7 top Pats items at owners meetings
March, 24, 2010
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
ORLANDO -- Wrapping up the NFL owners meetings with the top seven items that were learned from a Patriots perspective:
1. Bill Belichick's workload won't increase. Although he is not naming offensive and defensive coordinators, and he will be leading the defensive meeting room, Belichick said his overall workload will not increase. It will just be redistributed. "That's the way it's been in the past. My workload hasn't changed in the last 10 years," he said.
2. Mankins upset with contract status. Frank Bauer, the agent for offensive lineman Logan Mankins, revealed that Mankins is upset with his contract situation and won't return to Gillette Stadium until there is movement in talks. Mankins feels like he's done everything asked of him, and he believed that the Patriots would be coming to him with a proposal at the start of free agency. That hasn't happened, so he's stayed away.
3. Patriots supported overtime change. Although Bill Belichick is not in favor of the traditional sudden-death overtime rules, or the new modified overtime format for the playoffs, the Patriots still voted in favor of the playoff proposal. Belichick prefers a timed overtime period, but that isn't on the table for a vote. Owner Robert Kraft believes the modified sudden-death proposal responds to what he hears from fans about the NFL product.
4. Team-building approach has a heavy emphasis on chemistry. Kraft was decisive when speaking on what he felt was a primary downfall for the 2009 Patriots -- chemistry. He said that factored into the team's approach this offseason. “I think the chemistry, the locker room, a lot of games are won and lost before you hit the field,” he said. “To come out and start a game like the way we played, a playoff game at our stadium, that should never happen. It was really one of the frustrating moments I’ve had since owning the franchise."
5. Tom Brady's contract shouldn't be a major issue. Kraft directly addressed questions about Brady's future with the club, speaking in a way that figures to assure the team's fans. Brady enters the final year of his contract for the first time in his Patriots career and Kraft said: “Let’s put it like this: Tom Brady is going to be part of this franchise. He wants to be, we want him."
6. Free-agent strategy revealed. The Patriots' focus on retaining their own free agents was explained by Belichick, who said: "Some of the best players in free agency this year were Patriots. We re-signed a number of them, and a couple we didn't. The players that we did re-sign are quality players, and I'm glad we have them. That's been something that has really occurred over the last six months, when you include [players who previously signed extensions]. It's not any one guy. It's a group of guys."
7. League-high four compensatory draft choices awarded. The team picked up four compensatory draft choices -- one in the sixth round and three in the seventh -- to give them a total of 12 selections in April's draft (7 of the picks are in the final two rounds). Given the Patriots' success with late-round picks (e.g. Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, David Givens), the compensatory selections shouldn't be overlooked. This year's seventh-rounders give the team a chance to select players they might have targeted as rookie free agents, without facing competition for them.
EXTRA POINT: The plan here is to throw a little change-up into the mix, as I'm headed to Boston Red Sox spring training over the next four days. I'll be contributing to our Sox coverage here on ESPNBoston.com, hopefully giving colleague Gordon Edes a much-deserved breather. We'll still have some of the key Patriots news covered here. For example, Chris Forsberg will be at Jerod Mayo's charity event Thursday night. I will check the baseball schedule to see how it might impact the time of Thursday's weekly Patriots chat and report back in the morning.