Sunday, March 30, 2014

Is the juice worth the squeeze for DeSean Jackson?

This off season has certainly been a memorable one for the New England Patriots with the re-signing of Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman as well as the signing of former Seattle Seahawk cornerback Brandon Browner.  The headliner of the list has to be the signing of released Tampa Bay Buccaneers star cornerback; Darrelle Revis. Just a few days ago The Philadelphia Eagles released a star of their own in play making wide receiver DeSean Jackson.  The Patriots have been in search of a deep threat since the days of Randy Moss and like Revis- a player of Jackson's caliber is rare to come by on the open market.  So why not bring Jackson on board and reserve our seats for this year's Super Bowl in Glendale Arizona?  Well, simply put- it's not that easy and here is why.

First of all DeSean Jackson is in the prime of his career at 27 years of age and is a dynamic playmaker. DeSean is a free agent which means he is going to dangle himself over 31 teams in the National Football League.  Jackson was scheduled to make 15 million this season with the Eagles which frankly I don't think any receiver is worth that kind of money.  Secondly while Jackson could potentially be just what the Patriots need- unfortunately the negatives outweigh the positives.  The reports are out there that DeSean Jackson may have ties to gangs.  Now- let me say this- I don't know DeSean Jackson personally so these "reports" could be absolutely false.  With that said- the report is out there and a team that is going to be investing millions upon millions for this talented player is going to have to seriously investigate these reports to find out if it is true or not.



Keeping it in a Patriot perspective-  The Patriots are still eating dead money on the Aaron Hernandez deal and while Aaron Hernandez sits in the Bristol County jail on murder charges- the Patriots have to do their due diligence maybe now even more-so than ever and be leery and maybe even pass over players with these kinds of red flags to avoid any further negative situations that could be potentially dangerous to their ball club's reputation.

The Patriots brought back Julian Edelman who proved last season he can step up when called upon and be a productive player in their system so long as he can stay healthy.  Also Danny Amendola returns for his second season with the Pats and while he has certainly had his fair share of injuries- one can only hope that he can brush off the injury prone label and have a solid season that we saw him show in flashes at times last season.  Finally- I personally am not overly enamored with the Patriots  younger talent at the receiver position but the Patriots drafted Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce for a reason and they saw something in them to draft them where they did.  I anticipate the Patriots find out what they have in the younger guys including undrafted RFA Kenbrell Thompkins who showed up at times as well last year before moving on over them.  The Patriots also brought in former Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell who has some good size at 6'2 but LaFell's strengths are known to be as more of a blocker.  What I really would like to see is the Patriots bring in a big- physical target at the receiver position to compliment all of the other guys tat they currently have.  I know Edelman, Amendola, LaFell, Dobson, and Boyce are all versatile enough to line up at any receiver spot on the field but I would like to see a pure-physical-big body or field stretching type talent lined up on the perimeter of the field to give Tom Brady a different type of weapon that he has lacked for years.

This year is a very deep draft particularly at the wide receiver position.  From Sammy Watkins, to Mike Evans, to Kelvin Benjamin to Martavis Bryant to Brandon Coleman.  There is talent to be had in the draft at a fraction of what DeSean Jackson would cost on and potentially off the field.  The Patriots haven't had a whole lot of luck drafting receivers but I feel as is the Patriots should look to the draft this May and find the next star receiver of their own.  Not only do the Patriots but whatever team that takes a chance on DeSean Jackson has to ask themselves this famous quote from one of my favorite movies- The Girl Next Door- "Is the juicy worth the squeeze?"  I have a feeling we will be finding out to the answer to that sooner rather than later.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Brace Yourself - The Ron Brace Story

With the 2013 NFL season in the books and the blink of an eye- it is draft season! Reminding us that with every draft pick there are expectations high and low- for every player selected and a story that follows. I was able to catch up with former New England Patriot defensive tackle Ron Brace and chat about his journey from getting drafted by the Patriots to his departure from the team.  Let’s take a look back in time and see how Ron’s story unfolded. 



It was April 25th, 2009. Day one of the NFL Draft and the New England Patriots held back to back selections in the second round-picks 40 and 41 respectively.  At pick 40 the New England Patriots selected a gargantuan run stuffer from Boston College at 6’3 330 lbs by the name of Ron Brace.  Brace was a collegiate standout with BC Eagles team mate and Green Bay Packers first round selection -B.J. Raji.  Together they were one of the most dominant interior defensive line tandems in the nation.  At the time the Patriots and their star defensive tackle- Vince Wilfork, were still trying to close in on a long term deal and the Patriots wanted youth as well as insurance at the position.  Brace was billed to be just that and then some leading up to the draft.  Growing up locally in Springfield Mass, Brace had obviously followed the Patriots on the side and it seemed to be a perfect landing spot.  It was a story book dream come true for Ron.  The hometown kid getting drafted on day 1 of the NFL draft by his hometown team Patriots. Brace recalled being at his grandmother’s house on draft day when Patriots head Coach Bill Belichick and his assistant called to welcome him to the team and inform him they would be selecting him at pick 40.  Before training camp begun, Brace inked a 4 year deal with 2.82 million in guarantees.  Brace’s agent at the time described Ron to be “Very excited to get his deal done with the Patriots, “ while adding, “It’s a dream come true for him.” 

As good as things seemed it was unfortunately too good to be true.  Players typically drafted early have huge expectations and are expected to step in and make an immediate impact for their team.  In 2009 of Ron Brace’s rookie season, he was active for 9 games starting in 2- recording only 8 tackles. The Patriots made it to the playoffs in which Brace was inactive for their loss to the Baltimore Ravens. After an unimpressive rookie season, the reports were that Brace was injured.  With a full offseason under his belt to learn the system and get healthy- expectations were still sky high for Brace to come in and make the “year two jump” and impact the defense.  2010 was interesting for Brace where he opened the season in the starting lineup but finished the year on IR with what was reported to be an elbow injury, tallying up 5 starts on the season with 23 tackles.  Brace lost his starting spot to players like Myron Pryor and Brandon Deadrick who were drafted much lower than he was.  In 2011 Brace started the season on the PUP list and in 2012 he was released from the Patriots. 

So what does all of this mean?  How could such a promising young player- which the team obviously felt strong enough to take with an early second round draft selection not get an opportunity to assert himself into the starting lineup?  For the first time ever-this is Ron Brace's side of the story shared exclusively with Premium Pats!

On what went wrong in New England-

"I am still looking for the answer myself.  I wasn't told much of nothing while there.  I knew after they changed Pep (Former Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson) to linebackers coach I knew I wasn't going to play."


I followed up asking Ron looking back if there was anything the Patriots or he could have done a better job on during his time in New England.

“I did my job.  That's why I lasted four years there.  I asked questions but never got no real answers.  Biggest problem- no communication. I took reps with the ones and twos but never got any answers on what my job was. " 

To me this came as a bit of a surprise.  In an organization that's primary motto is "do your job" it is shocking to me to find out that as a player for the Patriots would be left confused on what his role was with the team.     





Brace undeniably frustrated, recalled how he felt during that time-

  "People thought I sucked but in reality I was held back.  It was like every time I had a good game I would be inactive."


Watching from a far it was curious to see Brace go from starting a game to being inactive every other week.    

"After I left New England I had to get surgery for a hernia in my hip I got in OTA-I played the whole season with that hernia and missed two days in camp because of it."

Brace's final season with the Patriots-

"The last season they had me on the injury report when nothing was wrong with me.  I had to read the paper one day to find out they had me on the injury report when nothing to my knowledge was bothering me.  Then after I got cut I got tested by a doctor and he said I had a hernia in the spot I had a golf ball size lump during OTAs that they didn't MRI until it was over. It's a dirty business.  I seen some messed up situations."


Brace remembered-

 "One time someone told me I smile too much. What type of shit is that?  I'm not supposed to be happy at work?  I never did anything to take the focus off the team like I said but I was treated like they had to bail me every weekend from jail."

Looking back do you wish you were drafted by a team other than the Patriots?

"Yea I do but I wouldn't have gotten the knowledge I got from there anywhere else so it was bittersweet. People (in the locker room) treated me like a human being and cared about my personal life it was crazy.  I got nothing bad to say except I was sad to leave those guys."

On how hard it was to play under Bill Belichick-

"In my experience I wouldn't say it was hard, just frustrating putting in work and getting nothing from it but money.  I didn't give a shit about the money.  Most of my checks I didn't cash until a couple months later- I just wanted to play." 

The Patriots have their own way of doing things and continue to show that it doesn't matter who you are- everyone on the roster is replaceable.

"I knew that when I first got there when they got rid of Seymour.  I saw a lot of people come and go from there."

On the contrary it is hard to argue the way the Patriots do business.  The Patriots are one of the most successful teams in the NFL over the past decade.  


On Patriot owner Robert Kraft-

 "I have to say (Robert) is one of the best men I've met.  He helped me raise $250,000 for my city after the tornado hit.  Being there allowed me to bring the Pats to Springfield, a city that needed help with its youth so for that I am really grateful."




On if Ron would play for Pepper Johnson again in Buffalo-

"I'll take a bullet for that man.  He did more for me than he knows. They are stacked over there for D-line man I checked that first but I am really now just looking for a job.  I don't feel right if I'm not working."

On playing again-

"I know I can play.  Players I went up against know I can play.  People I played with know I can play.  As far as going back, I am only going to a team who really wants me and is not wasting my time.  If someone wants a real run stopper- my agents number didn't change."


This is just one player's story.  You never know what a player is going to do in the NFL.   Unfortunately, things didn't work out the way Ron or the Patriots wanted. Ron is still young at 27 years old and is hopeful he will play again in the NFL, but the ending to his story of what really happened between the player and the New England Patriots club remains unclear. Teams hit and miss on players.  It is an inexact science and for us as fans, it is really fascinating to hear a player’s side of the story which typically isn't shared often inside New England. 


I want to take this time to thank Ron Brace for taking the time to chat with me and sharing his thoughts!  Please follow Ron and myself on Twitter @BraceYoself97 @MikeOnofrio ! Check back on PremiumPats.com for more content!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Avoid the Noise-Story Bigger than Hernandez

This has certainly been a wild offseason for the Patriots but nothing in comparison to the tumulus couple of days for Patriots star tight end- 23 year old Aaron Hernandez.  Reports have been piling up what seems to be every minute and there have been conflicting reports and speculation running ramped across the internet.  I choose to take the high road and look at some of the facts here and not get wrapped up in the media windstorm. 


First of all this is an ongoing investigation and what people need to realize is that all of these “reports” are not clear cut facts.  Let’s stick to the facts here.  This is what we know to this point in this developing story; Aaron Hernandez is innocent until proven guilty and currently as I type this- a free man.  Aaron has not been charged with anything yet despite conflicting media reports.  The only thing that is certain is that 27 year old Semi Pro football player-Odin Lloyd has been killed.  Aaron Hernandez is being currently investigated to have a connection with the death of Odin Lloyd.  We know that the New England Patriots are keeping quiet and holding out comment as is the NFL.  That is pretty much all we know at this point.  Everything else reported is pure speculation. 


I think in the interest of fairness, everyone hold out judgment about Hernandez until all of the facts come out instead of bashing a person for something they may or may not have even done.  This matter is being taken very seriously and while I may sound like I am defending Hernandez- I am not.  I like every Patriots fan are obviously hoping for the best for the guy however let’s remember he is implicated with an ongoing murder investigation.  Quite frankly this is much bigger than Aaron Hernandez the tight end, bigger than the New England Patriots franchise and bigger than the National Football League.  This is about justice and putting the pieces of this intricate puzzle together to find out how Mr. Odin L. Lloyd was killed.  The media can try to spin it any way they want to try to but what everyone needs to remember is that a man’s life has been selfishly taken and Massachusetts State Police are in the midst of an ongoing investigation which just so happens to include a high profile athlete such as Aaron Hernandez. 


When Tom Brady steps into a noisy stadium on fall Sunday afternoon- he keeps his composure and stays focused on the obstacles ahead of him.  We need to do the same thing in this case-Avoid the noise and try to stick to what the facts are, and the fact is a man has been brutally murdered and we don’t know who, how, or why.  I am not worried about what the Patriots starting lineup is going to be come September, I am more concerned about how and why this truly unfortunate tragedy has occurred and that justice will prevail through the end of this mess.
 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

PATRIOTS FREE AGENT FOCUS: DANNYWOODHEAD

Leading up to free agency which begins March 12th we will be taking a look at some of the Patriots own free agents and briefly discuss whether they may be back with the team or not.  Today we will be taking a look at impending Pats free agent Danny Woodhead.



Danny Woodhead-

Ever since Kevin Faulk’s departure Danny Woodhead has stepped up to the plate and been the Patriots safety valve at the running back position.  You may remember when the Patriots traded Lawrence Maroney they were able to scoop up Danny Woodhead as a free agent who was released by the Jets.  Kevin Faulk was injured and Danny stepped up to the plate and showed to be a stingy playmaker in the backfield and added a different dimension to the Patriots ground attack.  Well two years later and Woodhead went from being the guy to being a reliable third down back option for the Pats.  It seems like whenever the Patriots are in a crucial situation the Patriots have shown trust in Wooshead by putting him out there over other Patriots backs.  The Patriots backfield has made itself a much larger role over the past few seasons as the Patriots offense has traditionally been a passing unit.  The offense has had great success in the running game and the offense has been able to diversify and do a multitude of different things due to the versatility the offense brings.  Danny Woodhead may have shed some light to the Patriots brass to maybe show what it would be like with more speed in the backfield.  In 2011 the Patriots spent a second and third round pick on Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley and the rest is history.  The Patriots in 2012 has much success on the ground and Danny Woodhead became the veteran presence in the backfield despite only being in the league for four seasons.

Woodhead clearly isn’t the every down starter in the Patriots offense to this point.  The Patriots seem to like his consistency and dependability as he is a quality role player for the team.  Stevan Ridley is the starter for now and Shane Vereen showed towards the end of the season maybe he can do some of the things that Woodhead can do and potentially be even more dynamic than Woodhead.  The Patriots invested a second round pick in Shane Vereen in 2011. One has to wonder how similar the skill sets between Vereen and Woodhead really are.  Is it worth holding out a young and explosive -potential break out candidate in Vereen for Danny Woodhead?  I feel the Patriots offensive playmakers need to find a way to get more speed and youth involved.  There is no reason the Patriots can’t have both Vereen and Woodhead as both are quality players-however both skill-sets are very similar and it may hold back from adding to another position of need on the roster. 


The NFL has evolved into this pass heavy league and it will be very interesting to see how many teams will be interested in a player like Woody.  I feel a good amount of teams would be interested in having Woodhead on their roster as he is as versatile as they come. Woodhead returned kicks for the Patriots most of the season and proved to be an effective passing down back.  I would think the Patriots would be open to bringing him back on board as a veteran presence and a situational role player but it would have to be at the right price.  If other teams show interest in Danny that could drive the price tag higher than Patriots may be willing to go.  With that said I can’t imagine Danny Woodhead will be breaking the bank anywhere as there will be a plethora of running backs available in this 2013 free agent crop.

Do you feel Danny will be backwith New England?  Will the Patriots be a better football team with Danny Woodhead on the roster? Let me know in the comments section what you think! Are you for or against re-signing Danny Woodhead? Be sure to follow me on Twitter for more updates @MikeOnofrio !

Friday, February 15, 2013

TANTALIZING TARGETS: ED REED

The New England Patriots made it to the AFC Championship but are in no means a perfect team.  Every team has areas that could certainly use some improvement. With free agency looming just under a month away, Premium Pats will be taking a brief look at some of the free agents out there who may or may not be good fits for the Patriots as well as some interesting thoughts to go along. Today we are going to look at impending free agent Ed Reed.


















Ed Reed-

There is no doubt Ed Reed is a game changer.  Ed has done it at every level of his playing career going from a high school stand out to a National Champion with the Miami Hurricanes to being a 9x Pro Bowl record setting Super Bowl Champion.  Ed Reed’s resume is heavily decorated.  Even at his age of 34 Ed Reed still makes such an impact in the Raven’s secondary.  I find it very hard to believe the Baltimore Ravens will simply let Ed Reed walk after he just helped them win a Super Bowl.   Also you would have to factor in the fact the Baltimore Ravens are going to be without Ray Lewis next year.  The Baltimore Ravens need Ed Reed to come back and do what he does as a player and a leader.  Without Ed Reed the Raven’s will look like a completely different team next year and it certainly won’t be for the better.  With that said the Patriots secondary is abysmal. It has been abysmal for years now.  The situation is just too perfect.  Bill Belichick has coached for over 37 years now and in all of his years he has said he “hasn’t coached against anyone better in the secondary than Ed Reed.”  That right there is super telling in the respect that coach Belichick has for the player.   Also, Ed during Super Bowl weekend said he “definitely” could see himself as a Patriot and then gushed about how much he loved the way that the Patriots do things. The Patriots need an elite force in their secondary and it just so happens that Ed Reed is available as an impending free agent and would love to suit up in red white and blue?  Why isn’t this a slam dunk no brainer?  Adding Ed Reed to the Patriots would instantly sure up our secondary and come September when Ed Reed turns 35 you can bank if healthy that he will be ball hawking with the best in the league because that is the type of player Ed is.  He is elite even still at his age.  Ed’s range has declined a bit that is where he relies on his brain and instincts to come out and make the plays needed.  Reed is coming of a 6 year 44.4 million dollar contract and has been haunted with nagging injuries but there is no question when he is out on the field he is going to make plays that will impact the game.  That is more than you can say about any safety the Patriots have on their roster currently.  The problem will lie if Ed can even make it to free agency.

Coach Jim Harbaugh had preliminary discussions with Ed immediately following the Ravens Super Bowl win on the bus ride away from the stadium.  “He and I both agreed that we want him back. I want him back, and Ed wants to be back.”  The question remains will the Baltimore Ravens be able to afford paying Joe Flacco top 5 QB money as well as retaining some of their key players such as Dannell Elerby, Dennis Pitta and Paul Krueger? The Ravens are currently about 9 million under the cap.  It is a complex situation and unfortunately as quality a player as Ed is to the Ravens he isn’t going to be number one on their priority list. 

If The Ravens choose not to re-sign Ed before the start of free agency on March 12th, then they would one be foolish but secondly the Patriots would have the chance to scoop up a once in a lifetime player for more than likely a relatively conservative – team friendly deal that will sure up their secondary with one of – if not THE greatest free safety to ever play the game. A lot can happen between now and free agency but my guess is the Ravens recognize Ed’s importance to the team and lock him up for another year or so but time will tell.  If it is too good to be true, then it probably is, but one can only hope!


Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below in the comments section. Be sure to follow me on twitter for more updates @MikeOnofrio and stay posted for more free agent targets!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bringing In the New Year

With the Patriots falling to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship it got me fired up enough to get back to Pats talk since our offseason starts now!  The Patriots are now in the rear view mirror while the Super Bowl has come into focus.  There are plenty of Patriots related story lines to look at heading into this week.  On the 49ers side former Patriot Randy Moss has what could be his last crack at a Super Bowl ring. Randy made things exciting during Super Bowl media week by proclaiming himself to be the “greatest receiver to ever play.” While on the Ravens side Ed Reed said he could “definitely” see himself as a Patriot.  Ed Reed is a free agent following the Super Bowl this weekend. The Patriots have struggled in their secondary over the last handful of seasons and adding a veteran like Ed Reed who Bill Bellichick has gushed over in the past could sure up the secondary and add some veteran leadership if the stars were to align for that possibility to become a reality.  Keep it locked down to Premium Pats as things are only getting started back up!