Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been connected to a number of projected high draft picks. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been connected to a number of projected high draft picks. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

1. Ever since the NFL combine, the Patriots have been connected to a number of top players in the NFL draft. Whether it’s been meetings at the combine, pro days, and even private visits, the Patriots have been around a number of potential first and second-round picks. This is noteworthy considering the team doesn’t have a selection until No. 72 overall. As we wrote about last week, this could be the team is planning on trading into the first or second round, most likely because of a trade of Malcolm Butler, but what if they don’t? There could be another reason for these connections — future knowledge. Look at two players the Patriots traded for this offseason — Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. While the Patriots didn’t draft them, their pre-draft meetings with them helped with the decision to trade for them years after they were drafted by other teams. “It’s a great resource,” director of player personnel Nick Caserio said at his pre-draft press conference last week. “We rely a lot on that information which is why even though the college process you may be going through and thinking ‘It’s not really integral to this particular player,’ well at some point it’s going to be when we build our database. We have a database of just about every player that’s in the league. So as soon as they go from college to pro all that information transfers over from the college system. So we have all the interviews, all the workouts, all of our grades, all of our background information that we have. So we kind of go back and say ‘OK, let’s look at that information. What did we say coming out? What was the information like?’” Perhaps, all these meetings are just for future knowledge and not this year’s draft. We’ll find out this week.

2. Speaking of Butler, it appears the Patriots are still making efforts to trade him. According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, the Patriots and Saints are expected to continue exploring a deal, but might not be able to agree on compensation. This appears to be a case of the Patriots wanting more in return than the Saints are willing to give. The Saints have picks No. 11 and No. 32 (New England’s which they got for Cooks), which the Patriots are said to be after. One scenario is the Patriots want pick No. 32 and another pick(s), and the Saints just want to part ways with the one pick, or maybe don’t want to part ways with the first-round pick at all. It really is hard to predict what is going to happen considering all the chatter there was last month and now silence, but it would be a big surprise to see the Patriots not pick in the first or second round.

3. The biggest takeaway from Caserio’s pre-draft press conference was the Patriots only have 50-75 players on their draft board. “I’d say it varies year to year,” he said. “I would say our draft board is smaller than most. We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft; not that they aren’t going to get drafted. Look, 300 players or whatever it is are going to get drafted. It’s players that we would draft that actually we would feel comfortable with in our program in some capacity.” Some teams, like the Ravens for example, have said they have closer to 150. This is good insight when it comes to how the Patriots approach the draft. It shows they are very specific in what they want in their draft picks and know not every player is the right fit for their system.

4. Unlike the Bills did with Chris Hogan last year when they didn’t match the Patriots’ offer right away, they are taking their time this year with Mike Gillislee. The Bills have until Monday to match the Patriots’ offer and appears they will take right up until the 4 p.m. deadline, but there are hints they will not match the offer. Veteran Bills writer Vic Carucci predicts the team will not match the deal, and then it’s worth considering the Bills have just six draft picks and not matching the deal would give the team a seventh — in the fifth round. Another incentive not to match the deal. From this viewpoint, ultimately the Bills will not match and Gillislee will be a member of the Patriots.

6. It was a bit unusual to see the Patriots go at the New York Times on Twitter following their White House visit over the pictures they surfaced of the number of Patriots in attendance this year compared to 2015. The Patriots very rarely engage in such matters, especially in public on social media. This one feels like it came from the top and the top being Robert Kraft. The tweet obviously makes President Trump look bad, and Kraft is very close to the president and could have been his way of sticking up for his close friend. Given the normal day-to-day operations of the Patriots it was very out of character, which indicates it came from someone outside the PR department.

7. With the NFL draft being at the end of the week, here are a few draft nuggets related to the Patriots. In Bill Belichick’s 17 years with the franchise, he’s made at least one draft day trade each year except for one (2004). In total, he has made 57 draft day trades — 18 to move up, 19 to move down and 20 involving players and future considerations.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The funeral for Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison on Wednesday morning, will be held Monday in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.

It will be a private ceremony.

Aaron Hernandez's funeral will be held Monday. ( Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Aaron Hernandez’s funeral will be held Monday. ( Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The funeral for Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison on Wednesday morning, will be held Monday in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.

It will be a private ceremony.

Hernandez’s family released a statement on Saturday. It read: The family of Aaron Hernandez wishes to thank all of you for the thoughtful expressions of condolences. We wish to say goodbye to Aaron in a private ceremony and thank everyone in advance for affording us a measure of privacy during this difficult time.

Hernandez’s suicide came just five days after he was acquitted of a double murder, but was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Aaron Hernandez and the Patriots settled a grievance over his lost earnings in 2014. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Aaron Hernandez and the Patriots settled a grievance over his lost earnings in 2014. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

The Patriots may be forced to pay Aaron Hernandez’s estate millions of dollars, thanks to an obscure legal principle that says a defendant’s convictions are void if he didn’t exhaust all of his legal appeals upon his passing. Since Hernandez was in the process of appealing his first-degree murder conviction for the 2013 Odin Lloyd shooting, he’s now technically an innocent man in the eyes of the law.

The attorney for Odin Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, said in a press conference Friday they expect to make a claim for up to the $6 million the Patriots could be obligated to hand over to Hernandez’s estate. Douglas Sheff also said he issued a friendly challenge towards the Patriots, asking them to voluntarily make payments to the family.

“We urge the New England Patriots to work with the player’s association to voluntarily make these payments of little consequence to the team, of tremendous assistance to these struggling, deserving families who are hurting, like Ursula’s,” he said, via WMUR. “That would be the best thing to do. That would be the right thing to do. And that would make the Patriots Ursula Ward’s champion.”

When speaking to reporters, Lloyd’s mother said she wants to use the lawsuit as a means to garner support for the families of homicide victims.

“I lost my best friend. I lost my son. I lost a lot of my life,’’ she said, via the Boston Globe. “I am not going to lie to you, it will help. … But even if there’s not a penny, it has nothing to do with my justice for Odin Lloyd. I’m going to use my voice.’’

The families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado are also filing wrongful-death suits against Hernandez. The disgraced ex-NFL star was acquitted last week for the 2012 double murder that took their lives.

Five days later, Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell early Wednesday morning. Officials say he committed suicide.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer
Former Tufts QB Alex Snyder is looking to make it in the NFL. (Photo courtesy of Jenkins Elite)

Former Tufts QB Alex Snyder is looking to make it in the NFL. (Photo courtesy of Jenkins Elite)

It’s not too often a Division 3 quarterback can make the jump to the NFL, but former Tufts quarterback Alex Snyder is looking for a chance to prove everyone wrong.

In his junior and senior seasons with the Jumbos, Snyder passed for 1,964 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions, but after graduating early last December, he’s been focused on football for the last four months and hoping to get a shot with a NFL team.

Snyder went out to Colorado and worked with former NFL quarterback Tim Jenkins, as part of his quarterback training program. He wasn’t the only quarterback there either, as he worked along side P.J. Walker out of Temple and Austin Apodaca out of New Mexico.

For 12 weeks it was all quarterback training, ranging from weightlifting, on-field work, film study, nutrition, etc. Snyder came away a much better quarterback.

“He took a giant step,” Jenkins said. “A lot of it has to do with the consistency of doing something for eight-12 weeks where he’s doing it six days a week and he’s getting more work every day. He is getting on the field every day and I really saw him mature into the player he should have been his whole college career.

“I think anyone who takes a shot on him — as a free agent, minicamp — that type of kid. He could really turn into a kid who can stick around on the practice squad and one day battle for the 53.”

Standing 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, his size is a definite strength and could potentially make him attractive to a NFL team, especially after how he’s been able to grow in the last few months.

“I mean, honestly, I can feel I have made tremendous strides and I think that is just from the coaching I was exposed to in the last few months to the past couple of years,” Snyder said. “That isn’t a knock on my coaches [at Tufts], it’s just Division 3 — they just didn’t know what they didn’t know. I can’t blame them. It’s just a different perspective.”

Through his agent, Snyder hooked up with Tim Tebow one day this spring and the meeting gave him great inspiration to one day be like him.

“I walked in there one day and [my agent] was giving me a tour and all of a sudden Tim Tebow was out there running wind sprints at like noon in Phoenix,” Snyder said. “It was ridiculous. Vintage Tim Tebow. It was great to meet him. I read all his books. I just admire — I am a type of person that really looks past, I am not going to engage in the debate whether he’s a great football player or not. I look past that. I realize he’s just a great person and role model. I strive to be like that. I just think he’s a great person.”

By working with Jenkins, Snyder was able to get into the Colorado State-Pueblo pro day where he put up some impressive numbers and good work on film (scroll to bottom of post for video). What doesn’t show up on tape is just how smart he is — how he can read defenses, and knows the overall game of football.

Jenkins compared Snyder to Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick, just because of how smart he is. This could go a long way when it comes to getting picked up by a NFL team.

“I think they value it a ton,” Jenkins said. “The truth of the matter is any time you’re looking at a kid like Alex, he’s not going to come in right away and be your starter. Any time you can bring in a rookie who is going to fill that third spot or that second spot and you don’t have to slow down the meeting room, he won’t. If a team is looking for a third, or a developmental kid, to me Alex isn’t going to slow down a meeting room. Ideally, that is what you’re getting out of your No. 3.”

Now that he’s been able to get showcased at a pro day, all Snyder is looking for is a shot — get signed as an undrafted free agent, a chance at minicamp, anything. He just is looking for a shot to get in front of a NFL team and he believes the rest will take care of its self.

“For me, I really just think I am the type of person that needs an opportunity,” Snyder said. “Once the opportunity is in my hand I can take it very far. I am coming from Division 3, and that is tougher to make the NFL, but my whole goal ever since I decided I was going to go for it was just find a way to get in front of the people you need to. I need an opportunity in the coming months to get an opportunity at a minicamp. I think based on how my pro day went, my body of work, I think it’s enough and I am confident in the fact I am at least getting the opportunity. I think that is all you can ask for because then it’s up to you. I am confident in the fact once that happens I will do the right things to keep going.

“It’s been a different journey and different path than other quarterbacks in this draft class, but I am hoping for an opportunity and what I am working towards.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Thanks to an obscure legal principle, Aaron Hernandez is now an innocent man in the wake of his death. That means the Patriots might owe his estate money.

Aaron Hernandez's family donated his brain to Boston University for CTE research. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Aaron Hernandez’s death was officially ruled a suicide Thursday. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Thanks to an obscure legal principle, Aaron Hernandez is now an innocent man in the wake of his death. That means the Patriots might owe his estate money.

Massachusetts is one of the states that recognizes “abatement ab initio,” which says a defendant’s convictions are void if he didn’t exhaust all of his legal appeals upon his passing. Since Hernandez was planning to appeal his first-degree murder conviction for the 2013 Odin Lloyd shooting, the court’s ruling is erased –– as if the trial never occurred. The disgraced ex-NFL star was acquitted last week in a 2012 double murder.

Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell early Wednesday morning after a suicide attempt, officials say. Since Hernandez was the first active NFL player to ever be convicted of murder, and also the first player to kill himself while serving his sentence, this is an unprecedented legal situation. Attorney William Kennedy, who represented the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, the victims in the aforementioned double murder, told CBS Boston the Patriots might be obligated to pay Hernandez’s estate the $3.5 million signing bonus they voided following his arrest in 2013.

“At the time of his original arrest in the Odin Lloyd case, my understanding was that there was a $3.5 million bonus that we’ve made a subject of an action in the Superior Court,” he said. “We got a commitment from the Patriots that before any of that payment would be made they would notify the court to give us a chance to deal with that.”

The Abreu and Furtado families and Lloyd’s mother are all planning to pursue wrongful death suits against Hernandez’s estate. In addition to the $3.5 million signing bonus, the Patriots could also owe Hernandez $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary.

But since the Patriots and Hernandez settled a grievance over the lost earnings in 2014, the case is likely considered closed. Attorney Joel Corry told the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin grievance settlements are seldom overturned.

“Typically when there’s a settlement, there’s some sort of catch-all language: ‘This will resolve all claims known or which could be known in the future,’ ” he said. “I haven’t seen too many settlements which don’t have some type of form of that kind of language.”

Hernandez will still be able to collect the minimum NFL pension, though it’s unknown who’s listed as his beneficiary. The former tight end collected roughly $10 million of the $40 million contract extension he signed in August 2012.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

After the 20-person nomination committee met a few weeks back, they have decided on three finalists for the 2017 Patriots Hall of Fame — Raymond Clayborn, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel.

Mike Vrabel is a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Mike Vrabel is a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

After the 20-person nomination committee met a few weeks back, they have decided on three finalists for the 2017 Patriots Hall of Fame — Raymond Clayborn, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel.

Clayborn is a finalist for the fourth straight year, Vrabel is a finalist for the second straight year, while Seymour is a first-year eligible finalist. Fans have until May 15 to vote on Patriots.com for the former Patriot most deserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement. The winner will be announced that week.

Seymour spent the first eight seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Patriots and played an important part in delivering six division championships, four conference titles and three Super Bowl championships to New England. He was named to five straight Pro Bowls with the Patriots (2002-06) and earned four straight first team All-Pro honors (2003-06). His five Pro Bowl berths are the most by any Patriots defensive lineman since the 1970 NFL merger.

During his eight-year tenure in New England, Vrabel played a major role in the Patriots’ run of three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003 and 2004). He started at both inside and outside linebacker positions during his Patriots tenure, regularly lining up on offense in short-yardage and goal-line situations and continuing to make valuable contributions on various special teams units throughout his career.

Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowl player (1983, 1985, 1986) for the Patriots during a career that extended from 1977 through 1989.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will open the 2017 year at home against the Chiefs. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will open the 2017 year at home against the Chiefs. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Get your fall and winter calendars ready, the 2017 Patriots schedule is out.

Key games are the season opener on Thursday, Sept. 7 at home against Chiefs in the annual NFL Kickoff Game, and then a Super Bowl LI rematch on Sunday Night Football Oct. 22, also at Gillette Stadium.

At first glance, this is a much tougher slate than they had last season, as there are no layup games against the Browns, 49ers, etc. They have nine games against teams that finished with above .500 records last year.

Here are five initial thoughts on the schedule.

1. Late division games. The biggest thing that stands out is how many division games the Patriots will play so late in the year. Five out of the last six games will be against AFC East opponents. The only exception is Week 15 when they play at Pittsburgh, which will be far from easy. The first division game the Patriots will play is Week 6 against the Jets. In recent years teams have played the final two games within the division, but five out of the last six is very unusual. New England will be home the last two weeks of the season meaning it won’t need to travel on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve. Fortunately for the Patriots, historically they play their best football after Thanksgiving and should be ready for this stretch.

2. Back-to-back altitude games. Following the bye, the Patriots will play at Denver in Week 10 on Sunday Night Football and then in Mexico City the following Sunday, Nov. 19 against the Raiders. This seems like a perfect opportunity for the Patriots to spend a week out west to avoid a lot of cross-country flights. The team did this in 2014 when they stayed in San Diego and went very well. Another factor is both games will be played in higher altitudes, so maybe a week in Denver could be in store in between the two games. This will help the Patriots get used to the altitude, as well as avoid multiple long trips.

3. Tough stretch after bye. The Patriots have one of the best byes in the league coming in Week 9 right in the middle of the season, but their schedule really gets tough in the second half. After Denver and Oakland on the road begins the five out of six division games stretch. Also, following the bye the Patriots will play five out their final eight games on the road. It is also strange to see the Patriots play Miami twice in a three-week span.

4. Don’t sleep on start of the season. Some may look at the beginning of the year and say it’s a piece of cake, but there are some sneaky tough games in there. While New Orleans struggled last year, they are typically tough at home and historically the Patriots haven’t played well there. This Week 2 game will be exciting to watch with Brandin Cooks facing his former team, and maybe even Malcolm Butler on the other side. Back-to-back home games with the Texans and Panthers may not seem like a challenge, but the Texans will certainly have revenge on their minds and if healthy, they have one of the best defenses in football. The Patriots will be the team seeking revenge against Carolina, as the last time they played featured a very controversial ending with the Panthers coming out on top. Also, playing Tampa Bay on the road on a Thursday Night could be a sneaky tough game.

5. Not a great home schedule. There just aren’t many intriguing matchups on the home schedule. Besides Atlanta in Week 7, what other big games are there? All home games after Oct. 29 are division games as well, which usually aren’t very good with how much better the Patriots are than the rest of the AFC East. Just like last season, three out of the first four games are at home, which will be key in getting off to a fast start. From a fans perspective, having the majority of the home games early means good weather games, as opposed to late in the year when cold and snow games enter the equation.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable