"We had a conversation that indicated that they were very interested in me. And I was also open to going there as well, but I really felt like after sitting here that this is the place that I felt would best fit me and they convinced me that I would fit in here very well."
Smith, one of the top competitors in the NFL, would have been a great fit in New England. It is easy to envision a potentially dynamic connection he would have had with quarterback Tom Brady.
But family considerations for Smith also made Baltimore a more ideal choice, as it's closer to Charlotte.
In some ways, this reminds me of the 2005 offseason when the Patriots were interested in free-agent receiver Derrick Mason, who like Smith was known for his competitiveness and toughness. But the Ravens, in part due to Mason's family considerations, trumped the Patriots that year as well.
If there is a silver lining for the Patriots, it's that the Ravens probably now will be out of the mix for free-agent receiver Julian Edelman, potentially clearing his path for a return to New England.
The one-year contract is worth $3.25 million, sources told ESPN. It could reach $3.5 million with incentives, according to a source.
The former New England Patriots linebacker tweeted of the deal:
- brandon spikes (@BrandonSpikes55) March 15, 2014
Spikes had 86 tackles and an interception last season, the former Florida player's fourth with the Patriots. He's rejoining former Pats linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, the Bills' new defensive line coach.
Spikes is regarded as a key addition for a defense that struggled against the run last season and is under transition with Jim Schwartz taking over as coordinator. Schwartz replaces Mike Pettine, who left Buffalo after one season to take over as Cleveland's head coach.
Adjusting with the times. When we think back to some of the cornerbacks the Patriots have targeted with early-round picks in the earlier years of Bill Belichick's tenure, they were smaller, quicker types. This was further expounded upon when Scott Pioli was serving as the team's vice president of player personnel and once noted the importance of reactive athleticism at the position, which explained why undersized players like 5-foot-9, 180-pound Terrence Wheatley (2008 second round) and 5-foot-10, 186-pound Darius Butler (2009 second round) were among the team's early-round picks. But the Patriots have been attempting to adjust with the times in recent years. With more and more bigger receivers in the NFL these days, the need for bigger corners has increased. The Browner signing reinforces that line of thinking.
Breaking down the rest of the depth chart. With Revis and Browner added to the depth chart, the team now is well-stocked at the position. Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington and Justin Green return from 2013, giving the team a promising outlook. With the Patriots playing 67 percent of their defensive snaps in sub defense last year, the third, fourth and sometimes fifth corners have added importance. Plus, Browner is suspended for the first four games of the regular season, which also must be factored into the thought process.
Answering the safety question. Some have asked if Browner might be a candidate to play safety, where the Patriots might be looking for reinforcements. The thought from here is that would eliminate one of his best assets -- the ability to get his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the rhythm of the passing game with physical play.
Dueling Peyton Manning. One final thought is that when the Patriots consider who they have to beat to make it through the AFC, the Denver Broncos are probably at the top of the list. We saw what Manning did to the injury-ravaged New England defense in the AFC Championship Game, and we wouldn't be surprised to learn that a small part of signing Browner was with this in mind. It's often hard to get to Manning with the pass rush (the Seahawks' performance in the Super Bowl is not easily duplicated), but another way to disrupt that lethal passing game is with phsyical play in the secondary. That's a big part of Browner's game.
Browner told ESPN's Josina Anderson of the agreement before confirming it on Twitter:
Today, I am proud to announce that I am a New England Patriot. I am honored that the Patriots are (cont) http://t.co/mJmk9yN7Jo
- Brandon Browner (@bbrowner27) March 14, 2014
The deal is for three years and carries a maximum value of $17 million, Browner told Anderson.
Browner, a 2011 Pro Bowler, is suspended for the first four games of the 2014 regular season after violating the league's substance-abuse policy. His suspension also included the last two games of the 2013 regular season and last season's playoffs. He will be allowed to attend training camp and play in exhibition games.
Browner also was suspended four games in 2012 for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
He's the second high-profile cornerback added to the fold for the Patriots, as the team agreed to terms on a two-year deal with Darrelle Revis on Wednesday night.
Browner, 29, played and started eight games for the Seahawks last season, recording 19 tackles and one interception.
Revis and Browner headline a cornerback group that no longer includes Aqib Talib
That question has been asked quite a bit since news broke Thursday that Wilfork has asked the Patriots to release him. It has been asked, in part, because it's highly unlikely that the 32-year-old Wilfork, who is coming off a torn Achilles, would receive that type of money elsewhere as a free-agent.
Now let's go a little deeper.
From this viewpoint, what makes this a compelling situation is that it puts two powerful forces in conflict -- legacy vs. principle.
Wilfork has been, by almost all accounts, a great Patriot. He traveled with the team last year despite being on season-ending injured reserve for the final 14 games, which is unprecedented in Bill Belichick's tenure, and his presence with the team was the subject of a "60 Minutes Sports" segment promoted by the club itself.
That's part of his legacy as one of the all-time great Patriots. He also has a Super Bowl ring from his first year with the team.
If the personable Wilfork starts and finishes his career in New England, he'd have a Tedy Bruschi-type presence in this region for decades if he so desired. Those situations are rare and to some, like Bruschi, that legacy would trump all.
But Wilfork is also deeply principled, and there is something to admire about that as well.
Even if remaining in New England gives him the chance to earn the most money in 2014, that's not always the clincher for every player. If Wilfork feels like he's already made concessions based on his business relationship with the team over the last 10 years, and doesn't have one more in him, that stance warrants respect and maybe a divorce is best.
In this case, one simply can't tell another person how they should feel. It's not a right-or-wrong-answer situation.
This is similar to what unfolded with Wes Welker last offseason, just to a little bit of a lesser degree. Welker felt it was hard to take the Patriots' final offer after giving everything he had to the franchise for six years, a stretch of time that included coming back from a torn ACL in about seven months. To Welker, it was easier to accept that same deal elsewhere in the form of a fresh start.
Based on Wilfork's request to be released, it appears he's reached the same point.
But that doesn't mean it is necessarily the end game.
The club seems prepared to give this some time to simmer before it reaches its conclusion, and maybe in time, there is a change of heart with either side -- Wilfork accepting the revised deal, or the team electing to honor the final year of the contract as is.
Thus, Wilfork's future will hang in the sensitive balance a bit longer -- legacy vs. principle.
"It’ll defintely be fun after we win that game," he said. "I’ll tell my friends and family that are all Patriots fans to go kick some rocks after we win."
Giacomini signed a four-year, $18 million contract to replace Austin Howard, who bolted for the Oakland Raiders. Giacomini said his relationship with general manager John Idzik was one of the main reasons he signed. Giacomini came from the Seattle Seahawks, Idzik's previous team. Idzik was in charge of contracts for the Seahawks, and there was a lot of paperwork with Giacomini because he bounced up and down between the practice squad and the 53-man roster in 2010. That's how they got to know each other.
Some scouts say Giacomini is a better pass protector than Howard, but a notch below him as a run-blocker.
"I like to play pretty physical," Giacomini said. "I know that's the mentality they have there. I'm just going to try to play my role and get better every single play. I'm going to try to play with a little bit of nastiness I have in me. I'd play like an offensive lineman should play."
Guion was featured as one of the team's "projected targets" in our "free-agent fit" series. He has spent his seven-year career with the Vikings, the past two of which he emerged in a starting role. In those two years, Guion's position coach was Brendan Daly, who is now in his first year on the Patriots' staff.
The 26-year-old Guion entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice of the Vikings in 2008 after playing at Florida State. He was released by the Vikings this month, and thus wouldn't count against the compensatory draft pick formula.
The 6-foot-4, 303-pound Guion played nose tackle in the Vikings' scheme last season, although that might not be his best fit in the Patriots' scheme, which is different from what Minnesota ran under former head coach Leslie Frazier.
Well, that might be closer to happening, as Spikes is making a free-agent visit Friday to Buffalo.
Spikes has been a strong run-stopping linebacker for the New England Patriots since being drafted in 2010. His best season came in 2012, when he made 14 starts, recording 92 tackles, five forced fumbles, seven passes defensed and one sack.
He played in 16 games last season but his production dipped slightly. The Patriots began to phase out Spikes on passing downs, as he proved to be a liability in coverage. He was placed on injured reserve in January, partly because he was late to practice.
Spikes was hobbled by a knee injury for most of last season and has dealt with injuries for most of his career.
Spikes, 26, is known for having an off-the-beaten-path personality, with Bill Belichick once calling him an "interesting player to coach" whose "style is ... kind of not by the book but [it's] effective."
Former Patriots defensive coach Pepper Johnson now serves as the Bills' defensive line coach and is known to have a close relationship with Spikes.
The Bills also confirmed that running back Anthony Dixon is making a free-agent visit Friday.
“[The Patriots are] trying to re-sign Julian Edelman, they want him back. But they want him back at a price and a number they have in mind,” Schefter said. “The Patriots have been pretty responsible and pretty thoughtful of the marketplace for certain players. So, they’ve given Julian Edelman an offer. Clearly, it’s not to his satisfaction. So it’s up to him to play this game, which isn’t really a game, it’s his business, to go out there to see, does San Francisco or another team value me more than New England? And if they do, how much more, and is it worth it to me to move? That’s what we’re going to find out today.
“I know [the 49ers are] interested. I spoke to them. We’ll see what happens with Julian Edelman there.”
“Revis and Wilfork are completely unrelated,” he said. “What happened was Vince Wilfork told the Patriots weeks ago, days ago, a long time ago, 'I am not taking a pay cut, I’m not doing that.’ So now New England is in a situation much like the Dallas Cowboys were when DeMarcus Ware said ‘I’m not going to take a pay cut.’
“So you get into these situations where the agent’s got to figure out the player’s value. He’s got to call around and say ‘Hey what’s Vince Wilfork worth to you on the open market? If he were to be free what would you be willing to pay him.’ You get a general idea of what your client would be worth on the open market.”
Schefter explained that Wilfork’s agent would compare the feedback he got from other teams to the restructured deal the Patriots are offering and decide from there the preferred route.
“Right now they’re in a standoff,” Schefter said. “The way it was described to me last night, it’s probably best for Vince Wilfork just to take a step back and we’ll see how the situation plays out. It’s not like we’re going to get an answer on this today. ... This is something that is its own negotiation even though he’s under contract.”
Woodyard lands with Titans. One of the Patriots' first free-agent visitors, linebacker Wesley Woodyard, will sign with the Tennessee Titans, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. The Patriots' interest in Woodyard was tied, in part, to how he would fit in their sub defense as a coverage linebacker. We'll see how this potentially affects the return of linebacker Dane Fletcher, who took a free-agent visit with the Buccaneers but remains unsigned.
Salary-cap update. The NFL Players Association salary-cap tabulations have the Patriots with $16.889 million of space at this time. As has been noted in the past, salary-cap space is fluid, but this provides a general feel for the team's current flexibility.
Costa and interior line market. Free-agent center Phil Costa, who visited the Patriots on Monday, signed a reported two-year, $2.7 million pact with the Colts. I've been curious about the center market as it relates to Patriots free agent Ryan Wendell and wonder if this is the neighborhood in which he'll land. I think Wendell is a superior player to Costa, but this could provide a general framework for where the numbers may fall on any contract.
Earlier this week, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returned to the practice field with one of his go-to targets, Julian Edelman, on the campus of Southern California. It marked the first time since the AFC Championship Game in mid-January that Brady got back to throwing.
In a sense, it was like firing up the convertible that had been stored in the garage all winter, and hitting the road for the first time.
No worries, Patriots fans, it was a smooth ride as always. Everything under the hood remains in good working condition.
How long that will be the case is a question that has percolated a bit more here in New England of late, which in turn has led some to ask if the Patriots are doing enough to maximize the opportunity they have with such a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback.
Brady turns 37 in August. His career clock is ticking.
This is what some refer to as “The Window” and it often sparks one of this region's more passionate sports debates.
At one extreme, you have those who want all the poker chips pushed to the middle of the table and it's “go for it at all costs!” This could also be called the John Elway approach.
Closer to the other extreme is the line of thinking, “Hey, we've been to the past three AFC Championship Games, and if a few things break differently, maybe we're not even having this discussion. Have we lost perspective?” Signed, Bill Belichick.
This contrast has been one of the more intriguing subplots of the first three days of NFL free agency, watching how the Denver Broncos (led by the soon-to-be-38-year-old Peyton Manning) and New England Patriots are taking significantly different approaches to their respective windows.
Consider that while Elway has been ultra-aggressive in handing out big-money contracts to safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, the Patriots' leading receiver in 2013 is left hanging in the free-agent balance as Julian Edelman is scheduled to visit with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday. Would the Patriots really let him get away?
That would be a big hit to the team, and represent a U-turn to those making the case that Belichick finally decided to take the all-in plunge by landing cornerback Darrelle Revis. The all-in approach sounded good for a few hours ... until reports surfaced that defensive captain Vince Wilfork had requested his release as part of an issue related to his contract. If that ultimately happens, isn't it weakening the team as “The Window” closes a bit more?
Dallas Cowboys in 2000.
With quarterback Troy Aikman ailing health-wise, the Cowboys attempted to surround him with as many weapons as possible in hopes of giving him the best chance to win one more Super Bowl. Speedy receiver Joey Galloway, for example, was acquired for the hefty price of two first-round draft choices. The Cowboys were all-in.
“I remember [head coach] Dave Campo saying that Galloway was a guy who was going to get us over the hump, and we'd be a more explosive team, helping Troy get the ball down the field,” Woodson recalled. "I specifically remember the words ‘over the hump.'"
But what unfolded was an unforgettable reminder of the physical toll of football, as Galloway tore his ACL after playing in just one game and missed the season. The Cowboys, with Woodson at safety until he also landed on injured reserve, finished 5-11.
This isn't to say Woodson is now advocating a more conservative approach. To the contrary.
“No doubt about it, you want to maximize the quarterback's greatness,” he said. “You see what Denver is doing now, there is a 2-3 year window with both of these teams to do that. Those windows can close in a hurry. When Brady's gone, they're going to join the ranks of the average teams as well.”
While Belichick might contest that line of thinking, and Brady would likely scoff at the idea he wouldn't be effective when he hits 40, this remains the great debate.
All-in? Or just enough?
The correct answer, as is often the case with “The Window," probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Edelman and possible fit in San Francisco. With Julian Edelman scheduled to visit the 49ers Friday, there was curiosity from this perspective on how they view him as a fit. ESPN.com 49ers reporter Bill Williamson lays it out nicely in noting that San Francisco has Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin at receiver, and Edelman would be viewed as a complement. The 49ers don’t have a lot of salary-cap space, as pointed out by Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, but they do have one thing going in their favor -- they are Edelman’s hometown team.
Interior offensive line yet to be addressed. The Patriots visited with free agent Rams guard Shelley Smith on Thursday, but no deal was struck and Smith continued on to Miami. The Patriots have been exploring the interior offensive line market, and we wonder if this might lead them back to Ryan Wendell.
Revis deal doesn’t affect Browner pursuit. When the Patriots visited with free-agent cornerback Brandon Browner on Thursday, one line of thinking was that the team might be less inclined to strike a deal because it had finalized its pact with Darrelle Revis. But the Patriots are indeed still interested in bringing Browner aboard, and the interest is mutual. But Browner is reportedly planning to take other free-agent visits, including one to Washington.
A well-placed Patriots source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that "Browner wants to be in New England. I think we are close, but it's a tough deal to do because of suspension, etc."
Browner will be suspended for the first four games of the 2014 regular season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. If Browner complies with the league's policy, he'll be reinstated after the four-game suspension.
Under the terms of his suspension, Browner can sign with a team, show up for the offseason program, attend training camp, and play in the preseason.
Browner will visit with the Washington Redskins on Friday, a league source told Schefter, and will then visit New Orleans while his agent Peter Schaffer talks with New England and Oakland.
After a report surfaced Thursday night that Browner already had agreed to a two-year deal with the Patriots, Schaffer told Schefter that Browner is in negotiations with "four teams and we do not have a deal. We aren't even close."
The Patriots have already bolstered their defensive backfield this offseason by adding Darrelle Revis.
Edelman, who enters his sixth NFL season in 2014, is from Redwood City, Calif. This is the first reported visit this offseason for Edelman, whose representatives have been keeping lines of communication open with the Patriots.
New England has visited with free-agent receivers Brandon LaFell (Panthers) and Jason Avant (Eagles), but Edelman is still on the radar as well.
Perhaps the visit with the 49ers sparks some movement with Edelman's situation. It wasn't until Edelman visited the New York Giants last offseason as a free agent that it sparked his return to the Patriots on a one-year deal.