FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Whenever Bill Belichick visits the Naval Academy, it creates a buzz on campus because of his long connection there dating back to his late father Steve. Belichick was back on campus Thursday, dressed in a business suit as he took a closer look at quarterback/running back/receiver Keenan Reynolds as Reynolds was put through a private workout with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Patriots have invested a lot of resources in evaluating Reynolds, which have included prior visits from Belichick and assistant coaches Brian Daboll and Ray Ventrone. It’s hard to imagine there’s been another team with that level of attention on Reynolds, and we know the special feeling that Belichick has with players from the Naval Academy. What I'm wondering is how early the Patriots, who selected Navy long snapper Joe Cardona in the 2015 fifth round, would consider selecting Reynolds because they currently don't have fourth- and fifth-round picks.
2. The Patriots would obviously rather have their first-round pick (No. 29) than it be stripped by the NFL, but one personnel official who plays a significant role in setting his team’s draft board relayed that the caliber of player New England would likely be selecting at 29 is not much different than where they have their first two picks -- No. 60 and 61. “I don’t think they’re losing much at that point,” the front-office staffer said, adding, “There is a reason there are top guys and then once you get to 20-32, there are more holes in these guys.” One scenario that could hurt the Patriots is if a top-20 caliber prospect unexpectedly slips (e.g. Vince Wilfork in 2004) the No. 29 area and they are not in position to capitalize.
3a. With longtime Jets starting left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson deciding to retire after 10 seasons in which he played 10,707 of a possible 10,708 regular-season snaps (the one play he wasn’t on the field was a gadget play with no offensive linemen), it’s safe to say the Jets got what they hoped when they selected him No. 4 overall in the 2006 draft. I asked Eric Mangini, who was in his first year as Jets coach that year, what he saw in Ferguson (out of the University of Virginia) at the time to make him the pick: “Brick was extremely athletic and had the type of build where he could get bigger and stronger without losing that. He had really good intangibles which would help him achieve his potential and limit off-the-field issues. The thought process was he could play right away and be the starting left tackle for a long time.” They nailed that one.
3b. In a year that longtime Patriots left tackle Matt Light is eligible for the team’s Hall of Fame for the first time, I think the Light-to-Ferguson comparison is a good one from a New England perspective. Both might not have been All-Pros, but their teams relied on them at a critical position for a decade and seldom had to worry about it.
4. The Patriots Hall of Fame committee met last Wednesday to narrow down a deserving list of candidates to three. The results of that voting will be announced Thursday, and then there will be a fan vote on Patriots.com over the following month. The most passionate and polarizing discussion was on head coach Bill Parcells (1993-1996), who has been a three-time finalist but has had bad timing in those years because he was up against Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown and Ty Law, three players he played a big role in drafting. Two other players selected during his tenure -- Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest -- were the other recent inductees. Some believe Parcells should never be inducted because of the way he left the franchise. I’m more forgiving. I support Parcells’ candidacy, as well as the late Chuck Fairbanks, but don’t expect either to be finalists this year.
5. Second-year Patriots cornerback Darryl Roberts, who had made an early impression in 2015 offseason camps/training camp with his ball skills before dislocating his wrist in the preseason opener and landing on season-ending injured reserve, has a clean bill of health. In fact, he was healthy by the final quarter of the season. A seventh-round draft choice out of Marshall last year, the 6-foot, 190-pound Roberts earned the nickname “Swagg” from his college teammates because of his confidence and should hit the ground running with his teammates when they report for the start of the offseason program April 18. He’s the type of player that can fly under the radar at this time, but if he picks up where he left off in 2015, he could help the Patriots at a hard-to-fill position.
6. In 15 drafts with the Patriots, Belichick has only selected in the top 10 twice and the top 20 just four times. Three of those picks -- defensive end Ty Warren at No. 13 in 2003, linebacker Jerod Mayo at No. 10 in 2008, and offensive tackle Nate Solder at No. 17 in 2011 -- were acquired in trades. That’s a good stat to pair with Belichick’s remarks last week about the Patriots trying to be an “outlier” in terms of talent acquisition.
7. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton's contract with the Patriots is different from the norm in that he will count $2.018 million against the salary cap, and the base cash value of the deal is $1.75 million. Those are the key facts from a team perspective. Knighton has the possibility to earn an additional $2.5 million in playing-time and Pro Bowl incentives, the bulk of which figure to be difficult to achieve based on the way the Patriots rotate their defensive tackle personnel. It isn’t often that a contract has a higher total of incentives than the total base value of the pact, and this is an example of where looking at the details of the contract is more important than its maximum value.
8. The Bears held joint practices with the Colts last year and they were called a success by head coach John Fox. I’m told that the Patriots and Bears have already had preliminary discussion about the possibility of doing the same thing in New England before the teams meet in their second preseason game.
9a. Did You Know, Part I: The Patriots currently have 77 players under contract for 2016 which, according to the NFL Players Association, is tied for third most of any team in the league behind the Chiefs (79) and Dolphins (78). The Broncos, prior to the Ryan Clady trade, were the league low at 61. The league average right now is 70.1.
9b. Did You Know, Part II: As noted by Miguel Benzan of Patscap.com, the Patriots have 38 players with a salary cap charge of $1 million of more, which reflects how Belichick attempts to build depth.
10. Spending some time with Patriots safety Devin McCourty at a community event Friday, he relayed that he once again plans to train in Arizona in the weeks leading up to training camp, which has become a part of his recent routine with the likes of Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan and Tavon Wilson. The work is with athletic trainer/coach Will Sullivan and McCourty -- who is getting married later in the offseason -- feels it has prepped him well for the grind of training camp and regular season.