In no particular order, here are 10 things we learned this week about the Patriots and the NFL:
1. In a historically bad offseason for the safety market, it's no surprise that the Patriots have been linked to free-agent safety Yeremiah Bell, who was recently released by the Dolphins in hopes of creating some cap room. The 34-year-old, who has played his entire eight-year career with Miami, was a 2009 Pro Bowler who has surpassed the 100-tackle mark each of the past four years, with 107 in 2011 while also totaling two sacks and an interception. However, it sounds like there won't be any movement (if any) before the draft later this month.
2. The pre-draft workouts continue for New England. Per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, former USF defensive end Claude Davis said he has several NFL visits coming up, including one with the Patriots starting next week. (Pro Football Talk has what is likely the most comprehensive pre-draft visit/workout tracker.)
3. Speaking of PFT, they had a great post on Saturday afternoon, trying to figure out when the 2012 regular-season schedule is going to be released. With the understanding that the schedule has been released on an April Tuesday the last four years, and three of those years, it was unveiled the second Tuesday before the draft. If history follows this time around, that would mean the 2012 schedule would be released on Tuesday, April 17.
4. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is one of the most intriguing possibilities in this draft. The former Florida Gator, who ended his collegiate career at North Alabama, is an undeniable talent who might be a fit with New England. (We've written about him here and here as a "Potential Patriot.") However, my feeling is that he didn't do himself any favors with his latest move, cutting ties with his agent, Ben Dogra, in the weeks before the draft. (There appears to be some question as to who fired who -- for more on that, check out this story.) Bill Belichick has shown a preference for ex-Gators in the past, perhaps based on his relationship with former Florida coach Urban Meyer, and there's the possibility that a thumbs-up from Meyer could cause Belichick and the Patriots to take a chance on Jenkins. But the corner, who has been ensnared by character questions in the past, did nothing to dissuade his critics, who believe that he remains the biggest gamble in the draft.
5. One takeaway from my visit with Sterling Moore this week was the fact that he seems extremely comfortable with his place on the roster right now. There have been few out-of-left-field stories like Moore's in the New England locker room -- he went from relatively anonymous defensive back to one of the heroes of the AFC championship game -- but now, it certainly appears that he will be in the mix for a regular spot in the secondary in 2012. (His positional versatility certainly helps him, as he played both corner and safety last season.)
6. One thing that Moore told me was that he's planning on being in attendance for the first day of offseason workouts, set to start on April 16. By the looks of the Twitter timelines of several other players, they have already returned to New England or planning on being back in Foxboro sooner rather than later. Offseason can always be a dicey stretch -- as a player, you want to get away from the game for a bit, but at the same time, you don't want to unplug completely for fear of falling behind in your offseason workouts. "It's been good. I'm just trying to take it easy a little bit, but just making sure that I'm ready when we have to be ready. There's been a lot of work, but I've also be able to relax a little bit. It's been fun," Moore said when asked about getting away but still working out. "Walking that line can definitely be hard. This is my first real offseason in the NFL, and I'm leaning more toward keeping my mind on football. At the same time, it's good to unplug a bit and get some family time in. But I'm definitely keeping my mind on football."
7. The Patriots schedule for the next month or so is pretty much complete. Taking a look at a rough plan for the next month, most of the veterans figure to be back in town on the 16th, while Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio will address the media in a pre-draft press conference on April 19. The NFL draft runs from April 26-28, and the Patriots will have the draftees and other undrafted free agents in for a session shortly after that, probably around the first weekend in May.
8. With a couple of Bill Belichick's very good friends on the preseason schedule, it seems to be a safe bet that the Patriots will have joint practices at some point during the preseason. Trying to figure out who might be the best candidate for a joint practice sessions, it's likely it would come earlier in camp rather than later -- that is to say, while training camp is still going on. (The last time the Patriots had joint practices was in 2010 when they had combined sessions with New Orleans before the first preseason game, followed by practices with the Falcons in Georgia before Week 2 of that preseason.) With that in mind, that would leave the Saints and Eagles as possibilities. A return by New Orleans would be intriguing (especially given the chance that Bill Parcells might serve as the Saints' interim coach), but my guess is that if there are joint sessions this year, it's with Andy Reid and the Eagles in the days leading up to the Aug. 20 game at Gillette Stadium. Just a thought.
9. Had some good back-and-forth on Twitter Thursday night after it was revealed that the Patriots had signed free-agent linebacker Bobby Carpenter. (No financial information is yet available on his deal.) With a new start, some felt that Carpenter had the potential to contribute, while others believed he'd be a special teamer at best. For his part, he sounds excited to be joining the Patriots, telling Sirius XM on Thursday night that New England is "the most successful franchise in the last 10 years. [The Patriots] been to five Super Bowls and won three. They have a terrific quarterback and terrific coaches. I don’t know really what else you could hope for as a player going to a team." For what it's worth, if Carpenter and Andre Carter do make the roster, that would give New England three players (including Matthew Slater) who have fathers' who have played in the NFL.
10. Of the 17 unrestricted free agents on the Patriots' radar at the start of free agency, five of them have re-signed with New England (Deion Branch, Matthew Slater, Dan Connolly, Niko Koutouvides, Tracy White), while two have signed elsewhere (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mark Anderson). Nine of them have yet to sign (jncluding Kevin Faulk, Dan Koppen, Andre Carter, Antuwan Molden and James Ihedigbo), and one (Wes Welker) has been assigned the franchise tag, and hasn't yet signed his tender. Of the two who haven't signed, Koppen and Molden have taken visits elsewhere.