Davon Godchaux  [608x342]
Davon Godchaux [608x342] (Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Introducing the Potato State Trophy College football s latest unique hardware

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Elusive harmony?: Spring practices ended June 12 and the Patriots' rookie class just concluded an extra 10 days of strength and conditioning work at Gillette Stadium. The first practice of training camp, likely to be July 24, is just about one month away -- so it's officially about to become the quietest stretch of the calendar year for the team. That doesn't mean, however, there isn't work to be done.

The last time the Patriots were on the practice field, starting defensive tackle Davon Godchaux essentially observed from the sideline, with head coach Jerod Mayo acknowledging that Godchaux is among a group of players with a desire to "re-do" their contracts. Godchaux is in the final season of a two-year, $20.8 million extension he signed in 2022 and has no guaranteed money left.

Fifth-year pass-rusher Joshua Uche also seemed to be working off a different script. He was mostly practicing by himself while the rest of the team was going through 11-on-11 drills -- an unusual situation for a non-injured player. It sparked the question of whether he too is part of that group referenced by Mayo despite just re-signing with the team in March.

Meanwhile, veteran outside linebacker Matthew Judon was a full participant in mandatory minicamp after skipping most of the team's voluntary work earlier in the spring. He twice declined to answer questions from reporters but said all the right things about his contract status -- he's scheduled to earn $7.5 million in compensation in the final year of his deal, below the market for a player of his caliber -- in a radio interview with 100.7 WZLX in Boston.

As first-year executive vice president of player personnel Eliot Wolf and Mayo consider what will help them open their first training camp with everyone on the field together, and mostly positive vibes in the air, these are some of the areas of note. The Patriots have been busy re-signing players this season, most recently with running back Rhamondre Stevenson agreeing to a four-year extension worth $36 million that includes $17 million guaranteed.

Significant payouts have also gone out to safety Kyle Dugger (four years, $58 million), defensive tackle Christian Barmore (four years, up to $92 million), offensive lineman Mike Onwenu (three years, $57 million), tight end Hunter Henry (three years, $27 million), receiver Kendrick Bourne (three years, $19.5 million) and linebacker Anfernee Jennings (three years, $12 million), among others.

Big spending can have a trickle-down effect on others on the team, which currently might be the biggest obstacle to ideal Patriots harmony.

Mark Dominik, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager who now serves as a front-office insider for Sirius XM NFL Radio, said he had to be "extremely" aware of how contracts would be received in the locker room and agent community when he was beginning his tenure.

"You are going to start setting your precedent organizationally of who you are and what you're going to be," he said. "If you extend a player that just finished up Year 3, every agent in the country is going to call in and say, 'I saw you just did a guy after three years, my guy is available too.' Or, 'My guy is going to be available next year.' You just have to make a decision [on] what's going to be your consistency.

"Obviously, quarterback blurs that line a little bit because of that position, but everything else, everyone is watching how you handle certain things and how you negotiate certain ways. What kind of contracts do you do? They're all putting together their book to be able to come into your organization and say, 'Look, I've seen you do this, this and this, that's why I want this, this and that.'"

The Patriots' precedent over the prior 24 seasons had been mostly determined by Bill Belichick. He often drove a hard bargain, even with quarterback Tom Brady, such as in 2018 when Belichick sweetened Brady's contract with $5 million in incentives instead of just giving it outright to the greatest player in franchise history.

Dynamics are shifting under Wolf and Mayo, who have been generous in their payouts, with one notable example being them guaranteeing Stevenson $17 million one year before they had to do so.

"The hardest part is making sure you're making the right choices for your club. It's stressful," Dominik said. "It's your first time and you know how important it is to the head coach and your longevity. It's one of those things where there are a lot of moving parts, it's part of the business, and you're trying your best to keep the building moving together."

One point Wolf has stressed consistently is his desire for the Patriots to be a "draft and develop" team. The idea is to sign picks to second contracts if they progress as projected.

Wolf's actions have already reflected that, with five former Belichick selections extended this offseason. Now the way he and Mayo handle other contract-related issues, such as Godchaux's situation, will be closely watched.

Mayo acknowledged earlier this month that he's learning the difference between the value the team has on players compared to the value players might have on the market, and "those are the conversations that have to be had."

This is the ideal time to talk, so when players return for the start of training camp, it's all about football.

2. Maye's plan: Rookie quarterback Drake Maye, who was present at TD Garden on Monday for the Boston Celtics' clinching win in the NBA Finals, plans to spend the next few weeks back home in North Carolina.

"First real break I've had in a long process," he said, noting that he'll balance spending time with family and getting ready for the start of training camp. Maye plans to work with longtime NFL coach Clyde Christensen at their alma mater UNC, where Christensen serves as an advisor to head coach Mack Brown.

3. Stevenson's catches: Stevenson's growth as a pass-catcher and all-around running back surely contributed to the Patriots' willingness to extend his contract. Consider that over the past two seasons, his 107 receptions ranked sixth among NFL running backs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only Austin Ekeler (158), Christian McCaffrey (152), Alvin Kamara (132) Rachaad White (114) and Joe Mixon (112) had more.

4. 'Buy in' at Newsome Forum: Listening to panels at the NFL's Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum early last week, something that Giants assistant general manager Brandon Brown said resonated as it relates to the Patriots.

Brown, 35, highlighted the "transactional nature of relationships with players, who have been receiving things since 16" while stressing the need to find avenues to "give them tangible evidence of buy-in." In New England, Jerod Mayo is self-admittedly unproven as a head coach, but he's very much proven when it comes to connecting with players in that regard.

5. Pioli's presence: Something else that stood out from a Patriots-related standpoint at the GM Forum and accompanying QB Coaching Summit -- the presence of former New England VP of player personnel Scott Pioli. The events are part of the league's efforts to identify and strengthen the personnel development and coaching pipeline for experienced coaches of color, while giving participants tools to hone their craft -- something that Pioli has passionately supported and been recognized for of late.

6. Another Brady ring: Robert Kraft presented Tom Brady a special Super Bowl-type ring to commemorate his 20 years with the franchise, doing so the night before his Patriots Hall of Fame induction before 60,612 fans inside Gillette Stadium. That was one of several behind-the-scenes nuggets revealed in a recap of the event that aired on Boston's WBZ-TV on Friday night. Emcee Mike Tirico called it the "greatest retirement event of an athlete."

7. Fantasy rankings: ESPN released its 2024 fantasy football rankings, and Stevenson is the team's highest-rated skill position player as the No. 18 running back in points-per-reception leagues. Hunter Henry (No. 21 tight end), Maye (No. 23 quarterback) and DeMario Douglas (No. 60 receiver) are the Patriots' highest-rated players at their respective positions. Not a lot of firepower in the fantasy world, which the Patriots obviously hope isn't the case in the real football world. 

8. Ace of clubs: What does a punter do in this quiet time on the NFL calendar? For the Patriots' Bryce Baringer, he's taken his passion for golf to a new level, competing Tuesday in a qualifying event for the 2024 Massachusetts Amateur Championship and making a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win it. Next up: participating in the amateur championship on July 8. 

9. Did You Know, Part I: Patriots linebacker/core special teamer Christian Elliss has two brothers on NFL rosters -- Jonah (Broncos) and Kaden (Falcons). The Elliss brothers are one of two families with three brothers currently on NFL rosters, joining the Sewell family -- Penei (Lions), Nephi (Saints) and Noah (Bears).

10. Did You Know, Part II: After agreeing to a four-year extension with Stevenson that includes $17 million in guarantees, the Patriots now rank seventh in the NFL in total guaranteed money for running backs at $22.6 million. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only the Saints ($43.5 million), 49ers ($28.9 million), Lions ($28.8 million), Eagles ($27.5 million), Colts ($26.8 million) and Falcons ($22.7 million) have invested more guaranteed money at the position.