Vince Wilfork, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia celebrate at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.</p>
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With the league year set to get underway next week, the Patriots needed to find ways to get under the salary cap. The first domino has fallen, as Vince Wilfork announced on Twitter Thursday morning the Patriots won’t pick up his option for 2015.

With the league year set to get underway next week, the Patriots needed to find ways to get under the salary cap. The first domino has fallen, as Vince Wilfork announced on Twitter Thursday morning the Patriots won’t pick up his option for 2015.

The move frees up $8.1 million for the Patriots.

Wifork said, “I am in a good place and have a great relationship with the Patriots organization.” He also added: “I will take some time think things through taking into consideration many things but mainly my family and see where life goes from there.”

The defensive tackle is now a free agent, having played all 12 seasons in the NFL with the Patriots.

More coming…

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Tyler Gaffney rushed for XX yards as a senior at Stanford, but missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tyler Gaffney rushed for 1,709 yards as a senior at Stanford, but missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With NFL free agency kicking off next week, and the Patriots likely looking to add at the running back position for potential Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen replacements (if either departs via free agency), a player currently on the Patriots roster may be getting overlooked — Tyler Gaffney.

The Patriots claimed the rookie running back off waivers last July when the Panthers tried to sneak Gaffney through after he suffered a season-ending torn lateral meniscus in his left knee during training camp. The Stanford product was placed on injured reserve by the Patriots, but the sixth round pick has a lot of talent and could be a player ready to take over for either Ridley or Vereen if either were to sign with another team this offseason.

His former coaches have no doubt Gaffney will succeed with whatever the Patriots ask him to do.

“He’s excited,” Tavita Pritchard, Gaffney’s running back coach at Stanford, said over the phone this week. “Definitely coming off a Super Bowl year he wants to make a name for himself in that league and like I said, I think whatever fit the Patriots give him he is going to take with and run, and continue to go from there.”

Gaffney rehabbed with the Patriots all season and is now back on the Stanford campus working out. Pritchard said Gaffney’s recovery is on schedule and he’s excited for the 2015 season.

A gifted athlete, Gaffney was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 24th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft. He played with the State College Spikes, the Pirates’ short-season affiliate, that summer and had a batting line of .297/.483/.441. The running back gave up baseball after that though, returning to Stanford in the spring of 2013 for his senior season.

He started in 14 games finishing with 330 rushing attempts, 1,709 rushing yards, and 21 rushing touchdowns in 2013. His best game came against Oregon at home when the Cardinal upset the Ducks, 26-20. Gaffney carried the ball a school-record 45 times for 157, not one carry going for more than nine yards, according to Pritchard. He said that game was the best example of the one word to describe Gaffney — tough.

“First of all, the first word to describe him is, tough,” Pritchard said. “He’s one of the toughest individuals I’ve ever been around. Mentally tough. Physically tough. You can tell by his college film just his ability to run through contact, carry the ball multiple times in a game and I think that will be his calling card with just his physicality. I know with the Patriots that is something they hang their hat on as well. Just the toughness about him from a schematic standpoint, but everyone in that organization fits that persona. I think Tyler fits right along with that.

“With him being a Patriot I think that is what you can expect — more of the same. A guy who is absolutely just tough minded, but with him he’s a pretty smart individual too. Played multiple sports obviously. He just has a good feel for athletics in general.”

When asked what type of back Pritchard is, he said he can be an every down back — carrying the ball on first and second down and the catching the ball out of the backfield on third down. Because of the backs ahead of Gaffney in his early years at Stanford, catching passes on third down was a way to get on the field.

“He catches the ball extremely well,” Pritchard said. “Early in his time at Stanford he was actually more of a third-down back, mostly because we had other backs, obviously Toby Gerhart when he first got here and then Stepfan Taylor in those later couple years. He was more used as a third down back. We were able to split him out. He has some route running ability. He catches the ball extremely well, so he did that for awhile and then obviously when he got back he was our every down back. He got it on first and second down and then he stayed in on third down, unless he needed the blow. I see him having the ability in having all those things.”

Gaffney was drafted in the sixth round by Carolina, but then he suffered the injury and before he knew it he was on a new team, in a new conference. It was a difficult time for the 23-year-old.

“He was bummed just because it happened right around the injury,” said Pritchard. “That was the overriding emotion. The injury was tough, he was going to have to sit out. The Patriots thing came as a surprise and it all happened at once and before he knew it he was in Boston, getting surgery and rehabbing. It all happened very, very quickly. The thing about Tyler is he loves to play ball. Wherever he gets an opportunity to do that he is going to play his heart out that’s for sure.”

As for what his role might be with the Patriots, Pritchard knows the Patriots like versatile players, and Gaffney has the ability to do a lot of different things. He’s expecting his former running back to quickly gain the trust of the Patriots coaching staff and eventually make a name for himself in the NFL.

“It will be interesting because the reputation of the Patriots they use their personnel in such of way that they are creative of them — splitting [Rob] Gronkowski out and splitting backs out and bringing those guys back in the back field,” said Pritchard. “They have a history of using guys in unique ways. I am interested to see how they use Gaffney because they aren’t traditional in that sense. Whatever he ends up doing I know he will excel at and I am sure he will start out with something small and continue to build trust there.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The Winter of Gronk has been in full swing, but the Patriots tight end took some time to join ESPN Radio’s “SVP and Russillo” show on Wednesday to promote the ESPN Madden Ultimate Team vote.

Gronkowski picked his own Madden team, and his first choice was not much of a surprise in Tom Brady.

“It was pretty cool to pick these teams,” said Gronkowski on the show. “There are so many legendary players out there, it was kind of hard. Sometimes you went with your favorite player who was on your team growing up that you like to watch, but obviously I had to pick my first choice, which is the best QB ever, Tom [Brady].”

The Patriots tight end also reflected on what life has been like since winning the Super Bowl, 28-24 over the Seahawks.

“When you win the Super Bowl, it changes lives,” Gronkowski said. “It’s been very cool, but I was also [part of] a Super Bowl loss, when we lost three years ago. I can tell you this, winning it is a lot, lot different than losing it. It’s been a great time. Pretty awesome.”

The All-Pro said he will always remember the parade through the streets of Boston the following Wednesday after the game.

“I didn’t really know what it was going to be like, what I was really getting myself into. I didn’t know duck boat rides were four miles with thousands and thousands of people [cheering],” Gronkowski said.

He finished the regular season with 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, which was his second-best statistical season of his career. Gronkowski and Brady had a strong connection all season long, with Gronkowski being Brady’s go-to target. He said he and Brady still keep in touch during the offseason, but knows whenever the two meet up it’s all work.

“It’s like a work atmosphere. Call him up, see where he’s at and see if he wants to throw the ball around a little bit,” he said. “Whenever you meet up with Tom, you always know you’re going to be working — at least for an hour or two on the field. You know you can always count on that.”

Over the past month Gronkowski has been enjoying himself — appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, taking a vacation to Florida and most recently a weekend in Vegas.

“It’s been a little crazy, a lot of fun,” said Gronkowski of his time since the Super Bowl. “I’m just enjoying the time, celebrating with my teammates, my family and friends. Basically just enjoying the time off because you go through the grind for seven months straight, so you kind of sit back, relax, have some free time to yourself, so it’s been cool.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The Patriots signed long snapper Tyler Ott on Wednesday, according to the league transaction wire.

Ott has been on and off the New England roster over the last year. The Harvard product was signed as an undrafted free agent last May but released in August. As a collegian with the Crimson, he was a tight end and a long snapper. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder was invited to the Senior Bowl following his senior season in 2013 after handling all long snapping duties and seeing action at tight end, finishing with 15 receptions for 188 yards and four touchdowns.

Incumbent long snapper Danny Aiken is set to become an unrestricted free agent next week.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

It appears Peyton Manning is ready to take a pay cut to stay in Denver and play for John Elway and the Broncos.

It appears Peyton Manning is ready to take a pay cut to stay in Denver and play for John Elway and the Broncos.

According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the perennial All Pro quarterback is ready to take a $4 million pay cut to play for the Broncos in 2015. He was scheduled to make $19 million next season. According to Mortensen, Manning will agree to the pay cut to free up cash for Denver to be aggressive in the free agent market, potential signing their own targeted free agents.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

A few random Patriots news items for your Wednesday afternoon:

Duron Harmon was almost a Super Bowl goat. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Duron Harmon almost was a Super Bowl goat. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

A few random Patriots news items for your Wednesday afternoon:

1. Our pal Dan Duggan caught up with safety Duron Harmon, and got his take on the Super Bowl. Harmon, who was part of the coverage in Russell Wilson‘s deep ball for Jermaine Kearse that got the Seahawks into position for what would have likely been a game-winning score, if not for Malcolm Butler’s interception.

“Oh my God, I was just upset to the point where watching it, I felt like I could have done something about the play,” said Harmon, a Rutgers safety from 2009-12. “At that point, I felt like I let my team down.

“To be honest, I thought the ball was down like everybody else,” Harmon added. “I thought the ball bounced off the ground. I was like, I can stop but I’m going to fall on him because I was moving too fast. So I just jumped over him and I took a peek around and he’s up about to run and I saw Malcolm. I was like, there’s no way they’re going to count that as a catch. But it was a catch. I have to give credit to Kearse for that catch. That was a great catch. But it broke my heart.”

2. Per the indefatigable Aaron Wilson, the Patriots are set to work out Georgia center David Andrews on Wednesday. Andrews was a three-year starter and team MVP for the Bulldogs in 2014, and while at the East-West Shrine game in January, practiced at center and guard. He’s considered a mid-round candidate, and stands at 6-foot-3 and 294 pounds. One reminder — now that the private workouts and visits have begun, it’s important to note that just because the Patriots are having a private workout or visit with player at a certain position, it shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of starter at said position. There’s lots of tire-kicking, due diligence and potential scouting information to be gleaned from workouts like these, and while Andrews could be considered a draftable prospect for New England, this doesn’t mean he’s a lock to hear his name called when the Patriots are on the clock this spring.

3. Free agency hasn’t even started yet, and the joint is already jumping in Buffalo. The Bills continued their offseason makeover on Wednesday with the announcement of the acquisition of former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. That move comes on the heels of Tuesday’s trade between the Eagles and Buffalo that netted the Bills running back LeSean McCoy. (For what it’s worth, McCoy has played in one regular-season game against the Patriots while with Philly, and had 10 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown, to go along with four catches for 30 yards.) When it comes to offseason deals, it’s important to remember the words of John Wooden, who said “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” But at the same time, it’s hard not to notice what the Bills have done to this point in the year, which has included the pickup of veteran offensive lineman Richie Incognito. Should make for an interesting year in Buffalo, and could make them an early favorite to be the Patriots opening night opponent, something we alluded to here (second item).

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price