Now that Aaron Hernandez is gone, what is the Patriots' next move?
The Patriots need a tight end after releasing accused murderer Aaron Hernandez. Who do they go after next? Pat Kirwan looks at a few possibilities and touches on other pressing topics.
What do the Patriots do now?
Now that Aaron Hernandez has been released it might be the right time to talk Dallas Clark into putting off his retirement and joining the Pats. I suggested that move last week and now is the time. I did look at all the NFL depth charts to see where there might be a potential tradable tight end if they wanted to go in that direction. It may be a little early, considering teams want to get through part of camp. There are teams that could have a tight end to give if the compensation is right. The Bengals have Jermaine Gresham, first-round pick Tyler Eifert and possibly Alex Smith or Orson Charles might be available. The Vikings have Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson, and Rhett Ellison could be a guy to discuss. Guys I would monitor during the preseason could include the Falcons' Chase Coffman, Cowboys' James Hanna, Virgil Green (Broncos), D.J. Williams (Green Bay), Lance Kendricks (Saint Louis), Tony Moeaki (Chiefs), Niles Paul (Redskins) and Michael Egnew (Dolphins). Someone has to come free.
Offensive line coaches calling plays
Bill Callahan is the new play caller in Dallas. Callahan is a very good offensive line coach and Jason Garrett was considered a very good play caller. It's a risky move to say the least. Coach Callahan most likely will be in the booth away from the offensive linemen, fullbacks, and tight ends who get their adjustments from the head line coach. The history of line coaches calling plays is questionable. I discussed this issue with a line coach and he quickly pointed out the assistant offensive line coach in Dallas has a ton of game day pressure on him now. My coaching friend said, "Callahan needs to be looking at the defensive front but will now be looking more at coverage and he should be on the sideline."
As for offensive line coaches that called plays, how about Tony Sparano at the Jets, Mike Tice at the Bears, Bill Muir at the Chiefs, Joe Bugle at the Raiders, Mike Solari at the Chiefs. Let the line coaches coach the line. That's hard enough.
Work off these deals
A couple of recent contracts are the new benchmarks for any deals being done before camp. Desmond Bishop's $1.3- million deal with the Vikings is actually a very good contract for the guys on the unemployment line. Bishop had two teams looking to sign him and was capable of pushing up the veteran minimum of $840,000 although he is scheduled for an $840K base salary. Not many on-the-street veterans will top this contract unless a team has a major injury or two at a position and a veteran is sitting their regaining some leverage. Nick Barnett, Eric Winston, Corey Williams, Brandon Lloyd and Kerry Rhodes may deserve more than the Bishop deal but I doubt they will find it this year.
On a more optimistic side is the Justin Smith restructure and contract extension. Smith took a three-year deal with a maximum value of just under $17 million. He will see $7.39 million this year and has to get past the $1.4 million roster bonus hurdles in 2014 and 2015 to finish out the contract. It's the kind of deal veteran defensive ends with an expiring contract after 2013 would be glad to get. Not all of them will but the Smith contract will come up when Justin Tuck, Michael Bennett, Antonio Smith, Robert Ayers, Rob Ninkovich, and Brett Keisel are looking for a new deal. Some will retire, others will not be offered anything close to the Justin Smith contract but one or two -- if they're lucky -- could approach those figures.
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