FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. What is Gene and Tom Golsen, with the 1926 Louisville Colonels?
If you guessed the answer for that question is the last and only time the Pro Football Hall of Fame has record of twin brothers playing regular-season games on the same professional football team, take a bow. It also means Patriots defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty have a chance to do something in 2018 that hasn't been done in 92 years.
That’s one of the fun storylines as a result of the Patriots' acquiring cornerback Jason McCourty -- who is expected to compete for a starting role opposite of Stephon Gilmore -- in a trade Thursday. Tom Golsen played in one game for the Cardinals in that ’26 season, while Gene played in three.
Jacob played 15 regular-season games last season as an undrafted free agent out of Wyoming and shows promise as a developmental tight end/special-teamer, while Cody spent 2017 on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas and hopes to carve out a niche as a reserve receiver/core special-teamer.
2. When newly signed defensive end Adrian Clayborn was with the Falcons over the past three seasons, he played mostly on the right side, which traces to how he suffered from Erb’s palsy at birth (he had lost some movement and had some weakness in his right arm). That Clayborn has overcome that to have a productive college and pro career has been inspiring to many, and was one thing that stood out to me when communicating with those who have coached Clayborn. “Tough-minded competitor, resilient, quiet in the locker room but a respected teammate,” one said. The Falcons drafted Takk McKinley in the first round last year, which made Clayborn expendable in Atlanta.
3. Saturday’s news that longtime Patriots special-teams captain Matthew Slater visited the Steelers (reported by ESPN’s Field Yates) was surprising, as it is hard to imagine the inspirational and spiritual leader playing elsewhere (it was his first career free-agent visit). The Steelers’ history has generally been to eye core special-teamers who can play defense, and while Slater wouldn’t fit that complete profile, his excellence on special teams might be worthy of them altering course a bit. The Steelers aren’t flush with cap space (about $6 million), but at the same time, my understanding is that the Patriots -- who signed core special-teamer Nate Ebner to a deal that averages $2.5 million per season -- haven’t bowled Slater over with their contract offer. That’s what presumably sparked Slater’s visit to Pittsburgh.
4. Free-agent Patriots offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle was at Gillette Stadium on Friday, which is one indication that coach Bill Belichick still has an interest in his return. A visit like that usually means a few things: A deal might not be far off, and/or the club wanted to give him a physical so it has updated information as it works through the negotiating process. If Waddle is back with the Patriots in 2018, he’ll add another layer on the depth chart to arguably the biggest question facing the team: Who replaces Nate Solder as the starting left tackle?
5a. Matt Tobin (heading into his sixth NFL season) and Cole Croston (second) are two candidates on the current roster to replace Solder at left tackle, and they arrived in the NFL in identical fashion: Both are from Iowa, both walked on at the University of Iowa and both surprised to earn NFL roster spots as undrafted free agents. Last year, Patriots practice-squad center James Ferentz, who also played at Iowa, told me Croston reminded him of Tobin.
5b. Look for offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, who has been a valuable backup for the Patriots since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Stanford, to show up on the NFL free-agent radar this week. The Patriots would like Fleming back, but a market involving other teams should soon be developing for him.
6. Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores’ profile figures to grow in 2018 as he leads the defense (but without the official coordinator title), and Friday, guests at the Hockomock YMCA annual campaign breakfast at Gillette Stadium had a chance to hear him speak. Flores shared his personal connection with the YMCA (it was the first place he learned to lift weights) and how he has never seen his brother Christopher, who is autistic, happier than when he is participating in the YMCA’s Integration Initiative program. As Flores concluded his remarks, he shared an embrace with his brother, which was one of the highlights for the 700 folks in attendance.
7. Running back Danny Woodhead's retirement announcement sparked memories of how he first landed in New England in 2010, and the factors that led to his pro career truly taking off. Woodhead had been released by the Jets on Sept. 14, and after the Patriots had traded running back Laurence Maroney to the Broncos, they figured they’d fill the open roster spot with Woodhead. So they signed him Sept. 18, which was one day before a Sept. 19 game at the Jets, and many assumed it was just Belichick taking the opportunity to tweak the Jets. But Woodhead didn’t even travel with the team to the game, and when Patriots running back Kevin Faulk tore his ACL against the Jets, the Patriots’ need for Woodhead grew that much more. Woodhead’s career blossomed from there.
8. From the light-hearted department: Jason McCourty might have to get used to a new jersey number in New England, as the No. 30 he donned in Tennessee and Cleveland is taken (Duron Harmon), as is the No. 25 he wore at Rutgers (Eric Rowe). The best guess? No. 33, so he can say that he one-upped his twin brother Devin (32) once again. Then again, Twitter follower Alex Silvia had a good suggestion of No. 27, since Devin was born 27 minutes before Jason.
9. Whether it’s former players, current players or those in personnel departments, the one theme that kept coming to the forefront in free agency was how historically rich many of the contracts were. To illustrate that point, ESPN’s Stats & Information notes that there were six free agents who signed deals worth at least $30 million in guarantees, which is the most in a single offseason under the current collective bargaining agreement (since 2011). Two of the six, Solder and cornerback Malcolm Butler, were former Patriots.
10. How the Patriots ultimately rate this year’s quarterback class in the draft -- and if they select one of them -- is one of the intriguing storylines to follow over the next two months. Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, whom Senior Bowl director Phil Savage previously said could possibly draw some comparisons to Jimmy Garoppolo, went through his pro day Tuesday. The Patriots had scout Patrick Stewart on hand to keep a close eye on things. That’s standard operating procedure, and soon enough, one would expect offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels to be making the rounds for private workouts with quarterbacks who could be under consideration by the team. Toledo’s Logan Woodside is set for his pro day Monday.