NFL AM: Pats Defend Their Title and Contract Extensions Galore


Nothing But Gronk-Spikes!

The New England Patriots became the 10th team out of the last 11 to defend their Super Bowl victory with another one at home in the season opener as they topped the Pittsburgh Steelers, 28-21, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.

Quarterback Tom Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski for a pair of first half touchdowns as the pair shredded the Steelers defense all night long.  Gronkowski finished with five catches for 94 yards and three touchdowns.

Pittsburgh appeared to be their own worst enemy for much of the night as questionable play calling from offensive coordinator Todd Haley stalled drives, poor clock management, along with a pair of Josh Scobee missed field goals.

Playing in his first game since being exonerated for his role in “Deflate-gate,” Brady completed 25 of 32 throws, for 288 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.  His quarterback rating was 143.8 and he bettered his home record to an astonishing 91-15.  He also set a new NFL record for most victories with one team as he won his 161st as a Patriot.

Neither defense looked particularly good and the Patriots looked like they clearly miss Vince Wilfork, who is now a Houston Texan.  The Steelers had no problem running the football, almost at will without the AFC’s leading rusher from a season ago, Le’Veon Bell.  Bell’s replacement, DeAngelo Williams finished with 127 yards on 21 carries.

Pittsburgh was a bad defense last year and they looked worse in this game.  The secondary seems devoid of talent and they had virtually no pass rush, while busting coverages all over the field.  Still, they were a few self-inflicted mistakes away from dethroning the champs at home.

Bills, Panthers, Colts Extend Stars

Most players and teams like to get the business aspect of football out of the way before the regular season begins.

While Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor holds out in anticipation for a modified contract that may or may not come, the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts took care of Marcel Dareus, Luke Kuechly and Anthony Castonzo respectively.

Per an ESPN report, Dareus inked a six-year, $108 million deal which includes roughly $60 million in guaranteed money.

There’s no denying that Dareus is one of the very best at his position and new Bills head coach Rex Ryan obviously gave his input on the deal.  With that said, the $60 million in guaranteed money that he received is the most of any non-quarterback in NFL history, and it seems like a lot of money for a very good player that doesn’t play a historically impact position.

While Buffalo was making Dareus a very rich man, the Carolina Panthers were finalizing a deal with middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

With Patrick Willis retiring, Kuechly is unquestionably the very best inside linebacker in football.  He has simply played out of his mind since the Panthers took him in the first round back in 2012.

Why should Dareus get more money than Kuechly?

The easy answer is that the market for defensive linemen calls for more money than the market for linebackers, especially inside linebackers.

With that said, there isn’t anyone on the planet that believes that Dareus, although very good, is a better football player than Kuechly.

It’s hard to cry for the Panthers linebacker when he’s the highest paid inside linebacker in NFL history, but it’s difficult to see football players who aren’t of his caliber earning more money.

The Indianapolis Colts came to terms on a four-year contract extension with left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

Castonzo is far from an elite tackle, but he is the best offensive lineman that Indianapolis currently has and he’s likely better than anyone that will be available to the Colts via free agency or presumably picking late in the draft.  When you have a quarterback like Andrew Luck, you must spare absolutely no expense in protecting him.

Browns Claim Turbin, Waive Pryor

The Cleveland Browns made some moves to strengthen their roster on Thursday as they successfully claimed running back Robert Turbin from the Seattle Seahawks, and waived wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.

Turbin was part of a backfield makeover by the Seahawks as they signed Fred Jackson and waived both Turbin and Christine Michael.

In three seasons in Seattle, the 5-foot-10, 223 pound Turbin has averaged exactly 4.0 yards per carry while backing up Marshawn Lynch.  Although scouts love what the former Utah State product brings, he’s yet to score his first rushing touchdown and at this point he’s better known for his biceps than his production.

To make room for Turbin, the Browns ended their short-lived wide receiver experiment with Terrelle Pryor.  Pryor injured his hamstring in training camp which kept him out the first three weeks of preseason.  In the team’s final preseason game he didn’t see any targets, but lined up at quarterback and ran twice for nine yards.

Pryor was initially upset with his pink slip, as he told, “This will be a mistake by them.”

He then changed is tune a bit when he wished the Browns good luck this weekend on Twitter.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.