Tom Brady

AFC East Notes: McCoy, Bills, Wake, Pats

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the odds of the Bills trading any veterans — like RB LeSean McCoy, whose name has recently surfaced in trade rumors — are very slim. La Canfora writes that it would take a “bounty” to pry McCoy or Jerry Hughes away from Buffalo, as the team considers both players, who are both signed beyond this season to club-friendly deals, to be vital veteran components of its rebuild. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com agrees, saying it could take as much as a second-round draft pick to land McCoy.

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the AFC East, starting with more from Orchard Park:

  • This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Rapoport tweets that the Bills have no intention of playing newly-acquired signal-caller Derek Anderson, barring injury. Anderson is with the club to tutor rookie QB Josh Allen, not to take any of his playing time.
  • From the “something to keep an eye on” department, Jenna Cottrell of 13 WHAM tweets that Allen asked wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin if he wanted to work on routes during pregame warm-ups today, and Benjamin told him no. The Bills acquired Benjamin at the trade deadline last year but have not gotten much production out of him, and he does not appear especially motivated to perform well in his platform year.
  • Dolphins DE Cameron Wake recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery but could be back as soon as next week, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Normally such a procedure would require a four-week recovery period, but Wake is such a quick healer that he may make it back in a fraction of that time.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes that Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty is on pace to recoup the money that he lost when he agreed to a pay cut before the regular season. New England gave him the opportunity to make up the difference via incentives, and McCourty is well on his way to hitting those incentives. The same cannot be said for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, however.
  • Reiss also notes that Kenjon Barner, who has been shuttled on and off of the Patriots‘ roster several times since September 12, may have a little more job security right now. Barner’s former club, the Eagles, are very much in need of RB help, and the Pats know that if they cut Barner again, they may not get him back.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com tweets that Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, who is dealing with a serious illness, is on the sidelines for the team’s game against the Colts today. It does not sound as if he has resumed his coordinator responsibilities yet, but it is a good sign nonetheless.

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.

Patriots Notes: Gronk, McDaniels, Guerrero

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) passes along a couple of interesting items this morning regarding several key faces in the Patriots’ locker room. While we knew that New England had indeed attempted to trade star tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason, Rapoport says that those trade talks were “intense” and that the Pats were actually close to dealing Gronk at one point. However, Rapoport reports that Gronkowski then stepped in and adamantly informed the front office that he would either retire or remain with the Patriots, but that he would not go anywhere else. At that point, Rapoport says, trade talks were scrapped and, as we know, the team sweetened Gronk’s contract late last month.

Let’s take a look at a few more notes out of Foxborough as the Pats get set to kick off the 2018 campaign:

  • In response to Rapoport’s discussion about Gronkowski this morning, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston revisited a report of his own (video link) in which he indicated that the Patriots did talk with several clubs about a Gronkowski trade. However, Curran says interest in Gronk was more tepid than one might think — in contrast to Rapoport’s report that the Pats almost had a deal in place — and that Tom Brady informed the team that he would not play if his top tight end was dealt.
  • In the same report linked above, Rapoport says that one reason OC Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar this offseason is because the Patriots gave him a five-year contract — which is largely unheard of for a coordinator — and that the contract pays McDaniels like a first-time head coach. In fact, Rapoport says that McDaniels is by far the highest-paid coordinator in the league, and his contract will eventually pay him over $4MM per year.
  • The role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, has been one of the sources of conflict between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, as we explained earlier this year. However, Rapoport reports that a compromise on Guerrero’s role has been reached. Under the terms of the compromise, Brady and Gronkowski may use Guerrero’s services when they so choose, and Guerrero has “solid” access to Gillette Stadium. Guerrero may also travel with the team, though Rapoport says he is unlikely to travel as much as he did in the past. The most important thing for all sides is that they do not publicly discuss the Guerrero issue in the future, and Rapoport no longer expects the trainer’s role to be a major storyline.
  • The Bills claimed punter Corey Bojorquez  off waivers from the Patriots last week even though Bojorquez never punted in a preseason game. Bojorquez’s lack of game usage was somewhat surprising given that he was seen as a legitimate threat to unseat incumbent punter Ryan Allen, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the team may have been trying to “hide” Bojorquez so that he could clear waivers and return to the Pats’ practice squad, which Bojorquez himself appeared to confirm.
  • Reiss also passes along a couple of notes on the Patriots’ two newest practice squad players, WR Jace Billingsley and T Eric Smith. Reiss says that the team had interest in signing Billingsley to the practice squad last year — he ultimately chose to remain in Detroit on the Lions’ taxi squad — and that the Pats are paying Smith $20K per week (instead of the standard $7,600) because they coveted tackle depth and needed to give him a compelling reason to come to Foxborough.

 

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 Rumors: Mack, Brady, Hughes

The Raiders and star defender Khalil Mack are embroiled in contract negotiations that could result in Mack being traded. If that happens, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com suggests that the Jets should pounce. Gang Green has little pass rushing talent at the moment, and the club has $82MM of projected cap room in 2019, with only one big contract (Leonard Williams) on the horizon. Oakland would demand at least a first-round pick in return, and in addition to negotiating a high-level trade, the Jets would also need to work out a long-term deal with Mack. Those types of deals are difficult to pull off, and it is still unlikely that the Raiders part with Mack, whom they can keep under club control through three more seasons if they so choose. However, if Oakland does begin entertaining offers, Cimini would not be surprised if the Jets are one of the first teams to jump on the phone.

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

  • Jets OLB Lorenzo Mauldin is still around because of New York’s aforementioned dearth of pass rushers, but Mauldin, a 2015 third-round pick, has been dogged by injuries throughout his brief career, and he hasn’t been particularly effective even when he’s gotten on the field. As such, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets that Mauldin could be cut sooner rather than later, and that New York could let him go with an injury settlement (Mauldin is currently dealing with a leg issue that kept him out of the team’s preseason opener).
  • In a full-length piece, Mehta says that Brandon Copeland, a former UDFA out of UPenn who signed a one-year deal with the Jets this offseason after missing all of 2017, has been very impressive in camp and has been taking first-team reps over the past few days. Given the Jets’ pass rushing needs, Copeland has a real chance to get plenty of playing time this season.
  • We have written extensively on Tom Brady‘s new contract with the Patriots in recent days, and the moral of the story is that it looks as if Brady will continue playing through at least the 2019 season, and that the two sides could come to terms on another new deal next year in order to push some of Brady’s increased 2019 cap number into 2020. However, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, since Brady and the Pats officially put pen to paper on August 9, 2018, they can’t renegotiate his contract again until August 9, 2019.
  • Trent Brown, whom the Patriots acquired via trade with the 49ers earlier this offseason, is the favorite to replace Nate Solder as New England’s starting left tackle, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Brown is eligible for unrestricted free agency next year, so he will have plenty of incentive to perform at a high level.
  • Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News calls 2018 the most critical season of Bills DE Jerry Hughes‘ career. Hughes’ volatile on-field personality could be overlooked when he was posting double-digit sack totals earlier in his career, but his sack numbers have slumped since he signed a five-year, $45MM in 2015, so the unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are a little harder to stomach. His $10.4MM salary in 2018 is the highest on the Bills, and while Buffalo could have cut him this offseason and saved a little cap room, the team could save $7.5MM by releasing him after the 2018 campaign, so he may need to show a return to his early-career form to stay in Buffalo and earn another $10.4MM next year. For what it’s worth, the Bills think Hughes’ sack numbers will be improved with the addition of Trent Murphy and (hopefully) some growth out of Shaq Lawson. Plus, Hughes did grade as a top-10 run defender (among edge players) last season, in Pro Football Focus’ view.
  • The Bills shook up their defensive line rotation earlier today.
  • The Dolphins are visiting with the increasingly-popular Bashaud Breeland today.

AFC Notes: Jets, Brady, Fowler, Dolphins

The Jets‘ quarterbacks looked solid during last night’s preseason win over the Falcons, completing 21 of 27 pass attempts for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While veteran Josh McCown sits atop the depth chart, head coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that any of the team’s three signal-callers (a grouping that also includes Teddy Bridgewater and first-rounder Sam Darnold) could end up earning the starting gig.

“We’ll see how the preseason goes,” Bowles said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post). “Like I said, I’ll make my decision when it happens. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions after one game. I’m going to take my notes and watch practice and compare with the coaches and we’ll come up with a decision. It’s a tough decision. We’ve got three good players and we’re happy to have them.”

As ProFootballTalk.com’s Michael David Smith points out, Bowles previously said that the team would wait until the end of the preseason to make a decision on their starting quarterback. In other words, there’s still plenty of time for the depth chart to sort itself out.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC…

  • ESPN’s Field Yates has even more details on Tom Brady‘s revised contract (Twitter links). The Patriots quarterback had $10MM of his $14MM base salary converted into a signing bonus, which means he’ll get that chunk of cash now instead of spread out over 17 weeks. His 2018 cap number will not increase (allowing the Patriots to maintain cap flexibility), but his 2019 cap hit has increased from $5MM to $27MM. If Brady decided to keep playing in 2019, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says the team would presumably sign their franchise quarterback to a new deal, thus pushing some of that money to 2020.
  • Meanwhile, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe believes the revised contract is an indication that Brady intends to keep playing in 2019 (Twitter link). While his 2019 dead cap number was previously $7MM, that’s since been boosted to $12MM. If the Patriots weren’t confident that their quarterback was going to stick around the NFL, there wouldn’t have been much of an incentive for the salary-to-bonus conversion.
  • There was good news for the Jaguars this morning, as the team took defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. off the physically unable to perform list (via ESPN’s Michael DiRocco on Twitter). The former third-overall pick had missed offseason programs, training camp, and the team’s preseason opener as he continued to recover from a shoulder injury. “I’m just happy to see him back to start playing,” said head coach Doug Marrone (via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra). “Obviously, he’s worked hard to get back, strengthening and everything, and we’ll return him to practice. He’ll come back out and we’ll work him there. I’m excited to see him. He’s put in a lot of work and we’ll see him on the field and see what he can do.” The 24-year-old finished last season 21 tackles, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles in 16 games.
  • Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull has a sprained MCL and is expected to be out for several weeks, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). The 27-year-old has been an important bench piece for Miami over the past two seasons, and he finished last season with 35 tackles in 16 games (three starts). Terence Garvin, Chase Allen, Jerome Baker, and Quentin Poling will receive more backup reps during Hull’s absence.

Latest On Tom Brady’s Revised Deal

Although the Patriots have Tom Brady at a bargain price, this week’s incentive-laden agreement will make the future Hall of Fame passer remain on the NFL’s elite level to see any pay bumps.

The team agreed to a $5MM incentive package with its superstar quarterback Thursday, which could — if certain statistical thresholds are met — increase his 2018 base salary to $20MM. But he’ll have to stay at or very close to his current performance level to collect the extra cash, and that isn’t exactly common for 41-year-old passers.

Despite Brady’s status as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, he will need to finish in the top five of the following categories to earn these additional millions — passing yards, touchdown passes, passer rating, yards per attempt and completion percentage — to meet these incentive requirements, Albert Breer of SI.com reports (on Twitter).

Brady will receive $1MM for each incentive met, but Breer adds he can take a shortcut here by leading the Pats to another Super Bowl championship. A Super Bowl title would bring a $2MM bump, but it wouldn’t be $2MM on top of $5MM. The package maxes out at $5MM regardless, but a Super Bowl title would just allow Brady to earn the $5MM by hitting three of the regular-season-based incentives rather than five (Twitter link). He must throw a minimum of 224 passes or play 70 percent of the Patriots’ regular-season snaps to qualify.

This bonus package differs from the one New England gave Rob Gronkowski last season. Gronkowski had to meet certain numbers to kick in the incentives, rather than be among the best in the game. However, the Patriots also allowed for their tight end to max out the bonuses based on a first-team All-Pro appearance, which he did.

Brady indeed finished in the top five of these categories in 2017, but in 2015 — his most recent full season — his work in some of these categories would have left him short of these benchmarks. It’s interesting the Patriots would place the incentives on the level they have, given Brady’s low salary for a franchise quarterback and his contributions to the franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Sweeten Tom Brady’s Contract

The Patriots will add up to $5MM in performance-based incentives to Tom Brady’s contract, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter), allowing him to make up to $20MM. The move is reminiscent of what the Pats did last year with tight end Rob Gronkowski

Brady was scheduled to make $15MM in base salary this season, an absolute bargain for the game’s top quarterback. For reference, Brady’s former backup Jimmy Garoppolo will carry a $37MM cap number in 2018. Of course, even with the potential to earn up to $20MM in 2018, Brady is still an absolute bargain for New England.

The Patriots quarterback abstained from voluntary OTAs this offseason and his absence may have been tied to dissatisfaction with his contract. By amending Brady’s deal, it appears the Patriots have mended fences with their star player.

The five-time Super Bowl winner turned 41 this summer, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. Last year, he completed 66.3% of his passes for a league-leading 4,577 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Meanwhile, in a recent interview with Oprah, Brady indicated that retirement is not on his mind.

“As long as I’m still loving it,” Brady said. “As long as I’m loving the training and the preparation and willing to make the commitment. But it’s also, I think what I alluded to a lot in the docu-series, there’s other things happening in my life, too. I do have kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there, driving my kids to their games . . . my kids have brought a great perspective in my life. Kids just want the attention. You better be there. And be available to them.”

Brady’s current deal runs through the 2019 season. Prior to Thursday’s agreement, each season called for Brady to carry a cap number of $22MM.

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.