Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that as Bill Belichick's coaching tree expands, the competition for his type of player increases. Since the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2005, two of Belichick's defensive coordinators -- Mangini and Romeo Crennel -- left to become NFL head coaches. Nick Saban, another former defensive assistant, just finished his first season with the Dolphins. For the Patriots, that means four teams ahead of them in the April draft have very similar defensive philosophies and are looking for the same type of players. If the Patriots remain at No. 21, they may have to watch the Jets (fourth), Cleveland (12th), Miami (16th), and Dallas (18th) snatch players that would look good in Patriots blue.
Nick Cafardo and Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe are reporting that with the deadline looming tomorrow, NFL owners and the league's Players Association may be inching closer to a new collective bargaining agreement. Last night, Patriots vice chairman and president Jonathan Kraft expressed optimism that a deal was close while appearing on "New England Sports Tonight" on FSN. "Everyone, I think, on both sides feels like there is too much to lose," Kraft said. "If I were betting, I would bet there would be a deal by Wednesday." John Tomase of the Boston Herald also offers a similar report.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the next week could prove pivotal in deciding whether McGinest returns for a 13th season in New England. He's due to make $8.3 million and will likely be released before a $3.5 million roster bonus comes due in early March, saving the team $6.8 million against the salary cap.
Lenny Megliola of the MetroWest Daily News offers an article on author James Lavin, who has published two books focused on business lessons that can be learned from the Patriots success. Lavin gets into the style differences between Belichick and his Foxboro predecessor, Bill Parcells. A story goes that Parcells was on the practice field, around midfield, with commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Parcells had his back to his players, then spun around and ripped into one of them for allegedly doing something wrong. Tagliabue wondered how Parcells knew the poor guy had screwed up. Well, he didn't. The Tuna had just made up his mind he was going to get on the player's case this day. "Parcells tries to keep everybody nervous all the time," says Lavin. "Belichick wouldn't do that. He tells you what you did wrong. He doesn't scream much anymore."
Glen Farley of The Enterprise writes that Saturday's release of cornerback Duane Starks was merely the first strike in a paring of the Patriots roster that could include the release of fellow corner Tyrone Poole and the renegotiation of outside linebacker Willie McGinest's contract.
USA Today's "Inside Slant" discusses the reasoning behind the Patriots choosing not to franchise kicker Adam Vinatieri and possibly alow him to test the market as a free agent. "We didn't feel like (tagging Vinatieri) was the right thing to do," Belichick said at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "If we don't have a deal done with him (when free agency is scheduled to begin on March 3) then he will be a free agent. We've had players in free agency before and we'll have them again. So has everybody else. That's part of the system." Patriots notes and quotes are also offered in this article.
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.