Quick-hit thoughts around NFL and Pats

March, 24, 2013
3/24/13
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[+] EnlargeLeon Washington
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonThe bulk of RB Leon Washington's value seems to be in the return game, but it will be interesting to see how much he's incorporated on offense.
Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. The Seahawks used running back Leon Washington sparingly on offense in his three seasons with the club, with Washington playing 372 total snaps from 2010-12. His 73 offensive snaps last season were a career-low. For perspective, Danny Woodhead played 423 offensive snaps last season. It's possible the Patriots see something the Seahawks don't, but if I had to guess, the New England coaching staff probably views Washington as the club's primary kickoff returner and more of an emergency option/niche player on offense.

2. It's easy to say after Danny Woodhead signed a two-year deal with the Chargers that the Patriots feel comfortable with their other options at the position -- specifically Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington and Jeff Demps -- but I don't think it's that black and white. The Patriots were in discussions to bring Woodhead back, which tells me this was a case where the economics drove the decision and the price tag (2 years, $3.5 million, $1 million signing bonus, with salary cap charges of $1.25 million in 2013 and $2.25 million in 2014) was deemed too rich. I'm surprised at that, especially with Ridley and Vereen having two years left on their modest rookie contracts and Demps' standing with the club a bit unclear as he plans to run for USA Track & Field this offseason. I'd agree that Vereen has greater upside than Woodhead, but given the price tag, it seemed reasonable enough to keep both at a position where depth is critical.

3. After the Bills didn't get bang for the buck with former Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson last season ($6 million signing bonus, $1.9 million base salary in 2012), I was curious about Anderson's future with the club. The answer: Anderson is expected back with the Bills this season, in which he's scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.4 million, and the club is anxious to see how a fully healthy Anderson looks after undergoing knee surgery in 2012 and being limited to five games. With Anderson's salaries spiking to $3.9 million in 2014 and $4.9 million in 2015, it's hard to imagine him seeing that money unless he delivers a big year in 2013.

4. There has been no buyer's remorse for the Bengals when it comes to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who inked a three-year, $9 million contract in 2012. "Benny did everything we expected of him, both on the field and off the field," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said last week at the NFL's annual meeting. "I think he was an uplifting guy to the rest of the team and a great role model for the younger players, just how he goes about his business." The way things turned out for the Patriots, with Stevan Ridley emerging at running back, it's understandable why the Patriots didn't extend financially for Green-Ellis last year. At the same time, count Green-Ellis in the category of players who go on to produce bigger results after their time with the Patriots. It's not a very lengthy list.

[+] EnlargeBenJarvus Green-Ellis
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsBenJarvus Green-Ellis is the rare former Patriot to put up big numbers after leaving New England.
5. I liked the reminder that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin served up last week when asked about his club's free-agent losses, specifically with deep-threat receiver Mike Wallace's defection to the Dolphins. Tomlin pointed out that he was getting the same question in 2010 when the Steelers moved on from Santonio Holmes, and Wallace, who had started just four games as a rookie in 2009, ultimately filled the void as a full-time, high-impact starter when given the opportunity. "That's March talk. I am not going to try to combat March talk," Tomlin said. "I will see you at stadiums in the fall."

6. I'm assuming that the foot injury that landed Patriots receiver/punt returner Julian Edelman on season-ending injured reserve in December is the reason he remains a free agent. He's too dynamic of a threat on punt returns to be unsigned at this point. While I believe he is still in the mix to return to the Patriots, I also wouldn't be surprised if there is some competition from others to sign him.

7a. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck quickly inked a solid two-year deal from the Colts last week, with initial reports pegging the deal with a total value of $8 million, which represents a significant insurance policy. This falls in line with Matt Moore's deal with the Dolphins and reflects the high end of the No. 2 quarterback market (for a comparison, New England's Ryan Mallett is scheduled to earn $642,984 in 2013). I thought it was an interesting choice for Hasselbeck given that he will obviously be the clear-cut No. 2 behind Andrew Luck, when there potentially could have been other situations that offered a stronger chance of competing for time.

7b. One leftover quarterback note: The Patriots signed former Northwestern signal-caller Mike Kafka this offseason, and Bill Belichick revealed last week at the NFL's annual meeting that the club almost brought Kafka aboard during the 2012 season but elected to stay with just two quarterbacks because of other roster considerations. Kafka was a 2010 fourth-round draft choice of the Eagles.

7c. Interesting comparison made by Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who said that quarterback Drew Stanton (his presumed starter at this point) reminded him of former Browns backup Kelly Holcomb. Arians, who from 2001-03 was an assistant in Cleveland, said Holcomb always seemed to play well when called upon. "Those are the guys you hang your hat on as a coach," Arians said.

8. It was a case of one former Patriots tight end (Benjamin Watson) replacing a different former Patriots tight end (David Thomas) with the Saints. For Watson, who inked a three-year contract with modest base salaries of $950,000 in 2013, $1 million in 2014 and $1.2 million in 2015, it looks like a great fit to pair up with Jimmy Graham, be part of a high-powered attack and also have a chance to compete for a championship. Watson cashed in with a big free-agent deal with the Browns in 2010, and while the experience was a positive one for him and his family, he was part of teams that were a combined 14-34. It's hard to imagine the Saints matching those numbers over the next three years.

9. The Patriots' voluntary offseason program begins April 15, and just to give a feel as to how condensed the offseason has become compared to recent years, the expectation is that most everything will be wrapped up around June 12 with the conclusion of their mandatory minicamp. As is usually the case, there will be a series of organized team activities leading up to the mandatory minicamp, and the Patriots traditionally receive excellent participation for the voluntary sessions.

10. With the Dolphins losing starting left tackle Jake Long in free agency, 2012 second-round draft choice Jonathan Martin (Stanford) is the leading candidate to fill the void. But there's another possibility in the mix, and hard-core Patriots fans will remember the name – Will Yeatman. The former Maryland tight end had a solid training camp with the Patriots in 2011, outperforming fifth-round draft choice Lee Smith, and it was a surprise to some that he was waived at the final cutdown. The Dolphins claimed him and later officially switched his position from tight end to offensive tackle. Yeatman has since reportedly bulked up to 305 pounds and word out of South Florida is that his combination of athleticism and size has caught the eyes of the coaching staff.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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