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Patriots' Adjustments to Benjamin Watson's Suspension, Jets' GM Search Heats Up, More NFL Notes

Also, a thought from Nate Boyer for those who have a hard time celebrating on Memorial Day.

Happy Memorial Day … If you missed this morning’s MMQB column, you can find it here.

1. Given the news of Benjamin Watson’s suspension, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a really good chance that the Patriots aren’t done adding at tight end—and might not be for a while. The team was in an even more difficult spot at receiver in 2006 after Deion Branch forced a trade (they had also lost David Givens in free agency). That year, five wideouts on the roster caught 10 or more passes. One (Doug Gabriel) was traded for in September. Another (Jabar Gaffney) was signed in October. And Gaffney wound up being one of just three receivers active for the AFC title game a few months later—both a sign of how the Patriots can bring guys along and how they adjust (in going with just three receivers for a playoff game).

2. Watson’s deal, by the way, is a lot like ones signed this offseason by Jamie Collins and Julian Edelman in New England—heavy on incentives that require a player to be on the field. So Watson will lose out, due to his suspension. He’ll lose four of his 17 weekly checks (from a base of $1.45 million), which comes to $341,176, and $75,000 in per-game roster bonuses. And there’s another $650,000 in incentives, which will without question be harder to reach now. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio mentioned earlier that if there’s a Pro Bowl incentive in there, that comes off the table right away, because by rule guys busted under the PED policy are ineligible in the year of their suspension. I’m not sure if Watson has a Pro Bowl incentive, but it would make sense if he did, because Edelman and Collins do.

(UPDATE: Watson’s incentives do not include a Pro Bowl trigger. As PFT has reported, he gets $250K for playing 35 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps, and $400K for playing 45 percent. Both count against the cap, because he played 48 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps last year. So he’ll count $3 million against the Patriots’ cap.)

3. The Jets’ GM search will rev up this week. I’m told it remains unclear if Minnesota exec George Paton will accept the interview, but both Chicago’s Champ Kelly and Seattle’s Scott Fitterer are going to meet with the Jets. Fitterer’s interview is set for Thursday and Friday in New Jersey.

4. Of course, Philadelphia’s Joe Douglas remains the favorite, and the one hire the Jets can make that could mitigate the public relations mess of the last few weeks. One reason to hire Douglas, beyond just his relationship with Adam Gase and sterling reputation as an evaluator, would be his ability to assemble a loaded scouting staff, sort of like Chris Ballard has in Indianapolis. There’s a belief in scouting circles that if Kelly doesn’t get the GM job, he could still land in Jersey working under Douglas. And Eagles execs Andy Weidl and Ian Cunningham are well-regarded, and brought to Philly from Baltimore by Douglas—so it’d hardly be a surprise if he were to try and poach them, should he land/decide to take the job.

5. One thing that the Bucs liked about Ndamukong Suh? His versatility. I’m told that in Todd Bowles’ defense, one that prizes malleability, the expectation is that Suh will play all over the place.

6. Patrick Mahomes has looked like, well, Patrick Mahomes early in Chiefs OTAs, but a lot of what’s around him has changed. And so far, two guys have stood out with strong springs, one new and another sort of new: Darron Lee on defense and Sammy Watkins on offense. Lee’s range to make plays in the passing game and defend sideline-to-sideline in the run game is already apparent, and would fill a big void. Watkins, meanwhile, has flashed the explosiveness that made him such a tantalizing prospect coming out of Clemson five years ago. So while a lot of people have focused on rookie Mecole Hardman as a potential replacement for Tyreek Hill, should the Chiefs need one, Watkins has the look of a guy now who could be pretty important in that regard.

7. Nick Bosa’s hamstring injury takes me back to the story I did on him earlier in the spring, and how he took responsibility for his injury at Ohio State last fall, and adjusted his training methods accordingly. Now, a rookie who hadn’t played football since September tweaking his hamstring isn’t reason to sound the alarms. But it’s at least interesting, given all the work he put in.

8. No one should be surprised that, as Lamar Jackson said, the Ravens will be running “a totally different offense” to accommodate their quarterback this fall. One reason that John Harbaugh went with Greg Roman over Marty Morhinweg in January was because of Roman’s history and creativity in the run game, which paved the way for Colin Kaepernick’s early-career success in San Francisco. The idea is to stress the defense in the run game with an athletic quarterback, which should open up things in the passing game. And seeing the direction the NFL’s been going in (spread-out pass-heavy offenses vs. smallish defenses to combat them), the Ravens are very much zigging when so many other teams are zagging. It’s smart, if a little risky with the health of a quarterback who’s not built the way a Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger is.

9. Good to see, via Mike Klis, that the Broncos are working to take care of Chris Harris. The four-time Pro Bowler turns 30 next month, so it’s a little bit of a gamble for the team to give him a raise and guarantee anything going forward. But rewarding a guy like Harris would resonate in that locker room, after the team gave incoming defensive back Kareem Jackson a three-year, $33 million deal.

10. Since it’s Memorial Day, let’s wrap up with one last leftover from my talk with Nate Boyer, which you can find in this morning’s MMQB. This holiday’s obviously personal for him, and all veterans. So I thought it was interesting how focused he was on the guys who have trouble reckoning with a day like today—and how any of us can help them. “We need to continue to reach out to those that tend to isolate on a day like today, because that’s a common thing too,” Boyer said. “They fear that date coming up—whether it was a date of a big battle they were in, where they lost guys, or Memorial Day. These days can be really tough for people, they want to avoid them. And when you try not to think about something, you think about it more. So it’s real important for everybody to rally around them and just try to do something on that day to remember those people and honor those people. If you’re one of these people that tends to try to avoid today, embrace today. It’s a day we’re supposed to be celebrating them. It’s OK to cry, it’s not like you can’t hurt. Vulnerability’s a powerful thing. But just do something.

“The Murph challenge is a big workout that everybody does that I’ll be participating in. It’s named after Lt. Michael Murphy, but it honors everybody that made that sacrifice. So you’re pushing yourself physically on that day. Or go to a barbecue or some type of celebration. You don’t have to throw it in everybody’s face, but make sure people understand why we’re there—most people do. Until I was around a lot of the civilian community and people that were remembering Memorial Day the right way, I kind of had this notion that a lot of people don’t really care, don’t really get it, they just see it as an extra day off. But I don’t think that’s really true.”

And it’s good to hear it’s not. But it doesn’t hurt to say it again: All the best to all of those soldiers and families who may have a little harder time celebrating today than the rest of us.

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