Bill Belichick, Vince Wilfork and Matt Patricia celebrate at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick, Vince Wilfork and Matt Patricia celebrate at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line, safety and cornerback and linebacker. Now, we wrap it up with defensive line:

Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Chandler Jones (43 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed), Alan Branch (14 tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defensed), Sealver Siliga (27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits), Vince Wilfork (47 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed), Chris Jones (27 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hits), Rob Ninkovich (56 tackles, 8 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery), Joe Vellano (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit), Zach Moore (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery), Michael Buchanan (1 tackle), Dominique Easley (9 tackles, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits) and Akeem Ayers (15 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed). Jake Bequette remains on the practice squad.

Overview: The heart of the New England defense, the line was able to hold strong after a sluggish start and really one together nicely as the year developed and into the playoffs. At the center of it all was a resurgent Wilfork. The veteran had to knock a little rust off at the start of the season, but he was a huge part of the defensive success enjoyed by the Patriots over the course of the 2014 season, not only from an on-field perspective but as a leader and mentor to a group of younger defensive linemen. Along the interior, Wilfork was ably backed by youngsters Siliga and Jones, who returned to their roles as mostly complementary players.

On the edge, Ninkovich and Chandler Jones weren’t an overwhelming pass rush duo, but Ninkovich became the first member of the Pats to register three straight seasons of at least eight sacks since Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. Jones struggled with a hip injury and missed roughly two full months in the middle of the year, but Ayers — acquired from Tennessee in October — was able to provide relief as a pass rusher while holding up relatively well against the run. And Branch, who was plucked off the street in October, managed to find a role as a run-stopper and steadying part of the rotation up front.

Ultimately, it wasn’t an overwhelming defensive front, but in the spirit of good complementary football, it was more than enough to lift the Patriots over the top: In six of their final 11 games (including the playoffs), the Patriots held opposing teams under 100 yards rushing, and finished ninth in the league in rush defense (104.3 yards per game allowed).

Going forward, one of the offseason storylines worth monitoring will be what happens with Wilfork and his contractual situation. The veteran could be one of several players who might be asked to have his deal restructured in hopes of creating more financial flexibility. At the same time, most of the rest of the key parts are under contract for 2015, including 2014’s first-round selection Dominique Easley, who had recurring knee issues through the year and ended the season on injured reserve. Count on him to be a major part of New England’s defensive plans in 2015.

Best moment: Lots of moments to choose from here, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the work that the defensive front did over the course of the six-game gauntlet against (mostly) division leaders that would come to define the Patriots as the physical bunch they turned out to be. In that series, New England yielded an average of 81 rushing yards per game and just one rushing touchdown.

Worst moment: It seems redundant to say this — that Monday night loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City was the low point for just about the entire roster, save maybe Brandon LaFell and Matthew Slater — but the defensive front really hit rock bottom in that one. The Chiefs rushed for a whopping 207 yards in that one (107 yards from Knile Davis and 92 from Jamaal Charles). Small wonder that Wilfork said after the game that the Chiefs beat them, “like we stole something.” That loss put the capper on a four-game stretch to open the year where New England yielded an average of 130 rushing yards per game.

By the numbers: 952 — The number of snaps Wilfork played in 2014 (including the postseason), according to Pro Football Focus. Following a season-ending injury that cut short his 2013 campaign, it was an impressive finish to the year for the veteran defensive lineman.

Money quote: “It’s phenomenal for me to have a leader like Vince in my meetings every day. He’s a guy that sits in the front, pays attention, sits upright and is really into the meetings. If I need to point to anybody in the room that I think needs to do it a certain way, I can just point to Vince and say, ‘You need follow this guy’s example. This is how you sustain in the NFL. This is how you’re a champion in the NFL. You do it like he does it and you attack each day and each week with the preparation that he does.’ I think it’s an easy follow for the young guys that come in.” — Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Wilfork’s impact

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
If the Patriots use their franchise tag, Devin McCourty is the top candidate. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

If the Patriots use their franchise tag, Devin McCourty is the top candidate. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Monday marked the first day of the NFL’s franchise tag window, where teams can designated one player who is set to be a free agent on their roster the franchise tag.

The most common designation is the non-exclusive franchise tag where the player must be offered a one-year deal based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five seasons and their percentage of that year’€™€™€™s salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year’€™€™€™s base salary, whichever is greater. If a player does get a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can talk with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.

The two-week window ends March 2, right before the start of free agency.

Of the players on the Patriots roster, the two who seem most likely to be designated the tag, if at all, are safety Devin McCourty and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The Patriots have not used the tag since 2012, when New England franchised Wes Welker, only to see him depart via free agency the following offseason. Prior to Welker, the team used it on Vince Wilfork in 2010 and Logan Mankins in 2011 and then eventually settled to contract extensions, which could be the case again this year (For a complete look at the Patriots’ history with the franchise tag, check out Chris Price’s Sunday Notes from this week).

While the Patriots have used the franchise tag on a kicker before (Adam Vinatieri), it doesn’t seem to make much sense this time around. Gostkowski just wrapped up a five-year, $15,759,000 contract where he made just over $3 million a year. According to NFL Media’s Albert Breer, the value of the franchise tag for a kicker for 2015 would be $4.12 million. The highest paid kicker in the NFL is currently Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, making an average of $3.75 million a year.

Gostkowski, who turned 31 during Super Bowl week has emerged as one of the best kickers in the game (finishing second in the NFL in field goal percentage this past year), and will seemingly want to be the highest paid kicker in the game. With plenty of good seasons left in him, why not make him the highest paid kicker in the game (above $3.75 million a year), and sign him to a multi-year extension? There’s no need to mess around with the franchise tag, especially when the value is over $4 million. So by not using it on Gostkowski and making him the highest paid kicker in the game, New England would actually likely save themselves money.

From this viewpoint, McCourty is the more likely to be designated the tag. He’s finished his rookie contract, and could not be at a better point in his career. After being moved from cornerback to safety, he’s become one of the better safeties in the game and it doesn’t hurt he’s coming off a Super Bowl win. From a New England perspective, he seems to enjoy being a member of the Patriots and is well-respected in the locker room, as well as by coach Bill Belichick.

There could be a situation where the Patriots model what they did with Wilfork in 2010. The defensive tackle was also coming off his rookie deal and the team gave him the tag on Feb. 22, three days before the end of the franchise tag window that year, with the intentions of continuing to negotiate a new long-term deal. A new deal was agreed upon in March, and the tag just allowed the Patriots more time to work out a new deal for Wilfork.

When it comes to McCourty, the two sides will likely try and work out an extension between now and when the two-week window ends, as by all accounts McCourty wants to return to New England and the Patriots would want him back to solidify the back end of their defense. Similar to Wilfork, if a deal cannot be agreed upon, it would seem likely the team will designate the tag on him and continue to try and hammer out a deal.

Don’t be alarmed if the Patriots haven’t used their tag once other teams start using theirs, as like what has happened in the past the team doesn’t have to use it, and when they do, they have a plan.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

When the Patriots selected quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second-round of last year’s draft as the fifth quarterback selected overall, the thought was New England made that pick with an eye for the future — both internally with Tom Brady turning 37 years old during the 2014 season, and also the upcoming

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

When the Patriots selected quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second-round of last year’s draft as the fifth quarterback selected overall , the thought was New England made that pick with an eye for the future — both in terms of internally with Tom Brady turning 37 years old during the 2014 season, and also the upcoming quarterbacks in the college game.

It seems both have some merit, as along with Brady’s age, the 2015 NFL draft quarterback class isn’t very strong. NFL Network’s draft insider Mike Mayock shared his thoughts on the quarterbacks in this year’s draft compared to Garoppolo in his annual pre-combine conference call with the media on Monday, which lasted close to two hours.

“He would probably fall, I would say three,” Mayock said. “I think he’s a little more advanced and you have a little more confidence in the fact that he can do what you’re asking him to do over [Bryce] Petty or [Brett] Hundley.”

With Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota the only quarterbacks who would be ranked higher than Garoppolo, it would seem the Patriots made the right call drafting him last year, as the two quarterbacks this season are not suited for the Patriots’ system.

Mayock also was asked about Super Bowl star Malcolm Butler and how the undrafted rookie wasn’t even being talked about at this time last year, and then went on to make a play to win the Super Bowl. Mayock, who has covered the combine for 11 years for NFL Network, said Butler actually caught his eye during the Patriots-Redskins joint practices, but there are always going to be players that slip through the cracks who aren’t being discussed before the draft, especially coming from Division 2 West Alabama.

“My first thought is whenever a player comes out of nowhere, a non-combine guy and becomes a good player, my first thought is what a great job that organization did,” said Mayock. “In this case, it would be New England. My first introduction to him came this summer when I went down to Washington to watch the Patriots and the Redskins practice together for a couple days. I remember walking off the field going who the heck is that kid? And he wasn’t even on my board.

“I came away going, wow, great seat. So I don’t get mad at myself on those kinds of kids, because if I didn’t evaluate them, you know, I get basically a list of draftable kids and I just try to watch tape of as many of the draftable kids as I possibly can. He wasn’t even on any lists.

“So bottom line is great job by New England, impressive kid. His change of direction, his feet were explosive. I saw that in training camp. So it’s just amazing how many different places football players come from these days.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Jamie Collins was one of three NFL defenders who finished the regular season with at least four sacks and two interceptions. (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Jamie Collins was one of three NFL defenders who finished the regular season with at least four sacks and two interceptions. (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line, safety and cornerback. Now, it’s linebacker:

Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Jamie Collins (109 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 quarterback hits, 2 INTs, 3 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries), Dont’a Hightower (92 tackles, 6 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble), Jerod Mayo (52 tackles, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hits, 1 fumble recovery), Jonathan Casillas (21 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 forced fumble), Deontae Skinner (10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit), Darius Fleming (5 tackles), Chris White (9 special teams tackles).

Overview: After losing Mayo to a season-ending knee injury in October and letting go of vets like James Anderson in the early going, the linebacker position appeared to be perilously thin just six games into the season. But the work of Hightower and Collins throughout the bulk of the season and into the playoffs was, for the most part, excellent. There were occasional missteps here and there, but the two did an excellent job working in tandem as the Patriots utilized a 4-2-5 look for large portions of the season.

Collins possessed the speed to run with backs and tight ends who were occasionally split wide. He also had the strength to work inside, not only against the run, but also as a pass rusher coming up the gut as a blitzer in the A gaps. Likewise, Hightower showed a knack for getting after the quarterback, setting a career-high when it comes to sacks and quarterback hits. The duo were augmented by the addition of Casillas, who was utilized most as a special teamer, but also played significant snaps (51 of a possible 57) when Hightower was inactive with a nagging shoulder injury prior to the win over the Chargers. Meanwhile, Skinner, Fleming and White worked most as special teamers and occasional depth additions over the course of the season.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see what sort of role Mayo will have with the team in 2015, as well as whether or not he’s a possibility to have his contract re-done. Figure that Collins and Hightower will continue to work as playmakers, and given his positional flexibility, Collins could be used in a variety of roles next season. But as long as they stay healthy, this positional grouping should continue to be one of the best on the roster.

Best moment: Collins had several impressive games over the course of the season, but it’s hard to argue with his impressive performance on Dec. 7 against the Chargers in San Diego. Without Hightower in the lineup, Collins was all over the field — he finished with a team-high nine tackles, to go along with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pair of quarterback hits.

Worst moment: While there weren’t too many on-field moments that were overly troubling, the loss of Mayo to a season-ending knee injury in an October win over the Bills in Buffalo was a sizable blow to the New England defense. The work of Hightower and Collins down the stretch and into the postseason was excellent, but Mayo’s leadership, knowledge of the system and abilities to defend the run was tough to replace.

By the numbers: 3 – Collins was only one of three defenders to finish the regular season with at least four sacks and two interceptions, joining Green Bay’s Julius Peppers and Seattle’s Bruce Irvin.

Money quote: “I think Jamie is really developing as a great young player. He’s obviously learning the NFL game and trying to improve on just the fundamentals and the understanding of the different looks and the awareness and things like that that he’s seeing. That’s all starting to come together for him, and he’s a very, very smart guy. He’s quiet, so sometimes, you’re hard-pressed to figure it, but he’s pretty smart. He studies a lot and he has a good grasp of what we do. Obviously, athletically it’s unbelievable — his size, his length, and his speed is very rare.” — defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Collins and how he’s developed within the New England defense

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Being one of the best available safeties on the market Rahim Moore could be in for a big payday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Being one of the best available safeties on the market Rahim Moore could be in for a big payday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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. We already featured C.J. Spiller,  Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee and Charles Clay. Today we’re featuring: safety Rahim Moore.

Rahim Moore
Position: Safety
Age: 25 (Feb. 11, 1990)
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 195 pounds

The skinny: The Denver safety really came into his own this season in his fourth full season in the league. The Broncos‘ second-round pick in 2011 played in all 16 games this past year and finished with 49 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had an interception in Denver’s playoff loss to the Colts. The safety only played in 10 games in 2013, as he suffered a left leg injury called compartment syndrome on Nov. 18. The UCLA product came back strong this season, having his best season as a pro in his contract year, making him one of the most coveted free agents on the market, and likely to receive a nice payday.

Moore may be most remembered for his first career playoff game — a Wild Card game in 2013 — when Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco launched a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones over a stumbling Moore, which tied the game with less than a minute left in regulation. The Ravens ended up by winning the game in overtime on the road at Mile High.

By the numbers: Moore has been a star player since his days at UCLA when he recorded 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2009, which led the entire nation.

Why it would work: It would make a lot more sense for the Patriots if safety Devin McCourty did not return next season, but it seems very unlikely at his point that McCourty will be playing for a team other than New England next season. Moore emerged as one of the better safeties in the league this past season, and while he may not be at the same level as McCourty, he would be one of the better available safeties if McCourty were to go elsewhere. Moore was Pro Football Focus’€™ No. 8 ranked safety in 2013 before being diagnosed with lateral compartment syndrome and requiring emergency surgery on his leg. He would also be an upgrade over Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon next to McCourty, but it is extremely unlikely the Patriots would pay that much for a second safety to go along with possibly franchising/a new contract for McCourty, as well as a potential new deal for Darrelle Revis.

With the coaching changes in Denver, it would seem unlikely Moore returns to the Broncos, but if the Patriots were to pick up Moore, it would surely take him away from Denver and make them significantly weaker at the safety position in the process, as they would really only have T.J. Ward at the position.

Why it might not work: The contract Moore will be seeking likely isn’t in the Patriots’ budget for 2015. With the team likely giving a new contract or franchising McCourty, and giving a new deal to Revis, the money likely won’t be there for Moore, a player coming off a career year and entering the prime of his career. Another thing to keep in mind with Moore is, he hasn’t exactly been the same player since suffering his leg injury, especially against the run. With McCourty excelling in pass defense and being the last line of defense, if they were to upgrade at the safety spot it would be in run protection, and that isn’t Moore’s strength. Between that and the money Moore will be seeking, a fit may not be best in New England.

Quote: “He’s done a tremendous job. You bring up [his bouncing back] from that particular play [against Baltimore] and it speaks a lot for the kind of young man and human being he is, as well as a football player. He’s had a very good season. He’s a big reason why we’re where we are defensively.” Former Broncos coach John Fox on Moore’s play this past season

Our take: As is the case with a lot of the free agents on the market, they will be seeking big paydays and the Patriots have never been an organization to pay many players in free agency (with a few exceptions), so why change their ways now, especially when they had one of the better secondaries in the league this past year. While everything would change if McCourty doesn’t return to the Patriots, and then Moore might be one of the top players the Patriots would target, it just doesn’t seem like that will be happening given how much respect McCourty has with Bill Belichick, and how much it seems McCourty enjoys playing in New England. With Moore being one of the best pass defending safeties available, in a passing league, he will likely cash in on a big deal — possibly even being a good fit with his former coach in Chicago.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

With the combine set for this week, here’s our annual look at Tom Brady, taking part in the 2000 combine at the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner changed the look of the Patriots secondary. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner changed the look of the Patriots secondary. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’€™ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We’€™ve looked at special teams, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, quarterback, offensive line and safety. Now, it’€™s the cornerback position:

Depth chart (regular-season stats via coaches film review): Darrelle Revis (49 tackles, 2 INTs, 14 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble recovery), Brandon Browner (26 tackles, 1 INT, 6 passes defensed), Kyle Arrington (33 tackles, 1 sack, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles), Malcolm Butler (14 tackles, 4 passes defensed), Alfonzo Dennard (15 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed), 1 fumble recovery), Logan Ryan (36 tackles, 2 INTs, 6 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble).

Overview: In much the same fashion the Patriots underwent an Extreme Makeover at wide receiver at the end of the 2006 season, they did the same thing at cornerback this past offseason. While the overhaul at wide receiver prior to 2007 wasn’€™t enough to get them over the top, it was just enough this time around, as the New England secondary was a difference-maker throughout the season and into the playoffs.

While Browner was sidelined for the first four games because of a suspension for a 2013 violation of the NFL’€™s substance abuse policy, the impact was immediate, as second level corners like Dennard were immediately pushed down the depth chart in favor of top-shelf talent like Revis and Browner, and teams that had feasted on the New England corners in previous years were shut down across the board. While there was a mixture of man and zone over the course of the season, Revis was able to lock down most of the No. 1 receivers he ended up going head-to-head with, while Browner was a versatile and feisty presence who worked equally well against bigger targets, which included receivers and tight ends.

For the most part, the rest of the corners were able to fill in nicely around Revis and Browner: Arrington was a quality presence in the slot for most of the season, while Butler provided nice depth, eventually emerging on the biggest stage against the Seahawks in the title game. (More on that shortly.) Ryan occasionally struggled in coverage, and teams started to understand that if you had a deep passing game and wanted to test the Patriots, you stayed as far away as possible from Revis and Browner. Meanwhile, Dennard was an afterthought, struggling with injury for most of the year before going on season-ending injured reserve in December.

Going forward, the whole offseason starts with Revis: he is technically under contract for 2015, but his cap hit is so enormous it’€™s debatable as to whether or not the Patriots can think about bringing him back at that total. Presuming he finds a way to stick around –€” from this viewpoint, he’€™ll be around for at least one more season –€” that would allow the rest of the corners to slot neatly into place for another season. Browner, Butler, Ryan and Arrington are all under contract for 2015, while Dennard now likely faces an uphill battle for playing time against a Super Bowl hero in Butler. He could end up being cut somewhere down the line if the roster numbers don’€™t add up or if the Patriots try and add to their depth at the position either in free agency or the draft.

Best moment: Prior to Super Bowl XLIX, there were a ton of memorable performances by the New England cornerbacks, including the work that Revis did against a several of high-profile receivers, including A.J. Green and Sammy Watkins. (There was also the high-energy jolt of Browner, who played with an edge and made plenty of receivers think twice when it came to going over the middle.) But you’€™d be foolish not to pinpoint the performance of Butler at the end of the Super Bowl, jumping the route and picking off the Russell Wilson pass for Ricardo Lockette. It was a great play on several levels, but maybe the most impressive things about Butler’€™s execution was the fact that he was beaten on the play the week before in practice by the scout team duo of Jimmy Garoppolo and Josh Boyce. When the play happened in the Super Bowl, he was able to recognize what happened and make the biggest play of his career.

Worst moment: Not many here, but the Green Bay game was probably the nadir of the season for the cornerbacks, as Aaron Rodgers was able to make some really good reads and go after some exposed areas of the secondary, connecting on pass plays to his third and fourth options and testing the depth of the Patriots cornerbacks. Rodgers performed as well against the New England from start to finish in that Nov. 30 game as any opposing quarterback all season, going 24-for-38 for 368 yards, a pair of touchdowns and no picks. It was only one of three games all season where the Patriots did not force a single turnover. (Peyton Manning threw for 429 yards in a November loss to New England, but the majority of that came when the Broncos were already out of the game.)

By the numbers: 72.6 –€” According to Pro Football Focus, the quarterback rating for the signal-callers who were throwing at Revis when he was in man coverage this season. It’€™s the second-lowest total for any cornerback who played a minimum of 600 snaps in coverage this year, and the best total for any No. 1 cornerback in the league.

Money quote: “He’€™s one of the most competitive guys I’€™ve been around at that position. He HATES when you catch a ball on him. So, he’€™s had a big challenge covering a lot of the premiere players we faced this year. Every week he gets a tough assignment and he always seems to do a great job. I’€™m glad he’€™s on our team now. Playing against him twice a year for a long time, I gained a lot of appreciation for what he’€™s able to do. He’€™s got a big challenge this week. He’€™s got a lot of fast receivers that really you have to cover everywhere on the field with these guys.” –€” Tom Brady on Revis’€™ competitive streak

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Patriots safety Devin McCourty stayed mostly quiet on the topic of free agency over the course of the 2014 season, but now that the year is complete –€” and the end of his rookie contract is in sight –” the Rutgers product

Patriots safety Devin McCourty stayed mostly quiet on the topic of free agency over the course of the 2014 season, but now that the year is complete –€” and the end of his rookie contract is in sight –” the Rutgers product talked with our friend Dan Duggan of NJ.com about what might await him.

“I’m excited for the process to see how it will all work out,” Devin said in a phone interview with NJ Advance Media. “I haven’t really thought about it that much even though the season is over and that’s kind of the top thing on the list. I think just coming down off the Super Bowl run and winning that, maybe next week or the week after it will really start to set in as it really gets closer to the whole free agency, franchise tag and all of that.”

There’€™s the distinct possibility the Patriots will hit McCourty with the franchise tag. That window begins Monday and runs for two weeks, until March 2.

McCourty’€™s brother Jason –€” a defensive back with the Titans –€” says he’€™ll try and put a serious recruiting pitch on for his brother to join him in Tennessee if Devin does hit free agency. But he doesn’€™t sound optimistic that Devin will get to that point.

“I’ll see what I can do. It’s going to be hard to get him out of New England,” Jason said. “You know how the business side of it goes. We’ll see. If he becomes a free agent, I’ll be doing everything in my power to try to get him to Tennessee.

“As March closes in he’ll get a chance to see what New England wants to do, and I know he wants to be back there,” Jason added. “He feels like that’s home. I think that’s where he’ll want to play his entire career.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price