Patriots’ fate depends on quarterback and the NFL Draft

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:

1. All About QB: Former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who still lives in Massachusetts, joined local sports-talk radio last week. He noted that the general fan and media reaction to the Patriots’ moves in the first week of free agency has been negative.

Ninkovich, who rarely hesitated to criticize his old team in his former role as an ESPN analyst, sees it a little differently.

“I hear people saying they’re re-signing all these guys and they were 4-13 last year, so why would they do that? To me, the guys they targeted and brought back, I They feel like they’re important pieces. And they’re getting people out of the building, he said, feeling like they’re the reason they became a four-time winning team.”

“But the biggest thing for me is that no matter what they do, it’s the draft that will make or break their offseason. It could be a home run. Also, the scary thing is if they draft a quarterback. Let’s do number 3, and that’s not the guy, they’re in big trouble.”

Ninkovich briefly explained why director of scouting Eliot Wolf, who has the ultimate personnel in the first year of the post-Bill Belichick era, is among the NFL executives on whom the spotlight is shining the most.

Bottom line: If Wolf and the Patriots’ coaching and scouting staff ultimately have strong confidence in the No. 3 quarterback pick, they should run their card to commissioner Roger Goodell on April 25, and then hire offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterbacks coach . TC McCartney immediately created a developmental plan for him.

Many believe that if the Bears select Southern California’s Caleb Williams at No. 1, the choice will be between LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Mays. Michigan’s JJ McCarthy, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix are also among the highly rated QBs. First-round potential, one NFL executive predicted that McCarthy and Penix could go much further than current projections.

Ninkovich is still studying quarterbacking and is open to multiple scenarios for the team, including trading down and/or selecting a prospect at a different position.

One week into free agency, Ninkovich sees some positive signs for the Patriots, but he believes everything is secondary to what’s to come.

He said, “I like moves across the board, but it’s the draft, and what they decide at quarterback will ultimately determine how the team comes together and whether they’re headed in the right direction.”

2. Ridley Rex: Receiver Kelvin Ridley, who decided to take a four-year, $92 million deal with the Titans over offers from the Jaguars and Patriots, shared details about his decision-making process on Friday. He said he hoped to return to Jacksonville, but when things didn’t work out, the Titans had the combination of money and on-field elements they were looking for – including a receiver to play opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Help bring out the best in him.

No shame for the Patriots, who were aggressive with their pitching, but that partially reflects the reality that the top of the receiver depth chart consists of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, Demario Douglas, Tyquan Thornton and Jalen Reagor included.

One reason the Patriots were bullish on Ridley was that he totaled 768 yards on passes thrown outside the numbers last season, which was fifth-most in the NFL. In 2023, the Patriots ranked second in the NFL in gaining yards on passes thrown outside the numbers, according to ESPN Stats and Information. New England’s 1,581 receiving yards on passes thrown outside the numbers last season were exceeded only by the Jets (1,515).

An NFL executive acknowledged the Patriots’ need, but also noted how the 29-year-old Ridley did not always find assignments sound in Jacksonville, while viewing him as more of a solid receiver than a top-tier option.

3. Patriots’ Perspective: Most Frequently Asked Questions Over the past week, overwhelmed social-media followers have asked, “What are the Patriots’ free-agent plans?”

Many expected more than that, perhaps because head coach Jerrod Mayo had previously said he would “spend some cash” to bring in talent. Whether the Patriots’ approach will prove correct is fair to debate, and my opinion is summarized this way – they have a lot of holes to fill, the contracts of some of their best players were expiring, and if If that happens’ By making them a priority to re-sign him, they would be digging an even deeper hole for themselves because it is unrealistic to think that more free-agent extravagance on others will immediately fix all their problems. So they basically had to work hard to remain neutral.

As Bill Belichick used to say, the team-building process continues throughout the year and they still have a lot of work to do, including hopefully starting extension talks with fourth-year defensive tackle Christian Barmore.

4. Judon’s Deal: When the Patriots restructured outside linebacker Matthew Judon’s contract last August, dropping his 2024 base salary to $6.5 million as some of his money shifted to 2023, it prompted a return to the negotiating table this offseason. Both sides were prepared for this.

Now, with the first wave of free agency over, it opens a window for the sides to work toward a solution, which they have initially begun exploring. Judon’s return from a torn biceps that limited him to four games last season adds a layer to any discussion, as the team will likely want to protect itself with incentives that could be provided to Judon to stay on the field. Reward.

5. Hopper Report: What are the Patriots getting from nine-year veteran tight end Austin Hooper, whom they signed to a one-year deal with a base price of $3 million?

An NFL source closely familiar with him said: “He’s not a ‘Y’ that you’ll constantly line up and ask to block, but more of a traditional ‘F’ type of receiving tight end – A position blocker at best, and more back side of runs. You want to make sure you’re not putting him on the defensive end too much; he’s not a road-grader, but he’ll compete. He’s more of a back side of them as a blocker. better than the competition in the year [Mike] Gesicki, who was actually more of a receiver than a tight end. “He’s got good speed and the ability to get open with his hands.”

6. Takitaki Intel: Linebacker Sione Takitaki, who signed a two-year deal with a base value of $6.6 million and a maximum value of $10.2 million in New England, developed as a team leader and signal-caller during his five-year tenure with the Browns Were. Wolf, the Patriots’ scouting director, was one of Takitaki’s biggest boosters while working for the Browns and was a primary reason the team selected him in the third round of the 2019 draft.

A scouting report from a personnel executive familiar with Takitaki’s playing style described him as “active, not the fastest, but sees the game very well; versatile, running and attacking – a very solid third or fourth linebacker”. Has gone. Takitaki had the opportunity to return to Cleveland on a one-year deal, but the Patriots’ willingness to commit to a two-year deal contributed to the decision to depart.

7. Gibson’s Skill: The Patriots’ offensive coaches had identified former Washington running back Antonio Gibson as a top target with his pass-catching and route-running ability. This partly highlights how the new regime was looking for more spacing between top running back Raimondre Stevenson and his backup in running back Ezekiel Elliott than last season. An NFL executive saw value in signing as long as Gibson picks up the offensive system and shows the ability to play defense – which can be challenging to project.

8. Trade Deadline/Emergency QB: The NFL’s annual meeting begins on Sunday, March 24 in Orlando, and according to a league source, seven teams (Steelers, Browns, Lions, Jets, Eagles, 49ers, Commander) have reached out to the league regarding the trade deadline. Changes have been suggested in the bylaws. Last season, the trade deadline was after the Week 8 game, and the above clubs are proposing moving it up a week or two.

The Bills are also proposing a bylaw change that would allow a quarterback to be elevated from the practice squad for one game, and then be listed as the third/emergency quarterback. Under the current rules, the third/emergency quarterback designation is only allowed for quarterbacks on the permanent 53-man roster.

9. He said this: “I think I’d trade down and take the best player, non-quarterback. I don’t think this roster is ready to take a quarterback. There’s a lot of holes.” — ESPN analyst Dan Orlowski, on the Patriots and the No. 3 pick on Tuesday’s NFL Live program.

10. Do you know: Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is set to become the 30th player to have at least two separate stints with the Patriots since 2000, assuming he is on the 2024 opening day roster and appears in a regular season game.

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