Matt Forte certainly caught the attention of Bill Belichick prior to a 2014 meeting between the Patriots and Bears. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matt Forte certainly caught the attention of Bill Belichick prior to a 2014 meeting between the Patriots and Bears. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

With Matt Forte now expected to be on the market when free agency begins next month — and the Patriots apparently in need of some help at running back — it’s worth revisiting these quotes from Patriots coach Bill Belichick from 2014. When asked about Forte, Belichick was effusive in his praise of the back in the days before the New England-Chicago contest in Foxboro, saying that it was “challenging” to try and defend Forte’s multidimensional skill set.

“He’s a threat every time he steps on to the field in a number of different ways: passing game, running game,” Belichick said. “Any time he gets the ball in his hands he’s a good solid player. He’s tough, great vision, great balance. He definitely has the ability to turn nothing into something in a hurry, and he can turn something into a lot in a hurry too.

“(He’s a) hard guy to tackle, does a good job of creating space for himself and finding openings, getting to places where there are fewer defenders and then taking advantage of it. But even when he’s boxed in or guys get a shot of him, he still makes yards. He’s a terrific player; couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s very good. He gets tough yards, gets yards in space. Catches short passes, runs downfield routes. He’s a very, very complete player.”

Belichick was also quizzed about Forte’s skill set; particularly, his abilities as a pass catcher and how he must be defended, as a receiver or running back. (Forte was leading the league in receptions prior to the October contest.)

“I think you have to treat him as what he is, let’s put it that way,” he said. “There are times when if you didn’t have any numbers on the jerseys, if you just watched the play, you’d say, ‘This looks like a receiver.’ But I’d say most plays he’s a back — a good back, but [he] doesn’t do some of the things that a receiver would do scheme-wise.

“I’m not saying he couldn’t do them, he probably can. But they use him as a back as opposed to using him as a receiver. Now, there are some times when I’d say he kind of runs a receiver type of route and in those cases, you have to defend him, but you don’t always know when those are. I’d say he’s a back more than he’s a receiver, even in the passing game. I mean, obviously in the running game but even in the passing game, I’d say his role is more as a back than as a receiver. So, screen plays, checkdowns, wide routes, crossing routes from the backfield, that’s where he gets most of his plays as opposed to running wide receiver type patterns or split out in empty and that kind of thing. They do it, not as much as they do the other things.”

More food for thought as free agency looms. For more on Forte and how he might fit with the Patriots, check out Ryan Hannable’s story here.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Matt Forte is one of the better running backs on the market this offseason. (Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Forte is one of the better running backs on the market this offseason. (Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England.

Player: Matt Forte

Position: Running back

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 218 pounds

Age: 30

The skinny: Forte has spent all eight of his seasons in the NFL with the Bears putting together a pretty solid career. In those eight seasons he’s rushed for over 1,000 yards five times and his lowest in a season was this past year when he ran for 898 yards, but it’s worth noting he played in just 13 games. The 2008 second-round pick out of Tulane has been very durable for a running back, as he’s played a full season in five of the eight years he’s been in the league. On Friday, Forte announced the Bears would not be looking to re-sign him so he will be playing for a different NFL team next season.

By the numbers: Since 2008, when Forte first came into the league, the Patriots have had just two, one-thousand yard rushers — Benjarvus Green Ellis in 2010 (1,008) and Stevan Ridley in 2012 (1,263). In that same time frame, Forte has five, one-thousand yard rushing seasons, including a career-high 1,339 in 2013.

Why it would work: It’s clear one of the Patriots’ biggest needs this offseason is at the running back position. They really struggled down the stretch as they ended the season with five straight games of 100 yards rushing or fewer. That had never happened before in the Bill Belichick era. While the running game will never be the vocal point of the offense with Tom Brady under center, it still does need to exist to keep defenses honest, which in turn helps Brady and the passing game.

Forte is 30 years old and one of the better running backs in the league, but during Super Bowl week he went on NFL Network and said, “It’s not even about the money. I want to be in the Super Bowls.” This certainly helps the Patriots’ chances of landing Forte as the team has never been one to give out big money to a running back, nor do they have the cap space to do so. New England is in need for a running back to complement Dion Lewis and James White and it would appear for the right price Forte would be a great fit.

Why it wouldn’€™t work: Money. This one is pretty clear, if Forte is looking for more money than what the Patriots are willing to give, it won’t happen. The Patriots will not overpay for a 30-year-old running back. Forte is coming off a four-year, $30 million contract with the Bears, including $17.1 million guaranteed and making $7.6 million per season. At age 30 he won’t be getting that type of deal, that is for sure. It’s hard to come up with a contract the Patriots would be looking to offer Forte, but it would likely be in the two-three year range worth roughly $5 million per year. Again, a rough estimate.

Our take: If the two sides can make the money work, it seems like a great fit. Obviously, that is easier said than done, but Forte brings exactly what the Patriots need at the running back position. He can give the Patriots about four yards a carry, which would make the Patriots offense even better, as they could now have a lot of second-and-6 plays opposed to a lot of second-and-long plays. It would also help keep opposing defenses honest and the Patriots could use a lot more play-action, which would help get Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Co. open more consistently. If Forte is serious about putting Super Bowls ahead of money, there is no better fit in the league than New England.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

On two occasions when Peyton Manning has ended the Patriots' season in the AFC title game, Bill Belichick has responded with some seismic personnel moves. After the latest AFC playoff loss, will we see more from New England this offseason?</p>
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Chris Price and Mike Petraglia discuss the top priorities for the Patriots as the off-season begins. Who do they need to pursue in free agency, who do they need to keep, and what areas of the roster do they need to address?

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Chris Price and Mike Petraglia discuss the top priorities for the Patriots as the off-season begins. Who do they need to pursue in free agency, who do they need to keep, and what areas of the roster do they need to address?

The list of combine invitees was announced Thursday, and there are seven players with New England connections who are slated to attend.

Boston College
Defensive lineman Mehdi Abdesmad
Linebacker Steven Daniels
Defensive back Justin Simmons
Defensive lineman Connor Wujciak

Harvard
Tight end Ben Braunecker
Tackle Cole Toner

UMass
Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe

Among the leaders, Ohio State received the most invites (14), while Notre Dame (10), Alabama (9), Florida (8), Auburn (8) and Clemson (8) will also be well-represented later this month in Indianapolis. Check out the full list here.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
WR Josh Gordon has applied for reinstatement to the NFL (Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports)

WR Josh Gordon has applied for reinstatement to the NFL (Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports)

When it comes to the Patriots and some of their potential needs this offseason, a wide receiver, particularly a deep threat is on that list.

These are hard to find in the NFL, but one might soon be available, but he comes with a lot of baggage — Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.

Gordon was suspended for the 2015 season after he repeatedly violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He did apply for reinstatement late last month and commissioner Roger Goodell addressed his status at his state of the league address last Friday in San Francisco.

“We did get the letter from Josh,” Goodell said. “The process is that we’€™ll go back and we’€™ll look at how he’€™s conducted himself over the last several months, what he’€™s done to make sure it’€™s consistent with the terms of a suspension and at some stage, we’€™ll have a report on that and I will engage with our people to understand where he is, where he’€™s been but most importantly where he’€™s going. When these things happen, it’€™s about trying to avoid them in the future. Our number one issue here is to prevent these things from happening.

“I’€™m hopeful that Josh understands that he’€™s going to have to conduct himself differently going forward to be a member of the NFL and to be representing the Cleveland Browns, or any team in the NFL. So, our job is to try to get people to understand that, try to make sure they live by the policies we have and ensure that this is what all of us in the league want, but also I think what the fans want. Our fans want our players playing by the same rules.”

When he has been on the field, Gordon has put up ridiculous numbers.

In 2012, his rookie year and only full season in the league, Gordon caught 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns. In 2013, he had 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games — an insanely good season, especially considering it was with the Browns, one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

Sadly for Gordon, he’s most known for his actions off the field, rather than on the field. His issues started in college when he was dismissed from the team at Baylor and entered the 2012 supplemental draft after testing positive for marijuana. Last year was the third straight season he has served time for violating the substance abuse program. It’s clear he has issues, but at just 24 years old, it does appear he’s at least trying to get back on the right track.

Would the Patriots, or any team for that matter, take a chance on Gordon? It would be tough to do, even at what would likely be a league-minimum, one-year deal as Gordon needs to prove he’s changed. New England is no stranger to taking chances with “bad character” players — Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Aqib Talib and Albert Haynesworth just to name a few.

The Patriots also aren’t afraid of any of the media attention that may come with signing a player like him, as they have dealt with the media circus that came with signing Tim Tebow and most recently Deflatagate.

But, Gordon is different because his issues are legal issues. Would the Patriots want to get involved with that?

There is no question Gordon would be a huge help to the Patriots’ passing game and 39-year-old Tom Brady, but the biggest question is whether or not the Patriots would want to be associated with a player like Gordon who so far in his football career is most known for his actions off the field, rather than on the field.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Looking back at the 2015 season in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with WCVB’s Maria Stephanos, Patriots owner Robert Kraft talked about Tom Brady

Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft

Looking back at the 2015 season in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with WCVB’s Maria Stephanos, Patriots owner Robert Kraft talked about Tom Brady being booed at the Super Bowl, his biggest regret from the season, among other things.

Kraft’s biggest regret may be the same as many Patriots fans — not having the AFC title game at home.

“I think, if I have any regrets, it’s that that conference championship wasn’t played here in our hometown,” Kraft said. “We’ve won seven division titles in a row, so I am pretty proud that in my opinion, we have the greatest coach and greatest quarterback of all-time. Having that chemistry with them together, the leadership they bring.”

Despite not reaching the Super Bowl, Kraft acknowledged the team’s mental toughness as they had to deal with a lot of things during the course of the season, starting with Deflategate.

“If you’re running businesses anywhere in the world, the people who really do well, are the people who have mental toughness.” Kraft said. “People talk about it, but this team had a lot of distractions, a lot of physical injuries and that whole next man up and mental toughness was amazing.”

The Patriots owner is also hopeful Brady and Bill Belichick retire as members of the Patriots.

“I sure hope so. That is my plan,” he said. “I’ve learned to take one year at a time and root for the best, but we’ve had the consistency of having Bill and Tom for 16 years. I was thinking about it — we’ve finished 22 seasons and I’ve had two quarterbacks in 22 years. Start the season, Drew [Bledsoe] and Tom. You just look at the teams in our division and see how many quarterbacks they’ve had since we’ve been in. We’re pretty lucky and part of our philosophy is to have stability and consistency.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

In the late stages of Super Bowl 50, there was a shot of the Manning family suite broadcast on television with family members celebrating after a Denver touchdown. Everyone appeared to be having a good time, except for Eli Manning. The Giants quarterback explained why he was holding back his emotions in an interview with TMZ Sports:

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price