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Patriots.com News Blitz - 02/27/06

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots have until Friday to strike a deal with kicker Adam Vinatieri, the franchise's all-time leading scorer or risk letting him hit the open market as a free agent.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal and Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe report that the Patriots released cornerback Duane Starks in a move to clear some cap space. Starks was set to count $5.1 million on the team's salary cap, the sixth highest figure on the club.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots under Bill Belichick have not traditionally mined the draft for linebackers, but that could change this year. Help should be available from the college ranks, because the 2006 draft is linebacker heavy, and as the Super Bowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks proved with Lofa Tatupu, a team can win with a rookie linebacker seeing significant action. While standouts like A.J. Hawk of Ohio State, Chad Greenway of Iowa and DeMeco Ryans of Alabama will likely be gone by the time the Patriots pick first at No. 21, plenty of depth remains. Belichick said evaluating linebackers can be a challenge, particularly if the player in question hasn't played against pro-style offenses. "It depends on the defense he's in and what he's seeing," Belichick said. "If his responsibilities are similar to what you have, it's a lot easier to evaluate than a linebacker with different responsibilities or one playing offenses we don't see, like option teams or teams that run a lot of quick screens."

Albert Breer of the MetroWest Daily News offers analyis of the Patriots defensive core and takes a look at which positions may be addressed via free agency or the draft.

Confused about the collective bargaining aggreement? Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers a primer on which factions exist and what they are seeking. Curran also offers the answers to frequently asked questions about the CBA and revenue sharing.

More than 300 of the nation's top college players were invited to the combine for workouts, physical exams and interviews. The Providence Journal takes a look at some of the highlights of the 2006 NFL Scouting Combine.

Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that talks between NFL owners and the Players Association are approaching an abyss from which there is no healthy return. According to a management source familiar with the work of the negotiating committee, the real sticking point is players union leader Gene Upshaw's insistence that the burgeoning local revenues of the top nine teams be shared equally with the less successful -- and some owners say less hard-working -- franchises. The owners insist that while they are willing to put all the teams' revenue into the salary cap pot, it is up to them what, if any, portion of local revenue will be shared.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag which focuses on new contracts for wideout David Givens and kicker Adam Vinatieri.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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