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The New England Patriots have options at cornerback. Whether or not to exercise Authentic Jason McCourty Jersey was one.

But the eldest statesman on the depth chart shouldn’t be departing from it in the coming weeks.

New England plans to pick up McCourty’s team option for 2020, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Media on Wednesday.

Moving on would have netted the Patriots $3.75 million in cap savings to go with $1.75 million in dead money. Instead, McCourty’s upcoming $5.5 million cap charge will be taken on.

That charge stands outside the league’s highest 30 at the position, according to Over The Cap.

It’s a value at a position that remains intact.

No Patriots cornerback is scheduled to become a free agent when the new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET March 18. Authentic J.C. Jackson Jersey, Authentic Justin Bethel Jersey and February addition Authentic Lenzy Pipkins Jersey join McCourty in the New England inventory for next season. Reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Authentic Stephon Gilmore Jersey and Authentic D’Angelo Ross Jersey are signed through 2021. As for extended nickelback Authentic Jonathan Jones Jersey and recent second-round investment Authentic Joejuan Williams Jersey, both are under contract through 2022.

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Only the Baltimore Ravens check in ahead in terms of current corner spending.

McCourty will turn 33 during training camp on the Gillette Stadium backfields. He’ll do so with north of 150 games on his NFL odometer.

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Authentic Adrian Phillips Jersey faced the New England Patriots twice as a Los Angeles Charger.

A dozen tackles, including one for loss, and one pass breakup would be the byproduct in October 2017. An additional six tackles, including one for loss, would follow during his return to Gillette Stadium for the AFC divisional round in January 2019.

Phillips is on track for a longer stay now. New England agreed to terms with the 27-year-old safety during the initial wave of free agency.

According to Field Yates and Mike Reiss of ESPN, it is a two-year pact for Phillips that includes a $1.5 million signing bonus and a combined cap number of $6 million. Upcoming are base salaries of $1.25 million and $2.25 million for 2020 and 2021, respectively, along with up to $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses and $750,000 in incentives for each season.

A good match of value and versatility Phillips projects to be.

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A reported $1 million of his 2020 base salary is guaranteed. A reported $500,000 of his 2021 base is.

Phillips entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2014. The former Texas Longhorns captain would draw Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors for his work on special teams by 2018. From kickoff and punt returns to kickoff and punt coverage, that campaign saw Phillips appear in all 16 games for the Chargers.

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He’d start seven.

The volume gave way to a career-high 94 tackles with nine defended passes, one interception and one forced fumble. By the close of the calendar, Phillips had logged 66% of the defensive snaps and 78% of the snaps in the kicking game.

Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots
While a Charger, Phillips registered 18 tackles over two career meetings with the Patriots. (Photo … [+] GETTY IMAGES
The Chargers re-signed Phillips on a one-year, $2 million deal last March. Five starts over seven contests were the result at both strong and free safety, with a broken forearm leading to a stint on injured reserve in between.

“AP’s versatility is huge,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters in the aftermath Phillips’ injury last September. “He was a special teams Pro Bowler last year. He’s the captain of that secondary. He’ll be hard to replace.”

Phillips made his way back by December to earn the sixth-highest Pro Football Focus grade among safeties. He earned it in a limited sample size, yet while lining up in the box, in the slot and in the deep half.

New England’s safety depth chart, among others, has undergone a shift since the legal-tampering window met the new league year. The organization extended the decade-long tenure of Devin McCourty last Sunday, agreed to trade third-in-command Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions on Wednesday, and saw core special-teamer Nate Ebner join the New York Giants as a free agent on Thursday.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Phillips could handle what the exits of Harmon and Ebner leave behind. At least in part.

He finds himself in a room of safeties where McCourty, Patrick Chung and Terrence Brooks all have seats. Also under contract are recent members of New England’s practice squad in Authentic Obi Melifonwu Jersey and Authentic Adarius Pickett Jersey, as well as a member of last spring’s undrafted class in Authentic Malik Gant Jersey, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve.

Phillips stands with 64 games and 24 starts on his NFL log. He has recorded 251 tackles, 18 passes defensed, five interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles from sub-package linebacker to single-high centerfielder.

For the Patriots, it’s ground worth covering.

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It still hasn’t been two weeks since free agency opened, and the Patriots already look like a drastically different football team.

It’s not just Tom Brady’s exodus — though it is the most significant.

Bill Belichick’s team has seen significant turnover on both sides of the ball. With under $1 million in cap space at the moment, they’ll either need to trade somebody like Joe Thuney, or restructure Dont’a Hightower’s deal to create any more wiggle room.

So what does the roster look like at the moment? Here’s a free agency reset:

Quarterback

Added: Brian Hoyer

Departed: Tom Brady

Under contract: Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler

Apparently Hoyer wasn’t brought back to given Stidham a veteran presence to lean on. His agent, Joe Linta, informed NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport there will be a quarterback competition in Foxborough.

“If someone offered him $5 million or $6 million to be backup, Brian still would’ve wanted to be back in New England,” Linta told Rapoport. “They gave him a chance to compete for the starting job and that’s all he asked for.”

For what it’s worth, Stidham beat Hoyer out for Brady’s backup job last August.

Running back/Fullback

Added: Danny Vitale

Departed: None

Under contract: James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin, Jakob Johnson

With everybody under contract, this stable remains the same. Vitale adds fullback insurance in the event James Develin’s neck keeps him sidelined.

Tight end

Added: None

Retired: Ben Watson

Under contract: Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse

With a weak tight end draft class, it’s a surprise the Patriots haven’t yet made a move to fortify the position that was an Achilles heel in 2019. If they do decide to deal Thuney, perhaps a tight end will be Foxborough bound.

Wide receiver

Added: Damiere Byrd

Departed: Phillip Dorsett

Under contract: Julian Edelman, Authentic N’Keal Harry Jersey, Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski

Byrd had a fine season for the Cardinals last fall, catching 32 passes for 359 yards. He’s returned punts and kickoffs, so he could fill that void. Seeing Dorsett depart wasn’t terribly surprising, as he fell down the depth chart for the second season in a row.

Offensive line

Added: None

Departed: Ted Karras

Franchise tagged: Joe Thuney

Under contract: Isaiah Wynn, Marcus Cannon, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Korey Cunningham, James Ferentz, Hijalte Froholdt, Yodny Cajuste.

Still in free agent limbo: Marshall Newhouse, Jermaine Eluemunor (restricted)

On the books for $14.78 million this season, it’ll be a surprise if Thuney is still wearing that cap hit when Week 1 rolls around. The team has said they want to work on an extension, and if one can’t be reached, the remarkably durable guard will be an attractive piece of trade bait.

Linebackers

Added: Brandon Copeland

Departed: Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts

Re-signed: Shilique Calhoun

Under contract: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon King

With the mini-exodus of Patriots linebackers, there is going to be plenty of competition at the position whenever training camp rolls around.

It wasn’t surprising to see Collins and Van Noy cash in with huge deals, as it pays to play on the best statistical defense in the NFL

Cornerbacks

Added: None

Departed: None

Under contract: Authentic Stephon Gilmore Jersey, Authentic D’Angelo Ross Jersey , Authentic J.C. Jackson Jersey, Authentic Jason McCourty Jersey, Authentic Jonathan Jones Jersey, Authentic Joejuan Williams Jersey, Authentic Justin Bethel Jersey.

The deepest position on the Patriots roster should stay that way in 2020.

Belichick picked up Jason McCourty’s option — perhaps further enticing his brother to return, too — so this group looks exactly the same.

Safeties

Added: Adrian Phillips, Cody Davis

Departed: Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Re-signed: Devin McCourty

Under contract: Patrick Chung, Terrence Brooks, Malik Grant

The significant turnover in the Patriots’ secondary comes at the safety position.

The Duron Harmon trade came as a surprise, as did Nate Ebner’s defection to the Giants. The special teams standout actually made more money in each of his last two Patriots seasons than he will in New York.

Phillips, who got a two-year deal slots in as Ebner’s replacement, while Davis is likely to compete on special teams, too.

Defensive line

Added: Beau Allen

Departed: Danny Shelton

Under contract: Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Byron Cowart, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers

Still sitting in free agent limbo: Keionta Davis, Adam Butler (restricted)

This one is pretty straightforward: Shelton out, Allen in.

The Patriots needed to replace their run-stuffing tackle, and Allen can earn up to $8 million on a two-year deal. If Allen’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was on the Eagles team that upset the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Also could be because Beau Allen is just a simple sounding name.

Specialists

Added: None

Departed: Stephen Gostkowski

Re-signed: Matthew Slater

Unwilling to gamble on a 36-year-old kicker coming off hip surgery, the Patriots cut Gostkowski and saved almost $3.6 million against the cap. They could look to the draft to replenish the position that had seen remarkable continuity through Bill Belichick’s first 20 years in New England.

Keeping Slater in the fold ensures the locker room retains a respected, veteran voice amidst so much roster turnover.

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The Patriots continue to add players with special teams backgrounds via free agency, signing former Jaguars safety Authentic Cody Davis Jersey. Davis’ agent, Jordan Woy, tweeted the move earlier on Monday.

Davis spent the first five of his seven NFL seasons with the Rams before playing the last two years with Jacksonville. He has appeared in 97 career games with five starts and has 83 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles to his credit.

The majority of Davis’ work has come in the kicking game, which makes him a strong candidate to replace veteran Nate Ebner, who signed with the Giants as a free agent late last week. Like Ebner, Davis is a safety by trade who sees very little action on defense.

Davis was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech in 2013.

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According to a report from ESPN’s Field Yates, the Patriots are bringing back special teams ace and locker room leader Authentic Matthew Slater Jersey on a two-year deal. Slater was set to hit free agency at the start of the new league year but will return to the only team he’s played for.

Field Yates

@FieldYates
The Patriots & special teamer/WR Matthew Slater have agreed to a two-year extension, per sources. The deal is similar to his last, which averaged $2.6M/year.

Slater, a longtime team captain, is one of the team’s most respected players & arguably the top ST player in the league.

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The 12-year veteran is a critical part of the Patriots leadership, known for his emotional post-game speeches, breaking down the locker room with the traditional “How do we feel?” chant that was originally started by Tedy Bruschi. But Slater’s on-field presence is a welcome one as well and he’ll combine with Authentic Justin Bethel Jersey to form the most formidable pair of gunners in the NFL. Slater recovered a blocked punt for the first touchdown of his career in 2019. He’ll turn 35 in September but remains one of the best special teamers in the NFL.

It’s an important first move of free agency for the Patriots in an offseason that has a collection of team leaders, including Tom Brady and Authentic Devin McCourty Jersey, poised to hit the open market. Slater is a critical piece who will help ensure some continuity of leadership and culture.

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Taking his talents to Foxborough, Penn alumnus Authentic Brandon Copeland Jersey, a former All-Ivy defensive lineman on the football team who played for the New York Jets the past two seasons, has signed with AFC East rival the New England Patriots.

Copeland, a linebacker and special teams player, had 27 tackles, 15 assisted tackles, 1.5 sacks, two deflected passes, and one forced fumble in 12 games for the 7-9 Jets last season. In a Week 9 18-26 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 3, he had a season-high nine total tackles and one sack.

During Super Bowl weekend, Copeland was presented with the NFL Players Association’s Alan Page Community Service Award. The union’s highest honor, it recognizes “one player who demonstrates a profound dedication to positively impacting his team’s city and communities across the country.”

Across four NFL seasons—he spent his first two seasons with the Detroit Lions—Copeland has 73 tackles, 34 assisted tackles, seven sacks, four deflected passes, and two forced fumbles.

New England is coming off an un-Patriot-like subpar season. They finished 12-4 and won their division, but lost in the Wild Card round at home to the Tennessee Titans. This season will be the Pats’ first without future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady in 20 years.

Thrice in his four years as a Quaker, Copeland, a Wharton grad and a Penn lecturer, was a member of Ivy League championship teams, in 2009, 2010, and 2012. He was also a three-time First-Team All-Ivy selection. He was undrafted out of college and spent short stints with the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans before signing with the Lions.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After a 2019 season in which the New England Patriots finished last in the NFL in tight end receptions and targets, according to research by ESPN’s Stats & Information, what has the club done to address the position this offseason?

[Insert sound of crickets].

There has been no movement, other than subtraction (the retirement of veteran Benjamin Watson).

In one sense, it is understandable. The free-agent market was thin, especially once the Los Angeles Chargers placed the franchise tag on Hunter Henry. The Cleveland Browns moved fast to lock up Austin Hooper, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, but at a hefty price tag (four years, $44 million, with $23 million guaranteed) that was likely out of the Patriots’ consideration.

Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse will be working with second-year QB Jarrett Stidham this season. Billie Weiss/Getty Images
Likewise, veteran Jimmy Graham’s two-year, $16 million deal with the Chicago Bears, which included $9 million guaranteed, was viewed by Football Outsiders as overspending. And it’s hard to imagine Graham being a fit in New England, regardless.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ two-year, $12 million deal with Eric Ebron was more reasonable, yet the Patriots’ lack of interest spoke volumes of how they didn’t view Ebron as a fit.

2020 NFL Free Agency

• News tracker » | Top 100 free agents »
• Barnwell’s grades » | Experts weigh in »
• Best remaining free agents available »
• Free-agency coverage » | More NFL »

Clearly, the supply didn’t meet the demand for the Patriots, who return 2019 free-agent signing Authentic Matt LaCosse Jersey and 2018 seventh-round draft choice Authentic Ryan Izzo Jersey on the depth chart. Improvement from LaCosse and Izzo would be part of upgrading the position, and perhaps working with second-year quarterback Authentic Jarrett Stidham Jersey — a player on a similar development track/knowledge base in the system — helps spark that progress.

But the Patriots still need help, whether it’s via trade, the draft or the waiver wire. That’s why, when assessing the team’s needs, it starts at tight end — even more than quarterback, with one caveat: Only if the Patriots felt like a franchise QB option was available would they pounce (and that seems unlikely with their first pick at No. 23 and a trade up doubtful).

The following is one view of the Patriots’ top needs, paired with a realistic, early-round prospect from ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s new tiers piece:

  1. Tight end
    With 12 draft picks, the Patriots have some capital to trade that might interest teams with an excess at the position. One suggestion: See if the Chicago Bears might be willing to move disappointing 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen for a late-rounder.

This year’s draft isn’t considered deep at the position, but then again, analysts were saying something similar in 2013 when Tyler Eifert was viewed by many as the only first-round-caliber option. But how many teams would now covet a player such as Zach Ertz (second round) or Travis Kelce (third round)?

Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet could be a good fit for New England. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
McShay’s match: Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet (No. 42 overall draft prospect). At 6-foot-5¾ and 262 pounds, Kmet has huge mitts and enters the draft after his junior season (43 catches, 515 yards, 6 TDs). He fits the mold of the combination tight end that is highly valued in New England — equally as effective as a blocker and pass-catcher.

  1. Off-the-line linebacker
    2020 NFL draft coverage

• Most recent mock: Kiper » | McShay »
• Kiper’s Big Board » | McShay’s tiers »
• First Draft podcast » | Draft order »
• Full class rankings from Scouts Inc. »
More NFL draft coverage »

Losing Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts in free agency has thinned the depth chart, leaving captain Authentic Dont’a Hightower Jersey, 2018 fifth-round pick Authentic Ja’Whaun Bentley Jersey and practice-squad player Authentic Terez Hall Jersey as the top options. Safety Adrian Phillips is also a projected factor at this spot in certain sub packages.

Ideal characteristics: Speed, take-on ability in the run game and a presence on special teams.

Veteran Nigel Bradham is one of the top available free agents, and if the Patriots wanted to take a flier on a highly touted prospect who hasn’t panned out, 2016 Jets first-round pick Darron Lee could be worth a look.

McShay’s match: Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray (No. 27 overall prospect). If the Patriots are going to select a linebacker early, the key is that he can play all four downs. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound Murray fits that mold, and might be the closest thing to Collins in terms of playmaking ability in this year’s draft.

  1. Offensive line
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Top interior backup Ted Karras signed with the Dolphins in free agency, and starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is in the latter stages of his career with a high salary-cap charge, so any position up front could be targeted to help solidify the ranks. Offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, the 2019 third-round pick from West Virginia who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, is a wild card who could be viewed as a “new” draft pick himself.

Former Patriots, Titans and Vikings center/guard Josh Kline (30) is a free agent who could fit, assuming he was amenable to a projected role as a top backup.

McShay’s match: Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz (No. 36 overall prospect). With center/guard flexibility, the 6-foot-2, 307-pound Ruiz would represent a safer choice in an altered offseason in which scouting has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He would initially project as a top backup at all three interior spots. If any of the top offensive tackles slide — a group headlined by Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas — the Patriots should pounce.

  1. Wide receiver

Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler has the kind of speed and versatility the Patriots could use. Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire
A Damiere Byrd-for-Phillip Dorsett swap in free agency could ultimately be an upgrade when considering the speedy Byrd as a factor as a return man. But even more speed and playmaking ability is needed to pair with Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu and Byrd atop the depth chart.

The draft is widely viewed as deep at the position, making that the more likely avenue for the Patriots to pursue than free agency. A duplicate to what the Chiefs added last year with Mecole Hardman would be ideal.

McShay’s match: Penn State’s K.J. Hamler (No. 75 overall prospect). With Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III projected to be off the board early, Hamler is one of the receivers next in line in terms of speed and explosiveness. He was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as college football’s most versatile player, as he projects as a factor in the return game, as well.

  1. Defensive end/outside linebacker
    Kyle Van Noy was one of the Patriots’ top defenders, and now that he signed with the Dolphins as a free agent, it opens a spot for 2019 third-round pick Chase Winovich to possibly emerge opposite John Simon. Derek Rivers, the 2017 third-round pick who has spent two of his three seasons on injured reserve, is in the mix alongside Keionta Davis, Shilique Calhoun and practice-squad player Authentic Tashawn Bower Jersey.

If the Patriots are looking to build more depth, former Giants and Bengals edge player Kerry Wynn might be of interest. The club had explored him as a fit in its scheme when Wynn was a restricted free agent two years ago. Old friend Jabaal Sheard is on the market, while Clay Matthews would fall more into the Chris Long situational-pass-rusher category.

McShay’s match: Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa (No. 26 overall prospect). The scheme versatility of the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Epenesa could be appealing, as he potentially fits as a 4-3 end or as a 3-4 end.

  1. Kicker
    The often-overlooked position figures to be a target for the Patriots this year, similar to 2006, when they selected Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round to replace Adam Vinatieri. Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia Southern’s Tyler Bass and Stanford’s Jet Toner are among those viewed as possible draft picks.

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When the New England Patriots signed defensive tackle Authentic Beau Allen Jersey to a two-year, $8 million contract last week, some were puzzled. Why would the Patriots let Danny Shelton walk – who then signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Lions – and then opt to sign a similarly talented DT for the same exact price tag?

Well, the price tag may have been the same, but if you look closely at each player’s contract, it tells a different story.

Here are the contract details for Allen’s deal with the Patriots, per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe:

Two years
$7 million
$500,000 in incentives in 2020
$500,000 in incentives in 2021
$1.7 million signing bonus
$1.3 million base salary in 2020 ($800,000 guaranteed)
$2.2 million base salary in 2021 ($250,000 guaranteed)
$900,000 roster bonus in 2020 and 2021
$2.88 million cap hit in 2020
$3.95 million cap hit in 2021
The important part of the details is Allen’s cap hit for the 2020 season, which is $2.88 million. Shelton got $4 million guaranteed from Detroit this offseason. If Allen were to max out his contract, which includes hitting all incentives/bonuses, he would get $4.4 million for the upcoming season. However, his cap hit is currently $1.12 million cheaper than Shelton’s, which is a lot for a Patriots team that is very tight on cap space this offseason.

New England has been trying to maneuver around money the past couple weeks to free up space to acquire talent. They traded Duron Harmon to the Lions last week and then were able to sign former All-Pro safety Authentic Adrian Phillips Jersey who is talented, younger than Harmon, and has a cheaper cap hit. They also released veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski on Monday to free up more room. It wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the bigger contracts on the roster restructured in the coming weeks and/or another player is cut to provide more cap relief.

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A continuing series looking at how the Patriots could fill positions through the NFL Draft, April 23 to 25.

When it comes to the offensive line, you can never have enough depth.

That was evident last year. The Patriots had three offensive linemen retire during the offseason (Jared Veldheer, Brian Schwenke and J.J. Dielman). The Pats then traded for three players at the end of training camp (Russell Bodine, Corey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor). It still wasn’t enough.

This offseason, the Patriots have lost two interior backup offensive linemen from last season’s team. Ted Karras, who started at center last year in place of Authentic David Andrews Jersey (blood clots), became a free agent and signed with Miami. He had been the Pats top backup center and guard over the last three seasons. Last year’s top backup center, James Ferentz, is also a free agent.

The Pats currently don’t have a backup center on the roster. Their backup guards — Hjalte Froholdt, Eluemunor and Authentic Najee Toran Jersey — are all untested. That’s a big reason why no one should be surprised if the Patriots draft a guard or center.

The average guard/center drafted by Bill Belichick stands 6-feet-3 and weighs 307 pounds. Athletically, he runs a 5.25 40-yard dash, has a 27-inch vertical leap, makes more than 27 reps on the bench press, broad jumps 102 inches, has a 3-cone time around 7.79 and has a shuttle time around 4.58.

After combing over every player at this year’s NFL Combine, here are five who fit the Patriot mold.

Matt Hennessy, Temple

Hennessy is one of the best athletic fits at either guard/center or tackle. That’s how athletic he is. For interior offensive linemen, he hits six of eight categories — height, weight, 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump and 3-cone. Athletically, his numbers are comparable to former Patriots center Dan Connolly.

At Temple, Hennessy was a standout center and a finalist for the Remington Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top center. He earned All-American honors. He even played some guard. Hennessy is a projected Day 2 draft pick.

John Simpson, Clemson

Simpson ties with Hennessy for the best fit among interior offensive linemen. He also has six hits — height, weight, 40 time, vertical jump, bench and broad jump. He’s also a projected Day 2 draft pick.

Simpson is coming off a fantastic career at Clemson. He played for three seasons, making 29 of 30 starts at left guard. He was named third-team All-ACC in 2018 and first-team all-conference last season. He also garnered second-team All-American honors. He’s lauded for his technique and physicality.

Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

Ruiz ties for the third most hits among interior offensive lineman. He hits for what the Patriot like in terms of weight, 40 time, vertical jump, bench press and broad jump. He’s a projected first-round pick, who at worse falls to the early second round. The Patriots have already shown interest, meeting with Ruiz at the NFL Combine.

Ruiz had a great career at Michigan, where he played both guard and center (five starts at right guard and 26 at center). He enters the draft where he profiles as a starter at either position.

Damien Lewis, LSU

Lewis ties with Ruiz and four others with five hits. He meets what the Patriots look for in weight, 40 time, vertical jump, bench press and broad jump. It’s possible he hits more, but he didn’t participate in the 3-cone or shuttle drill. He is projected as a Day 3 pick.

After transferring to LSU from junior college, Lewis started two seasons at right guard. Last year, he earned second-team All-SEC honors. He was a part of a national championship and helped the Tigers win the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the top offensive line in the country. The Patriots met with him at the NFL Combine and had a FaceTime interview with him.

Danny Pinter, Ball State

Pinter also hits five of the eight targets. He matches up what the Patriots look for in height, 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump and 3-cone time. He’s also projected to go somewhere in Day 3 of the draft.

Pinter has an interesting story. He started at Ball State as a tight end and played there for two seasons before transitioning to tackle as junior. He started at right tackle over the last two seasons and excelled. Considering he stands 6-4 and weighs 306 pounds, teams will look to move him to guard. In fact, one athletic comparison is Patriots left guard Joe Thuney.

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The first move of the post-Tom Brady era in New England was reportedly made Tuesday evening as NFL Network indicated the Patriots plan to sign free agent wide receiver Damiere Byrd.

Mike Garafolo

@MikeGarafolo
The #Patriots are signing WR Authentic Damiere Byrd Jersey to a one-year deal source says. Coming off a 32-catch season with the #Cardinals. This is where I usually say, “And his next pass will be from Tom Brady” but, ya know…

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Byrd spent the first three years of his career in Carolina before joining the Cardinals in 2019. He caught a career-best 32 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown last year in the desert. The 5-9, 180-pound Byrd was originally signed by the Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2015 after his career at South Carolina. He spent time on the Panthers practice squad in 2015 and ’16 before being elevated to the active roster toward the end of the season. Byrd also has some experience as a punt returner, averaging 9.4 yards on 12 career returns, 11 of which came in 2018.

For his career, Byrd has 44 receptions for 488 yards and three touchdowns in 28 games including three starts.