There is no end in sight for the contradictions in play among the NFL owners, players and de facto-ex-players. Exhibit No. 3,697,402 (approximate, dating back to 2016): Robert Kraft visiting Meek Mill in prison.
At one, important level, the trip by the Patriots owner to the imprisoned rapper fits neatly into his recent history, and it illuminates the work of the Players Coalition over the past year-plus. A straight line can be drawn from players like Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Devin McCourty — even before it was officially labeled a coalition — advocating for sentencing reform, to directly engaging politicians, to pushing owners to back them up, to Kraft turning words into actions.
Edge rusher: Clayborn was a good get, but he did most of his sack damage for the Falcons in a situational rotational role. Returning end Trey Flowers led a productive committee with 6 1/2 of the team’s 42 sacks, but New England’s pass rush overall last season was inconsistent.
Cornerback: McCourty replaces Butler in the short term, but he becomes a 31-year-old free agent in 2019. Behind Stephon Gilmore and McCourty, there’s Eric Rowe, also in a contract year, and not much else. That makes corner a priority position for multiple selections.
The Saints also signed tight end Ben Watson this offseason, hoping to give Brees more options in the red zone. Meredith and Watson are both 6-3, and Michael Thomas, the team’s top-returning receiver, is also 6-3.
With Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr. and Meredith on board, the Saints will now have more flexibility in this month’s NFL Draft. New Orleans has no second-round pick after trading up to select running back Alvin Kamara last season.
Back in February, Kraft and his son, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, co-authored a Boston Globe op-ed pushing for juvenile justice reform. At a criminal justice reform symposium at Harvard Law School last month attended by several NFL players, McCourty told a panel that the younger Kraft said to him, “My family has owned the Patriots, I’ve done well, great upbringing, (but) I had no idea about some of the things that went on.”