New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Patriots Acquire CB Jason McCourty from the Browns

One of the few bright spots during the Browns’ 0-16 season is gone, and again he’s now going to line up for the Patriots.

The Browns are trading veteran cornerback Jason McCourty to the New England Patriots for a 2018 sixth-round pick, Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. They Browns are also sending New England their 2018 seventh-round pick.

The team previously announced that McCourty had been released.

McCourty signed with the Browns last spring and started 14 games in 2017. He intercepted three passes, including a pick-six against Houston.

McCourty tweeted on Thursday, “Cleveland it’s been real! I wish nothing but the best to the guys in that locker room! Thank you to the Haslam’s and the organization for giving me the opportunity to lead and do what I love last season! #DawgPound.”

Patriots Acquire Former First-Round Pick DT Danny Shelton From the Browns

The Patriots have added a piece to their defensive line, as Saturday the team made a deal with the Cleveland Browns for former first-round draft pick Danny Shelton.

Shelton was the 12th pick overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, this after playing his college ball at Washington.

Here’s the details of the deal from ESPN.

The Patriots are also acquiring the Browns’ 2018 fifth-round pick and will send their 2019 third-round pick to Cleveland, sources told ESPN.

The trade, which can’t officially be announced until Wednesday, when the 2018 league year begins, is the fourth trade the Browns have agreed to since Friday.

The 6-foot-2, 335-pound Shelton entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice of the Browns in 2015 (No. 12 overall).

He has played in 46 regular-season games (45 starts), totaling 71 tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Washington alum was a highly touted prospect coming out of college, in part because of his strength at the line of scrimmage against the run.

Shelton, 24, is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.03 million in 2018. The Patriots can also pick up his fifth-year option for 2019, which would be a yet-to-be-determined salary of the average of the third through 25th highest salaries among defensive linemen.

Patriots Releasing Tight End Martellus Bennett

Reports say that the Patriots are releasing tight end Martellus Bennett, who was due a $2MM roster bonus on March 14th.

The move will create about $6MM in salary cap space for New England, bringing their total cap space up around $23MM. That flexibility is hugely important for the Pats as they explore new deals for tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver Danny Amendola.

Bennett will garner plenty of attention on the open market, but questions persist about his commitment to football and his abrupt exit from New England. For his part, Bennett wants to continue playing in 2018.

Bennett, who turns 31 on Saturday, had a great year for the Patriots in 2016, tallying 55 receptions for 701 yards and seven touchdowns.

Patriots Seem to Be Planning for Life Without LT Nate Solder

Free agent left tackle Nate Solder is expected to field contract offers “north of” $12 million annually according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

Solder’s preference is to stay with New England and while he could take somewhat of a hometown discount to make that happen, Howe cautions that the Patriots must field a “competitive” offer or risk losing him. He already accepted a team-friendly deal in 2015 and, as this is likely his last big deal in the NFL, no one could fault him for leaving the Patriots to secure his family’s future. Solder can probably expect an offer in the range of $52 million over four years or two years for $28 million if he’s looking to sign a short-term deal. There had been some speculation that Solder could retire given his and his young son’s history of health issues but he has announced he is definitely playing in 2018. Solder does not turn 30 until April and is the best left tackle available in a weak free agent market.

If Solder leaves, LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming would be the leading in-house candidates to replace him at left tackle.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski Expected to Play for New England in 2018

The “expectation” is that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will return for the 2018 season according to Ian Rapoport of

Hearts all over New England almost went into cardiac arrest when Gronk publicly said after the Super Bowl LII loss that he was not sure he was going to continue his NFL career and there have since been reports that he had considered hanging up his cleats as early as training camp last summer.

Per Rapoport, Gronkowski did “ponder” retirement and took “several weeks off” after the Super Bowl to “let loose” and think about his future. While WWE and Hollywood are very real future endeavors for Gronkowski, the belief is those entertainment opportunities will still be there for Gronk whenever he does decide to call it a career with football. Rapoport does not believe there will be any “grand announcement” but expect the Brady-to-Gronkowski connection to terrorize defenses for at least one more season-and possibly more.

If WR Danny Amendola Plays Again, It Will Likely Be with Patriots

Mike Reiss of ESPN reports the “feeling is positive” that impending free agent wide receiver Danny Amendola will be a member of the Patriots if he decides to play another season.

Amendola turns 33 in November and, given his injury history since entering the league as an undrafted free against out of Texas Tech in 2009, no one would blame him if he decided to call it a career.

Coming off 26 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ three playoff games, Amendola showed he definitely can still play at ahigh level if he chooses to remain in the NFL. He has stated on several occasions that playing for a contender matters more to him than how much money he makes so it seems unlikely he will test the free agent market. It seems likely that the Patriots will try to sign him to a team-friendly deal to return in 2018.

Will the Patriots win the Super Bowl again with Brady and Belichick?

When the Patriots produced an astonishing comeback to win Super Bowl LI, they set 24 new NFL records, and had they won this year’s set piece, there would have been a bunch more firsts to add to the collection. Just by reaching the Super Bowl this time around, they extended their own record of appearances to ten – two more than their nearest rivals, the Steelers. Had they beaten the Eagles, they would also have equaled the Steelers for number of Super Bowl wins. As it is, they remain one behind on five.

However, as the dust has now settled on another dramatic Super Bowl, it’s worth remembering that the season was still a pretty good one. The Patriots won 11 of their last 12 games of the regular season, picked up an NFL record ninth-straight AFC East division title, were once again the number one seed, and earned a first-round bye for the eighth year in a row. Any suggestion that the Pats dynasty may be crumbling would be wide of the mark.

Anyone who doubts their durability should take a look at the betting markets. The Pats are the overwhelming favorites to recover their Super Bowl title, and the betting world is not given to sentimentality or wishful thinking.

Still, after a disappointment like Super Bowl LII, it’s natural for the franchise and for fans to take stock; indeed, it’s the mark of any successful sports team to continually seek improvement. What do the Pats need to do to return to the top?

The first thing that has to be resolved is the reported rift between the key triumvirate of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. The rift supposedly relates to a number of factors, including the role of Alex Guerrero, Brady’s business partner; the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo; and even Belichick’s coaching style. The rift has been denied repeatedly, but if there is any discord behind the scenes, it has to be resolved and swiftly as the team cannot afford to go into the new season with key personnel pulling in opposite directions.

Both Belichick and Brady have indicated that they will be back next year, and though neither can go on forever, to lose either of them at this stage would be a huge and potentially fatal blow to the team’s chances of winning another Super Bowl in 2019.

Of the two key men, Brady’s immediate future is open to slightly more doubt, if only because he is the wrong side of 40. It is staggering that a player of his age, who has been at the top of the game for years, is still capable of performing to such a high level – throwing for 500 yards during the Super Bowl – but history tells us that when an older quarterback declines, it can come quickly. The Pats need to have a back-up plan in place.

That’s why allowing Garoppolo to switch to the 49ers was particularly strange. Belichick was reportedly furious at the deal, and his mood won’t have been improved when Garoppolo started the season with a 5-0 streak. With no obvious heir to Brady in place, the Pats have to move to fill that gap. There’ll be a clutch of potential stars in the 2018 draft, but it’s likely that young players of the caliber of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield will all be gone by the time the Pats get to make their pick in 31st position.

It’s much more likely that they will make a move for a less obvious candidate who can later be offered as a good trade after being groomed by Belichick. Later-round picks Matt Cassel, Ryan Mallet, and Jacoby Brissett are prime examples of this approach. If necessary, the Pats can even look to the free agent market. However, a Brady replacement has to be found.

The other important playing issue revolves around Rob Gronkowski. It would be a huge blow to lose the charismatic tight-end, but after a spate of serious injuries, he may be ready to hang up his boots. Persuading him to stay on for at least one more tilt at the Super Bowl will be a crucial part of the Pats’ offseason strategy. They also need to find a replacement for cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was unceremoniously benched ahead of the Super Bowl.

Butler’s replacement should be part of a wider overhaul of a defense that has slipped to 30th in pass-stopping, 20th in run-stopping, and 29th in total allowed yards. The Pats will have a new defensive coordinator next season after the departure of Matt Patricia, and whoever fills that role has to revamp a defensive unit that has too often relied on Brady to bail them out.

However, anyone thinking of writing off the Patriots is getting way ahead of themselves. They remain the outstanding team in the NFL, and if they can patch up their differences behind the scenes, groom a new quarterback, and sort out their defensive issues, there is no reason why Belichick and Brady can’t be celebrating a sixth Super Bowl success in 2019.

Patriots Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson

While there’s plenty of stars in the 2018 NFL Draft in April, there’s also going to be one big-name player taking up space on the offensive line, and that’s Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who some say could be the second-best prospect in this year’s draft.

It didn’t take Nelson long to prove himself, as back when he was a redshirt freshmen it was reported that he had quite the mean streak, something that could prove him well when it gets drafted.

Here’s more on Nelson as we get you set for this year’s NFL Draft:

A quick Career Recap on Nelson from Walter Football:

Career Recap: Typically in an NFL draft, interior offensive linemen have a shot at going in the back half of the first round. An exception was the 2013 NFL Draft, which saw four guards get selected in the top 25 with two in the top 10. The 2017 NFL Draft was a rare year in the opposite fashion as no guards or centers were selected in the first round; the first guard didn’t come off the board until the 38th-overall pick when the Chargers took Forrest Lamp. A lot was made about the 2017 NFL Draft being weak at offensive tackle, but it was an odd year on the inside as there wasn’t a lot of interior talent either. One of the reasons for the lack of high-end talent was Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson deciding to return for his senior year.

If Nelson had declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, he would have been the top-rated guard and probably would have been a Thursday night selection. In this analyst’s opinion, Nelson is a much better prospect than Lamp. Over the past two seasons, Nelson has been an excellent guard for Notre Dame, making an impact as a blocker at the point of attack.

Nelson played well in 2015 in his first season as a starter, but he was dominant in 2016. He moved defenders at the point of attack in the ground game and was rock solid in pass protection.

Some Career Highlights from 2016:

Here’s a scouting report on Nelson from Fox Sports:

Quenton Nelson is a thick and powerful offensive line prospect. He’s the true definition of a road-grader thanks to his ability to move defenders off the line of scrimmage. Nelson is a perfect fit for a team looking to feature a power running game.

His dominance as a run blocker starts with his low pad level which he uses to help him roll his hips and deliver a jolt. That initial jolt is more effective because Nelson is committed to gaining inside hands. He then velcros to this target and generates a push.

Nelson’s heavy hands make it difficult for the defender to disengage and help him control the action. This is also a nasty player who plays to the whistle and wants to deliver punishment.

For his size, Nelson does a good job working off the initial block and climbing to the second level. He reaches linebackers under control and balanced. This helps him ensure that he doesn’t miss blocks or allow the linebacker to streak past him.

With the First Pick on what they See From Nelson:

Quenton Nelson isn’t a flashy player but is someone who gets the job done. He is one of the more physical players in the 2018 NFL Draft. It’s this physicality and his proper technique that make him an excellent run blocker.

Nelson is a beast in the trenches who can generate a push off the line of scrimmage. He is committed to gaining inside hands, maintaining a strong base and keeping his feet moving. His sound technique is one of the main reasons why he is so effective.

As a run blocker, Nelson doesn’t just use brute force to move defenders. He also has a good feel for angles and can seal the defender from the play. Nelson features enough athleticism to get out on the move and reach the 2nd level.
More from With the First Pick

However, there is some stiffness to his game which limits his overall range. Nelson’s size and bulk can result in some plotting movements. He just isn’t an overly explosive athlete which could hurt his overall versatility

Nelson grades out at 7.4 on’s Draft Profile, here’s what they had to say about him:


Defensive linemen facing Nelson and Mike McGlinchey on the left side of the Irish’s line usually had a long day ahead of them. Nelson is a tough New Jersey kid who earned second-team USA Today All-American honors as a high school senior and was ranked in the top 50 overall recruits nationally as a guard. Notre Dame didn’t need him to suit up as a freshman, however, so he redshirted. Nelson got his chance in 2015, starting 11 of 12 games played at left guard (missing parts of two games with an ankle injury) next to 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley. He and McGlinchey then manned the left side in all 12 games of the Irish’s disappointing 2016 season, though scouts weren’t disappointed with Nelson’s ability to move the line of scrimmage low and strong, as well as force defenders to the ground with regularity.


Strengths Built like a bank safe with wide hips, broad chest and powerful limbs. Known for intimidating power. Rarely beaten by power alone. Comes out of the blocks with good pad level. Unlocks powerful hips into contact. Can forklift defenders out of the gap creating massive running lanes. Extremely aggressive at point of attack and isn’t happy until he is imposing his will. Premier double team blocker along with teammate Mike McGlinchey. Uses plus leg drive to cave-in down blocks. Moves laterally and in space with adequate fluidity. Works his feet and hips into position to keep blocks secured. Has core strength and body control to make rare recoveries when beaten. Field aware and able to adjust his assignment. Pass sets from desired posture with wide base and evenly distributed weight. Punch is compact and powerful. Fires hands like pistons and is almost always first into the frame with jolt and extension. Able to lock out rushers and maintain complete control with quality mirror through rep. Has hand strength to snatch and sustain in pass pro and run game.
Weaknesses Has a tendency to drop his head into contact in front of him. Will lose sight of his target and whiff against slanting, arm-over specialists. Was on the ground more than he should be against Wake Forest defensive tackles looking to shoot gaps. Has a slight hitch when coming out of his stance as a pull blocker. Lingers on secure blocks a fraction too long before moving up to linebackers. May have to expedite his pace against NFL defenses. Still room for improvement in pass protection and keeping athletic rushers centered. Has had some injury concerns over the years.