Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
We have a few minutes to kickoff, but just wanted to test the chat system and make sure we are up and running.
The last week has been an adjustment from this perspective. No news conferences to run to. No locker room access. In recent days, I've tried to play catch-up on the draft and free agency. It helps to have people like Mike Mayock (NFL Network) and Todd McShay (ESPN) hold conference calls and provide a little info/context on the draft.
So I feel like I'm a lot more informed at this point than I was last week when it comes to the draft and free agency. I'd like to lead off with a quick thought ...
... We're going to talk about a lot of prospects and possible free-agent targets. It's part of the fun of doing this. At the same time, I think it's important to point out that a big part of this discussion, as it pertains to possible free-agent targets, is going to be the market and no one knows how that will shape up for each player. Also, in the draft, it's impossible to know which players will be there so I like to take this time to try to get to know each prospects as much as possible and look at it through the lens of "If this player was available, would he fit the Patriots?"
So with that basis, let's get to the chat.
The lead-in question today: How do you envision things playing out with Wes Welker's contract situation -- franchise tag, extension, or he walks as a free agent?
It would be a shame to see Welker in another uniform this fall. I'm predicting they will franchise him. Is there anyone else on the roster worth franchising in your opinion?
Thanks for getting us started, Dan. I don't see another candidate to use the franchise tag on for the Patriots.
I think it is time to let Welker walk. He has been great for us and we all love him but with the emergence of such a strong TE tandem, we need to allow them to work the middle of the field and bring in some talent to work outside the numbers. There are only so many crossing routes between Hernandez, Gronk and Welker to go around plus add in a RB releasing into a check down pattern and all the defense has to do is protect the middle of the field.Some strong, tall outside the numbers kind of receiver that is also not afraid of coming across the middle so as to not be completely one dimensional (Bethel Johnson, C Jackson, Tate, Slater etc) and now we really put defenses on their heels.I would love to see a big splash such as V. Jackson or D Bowe teamed up with a lower cost option like Meachem or P Garcon. We need to go into the offseason with our heads and not our hearts.
I respect the opinion, dankfraily. But, to me, Welker is at least worth bringing back on the one-year, $9,4m franchise tag. I'd be surprised if they just let him walk.
What do you see the team doing with Andre Carter? Such a strong year this year. It would be a shame to see him go, might be useful in mentoring a young pass rusher.
Liam, this is a very tough one because I don't know what Bill Belichick is thinking defensively in terms of scheme (4-3, 3-4 etc.). So let's focus on the known variables. Carter is a fit in the 4-3. He's not a 3-4 guy, as both he and Belichick have said. I anticipate the Patriots going back to the 3-4 and so the only way I see Carter coming back is on a minimum- or lower-level type deal where his value as a pass rusher is still worth paying for in a scheme that might not fit him best (assuming it's 3-4).
Since 2007 the Pats have gone to great lengths to appease Brady so I Expect Welker will go nowhere. I feel like during the past 4-5 yrs the organization lost it's identity. Brady was "Brady" when the team had a strong D and basically any wr under the sun. They were a dropped ball away from going to the Superbowl with Rechee Caldwell and Doug Gabriel. Time to refocus on building a championship D. I would love to see them invest in a sure-fire player(s) that would upgrade their front 7. D'Qwell Jackson is that guy! I'd love to see this acquisition and maybe even a London Fletcher. They made a huge mistake letting him go the Redskins for short money. Any chance my pipe dreams become reality?
I also expect Welker back, Dan. I think your comments on the Patriots losing their identity is worthy of future exploration. Someone I respect asked me last week, "Have the Patriots become the old quarterback-driven Colts teams we fans used to love to hate in the early 2000s?" As for Jackson and Fletcher, I don't see the Patriots spending big for them.
Who do you think Brady would prefer, Reggie Wayne or Brandon Lloyd?
Interesting one, Tommy. In the limited knowledge I have of each player, Wayne strikes me as the more grounded pro. But I have to tell you, I don't know either guy very well at all, so I almost feel like what I'm saying isn't fair. I do think Wayne is the superior receiver.
In predicting the Pats draft plans i think they inject some young talent on the defensive line as that is a deep position in this years draft they may also add an outside linebacker that can get after the quarterback and then go after the safety and receiver positions in free agency thoughts?
I could see it, John. But more than anything, here is how I view the Patriots' current thinking as it pertains to the draft: The smartest teams understand the overall draft board and where it is strong and weak. Then they marry that up with their own roster and the available free-agent crop, and they fill in some of the holes in free agency to give themselves as much flexibility as possible on draft day.
I know that's sort of an obtuse explanation, but I believe it to be the 100 percent truth. I don't think the team is sitting there right now saying, "We have to come out of this draft with a specific position." They look at the complete team-building picture -- draft, free agency, trades -- and proceed from there.
I think they slap the franchise tag on him and agree to an extension later in the year maybe a 4 year around 9 million a year thoughts?
I could see that Dave. If you have time, check out one of the recent blog entries in which I attempt to play mediator and come up with a "compromise" long-term type of deal. My average salary per year was $8.625m.
Mike, aside from 4-3/3-4, what made the Patriots D so strong during the super bowl run in '03 & '04? Obviously they had some great talent, but schematically is it or how is it different from what the Patriots have been working with the past two years? Is the answer simply the Patriots don't have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball?
Joe, I'd say they aren't as talented, first and foremost. Second, the game is played differently now, making it harder to have a dominant defense.
Dear MikeDid the league fine any players from that Broncos and Patriots fight from the playoffs?
Yes, Chioke. Von Miller got $7,500. Safety Patrick Chung, for a different play, got a $7,500 fine.
I was giving some thought to the Pats free agent plans and draft and i think that they should try and sign a vertical threat receiver and draft another receiver to develop behind him brandon Lloyd and maybe kendall wright come to mind and they should target one of the playmaking safeties like branch or goldson to bolster the defensive backfield thoughts?
Cyrus, you hit on two top areas I think they need to come away with help this offseason. Kendall Wright can fly but he's not expected to be there past the midpoint of the first round, according to Mike Mayock of NFL Network. I like the general thought of signing a free-agent receiver and also drafting one. Also, the safety draft class isn't strong (according to Mayock) so I like the idea of attacking that area in free agency. Michael Griffin (Titans) is someone I think could fit well.
Hi Mike, Do you think Shane Vereen can contribute next year? He looked pretty good at the end of the Denver game during the regular season.
Al, I think the game you're referring to was against the Eagles. But I'm with you on this one. Yes, I think Vereen will be a bigger part of the mix in 2012. Just 25 offensive snaps in 2011.
Mike, just read on NFL.com that Brandon Lloyd wants to be reunited with Josh McDaniels, therefore he wants to play for the Patriots. Do you think this means that Lloyd is the #1 target of the Patriots to fill that void on the outside? I mean, if he really wants to play for McDaniels I'm sure we can get a discount.
Ryan, that piece on Lloyd originated from Ron Borges of the Boston Herald. If we read it closely, it says that Lloyd would like to be with McDaniels, but he'd also like to get paid. So I wouldn't think a "discount" is in the cards at this time. I think Lloyd is the type of target who could help this offense a lot. It will come down to what market develops for him because when you pencil Wes Welker in for a $9.4m salary (assuming he gets the franchise tag), it's going to limit how much the team can devote to other resources at the position.
Hey Mike, Any thoughts on Cliff Avril? His sack totals have improved every year and he's a purdue guy like Colvin, Phillips and Ninkovich. Will he be available and how much would it take to sign him? Any reason the Pats chose Crable over him in the draft that year? Thanks!
Love him, Tron. I would expect the Lions to retain him with the franchise tag if they can't strike a deal. Can't let a player like that go. I had a conversation with a scout last week on Avril, because it's my view that the Patriots would benefit from taking a few more stabs at players like him. He was a third-rounder and was a bit of a tweener, which contributed to him slipping that year. In that sense, he reminds me of LaMarr Woodley a bit. As for Crable, he was a player who had all the physical measureables, but as they said in the "Brady 6" piece about Tom Brady, they didn't cut his chest open and look at his heart. Crable didn't seem to have football in his heart IMO.
Mike, who do you see returning kickoffs next year? The Pats were dreadful in the return game this year.
Mike, whoever it is, I don't think they're on the roster right now. They finished the year ranked 29th in KO return average. Have to do better than that.
Did the chat halt due to the number of folks chiming in that Vrabel went to Ohio State?
That one slipped through, T. Going back to edit it now.
Hi Mike -I think, from your report earlier about where the draft is strong/not so strong, the Pats will draft a center in the first round. Who do you see as the best fit, from what you know so far?
Karen, I could see the Patriots going center if they like Peter Konz (Wisconsin). I thought the team would have pounced on either Pouncey had they been available the last few years, so I could see them going in that direction if it represented the best choice based on the way the board fell.
Nitpick: the Vereen game was against the Chiefs.Anyway, as for the draft, I could see Bill making moves with both the 27 and 31 picks, possibly trading one down for multiple lower round picks, then trading the other (along with one of the lower round picks) up, giving us a position similar to Day 1 last year: a mid-range 1st round pick with plenty of later-day options. Thoughts?
Thanks Matt. And your scenario makes complete sense.
Hi Mike,Just getting into the scouting process and reports and the beginnings of the mock drafts. But I was hoping to hear your thoughts on 1 player you see the Pats drafting and 1 free agent they target (not one of their own)?
Vinny, way to hold down the fort in Framingham. Like you, I'm just getting into it myself and don't feel real strongly about anyone just yet. But if you were to ask me my strongest opinion of anything as it relates to how the Patriots will build their team in 2012, it's that they have to address the safety spot. That hurt them in 2011.
Mike,To me the Pats needs seem simple, pass rush, pass rush and pass rush. I dont see that we need a lot at corner, Moore, Arrington, Dowling, and McCourty look like a good young group. Safty is a lil thin, but traditionaly safty is not a high round draft pick. Also, if you go back and watch the film from this year, a lot of the sacks the Pats had were coverage sacks... Sad with our secondary I know. But it just takes so damn long for the Pats pass rush to put pressure on the QB. I guess what it comes down to is this, I have been saying for the past three years we need a pass rush, out of the OLB and DE positions and the Pats have stubbornly refused to draft this position. Do you think this is the year that could change?Thanks!
Peter, you sound like my father. I think every discussion we've had over the last 3-4 years ends with the thought, "I've said it over and over, in today's game, you have to attack and pressure that quarterback." I thought the pass rush was pretty good in 2011. I think it's too simplistic to just lock in on the pass rush in 2012. Sure, it would help to get that playmaker in the front seven, but I think they need help in other areas too (e.g. safety, WR).
Hi Mike, they will sign him long term . Might start with tag but they will sign him to at least a three to four year deal incentive rich . Welker is Pats in and out and BB and Kraft knows it . Thanks .
Mike -- Any chance the Pats will pursue WR Mike Wallace from the Steelers? He has blazing speed, and he'd be a good-sized target for Brady -- 6 feet instead of another 5'9" shrimp. I understand it would cost a 1st-round pick to get him, but after all, a 1st-round pick is simply a chip you cash in for a player who possesses both first-rate talent and youth -- and Wallace has both. But unlike a college player, there's nothing PROSPECTIVE about Wallace's talent; he's already proven he's a stud at the PRO level -- and he's still only 25. If he were older, you'd have to weigh that into the equation, but since he's still so young, it's a simple choice between projected excellence and PROVEN excellence. What more could you want from a first-round pick ?
Brian, I'd be surprised if the Patriots pursue Wallace, as they wouldn't just be giving up the big draft pick but also the big contract. That's buying an asset at its highest point and it just doesn't seem like their m.o., especially with the Welker situation yet to be resolved.
Do you think the Pats would go after the Redskins Landry in FA? When healthy he is one of the best Safeties in the game and they could probably get him at reasonable price.
TJ, I'd put him on the list with Michael Griffin, Tyvon Branch, Reggie Nelson and Dashon Goldson, among others.
Mike - Patrick Chung had a somewhat disappointing year after showing glimpses of promise in 2010..wouldn't you say? Has his potential be reached? If so he is an average starting quality NFL safety.
Nick, I still think the arrow is pointing up on Chung, but the key is staying healthy. I thought the defensive improvement late in the season was in part because of his return from injury.
Is Belichick stubborn in the thought that he can just put a bunch of non-drafted/practice player guys on defense and still win? Why doesn't he seem to address this situation more with high profile picks/free agent signings?
Jim, I wouldn't use the word stubborn. He's spent big on defense (e.g. Adalius Thomas in 2007) and look where that got him. To me, it's a balance. You want to capitalize on some opportunities but the best approach is almost always to draft and develop. Instead of thinking about signing the Cliff Avrils and Mike Wallaces now, the key is drafting and developing them.
Mike, call me crazy but i can envision the Pats running the ball much more next year. Everyone wants that deep vertical threat but i feel a more commited running game can open up more plays down field and some pressure off old Tommy boy. If the defense can improve from that SB performance...dare I say we would be looking like the Pats of old!
You're not crazy, Taylor. That was a thought shared by others in our Patriots mailbag this week. My take: I'll believe it when I see it. I still think they want this offense centered around Tom Brady's right arm.
MIKE! This could be a stretch but do you think Plaxico could fit the patriots scheme? He has great hands and hes a free agent in March but there is no buzz going on with him... Just curious
I don't see it, David. When I think of the Patriots' overall program, and the type of players they bring in here, Plaxico isn't on the radar of those I could see coming to town. Just my feeling, nothing based in fact.
Mike, this draft seems fairly weak, especially in comparison with last year. I know you haven't had much time to analyze the prospects, but which players and/or positions do you see the Patriots targeting in the draft? I don't see a WR worth taking late in the first round, nor a DE. If Janoris Jenkins slides, I definitely think the value is there for CB but he's got his issues. Doesn't seem like much "elite" talent after the first 15-20 players. Thoughts?
Still getting there, Kyle, but based on yesterday's call with Mike Mayock it looks like the value areas are interior OL and DT in the first round. But I'm also reminded of something Chargers GM A.J. Smith once said: "Strong draft, weak draft, moderate draft, there are always good players to be found." I'll use LaMarr Woodley of the Steelers as an example. We heard how weak that 2007 draft was, but here's Woodley slipping to the second round. So there is always some gem out there.
Hey Mike, really interesting to see what Mayock had to say about this draft class, especially that the DE/OLB and S classes aren't strong. Does this push the Patriots to prioritize these positions in free agency and instead push for that much-debated "vertical threat" at WR in the early parts of the draft?
Casey, I think it does at safety. At DE/OLB, I'm not as certain.
Any word on Mike Wright..or Dowling and Pryor. Will Wright play again..are Dowling and Pryor now at 100%? I'm sure you will get into the draft at some point..how about now.. I personally love Vontaze Burfict-AZSt- he is a violent player.. a Raven type of player that always plays well against the Pats.. Not strongest need-ILB but Bill will find a way to get a playmaker on the field.. your opinion? then Barron at 31 would be nice.
Mike, I could expose myself here as I'm just getting up to speed, but I'd think Burfict sort of duplicates what you have in Brandon Spikes as it relates to a fit in the Patriots' scheme. Mike Mayock panned Burfict yesterday, which I noted for future research. If Barron is there at 31, I say go for it. ... As for Wright, I'm not optimistic. Dowling and Pyror should be OK.
Mario Williams - A possibility or just too expensive?
It all depends on Williams himself and what he's looking for. If I had to guess, I'd say too expensive. But certainly worthy of exploration.
Mike,Outside of the ONE draft the Pats picked up Branch and Givens (7th round flyer with Weis connection) it seems BB has failed to develope any receivers via the draft. PK Sam, Bethal Johnson, Price, Tate, Chad Jackson... Is it time to give up on this? This is the one position it seems BB has no talent at drafting. Also lets not go the cheap out, Doug Gabriel, Dante Stallworth, Underwood, Caldwell, ochoCinco, galloway route.WR is the one position where you get what you pay for it seems. Its time to pony up. Im not saying break the bank, but sign a solid mid level wr. Go get a Meachem, Wayne or a Manningham. Those guys wont break the bank, wont be cheap either, but they will not prevent you from going out and making some other moves. Maybe then we can get that pass rusher we all would like to see....
Peter, in the words of Belichick himself, "it is what it is" ... and in this case it is not very good when you look at the team's history of drafting and developing receivers. My take: Don't stop trying. They liked Eric Decker in 2010 and he went just before their pick in the third round, which tells me they're not always that far off.
Mike - I see a deal getting done by the end of February. 4 years, $7M a year. Plus I have two Welker jerseys and I'm not looking to get rid of those anytime soon.
Nice Shorty. But if you're Welker, and you can sign the franchise tag for $9.4m this year and possibly be looking at another tag of $11.5m in 2013m, why lock yourself up at $7m per year?
Mike - great job last year covering the team. My question pertains to Wes Welker. During media day at the Super Bowl, Deon Sanders was interviewing all the key guys. When he got to WW, he asked about his contract situation and made some comment like "are they going to pay the man?" WW replied something like "they're going to have to pay the am." I can't remember the exchange other than to think it was in-Patriot like and that things could get contentious between WW and the team. Have you seen that exchange and if so, I'd love your perspective on it.
Hadn't seen the exchange, Fin. Apologies. Nothing would surprise me in any negotiation. It's all business.
Hi Mike, always love your work for we Pats fans. Been a tough few weeks here in the Big Apple. As for the lead in, I would love to see some compromise from both sides and get a deal done rather than the "tag" for Wes. Then get a reciever and defensive help with FA's and the draft. This team is in GREAT shape for another run and these situations don't come often. Last, BB has to "slam" this draft on Defense. He has way to many misses in the last 4 years for all the picks.
Thanks Ken. Agree on the Patriots being in good position. As for the draft misses, there have certainly been a few. I'm just not sure there is any team that is doing that much better. Graded on the curve, Belichick is still pretty sharp.
Is the new rookie wage scale likely to affect the Pats' (and others) drafting? Doesn't it increase the value of first-round picks?
Johnny, I think it increases the value of the top picks. No longer are those 1-2-3-4-5 picks an albatross to teams.
Let's go for another 5 here...
They will handle Welker with a "mankins like effort".Mike I have a wager for you.I'll go out on a limb and say with our first draft choice,we take a 300lb+ guy.Also we'll trade a pick for next years pick.Are you going to put up a paycheck to bet against me?
Steve, I'm not a betting type of guy. But how about we circle back after the draft and if you were right, I'll buy you a cold beverage on your next trip to Gillette Stadium?
Hi, Make. Do you think Tom Brady will be playing football even when he is 40?
That's always hard to project, but I wouldn't bet against Tom Brady.
Hi, Mike.Greetings from Serbia. I have 2 questions.1.Do you think Patriots can get back to the Superbowl next year?2.Are we going to see some big name free agent signings for the Patriots? Thanks.
I'd say yes on the first one, Nemanja. On the big names, I'd focus less on the name and more on the fit/production. Take last year as an example, Mark Anderson might not have generated much excitement but he was a very good pickup for the team. Start at safety and work the way down from there in free agency IMO.
Since the almighty Bill never follows whats on everyone else's draft board, who do you think his surprise first pick will be this year? Since he always seems to pick something they have in abundance vs what they need, I'm thinking he drafts another MLB, though a S/DE would be nice.
Jake, if we're talking minor surprise, how about the center we talked about earlier in the chat?
The Patriots on offense are already a match-up nightmare. In 2012 teams will be looking to double team Gronk and Welker regularly so their other receivers will most-likely be matched-up one on one. I don?t think they need to look for a speedy deep threat in particular (Kendall Wright of Baylor) but a WR that is an outside threat that can regularly win most one-on-one battles. A WR in the draft that sticks out to me that will most likely be therefore their picking is Alshon Jeffrey of South Carolina. He?s big and tall so he is physical enough to beat press coverage (for this reason I?d worry about Wright), tall enough to win every jump ball thrown his way and enough speed to beat a CB one-on-one down the sideline. To me, he?s a must pick in the late 1st-early 2nd round (however I have NEVER guessed a Patriot pick right).
Love the thought, Eric. Mayock said Jeffrey had trouble getting off press coverage, which is something to consider. Senu of Rutgers is in the same category. Perhaps they can develop that in the NFL, but at this point, it is apparently a question to keep on the radar with both big WRs.
Mike, With two late first rounders, what are the chances that the Pats explore a restricted free agent or even a franchised player? If so, who do you think might be some viable options?
I'd be surprised at either Ian.
Mike since we took Brandon tate one spot in front of Mike Wallace; if Pittsburgh doesnt Franchise him then I say NE nsteals hims back for a 1st round pick.... Solves the answer to the deep threat
I hear you, Mike, and Wallace is a good player to talk about. When he was coming out of college, he was viewed by a lot of scouts as another Bethel Johnson. A lot of speed, but far from a complete receiver. He's developed into one. That's the challenge of scouting. How does one project that?
BB has taken heat for the James Sanders release after seeing how poorly the secondary was after the fact. However, would you agree he looked brilliant with the Merriweather release?
AJ, I understood the Meriweather release. On Sanders, I thought it was an error when it happened. If you don't know for certain you have the replacement in house, I always feel like the safe play is to hold on to the depth, even if it's a little expensive. Sanders is no world beater, but I have to imagine he would have been better than Matthew Slater, Nate Jones etc.
Any thoughts on what the Pats will do with Dan Koppen?
Sean, my guess would be similar to Matt Light last year. Keep the dialogue open and if it happens, it's done on a short-term level that is reasonable for both sides. Dan Connolly's negotiation (he's also a free agent) plays into this as well.
Hey Mike, what do you see happening with Green-Ellis this off season? I think between him, Woodhead, Ridley, and Vereen we have a pretty solid committee, but that's all I see him as, a committee guy. Do you think he'll try to get money somewhere else to be a more #1 guy?
Chris, I see the market dictating. If BJGE gets an offer the Patriots think is too rich, I think they move on. But they would keep the dialogue open all the way through the process with the hope of bringing him back.
The coaching staff is preparing for the combine, draft etc. Do they get any time off/vacation time or has it truely become a 365 day a year job?
Let's end on this one, Mike. The vacation time for the coaches usually comes from mid-June to mid-July, right before the start of training camp. That's also usually the time us reporters take off. It's amazing how the football business has become 365/24/7.
For those who didn't get a question answered, pump it into the comments section of the chat. I'll try to dip in there later tonight and answer a few.
Thanks to everyone for chatting. Always enjoyable. Off to listen to Todd McShay's conference call in hopes of learning more about the draft.