Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots.
1. One of the names that many have asked about as a potential addition to the Patriots offense in an attempt to replace Aaron Hernandez is Brandon Lloyd, who was released this March after one season with the team. At the time, our sense was that the decision to cut ties with Lloyd was as much about finances (he was due a $3 million roster bonus) as anything else, although reports also suggested that he wasn’t a good fit within the Patriots locker room. The Patriots, and any NFL team, always want a harmonious locker room, but now would seem to be a time when the Patriots are particularly interested in finding players who fit among the rest of the team. By that token, if Lloyd’s behavior did in fact play a part in the team’s decision to release him previously, we wouldn’t expect a reunion.
2. Last week in this space, colleague Mike Reiss laid out a pair of veteran free agent options that came to mind if the Patriots were interested in adding another tight end, spotlighting Dallas Clark and David Thomas. Another route that the team could explore would be a trade, targeting players who could find themselves buried on a tight end depth chart elsewhere. A few names that come to mind are D.J. Williams of the Packers, Clay Harbor of the Eagles and Tony Moeaki of the Chiefs. It’s entirely possible that the Patriots will stand pat at the position with six tight ends already on the roster, but if they decide to pursue other options, one of the aforementioned trio may be available at a modest price.
3. The Patriots didn’t lose any coaches from their staff this offseason, but the personnel department has not gone unchanged. Early this offseason, Mick Lombardi, a scouting assistant, departed to become the assistant to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, while more recently the team has lost two area scouts: Trey Brown, now with the Eagles, and Frank Edgerly, hired by the Browns. No word on how the Patriots plan to fill these vacancies, with internal promotions or external hires both possibilities.
4. Speaking of former Patriots scouts, the Seahawks continued their strong offseason by adding Jim Nagy as a southeast regional scout. Nagy spent seven years with the Patriots from 2002-2008 before being hired by Scott Pioli in Kansas City, where he spent four seasons. He worked as a national scout in 2012 for the Chiefs. The southeast is a talent-rich area (the SEC is the preeminent conference in college football), and Seattle now has a respected pair of eyes to oversee the region.
5. Denard Robinson was one of the more intriguing prospects in this past year’s draft. He finished a brilliant career at Michigan, where he was primarily a quarterback, and subsequently began the process of a position change, as few teams regarded him as an NFL signal-caller. After working out as a wide receiver at the combine, he showed enough for the Jaguars to take him in the fifth round. The team bucked conventional wisdom in assigning Robinson a position on their official website, listing him as an “OW,” the abbreviation for offensive weapon. He’ll wear No. 29 for the team, and looks likely to do it all on offense, including taking carries as a running back and catching passes as a receiver. He’ll likely return kicks as well.
6. Tom Brady’s current contract takes him through the 2017 season, at which point he’ll be 40 years old. That could prove to be his final NFL season, depending upon how he performs in the coming years, and would mean that he’d spend the entirety of his career with the team that drafted him. Paul Pierce previously expressed a desire to remain with the Boston Celtics for the entirety of his career, but a trade is in place that will ship him to the Brooklyn Nets (the deal cannot become official until July 10). When the deal does go down, Brady, who was drafted by the Patriots in 2000, will replace Pierce as the longest-tenured athlete among the four professional sports teams in town.
7. Trades aren’t nearly as prevalent in the NFL as they are in other major professional sports, but there has been a sufficient number of swaps made already during the 2013 league year. Of the 14 trades, perhaps due to nothing more than coincidence, four have involved the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including the most noteworthy: Darrelle Revis being acquired from the Jets. The Bucs also acquired Jeff Demps from the Patriots in a deal that sent LeGarrette Blount to New England.
8. The Panthers hired longtime Giants personnel man and Massachusetts native Dave Gettelman this offseason to replace Marty Hurney as their general manager, and it appears that the new shot-caller is taking a page out of his old team’s personnel playbook. Gettelman inherited a top defensive end duo in Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy (each had double-digit sacks in 2012) and wasted no time further fortifying the defensive line by using his first two draft choices on defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei of Utah and Kawann Short of Purdue. Lotulelei and Short were among the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the draft and should generate pass rush in between Johnson and Hardy. The Giants have long thrived by featuring defensive lines with four players who can generate pressure, and Carolina looks ready to do the same in 2013.
9. Just like players sometimes thrive when placed in a new situation after struggling in previous stops, coaches can do the same. With that in mind, one of the assistants that I’ll be watching the influence of closely in 2013 is Steve Spagnuolo, now a senior defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens. Spagnuolo was fired after just one season in New Orleans as defensive coordinator, which came on the heels of three years as St. Louis’ head coach. Though Spagnuolo has gone through some bumps in the road since departing the Giants staff in 2009, he’s a talented coach who I suspect will pay dividends in Baltimore.
10. The NFC North proved to be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL in 2012, with three teams winning at least 10 games. Green Bay appears to be the class of the division for 2013, but like Chicago and Detroit, they’ll be starting the season with a new left tackle, as former first rounder Bryan Bulaga will transition to the position he played in college while at Iowa. Chicago added Jermon Bushrod in free agency, while Detroit will turn to Riley Reiff, another former Iowa left tackle. In a division that includes Jared Allen, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Ziggy Ansah, the tackle vs. edge rusher matchups will be worth watching.