Leftovers from Tuesday’s weekly Patriots mailbag:
Q: Mike, what’s your opinion on Aaron Hernandez’s potential role in the possible homicide in North Attleboro? -- Joe (Foxboro, Mass.)
A: Joe, my first thought is that the situation is fluid, and there shouldn’t be any rush to judgment one way or the other. It’s obviously serious and we have to let it play out, with the investigators following through on what they need to do, and hopefully that will produce some more decisive answers. From a pure Patriots perspective, it goes without saying this isn’t the type of news they want their players or “brand” associated with.
Q: Hey Mike, I do not get an overall positive feeling with this group of receivers. Anything that I have read either from you, Mike Rodak, Field Yates or even some of the national journalists do not paint a positive picture. Do you think BB waits until teams start to trim their rosters to see who becomes available? Is there any chance we see Branch or Moss back in the fold? – Phil (Braintree, Mass.)
A: Phil, I think Branch would be a fallback option if the receiver situation hasn’t sorted itself out midway through training camp. That’s the point when Tom Brady said he has a better idea of what receivers might be most ready to contribute. The receiver position looked shaky to me in offseason camps, but I think it’s too early to completely abandon current plans at this point. For rookies like Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, they deserve more than a four-week offseason window to show what they can do. Julian Edelman’s return from a foot injury could help. So I’d sum it up this way: Early signs weren’t overly encouraging, but there’s still time for it to sort itself out.
Q: Hey Mike, I was wondering how much does the rollover of unused cap space play into personnel decisions and signing free agents? The Patriots have about $8 million in cap room right now and there are still some quality veteran free agents out there who might be able to contribute on a 1-year contract, but the ability to roll over that cap space allowing for future flexibility seems like it might be more useful to the team long-term. Is that a balance that team considers when making decisions or is it more of a luxury that they're happy to have if they don't happen to use up all their cap space? – Connor (Dublin, Ireland)
Connor, I’d say it’s a minor factor at this point. Teams currently count just the top 51 players against the cap. When rosters are trimmed from 90 to 53, the team’s cap space will reduce slightly. A team always wants to leave itself a little room to maneuver during the season for emergency situations and depth purposes, so I think that’s why you see a little bit of a cushion at this point. There might be a minor thought of keeping some of that money for next year, but I don’t think that’s a primary factor driving the decision-making process right now.
Q: Hey Mike, I guess I am one of a million emailers with a view on Tim Tebow. I like what I have read from you as it makes a lot of sense as a locker-room presence and third string QB, but I also thought of another immediate role he could fill now – scout-team quarterback for the read-option. Also, what chance from now on that TB12 starts getting pulled later in games when there is a significant lead? -- Adrian (London)
A: Adrian, I’m not sure scout-team quarterback would be the main reason to sign him, but it could be a residual benefit. Another emailer mentioned if the fact Tebow was a lefty might alter the impact of running the read-option in practice when the quarterbacks the Patriots would be facing are right-handed, and I don’t see that as a major factor. As for Brady coming off the field late, if he does, Ryan Mallett would be the more likely candidate to play. In terms of being a potential trade asset, Mallett and the Patriots could benefit from some playing time to showcase his development to the rest of the league.