Roberto (via mobile): How comfortable would you feel if the Patriots do not select an offensive lineman in the 2014 draft? With Dante Scarnecchia's retirement and a new O-line coach, wouldn't it make sense to "shotgun method" the approach toward further solidifying our interior line by drafting able and skilled bodies via the second and subsequent draft rounds?
They'd be a bit thinner than desired if they don't draft a lineman, Roberto, so I'd expect at least one -- or at the least multiple signings among the undrafted pool. Here is a snapshot look at the group through the lens of contract length. One factor to consider is the second-year class including guard Josh Kline, guard/center Chris Barker and center Braxston Cave, among others. All were undrafted players last year who spent a year with the team, mostly learning behind the scenes. We've seen this many times under Scarnecchia where players in that category emerge. So let's not forget about them either.
Tyler (Boston): We do not need a running back in the first 3 rounds, at least. Dime a dozen.
I respectfully disagree with this one, Tyler. While I agree that running backs have been devalued to a degree (mostly in terms of early to mid first-round consideration), if we look at some of the second-rounders from last year, it tells me there is still great value in picking the right running back in that range. Each member of the 2013 second-round class of Giovani Bernard (Bengals, 37th overall), Le'Veon Bell (Steelers, 48th overall), Montee Ball (Broncos, 58th overall) and Eddie Lacy (Packers, 61st overall) is being counted on for big things by their teams, and they have all shown flashes of being top players. So I'd have no issue with the Patriots pouncing on someone like Washington's Bishop Sankey to add to the backfield with Stevan Ridley (last year of contract), Shane Vereen (last year of contract) and Brandon Bolden (last year of contract). I expect the team to draft a running back this year as this is a pretty good class; it's just a matter of when.
Earl M. (Marlborough, Mass.):Mike, I'm sure that signings are more rare this close to the draft from a team-building perspective. However, from a demand/salary perspective, wouldn't it make more sense to sign a player now than after the draft? If, for example, the Pats don't address outside pass rush in the draft, wouldn't an agent make it more difficult to sign a Will Smith, knowing the gap in the roster, than if the Pats sign him now when demand is lowered?
Earl, the first thought I had with this one is that it's a two-way street. Often times the player wants to wait to see what a team does in the draft as well. It reminds of an example I recently cited from 2012. That year, defensive end Trevor Scott signed a one-year deal with the team, in part because the depth chart looked like it would yield a nice playing-time opportunity. Then the team drafted Chandler Jones (first round) and Jake Bequette (third round) and the picture suddenly looked a lot different. So, in the end, it comes down to the team and player being motivated to strike it. Another factor is health; is the player in condition/recovered to pass a physical at this time?
Dan (Leominster, MA): I was personally disappointed in the way the schedule broke and I think waiting until May for draft is a mistake. Thoughts?
Dan, I thought it was a fair schedule. The key to me is the bye being in Week 10. That's ideal, whereas the Broncos have it in Week 4. On the draft, I agree. This hurts the rookies coming in, giving them two fewer weeks to get into a team's program. I still think the draft will get terrific ratings and we'll all watch it, but it just seems unnecessary.