New-look Patriots, plus the truth on those Justin Jefferson rumours

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There seem to be two certainties this summer: weird weather and Chiefs players making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Today’s NFL update:

  • 🆕 New England‘s next trio
  • 🤝 Vikings trade chatter
  • 🗣 OTAs: What’s standing out

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The Patriots next generation

In Bill Belichick’s 24 seasons in New England, he won 17 division titles, nine conference championships and a record six Super Bowl titles. The cerebral coach always did it his way, running the team as the head coach and de facto general manager.

While Bill and Tom Brady received the majority of the praise for the team’s success, credit also went to the culture they upheld. Dubbed “the Patriot Way,” it had players terrified of being late, Brady taking pay cuts and teammates sharing a known standard.

But Brady left in 2020, and Belichick was out this past January after going 29-38 across his final four seasons with a rotating cast at quarterback.

When Belichick exited, Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn’t interview the hottest names in coaching — like Mike Vrabel, Ben Johnson or Jim Harbaugh — because they had quietly named Jerod Mayo as Belichick’s successor in January 2023. One year later, it was official.

Today, the old guard of Brady (now 46), Belichick (72) and the Patriot Way (aging with every Julian Edelman podcast) is being replaced by Mayo (38 years old), de facto general manager Eliot Wolf (42) and No. 3 pick QB Drake Maye (21). Each is among the youngest in the league at their respective positions.

This morning, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe published a deep dive into how Mayo and Wolf are establishing a new Patriot way. Changes noted by Jeff:

  • “Appointing leaders among players who are at various stages of their careers to encourage a diversity of thought across the locker room,” helping players of differing ages to relate to one another.
  • A new, “expansive mural” that depicts “a football player at different stages of his life — the evolution from a kid, on the left side of the wall, to a professional. […] The message Mayo hopes to get across is to always play for that kid who made every imaginable sacrifice to reach the NFL.”
  • A lighter vibe around the building. “There’s a basketball hoop in the locker room, and some coaches even have one in their meeting rooms for an added dose of competition.”

Additional changes include shorter meetings and removed memorabilia, plus a new slogan: “Process. Progress. Payoff.” Until September, the Patriots’ focus is on step one.

Now, Dianna has insider notes on the Vikings star receiver.

What Dianna’s Hearing: Justin Jefferson rumors

I am sure you’ve heard the chatter that the Vikings would have traded away three-time Pro Bowler and former NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson to move up in the 2024 NFL Draft to take former LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers. The reality, as I was told by high-level sources with the Vikings: “That’s simply bogus.”

It appears Minnesota never planned to trade their star wideout, and though sometimes we hear that from teams in order to protect their relationship with the player, in this case I believe what I have consistently been told, that Minnesota wants Jefferson to remain a Viking.

For now, we wait for his contract extension, a deal I expect will reset the market for wide receivers and make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.

49ers DE Nick Bosa’s per-year average of $34 million is the current record, set in 2023. It took Bosa until September of that year to get his deal. Will Jefferson’s be done before training camp? Week 1?

Back to you, Jacob.

NFL OTAs Sights and Sounds: Early QB observations

“What’s standing out at OTAs so far?” I asked a few of The Athletic’s beat writers. Here’s what they said:

Let’s briefly remain in New England with Chad Graff, who just yesterday saw Bailey Zappe downplay what the newly returned Jacoby Brissett called “the elephant in the room”: the Pats quarterback situation. Graff:

“We haven’t seen a ton from Drake Maye just yet with only a couple of open practices so far, and considering he’s taken the third-string reps in OTAs behind Jacoby Brissett and Bailey Zappe. But so far, he’s been as advertised. The arm strength is obvious and impressive even if his footwork does need some cleaning up.”

Moving to Washington, where Ben Standig is keeping a close eye on Jayden Daniels (while the Commanders’ two-year-old nickname is still apparently up for discussion):

“Daniels delivered enough splashy highlights in OTAs to let fans dream about where the dual-threat quarterback might take them in the years to come. What’s more notable now is how the No. 2 pick – and likely Week 1 starter – is impressing coaches and veterans.

“Daniels arrived with significant hype yet hasn’t shown a hint of diva behavior. He’s looked smooth with on-field passing drills while becoming one of the early arrivals on practice days.

“‘He’s coming in early, whether it’s working out or putting in the film (work),’ six-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ‘That’s the thing you look for as a vet. Somebody who wants it, and he definitely does.’”

And in Minnesota? Alec Lewis — who shared OTA takeaways this morning — on the Vikings quarterback situation:

“Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy threw next to each other last Tuesday for the first time. McCarthy’s velocity was evident, as was Darnold’s accuracy. The Vikings allotted most of the reps to Darnold, who is likely to begin the season as the starter. This is no statement about McCarthy; Minnesota is taking a long-term view with one of its biggest-ever investments.”

Around the NFL

As the rookie QBs settle in on their new teams, Nick Baumgardner takes a look at the prospects who will drive the 2025 NFL Draft quarterback conversation. Georgia’s Carson Beck, Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders and Texas’ Quinn Ewers top the list.

How has Anthony Richardson’s processing evolved, entering Year 2? James Boyd answers that and more in his Colts mailbag. (Side note: The Colts have $22.6 million in cap space, per OverTheCap, giving them room to add to their secondary. CB Xavien Howard and S Justin Simmons are both still available.)

With T.J. Watt absent from Steelers OTAs, OLB Nick Herbig is taking advantage of the first-team opportunities. “A guy like Herbig — who [impressed in just] 191 defensive snaps as a rookie last year — will take any reps that come his way.”

Ben Standig investigates how Nick Saban’s mentorship helped Commanders head coach Dan Quinn learn his authentic coaching self.

Dynasty league football tiered rankings: Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and the rest of the top 200, by Jeff Haverlack. Before you read it, can you try to guess the top 10 players?

Jacob’s Picks

📕 The NFL’s first Vietnamese player, Dat Nguyen, was more than just a breaker of barriers. He was a special player: “Dat overcame being a small linebacker by being not only quick and hard-hitting but also cerebral. It earned him All-Pro honors and the praise of former coach Bill Parcells.” (The Athletic)

📺 Watch Dat. After you read about Nguyen, watch him in action. (YouTube)

🎙 The AFC North, questioned. Possibly the NFL’s best division, the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers have high expectations. They’ll need to answer a few questions, as Robert Mays and Steven Ruiz discuss. (The Athletic Football Show)

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