Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:
1. Patriots guard Dan Connolly turns 33 in September, is scheduled for free agency on Tuesday and could have gone out on top with a Super Bowl victory if he decided to retire this offseason. But Connolly’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, told me late last week that Connolly is “definitely playing” in 2015. Based on Connolly’s work at left guard last season and his leadership role as a captain, he’s still an important cog to the team’s offensive line and locker room. He should be a priority to re-sign.
2. When it comes to Darrelle Revis’ future with the Patriots, one thing that has stood out to me in recent days is that Revis is a shrewd businessman who is masterful at keeping his cards close to the vest so as not to concede leverage. That it could come down to the rival Patriots and Jets bidding against each other for Revis reflects his smarts. In turn, you have the Patriots, who are widely viewed as one of the NFL’s best-run franchises in part because they play the leverage game as well as anyone. In that sense, this is a heavyweight bout when it comes to matching negotiating wits and that’s why it was no surprise that Pro Football Talk reported late Friday that the sides had yet to discuss a contract extension (a negotiating strategy also touched on in our weekly chat). The Revis-Patriots dynamic is intriguing on many levels.
3. I wonder how much the influence of Revis’ uncle, Sean Gilbert, will be part of Revis’ mindset with his next contract. Gilbert is one of eight candidates on the final ballot to become the NFL Players Association’s next director and he was known for his hardline approach as a player, once sitting out a season in a contract dispute. Revis had a rewarding experience in New England in 2014, but if he’s hypothetically weighing a Patriots offer that is slightly less than a Jets offer, would Gilbert – whom Revis has called one of his most important role models -- have any sway on his decision to take top dollar?
4. If we look at Revis’ history in contract negotiations when he’s had leverage, he’s fully capitalized on it from a financial perspective. So you put that history on one side and weigh it against the possibility of him not taking top dollar in favor of the best chance to win another Super Bowl in New England, and it’s going to be fascinating to ultimately learn what drives his decision. I think back to when Revis was asked leading into the Super Bowl what he felt about Richard Sherman calling himself the best cornerback of the game, and Revis’ response was essentially, “Who cares?” It was an acknowledgment of sorts that he no longer cared about such chatter. Spinning it forward, I’ve been wondering if “who cares” extends, in any form, to Revis’ thoughts about record-breaking contracts at this point of his career. From a pure business perspective, one can’t quibble with whatever his decision ultimately is; he’s smartly put himself in this spot.
5. Did You Know, Part I: With the Patriots assigning the franchise tag to kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it marked the seventh straight year a team has used the tag on a kicker or punter.
6. Did You Know, Part II: Revis was selected an Associated Press first-team All-Pro in 2014 for the fourth time. The only defensive backs with more selections since the NFL merger are Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott, Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson.
7. The Patriots have to be in compliance with the salary cap by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET and I’m curious to see what happens, if anything, with receiver Danny Amendola’s contract. He’s scheduled to earn $4 million in 2015 and count $5.7 million against the cap, and one wonders if management deems that too rich for a slot receiver who played 41.6 percent of the snaps in 2014. Wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots approach Amendola about a possible adjustment there.
8. The Dolphins’ reported plans to make an aggressive pitch for free-agent defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh makes sense, starting with the idea that to win the AFC East, you have to find a way to slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots. Suh’s presence in the middle, where he often commands the attention of multiple blockers, would be the most impactful signing to help a defense do that. Patriots followers certainly remember past games against the Lions, even in the preseason, when Suh was a terror to Brady. So if you’re the Dolphins, it’s going to cost a fortune, but why not take your shot?
9. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Texans express interest in veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, as they have a need at the position and several coaches on staff familiar with him from their time with the Patriots (Bill O’Brien, Romeo Crennel, Mike Vrabel, Anthony Pleasant). But I’m also interested to see if the Jets are in the mix based on Wilfork’s strong ties with first-year Jets defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and their search for more depth up front. Wilfork in Jets green-and-white, coupled with Revis, would be a tough Patriots pill to swallow. The hypothetical reminds me, in part, of longtime Patriots fan favorite Troy Brown taking a visit to the Jets toward the end of his career. (He didn’t sign with them.)
10. Safety Devin McCourty hits the open market with a few notable things going for him. His 17 interceptions since entering the NFL in 2010 are tied for fourth among active players over that span; he’s played 91 percent of the Patriots' snaps from 2010-2014, with only Tom Brady playing more; and he and Charles Woodson are the only players in the last five seasons with at least five interceptions when lined up as a safety and as a cornerback. I think the Patriots would like him back, but an educated guess is that if the bidding goes much higher than $8 million per season, the Patriots would be reluctant to match it.