New England Patriots: Pick Six


With so much going on in New England with the Patriots kicking off mandatory mini-camp with all things Tim Tebow, a review of all the news with analysis is necessary. The Patriots Pick Six will succinctly address six key points in a quick-hit style.

Jun 11, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; The media surround New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow following Minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

1. With all the Tebow-mania and hysteria over the past 24 hours with the signing of controversial quarterback Tim Tebow by the New England Patriots, two important questions that come to  mind are “Does he have practice squad eligibility?” and “Is there any guaranteed money (salary cap hit) with his contract?”

Unfortunately, based upon games played and time on active roster per the NFL rules, the Patriots do not have the option of stashing quarterback Tim Tebow on the practice squad. This is unfortunate for the Patriots and Tebow, as that would be the best spot for him at this time.  The Patriots would have to carry him on the 53 man roster in order to keep him around and work with Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Reports from the Associated Press seen this morning indicate that the two-year deal Tebow inked with the Patriots is for the veteran’s minimum with incentives, but no bonus money.  In essence, he is a risk-free signing in terms of salary cap impact.  The Patriots can release him at any time and suffer no adverse effects to their cap.  The risk then, becomes the resultant media circus, but Tebow must be motivated to fall in line and limit self-promotion, and no one shuts down the locker room like coach Bill Belichick.

2. It was a good idea by the New England Patriots working out former Colts wide receiver Austin Collie. When he was healthy in Indianapolis, he put up excellent numbers and seemed to fit well with former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who demands intelligence and defense recognition just like quarterback Tom Brady in New England.  It costs nothing to sign a veteran at this time of the years and bring him in to compete. If he’s cut, no loss; at worst, the team has another slot receiver to add to their collection of Wes Welker clones.

Jan 13, 2013; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes (55) reacts during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

3. Linebacker Brandon Spikes arrived in Foxboro as the last member of the squad to report, as he sat out “Voluntary” OTAs.  Spikes has the right to skip any voluntary OTAs, and coach Bill Belichick has always been a supporter of Spikes.  The former Gator is likely to remain a starter this season, and the extra time in OTAs for reserve Dane Fletcher (returning from injury) is not all bad.  That said, it sends a big message when one player stands alone outside the team.  While the Patriots have had holdouts in the past, at least this situation seems less acrimonious.  Expect the Patriots to welcome Spikes back on the field where he brings energy and enthusiasm, but continue to wait until the off-season to decide what his price tag is to be in 2014 and where–if anywhere–he fits on the team in the future.

4. James Walker, the AFC East Blogger–had an interesting take on his site (click here) regarding the Patriots and Tim Tebow.  With the disclaimer that Walker lives in Miami but usually tries to be fair in his analysis of the other three teams in the AFC East, it seems puzzling that a team bringing in a third string quarterback counts as “desperation”.  Last March he seemed to think it was a good fit for Tebow in New York, so it seems odd that the Patriots, where there is less circus and more business, would be see Tebow as Walker puts it “an unexpected sign of desperation for a New England offense searching for answers.”  He later adds that “New England simply is not good enough to win a Super Bowl this year.”

Walker’s piece seems to veer onto the sensational side, as the Patriots are hardly replacing Tom Brady behind center with Tim Tebow in 2013.  The Patriots have overhauled their wide receiver corps, just as they have done in the past with moves that have worked (Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Dante Stallworth) and not worked (Doug Gabriel, Reche Caldwell, and Chad Jackson).  While it is far too early to state “This is yet another sign that New England’s run of Super Bowl appearances and NFL dominance is coming to an end”, as Walker did in the piece, it is definitely a transition season at wide receiver.

Sep 29, 2012; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Aaron Dobson (3) makes a one handed catch. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

5. What the Patriots have to do to maintain their NFL best offense is follow the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver transition plan: The Steelers turned over star trio Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward and Antwan Randle-El and over two years brought in Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown without missing a beat, and upgraded the passing game into arguably a younger, faster, and more explosive group for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Remember, in 2007 the Patriots were lambasted for bringing in the whining troublemaker (Randy Moss) and the no-name punt returner (Wes Welker) and ended up with an historic, record-shattering offense. While no one would say rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are going to have record-breaking seasons,  the team desperately needed an influx of youth, speed, and athleticism at the position. While the media has put down the signing of Danny Amendola and allowing Wes Welker to leave, until the regular season starts, no one knows what the Patriots are going to get out of their new group of receivers…and that’s what makes the new season so exciting.

6. One move lost in the Tim Tebow hoopla was the release of rookie free agent Dewayne Cherrington.  Cherrington was an undrafted free agent signing who played his college ball at Mississippi State.  Expected to compete for a last spot or practice squad role with fellow undrafted rookie defensive tackles Cory Grissom and Joe Vellano, Cherrington was the least likely to make the squad due to being very raw after having been a juco transfer at Mississippi State. Grissom is the most polished of the bunch, and was slowed due to injuries which caused his stock to drop.  Vellano, from Maryland, seems to be an undersized tackle (only 285 lbs) but known for his non-stop energy and enthusiasm, which translates well with coach Bill Belichick. Vellano has drawn comparison to former defensive lineman Mike Wright.

With Cherrington freeing up another spot on the 90 man roster, there could be a spot for another veteran defensive tackle to replace departed Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick behind starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.  Armond Armstead, formerly of the Canadian Football League via USC and last year’s surprise undrafted free agent Marcus Fortson seem to be in line as top backups, but a veteran could be brought in to push them or as injury insurance.  Remember, New England worked out veteran defensive tackles Spencer Ellis and Sedrick Ellis recently.