NFL

NFL AM: Patriots Sign Brady To Two Year Extension

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Tom Brady signs two-year extension:

The New England Patriots failed to defend their championship this season, but despite the fact that he didn’t play particularly well in the team’s playoff loss, very little of the team’s demise this season can be laid at the feet of veteran quarterback Tom Brady.

When you consider the Patriots turned over much of the cornerback position, and had, at times, what could only be considered sub-par offensive line play, the fact that the Patriots hung around as long as they did, is a testament to Brady and Bill Belichick.

While the Patriots offense looked as inept as it has in years at times this season, the 16-year veteran signal caller still finished with strong numbers.

Brady has always been efficient. Since 2013, the Patriots quarterback has thrown just 27 interceptions, or by comparison, the same number New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning through in 2013 alone. However, despite the fact that Brady was under an incredible amount of pressure, behind a mangled offensive line, he threw just seven interceptions after having nine in 2014 and 11 in 2013.

Brady’s 36 touchdowns were more than he’s had since tossing 39 in 2011, and his 4,770 passing yards are the most in the three year stretch as well. Certainly stats are not as important as some make them out to be, as quarterbacks often put up big numbers in losses. Since the Patriots have kept on winning, and Brady has kept on producing, despite those around him either underperforming or battling injuries, it seems certain that the veteran quarterback still has a lot left in the tank.

Details of Brady’s extension have not been released, but it would be a surprise if it’s anything but a bargain for the Patriots. Despite being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, the five-year $60 million contract he signed in 2013 is far below value for a franchise quarterback. Especially one of Brady’s ability and history.

James Laurinaitis to visit the Saints:

Last week the Los Angeles Rams created almost 25 million dollars in cap space by cutting veterans Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Jared Cook. Each of the three should have no problem finding a gig with a new team at a lower number, and Laurinaitis may already have a suitor for his services in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Saints will bring Laurinaitis in for a visit on Tuesday, and the team is reportedly very interested in adding the now former Rams linebacker and adding him to a linebacker group that includes Hau’oli Kikaha and Stephone Anthony, who are both coming off of very good rookie seasons.

Laurinaitis is still a solid linebacker, but his solo tackles have been on decline each of the last three seasons as his speed has seemed to do the same thing.

With diminished returns at middle linebacker the last three seasons, one has to wonder what the plan would be for the Laurinaitis in New Orleans. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen doesn’t run a 3-4 defense, and it would seem that’s the way the veteran linebacker would fit.

It seems unlikely the Saints would jump on Laurinaitis this quickly so that they could offer him a back-up middle linebacker gig, but he’s not fast enough or good enough in coverage to move to the weak side, and there’s no chance they’re going to push Kikaha out of the strong side spot for him. Unless the Saints have designs on moving Kikaha to defensive end, or moving to a 3-4 defense, it wouldn’t seem like there would be a spot in the starting lineup for the former Rams linebacker.

Coaches and GMs speak as combine wraps:

One of the stories of the week, outside of the players on the field that teams were evaluating, was the word that Colin Kaepernick wanted out of San Francisco. With word being that the Niners had not given their quarterback permission to seek a trade, general manager Trent Baalke was asked if Kaepernick was the starting quarterback moving forward, or if there would be a battle for the positon.

“The good thing is we’ve got two guys who’ve gone into games and proven they can play,” Baalke said. “Colin’s done some awfully good things in his career, won some big games for the San Francisco 49ers. I expect him to come back. The main focus right now is his health. He’s doing a good job with his rehab.

“I’ve talked to the medical staff and that seems to be going very well. Just look forward to getting him back and getting him working with this coaching staff.”

Of course, San Francisco isn’t the only team with questions at quarterback, as even the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos have some big decisions on their hands with Peyton Manning weighing retirement, and Brock Osweiler set to become an unrestricted free agent.  John Elway spoke on both quarterbacks, and despite varying reports that Manning had decided to retire, the Broncos GM says the decision hasn’t been made, and that the team is willing to give the veteran quarterback as much time as he needs.

“I met with Peyton a couple of nights ago,” said Elway. “We had a good talk. As I said after the game, we’re going to give him as much time as he needs, and he still needs some more time. We’re going to afford him that time. He’s deserved that after 18 years in this league. To be able to afford him that time to figure out what he wants to do, we’ll continue to do that. That’s where we left it. We’ll stay in touch and in the next week or two we’ll get back together. It’s still in his court. We’re still going to give him that time. Let him enjoy the win. It’s only two and a half weeks since we won. We really want him to be able to enjoy that and give him that time. He’s deserved that. We’ll continue to respect that.”

With the uncertainty involving Manning, you might assume that the Broncos would be in a rush to get a deal done with Osweiler, but Elway says that isn’t the case.

“We’re really not in a hurry,” Elway said. “Everything is still real fluid. We know where Brock is. Brock knows what we have to offer. We still have a great deal of interest in Brock. We’d like to do something with Brock. We’ll start down those tracks and we’ll start talking to Brock about a newcontract and see what we can do there. With that in mind, also affording Peyton the time that he deserves, we’re not in any rush. Like you said, there are 12 days. We don’t feel like we’re in a rush there. We’ll continue to give Peyton that time and continue to work with Brock and try to get something done with Brock.”

One new coach that knows exactly who his quarterback will be is new Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey. While keeping his second-year quarterback healthy will be a priority for Mularkey, he says you can expect to see Marcus Mariota running more often than he did during his rookie season.

“I don’t mind if he takes off, Mularkey explained. “Last year against Jacksonville when he went 80 yards when he just took off, so I don’t have a problem with that. I stated very early on that I don’t have a problem if we’re going to design runs for Marcus, because I think you can protect yourself better as a runner than you can as a pocket passer. You’re exposed more. Again, how much more? It’ll probably be more, because of the injuries he sustained last year, we really did not run him as much as we would have liked to.”

It’s interesting to hear Mularkey so ready to send his quarterback into harms way after seeing him suffer a few injuries in his rookie season. Whether or not Mariota can survive the physicality of the NFL will be a huge factor in how successful he can be. Listening to his new head coach, he won’t be handled with kid gloves to be sure that happens. Mariota is a great athlete and has great speed for a quarterback, and it sounds like Mularkey wants to take full example of that.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.