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July 15, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's Patriots chat.

Mike Reiss
  (12:00 PM)

This is a temporary Friday pitstop for us, and then we will be back to our regular Thursday at noon schedule.

Mike Reiss
  (12:01 PM)

Today's lead-in question, asked on our Patriots blog, was: At what financial level do you expect the Patriots to get involved in free agency when it begins -- low, moderate, high. I'll go through some of the responses, post them, and then we'll get chatting.

Jeff (Needham, MA)

Hey Mike, I expect the Patriots to invest a moderate amount in veteran free agency. I would expect them to pursue Matt Light up to a certain value as well as few other departing free agents, and potentially making a few mid-level signings, my guess being an interior OL and/or a safety.

Tom (Portsmouth, NH)

I expect the Pats to take a low profile this period. The Pats returned most of their starters from their 14-2 team, and Bodden, Warren and Wright are returning from IR. I'm not one who sees the need for a WR. I like the 1RB, 2TE, 2WR offense with Branch/Welker as the WRs. A big WR signing just means Branch or Welker does a lot of sitting. What's the point of that? In three WR sets, I'd just as soon split the reps among Tate-Edelman-Price and see which one stands out. If they all sit all year behind a FA WR, we will go into 2012 still not knowing if all/any/none of these youngsters are worth keeping. I'm sure there will be a feeding frenzy among some teams when FA opens, but it should die down quickly. Perhaps then the Pats could get a nice value signing to replace TBC (or Spikes if he really is hurt as is rumored to be).

Jeff (CA)

Hello Mike! As far as the question goes I'd say on the low end of FA investments. I could see them potentially taking a swing at guys like Matt Roth, or Kiwi at OLB, trying to resign G Warren on DL possibly, going after a lower teir OL for depth and possibly bringing in a Vet RB to camp but when I look at the roster, I don't see much room or need for huge upgrades. Maybe 85 if he's released also. Nothing new. They won't set the market in FA.

Nigel Mckeown (London, England)

Answer to question:I think the Patriots will invest in free agency at a relatively low level. There isn't a great deal of high caliber talent at positions of need (DE/OLB). While not enjoying an outstanding season by any measure I think the current crop of young Patriot DE/OLB's will have learned a great deal from last season. I think BB is of the opinion that any player on offer through either FA or the draft would not have represented a likely upgrade.

Farn (Nova Scotia)

The FA spending will be moderate for NE. It may even come in the form of "more players than usual" rather than big spending on a few. I can see NE doing this to guard against injuries (because of the stoppage) and because of the amount they will need to spend. The most likely outcome is that BB and friends spend cash to lock up their own players to front-loaded contracts.

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - to answer your question, I think the Pats will be moderate-to-low players in free agency. They certainly have needs - all 32 teams do - but they won't break the bank, especially with the influx of young talent from the last two drafts. There probably just aren't enough roster spots for too many free agents.

Sean (Westwood)

The only big offseason splashes BB has made in his tenure has been signing Colvin, Harrison, and Adalius Thomas, and trading for Corey Dillon, Moss, and Welker. Those acquisitions, with the exception of Dillon, came following the disappointing '02 and 06' campaigns. I don't see the hoodie stepping outside of that track record, and expect to see a similar offseason to last year with signings of the Damione Lewis type (probably OL though)

Andy (Boston)

In response to the free agent question, I think they will spend some money, but that they will not be one of the big spenders. Of course, everything depends on the CBA. The Patriots seem to be in a much better financial position than other comparable teams (the Jets, the Colts, the Steelers) but if there is a salary floor, than there are a lot of teams out there who are going to have to spend a lot of money to hit the salary floor. Based on that, I expect some free agents to get overpaid this year. I don't see the Patriots competing to overpay players (unless we are talking Mankins - who I hope can finish his career with the Patriots). For free agents from other teams, I could very easily see us picking up one or two good players, but I don't see us in the competition for high end guys this year. Next year may very well be a different story.

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Liked all the responses. Appreciate everyone chiming in on that. I fall into the moderate-to-low area, but one thing we can all agree on (I think), is that Bill Belichick is unpredictable. I go moderate-to-low because I think prices will be too high for their liking for some of the prime options, and then it comes to the question of "How much can this guy really help us with no background of the system from an offseason together?"

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

So let's get rolling. We'll go until 1 p.m.

dan (boston)

Hey Mike, what are the chances of landing Sidney Rice in free agency?

Mike Reiss
  (12:07 PM)

Dan, I'd say low. Going to cost too much money for their liking would be my educated guess.

Al (Newark, NJ)

Hi Mike,Which rookie, 2nd or 3rd year players do you anticipates having a solid or break-out season in 2011-12?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

I'm keeping an eye on Dane Fletcher, but the choice who stands out above the rest -- and I've targeting him from the get-go -- is Jermaine Cunningham.

Ron (NY, NY (originally West Roxbury))

In past years, roster size during the off season was de facto larger than 80 because draft choices did not count until the beginning of training camp. Do you think they might be something analogous this year during the earlier stages of camp?

Mike Reiss
  (12:08 PM)

Ron, I think the draft picks are going to count because they are going to get signed quickly. From reports, it sounds like teams will be able to have 90 players in camp.

Sam (Nashua, NH)

Mike,I know you have said before that the chances of the Patriots bringing back Moss are small, But... with limited time in training camp, him knowing the offense inside out, and the likelyhood that he is in freakish shape (I know his agents job is to say that but it probably IS true) why wouldnt we bring him back with a renewed attitude? Sounds better than giving tons of guaranteed money to Braylon Edwards, Sidney Rice or Santonio Holmes...

Mike Reiss
  (12:09 PM)

Sam, I agree that it would make some sense from a pure football standpoint, but I just think Bill Belichick has reached the end of the line with the non-football stuff (e.g. locker room dynamic). So it's my belief they've moved on from Moss. Potentially too explosive of a personality to have around.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike, where do you fall on the debate of our current receivers' abilities? I personally think Brandon Tate can't catch and I really hopes he gets jumped by Price so that he can just return kicks. He is a liability in 3 receiver sets. In response to your question, I think they need to sure up their offensive line in FA which mean dollars for Mankins and maybe Light.

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

I think the WR spot looks good, Kyle, assuming Branch and Welker maintain their level of play (and while Branch might have slowed down a bit, I still think he has something to offer). I think Tate is a solid 3-4 option somewhat the way I viewed Jabar Gaffney (different skill set, but some similiarities in role). Price could be good, but too early to tell there.

Tommy (Albany,NY)

Hey Mike. I've looked at where all the experts think Ray Edwards will land and the Patriots are never mentioned. Is this because they don't think he fits the scheme or because they don't think the Patriots would offer as much money as Edwards wants? I think he would be perfect to bolster our 32nd ranked third down defense.

Mike Reiss
  (12:11 PM)

Probably a little bit of both, Tommy. Edwards will command some big bucks, I believe, and some have questions if he can stand up and play OLB in the 3-4.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, in their podcast Andy Hart of PFW mentioned that the slot CB is his concern on the roster. I kind of agree with him as I do not have a full confidence on Arrington or Butler. Your thought?

Mike Reiss
  (12:13 PM)

MarkJ, they should be OK there in my view. They've devoted a lot of resources to the secondary in recent years, so I guess if they're not OK, it probably speaks to some disappointing drafting in the secondary.

Lee Tempest (Gloucester UK)

Mike, we know that the players have been working out and trying to keep in shape during the lockout, which is really all they can do, have their bodies ready to go. But my question is what have the coaches been doing? without players to coach what have they been doing? Have they actually been turning up at the stadium / training facility and doing paperwork?

Mike Reiss
  (12:14 PM)

Lee, coaches have been working hard, doing special projects on opponents this year and planning things out for when players return. They've been champing at the bit for some football. Patriots coaches have been on vacation of late, but they were recently told to be able to make it to the stadium within 24 hours in the event the lockout ends.

T Squires (Pittsboro)

When and if the FA market opens up, who do you think we will target to add more depth to the New England secondary? If you do not think this will be a possible move than which part of the defense will be most improved on?

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

Maybe at safety, T, but I think it would be as much about 2012 as 2011, with Meriweather and Sanders entering the final year of their contracts.

Mike Reiss
  (12:15 PM)

If not safety, I'd say OLB/DE type.

Andrew (Boston)

With all the talk about who the Pats will taget in free agency to bolster their pass rush, I see one player in particular that would seem to fit better than the rest. Matias Kiwanuka has the size, length, pass rush ability and experience playing on his feet to do all the things asked of a rush linebacker in the Pats system. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:16 PM)

I like the thought, Andrew, assuming his health checks out. Depending on economics, he's the type of player who I think could help.

Brian (New Jersey)

What are the chances of Ochocinco coming to new england

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

I've never really jumped on the Ochocinco-to-Patroits bandwagon, Brian. Maybe my mindset would change in the event Branch/Welker looks like they've regressed in camp, and Tate/Price are struggling.

Nigel M (London, England)

Hi Mike,How much do you think the offense will move away from the empty spread sets of recent seasons?We seem to get alot of joy on the regular season with this method (Colts-like some might say) but tend to fall down in the post-season.Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:17 PM)

Nigel, I think we'll still see empty on a regular basis. More than anything, my feeling with the offense is that they will be striving for a bit more consistency running the ball. They ran it well at times last year, but the mark of a good running team in my view is to be able to do it when the opponent knows it's coming. I'm not sure the Patriots are there yet.

Rob (Vancouver, WA)

With the continued regular-season success, followed by utter collapse in the post-season, do you think this is the year that Belichick makes a few drastic changes to the philosophy of the team. The current mantra has become somewhat stale, and it seems that the Patriots have become somewhat predictable when teams have more than a week to prepare.

Mike Reiss
  (12:20 PM)

Rob, I think there is some validity to this thought. I would imagine Bill Belichick took time this offseason studying how he approached the postseason with his club. I remember they had the numbers "0-0" up on the wall where players walk into the stadium when the playoffs began. That was an example of trying to create some urgency and reinforce it's a new season. Did that approach and mindset work? Did the message get through? Those are the type of things I'd look at. Scheme-wise, I think their Xs and Os are solid. It's more execution-based.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

Mike, Do you think James Harrison had any valid points?

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

David, my view on Harrison is that I try not to bash a guy for speaking his mind, but I think there is a certain class in which to do it. I didn't think we saw much class in his remarks. As for the validity in his points, I'll be honest. I couldn't look past his delivery and venom to see them.

Logan Mankins (Boston)

Have the Patriots been practicing each and every week and its just not being reported, or have they been home like me??

Mike Reiss
  (12:21 PM)

No practices, Logan. For the most part, guys have been on their own, although there is a group of 10-15 players -- led by Jerod Mayo -- who have been working out in New England.

Damas (Boston)

Mike, do you have the numbers of where, and by how much, the Patriots would fall under the apparent cap of 120 million? I've read conflicting articles that put us barely under and significantly under the cap. If the latter is true, maybe a big name free agent isn't out of the question (or Mankins will get his payday), as teams will be scrambling to figure out if their payroll can handle the new acquisition in question. Just a thought, but I was wondering if you had the numbers on hand.

Mike Reiss
  (12:23 PM)

I want to do a bit more research on this, so for now Damas, here is a piece from Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sports Net on the topic. http://www.csnne.com/07/08/11/Patriots-should-be-well-under-cap-when-l/landing_patriots.html?blockID=540025&feedID=6272

Ted Sarandis (Cambridge)

Big fan of your work Mike. My question is about the schedule. Many of the Pats games are late afternoon/night games. Do you think Coach Belichick is bothered by this in any respect?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Ted, first time caller, long-time listener. Thanks. I think Belichick would like all the games on Sunday at 1. But I don't think he's necessarily bothered by this. It comes with the territory.

Chet (Newton)

Hiya Mike. Which rookies will have an impact this year? Seems like they will all be in a redshirt type year due to the lockout, right?

Mike Reiss
  (12:24 PM)

Great point, Chet. I like Ras-I Dowling and Shane Vereen to be in the position to make the biggest impact.

The Cat (Brookline)

What are your expectations for Ron Brace this year? Can he be a contributor?

Mike Reiss
  (12:25 PM)

Cat, I see this as a fork-in-the-road type of year for Brace. Will he be a starter? Or a backup type? I have seen flashes from Brace, but it hasn't been as consistent as I feel a starter needs to be. So to answer the question, I see it in him, but I think he needs to prove it day in and day out.

Fitzy (Framingham)

Big Fleagle shout out to you Mike! Do you see any scenario where the Pats trade Hoyer in what will be a frenzy of the next two weeks?

Mike Reiss
  (12:26 PM)

For those who don't know, that Fleagle shout out comes from my hometown of Framingham, Mass. Us Flyers stick together. I don't see the Patriots trading Hoyer right now. I view him as a stock who has potential to yield a much greater return a bit more down the road. Right now, I think they'd be selling early based on what I think they could get in return.

Peg (Waltham)

Mike, do you think that Tully BC could be a roster casualty this year? He was woeful last year, couldnt set the edge at all, and seemed to get less and less playing time as the season progressed.

Mike Reiss
  (12:27 PM)

Peg, based on the economics, I think it's something to keep an eye on. From a pure rush perspective, I think Tully Banta-Cain can help the team. But when factoring in economics and the salary cap -- which we all know is a consideration in all decisions -- I think it's something that the team would consider.

John (Strong Pond, PA)

Do you think that a guy like Reggie Bush, who is a legitimate playmaker as a slot receiver, receiving back, and return man could be a focus come free agency, especially since he would have featured back potential behind this line?

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

John, that's an intrigiung one. I do think Belichick likes him, and why not? Economics would have to work and I don't see them breaking bank for someone at that position.

Mike Reiss
  (12:28 PM)

So, in the end, I'd guess we won't be seeing Reggie Bush in New England.

Mort (Chicopee)

Hi Mike. What is your take on whether faulk makes this team this year? We know he'll be in camp, but will BB give him the "Bruschi" treatment and agree on the "honorable discharge/retirement" or will he be a contrubutor this year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:29 PM)

Mort, I think we have to see how Faulk looks coming back from the knee surgery (ACL). Also, any other injuries at RB? I'd lean toward a retirement/cut now -- also factoring in roster spots at other positions -- but that assumes good health for all.

pdxpaul (stumptown)

Mike, my question has to do with the mobile web page. Can you work with your IT folks to make the recap links work in the mobile web page? Both the mailbag and chat recaps are only available by loading the full webpage - the links do not show up in the mobile site. While it's not that big of a deal, it would make it quicker to load when I only have the edge network available...

Mike Reiss
  (12:30 PM)

You got it. I will pass this on to the powers that be. Thanks for passing along the thoughts.

Jeff (CA)

Mike, I was interested in seeing what you think of our options at the OL. Obviously Solder will have a tough time getting into the LT spot at the start of the season at this point. If Light is not retained, what do you see the opening day OL looking like? My guess is LT - Vollmer, LG - Mankins, C - Koppen, RG - Dan Connolly, RT - Kaczur. What do you think?

Mike Reiss
  (12:32 PM)

Good topic, Jeff. I'm not sold Kaczur will be here. Mark LeVoir has helped them in the past in a pinch-hitting role, and you also have Steve Maneri waiting in the wings, so those guys could be factors. If Light is not re-signed, I'll go with this: LT -- Vollmer; LG -- Mankins; C-- Koppen; RG -- Connolly; RT -- LeVoir.

Mike Reiss
  (12:33 PM)

On Maneri, I think he's an important guy for them. In the holding-the-Patriots accountable department, they devoted a spot on the 53-man roster for him at the start of the 2010 season after clamining him on waivers from the Texans. In doing so, they basically made the decision that Maneri had more promise than Ted Larsen, the sixth-round pick they waived (and who landed in Tampa and started 10 games).

Nigel Mckeown (London, England)

Hi Mike,Firstly, many thanks for the weekly chats - i'm a regular reader of your blog for anything and everything Patriots related.My question is: How much do you think the offense will change its identity this year?It seems we are trying to move to a more balanced set-up with less reliance on empty formations - what with the signing of two rookie RB's and Law Firm and Danny Woodhead.To those who say Brady does best in the empty spread, i'd counter with the suggestion that he is also probably the best, and most convincing, exponent of the PA pass currently in the game.Thanks

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Nigel, I don't see a huge identity change. More than anything, I think it comes back to the idea that they want to be able to run more consistently when the situation presents itself. I still see them as a game-plan offense that makes it way primarily through the air.

Matt (NYC)

Who will lead the Pats in Receptions and Yardage in 2011/12? My guess is Welker, who 2 years removed from surgery should be much stronger than last year (a la Brady 2010 v 2011). My second guess would be Hernandez. Do you think there is a chance they ever convert him to WR full time?

Mike Reiss
  (12:34 PM)

Matt, I like the Welker pick. He still brings it. As for Hernandez, I think we'll still see the "TE" next to his name on the roster, but I'd expect him to spend the majority of his snaps on the move or split wide.

Matt G. (Boston)

Hi Mike - do you think we will see more of a slow integration into the starting offense for rookies like Solder/Dowling/Vereen/Ridley than in a typical year, because of the stoppage? Who do you see cracking the lineup first? Are any/all special teams candidates right away? Thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Absolutely Matt. Sticking with Dowling and Vereen as the rookies in position to make the fastest impact.

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

On special teams, seventh-rounder Malcolm Williams is the name to keep on the radar.

Farn (Nova Scotia)

Mike, do you see any possibility of a team wanting to try and pry away Hoyer this season ? What would it take to make it worth it for NE ?

Mike Reiss
  (12:35 PM)

Farn, anything less than a third-rounder -- to me -- means it isn't worth it. And I don't see another team doing that right now.

JC (California)

Mike,Queries about UDFAs:1.How expensive is it to bring in the UDFAs?2.On average, how many does BB usually bring in?3.Is there a limit on how many a team can look at?4.Do you think if the Pats are interested in a UDFA that they would have an advantage over another team in getting that player just because we?re the Pats?5.Besides Herzlich, are there any other guys you have your eye on?

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Unlimited rookie free agents, JC, up to the 80 or 90-man overall roster limit. The number Belichick brings in is usually tied to how many draft picks he has. If he has a lot, he brings in fewer rookie free agents. In years there haven't been as many, he goes lighter in that area. In terms of those out there this year, Tim Barnes, a center from Missouri, would be someone I could see them being interested in working with. There is also a DE/OLB convert from the Colorado School of Mines -- no joke -- that I think has some positive qualities worthy of an investment. His name is Marc Schiechl.

Mike Reiss
  (12:38 PM)

Of course, there are others. But those were two players in the pre-draft process I targeted.

Jasper (Everett)

Do you have any comment about the national media's take on the Brady contract vs the Manning contract, specifically how it everyone was on the Pats for supposedly "nickle and diming" Brady, essentially insinuating that the Colts would never do the same to Peyton. Well, here we are a year later, and Manning still has not signed. What are your thoughts about this?

Mike Reiss
  (12:39 PM)

Jasper, my thoughts are that it is a good example of how everything seems to be bigger in New England than it does Indianapolis. Imagine if the tables were turned and Brady was currently in Manning's position?

Todd Brunansky (Eastham)

Mike, at this point of time, where do you see the WR depth chart?

Mike Reiss
  (12:40 PM)

Todd, I'd go: 1a) Branch; 1b) Welker; 3) Tate; 4) Edelman; 5) Price; 6) Slater/Jenkins. Also have to factor in Hernandez as a WR type.

chris (Florida)

Do you know if Brandon Spikes is injured???

Mike Reiss
  (12:41 PM)

Chris, I followed the story through Pro Football Talk, and how one of Spikes' friends tweeted he needed an MRI playing hoop and Spikes' agent said he was healthy. That's all I know right now.

Chipper (Malden)

What do you expect out of D. Branch this year? he seemed to slow down a bit as the season wore on. is age/injury catching up with him?

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Chipper, I think he can still help them, but really tough to answer without seeing what he looks like in camp. Looked strong in that Detroit Thanksgiving game, right? That was fairly late in the season.

Clark (Muncie,In)

With the short window to sign undrafted free agents before camps open, could we see some of the top UDFAs getting paid more than 6th or 7th rounders.

Mike Reiss
  (12:42 PM)

Don't see it going there, Clark.

Brian M (San Mateo, CA)

With Leigh Bodden coming out and saying that he feels like he added a couple of years to his career, could a similar thing apply to Ty Warren?I've always thought that as long as the injury isn't career threatening (like Colvin) having a year to recover from the repeated stress of the NFL could be a good thing for the body.

Mike Reiss
  (12:43 PM)

Brian, I think Ty Warren feels the same way. Good point. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with it -- I think as you get older, it gets harder to recover from the day to day grind -- but I could be wrong.

Matt (Duxbury, MA)

I think everyone can agree our top areas of needs are OLB, OL and WR. I think the OL is going to be fine with Scarnecchia at the helm. But given the lengthy period it takes to adjust to the Pats defensive scheme and the lack of top quality OLB'ers. Wouldnt it be better to look for a big physical WR such as sidney rice, malcom floyd, Sims-walker?? Welker and branch are in last years of their contracts & are both really inside receivers. All our other WR's are unproven and no one is over 6'0. And with the labor stife branch himself said he see's alot more injuries especially @ WR

Mike Reiss
  (12:45 PM)

It's a fair point, Matt. In the end, I think economics will be the primary factor. Would any of those WRs make the Patriots better? Absolutely. But there is only so much of the financial pie to go around and I wouldn't invest big in that area if it meant I couldn't keep Jerod Mayo next year, or Logan Mankins this year. Every decision has that trickle-down effect.

Matt (New York)

Mike, Who are 3 free-agents you see the Pats signing once the lockout is lifted and free-agency begins?

Mike Reiss
  (12:46 PM)

Matt, one guy I like for the Patriots is David Baas, an interior OL from the 49ers. Strikes me as their type of guy. Not sure where the economics come into play with him.

Red (Mashpee)

Hey Mike, I'm curious who you see covering the slot in our nickel package. I've heard Bodden, but I think Arrington is a better fit as a slot corner.

Mike Reiss
  (12:48 PM)

Red, greetings in Mashpee, and maybe we will bump into each other at a Cotuit Ketteleers Cape League game. If I'm Bill Belichick, I'm trying to get my best 5 DBs on the field in the nickel. McCourty's a lock at LCB. I think Chung will be a lock at S. So then the question becomes: Who are the other 3? I'd guess Meriweather at safety alongside Chung. Then Bodden returning at RCB. Who fits best as the fifth option? Tough call. I think it will be game-plan related and might not be a clear-cut answer over the course of 16 games. That is similar to what we saw last year as well.

James (Derry, NH)

Hey Mike, I know camp rosters are being expanded from 80 players to 90 players, but is there any talk of expanding the 53 man roster for this upcoming year? It would seem that with most people in agreement that there will be a whole slew of injuries this year that it only makes sense to expand it up to say 58 players for this year only. Thanks.

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Haven't heard it, James, but entirely possible.

Clark (Muncie,In)

Total speculation question. Would Matt Light be interested in playing LT for one more year, then replacing Mankins in 2012 at LG for 2 or 3 more years? Under that scenario, we'd still have a top 5 O-line.

Mike Reiss
  (12:49 PM)

Light to guard is no slam dunk, Clark, and I think he'd probably prefer the tackle spot. But something to consider, if he's open for it.

John (Work)

Hi Mike,Thanks for keeping the blog going during the purgatory that is the lockout. I can't help but think that BB will focus at least some $$ in free agency on OLB. Nothing that will break the bank, but there should be enough to pick up a solid starter. My question is if you could pick one of these 3, which would you prefer for the Pats' 3-4: Kiwanuka (Giants), Roth (Browns), or Lawson (49ers)?

Mike Reiss
  (12:51 PM)

I think I'd go Lawson, John. Roth has some value because he knows the system from the Browns/Dolphins but I'm not sure the upside there. Kiwanuka is intriguing but some risk in a 3-4 OLB projection. So that brings me to Lawson as the choice among these three.

Ryan Girard (South Boston, MA)

Hey Mike, what do you make of our secondary? I think with our starting corners, the development of and intelligence that Dowling appears to have, plus our hard hitting safeties, we will have a top 3 secondary this year. I think Dowling was a steal and paired with McCourty, theyre going to be tough to throw on for many years to come.

Mike Reiss
  (12:52 PM)

I think it should be Ryan. I think it's more than fair to have high expectations for this secondary when you look at what the Patriots have invested in it in recent years -- Meriweather (1st round, 2007), Wheatley (2nd round, 2008), Chung (2nd round, 2009), Butler (2nd round, 2009), McCourty (1st round, 2010), Dowling (2nd round, 2011). If it's not one of the best in the league, maybe the Patriots need to evaluate their decision-making process at the position.

Roberto (Medford)

Hey Mike, long time fan of you and your blog. Just wanted to know if you see any difficulties on the horizon of your continuance of overall being The Man?

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

You flatter me, Roberto.

larry (michigan)

bodden was near the top of the league in picks two seasons ago and the same with mccourty last year do you see the same production and if so do we have one of the most underrated 1-2 cornerback duo in the league

Mike Reiss
  (12:53 PM)

Should be solid, Larry, as long as Bodden returns to past form.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

Mike, Do they resign Light? I'm probably in the minority here but I don't think they will. Light could be looking for his last big payday as a starter in the NFL. I don't see him getting that with the Patriots to be potentially a back up or insurance for Solder. I say Solder starts on the 2011 Patriots from day one. Your thoughts?

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

David, I think they want to at the right price, so it will all depend on what market presents itself for Light elsewhere. I don't see the Patriots getting into a bidding war.

Jared (NJ)

that was a good point by john, i never even thought of that. Bush would be a great pick up for the Pats

Mike Reiss
  (12:54 PM)

Jared with props for John. Feel the love.

AM (Dover, NH)

Mike, one thing to keep in mind with Faulk making the team is that even regular season rosters may end up larger after the CBA is finalized. That might give him a better chance. If the rosters end up at, say, 56, who else might stick around who would otherwise be a camp casualty?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

I'd look at the late-round picks, AM. We saw the Patriots cut Ted Larsen (6th round) and Thomas Welch (7th round) last year, and maybe they would have wanted to work with them had they had more roster space.

tim (Providence)

Do you see any chance of us landing deangelo williams?

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Slim, Tim. Too much dough, not big enough of a need.

Mike Reiss
  (12:55 PM)

Let's go for another 5 here...

Jamie C (Los Angeles (CARMAGGEDON 2011))

Is Gary Guyton under contract next year?

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

I think he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2011 season, Jamie.

Mike Reiss
  (12:56 PM)

That assumes a four-year marker for free agency in the new CBA.

Glenn (Tyngsboro)

Mike, do you think Mike Vrabel tried to contact BB (after his retirement) about getting a position in the Patriots coaching staff? He could have been a great assistant LB coach for the young Pats LBs.

Mike Reiss
  (12:57 PM)

I don't Glenn. I think Vrabel always wanted to settle in Columbus, Ohio, with ties to Ohio State.

niko (rochester)

Would the pats have a bigger interest in a safety like Donte Whitner or an outside line backer like Charles Anderson?

Mike Reiss
  (12:58 PM)

Whitner is a guy I like for the Patriots. Versatile, smart, tough, productive, consistent. I think one question pro personnel execs will want to ask: How does he fit into our locker room as a leader type?

Head2Head (Online)

Mike,You're up against your old pal Chad Finn today for the Friday chat at noon slot. Not to worry, you're always punctual and Chad will be just getting started by the time you wrap up at 1:00!

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Chad Finn -- one of the best. Sports media columnist at Boston Globe. A great teammate.

Tim (Newton, MA)

I see the Patriots being at low in terms of other free agents. I think they use most of their money on keeping their own guys (particularly Light and/or Mankins). I do however see some possible holes plugged, using middle money guys. I don't see them making a big splash on either side of the ball outside of their own guys.

Mike Reiss
  (12:59 PM)

Thanks Tim. I think I missed this one.

JJ (Bryant)

Hey Mike, I'm really ecstatic about the depth on this team. If we bring back Matt Light for 1-2 years we'll be at least 3 deep at every position. Reminds me of '03 when no matter who got hurt their backup would step in and play well. Flashes of a Matt Chatham and Earthwind Moreland

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Agree, JJ. Patriots a contender once again.

Dave (Lowell)

Hi Mike, couple true or false quick hit questions for you:Mark Herzlich will wear a Pats jersey at some point in spring trainingMarcus Cannon will be a contributer in 2011The Pats will sign a veteran WR

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

I'll go false, false, false. Just playing hunches Dave.

Matt (Hartford)

Mike Lombardi wrote today that some players may have a hard time retianing playing weight due to the prolonged off-season. He said that each team has roughly 3 "fat guys" who they worry about gaining weight during buy weeks, nevermind in the lockout. Who may be some guys the Pats would be concerned about?

Mike Reiss
  (1:00 PM)

Matt, I'd look at the line of scrimmage because that's where the bulk is.

Mike (Tampa)

Mike looks like its going to get busy soon for the Pats front office and staff. As far as undrafted free agents, how many seem possible and do think there will specific positions that are concentated on ??

Mike Reiss
  (1:01 PM)

Absolutely Mike. Bill Belichick has a plan, I have no doubt. In fact, I think he probably has 6 plans up his hoodie cut-off sleeves. I project OL, OLB/DE and S as areas he might look at.

Andy (Boston)

One aspect of signing free agents is that I suspect Coach Belichick has been able to dedicate a lot of time watching tapes and identifying players that he wants. I would not be surprised at all if we signed some undrafted rookies along with one or two veteran free agents.

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Thanks Andy.

Farn (Nova Scotia)

What is the likelyhood Cannon plays a significant amount in 2011 ? Is he necessarily a long-term project.

Mike Reiss
  (1:02 PM)

Just think it's going to be difficult for rookies in positions like OL, WR and LB.

Tony (Saugus)

Who, in your opinion is on the outside looking in at the RB position? with two high draft picks and BJGE, does Faulk or Taylor even have a shot.

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

I'd pick Faulk in this category, Tony, assuming everyone's healthy. Thomas Clayton as well.

Mike Reiss
  (1:03 PM)

Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are free agents. I am guessing they aren't back.

eric (tennessee)

big fan mike, being the #1 pats fan in tennessee, I'm thinking about 2 things. First and I think the most important Logan Mankins, is there any way they can just start over? And the other, How are hard do the pats go for the free agents? Thanks mike. Faithful fan in Tennessee.

Mike Reiss
  (1:04 PM)

Eric, I think there is an outside chance to start over with Mankins. As for free agents, I'd say low-to-moderate. Thanks for following in Tennessee.

Dave (Lowell)

Hi Mike, not really a football question, but I've been wondering this for a while. You used to have a piece in a Boston newspaper paper that used your last name's similarity with a certain candy. Why don't you use that with ESPN anymore? Copyright issues? Ever feel like a retired WWE wreslter who's not allowed to use his trademark?

Mike Reiss
  (1:07 PM)

Dave, the old blog I used to write was called "Reiss' Pieces" and I made a verbal agreement with the Globe that I wouldn't use it even though I brought it with me to the Globe. The Globe was good to me, and in leaving back in September of 2009, I wanted it to be as amicable as possible. So we agreed to let that go and everyone involved agreed that was the best approach. Thanks for the interest on that. Maybe it comes back in some form down the road.

Tom Brady (Boston)

Where are you Mike? Locked out of the ESPN offices like us?

Mike Reiss
  (1:08 PM)

Good one, Tom Brady. I am not locked out. Bristol opens its doors kindly to me each day. But right now, I'm at the home office, not far from the stadium. And let me just say, we're absolutely fired up for another season of covering the Patriots. We're going to bring it here at ESPNBoston.com, and give you everything we have. All in.

Mike Reiss
  (1:09 PM)

Thanks for a great chat today. I'm going to save some of the submissions and put together a "leftovers" blog post for Saturday. Have a great day and a great weekend.