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Patriots.com News Blitz - 03/10/06

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that having the new CBA in place may benefit Patriots free agents Adam Vinatieri and David Givens. Virtually every NFL now has money to spend since the new CBA instituted a 2006 salary cap of $102 million, a 19 percent increase over last year's cap. Givens, who has spent his entire four-year career with the Patriots, should be among the most sought-after wideouts on the market. It likely won't take long for him to have a substantial offer. Vinatieri will probably be the league's highest-paid kicker in a couple of weeks. Whether that money comes from the Patriots, the Cowboys, or some other team is the question.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that the Patriots officially released McGinest yesterday rather than pay him a $3.5 million roster bonus due next week. A source close to McGinest yesterday confirmed that returning to New England remains his first choice, but the 12-year veteran linebacker has already drawn interest from the Jets, Dolphins, Cowboys, Browns and Chargers. As of yesterday, McGinest had not scheduled any visits with rival clubs. In an interview with ESPN Boston radio yesterday, team president Jonathan Kraft said the Pats released McGinest so soon as a sign of respect. They could have kept him into next week and limited his options as free agency dollars disappeared. "I don't want to speak for Bill (Belichick), but I think this is proof of the great relationship between the club and Willie," Kraft said. "Out of respect to the player, you let him go before the league year starts. I'm sure Bill has communicated to Willie how we feel and we'll see where it takes us. It was really done more out of respect for Willie than disrespect." Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant, Chris Kennedy of The Republican and Mark Farinella of the Sun Chroncicle also offer a report on Willie McGinest's release.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that with the free agent deadline is looming, Adam Vinatieri remains unsigned by the Patriots. As it stands now, one of the greatest players in franchise history and the NFL's most lethal crunch-time weapon will be free to sign with any team in the league after midnight tonight. If Vinatieri signs elsewhere it may mark the biggest mistake Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli have made since they arrived in Foxboro six years ago. If you think it can't happen, think again. Free agency was delayed over a week and the salary cap grew by nearly $7.5 million and still there's been no movement with the Super Bowl hero. Vinatieri has been talking about his 10 years with the Patriots in the past tense, and one of his teammates said recently the feeling in the locker room at the end of the season was that Vinatieri was a goner.

Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald's "Inside Track" report that Patriots QB Tom Brady surprised football fans in Israel the other night when the two-time Super Bowl MVP tossed out the first ball at two AFI games at Kraft Stadium. Brady, along with Pats owner Robert and Myra Kraft, attended the men's American Football in Israel exhibition game between Big Blue and D D Marketing.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that now that the CBA has been extended, the offseason will finally be upon us. Tonight at midnight two top-notch Patriots -- wide receiver David Givens and kicker Adam Vinatieri -- will hit the free-agent market. And New England can begin its own business. With the 2006 salary cap set at $102 million and the Patriots about $17 million under that, they are absolutely going to be active.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that with his father, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in Israel, team vice chairman Jonathan Kraft stepped forward to help settle the NFL labor dispute. The 42-year-old vice chairman shepherded a revenue-sharing proposal that he helped shape through the league's 31 other owners. When he was done explaining the proposal and answering questions, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was voted on and approved, 30-2. "Early (Wednesday afternoon) people got behind our plan and things began to coalesce. Our plan had a funding mechanism that was attractive to a large number of clubs. The dollar amounts and how they'd be distributed was a larger question, and Pittsburgh and Baltimore came up with a plan that had more attractive numbers to the lower-revenue teams. Then (NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue) asked a handful of us to get into a room as the day was winding down to see if we could use our mechanism and take the dollars up a little bit," Kraft said.

Tony Grossi of the Plain Dealer Reporter (A Cleveland Publication) offers an article on David Givens entering free agency. Grossi writes that Brad Blank, the agent for Patriots wide receiver David Givens. assumes the Browns will be interested in Givens, 25, who averaged 40 catches the past four seasons with the New England Patriots. The Browns have stated their desire to replace free agent Antonio Bryant with a veteran receiver to add "professionalism" and experience to the position. "We've talked about Cleveland," Blank said. "He likes [coach] Romeo [Crennel]. He worries a little bit about how quick that team can get good, but I said, at least from what I could see, they're on the upswing. He's never been to Cleveland, so he's got to check the place out." Blank said the Browns have more salary-cap room than any of the other teams he believed had interest in Givens.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his commentary on the agreement of NFL owners to accept the NFL Players Association proposal to extend collective bargaining agreement and the battle that went on behind the scenes.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that former Jets Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae may be a target for the Patriots to add depth to the offensive line.

FoxSports.com offers a mock draft for the first two rounds of this years draft.

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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