New England Patriots: Danny Aiken

Two-year deal for Charley Hughlett

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
The New England Patriots have set up a competition at long snapper between incumbent Danny Aiken and newcomer Charley Hughlett, the latter of whom was signed on Tuesday.

Hughlett's contract is for two years. It does not include a signing bonus and has base salaries of $420,000 in 2014 and $510,000 in 2015.

Hughlett's cap charge for 2014 would be $420,000 if he makes the roster.

Meanwhile, Aiken's one-year deal with the Patriots, which is technically an extension, calls for him to earn a base salary of $645,000 this season. He received a $55,000 signing bonus as part of the extension, as well as a $25,000 workout bonus, so his cap charge will be $725,000.

When projecting ahead to the competition between Aiken and Hughlett, economics will be one layer to the overall evaluation.

If the competition is close, Hughlett might get the edge because he counts less against the salary cap in 2014, and also is under contract for 2015 for a base salary of $510,000.

Source: Long snapper Aiken agrees

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
New England Patriots long snapper Danny Aiken, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent, has agreed to terms with the team on a one-year contract, according to a source.

Aiken has snapped in every game for the Patriots over the last three seasons after being claimed on waivers from the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 4, 2011. The contract agreement puts the Patriots in position to return all three specialists (Aiken, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter/holder Ryan Allen) for the second straight year, which is often the continuity that most clubs desire.

As the Patriots’ lone restricted free agent this offseason, Aiken could have been tendered at three different levels -- $1.43 million for a right of first refusal, $2.18 million at the second-round level, and $3.11 million at the first-round level.

There was also the option that the Patriots wouldn’t tender Aiken at all, making him an unrestricted free agent; Aiken earned a base salary of $550,000 last season and it was hard to envision a scenario where the Patriots would, at the least, triple those earnings in 2014.

So the new one-year deal strikes a compromise of sorts for the team and Aiken, who adds value to special teams units with his coverage skills (5 special teams tackles in 2013).

A look at key NFL dates ahead

January, 25, 2014
Jan 25
The offseason came sooner for the New England Patriots than they had hoped, but the team has hit the ground running in turning its attention toward the 2014 season.

Below is an outline of some important dates during the upcoming offseason, to give a sense of what's in store for the Patriots and the NFL at-large over the next handful of months.

Feb. 17: The window to designate a franchise tag player is open. For the Patriots, cornerback Aqib Talib could be a candidate.

Feb. 19-25: The NFL combine will be held in Indianapolis. Members of the coaching and scouting staff will meet with prospects and view workouts during this process.

March 8-11: NFL teams are allow to contact player agents of pending unrestricted free agents and enter into contract negotiations. This "legal tampering" period was implemented last offseason. While no deals can be formally signed, they can be informally agreed to.

March 11: The 2014 NFL league year begins, as does free agency.

March 23-26: NFL owners meetings, to be held in Orlando, Fla.

April 7: For those teams that hired a new head coach this offseason, they are permitted to begin their offseason workout programs.

April 21: For those who teams that did not hire a new coach, they are permitted to begin their offseason workout programs.

May 2: The final day for restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet. Long snapper Danny Aiken is the lone Patriots' restricted free agent.

May 8-10: 2014 NFL draft. This marks a shift from previous years, as it is being held a few weeks later than its normal time.

May 19-21: NFL spring meeting, to be held in Atlanta.

Practice report: Sick Brady, Aiken held out

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was one of two players not present for the first of three days of on-field prep for this Sunday's AFC championship game against the Broncos. He missed the practice session with an illness.

Long snapper Danny Aiken, who was also sick, was the only other player not to practice.

A total of 10 players, including punter Ryan Allen (shoulder), who was injured Saturday, were limited in practice. Allen was forced to leave the game against the Colts, though the Patriots have not worked out or signed any other punters this week, a sign that Allen is aiming to play Sunday.

Wide receiver Aaron Dobson returned to practice for the first time since leaving Week 17 with another foot injury (he previously missed four games with a foot issue), practicing on a limited basis.

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower was a new addition to the injury report with an ankle issue that limited him.

Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who left Saturday's game as well, suffered a concussion, which limited him during Wednesday's workout.

Tom Brady not spotted at practice

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was not spotted at the start of practice on Wednesday morning during the media availability portion of the on-field workout.

The reason for Brady's absence is unclear, as is whether he will take part in any portion of Wednesday's practice. A source told's Mike Reiss that Brady is "good and will be ready for Sunday."

Brady did not suffer any apparent injury during the team's game against the Colts on Saturday night, though he was sick throughout the week last week.

He has been listed as a limited participant with a shoulder injury on multiple occasions since late October, though Brady has not missed a practice this season.

The Patriots moved Brady's regularly scheduled Wednesday news conference to Friday morning.

He was one of two Patriots not seen at the start of practice, as long snapper Danny Aiken, who was also playing through illness on Saturday night, was also not spotted.

Meanwhile, the Patriots did have punter Ryan Allen, who left Saturday's game with a shoulder injury, on the field. Allen suffered an AC sprain, according to sources, and the team is hopeful he can rehab the injury this week to a point that he is good to go on Sunday.

Finally, wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who was injured in Week 17 and had not practiced since that time, returned to practice on Wednesday as he continues to work through a foot injury.

Source: Patriots hopeful on Allen

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
The New England Patriots believe there is a possibility that injured punter Ryan Allen will be able to play in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, depending on how his shoulder responds to aggressive treatment over the course of the week, according to sources.

The plan with Allen, while fluid, reflects why the Patriots have not had any free-agent punters in for workouts as of 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Allen suffered a sprained AC joint, sources said, when he was tackled by multiple Indianapolis Colts players while running down a high snap in the second quarter of last Saturday’s AFC divisional round playoff game. The play resulted in a safety and Allen took the ensuing free kick (a solid 68-yard effort) before leaving the game for good. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski took over the punting duties.

Should Allen punt in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, one of the greater concerns for the Patriots would be his ability to reach up to corral a high snap. Thus, the accuracy of third-year snapper Danny Aiken would take on added importance.

Also, Allen serves as the team’s holder for field goals, a role that quarterback Tom Brady assumed after Allen was knocked out of Saturday’s game. There is a possibility that Allen could punt Sunday, but not serve as the holder. Brady or backup quarterback Ryan Mallett would be top options to replace him.

Allen, a two-time Ray Guy Award winner at Louisiana Tech, joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in May and won a training camp competition over incumbent Zoltan Mesko. A left-footed punter, he finished 14th in the NFL in average (45.9) and 16th in net (39.9). His 12 touchbacks led the NFL.

The Patriots, as much as any team in the NFL, place a greater emphasis on directional and situational punting under veteran coach Scott O’Brien.

Asked about Allen’s availability on Sunday, head coach Bill Belichick said, “We’ll put out the injury report [Wednesday] after practice like we usually do.”

Belichick also said it’s possible Gostkowski could once again handle both kicking and punting duties, or the team could still bring in a free-agent punter, although the lack of movement at this point would seem to make that less likely.

In November, the Patriots worked out punters Shawn Powell and Robert Malone as part of their emergency list preparations at the time. Mesko, who could have been an obvious replacement, isn’t an option because he’s still under contract to the Cincinnati Bengals after signing with them in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

Highlighting Patriots-Bills connections

December, 27, 2013
We normally use this space to highlight players or members of the Patriots' upcoming opponent's organization who have ties to New England. With Sunday marking the second time that they'll face the Bills this season, we'll do things a little differently and note current Patriots with ties to Buffalo.

Long-snapper Danny Aiken. Undrafted out of Virginia in 2011, Aiken got his start with the Bills, attending training camp with the team that preseason. The Patriots signed Aiken shortly after his release from Buffalo, and he has held the long-snapping duties since.

Linebacker Chris White. Originally a sixth-round pick of the Bills out of Mississippi State in 2011, White was traded this past offseason to Detroit, who subsequently waived him. The Patriots claimed him, and he has served as a coverage player on special teams in 2013.

Offensive assistant Brian Daboll. Daboll is a native of Buffalo and attended St. Francis High School, just a handful of miles from Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Bills play their home games. He went on to play at the nearby University of Rochester.