The Patriots Hall of Fame committee held its annual nomination meeting at Gillette Stadium last week, and it featured some lively discussion among the two dozen members in attendance. The group nominated 11 individuals for consideration and then voted on their top three finalists, from which a winner will be selected by fans in the coming weeks.
Logan Mankins, Mike Vrabel, Wes Welker, Lawyer Milloy, Bill Parcells, Mosi Tatupu, Russ Francis, John Smith, Julius Adams, Chuck Fairbanks and Pete Brock were all put up for consideration and the three finalists will be announced later this week.
For me, it was a rather easy decision as I listed Welker, Vrabel and Mankins as my nominees with some thought given to Milloy and Parcells. Vrabel is a six-time finalist but can't seem to garner enough of the fan vote to earn his red jacket. That could quite possibly end this year as it would be hard to imagine he doesn't make the cut to the finalist list once again.
Mankins also has been a finalist before, earning that distinction in 2022 as a first-year eligible candidate. Mankins and Vrabel lost the fan vote to Vince Wilfork, who was inducted last summer.
Welker's production puts him at a notch above the rest in my view, however. I voted him as my top pick a year ago and was stunned to learn he wasn't even among the three finalists. As the franchise's all-time leader in receptions with 672, Welker is the only one among the top seven on the team's receptions list who isn't already in the Patriots Hall of Fame or destined to land there in the cases of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
Most Patriots fans would consider Edelman a lock for enshrinement, and rightly so, but Welker's production is better in almost every way. In just six seasons with the Patriots (compared to Edelman's 11), Welker had more catches (672-620), receiving yards (7,459-6,822), average per reception (11.1-11.0), touchdowns (37-36), 100-catch seasons (5-2), 100-yard games (28-15) and average yards per game (80.2-49.8) than Edelman, and did so while playing 93 games compared to Edelman's 137.
Both revolutionized the slot receiver position and should be sure-fire Patriots Hall of Famers, but Welker is still waiting for his chance to make it to the finalist stage. To me, that production is impossible to ignore, and one questionable drop in Super Bowl XLVI shouldn't diminish his accomplishments, which by the way include an 11-catch, 103-yard effort in Super Bowl XLII.
The results will be known soon enough.
While the meeting is generally one of the more enjoyable events we take part in each year, the highlight last week was unquestionably Robert Kraft's appearance to honor Dante Scarnecchia as the latest inductee as a special contributor. Kraft surprised those in attendance and began a short speech honoring Scarnecchia, who looked to be truly humbled by the experience.
Few people have made the type of impact on the Patriots organization through the years that Scarnecchia has, and the group rose to offer a standing ovation to show some appreciation for all his hard work over his three-plus decades of work in Foxborough.
It was a memorable moment for sure.
There was quite a stir created last week when ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio reported that Bill Belichick "shopped Mac Jones to multiple teams during the 2023 offseason." Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Florio didn't have many specifics in terms of the possible timing or potential trade partners, although he did speculate that Las Vegas, Washington, Tampa Bay and Houston were possibilities.
Interestingly, there weren't many strong rebuttals of the story in the days following the initial post. Even Belichick's close confidant Mike Lombardi didn't offer a strong denial when doing his best to shoot down the report.
"I know he's not shopping Mac, but I'm not saying that Florio's report is completely wrong," Lombardi said on his GM Shuffle podcast. "Because I wouldn't be surprised if [Texans GM] Nick [Caserio] or some other team called him up because they're reading all the [expletive] in the paper. But that's not shopping.
"Did the Texans call Bill and say, 'Are you going to move Mac?' and he said, 'What do you offer?' Because every player is available, right? But not every player is being shopped. So, the idea that he's shopping Mac is against everything he would do. First of all, he's the most secretive person in the league. He's not going to tell you anything he's doing. Even some people in the organization don't know. But if somebody comes to him and says, 'I'll give you a 1 for Mac.' I mean, OK, does that mean he's shopping him? No, that just means somebody asked the question.
"I'll say correctly, he's not being shopped. The report's erroneous. ... Belichick is way smarter than I am. He's not saying, 'Hey, I'm going to trade Mac Jones.' He knows the repercussions of it. But now can he stop somebody from asking? Of course not."
On one hand Lombardi says Jones was not shopped. On the other he seems to fall back on semantics in his reasoning, saying others may have called to check on Jones' availability and Belichick was simply doing his due diligence by listening. He says, "every player is available, right?" I'm not sure that is true for teams who are sold on their quarterbacks around the league. How many calls you think the Jaguars fielded this offseason wondering about Trevor Lawrence's potential availability?
To suggest any potential trade talks involving Jones would simply be part of everyday business is disingenuous at best. Belichick himself has been unwilling to declare Jones as his starter, which is in stark contrast to how he was speaking about Jones last offseason when he was raving about his young quarterback's progress.
Does that mean Belichick spent the Combine or league meetings carrying a picture of Jones with a For Sale sign over his head? Of course not, but if it was a complete fabrication based in no facts at all someone would be willing to directly shoot down the report. At this point, the best rebuttal has come in the form of semantics.
Sending a message?
The Ravens reportedly signed free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham to a one-year deal over the weekend. The contract is worth up to $18 million with about $15 million in guarantees with $13.835 million of that in a signing bonus.
It's a pretty hefty to price to pay for a wideout who hasn't played in about 19 months since tearing his ACL during Super Bowl LVI while playing for the Rams, although the structure of the deal with four void years makes it quite cap friendly. It's the second time Beckham has dealt with a torn ACL, and he's now about four years removed from his last truly productive season when he caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns for Cleveland in 2019.
But the Ravens may have felt a bit desperate given their poor history of developing wide receivers for Lamar Jackson, and given the quarterback's lengthy and acrimonious contract negotiations it could serve as an olive branch of sorts. Baltimore placed the franchise tag on Jackson and the sides have yet to reach an agreement on a long-term deal. Perhaps the team adding a high-profile wideout to the fold will help coax Jackson into staying – or at the very least into signing his tender and playing out the 2023 season in Baltimore.
In fact, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Beckham signed with the Ravens with "a clear understanding" that Jackson would be Baltimore's quarterback, and the two celebrated together after the deal was finalized.
At the very least, the team added some depth at a position that badly needed it.