FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Mayo’s role: When the Patriots took the unconventional step of announcing Jan. 12 that they had “begun contract extension discussions with Jerod Mayo that would keep him with the team long-term,” it sparked several questions.
Why would Mayo forgo head-coaching interviews with other teams? Was this owner Robert Kraft hinting that Mayo has been identified as Bill Belichick’s successor? Is there a new title and role for Mayo on Belichick’s staff this season?
Some concrete answers — straight from Mayo himself — came to the forefront over the past week.
Most notably, the 37-year-old Mayo has committed to “be here for the next few years.” He said family considerations were a primary factor in that decision (Carolina had requested to interview him), in addition to how much he feels at home in New England.
Mayo — a linebacker who spent his eight-year NFL with the Patriots after they drafted him with the No. 10 overall pick in 2008 — made it clear he still has aspirations to be a head coach but deflected when asked if he’s received any assurances from Kraft that could happen with the Patriots.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Mayo downplayed the importance of a new title in 2023, saying he is focused more on personal growth, and citing his presence in interviews as part of the team’s offensive coordinator and offensive line search as one example.
“Look, I’ll be working with the defense again, with the linebackers again,” he said. “But it’s pretty fluid as far as, let’s call it the classes [and] management stuff. … I’m excited to continue to learn new things — not only X’s and O’s, that’s only a small part of it. I’m just trying to be a sponge and learn as much as I can when I’m in those meetings I’m not normally in; I look forward to learning from Bill as far as all the off-the-field stuff.”
Mayo added: “There are more people talking to me that I appreciate their perspectives, and I try to meld it into my own thought process. So it’s not only talking to Bill, it’s also talking to the scouts, the cap guys, the researchers. I have a lot to learn and that’s another reason why I wanted to be here because I feel like we do it right.”
Mayo said it wasn’t important to him to call the defense on game day, highlighting that fellow assistant Steve Belichick has done a “great job” with it since 2019 and “why would you change something that’s working?”
Summing up his decision-making process, he said: “I’m confident that I will grow. Where that leads, I’m not sure. Hopefully, I’ll be here for the foreseeable future, but we’ll just have to see. I am confident in the plan they put together.”
2. Assessing 14th spot: The Patriots could be in no-man’s-land at pick No. 14 — out of the reach of a blue-chip player in a draft widely viewed as not having as many as the norm, and part of a larger cluster of players rated similarly into the second round. Last week, Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh deflected a question about whether he anticipates, based on history, having 14 players in this class that the team would deem worthy of the N0. 14 spot based on their grading system. And Bills general manager Brandon Beane said “it’s not great” when asked how many players his team has ranked as worthy of being a first-round pick compared to other years. One possibility that might help New England: Four quarterbacks come off the board early, pushing other players down the board.
3. Trade market: How the lower-than-normal number of first-round-caliber prospects affects the trade market on draft day will be notable, especially given Belichick’s history. He has made a league-high 86 draft-day trades in his 22-year Patriots tenure, with Philadelphia a distant second over that span with 67. The Patriots enter this year’s draft with 11 selections — headlined by Nos. 14, 46, 76 and 107 — so Belichick has the chips to move up in the first round for a specific target if he can do so, like he did in 2012 with both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.
4. Bijan scenario: When it comes to intriguing draft storylines, where Texas running back Bijan Robinson is picked is among them. Robinson is widely viewed as one of the more talented players (ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay rates him No. 2) but is expected to be picked later because running backs are generally devalued these days. Thus, here’s a question that could become a factor inside the Patriots’ draft room: If Robinson slides to No. 14, would it be a worthy pick given the limited blue-chip options available? “This is a pretty special player, and it’s a unique draft that he is in,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
5. Economic impact: Of the Patriots’ first-round pick, Groh said, “You can’t miss on those guys. It’s great to find those [undrafted] free agents from a cost-spending perspective, but with that fifth-year option on the first-round guys, you better do your homework and make sure you get those guys right. You’re making a real investment.” Last year’s No. 14 pick, Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton, signed a four-year contract worth $16.23 million which included a $9 million signing bonus.
6. Set your clocks: If the Patriots keep the 14th overall pick, and the draft follows a similar pace as last year, it should be made around 9:45 p.m. ET on Thursday. That’s the time the Ravens turned in their card for Hamilton at No. 14 last year in a first round that lasted 3 hours, 18 minutes. The first round was 3:44 in 2021, 3:54 in 2020 and 3:39 in 2019.
7. Center of attention: It wouldn’t be a shock if the Patriots explore the possibility of securing the future at center, where 30-year-old incumbent David Andrews returns for his ninth NFL season. This is a good year to do it. “It’s a weirdly good center class that no one wants to talk about because it’s centers,” McShay said, referencing five he believes will be NFL starters, headlined by Wisconsin’s Joe Tippmann, Ohio State’s Luke Wypler and Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz. Cornerback and tight end are other positions with stronger-than-usual classes from a quality depth standpoint.
8. Levis visit: The Patriots’ reported visit with Kentucky quarterback Will Levis last week was a homecoming of sorts, as Levis was born in Massachusetts and attended high school in Connecticut. It is unclear whether that counted as one of the visits teams are allowed with local-based prospects (like when the Patriots met with Massachusetts-born Purdue quarterback Austin Burton) or if it counted against the 30 visits teams are allowed with non-local prospects. The difference is notable, as NFL teams generally are more judicious when considering how to ration their 30 visits. Nonetheless, another benefit for the Patriots is to get to know a top prospect it might soon be facing, as well as comparing him to what they have in Mac Jones.
9. Numbers game: The Patriots currently have 75 players on their 90-man roster and enter the draft with 11 picks. If they make all the selections, it will leave them with just four spots for undrafted free agents unless they release some players. New England has had at least one undrafted free agent on the opening-day roster in 19 straight seasons, tying Denver for the league lead.
10. Did You Know: The Patriots hold the 14th pick in the draft, and if they make the pick, it would be the third time in team history. Running back Leonard James Russell (1991) and defensive back Roland James (1980) are the others at No. 14.
Why Patriots’ Jerod Mayo turned down head-coaching interviews to stay – New England Patriots Blog