The Patriots learned what their 2006 schedule will look like and also signed a pair of players of moderate interest yesterday. Kicker Martin Gramatica who sat out last season rehabbing an injury that had severely curtailed his effectiveness as a kicker, was signed yesterday for a look. It would seem likely that he will compete with another yet to be acquired kicker for the job of replacing Adam Vinatieri. The other move was the signing of former Patriot Tebucky Jones, who re-joined the team that he started at safety for in Super Bowl 36.

Jerome Solomon has a look at the moves, focusing mainly on Gramatica. Alan Greenberg centers more on the signing of Jones, who he says the Patriots always valued for his special teams play, they just didn’t think he should be the highest paid safety in NFL history. Tom E Curran says that the Patriots are bound to bring in another kicker or two to compete with Gramatica, he also looks at the signing of Jones and the schedule. Chris Kennedy weighs in on the signing of Gramatica, while Christopher Price welcomes Jones back to New England. Michael Parente has more on the pair of signings. John Tomase’s notebook also takes a quick look at the moves.

John Tomase talks to Deion Branch, who admits his agents have been talking with the Patriots about an extension, and thinks it will get done eventually, but not anytime soon. He hopes to remain with the Patriots and has full confidence that Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli know what they’re doing in the re-shaping of the team this offseason. Curran’s draft card today looks at Ohio State receiver Santonio Holmes. Frank DellApa has a note on Lou Imbriano (Or as Eddie Andelman would call him: Lou…lou…lou…) leaving his post with the Revolution and Patriots to start his own sports marketing business.

The NFL schedules were also released, and Nick Cafardo says that despite a couple rough patches, the Patriots slate overall is a cakewalk. He looks at some highlights of the national schedule as well. Michael Felger examines the schedule and says even though the Patriots probably won’t be a better team than the one that finished 10-6 this season, they may not need to be to post a better record. Albert Breer also has a breakdown of the schedule for the Patriots, including some games of interest following their bye week. Tomase also looks at the schedule, noting that at this point, the Patriots have one of the softest schedules in the league, a contrast from the last several years.

Chris Snow examines fielding data from John Dewan, author of ”The Fielding Bible.” Using the formulas and date in the book, it would appear that the 2006 Red Sox are actually worse defensively than their 2005 counterparts.

Jeff Horrigan looks at Jonathan Papelbon, who certainly opened eyes in his performance as the closer on Wednesday night. Sean McAdam says that the emergence of Papelbon presents the Red Sox with a unique problem. David Heuschkel notes that Foulke has certainly lost his job as closer for the time being, and in fact he may never get it back with Papelbon here and Craig Hansen waiting in the wings. Garry Brown and Nick Tavares have more on Pabelbon.

Alex Speier looks at Matt Clement, who gets his first start of the season tonight in Baltimore. Speier observes that it was a take of two seasons for the Red Sox pitcher last year. MIchael Silverman chats with Kevin Youkilis, who didn’t receive any tips on playing first base from Kevin Millar, whom he will see tonight as the Red Sox take on Millar’s new squad, the Orioles. Snow’s notebook has more on Papelbon, who has been able to handle anything the Red Sox organization has thrown at him. Horrigan’s notebook looks at David Wells, who will take the mound for the Pawtucket Red Sox tonight in preparation for joining the big club next week.

Pedro Martinez stirred things up in his first start for the Mets this season, hitting Jose Guillen twice, causing the Nationals outfielder to charge the mound. Check the coverage on the New York Sports Pages.

Steve Bulpett and Shira Springer report on the Celtics deciding to shut down Wally Szczerbiak for the season and undergo knee surgery to get ready for next season.

David Scott has a marathon edition of Shots up for the week.

More later…