A few leftovers from our weekly Patriots chat:
Jeffrey (Helena, Montana): Biggest second year jump: Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, or Alfonzo Dennard?
Mike: Jeffrey, I'd start at the top with Jones. At the Super Bowl, he talked about working on his upper-body strength because he feels his body is disproportional. I think a full offseason in the team's program could really help him.
Brian (Florida): Mike, do you see the Patriots being an early player in free agency? And if so, what potential moves might we see?
Mike: Brian, I think the team would like its big moves to be with its top free agents, the likes of Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib. They probably won't be able to keep all three, but retaining two would qualify as "big" from this viewpoint. My sense is that it might take some time to get to that point because the players might want to test the market to see what's out there, but that the Patriots will be in the mix. While the Patriots will probably target some players from other teams, my sense at this time is that they probably wouldn't be the "big" names.
Alex (New Jersey): Hey Mike, when can teams start the process of franchise tagging/tendering their free agents?
Mike: Alex, that process can start as early as Monday. We've already seen one report from the Denver Post that the Broncos plan to do so with left tackle Ryan Clady. The Patriots' top candidates, naturally, are Welker, Talib and Vollmer.
Ethan (Santa Barbara CA ): Mike, If you had to choose, would you rather have Percy Harvin or Ed Reed on the team? It's a tough choice, because Harvin affects multiple facets of the game (the running game, passing game, and special teams), whereas Reed would most likely solidify the defense which is probably the more necessary option.
Mike: Ethan, I'd go Harvin, more so from the perspective of him helping for multiple years while Reed is more of a short-term option. One factor to consider, though, is that Harvin's arrival would have a more significant trickle-down effect from an economic standpoint. He wouldn't come cheap. It's hard to discuss these things without factoring that in to the mix.
Kell (Braintree, Mass.): Mike, what are your thoughts on the Pats taking a run at newly released LB Nick Barnett? He was great with the Packers and good with Buffalo. He may be slowing down, but I have to think that the Patriots need some depth at LB. After the starting 3, there is a real drop off in terms of quality and depth. Could be this year's Bobby Carpenter?
Mike: Kell, I'd be surprised if they do at this point. With Dane Fletcher back in the mix as he returns from a torn ACL, that adds a No. 4 option. Any linebacker beyond that would have to factor into the special teams mix (e.g. Tracy White, Niko Koutouvides) and that doesn't strike me as the right fit for Barnett.