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January 14, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Good afternoon and thanks for stopping by today's chat.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

We will keep these chats going throughout the offseason, every Thursday at noon. There should be plenty to talk about.

Mike Reiss
  (12:02 PM)

The first thought to pass along today is that I would not be surprised if Patriots senior football adviser Floyd Reese, whose primary responsibilities involved contracts this year, lands in Seattle as general manager. Reese and Pete Carroll have some connections to former Vikings coach Bud Grant -- they both worked for him -- so this is something to keep on the radar.

Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, Florida)

Mike will the Patriots make a strong push for Julius Peppers in Free Agency knowing they got nothing out their pass rush this season after they traded Richard Seymour to Oakland?

Mike Reiss
  (12:04 PM)

I would be very surprised if they do, Anthony. They have so many in-house issues to take care of -- Brady's contract, Wilfork's contract -- that I don't see them pursuing a big name in free agency. My expectation is that they take care of Brady, hope to get Wilfork done, then work the draft hard while focusing on the mid-level of free agency.

njpats (NJ)

Hey Mike,I am generally an optimist when it comes to the team. I read several posting blaming BB's draft philosophy and how if we keep trading out of 1st round, we will not get the talent. I disagree with this assumption. If you look at the 09 draft, we have players like Vollmer and Butler, two future stars. Yes, we missed drafting Matthews, but many other teams 1st round pick have been extremely unproductive. I can name a few: Tyson Jackson, Robert Ayers, Ziggy Hood to name a few. I think we had a solid draft without spending 1st round money. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:06 PM)

I have a few thoughts on this, as I've started to look closer at the draft: 1) It is too early to judge the 2009 draft; 2) While they traded out of the first round in 2009, they picked at No. 10 in 2008, so I wouldn't say their m.o. is to always trade out of the round; 3) Their drafts from 2005-2008 haven't produced the desired number of impact players, but that is pretty par for the course in the NFL. It highlights two things to me -- how hard it is to draft and cultivate talent, and how the Patriots strong work in free agency helped them overcome this in the past but not this time around.

maddy (RI)

Mike,What does an un-capped year mean for us? Does it mean that we can go ahead and sign as many FA as we can afford?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

An uncapped year simply means there won't be a salary cap for any team, and the Patriots won't have any restrictions. But because teams must factor in the possibility of a cap in the future, I don't expect a major spending spree. I think those expecting that, across the league, will be disappointed.

Raj (MA)

Mike,How is it that a team like Jets came out of no where and became #1 defense and we have to wait ages before we see any production from new comers? I was high on Chung, but we barely saw him playing.

Mike Reiss
  (12:10 PM)

Good thought, Raj. I'd start with personnel. The Jets have done a good job in recent years, hitting in the draft with Darrelle Revis and David Harris. They also hit in free agency with Bart Scott and some others. Then you couple that with Rex Ryan's scheme, which has proven results, and you have a nice mix between talent and scheme. It's easy to overlook that the Jets missed on Vernon Gholston, the 2008 sixth overall pick, but they had enough talent around to compensate for that.

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

I'm not sure how that connects to the Patriots' young players, but that is the thought that came to mind when comparing the Jets and Patriots.

Har Journalist (North Vancouver, BC, Canada)

When does the NFL release the upcoming NFL schedule for the new Season?? I'm thinking of going to the Pats Game in Pittsburgh, San Diego or Chicago. Also when does Trainging Camp start?? I'm thinking Road Trip....

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

That usually comes in April. Always a fun date because we can plan our fall season.

Steve (Waterbury, CT)

Trevor Price said that, based on his film study, Junior Seau was the Patriots' best defender. To me, this is a huge indictment of Jerod Mayo's performance this year. What do you honestly think about his potential going forward? Can he return to the level of play he displayed during his rookie year? Or has he hit his ceiling?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

I've got to take Pryce to task for that comment, Steve. Seau was on the field for about 12 percent of the snaps, so that is ridiculous statement to me. Also, he obviously didn't watch film of Vince Wilfork or Warren, two very good players. I'm surprised that Pryce, who normally would be watching offensive film, would make such a claim. I don't buy it all. As for Mayo, he took a step back this year, according to Tedy Bruschi (who better to analyze that?). I still think he can be a productive, impact player going forward. It's about putting some more pieces around him now in my view.

Nick (Montreal)

Hi Mike, which players whose contract has expired do you think will return to the Pats in 2010. Conversly, which players with a contract in 2010 do you think won't be back?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

I think Banta-Cain and Faulk are the two names that came to mind as players who I'd feel confident saying will be back. They both seem to want to be here, and realize that the organization is a good fit for them. Otherwise, I'd say the market will dictate for most others.

Bharat (RI)

Mike,Apart from an anemic offense, and a suspect defense, how much blame will you assign to the special teams? I constantly saw kick off returners buried in the 20 something yard line and covering the opposing returners left a lot to be desired!

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

A lot of time should be spent on the kickoff return game. They really struggled there, missing Ellis Hobbs. I thikn they'll also look at a new punter. Otherwise, I thought the special teams were competitive and there are pieces to build around there.

anderson (Maryland, US)

Hi Mike,How dire do you think the situation is at linebacker and who do you think we can target to solve the problem (i) in the draft and (ii) through free agency?

Mike Reiss
  (12:18 PM)

Need to upgrade those linebackers, Anderson. I think you need two new starters at outside linebacker, and then have to ask the question: Is Gary Guyton better as a No. 3 option on the inside or can he be a full-time starter. In terms of names, let me take one more week so I can list some educated possibilities. I'm still digging out from the 2009 season and am not to the point where I have a great feel for the draft and free agency.

Hershil (Boston)

Do you think the Patriots should dump Randy Moss?

Mike Reiss
  (12:19 PM)

I would keep him, Hershil. The one factor that is hard to assess is how he is in the locker room. I hear Tom Brady say he is a leader, but I wonder how accurate that is. Sometimes I get the sense -- and it's only a feeling -- that people need to go out of their way to make sure Moss is OK. Assuming everything is fine in the locker room, I think you keep him.

Neil (Southington, CT)

Mike,I was wondering about the Charlie Weis. Romeo Cremel signings by Kansas City. Do you think they hurried up to sign them before BB figured out he needed to infuse some talent into his coaches as well as his roster.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

No, I don't think so Neil. All it takes is a call from Belichick to say "Hey, before you do anything, could we at least get some consideration about a possibility here." I don't think this is a case of the Chiefs beating the Patriots to the punch. If the Patriots wanted Crennel and Weis -- and if Crennel and Weis wanted to be here -- I think it could have happened.

david rohrer (stoughton ma)

Tell me if i'm crazy, but isn't it time the Pats completely scrap the way they utilize linebackers? Every draft we see impact backers on the board and we pass on them time and time again- Cushing, Clay Mathews,Malaoga, Willis, Podninsky etc. What we hear from the Pats is that these talents don't fit their system. Well if the best Backer talent coming out of college year in and year out is not good enough for the Pats then maybe there system is outdated and needs to be changed. I am so sick of them trying to project a college pass rusher into a backer. New idea-GET CRAZY TALENT IN THE DRAFT AND FREE AGENCY AND PUT TOGETHER THE BEST SCHEME THAT FAVORS PLAYMAKERS.

Mike Reiss
  (12:22 PM)

I think this is a great thought, David, and one that Bill Belichick will probably ask himself: Are our standards too high at the linebacker position? It's a point that has been made the last few years. When you are picking in the 21-32 range as the Patriots have been in recent years, I think the idea of getting a three-down player isn't always feasible. Sometimes you have to think outside the box -- think niche. If you can get a top pass rusher who might be a third- and fourth-down player, maybe that's worth the investment. Let's keep this thought on the front-burner this offseason and build on it going forward.

Martin (Merrimack Valley)

Hello Mike.Love the work that you do covering the team. It seems to me that following the loss to the ravens, many fans are overreacting. I think this defence just needs to sign 2 consistent pass rushers, retain Vince Wilfork, Tully Banta Cain and Leigh Bodden to become elite. If the offense could get a premier receiver in free agency and draft a speed running back to complment taylor and maroney, they would be in good shape. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

Martin, I think with some roster tweaks, solid drafting and character analysis of players brought into the locker room, supplemental work in free agency, and a small handful of extensions, the Patriots will be in the mix again.

Sean (Hudson)

Do you expect any major changes on the coaching staff (like O'Brien or Pees being replaced) or just minor tweaks? Has Belichick surrounded himself with "yes men" who aren't willing to offer different opinions?

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

I think there will be change, but at this point Sean, my sense is that it won't be anything major. I don't think the coaches are "yes" men, per se, but they are younger and it takes time to gain comfort to challenge someone like Belichick. Remember that shot of McDaniels and Belichick walking off the field together last year at halftime and they were speaking loudly with each other? McDaniels might not have done that in 2005. But he grew into it, and was more comfortable telling Belichick what he felt, what he saw, what he believed.

Matt G. (Boston)

It seems more and more likely that the Pats might franchise Big Vince. If that happens, will it be the end of his time here following next season? Do you think he would view that as many players do, as a sign of disrespect, damaging the relationship to the point of no return?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

Yes Matt, I do. If the Patriots put the franchise tag on Wilfork, I don't see him reporting, so I'd go as far as to say it will be the end of his time here starting right now.

Andy (Framingham)

Hi Mike In your professional opinion, do you believe that Coach Belichick's extreme accolades towards Burgess were warranted?

Mike Reiss
  (12:31 PM)

I viewed the accolades a little differently than others, Andy. I wasn't at the press conference when Belichick said something along the lines of Burgess being the best combination of run/rush defender the Patriots had at his position. But I read the transcript and I interpreted his remarks to mean this year, not of all time. Belichick, in my view, was talking about nickel rushers, which would mean Burgess, Banta-Cain, Ninkovich, and even Adalius Thomas. If Belichick was indeed saying all-time, I would say that is not warranted.

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

I thought that was a situation where the context of Belichick's remarks was important to consider.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, I'm not blaming him, but I'm guessing Tedy Bruschi's retirement, after the trade of Mike Vrabel, could have a large impact on BB's plan this year. He was the last straw of the Patriot dynasty, and without him there would be no one left on the roster to keep the locker room in the elite mode. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

I don't really see it that way, MarkJ. First, I thought they misjudged Vrabel by focusing too much on his third-down work. He was clearly declining in that area, but Vrabel was still effective on first and second down. When you factor that, plus Vrabel's leadership, I thought they should have held on to him in retrospect.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

The other part on the whole leadership angle is that the Patriots obviously lost a lot with Harrison, Seymour, Vrabel, Bruschi ... but I thought they had leaders in that room: Brady, Faulk, Mankins, Taylor, Seau. To me, it was more of an issue of a wrong mix of players. Not all 53 were always pulling the same oar in my view. I see a difference there between lack of leaders and the wrong mix of playres.

John (Manchester, NH)

Mike, given the high possibility of Vince Wilfork being given the franchise tag, I was wondering what his trade value might be if the Pats cannot work out a long-term extension. Does a 2 this year and a 1 next seem unreasonable?

Mike Reiss
  (12:36 PM)

I think that would be a bit rich, John. Considering Seymour landed a first-rounder in 2011, I think that would be the expectation with Wilfork too.

Steve C (Atlanta)

Mike, what do you think aboutthe current coaching staff and do you think new ones will be brought in to add to these like veteran experienced coaches. Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:37 PM)

I think the Patriots' coaching staff is good, although I don't think the overall staff was as strong as we've seen in the past. I would expect a few tweaks on the staff for 2010, but at this time, not thinking of anything major.

Lisa (Sudbury)

Hi Mike--Let's say the Pats do sufficiently address the pass rush in the offseason. How do you think this affects their shortcomings in the secondary--could they be effective next year with the same/similar personnel there next year, or would they need to make a significant change?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Good thought, Lisa. A big part of it will be what happens with Leigh Bodden, who I thought was their best corner. He is a free agent. I think they'll come back with the same safety group for the most part, and then work Darius Butler in at left corner. So I see enough pieces there in the secondary to be competitive, and if you improve the rush, it will only make them better.

Stephen Siegel (Falls Church, Virginia)

Hi Mike, this is my first question: While we're all disappointed about the way the season ended, shouldn't we be careful not to blow up the team based on one admittedly abysmal performance? This team beat a tough Ravens team earlier in the season; led the Colts by double digits in Indy; and crushed the Jaguars while the latter were still in the playoff hunt. Clearly, things need to be improved, but do we really think the players and schemes were that bad?

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

I don't think it will get blown up, Stephen. They will keep the core intact. But I do think they need an infusion/overhaul of talent in some areas -- outside linebacker, for example -- and that's why this draft is so important for them in my view -- with the first-round pick and three second-rounders. You start there in my view and then supplement in free agency.

Neil (Southington, CT)

I read everyone saying that Vince Wilfork is a priority. I don't necessarily disagree but I also have to ask - why is anyone on that defense untouchable? I even include Merriwheather. When I watch R Rices big touchdown run - you can see him hesitate coming at Rica and allowed the big play.

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Neil, to me, Meriweather is too up and down. That's a first-round pick, Pro Bowler right there, who turned a 10-yard run into an 83-yard touchdown. On the flip side, we saw that tremendous play against Jacksonville on third-and-1, which was a game-changer. Harnessing his playmaking ability while making him cut down on errors is a big challenge. I think you keep him -- he's a playmaker -- but you have to coach him up more.

Kyle (Natick)

Big shout out from Metrowest Mike! Do you think that Myron Pryor can be a solid contributor in this system?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Those are my roots Kyle. MetroWest is where I started my career, as a part-time writer for the then-Middlesex News in high school. Pryor got some valuable experience this year, playing in 27 percent of the snaps. I think he is a good technique player who has a chance if he improves. The one thing I would worry about with him is size. The Ravens ran over the Patriots in that game and I look at Pryor's makeup and wonder about his ability to physically hold up over time.

The Cat (Brookline)

Mike- what happened with the Tully-Banta Cain contract extension? The Pats jumped through procedural hurdles to cut him and then re-sign him to get a new deal done, but then it never happened. Can you elaborate on what the deal is?

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

This is a bit confusing, but it started when Banta-Cain first signed in New England. He inked a one-year deal that was a veteran minimum benefit contract. That type of contract can't be extended until the end of the year. But the Patriots and Banta-Cain terminated that contract and reached another one-year deal that wasn't a veteran minimum benefit contract. In doing so, it allowed the sides the opportunity to strike an extension before the end of the year. Something fell through on the last step and now Banta-Cain could be a free agent.

Doug Brien (Hilton Head Island SC)

Mike, Where did the Patriots payroll compare to the playoff teams in the NFL for this past season. I have been told that overall the Pats were in the bottom third. If this was the case I'm sure this must have had a influence on their record. Your thoughts.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

The Patriots were toward the middle in the total payroll category. They finished the year with about $3.2m in cap space. As the Redskins have shown us, you don't always win by spending it. It's spending it smartly. This is where the Patriots hurt themselves a bit in my view.

Peg (Waltham)

Mike, do you see the Pats bringing back Kevin Faulk next year? He is the only player on offense who can make things happen.

Mike Reiss
  (12:50 PM)

I do see Faulk back, Peg. I think Faulk is a lot like Troy Brown -- you find a place for a player like that.

G-Slice (Needham)

Mike, to me, Brady's reluctance to rush for a wide open touchtown last weekedn was the culmination of a season in which he looked scared in the pocket anytime he was about to get hit. Do you envision Brady becoming less gunshy bext year, or will his knee injury prevent him from ever moving out of the pocket?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

I agree that Brady's pocket presence wasn't at the level it was in the past, and that could have been injury related. I think he can get that back. Part of that will be on the coaching staff in terms of surrounding Brady with personnel and scheme that help him regain that confidence.

Chas (Walpole)

Mike, the 2009 draft seemed like it yielded a few keepers (vollmer, edelman, butler), but other than Mayo, the 2008 draft looks like a complete bust (as was the 2007 draft). I know you have stated that the Pats draft record has been consistent compared to the rest of the league, but can you know state that the 2006-2008 drafts have been the source of the Pats personnel problems?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

I am actually looking at that a little closer today, Chas. 2006 was a bomb, no doubt about that (Maroney, Jackson, Thomas). I put 2007 as average -- there's Meriweather and then I give them the Welker and Moss moves (they chose them over the talent in the draft, which I believe has to be a consideration). I'd take one more year before passing final judgment on 2008 but it doesn't look good -- after Mayo, no impact.

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Yes, I would say that the lack of impact in those drafts is hurting them. When you compare it to other teams, though, it is interesting how that is almost par for the course.

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Jackson (Seakonk)

Mike, Coach Belicheck consistently says that it is difficult to project college LBs into his system and he usually does not pick them in the first round (Mayo aside). Do you think he has missed out on many opportunities to draft impact LBs early in the draft (like Matthews, for instance)

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

Yes, I do. The one that stands out to me was Jon Beason from 2007. Thought he would have been a great fit for them at No. 24.

Ira (West End)

Mike, do you see any roel for Shawn Crable next year? I know you were high on him prior to training camp.

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

I think he'll be in the mix, Ira, but how can the Patriots count on him? He hasn't been able to get on the field because of injuries the last two years. At this point, I think you look at that one and say 'Anything we get will be a bonus.'

Jake (Albany)

Mike, do you see the Pats looking at signing Deion Branch this offseason? He has certainly slowed down and has had many injury issues, but he has good hands, a rapport with Brady and has played well in this system. Will Brady lobby to bring him back?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Branch would have to get released by Seattle, or traded, as his contract still has a few years left. He can still play. I would endorse this move in a big way. It was something I had brought up at the trade deadline this year, thinking the Patriots should have pursued it.

Vinnie (Burlington, VT)

Mike, who were this year's special teams aces? Didnt seem like we had many good plays this year? Maybe Kyle Arrington?

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Pierre Woods and Kyle Arrington were the top guys, with Pat Chung, Eric Alexander and Brandon McGowan also big factors.

Harvey (Pawtucket)

Do you see the Pats making all 4 of their 1st and 2nd round picks? Do you envision more trading for "value" picks?

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

I think they need to get away from the "value" idea and make the picks Harvey. It helps that those picks are in "value" slots. Sometimes I wonder if the Patriots get too fancy and outsmart themselves with that stuff -- trading around on draft day. My thought is this: Time to lock it down, scout the players, make the pick, and then coach the heck out of them. That synergy between scouting, evaluating and coaching is the essence of what the top organizations do in my opinion.

Jack (Brighton)

Mike, I'm curious as to your end of the year perspective on the Pats second round picks this year (Butler, Chung, Brace and Vollmer)?

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Quick-hit thoughts, Jack: I think Chung has a chance to be a playmaker on defense, I have concerns as to why Brace couldn't get on the field late in the year, I think Butler could develop into a top corner, I think Vollmer was a big hit in the draft process at this point and has a chance to be very good in the years to come.

Aaron (Trumbull, CT)

Hey Mike. How do you see the rest of the playoffs unfolding?

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Let's end on this one. I like the Chargers and Colts in the AFC. I picked the Cowboys and Saints in the NFC.

Mike Reiss
  (1:05 PM)

I noticed that the chat room was quite full. Let's meet back next Thursday at noon and cover some of the other topics that we couldn't get to. My goals this offseason are to dive heavily into the draft and free agency so we can talk about those areas and identify some of the players who will fit best for the Patriots. I look forward to keeping our weekly chats going.