Tagged in: Patriots

Lamar Miller, Patriots agree to one-year deal

The Jacksonville Jaguars are down two more defensive linemen, bringing their total Lamar Miller is heading to New England. The veteran running back is signing with the Patriots pending a physical, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It’ll be a one-year deal for Miller.

It was just about one year ago that the 29-year-old tore his ACL in a preseason contest while playing for the Texans. As Schefter notes on Twitter, the running back is “said to he fully recovered and ready to play this season.” Miller had been with the Texans since 2016, and he earned a Pro Bowl nod during his last healthy season.

During that 2018 campaign, the veteran rushed for five scores and 973 yards on 210 carries (4.6 yards per carry) while adding 25 receptions for 163 receiving yards and one touchdown. While he only rushed for 18 yards during that season’s playoff loss to the Colts, he did add eight receptions for 63 yards.

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Prior to his stint with the Texans, the former fourth-rounder spent the first four seasons of his career with the Dolphins. This included 2014 and 2015 campaigns where he averaged 985.5 rushing yards and eight touchdowns per season.

Miller is joining a very crowded depth chart in New England, and today’s signing makes it even more uncertain. 

Sony Michel disappointed during his sophomore campaign (and he’s currently sitting on the PUP), but he still managed to finish the 2019 season with 912 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

The team is also rostering versatile veterans like James White and Rex Burkhead, and there was some hope that 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris could contribute following a pseudo-redshirt year. Of course, that running game should also feature plenty of Cam Newton.

While Miller’s path to a roster spot is more uncertain than the quarterback’s, the duo could be called on to lead a revamped New England offense in 2020.

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Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower to opt out of 2020 season

A huge piece of the New England Patriots’ defense has decided to opt out of the 2020 season.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower will opt out of the season, NFL Network’s Michael Giardi confirmed Tuesday.

Hightower became a first-time father on July 16. His mother also has Type 2 diabetes.

According to an agreement approved by both the league and the NFL Players Association, players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn $350,000 and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out. Players who voluntarily opt out of the campaign will receive a $150,000 salary advance and their contract will toll.

“Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” Hightower told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

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Hightower’s foundation annually raises money for the American Diabetes Association, which has important meaning to him as his mother, L’Tanya, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Hightower keeps a picture of his mother at his locker.

Hightower was booked to earn a base salary of $8 million in the final year of his contract, which will roll over to 2021.

The decision is a big blow to a Patriots defense already undergoing a transition with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts leaving via free agency.

Hightower is a thumper in the middle of the Pats defense who has the flexibility to rush the passer. Per Pro Football Focus, Hightower led all off-ball linebackers in total pressures over the past three seasons with 80. The loss is important from an on-field production and a locker-room leadership standpoint for Bill Belichick’s squad.

Hightower is the fifth Patriots player to opt out of the 2020 season. Running back Brandon Bolden will also not play in 2020, per Giardi. Right tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran also opted out.

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Patriots RB Sony Michel recovering from foot surgery

New England Patriots running back Sony Michel underwent a minor foot surgery in May, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

Michel’s surgery was “maintenance-based” and focused on minor discomforts he’s been having, according to Reiss. The Patriots will start training camp in late July and Michel’s recovery time is still up in the air. His progress will determine if he has to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list or not.

He’s heading into his third NFL season and the first two have been extremely successful. Michel had a storybook start to his career — breaking playoff records and winning a Super Bowl in his first season. Although his production slipped slightly in 2019, he still produced 912 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. Michel only missed three matches with the Patriots, but he has dealt with multiple knee injuries throughout his short-lived NFL career. He had fluid drained from his knee ahead of his rookie season and twisted his knee again later that year.

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New England’s running back depth consists Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden. Harris was drafted in the third round last season and barely saw the field, but this could be his chance to step up.

The Patriots’ running back corps is extremely deep and will help navigate the offense without Tom Brady on the field. Michel’s health will be crucial to the success of this season, so it’s something to closely monitor.

When the Patriots chose Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, there was palpable worry about his history of knee injuries coming out of Georgia.

These fears weren’t unmerited. He had fluid drained from his knee before his first game, and he underwent a knee scope in the summer of 2019.

This is the third consecutive offseason where he may not play all of training camp due to a medical issue, and the first time it isn’t his knee. On the bright side, he’s only ever missed three games due to the injury bug, and this surgery doesn’t look to risk any more.

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Veteran Patrick Chung agrees to two-year extension

The New England Patriots have agreed to a two-year extension with longtime safety Patrick Chung that will have him under contract in Foxborough through the 2023 season, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

Chung gets $3 million to sign, per Yates, and is now due up to $12.8 million over the next four years.  Chung was already signed through the 2021 season after inking a one-year extension with the team last offseason, but the club did have an out to his contract this offseason where they could have cleared nearly $2 million off their books for 2020.

This deal for New England could kill two birds with one stone as it could potentially free up enough space to sign rookie safety and 2020 second-round pick Kyle Dugger to his rookie contract along with ensuring that the veteran Chung, who’ll be 33 years old by the start of the regular season, will be under Patriots control likely for the rest of his career. 

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Chung has been one of the more reliable and underrated pieces to the Patriots defense, a unit that was the best in the NFL in 2019 by nearly every meaningful measure.

In 13 regular season matches played, he totaled 51 tackles and three passes defended. 

The safety was originally drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Oregon and has spent the large majority of his career in New England (minus a one-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013).

During this second stint with the Patriots, Chung has really come into his own as Bill Belichick and company have put him in a far better position for success, moving him to the strong/box safety role. 

Chung will be 36 years old by the time this contract is up and has dealt with a number of injuries throughout the course of his career, so it’s uncertain if he’ll actually play to the end of this contract. In fact, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Wednesday that the safety considered retirement before re-upping with the Patriots.

The team did seem to find a potential heir to Chung at the 2020 draft, however, in Dugger, who could be groomed over that time to rise through the ranks in the secondary. 

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Monti Ossenfort leaving Patriots to join Titans as Director of player personnel

Former New England Patriots director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort is joining the Tennessee Titans as their director of player personnel, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson worked with Ossenfort for eight years in New England. Now they’ll join forces in their quest to bring a championship to Tennessee.

The news was first reported by Sports Illustrated.

Hiring Ossenfort is one of many Patriots-to-Titans moves since Robinson took over, which began with hiring former Patriots player Mike Vrabel to be head coach. Vrabel played for the Patriots when Ossenfort joined the organization as a personnel assistant in 2003.

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Ossenfort recently interviewed for the Cleveland Browns’ GM job, which went to Andrew Berry.

The Patriots blocked Ossenfort from interviewing for the Houston Texans’ GM job last year.

Ossenfort just concluded his 18th season in the NFL and 15th with the Patriots. He spent the past six years as director of college scouting, and has been on other teams’ radar for general manager jobs.

Ossenfort’s contract with the Patriots was set to expire after the draft, and with no opportunities for upward mobility in New England, where director of player personnel Nick Caserio is entrenched as Bill Belichick’s top personnel executive, his best opportunity for advancement was to look elsewhere.

Ossenfort has a strong connection with Robinson, who worked for the Patriots from 2002 to 2013, elevating from area scout to director of college scouting.

Ossenfort was a four-year letterman and two-year starter at quarterback for the University of Minnesota-Morris, graduating from the school in 2000. His first NFL encounter came as a training camp intern with the Minnesota Vikings in 2001.

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Tom Brady will not try to lure Rob Gronkowski out of retirement

If former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski desires to remain retired, veteran quarterback Tom Brady isn’t going to try to convince him otherwise.

Appearing on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” on Monday morning, Brady said that he’s happy for Gronk and his post-retirement life, adding that he has no proposals to lure the tight end back to Foxborough.

“I love that guy. I’m so happy that he’s enjoying his time, his life. He seems to really be doing a lot of great things. He knows how I feel about him. I want what’s best for him. He’s the only person that can make those decisions. I don’t lobby for those things,” Brady said matter-of-factly.

“I have a great relationship with him. He’s given a hell of a lot to our team already over a long period of time, and I think people should be very appreciative for what he’s brought to the team and what he’s brought to the region. I think he’s just a very special guy. He’s at a different phase of his life.”

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Brady’s attitude is in stark contrast to that of team owner Robert Kraft, who said prior to a Thursday night game against the New York Giants that Gronk has yet to officially file his retirement paperwork and that he’s still “hoping” and “praying” for a return.

Gronk himself has not closed the door on a future return, but for right now, he’s living the good life, getting healthy and finding a bevy of post-playing career opportunities.

On Thursday night, Brady moved past Peyton Manning into second place on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list, an accomplishment that coach Bill Belichick recognized in the locker room after the game. The gesture caught Brady by surprise.

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Patriots, Chiefs still unbeaten in NFL week 4

Reigning Super Bowl champion New England and the Kansas City Chiefs managed narrow road triumphs in battles between NFL unbeatens on Sunday to remain perfect through four games this season.

Tom Brady threw for only 150 yards but New England intercepted four passes, two by J.C. Jackson, and Matthew Slater returned a blocked punt 11 yards for a touchdown in a 16-10 Patriots victory at Buffalo.

“To go on the road and beat a team that’s 3-0 is pretty good,” Brady said.

“We can certainly play better than we did. We’ve got to get in the red area (at or inside the opponent’s 20-yard line). We missed some opportunities there. We’ll go out and try and do a better job next week.”

Patrick Mahomes drove the Chiefs 79 yards in 13 plays and Darrel Williams made his second 1-yard touchdown run of the fourth quarter with 20 seconds remaining to give Kansas City a 34-30 triumph at Detroit.

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Mahomes completed 24-of-42 passes for 315 yards but went without a touchdown pass for only the fourth time in his career while Detroit’s Matthew Stafford completed 21-of-34 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in a losing cause.

“They found a way to take away some of the stuff we like to do,” Mahomes said. “They hadn’t lost a game for a reason.”

The Chiefs and Patriots became the first NFL teams to reach 4-0 while the Bills fell to 3-1 and Detroit slid to 2-1-1.

Also falling from the unbeaten ranks were the Los Angeles Rams, who lost to visiting Tampa Bay 55-40, and the Dallas Cowboys, who lost 12-10 at New Orleans. Jameis Winston completed 28-of-41 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns for the Buccaneers in the victory while the Rams’ Jared Goff hit 45-of-68 throws for 517 yards and two touchdowns with three costly interceptions in the loss.

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Brady, limited in practice again, says age a factor

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been limited in three of the last four drills and cited his age as part of the reason why.

“Football is a contact sport. I wouldn’t” I say I’m a spring chicken anymore, 42-year-old Brady said with a smile Wednesday. “I’m just trying to feel as good as I can and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. But I’m feeling pretty good.”

There is little doubt that Brady will play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in a highly anticipated matchup of 3-0 teams. But his limited practice load seems to be part of “roster management” head coach Bill Belichick, who is referred to the team signing free-agent quarterback Cody Kessler on Wednesday.

With Brady limited to practice twice last week, the only other quarterback on the watch list was rookie Jarrett Stidham. Having Stidham handle the regular offense, besides the scout team, was a heavy burden.

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Brady was one of 10 restricted players in practice Wednesday

A group that included receiver Julian Edelman, who injured his ribs in Sunday’s win over the New York Jets. X-rays were negative, but Edelman seems to be dealing with remarkable pain after being landed by 300-pound defensive lineman Henry Anderson.

“He’s as tough as they come,” Brady said. “He’s going to do everything he can to get ready to go. When he’s not out, it definitely becomes apparent to all of us. Hopefully he can do it. If he can’t, the other guys have to fill in and do the best job they can do. You just have to prepare for both. “

Sunday’s game features the NFL’s two most difficult teams, as the Patriots have allowed an average of 5.7 points per game in wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins and Jets, which is a combined 0-9.

The Bills have allowed an average of 15.7 points per game in wins over the Jets, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals, which is a combined 1-8.

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Patriots lose key cog in offense, put Develin on IR and bring Johnson as replacement

The New England Patriots, who are one of the few teams in the NFL that still features the fullback position, sustained a blow to their offense Monday when James Develin was placed on injured reserve.

Develin, who was the AFC’s fullback in the 2017 Pro Bowl, had suffered a neck injury in the team’s Week 2 victory over Miami.

Teams can bring up to two players back from injured reserve during the season, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot/toe) and wide receiver N’Keal Harry (leg) seem to be the Patriots’ top candidates, barring any setbacks. If that is the way it turns out, it would mean Develin’s season is over.

Develin’s work as a lead blocker was instrumental in the offense morphing into a power rushing attack late last season, a switch that helped spark the team to a Super Bowl LIII victory. Captain Matthew Slater said late Monday that Develin is as good of a teammate as he has had in 12 NFL seasons.

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Slater also praised Johnson, his replacement, for his work ethic after initially joining the Patriots on April 8 as part of the NFL’s International Pathway program.

Johnson was born in Stuttgart, Germany, played college football at Tennessee, and spent 2018 with the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League.

When Johnson was assigned to the Patriots on April 8, he faced long odds to stick around.

“He was not on our radar. I don’t think we would have ever signed him,” coach Bill Belichick acknowledged on Monday, adding that a recommendation by former Tennessee coach Butch Jones gave him some assurance that Johnson would be a hard worker. “I would say he definitely started out as the 91st person on the roster and had a long, long, long way to go. Back in the spring, I don’t think anybody ever envisioned him being on the roster at that point, or even being on the practice squad, to tell you the truth.

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