost for the season after Week 1. Burkhead suffered a neck injury later in September and went to IR. He returned to practice nearly three weeks ago, and the Patriots just beat the three-week window they had to activate their utility back.

Burkhead played a key role for the AFC champion Pats last season, totaling 518 yards from scrimmage and scoring eight touchdowns. He missed six games due to injury a year ago. He’ll join Michel and James White in a Patriots running back corps that’s starting to resemble well-rounded groups of past Pats teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Could Cut Lineman To Make Room For Burkhead?

  • Patriots running back Rex Burkhead is eligible to return from injured reserve next week, and New England will have to make some room on the roster to bring him back. The Patriots are likely to cut one of their excess offensive linemen, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, who lists both tackle Matt Tobin and guard James Ferentz as being in danger of losing their jobs.

Josh McDaniels To Receive Significant Head-Coaching Interest

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels seemed to irreparably damage his future head coaching prospects with every team in the league except New England when he infamously jilted the Colts last offseason. But he has already been mentioned as a candidate for the Browns‘ head coaching job, and as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, there will be no shortage in interest in McDaniels when the head coaching carousel starts spinning in 2019. La Canfora does not specifically name any teams who are expected to pursue the 42-year-old, but his sources indicate that McDaniels will be under strong consideration despite the fiasco in Indianapolis.