Chat with Mike Reiss
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss drops by to chat and answer all of your Patriots questions.
Reiss joined ESPNBoston.com in September 2009 and is a native New Englander. He first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004.
Send your questions now and join Reiss Thursday at 11 a.m. ET!
Mike (10:59 AM)
Good morning. We'll get started in a few...
Mike (11:02 AM)
Reason No. 1 it is a blast covering the Patriots and chatting with you each Thursday. I open up the chat room and look to see the volume of questions. Before kickoff, we have 135 questions. People care. I appreciate that.
Mike (11:06 AM)
Since we last chatted, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Falcons head coach Mike Smith. I also spent a day and a half at ESPN headquarters in Bristol as part of a "summit" in which reporters from each team were present. Feel a bit smarter, and have a bit more clarity on things, so hoping to pass some of that along to all of you.
Mike (11:06 AM)
Let's get right into the questions...
IMO drafting a DT high (1-2-3 rounds) will be a mistake beacuse even though you can never have too many, when healthy we are totally fine there and have much bigger needs elsewhere. Agree/disagree?
Mike (11:09 AM)
Ivan, one thing to consider with any draft pick is that it isn't just the 2014 snapshot you're considering. You want to look ahead to 2015 and project the picture there too. Nate Solder is a good example from the 2011 draft. The Patriots had Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer back that year, so OT wasn't a pressing need. But they knew Light was near the end of his career, Vollmer had some injury questions, and they made the pick. Smart thinking. That's why I'd still put DT in the mix. Those big, athletic guys are hard to find. If one falls into your lap, a la Vince Wilfork in 2004, you pounce.
Nick (Greenville, SC )
What have you heard about Wilforks recovery? Any sort of timetable to assess where we are prior to draft?
Mike (11:10 AM)
Nick, I read Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges' piece from Wednesday, and it said in the piece that Wilfork was at the stage where he is running. The piece painted a picture of progress. I haven't heard much more than that.
Tman (Belmont, MA)
Given the recent news that Dobson might not be ready for OTAs, given that the 3 rookies were all injury prone, inconsistent in route running, and among the league leaders in drops versus targets, and given the depth of the WR draft pool can the Pats really, simply "hope that they will blossom next year? Don't the Pats HAVE to protect themselves by drafting a WR by the 3rd or 4th round (assuming the cost of a FA WR is too high)?
Mike (11:12 AM)
Tman, I'd argue that any protection would probably be better provided in free agency with a more proven player. Yes, it's a deep WR class, but a big part of that is because of juniors. Between the high bust rate at the position itself, and the high volume of juniors at the position (which brings back memories of under-developed prospects like Chad Jackson and P.K. Sam), I don't have a great feeling of insurance when thinking along those lines.
Mike-Why cut Gregory now, but not anyone else? Was he due a roster bonus? There is no way that someone like Sopoaga stays on the roster at $3.5 mil. Why not cut him too? Why wait?
Mike (11:14 AM)
Hi Rob. Some other moves are coming. Sometimes it's just a matter of working through certain things internally that never see the light of day. For example, maybe Sopoaga is willing to trim his salary to the minimum and there is some interest from the team in considering that scenario. Each player's situation is different. I wouldn't focus as much on the timing at this point as what the picture will look like March 11 at the start of free agency. That's the key. I would expect some moves any minute/day now.
Joseph (Baltimore (via NH))
I know how much you enjoy the team building process. The nugget from the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference where Jonathan Kraft spoke about BB's intellectual capacity to understand the salary cap from an analytical, business and football perspective was really interesting. Over the past few years, Jonathan Kraft's role within the organization seems to be expanding. Is this true or is he just more in the forefront of late? Do you have any insight as to how much involvement Robert and Jonathan each have in the management of the organization? Thanks!
Mike (11:16 AM)
I think it's always been pretty significant, Joseph. His title is team president. Maybe we're just seeing/hearing a bit more from him in recent years where we would have been hearing Robert Kraft (e.g. radio interviews etc.), but I don't think it's anything outside the norm.
John F (Walpole)
Hi Mike:Count me as all in on a trade for Revis. Talib has been very good at times, serviceable at others and injured when needed most. I would not be comfortable investing long term in a player with his injury and off field history. Revis is an immediate and significant upgrade to the pass coverage and pass rush. Brady deserves another shot at a ring and Revis can help get that. Juggle the cap numbers, move some money, make it happen. This is a no brainer for the Pats. if the Bucs really want to do business.
Mike (11:18 AM)
John, first and foremost, I was interested in a poll we had on our site -- would you give Aqib Talib $16 million in straight guarantees? With 3,400-plus votes in, 72 percent said no. So your opinion on Talib is backed up by that poll ...
Mike (11:24 AM)
... As for Revis, this is a challenging one to articulate but I'm going to give it a shot. I think when we look at putting the best football team on the field, who wouldn't be better with Revis? It's a no-brainer. But I do believe there is a distinction between putting a football team together and building a successful organization, and it's in the latter category where I'd have serious reservations about making that move for Revis. I believe when you're building an organization, you mostly lead by your actions, and the people you invest in the most represent your core values to everyone else. I know one could argue that acquiring Revis --and making him your highest paid player -- means you're putting the core value of winning first. But I don't think it's that easy. There is a human side in play too. He didn't come up through the system. He has previously put himself above his team because of contract issues. And now I'm going to reward that as my signature move and send the message to everyone else that this is what we reward? I am struggling with that concept. ...
Mike (11:26 AM)
... I think the idea of Revis-to-the-Patriots is a fun topic to talk about. Sort of like Larry Fitzgerald to the Patriots. I don't want to be overly serious and just dismiss these things out of hand, and I certainly don't want to come across as critical of another writer's work, because I don't have all the answers. Part of what we do is banter about sports and consider various possibilities. I do sense a growing disconnect, however, between reality and how most teams operate and what we often discuss in the media.
Matt (East Brookfield)
Hi Mike, hope you're staying warm! First question - any updates with the Fanene salary cap relief from the 2012 busted signing? Second - MJD signing to be insurance for Vereen and replace Woodhead's former production? Thanks!
Mike (11:28 AM)
Matt, they got the relief from Fanene; that was resolved during the 2013 season. On MJD, I'd think if you go in that direction, you're moving away from Blount. Assuming they'd prefer Blount.
Mike, what is the time frame making a decision on Vince's contract from the Patriots side?
Mike (11:29 AM)
Derek, there are no deadlines in that area. With free agency starting March 11, you'd ideally like as much cap space as possible, so that's sort of an "artificial" deadline of sorts. But they can talk all offseason.
Mike....thank God the the Pats reside in the AFC East. Virtually zero competition from this group of poorly run organizations over the past decade plus has allowed NE to advance into the playoffs every year....but nine years of "mission not accomplished" and one has to ask how good are the Patriots really. Imagine New England in the NFC West right now. Maybe the third best team? I marvel that Belichick has been able to get his teams into the playoffs so consistently, but lets be honest, a dozen years drafting at the back of the line has taken its toll. The Pats lack depth, they have become top heavy, even forced to pay premium contracts when players have leverage....which leads me to conclude that the Pats are no longer a special team and certainly not elite. And with minimal ammo to reconstruct a roster that has proven deficient in crunch time year after year.....isn't New England just a second tier, one and done team whose time is over?
Mike (11:34 AM)
Tanner, I'm going to start with a quick AFC East fact. Did you know that AFC East teams were 22-18 against out-of-division teams in 2013? That's the third best mark of the eight divisions. Did you know that AFC East teams were tied for the second-best record against non-division playoff teams? Listen, I'm not saying the AFC East is the best division in football, and those stats only tell us part of the story, but I don't think the perceived weakness of the division is anywhere close to reality. And what do some people say about the Patriots' 2008 season when they went 11-5? "Well, it was a weak schedule. They got to play the NFC West." Bottom line: Divisions evolve over the years. Patriots are an annual contender. They will be again in 2014. It's hard to rebuild/reload on the fly. That's what they're doing, and if you ask me, they are among the best in the NFL at doing it.
Hi Mike, I know you have been a strong advocate of Vince Wilfork but don't you think that with the $10M cap savings we can go and get a top of the line tackle (around 7M cap cost per year) PLUS a wide reciver or a nickl rusher (3M cap hit per year)? Let's face it even if Vince has a couple of good more seasons in him no one pays those figures to players his age. And I know you keep on saying that he is more that a 2 down player but what are his sack numbers in the last few years? Even say you keep him this year (and it is a gamble b/c we don't know how his recovery from the injury will turn out) he is not a long term option. He is a leader but there is a limit of how much you can pay for that.
Mike (11:36 AM)
Yaron, I don't think we can look at sack numbers as a solid metric for evaluating Vince Wilfork's role in that area. As most defensive ends will tell you, a strong inside push often leads to their success on the edge. It seems fair to say Wilfork is in decline at this stage, and seeing him handled by Vladimir Ducasse last year was concerning. I also saw some impact, though. Add in the off-field/locker room dynamic, and I strongly endorse keeping him.
Roberto, Medford MA [via mobile]
Have the Pats approached Wilfork on an extention or restructuring his current deal? What Odds do you give his current deal hitting the books for 2014?
Mike (11:37 AM)
As I understand it, they hadn't approached him as of late last week. I'll pass on the odds because I'd just be throwing darts.
austin (wi) [via mobile]
Do u think the Patriots would sign a veteran safety like a Bethea from the colts, and do think they could make a big trade this offseason.
Mike (11:38 AM)
Austin, one thought I had this morning is that if Talib ends up elsewhere, maybe you take that money you were going to invest in him and turn to a safety like Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward. I have my doubts on the possibility, especially with McCourty's deal coming up next year, but in the end if the safety is clearly a better player/better investment than the next CB on your list, maybe you go in that direction.
Mike: General sports journalism ethics question... What's actually gone on behind the scenes when a journalist states "according to sources," or "insiders" or "people close to the situation?" How much credence should readers attach to such assertions? How do journalists feel about these situations? Thanks for any insight you can provide.
Mike (11:42 AM)
Tough one, Andy, and I think everyone feels differently. As a reporter, you'd love for everyone to put their name on a thought/bit of information etc., but sometimes to get the honest story or most information, you grant the source that anonymous cover. It has seemingly grown exponentially in recent years. Personally, my question is always: Is this source close enough to the story to really know the truth and complete context of the truth? It's tough, because as a reporter, you're told things daily that can be written/passed along with little filter. Not sure that answers it, but those are some thoughts.
Dominic (Broomfield, CO)
where has all the love gone....lol
Mike (11:43 AM)
Dominic, you're the man. Just can't get to them all. Doing my best here.
Jacob (Fargo, ND)
Hi Mike. I believe that we definitely need a cornerback like DRC who has great downfield speed(with solid size) and can cover. It's something the patriots haven't had in a long time and I think it has shown in past years. Whether it's the deep ball or the crossing route our defense has been exposed when the other team has speedy, skilled receivers. Dennard has had troubles with this and even talib struggles at times against very fast players. If we aren't going to get big name safety like Ward or Byrd, a fast corner is the next best way to stop the deep ball.
Mike (11:44 AM)
Depending on how the market unfolds, I could see the Patriots going in that direction on more of a short-term deal. My sense is that they would be reluctant to invest longer-term in a player they haven't worked with.
Greg Buckner (Framingham) [via mobile]
Mike, any thought on the release of Champ Bailey. He could play safety or corner. Hasn't BB always liked him too?
Mike (11:45 AM)
Greg, I think they want to get younger at safety, and that's where Bailey would probably project. I don't really see that one for them, but that's just my off-the-cuff opinion without checking on it.
Mike, give me your biased opinion. If BJ Raji is worth 1 yr 4 mil, what is Vince worth lowest to highest range. I need to know what your number for him is.
Mike (11:46 AM)
Eric, can I give you my unbiased opinion instead? Wilfork, to me, is worth his current contract to the Patriots. But let's say he was a free agent, coming off an Achilles injury, he'd probably be looking at that type of Raji-based deal, maybe a bit richer with incentives added in should he stay healthy (e.g. per-game bonuses).
Mike, what do they do with Wilfork? Unless they are sure he can come all the way back, it seems like they have no choice but to cut him.
Mike (11:47 AM)
Peter, I'll maintain my stance -- the choice is simple. Keep him. Why cut him? The cap just went up and he's a good player who represents everything you want in your organization. Unless there is a health setback, I'm not sure why this is a story.
Now Mike, BB said himself it's better to give a great player - like Vince Wilfork - one year too early rather than one year too late.See R. Seymore
Mike (11:49 AM)
Edge, if I had the chance to ask a follow-up question to BB about that, I'd ask him how it worked out trading Mike Vrabel with that thought in mind. My great sports management professor at UMass in the 1990s, Todd Crosset, once said something I think about a lot: If we don't learn from our mistakes, we're doomed to repeat them. Does the 2009 locker room become as fractured if Vrabel was in there? I'm not sure, but I do believe Vrabel would have helped.
What's your take on the Amendola trade rumors?
Mike (11:51 AM)
Surprised, Jeff. Thought Amendola looked terrific in spring camps, training camp, preseason and regular-season opener before the injury. Felt like his 2013 season needs to be put into the context of playing through injury. Surprised to learn of this apparent buyer's remorse, assuming it's true (and the reporter, Dan Pompei, is one of the best in the business), because it's not like Amendola's injury history was any surprise to the team.
Mike, can you flash back and remind me why we did a long term deal with Arrington? Was he really converted by other teams? Decisions in the secondary seem to be the most baffling this team's front office seem to make.
Mike (11:51 AM)
Dan, when you're in a sub defense 67 percent of the time, the slot corner is like a 2b/3a type starter. Arrington is good in the slot (e.g. Super Bowl vs. Victor Cruz; AFC title game vs. Wes Welker).
Mike...can you shed some light on what the problems were in the 2009 locker room?
Mike (11:53 AM)
Bad mix of players. Lack of leadership because one of the players who was supposed to be leading (Wilfork) had a sign in his locker about doing his job because he was so frustrated about his own contract situation. If we remember, Robert Kraft talked the next offseason about how some games are won/lost before the team takes the field. They move on from Vince Wilfork this year, and I believe they are potentially putting themselves in a spot where history could repeat itself. I'm not saying it will, but I do think it's important when we talk about cutting players that we don't overlook that human element too.
Paul O (Kenosha, WI)
Mike, Living in Wisconsin I see the Packers on a regular basis. James Jones was an underrated player for them. Nelson and Cobb get the recognition, but Jones is solid in my view. Might he be the possibility to fill the veteran presence?
Mike (11:56 AM)
Paul, I like Jones. But what interests me the most about that is why the Packers themselves are moving on. It's because third-year man Jarrett Boykin flashed promise and they want to give the kid a further chance to grow. I really believe in that approach and I just find it interesting that one team's "trash" can be viewed as another's "treasure" in this type of situation. It also underscores how the development of the Patriots' young receivers is so critical this year.
Rick (Washington DC)
In addition to his 105-catch season, Julian Edelman is a fantastic punt returner. This is a guy who has one of the highest career PR avg. in the history of the NFL! It seems that his work in this area has been overlooked by many people in the media regarding his free agent value. I firmly believe Pats Nation cannot afford to lose Julian Edelman.
Mike (11:58 AM)
Seconded, but it always comes down to the question, "at what cost." If another team takes it to a level that you're not comfortable with, you have to have the discipline to walk away. The Baltimore Ravens were just praised by ESPN analyst and former Colts president Bill Polian for their work in that area.
Hi Mike - 30 year season ticket holder here. I'm really intrigued by safety Deone Bucannon from Washington St in the upcoming draft. Seems to be a hard hitting safety we are lacking right now. Did you have any interaction with him at the combine? He looks to be a second rounder right now, so here's hoping that he finds his way to Foxboro. Thanks for your great coverage of the Pats.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Great stuff, Moses. Respect on the 30-year mark for season tickets. I wasn't at the combine and thus didn't have any interaction with Bucannon. But he's that big-hitting safety that people have been talking about the Patriots possibly needing.
Mike (12:00 PM)
Let's go for another 5...
Mike, do you think the Pats' move last year of trying to land Emmanuel Sanders (which led to him getting paid by the Steelers) will have any effect of him possibly playing here next year?
Mike (12:01 PM)
Will, that was something I recall Scott Pioli saying last year. When a team signs a player to a restricted free agent offer, and ups his salary, that usually can lead to a feeling of goodwill with the player the following year if he hits the unrestricted market.
Mike...if you aren't sold on Jones because he is GB's "trash" why are you sold on Emmanuel Sanders?...Pittsburgh is letting him walk without even having proof that his replacement exists and they may have to draft someone to fill that spot...Jones seems more proven, less risky and more of a treasure than Sanders does
Mike (12:03 PM)
Very good point. Specific to Sanders, there's the obvious point that the Patriots showed interest in him last year. So we know that exists and how they view him. I'm not sure how they view Jones. As for how I view Jones, I haven't studied him at the level I did Sanders (good inside-out player, quick after the catch, shaky hands at times). But you're right -- the trash/treasure analogy works in both cases. No double-talk here.
Tyler(Oklahoma) [via mobile]
If Talib is not signed by the march 11 date when free agency begins. Is that a bad sign to whether Talib will be back with the team or not?
Mike (12:03 PM)
Tyler, I would imagine the Patriots move on to Plan B, like they did last year with the Amendola/Welker situation.
Casey at Home [via mobile]
With Talib stating he wants a big contract any recently released corners interest you Mike? Finnegan, Cox, etc
Mike (12:06 PM)
Casey, I don't mean to downplay any reports, but is it really a newsflash that Talib wants the best deal possible? I almost feel like it would more newsworthy if he said 'No, I'm looking for a below market deal.' The biggest issue is whether a team will give it to him. It only takes one, but there are some good corners out there. Cox didn't work out in SD and that's a buyer beware situation. Finnegan I'd have to look closer at, but he could wind up as a solid value signing depending on how the market unfolds.
Ralph via Moble (Framingham Flyers!!!!) [via mobile]
Mike I know Tom is getting older and the consensus is to load up for him but the last time we won a superbowl was when our defense was hitting on all cylinders with our running. We have the running going now how can we get the staff to address the defense. I feel like we are just 2 or 3 players away from getting over that hump. Your thoughts my fellow Flyer!!!
Mike (12:07 PM)
I also lean defense, Ralph. Specific to the offense, I think they need to add a dynamic element to the TE corps so they can dictate matchups with a bit more authority than 2013. Also, WR insurance if Edelman leaves and OL depth. But if forced to pick one or the other, I'd go defense.
Mike, should we be worried that our biggest AFC opponent - Broncos - have more cap space than we do? Who has the better starting point in your opinion?
Mike (12:08 PM)
Misha, my biggest question with Denver is what their long-term team-building plan/vision is. Once Manning goes, that could be a hard fall.
Matt (Pasadena, CA)
Assuming NE lets Wendell walk in FA, how comfortable do you think the team would be in penciling in Connolly at C and Cannon at RG, at least pre-draft? If such were the case, do you think NE would focus more at drafting a GT type, or a GC type?
Mike (12:09 PM)
Let's end on this one, Matt. I think they really like Cannon at tackle, but there is something to be said for getting your best five linemen on the field. So if Vollmer is healthy, I could see this scenario, with Connolly kicking inside to center if they're comfortable with the contract ($3 million base salary).
Mike (12:10 PM)
Great stuff all around. Thanks to everyone for the questions. I'll try to go back in and answer a few more on the blog by tomorrow. Have a great weekend.