Around Bill Belichick, the Patriots employed a more collaborative approach to execute their offseason plans once longtime director of player personnel Nick Caserio left to become the Texans general manager last January.

In his place, several members of the Pats’ scouting department stepped in, and many have now been rewarded. According to reports, Matt Groh has been promoted to director of college scouting. Groh was among Belichick’s three-man inner circle this offseason and helped lead the team’s draft preparation and free agency plans.

The other members of Belichick’s inner circle were new personnel chief Dave Ziegler and front-office consultant Eliot Wolf. Groh had been a national scout.

Steve Cargile is now the team’s director of pro scouting, a position Ziegler once held. Cargile was a journeyman safety in the mid-2000s, before he transitioned to the Patriots’ front office as a scout in 2011.

The Patriots also transitioned Camren Williams from area college scout to pro scout. Williams played college football at Ohio State from 2012-2015, before joining the front office as a scouting assistant in 2016. His father, Brent Williams, was drafted by the Patriots in 1986 and played 11 years in the NFL.

Both Groh and Cargile could be on the track to become a general manager or move up in the NFL front office ranks. The Patriots last director of college scouting, Monti Ossenfort, is currently Tennessee’s director of player personnel. Others to hold the position in New England include Titans GM Jon Robinson (2009-2013), former Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn (2012-2015) and former Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff (2003-2007).

• The Patriots signed rookie kicker Quinn Nordin, adding some depth prior to beginning their offseason workout program.

Nordin, who kicked for Michigan, becomes the first undrafted rookie signed by New England following last week’s draft. The Patriots have had at least one rookie free agent make their 53-man opening day roster for 17 consecutive seasons, the third-longest streak in the NFL behind the Chargers (24) and Colts (22).

But Nordin faces a challenge to join that list, joining a roster that already includes incumbent starter Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo, who was signed in January.

THE NFL HAS SET its schedule for offseason workouts and still plans to have mandatory in-person minicamps, something the players’ union has opposed.

The league released the schedule through mid-June, with all 32 teams listing required-attendance minicamps next month. NFLPA President JC Tretter, a center for the Browns, has been vocal in his opposition to any programs requiring players to be on hand, stressing a preference for virtual work similar to 2020.

In a release Thursday, the NFL said: “Voluntary offseason workout programs are intended to provide training, teaching and physical conditioning for players.” All of those sessions were held remotely last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The union wants to replicate that not just for 2021 but beyond.

The offseason programs include three phases. The first began April 19 and concludes May 14. It was extended from its customary two-week period. Activities are limited to strength and conditioning, virtual meetings, and physical rehab.

In the second phase (May 17-21), which has been shortened from three weeks to one, on-field walk-throughs can include individual player instruction and drills that don’t include contact.

Phase three (May 24-June 18) remains its customary four weeks and could be the source of conflict between the league and union. This phase allows in-person meetings and classroom instruction, subject to COVID-19 testing, tracking, facility access and other protocols. Ten days of organized team activities (OTAs) allow no live contact, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

Most minicamps are scheduled toward the end of this phase.

DOLPHINS: Safety Bobby McCain was released by Miami, which agreed to terms with veteran cornerback Jason McCourty.

McCourty, 33, has 137 career starts, including 11 last season for the New England Patriots. He will be reunited with Dolphins Coach Brian Flores, a former Patriots assistant.

SAINTS: New Orleans signed defensive tackle Albert Huggins in a move that addresses a position where the club lost two prominent regulars this offseason.

The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Huggins is a third-year pro out of Clemson who has played in five NFL games – four with Philadelphia as a rookie in 2019 and one with Detroit last season.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh cornerback Justin Layne reached a plea deal to resolve charges stemming from a traffic stop in Ohio last month where authorities said they found a loaded gun in his car.

Layne, 23, was arrested on a fourth-degree felony charge of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle following the April 23 stop in Willoughby Hills. That charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty Wednesday in Willoughby Municipal Court to a misdemeanor charge of possessing criminal tools and two traffic violations. Layne received a suspended 180-day jail sentence, must serve six months probation and perform 32 hours of community service.

Police stopped Layne around 1:20 a.m. when his Dodge Charger was going 89 mph in a 60-mph zone. A records check showed he was driving with a suspended license and he had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear on a traffic violation in another jurisdiction, police said. They said they searched the car after smelling marijuana and seeing loose particles of it scattered throughout the vehicle. That search revealed a loaded Glock pistol in the center console, police said. They said Layne wasn’t a licensed conceal-carry permit holder in Ohio.

Layne played 16 games but made no starts last season for the Steelers, who selected him out of Michigan State in the third round of the 2019 draft. He had 10 tackles on defense and 12 more on special teams last season.

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