Good afternoon and thanks for stopping by for today's chat. The plan is to keep the offseason chats to a half hour, so we'll go from noon until about 12:30.
It is very quiet around the Patriots right now. I think coaches are taking some time off, recharging their batteries, and then it's back to work. Next week is big from a draft preparation standpoint, as Senior Bowl practices start Monday.
Let's get into some questions.
Seymore trade was a good one for the team and the future. I wonder, though, it sends a messeage to the team that this is a rebuilding year, and eventually hurts the team.
I think you nailed it, MarkJ. I think it's a solid trade when you consider what the Patriots received and that Seymour was in the last year of his contract. But that trade didn't make the Patriots better in 2009 and that's a tough message to send throughout the locker room.
Hey Mike, Do you feel like T.O would be a great fit for the Patriots?
I'm not a big T.O. guy, Len. I think it's too much about T.O. and not enough about the team. I wouldn't go there.
Hey Mike, I thought that the Pats released Banta Cain mid season to resign him to a long term contract? I remember seeing that we released him and I nearly broke my computer (Ask Tim Grahm about my love for Tully). Thanks keep up the good work!
That is correct, Zack. When the Patriots brought Banta-Cain back, he signed a one-year, veteran minimum benefit deal. A contract like that can not be extended until after the league year ends. What the Patriots did was rip up that contract, sign Banta-Cain to a different one-year deal, and that gave the team the opportunity to work on an extension before the end of the league year. The sides had the general parameters of a deal in place, but it hit a snag before it was finalized. So Banta-Cain could hit free agency.
What are the chances of NE changing their defensive philosophy and possibly moving Wilfork to get more players to fit that new look (replace stout with speed) ? The Pats seem "slow" when I watch teams like the Colts, Jets, Vikings, Saints, etc.
I don't see the Patriots getting smaller on defense, Jim. I think they'll want to stay big, but the idea will be to add speed within the framework of their system. I know what you are saying about the "slow" aspect when compared to the other defenses like the Colts, but a team like the Jets is a good example of a big defense that also has speed.
It's still early in the free agent hunt and I'm sure the free agent list will grow but I think the Patriots should be active in free agency. Now, that doesn't mean they get in a biding war for Julius Peppers in fact I didn't see many pass rushers on the list that could help us. I did notice two offensive players that could. They are LenDale White and Steve Breaston. I don't think either of them will be high priced free agents but both are young and up and coming players. I think White and Breaston are RFA, is that correct ? If so, what would that cost be to the Patriots in draft picks ? Your thoughts?
I'm not a huge fan of White, David. I don't know Breaston as well, but he seems productive in that offense. In terms of the cost to sign a restricted free agent, it will depend on what level the teams tender those players.
Hi Mike! Do you think if Matt Patricia is promoted to be the DC of the Patriots, Pepper Johnson (overleapt by someone less experienced) might look for ways to leave, as he might not see any more opportunities with the Patriots and especially with Belichick to advance further up the coaching ladder?
Yes, I could certainly see that possibility happening. Johnson wants to move up the coaching ladder, so if he's passed over for the third time (2005, then 2006, now 2010), he might feel it's best to get to another team where there is more upward mobility.
Mike, do you think Dean Pees received too much of the blame for this season's defensive woes? Isnt't he essentially running Belichick's system?
Pees is definitely running Belichick's system, so I think any criticism should include both coaches. I thought Pees did well with the personnel he had.
Mike - it is clear that Banta-Cain increased his market value this year. However, last time he signed a free agent deal, he foundered in another system. Do you see him taking a "discount," so to speak, to stay in the Pats system where he knows that he will have success?
I do, Tony. I think Banta-Cain realizes this is a good system for him, and I thought he emerged as a leader of sorts this year. I believe the sides will find a way to get the deal done at a level that Banta-Cain feels is fair.
If we are not able to sign Wilfork after franchising him will his trade to another team signify a rebuilding year? I think that the Pats are due to get better in every facet of the game next year, but if we trade the best player on our defense I don't think we can recover.
Some reporters have mentioned that the team could part ways with Randy Moss in order to save money. I feel that this is ridiculous unless we are in rebuilding mode, do you agree?
We'll double up with you, Evan. On Wilfork, I think that would be similar to Seymour this year. If you trade him and don't get anything back this year, I don't see how that makes the team better. It doesn't necessarily mean you are rebuilding, but it certainly makes things harder on you. As for Moss, the only way I see a change is if the Patriots want to redefine the identity of the offense and feel that having Moss gets in the way of that. I'd be surprised if that happens. I don't think it's a money thing.
Mike, I read your piece on leadership in the lockeroom and could not agree more that with the conclusion that the lack leadership was used at times as an excuse thsi year. That said, do you think Brady should have taken more of a leadership riole this year, or did he do all he could?
I thought Brady did all he could.
Mike: Do you think that Edelman showed enought to step up and be the primary slot receiver while Welker recovers, or do you see the Pats brining in other players via the draft or free agency to compete for the job?
I do, Mike. I would feel comfortable entering next season with Edelman as a No. 3, but I think you still need a No. 2 in that scenario. Welker was more than just a slot guy, he had developed as a real No. 2 option as well.
I'm curious as to your take on the Pats players consistent comments that home games at Gillette Stadium is no different than playing a road game because the fans are so dead. Do you attribute this more to stadium design or rather fans complacency from the past decade?
Certain stadiums do hold the noise better than Gillette, but I've heard Gillette rock at times, so I think it's more of the latter.
Hey Mike, What about the RB Best at 22? I know Maroney has shown some promise but maybe he needs someone to light the competitive fire under him. He takes 2 steps forwards but then 3 steps back. I know Faulk took a while to mature into what he is today but the Pats work best with a runner like Clock Killin Corey Dillon (It looked like Fragile Fred might have filled that role but we all saw what happened there.) Thanks keep up the good work!
I like it, Zack. As I have reviewed the 2009 season, one conclusion I have come to is that the Patriots need fresh legs at running back. They can't come back with the same group in 2010 and expect better results. I'm not sure where the change will come, but I'd endorse adding a top running back in the first three rounds. Best is one of them, although I think some teams will worry that he doesn't project as a full-time back.
Mike - Brady was so timid in the pocket this year. The threat of a Brady scramble does not exist. Do you think his fear of re-injuring his knee will plague him the rest of his career?
Tommy, I didn't think it was the knee as much as the ribs/finger. I think he can regain that confidence again, but it looked like he got into some bad habits because he didn't want to get hit.
Mike - I was so dismayed when Ray Lewis said that they knew every play the Pats were running before they ran them. I understand that the Bill O'Brien is a smart coach, but their offense was so predictable this year. What changes, if any, do you envision Coach Belicheck making in this area?
I'd start with better personnel, Sal. More playmakers at receiver, tight end and running back. I think that will help. I like Sam Aiken, but I think he should be a No. 4 or 5 receiver, not a No. 2 or 3.
In past years Bill Belichick has moved back in the draft to acquire picks for future years. This year I feel he needs to abandon that strategy and use his stockpile of picks to help this team now. I would even use our next years first round pick if need be to move up to acquire an impact player like a Spiller or McLain, because we already have the Raiders pick next year. Your thoughts?
I tend to lean toward your line of thinking Kevin. No trading into next year with the 2010 picks. Use them and get some good players. If they feel strongly about a player in the first round and can use the 2011 first-rounder as a chip to get in position, as long as the trade isn't a giveaway, I would do it.
What up Mike from Metrowest! Glad to call you one of our own. Do you see the Pats re-signing Burgess? Belichick heaped so much praise on him, I feel like he will re-sign him just to warrant the 3rd and 5th they gave up for him.
I'd guess that a big part of that one, Owen, will be what happens with Banta-Cain. If Banta-Cain is back, I would think they would make him their primary nickel rusher, so I don't see Burgess back in that scenario.
I agree with you that despite the uncapped year, the Pats will not be bringing in many free agents. Accordingly, the only way to significantly improve this team for next year is through the draft. However, in Belichick's system, it usually takes first year players a while to have an impact. That said, do you envision that next year's Pats team can really be any better than this year's team?
I do, Duece, and part of that might be that the Patriots play the rookies a little earlier than they would normally do so. The other thing to factor in is improvement of players on the roster -- players like Darius Butler, Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer etc.
The other part on free agency is that the pool of available talent will be shallow.
In week one, Tom Brady impressively rallied the offense late in the 4th quarter to beat the Bills. Aside from that game, I can't recall any other late comebacks engineered by Brady this past season, and the offense performed rather poorly in the second half of games overall. I'm sure his teammates respect his talent, but has Brady's standing as go-to leader eroded?
I don't think so, Mac. Comebacks aside, I sensed that Brady commanded the respect of most of his teammates because of his work ethic and overall excellence.
Mike, I've been reading a lot of speculation about Matt Patricia. In your opinion, what makes him such a dynamic guy?
Matt Patricia is very smart, very good with data, and part of that comes from his engineering background. He also seems like a strong communicator and sort of a throwback football coach. Nothing flashy, just a grinder who is very bright and understands the game.
Mike, I keep reading that when the Pats inevitably franchise Wilfork, it could reverberate throughout the lockeroom. The franchise tag is a powerful tool that ownership has. If the players hate it so much, how come the players association doesn't make it a platform of their agenda in the next CBA?
Great point, Peg. In the case of Wilfork, I don't think the issue in the Patriots' locker room would be the franchise tag itself. It's the belief that Wilfork was strong-armed into accepting a six-year deal as a rookie when he had little leverage, and now after six years of service, he is being penalized for that. It could create the perception among players of management being a bit ruthless.
Mike, do you see the Pats drafting another QB late in the draft, or do you think Hoyer did a good job this year? How has he compared to O'Connell's first year (I remember the Pats had high hopes for him)
I don't see the Patriots going for a quarterback very high. I believe they are very encouraged by Hoyer, to the point that they view him as a draft pick from 2009.
Do you think the Patriots will trade up a few spots in the draft to get a pass rusher like Sergio Kindle? Also, it seems as though the Patriots have been content with stockpiling in late round picks to draft guys with not a lot of star power and average potential, is now the time that we are going to go after a big name guy in the draft or even in free agency?
Kindle might be there at 22 Ian, but here is my thought on him. If the Patriots feel very strongly about him, and they want to make sure they can get him, I think they'd consider jumping up a handful of spots to make it happen. As for free agency, I don't see a major splash there. Too many issues to take care of on their own roster (Brady, Wilfork, Mankins, Gostkowski, Faulk, Bodden, Banta-Cain). On the draft, they did draft Mayo 10th two years ago.
Please tell me neither the Jets or the Colts will win the Lombardi? I think this is the first time I have ever rooted for the NFC (since Seattle in 05)...say it aint so that the Jets can win it all?
Tedy Bruschi picked the Jets to win it all. I see a Colts-Saints Super Bowl.
Mike great job! My off season to do list. Signing Vince would be first on my list. Second get a pass rusher via draft. Third would be to get a running back to keep the offense on the field longer and then add dept to the linebacker group. What your take.
I like it Mike. I know we talk a lot about improving the pass rush, and Wilfork isn't necessarily part of that, but I view him as an integral piece of the base 3-4 defense on early downs. They are in base about 50 percent of the time, so I like the idea of starting there and seeing if you can build from that point.
Let's go for another 5 minutes here...
Jermain Gresham and Aaron Hernandez are two very athletic TE's coming into the NFL this year. If Ron Gronkowski gets a clean bill of health coming off his lost season due to a back injury that puts three productive college TE's in the Patriots wheel house. With Welker likely out early next season and Watson presumably gone via free agency do you see the Pats going for a WR (Golden Tate) or a TE early in the draft?
I could see them coming away with a WR and TE in two of their first four picks. Usually on the TEs, if you want a top guy, you have to pick him within the first two rounds (with a few notable exceptions). Big question on Gresham will be health related.
Mike, thanks for all the updates during the season. I have to ask, aren't people overreacting a bit to how the season ended. The defense over the course of the season was respectable statistically (and very young) while the offense was led by a quarterback who was coming back from knee surgery. Considering we only had one week to prepare for life without Welker in the playoffs, didn't the Pats do a pretty serviceable job this season?
I think that's a good perspective, Seth. It was a brutal ending and sometimes that can sort of stay with you, but there were some good things that happened along the way. They'll need to make some tweaks and changes, but I still believe some solid parts are there and that this team will be in the hunt.
Mike, Assuming the Pats are going to try to get the pass rusher they need in the first round, is there any player that might tempt them to deviate from that path if they slid? For instance, in your blod earlier you mentioned Mel Kiper saying the Pats could go after Sapp to bolster the pass rush, which I could see happening. But what happens if CJ Spillar slides down to 22? Would that be a more logical pick, getting the RB they haven't had in a long time over another obvious need as well?
Good stuff, Chris. Go Spiller there if he's available. I don't think they'll be locked into one position so that if an opportunity like that presents itself, they'll take it.
Do you think that Wes Welker not being around possibly for at least 6 weeks as his injury will probably cause him to go on the PUP list, will be a good thing for Brady? I think it will cause him to establish better connections with his other receivers and make the patriots that much stronger when he actually does return
I think there is some validity to that thought, Nick, because Welker would so easily get open it almost became a crutch for Brady.
Mike, it's clear than we need an upgrade in several areas but all teams would like to upgrade every weakness, it's just not possible. however, i think the patriots have enough talent that STRATEGIC upgrades could impact other positions as well. if we upgrade our LBs and generate pressure, our young cornerbacks will benefit. On offense, we need to get brady more weapons. I think we've got enough at RB, (i still like maroney), that with additional receivers and a draft choice on an OL, the running game will improve. any thoughts?
I like it, MD, except for the thoughts at running back. I think it's time for a fresh approach there.
I'm curious if you know when ESPN's draft experts might have some insight on Round 2, since that's where the meat of the Pats' draft is, at present. Thanks.
I think the big thing I sense now, Matt, is that with the juniors coming out a lot of the analysts are gathering that information. It changes a lot. I'll build off your question with a round-2 item on our Patriots blog later today.
It seems pretty clear that the Pats' TE situation needs some addressing (in addition to all the other contract talks that are on the table). Watson is a FA, and according to your Tight End breakdown, Baker may be gone after 2010. Is this a situation where they turn to the draft? Or a free agent? Production from the TE position would surely take some pressure off finding a third WR right away...
Not a lot out there in free agency, especially in an uncapped year. Think it has to be the draft Matt.
Let's say for a moment that the salary cap becomes completely eliminated in 2010 going forward (obviously it's up in the air, but this is theoretical). Wouldn't this be a major advantage for a Patriots type franchise? What other team besides the Cowboys and Redskins would even have the financial resources to compete under such circumstances?
Let's end on this one. A lot of good questions today, and it's nice to know this will continue going forward. We'll do it again next Thursday ... One thing about an uncapped year, Sonny, I think we'll actually see less spending from all teams than more spending, even the Patriots, Cowboys and Redskins. There won't be a salary floor. Technically, no cap favors the big-market teams like the Patriots, but I don't see big spending in an uncapped environment this year.