INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots made their first move of the offseason this weekend at the NFL Combine, informing tight end Dwayne Allen that he is going to be released, a league source confirmed to the Globe.
By releasing Allen, the Patriots will save approximately $7.4 million in cash and salary cap space, with no dead money on the cap. The move comes as little surprise, as the Patriots previously cut Allen’s salary from $5 million to $3.5 million before the 2018 season. With the NFL on Friday officially setting the 2019 salary cap at $188.2 million, the Patriots will have approximately $24 million in salary cap space once Allen’s release is official.
The Patriots acquired Allen in a trade with the Colts before the 2017 season, and he was a solid contributor for two years, though he made little impact in the passing game. Allen, a seven-year NFL veteran, scored 19 touchdowns in five seasons with the Colts, but caught just 13 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in two seasons in New England. In 2018, Allen caught just three passes for 27 yards all season.
But he was still a trusted member of the Patriots’ offense, playing in over 40 percent of snaps in the 13 games he played in 2018. Bill Belichick often praised Allen for his blocking in the run game, and Allen also contributed on special teams.
Allen’s release likely doesn’t have much impact on Rob Gronkowski’s decision to retire or return for the 2019 season.
Even if Gronk returns, the Patriots will likely be investing in a tight end either in free agency or the NFL Draft. Their tight end depth chart also includes Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo.
Belichick was given an unexpected honor on Thursday at the NFL Combine, receiving the Game Ball award from the Fritz Pollard Alliance for his commitment to diversity.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance was founded in 2003 to advocate on behalf of minority coaches. Former chairman John Wooten, who recently retired and was replaced by Harry Carson, said Belichick deserved the award for doing “a very special job of leveling the playing field in diversity and inclusion in the NFL.” The Alliance also named Patriots scout Steve Cargile as the AFC Scout of the Year at Thursday’s awards luncheon.
Belichick was surprised to learn he won the award, and was not able to accept it in person, as he did not arrive in Indianapolis until Friday. But Belichick thanked the Alliance in a video message that was played at the luncheon.
“I regret that I can’t be there to accept it in person, because this means an awful lot to me,” Belichick said. “I think back to the start of my career, when I was given an opportunity when there were so many other deserving and more qualified people out there. I know that’s what this organization is all about. It’s creating opportunity, and I’ve always tried to give that back to others throughout my career.
“I go back to my days in Cleveland, when I learned so much from Jim Brown about diversity and about how to relate and connect with people, both players and coaches as they came up in football . . . I learned so much from him during those five years when I was with the Browns. That’s continued to be a part of our lifelong friendship.
“Very proud of the connections that I have to this organization, and very proud of what this organization has done for so many people and for the sport of professional football.”
Interest in Hogan?
Chris Hogan headlines the group of Patriots wide receivers about to hit free agency, and he’s likely to have a solid market.
A lot of teams should be in the mix for the 30-year-old’s services, according to a league source.
Hogan probably would have preferred his production in his contract year (35 catches on 55 targets for 532 yards and 3 touchdowns) to match or exceed that of his first year in New England in 2016 (38 catches on 58 targets for 680 yards, 4 touchdowns and a league-high 17.9 yards per catch) or his per-game production from 2017 (Hogan had 34 catches for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns in nine games, missing the rest due to injury).
Still, the Patriots demonstrated lasting trust in him by continuing to give him plenty of playing time all season. Hogan played 71 percent of New England’s offensive snaps in 2018.
The value of playing for a winning team is not lost on Hogan, but given the way wide receivers were paid in free agency last year it seems likely he’d get more money somewhere other than New England, especially if he’s commanding good interest already.
Isabella stands out
University of Massachusetts wide receiver Andy Isabella was expected to be one of the fastest at his position at the Combine, so it was startling when his first timed 40-yard dash here came back with an unofficial time of 4.56, significantly slower than he was expected to run. For good reason. The NFL quickly realized there had been an error with the laser timer, which went off early when Isabella was running. His real time went down officially as 4.31, which tied Ohio State’s Parris Cambell for the fastest time among receivers . . . Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise, brother of Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise, said his sibling gave him good advice on what to expect in Indianapolis leading up to the Combine. They were just getting off the phone when Daniel, 6 feet 3 inches and 281 pounds and more of an interior presence than his brother, spoke with reporters Saturday. Deatrich Wise played at Arkansas and was a fourth-round pick two years ago. “He’s been helpful, my older brother,” Daniel said. “Every step of the way, everything I need, everything I didn’t know I need, he’s given me advice on and we talked even a few minutes ago. He said just relax and enjoy the Combine. The good, the bad, the ugly. It is what it’s going to be, but now all that stuff is over, and it’s time to bench and do some field work tomorrow, so I’m excited for that.” Daniel Wise said his older brother has pitched him on the idea of teaming up in New England. Daniel had 17 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 152 tackles, and 43 tackles for loss in four seasons at Kansas. “What better team to play for, so he says,” Daniel said. “Obviously, he went to the Super Bowl two years in a row, got the ring this year. The Patriot Way, you know.” Daniel Wise said he has a formal interview with the Patriots scheduled for Saturday night. New England could be in need of defensive tackle help from the draft if Malcom Brown and or Danny Shelton depart in free agency.