Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien filled out his coaching staff at Penn State and there are no assistants with Patriots ties. I view it as a sign of respect for Bill Belichick.
2. Teams can start placing franchise tags on players tomorrow and as is usually the case, expect to hear some tagged players voice their displeasure. I was surprised the NFL Players Association didn’t push harder to eliminate the tags in last year’s negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.
3. Colts owner Jim Irsay put the ball in Peyton Manning’s court by saying publicly that the team would welcome him back as long as he was willing to accept a contract that reflected the uncertainty of his situation. I agree with Irsay’s line of thinking, especially after Manning earned a full season of pay despite not playing in 2011, but I thought going public was in bad taste.
4. If Titans safety Michael Griffin hits the open market, he’s the type of player I’d think would be near the top of the Patriots’ wish list. Durable, flexible and entering his sixth NFL season, he plays a position where the Patriots should be seeking help. Add in that safety isn’t considered a deep position in the draft, and it makes sense that the Patriots would target it aggressively in free agency.
5. Looking forward to a return trip to Indianapolis this week for the NFL combine (and hopefully at least one lunch at Shapiro’s, which ranks No. 1 on my "deli" prospects list). Media interviews begin Thursday. Here is a snapshot look at the schedule.
6. Arkansas receiver Joe Adams is a player I have circled in hopes of learning more about him at the NFL combine. The Patriots could use a speedy game-breaker on offense and in the kickoff return game, and Adams’ skill set qualifies. At some point this offseason, the Patriots figure to address their kickoff return struggles from last season (29th in the NFL in average yards per return).
7. The Steelers are viewed as a model organization, and understandably so. They do a lot of things right. But when it comes to their management of the salary cap this year, they’re currently in a tight spot.
8. With tight ends coach Brian Ferentz leaving the Patriots to join his father’s staff at the University of Iowa, perhaps this is the well-deserved opportunity for Brian Flores, the former Boston College linebacker, to land a promotion in the Patriots' coaching ranks. Flores has put in the time.
9. In the span of 24 hours over the last week, two phone calls came in from fellow reporters seeking context on the Patriots’ recent draft history. One was considering making a case that the Patriots’ style of accumulating picks was the right way to go. The other noted that his research showed the Patriots had more missed picks than most teams in recent years. The contrast summed up my view of the Patriots’ draft work over the last five years – nice maneuvering around the draft board to create opportunities, but the actual-pick execution has been inconsistent.
10. When it comes to Julian Edelman's future position with the Patriots, I thought the Super Bowl clinched it. Edelman didn't play a defensive snap. I think that puts him back in the offensive huddle on more of a full-time basis at the start of 2012.