- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Though the NFL combine will continue through Tuesday, media availability has concluded and team ESPNBoston.com is on the move back home.
The four days here in Indianapolis helped us to familiarize ourselves with some of the prospects that we hadn’t previously known much about, as well as get a feel for things going on around the league.
Here are some closing thoughts with a Patriots twist.
Coaching staff settled. Perhaps the biggest development on the Patriots front came at the outset of the trip, as former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi was on the plane to Indianapolis and has since been named an assistant to the coaching staff. His role will be versatile, though it’s unclear exactly what his duties will entail. Bill Belichick also suggested his coaching staff is set.
Schiano lends a hand. Greg Schiano, the former Buccaneers head coach, has spent much of the past two days inside the Patriots’ designated box at Lucas Oil Stadium. Like Lombardi, he’s an experienced voice to share ideas with. He won’t be joining the team in an official role, however.
Cap room to work with. The latest projection of the 2014 salary cap comes from ESPN Insider John Clayton, who reported earlier this week that it could be close to $132 million. With $4.1 million to roll over from this year’s cap, the Patriots could have close to $136.1 million to spend next season.
Patriots met with plenty of players. As is customary for any team at the combine, the Patriots spent plenty of time with plenty of prospects. The interviews are an integral part of the player evaluation process, but we’re not reading too much into which players met with which teams. It’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Early in the process. While the combine serves as the unofficial launch into “draft season,” it’s important to remember that we’re still close to 75 days away from the actual proceedings. So while the Patriots have a sense of what their top needs are -- tight end, interior defensive line and perhaps wide receiver come to mind -- and which players project to be near the top of the board, things can change in the coming months.
What’s next? While scouts have been tuned in with the draft prospects throughout the year, coaches are just beginning to dig their heels in. The coming months will not only provide them a chance to study the players’ game film, but they’ll also travel to pro days, conduct private visits and workouts and pick the brains of those more familiar with the players to develop their evaluations.
Picks reminder. The Patriots have seven picks in this year’s draft, with two seventh-round picks and no sixth-round pick (as a result of the Isaac Sopoaga trade). Their first selection is the 29th overall. The team also could receive a compensatory pick after losing Wes Welker in free agency last offseason.
So long, Indianapolis.