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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Silence at combine harvesters: The NFL scouting combination takes place 1-7. March in Indianapolis, and faithfully, Bill Belichick plans to keep a lower media profile.
The Patriots are the only NFL team that is not scheduled to have either their head coach or a chief of staff to answer questions from non-team-based journalists from media headquarters.
The league does not require teams to conduct such interviews, but encourages them to do so. Belichick’s Patriots and Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints have been the usual haunts in recent years. But Payton has walked away from coaching this year, and in return, the Saints are scheduled to get his replacement, Dennis Allen, to answer questions from non-team-based journalists.
Belichick as this year’s lone outlier is hardly a surprise. He’s not one to feed the hype, especially in 2022 with Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL – which includes lyrics from Belichick – a potentially hot topic.
However, there have been times when he has played with.
In 2014, Belichick surprisingly appeared at Media Headquarters, shared a detailed perspective on how the combine has evolved over his more than 30 years of participating, and then answered questions about his coaching staff, staff decisions, and major topics such as the value of three-cone the exercise and nuances of player evaluation.
His answer that day provides a kind of roadmap for where things stand today.
The coaching staff has most of the pieces in place (the current staff has held meetings over the last two weeks), and as Belichick said in ’14: “We’ll see how it all fits together.”
Specifically for staff decisions, as Belichick said in ’14: “I talked about that at the end of the season, the process involved, [and] I want to say that we are in that process. “
Belichick, who has instead made pop-up appearances on NFL Network’s live combine broadcast in recent years, has traditionally seen little value in answering those kinds of questions before he should.
One could argue that it would be a solid gesture for him to do so – especially for a segment of the fan base that is worried about the departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and three other offensive assistants, without any defined / notified plan to replace them.
Others might just say that Belichick’s Q&A sessions generally do not provide that type of detailed insight, so what’s the point?
2. Hood cleaning: The next phase of the Patriots’ offseason, which needs to be closely monitored, is payroll management and moving to free space to best position the team for the start of the 2022 league year on March 16th. Wage Ceiling Guide Miguel Benzan (@patscap) produced a easy-to-read snapshot of areas, Belichick & Co. could look after trimming and outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy is an example I would highlight in terms of the types of decisions that lie ahead: How does Belichick balance potential savings ($ 4.1 million) vs. Van Noy’s place on the list with a ceiling of $ 7.3 million (ninth highest on the team)? There is often a surprise or two along the way.
3. JC prediction: The window for teams to award the franchise badge to players has opened and extends until March 8, with cornerback JC Jackson the likely only candidate to consider heavily in New England. A brand would be expected $ 17.3 million for the 2022 season. Unless the Patriots think they have a strong tag-and-trade opportunity, I rate the odds of them tagging Jackson as low.
4. Vegas coaches: McDaniels has hired three of his former assistants in Las Vegas – Mick Lombardi (OC), Carmen Bricillo (Olympics) and Bo Hardegree (QBs) – and I’m told there is no “bad blood” between him and Belichick on that front. Sometimes, when a coach leaves a team and takes assistants with him, it can lead to strained relationships. But not in this case, in part because of expiring contracts and Belichick moving pieces around his offensive staff by welcoming Joe Judge back and adjusting Matt Patricia’s responsibilities.
5. Clark on radar: I asked ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid to pass on a perspective that Patriots fans should monitor at the combine. His answer: LSU linebacker Damone Clark. Much of the media-based draft analysis is aimed at the first round, but Clark would probably be more of a second- or third-round consideration at a significant need position. One of the reasons Reid has him as a possible Patriots pass is his size (listed at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds), which is something Belichick traditionally values at linebacker for playing downhill in the running game.
6. Bourne-Asiasi combination: Things have not developed as the Patriots hoped with the 2020 election in the third round, Devin Asiasi, tight end from UCLA. He was only active in one game in 2021. Although things seem to be going in the wrong direction, it was more than a passing note to hear that Asiasi has spent the last few weeks training with Kendrick Bourne in Portland, Oregon. Bourne’s energy and intrusive speed should be something Asiasi will benefit from being around on a daily basis.
7. No fare increase: While some teams across the NFL have announced fare increases in 2022, the Patriots do not plan to do so this year, even though renovations to improvements at Gillette Stadium are underway. An increase of some kind seems inevitable in the future – possibly next year when the renovation is expected to be completed – but it’s undoubtedly a valued gesture from 2022 from Robert and Jonathan Kraft to season pass members.
8. People’s market: Veteran kicker Nick Folk has been one of the best deals in the NFL with a base salary of just over $ 1 million each of the past two seasons. Given his success, with a series of 55 moves in regular season field goals under 50 yards dating to the 2020 season opener, it makes sense that a kicker-needing team might be willing to offer him more in free agency . So how far the Patriots are willing to go to sign him again – provided the People are open to kicking elsewhere without proprietor Jake Bailey and snapper Joe Cardona – could be one of the most compelling questions the team faces with development kicker Quinn Nordin also on the roster.
9. Vrabel’s father: Mike Vrabel was like a coach on the field when he played for the Patriots (2001-08), and Belichick said he and Vrabel talked about training after his playing days. This year, after Vrabel was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year following the Titans’ 12-5 season, he hailed his father, Chuck, as a primary factor in why he started training.
“I grew up as the son of a basketball coach, I was always around a team. I was an only child, but my dad made sure I worked hard and appreciated how important the team was. When I started in professional football, in the back of my mind [you’re thinking]’When this ends, I think I want to do this’. “
10. Did you know that? If specials team captain Matthew Slater resigns with the team in 2022, it would be his 15th season with the team, which would tie him with Troy Brown and Julius Adams for the third longest term ever – behind Tom Brady (20) and Steve Grogan (16).