The NFL announced Tuesday that the 2014 regular-season schedule will be unveiled Wednesday at 8 p.m. While we don’t know the dates and the times, we do know the opponents:

Home: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Bears, Lions, Raiders
Road: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, Colts, Packers, Vikings

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

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Demarcus Lawrence (AP)

Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence led the Mountain West Conference with 10.5 sacks last season. (AP)

DEMARCUS LAWRENCE

Position: Defensive end

School: Boise State

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 251 pounds

Achievements: 2013, 2012 first-team All-Mountain West, 2011 first-team JC Gridwire, 2011 second-team NJCAA All-American

What he brings: Lawrence is a versatile player who has demonstrated a good initial reaction off the snap with natural pass-rush ability. He needs to become stronger and play with more power to succeed at the next level.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: During his final season with the Broncos, Lawrence recorded 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks — the most in the Mountain West. … He was suspended three times during his time at Boise State — twice during the 2012 season (including for the Las Vegas Bowl) and one game of the 2013 season for unspecified violations of team rules. … Before committing to Boise State, Lawrence earned second-team NJCAA All-America honors at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan.

Related articles:

USA Today: Lots of teams looking at Demarcus Lawrence

Idaho Statesman: How Lawrence performed at the NFL scouting combine

Video: Here is a video highlighting Lawrence’s time with Boise State.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri
Matthew Slater has shown the ability to fight his way up the ladder in his time in New England. (AP)

Matthew Slater has shown the ability to fight his way up the ladder in his time in New England. (AP)

FOXBORO — Matthew Slater is a natural-born optimist.

Every time the Patriots special teams captain speaks, you can hear it in his voice. So, it should come as no surprise that Slater is like all the other Patriots players who are reacting to the addition of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and the chances for the 2014 Patriots.

“I’ve gotten a few chances to visit with Revis,” Slater said Tuesday, taking a break from his workout at Gillette. “Obviously, competing against him over the years, got a chance to meet him and spend some time with him in Hawaii this year. Really a good guy, does everything the right way, plays the game the right way, and you respect that about a guy, no matter who he plays for. If he plays the game hard and plays the game the right way, you respect it and he’s definitely one of those guys.

“I don’t really follow a whole lot of football in the offseason. I heard it and that would be great if he came [to the Patriots] I thought. Obviously, when you get a player like that, you’re excited about the opportunity to play with them. You know what he brings to the table. They’re 31 other teams out there that are trying to get done what they need to get done. And we’ve got to try to focus on us and improve.”

Slater and Revis spent time together in Hawaii this past January, when Slater participated in his third straight Pro Bowl. His father, Jackie, was a seven-time Pro-Bowler. With 10 Pro Bowl nods between them, the Slaters are the second most nominated family in NFL history. (Archie, Eli, and Peyton Manning have 18).

Revis is just one of a handful of new additions that will be on hand this spring and summer when the Patriots get back on the field to begin practicing for real. In addition to Revis and Browner, there’s wide receiver Brandon LaFell and all the draft picks and rookie free agents who will be descending upon Foxboro. This week marks the true beginning for NFL teams, as players are permitted back at their club’s facilities for offseason weight lifting and training.

“There’s a lot to be excited about,” Slater said. ‘There’s some extremely talented players that we’ve added to the roster along with some extremely talented players that we’ve had here for a while. All that is on paper. It really doesn’t mean anything right now. We haven’t even had one practice together. We have a long ways to go.

“It’s been a good time to be able to relax and get the body right and it’s fun now to be back with everyone, see all the new guys here, see the old faces and be back to work, and really start the 2014 season.”

As for the faces that have departed, like Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes, Slater said he hasn’t put too much energy into thinking about their not-so thinly veiled shots at the Patriots on their way out the door.

“I try not to give those things a whole lot of thought,” Slater said. “We live in a country with social media and things like that. People are able to speak their minds, and I don’t have a problem with that. I’m just more worried about what’s going on here, in house. Anybody that I may have played with in the past, I wish them nothing but the best of luck but we just have to focus on what’s going on here in New England.

“The expectations around here are high. We expect to be successful every year. We know the cost we have to pay and we know it’s not going to be easy. But whether it’s easy or not, we’re going to do we can to have success year in and year out.”

More than anything, Slater is proud of his work ethos as a Patriots captain.

“I think the biggest thing is just trying to lead by example,” Slater said. “Coming in here and putting in a good day’s work often times says more than any words that can come out of your mouth. My approach is to just take each day as its own and try to improve myself physically, mentally so that I can be a better football player and a better teammate for this team.

“You like to take a few weeks off. You play such a long season. Your body is really beat up. You like to take a few weeks off and let your body heal itself up. And then you slowly get back into rehab, running and lifting. And I think those first few weeks when you first start back, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Man, I’m out of shape.’ But that’s all part of it. It’s really a year-round gig now. We really have to keep ourselves in tip-top shape year-round. You have to pick and choose your spots to take time off and rest your body but other than that, you have to be on at all times.”

Slater said the work ethic is in the genes.

“I think toward the end of my dad’s career, he really understood how to prepare, he really understood how to get his body right,” Slater said. “I haven’t been around a lot of people professionally that worked as hard as he did and I think that’s what enabled him to have longevity and have the success he had. Obviously, early on in his career, he was a substitute teacher the first three years. It was a different NFL. Toward the latter part of his career, he really paid the game the respect its due, as far as preparing his body and really being ready to go year-round.

“I think this is huge. You just can’t expect to show up in September and have a good football team. It really starts now. It starts with physically preparing your body, building chemistry, going back to the basics. There’s a lot of work that goes into us showing up in September and playing a game. We’re a long ways away. We know that and hopefully we can get ourselves in better position, day by day.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Matthew Slater knows a good thing when he sees one.

Being special teams captain on a perennial winner like the Patriots, with a chance to go to the Super Bowl nearly every season certainly qualifies.

FOXBORO — Matthew Slater knows a good thing when he sees one.

Being special teams captain on a perennial winner like the Patriots, with a chance to go to the Super Bowl nearly every season certainly qualifies.

Add to the fact that his coaches are special teams coach Scott O’Brien and head coach Bill Belichick, and it’s no surprise that Slater is loving life in New England, with no intentions of going anywhere else. Slater is entering the third and final year of a deal worth $5.4 million, signed in March 2012.

Taking time out from his offseason workout program inside Gillette Stadium, Slater, the special teams captain of the Patriots for the last three seasons, says he and the Patriots are a perfect fit because of coach Scott O’Brien and the coaching techniques of head coach Bill Belichick.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Bill O'Brien and the Texans hold the No. 1 pick this year, but will they be interested in dealing out of the top spot? (AP)

Bill O’Brien and the Texans hold the No. 1 pick this year, but will they be interested in dealing out of the top spot? (AP)

With draft weekend approaching, which teams will be the most inclined to make some moves? Here are the five teams most likely to swing a deal:

1. Texans trade down. Houston holds the keys to the kingdom with the No. 1 overall pick, and no one is quite sure what’€™s going to happen. Do the Texans make what could be the safe play and go for Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1, pair him with J.J. Watt and give offensive coordinators a collective ice-cream headache for the next decade? (And hope that a quarterback can be had in the upper reaches of the second round?) Do they take a quarterback at No. 1 and roll the dice with one of the most polarizing group of signal-callers in recent memory? Or do they trade down and hope to find a player of impact, a hypothesis put forth by Peter King? (Trade down to another spot in the Top 10, land a potential game-changer in linebacker Khalil Mack and acquire more picks along the way.) For what it’€™s worth, if the last time a team dealt the top pick prior to the draft was 2001, when the Chargers dealt the No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta for a first-round selection, a third-rounder, and receiver/return man/yoga enthusiast Tim Dwight. The Falcons used the selection on Michael Vick.

2. Falcons trade up. Thomas Dimitroff has shown a willingness to push all their chips to the middle of the table and go after a highly-touted prospect before — witness what they did in 2011 to go after Julio Jones, dealing five draft picks to move up to the sixth spot and land the star receiver. As a result, it’€™s probably no surprise they’€™ve been mentioned as possible trade partners with the Texans, or perhaps the Rams at No. 2. Because the Falcons have Matt Ryan, Atlanta, which has the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, is probably the only team in the upper reaches of the draft that really doesn’€™t need to worry about a quarterback. That means it can pretty much steer clear of the Johnny Manziel/Blake Bortles/Teddy Bridgewater melodrama and focus on the defensive side of the ball. The thinking is if they do decide to trade up, it would be to chase after Clowney with one of the top two picks. If they decide to stick at No. 6, the thinking is it would try and land Mack.

3. Patriots trade down. Since Bill Belichick arrived prior to the 2000 draft, the Patriots have never had a completely trade-free draft weekend, and more often than not, they’€™ve traded down. Last year, New England held the No. 29 overall pick, and swung a deal with the Vikings where it dealt that selection for a second-round pick (No. 52 overall), third-round pick (No. 83 overall), fourth-round pick (No. 102) and seventh-round pick (No. 229). Ultimately, Minnesota took receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, while the Patriots got linebacker Jamie Collins (52), defensive back Logan Ryan (83) and wide receiver Josh Boyce (102), and used the seventh-round selection as part of a deal that ultimately netted them running back LeGarrette Blount from Tampa Bay. As far as possible trade partners, since Belichick took control, New England has made nine draft-related deals with the Raiders (although none since Al Davis passed away), seven with the Broncos, and six each with the Packers and Eagles. One other note worth passing along. Since he took over in 2000, Belichick has made draft-related deals with every team in the league except two: the Jets and Colts.

4. Ravens trade down. Like the Patriots, the Ravens have always been active when it comes to making draft-related deals, and this year should be no different for a few reasons, including the fact that the Ravens have the least amount of picks in the draft with four, including just one Day 3 selection. One thing to remember, at least from a New England perspective: The Patriots and Ravens have made five draft-related deals since Belichick took over New England in 2000, and have always shown a willingness to help facilitate trades. It wouldn’€™t be a surprise to see Belichick and old friend Ozzie Newsome put together at least one deal this time around.

5. Rams trade down. St. Louis owns two first-round picks — the No. 2 overall selection (thanks to a 2012 deal with the Redskins for Robert Griffin III) and its own No. 13 pick. At the combine in February, Rams GM Les Snead said trading out of the second overall spot is “definitely an option,”€ and seemed to hint that there’€™s more depth about the board this time around than in year’€™s past. “€œI think sitting at two, this is going to be a little bit different than (2012),”€ he said. “€œWhen we went out to Indy the last time (2012), it seemed like everyone knew who pick one was going to be (Andrew Luck). And probably what pick two was going to be (RGIII). I’€™m not sure we’€™re going to leave Indy and know who pick one is going to be.”€ For what it’€™s worth, Snead has never been shy about trading high-level picks. In 2012, the Rams moved from No. 2 to No. 6, and then again to No. 14 on draft night. Last year, St. Louis traded up from No. 16 to No. 8 to land receiver Tavon Auston before trading down from No. 22 to No. 30 before selecting linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Ego Ferguson (AP)

After seeing limited action in 2012, Ego Ferguson (right) had a breakout season as a junior in 2013 with 58 tackles on the LSU defensive line. (AP)

EGO FERGUSON

Position: Defensive tackle

School: LSU

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 315 pounds

Achievements: 2013 All-SEC honorable mention

What he brings: Ferguson has good size for his position and, according to scouts, he also has good vision of the field as well as a solid ability to track the ball. Scouts also say, though, that he has a tendency to play too high and is not as quick as other defensive tackles.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Ferguson moved into a starting role as a junior in 2013 and amassed 48 tackles. He missed the Outback Bowl for what the team said was an undisclosed medical issue, and he did not run at the NFL scouting combine because of a right ankle injury (although he did post 24 reps on the bench press). … After spending the first three years of his high school career in Maryland, Ferguson transferred to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Ferguson was ranked the No. 31 overall high school prospect in the nation and was a U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant. The Mims, Fla., native redshirted during the 2010 season and was a reserve player during his freshman and sophomore years before he became a starter during his junior year.

Related articles:

The Times-Picayune: LSU pro day breakdown: Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson

Baton Rouge Advocate: LSU defense plays with pride, honors missing Ego Ferguson

Video: Here is a video highlighting Ferguson’s performance against Mississippi State

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss why Bill Parcells belongs in the Patriots Hall of Fame as one of three finalists this year on the team’s ballot. Parcells was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton in 2013. Fans can vote for Parcells or other finalists Ty Law and Raymond Clayborn at the team’s website, Patriots.com.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Chris Smith (AP)

Chris Smith recorded 18 sacks over his final two seasons at Arkansas. (AP)

CHRIS SMITH

Position: Defensive end

School: Arkansas

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 266 pounds

Achievements: 2012 All-SEC honorable mention

What he brings: Smith has long arms and, according to scouts, he has both solid take-off and closing speed while playing with urgency. They also say, though, that he has shown inconsistency off the snap and lacks a typical playing strength.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: Smith became a starter as a junior in 2012 and posted 52 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and four batted passes. During his senior year, Smith, who was team captain, saw his numbers decline as he had 36 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks with one pass batted. … Smith was one of the top performers in the vertical jump with a height of 37.0 inches during the NFL combine. … In high school Smith was considered one of the top defensive recruits in North Carolina. The Mount Ulla, N.C., native won back-to-back state titles before he joined the Razorbacks in 2010. … Smith was arrested in October 2012 after he failed to appear in court for a speeding ticket that charged him with going 64 mph in a 45 mph zone. He was released on $415 bond.

Related articles:

The Indianapolis Star: There’s more than Clowney at combine

Arkansas News: Smith invited to attend 2014 NFL draft

Video: Here are highlights of Smith against Texas A&M.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Yawin Smallwood (AP)

Worcester native Yawin Smallwood recorded 118 tackles for UConn in 2013. (AP)

YAWIN SMALLWOOD

Position: Inside linebacker

School: UConn

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 246 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-ACC, 2012 first team All-Big East

What he brings: Smallwood produced while at UConn and showed off great athletic ability, especially with his speed. While he is undersized for an NFL inside linebacker, Smallwood could be used as a nickel or dime sub-package linebacker in coverage. Analysts note that his biggest drawback is his awareness during play action, as he can get caught out of position.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 5-6

Notes: The Worcester native had 118 tackles, four sacks, an interception and 9 1/2 tackles for loss in 2013. He had 332 career tackles. … Smallwood pulled his hamstring during the 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL combine, recording a time of 5.01 seconds.

Related articles:

FoxSports: Former UConn LB Smallwood generating plenty of interest despite setback

NFL.com: UConn’€™s Yawin Smallwood: I am top LB in 2014 NFL draft

Video: Here are Smallwood’€™s highlights against Michigan in 2013.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal