- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. When it comes to the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski’s contract extension, here’s a key thing to keep in mind: Gronkowski and his agent Drew Rosenhaus were the catalysts, as they first approached the team about trying to get something done. Gronkowski, who missed his junior season in college with a back injury, wanted some financial security now and thus was willing to concede some potential future earnings. While it is commonplace in the agent community to crunch numbers to measure whether it was a good deal for Gronkowski or a good deal for the team, and where it ranks among others at the position, it all seems like the secondary point to this: The player wanted it, the team agreed to it, and everyone’s happy.
2. I think the Gronkowski extension, which reminds me a little bit of Ty Warren’s extension in 2007 in terms of coming earlier than the norm, is partly reflective of the Patriots’ thinking that the salary cap will be flat over the next few years. Because of that, managing the cap and retaining assets is a bit more challenging. So that was also likely a factor in the Patriots entertaining contract talks with a player entering his third season, which is quicker than usual.
3. Because Gronkowski’s extension keeps the salary cap charges at lower levels in the early years of the deal, and the bigger payoff isn't until 2016, it shouldn’t have an impact on a potential Wes Welker contract extension. But at this point, I don’t see the sides moving too far off their spots, so unless there is an unexpected shift, Welker would play this year on the $9.5 million franchise tag and then anything is possible in 2013, including him becoming an unrestricted free agent (it seems unlikely that the Patriots would franchise-tag him at $11.4 million).
4. Was thinking of one play that defined Chad Ochocinco’s one-year stint with the Patriots and the first thing to come to mind was his big drop in Buffalo in Week 3 last season. That, coupled with his coaxing of Wes Welker to take a #leapoffaith and start a Twitter account that at one point had Welker backtracking on his remarks, stood out most in terms of his New England impact. As for his next stop, Ochocinco’s first workout will be with the Dolphins, according to CBSSports.com’s Jason LaCanfora; if he lands there the folks at "Hard Knocks" would certainly be happy.
5. Bills assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt on defensive end Mark Anderson: “He’s got the quickest feet of any defensive lineman we’ve got. I didn’t realize he has as good a first step which you’ve got to have to be a really good pass rusher.” Anderson had the same quick feet last year when any team could have signed him as a free agent. The Patriots saw what many others didn’t, got a bargain at one-year, $1.375 million, and helped revive his career that led to his big contract in Buffalo. That’s good scouting and coaching.
6. Given their exploration of free-agent tight end Dallas Clark and subsequent signing of free-agent tight end Bo Scaife, one wonders why the Patriots didn’t bring back practice squad player Dorin Dickerson for 2012. Dickerson, an H-back type who bumped Garrett Mills off the practice squad late last year, landed in Buffalo and has been taking a fair share of first-team reps in organized team activities.
7. Knowing how much the Jaguars under general manager Gene Smith have taken pride in bringing in a certain type of player – and how they have a quick hook on their draft board for prospects who make missteps off the field – I wonder if they would have traded up to No. 5 to select receiver Justin Blackmon if Blackmon’s second DUI arrest came before the draft.
8. Patriots receiver Donte’ Stallworth returned kickoffs during last Thursday’s organized team activity, which had me digging up his career stats for the last time he did so in a regular-season game. It takes us all the way back to 2003, his second season in the NFL with the Saints, when he had eight returns for 171 yards (21.4 avg.; long of 28) and two fumbles. Those are the only regular-season kickoff returns of Stallworth’s NFL career.
9. The Patriots open the season at Tennessee, and with the Titans facing a tough early stretch of their schedule, one could envision them leaning toward experience in the quarterback competition between Matt Hasselbeck and second-year man Jake Locker. Titans coach Mike Munchak said last week that the early schedule (vs. Patriots, at Chargers, vs. Lions, at Texans) could play a factor in the decision-making process (Tennessean link).
10. When all is said and done, wouldn’t be surprised if Joseph Addai is one of the Patriots’ best signings in free agency this year (contract here). Hearing positive things about Addai in recent weeks as the fit seems right -- a low-key, versatile, mentor-type professional to pair with younger backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, as well as Danny Woodhead.