ORLANDO — The Patriots got a little more ammunition for the NFL draft Monday.
The NFL awarded compensatory picks for May’s draft, based on how many players a team gained and lost in free agency and trades in the 2013 offseason and regular season. The Patriots were awarded an extra fourth-round pick (140th overall) based on losing Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Patrick Chung, and Donald Thomas, and gaining Danny Amendola, Isaac Sopoaga, and Will Svitek.
The Patriots now have eight draft picks this year — one in each round except for two in the fourth and sixth rounds, and none in the fifth. They traded their fifth-round pick to Philadelphia for Sopoaga and a sixth-rounder during the season. They will pick 29th overall in the first round.
Compensatory picks cannot be traded, but gaining an extra fourth-rounder could encourage Bill Belichick to trade other draft picks.
Overall, the NFL awarded 32 compensatory picks to 13 teams, with Baltimore and the Jets receiving four each and Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston receiving three each.
Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Baltimore, and San Francisco each received an extra third-round pick, the highest possible compensatory pick that can be awarded.
Belichick is a busy man at the owners meetings, proposing four rules changes for next season, among other initiatives. But he made news Monday for being absent. The NFL head coaches gathered for a group photo in the morning, and Belichick was the only no-show. He has skipped the photo in previous years, and it may not be a case of Belichick rebelling against the NFL. Belichick is not a member of the NFL Coaches Association, which means his likeness cannot be used in official NFL products, such as video games. It is possible that Belichick’s exclusion from the NFLCA prevented him from participating in the photo on Monday.
Interest in Jones-Drew
The Patriots may be signing a big power back in free agency, and it might not be LeGarrette Blount. According to the New York Daily News, the Patriots are one of four teams showing interest in running back Maurice Jones-Drew, along with the Steelers, Jets, and Dolphins. Jones-Drew, an eight year veteran listed at 5 feet 7 inches and 210 pounds, has rushed for 1,000 yards three times and is a receiving threat out of the backfield, catching 335 passes in his career. Blount, meanwhile, remains on the free agent market despite having a productive season with the Patriots (772 yards, 7 touchdowns). Blount has spoken intermittently with the Patriots this offseason and still might return to New England, but he also has a visit set up with Pittsburgh Friday.Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin