Proposing a Devin McCourty contract

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
5:30
PM ET
On Monday, we began a series on the projected financial market for New England Patriots free agents.

McCourty
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was the first player to be featured; on Tuesday cornerback Darrelle Revis was the featured player; on Wednesday it was running back Shane Vereen in the spotlight; and Thursday it was Devin McCourty under the microscope.

Here is a contract proposal for McCourty that could possibly work for both sides:

Terms: Five years, $45 million
Signing bonus: $10 million

2015
Base salary: $5 million (guaranteed)
Cap figure: $7 million

2016
Base salary: $6 million (guaranteed)
Cap figure: $8 million

2017
Base salary: $7 million ($1 million guaranteed)
Cap figure: $9 million

2018
Base salary: $8 million
Cap figure: $10 million

2019
Base salary: $9 million
Cap figure: $11 million

We're not getting too detailed with bonuses and incentives in this exercise, so the purpose is to keep the proposals straight-forward to highlight what is viewed as market value and a general concept of what might work for both sides. This deal, averaging $9 million per season, would tie McCourty for the No. 2 spot in terms of average-per-year at the safety position. By paying him $15 million in the first year (between signing bonus and base salary), it is about $5.5 million more than the projected $9.5 million franchise tag he'd receive on a one-year deal. So the concept there is to create an incentive for the player to want to sign a long-term deal when compared to playing on the tag.

From the team side, the cap charges are below the projected 2015 franchise tag for the first three years of the pact, which provides flexibility for the club. If the team would like to lower those charges, another option is to increase the signing bonus (which is prorated over five years) and lower the base salaries in the earlier years of the pact.
As part of an ongoing feature this week that focuses on projected markets for notable New England Patriots free agents, a proposal of a contract that could work for both the club and cornerback Darrelle Revis was drawn up.

Revis
Now former agent Joel Corry, writing for CBSSports.com, has presented a deal of his own.

It's similar in structure to our five-year proposal and includes the same option bonus after the third season. Corry's bonuses and guarantees within the first three years are slightly higher at $46.5 million, while the total value of the deal was $85 million (compared to $80 million in our deal).

It will be interesting to see how close these projections hit the actual market for Revis.

But in this case, it was fun to be able to compare two contract proposals -- one from a reporter, one from a former agent -- and see how they stack up both in concept and bottom-line dollars.

Weekly Patriots chat recap

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
1:15
PM ET
Every Thursday on ESPNBoston.com, questions from New England Patriots followers are answered as part of a weekly chat. Today's chat kicked off at 11 a.m. ET, can be recapped here and included some of the following topics:

1. Darrelle Revis and where things stand with his potential return. Ditto for Devin McCourty, Shane Vereen, Dan Connolly and Stephen Gostkowski.

2. Underinflated footballs and the NFL's investigation.

3. Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace and the idea of supplementing the wide receiving corps in some form.

4. Running back Tyler Gaffney and expectations for 2015.

5. What if Malcolm Butler didn't intercept the pass at the end of Super Bowl XLIX?

6. Vince Wilfork, Haloti Ngata and how the end of those players' careers with one team can be tricky.

7. Identifying four possible targets in free agency from other teams: OLB Jabaal Sheard, TE Lance Kendricks, RB Reggie Bush and LB Colin McCarthy.

Considering Reggie Bush for Patriots

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
11:15
AM ET
Another reminder that free agency is an ever-evolving picture came on Wednesday when veteran running back Reggie Bush was released by the Lions.

Bush
Bush
 Two questions then came to mind: Would the Patriots be interested? And, if so, how might this affect negotiations with soon-to-be-free-agent Shane Vereen?

A few thoughts:
  1. Bush, who turns 30 on March 2, would project to the same type of role in the Patriots' offense as Vereen. He is still a top pass-catching back when healthy and that is something the Patriots value highly. Bush had 94 receptions over the past two seasons, while Vereen had 99. Vereen turns 26 on March 2 (sharing the same birthday as Bush).
  2. If the price was equal, Vereen would be the choice because he's younger and already a proven fit in the offense. But the price likely wouldn't be equal, with Vereen -- from this viewpoint -- in position to command more because he's entering his prime years. So then the question becomes something like this, "Would you rather have Vereen over the next four years at around $4 million per season, or Bush for the next one or two seasons at possibly around half that total?"
  3. Offensive coaches Brian Daboll and Dave DeGuglielmo have a history with Bush, having coached him in 2011 with the Dolphins. Any time a player has a history with a member of the coaching staff, and that history is a productive one, it is notable.
  4. Timing could be a factor, as free agency begins March 10. If the Patriots have a sense they might lose Vereen regardless, would that expedite talks with Bush as a possible replacement?

This is part of the fun of covering an NFL team, and attempting to view things from a management perspective.

The sudden availability of Bush, as it relates to Vereen, sparked these thoughts.

Witness: Hernandez smoked pot

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
10:18
AM ET
video

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Ex-New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez ran up a $243 bar tab and smoked marijuana in the hours before the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister was shot to death, according to testimony Thursday at his murder trial.

Just over an hour before the killing of Odin Lloyd on June 17, 2013, video surveillance shows Hernandez walking unsteadily at a gas station and dancing near the gas pumps.

The video also shows a co-defendant, Carlos Ortiz, wearing a white towel around his shoulders. A white towel was found near Lloyd's body later that morning in an industrial park not far from Hernandez's home. Prosecutors haven't said who shot Lloyd but said Hernandez orchestrated the killing.

Ortiz and another co-defendant, Ernest Wallace, have pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.

Thursday's testimony began with an account from Kelly Rose Belanger, who was bar manager at South Street Cafe in Providence, Rhode Island, on June 16, 2013, which was Father's Day. Another woman, Vanessa Sanchez, testified Wednesday that she was among the six people in the group, which included Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez's fiancee and the mother of his child. Sanchez said Hernandez proposed a toast to Father's Day, and the three couples there talked a lot about their children.

Prosecutors displayed a receipt from that night that showed the tab included 30 alcoholic drinks: 11 Hennessy cognacs, 10 "Sex on the Beach" mixed vodka drinks, seven Bud Lights and two Grey Goose vodkas.

During the evening, Belanger said, Hernandez left the bar several times with one of the men he was with. She could smell marijuana and looked outside and saw Hernandez and the other man smoking it. She asked them to stop, and they did, she said.

Hernandez paid the $243 tab at 12:19 a.m. on June 17, leaving a $30 tip, Belanger said.


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Weekly Patriots chat at 11

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
9:15
AM ET
Every Thursday on ESPNBoston.com, there is a Patriots chat. Today's chat is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET, and questions can be asked in advance.

Catch up then.

Patriots market watch: Devin McCourty

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
5:00
AM ET
Projecting the financial market for some of the New England Patriots' top free agents:

Player: Devin McCourty

Position: Safety

Age: 27 (birthday: August 13, 1987)

[+] EnlargeDevin McCourty
Damian Strohmeyer/AP PhotoThe Patriots may use the franchise tag on Devin McCourty this year if they can't work out a deal.
Credentials: Team captain who has played all but three games over the first five seasons. Willing tackler with solid range who plays a central role in the communication on the back end. Has flexibility to move down to corner, where he played early in his career. Top-notch locker-room guy who has consistently put the team first (e.g. position switch to safety). Will occasionally take a bad angle (example versus Packers on Nov. 30) but overall plays the center-field role at a high level.

Assessing the market: Seattle's Earl Thomas sets the standard at safety, with his deal averaging $10 million per season. He signed that pact in 2014, adding four years to the end of his existing deal, and it included $25.7 million in bonuses and guarantees. The Saints signed Jairus Byrd to a free-agent deal in 2014 that averaged $9 million per season and included $26.3 million in bonuses and guarantees; that looks like an overpay situation at this point, but it still shapes the market. Eric Berry (Chiefs, $8.3 million per season, rookie deal signed in 2010), Dashon Goldson (Buccaneers, $8.25 million per season, $17.5 million in bonuses/guarantees, signed in 2013), and Eric Weddle (Chargers, $8 million per season, $19 million in bonuses/guarantees, signed in 2011) round out the top five. McCourty's brother, Titans cornerback Jason McCourty, signed an extension in 2012 that averages $8.6 million per season and included $17 million in bonuses/guarantees.

Our take on McCourty's value: Entering his prime years, he's in a position of strength. Furthermore, in a year where the draft class is weak at safety, and the free-agent class isn't deep, McCourty is easily the top-rated player at the position. This increases the likelihood, from this viewpoint, that the club would be more inclined to assign the franchise tag (estimated at $9.5 million) to him in the event the sides couldn't hammer out an extension. McCourty is a unique player when it comes to assessing his value because of his corner-safety combo skills. Those are really two different financial markets. Thus, it might require some creativity as there isn't a clear-cut comparable.

Projected contract: Five years, $45 million ($10 million signing bonus, with additional $12 million in guaranteed base salaries)

Proposing a Shane Vereen contract

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
4:30
PM ET
On Monday, we began a series on the projected financial market for New England Patriots free agents.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was the first player to be featured, on Tuesday cornerback Darrelle Revis was the featured player, and on Wednesday it was running back Shane Vereen in the spotlight.

Here is a contract proposal for Vereen that could possibly work for both sides:

Terms: Four years, $16 million
Signing bonus: $4 million

2015
Base salary: $1.5 million
Cap figure: $2.5 million

2016
Base salary: $2.5 million
Cap figure: $3.5 million

2017
Base salary: $3.5 million
Cap figure: $4.5 million

2018
Base salary: $4.5 million
Cap figure: $5.5 million

This is a straight-forward deal that was drafted using the contract signed by Detroit's Reggie Bush in 2013 as a foundation. It pays Vereen $5.5 million in the first year, which is a slight increase from Bush, who was paid $5 million in his first year ($4 million signing bonus, $1 million base salary). The slight increase is a result of it now being two years later and the salary cap having risen since that time. Vereen's $4 million average per year is also an increase from the deals signed by Donald Brown (2014) and Darren Sproles (2013), who could be viewed as comparable players in certain ways. Vereen's value to the Patriots will be determined, in part, with how the club views 2014 fourth-round pick James White as a possible replacement.

Leftovers from Devin McCourty

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
3:00
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LOWELL, Mass. – Leftovers from New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty’s appearance Wednesday morning at an event in which the New England Dairy & Food Council, the Patriots and ESPNBoston teamed up to congratulate Lowell High for winning a “Fuel up to Play 60” Instagram contest:

What stood out to him at Lowell High School. “When I walked in, I was blown away. I think one of the coolest things is they have a Smoothie machine. I wish we had a Smoothie machine back in high school. The kids were really into it. It’s always fun coming back. A lot of times it’s little kids, but talking to high school kids, you can really start to talk to them about some adult issues.”

McCourty
The impact of social media as part of the event. “I got all the hashtags to me, and a lot of people added me. It was cool seeing how many kids get active and actually get involved. If it involves social media, you’ll get every kid high school kid in America involved.

What he’s learned about the NFL as it relates to seeing players like Logan Mankins traded. “I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned is it’s a business. No matter what, you have to put your business hat on in a sense. I think everyone in the facility wanted Logan to be back here. That’s everyone, not just players. It just came down to business. I think that’s what everything comes down to – a business decision for a team, or a player. You have to kind of think it that way.”

The reality that things change every year. "I think you see it every year when teams win Super Bowls, fans get mad because they're just like, 'Bring the whole team back.' Financially, if teams could, they would. But you know, every year is another draft, there are other free agents, and teams are always looking to improve. Since I've been here, I think this team is probably No. 1 as far as forgetting about last year and they move on [and focus on] how to be a better team the next year. I think that's the reason they're successful year in and year out, because they don't get stuck in the past and worry about a bunch of other things. They only focus on how to get the team better for the upcoming year. Obviously, I think it would be awesome if all our guys could come back and try to get another run at the Super Bowl, but like you said, I don't know how realistic that is."

Conversations with Darrelle Revis. "I've talked to Rev but we don't really talk about contracts. Most of the time it's sending funny videos and laughing."

Summing up his offseason. McCourty said he has mostly been relaxing since his offseason kicked off with the memorable Super Bowl parade on duck boats. He plans to begin working out and said he might train for a short stretch in Arizona, where cornerback Logan Ryan is staying and plans to work out.

Devin McCourty talks of uncertain future

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
12:55
PM ET
LOWELL, Mass. -- When New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty arrived at Lowell High School for a community event Wednesday morning, he was greeted by cheers of “Re-sign D-Mac! Re-sign D-Mac!”

It was a reminder that McCourty’s future with the team remains in question, as he’s scheduled to become a free agent when the 2015 league year begins March 10.

[+] EnlargeDevin McCourty
Brendan Hall/ESPNDevin McCourty held court with reporters after the event at Lowell High.
McCourty, who previously said he hopes to return to the Patriots, acknowledged he has considered a future that isn’t in New England.

“I’ve thought about all different scenarios, whether I’m here or whether I’m somewhere else,” he said. “At this point, I don’t have a contract, so it could happen that I could be playing somewhere else. It would be crazy not to think that could [happen].”

Asked if he had a sense of how things might unfold, McCourty said, “I really don’t know. I could say anything right now, but being honest, I don’t know. It could go either way, I think.”

McCourty’s remarks came at an event in which the New England Dairy & Food Council, the Patriots and ESPNBoston teamed up to congratulate Lowell High for winning a “Fuel up to Play 60” Instagram contest in which students posted pictures showing how they fuel up using #FuelUpWithDMac.

Predictably, McCourty’s future was the hot topic of discussion when he met with reporters afterwards.

Another possibility if the Patriots and McCourty don’t reach an extension before free agency is that he could be assigned the franchise tag, at around $9.5 million. McCourty called that a worst-case scenario that wasn’t really that bad.

“To me, that’s no reason to stress. I love it here. The franchise tag is player-friendly now, it’s a good number,” he said.

McCourty signed a five-year, $10 million contract as a rookie in 2010, so in that scenario, he would almost match his prior earnings in one year.

But McCourty said the Patriots have yet to mention the franchise tag to him or his representatives at this point. He did say the Patriots have a "huge advantage" and "if all things are equal, I'll be back here." He added there have been ongoing talks all year.

Shells in car, at scene from same gun

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
11:23
AM ET
video

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- A shell casing found in a car rented by ex-New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez and at the scene of a killing near his home were fired from the same weapon, a state police sergeant testified Wednesday.

Five shell casings were found near where Odin Lloyd was shot to death June 17, 2013, in an industrial park not far from the Hernandez home in North Attleborough. An employee of a rental car business has previously testified that she found one shell casing under the driver's seat of Hernandez's rented Nissan Altima, which he returned the day of the killing.

Police later found that shell casing in a trash bin at the business.

Sgt. Stephen Walsh testified Wednesday that his examination determined all six .45-caliber casings were fired by the same gun. He said they were consistent with having been fired from a Glock.

The murder weapon has never been found.

During cross-examination, the defense went after Walsh for not looking more thoroughly for ways to match the bullets, such as by contacting the manufacturer or by checking a national database for comparing bullets.


(Read full post)


Patriots regrouping to evaluate roster

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
10:00
AM ET
video 

ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss discusses the team's focus heading into free agency.

Patriots market watch: Shane Vereen

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
5:00
AM ET
Projecting the financial market for some of the New England Patriots' top free agents:

Player: Shane Vereen

Position: Running back

Age: 25 (birthday: March 2, 1989)

[+] EnlargeShane Vereen
AP Photo/Charles KrupaShane Vereen has proven to be one of the NFL's top pass-catching backs in recent seasons.
Credentials: One of the NFL's better pass-catching running backs (99 receptions over past two seasons) who adds significant value as a pass-protector. Has big-game experience, coming through with one of his best performances in Super Bowl XLIX when he had 11 receptions. A top locker room guy. One potential knock is his ability to pick up yards after initial contact in the running game, as he averaged 1.23 yards after contact per rush in 2014, which ranked 69th among 73 running backs with at least 50 carries, according to ESPN's Stats & Information. Injury history (hamstring in 2011 and wrist in 2013) also part of the consideration.

Assessing the market: Donald Brown's three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Chargers is one comparable as the initial part of their careers is somewhat similar. Brown received $4 million in guarantees as part of that deal. Darren Sproles' pact with the Eagles was also worth three years and $10.5 million, with $5.5 million in guarantees and bonuses. One difference between Vereen (25) and Sproles (31) is age. The Lions' Reggie Bush inked a four-year, $16 million pact, with a $4 million signing bonus in 2013. A worst-case scenario for Vereen would be something along the lines of what Rashad Jennings received with the Giants (four years, $10 million, $2.98 million in guarantees/bonuses). Last year's top free-agent deal at the position was Toby Gerhart (3 years, $10.5 million, $4.5 million in bonuses/guarantees), who is more of a power back. Per the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Vereen's agents would like to hit the $5 million-per-year mark, which would establish a new benchmark of sorts.

Our take on Vereen's value: Vereen hits the market with his value at an all-time high. He is entering his prime years, has high-end production (in part because of the offense in which he played), made it through the season healthy, and comes from a winning program that could have added value to an on-the-rise team looking to take that next step. Any team that has a similar setup to the Patriots in which the "change of pace" running back still plays the majority of snaps (Vereen was at 52.9 percent in 2014) might be more inclined to invest in him at a position that doesn't traditionally produce big deals.

Projected contract: Four years, $16 million, $4 million signing bonus.

Patriots reportedly try out special teamer

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
10:00
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The New England Patriots had former Green Bay Packers receiver/special teamer Kevin Dorsey in for a tryout this week at Gillette Stadium, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and National Football Post.

Dorsey was a seventh-round draft choice of the Packers in 2013 out of Maryland.

When he was promoted from the Green Bay practice squad to the active roster in early October 2014, his special teams prowess was noted by ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Dorsey appeared in three games for the Packers last season before landing on injured reserve with a foot injury. Dorsey had missed all of his rookie season because of a toe injury.

He was released by the Packers on Feb. 17.

Proposing a Darrelle Revis contract

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
4:30
PM ET
On Monday, we began a series on the projected financial market for New England Patriots free agents. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was the first player to be featured, and on Tuesday, cornerback Darrelle Revis was the featured player.

Here is a proposal that could possibly work for both sides:

Revis
Terms: Five years, $80 million
Signing bonus: $16 million

2015
Base salary: $6 million (guaranteed)
Cap figure: $14.2 million ($9.2 million plus $5 million from original deal)

2016
Base salary: $10 million (guaranteed)
Cap figure: $13.2 million

2017
Base salary: $10 million (guaranteed)
Cap figure: $13.2 million
Option bonus: $10 million (decided on final day of league year)

2018
Base salary: $14 million

2019
Base salary: $14 million

The thought behind this deal was to show Revis the respect of the $16 million average per year salary he's earned the last two years, which sets the benchmark for the position. Arizona's Patrick Peterson ($14.01 million) and Seattle's Richard Sherman ($14 million) are the next in line. It also pays him $22 million in the first year (between signing bonus and base salary) and guarantees him $42 million (all paid in the first three years).

At that point, Revis would be turning 33 and if he's still playing at a high level, there is a chance to earn a $10 million option bonus that would activate the final two years of the pact at $14 million per season. So the total in guarantees and bonuses would be $52 million, although some would argue that the team might not have the intention of ever picking up the $10 million option bonus (or the final two years at $28 million). Extending the deal five years could help the team from the standpoint of spreading out the cap hit.

When I ran this by one NFL source not connected with a team who I believe has no agenda but is knowledgeable in contract dealings, the feeling was that perhaps the numbers were a bit lower than Revis might be able to command.

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