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March 1, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon. Firing up a quick test to make sure we're up and running.

Mike
  (12:02 PM)

Today's lead-in question, posted on our Patriots blog on ESPNBoston.com, was "Other than Wes Welker, who is your must re-sign among Patriots free agents?" That sparked some good Twitter discussion this morning. Sure there will be some more over the next hour. Let's roll.

Christian (Boston)

I don't think I can support the hype with the need for a deep threat WR. Brady's strength has always been accurate shorter passes(when not throwing to a one of a kind talent). Advanced statistics tend to support this as do those 2 anecdotal nasty deep pass interceptions in the playoffs. Defense and a young, midrange, large (but not as fast) receiver are my priorities. Thoughts?

Mike
  (12:04 PM)

Christian, I subscribe to part of this theory. My disagreement would be that Brady isn't a good deep-ball thrower. I think he is ... when given the right target to throw to. That said, I think this idea that the Patriots need a burner is a bit short-sighted. Yes, it would nice to have someone threaten the deep third of the field, but by no means should that come at the expense of an all-around outside-the-numbers threat who has a diversified skill set. Anyone can just run down the field.

Nemanja (Vranje, Serbia)

Mike, are we going to see more of Chad Ochocinco this year? Im sure that he will feel more comfortable after spending one season with the team and learning that complicating offense.Maybe Josh can do some magic with him. And how about Deion Branch? Assuming we sign or draft some WR , will there be a place for all of them?

Mike
  (12:06 PM)

Nemanja, I was surprised that a restructure was even on the mind of the Patriots when it came to Ochocinco. I figured he was a goner. They made a mistake. It didn't work out. But when you look at the fact that they'll have $3m to account for on the cap (possibly spread over two years), if Ochocinco lowers his salary, is he worth keeping around? It's probably what they are debating now. In the end, I'll guess they part ways anyway. I do think Branch will be back, but more in the No. 3/4 type of role in the ideal Patriots world.

Jimmy (London)

How about letting Welker go and keeping edelman in the slot, hernandez and gronk for the rest of the inside passing game, and then get Lloyd for the outside. Branch, Underwood adnn Ocho can be the 3, 4, and 5 receiver. thoughts?

Mike
  (12:07 PM)

Jimmy, I don't like too many scenarios in which Welker walks. He's been their most productive pass-catcher since 2007 and is still playing at a high level. Lose him and I think the team, in most scenarios, is not as good as it was when he was on the roster.

Michael Owen (Liverpool UK)

Must re-sign BJGE!!! Zero turnovers in his NFL career, last time i checked we only won one game last year in which we lost the turnover battle (BAL). So important to have somebody that you can rely on surely???

Mike
  (12:08 PM)

Michael, reading the tea leaves on Green-Ellis, the Patriots have told him they'd like him back and have an offer there for him. But it's not an offer that is at a level where Green-Ellis feels compelled to sign it before seeing what he might get on the open market. It's a risky approach by the Patriots, but it's served them well in recent years for the most part.

Brian (North End)

Hi Mike,Thinking about the draft and free agency. As has been discussed on the blog- WR is an extremely difficult position to gauge in the draft (1st rd busts and 7th rd pro bowlers). On the other hand, OL seems to be much more consistent in terms of first round talent. I am crazy to hope the Pats go OL in the first?

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

Brian, it's been too long since I've been in the North End. Need to get back to Al Dente for some of my favorite food. On the OL, often times those players are the safest picks and we've seen that here (Mankins, Solder). Not a bad mindset to have, although I still think there can be some solid prospects in the second round.

Roger (Lowell, MA)

Mike, I am submitting this over 3 hours early so please answer! I get the theory on keeping Ocho on a restructured deal for financial reasons. But for football reasons, is it even worth it? If the Patriots bring in a FA or draft a receiver and sign Branch (which they should do plus he's more valuable than Ocho) how does he even get snaps? I just don't see him making an impact even if he understands the playbook next year.

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

I agree, Roger. No special teams value there either.

Tommy (Albany, NY)

Do you think the Patriots would take Reuben Randle? He's a player I really like for his abilities after the catch and deep threat potential.

Mike
  (12:12 PM)

Tommy, from a pure interview perspective, Randle impressed me at the combine. Then he did well in drills. I heard one analyst say he was the type of player who went into a funk when things weren't going right for him on the field. While it's hard to gauge that at the combine, I didn't come away with that impression in the limited snapshot I had. In addition, at 6-2, 210 pounds, he ran well (4.55) and had a solid time in the all-important 3-cone drill. I like him as a late first-round option, if available.

Dale (Acton, MA)

Looking forward to baseball season, Mike?

Mike
  (12:12 PM)

There's a baseball season?

Mike
  (12:13 PM)

Seriously, Dale, I like having the games on at home and sort of catching them when I can. But I'm more invested in the football.

Dorf (China)

Mike, many people are asking what outside the numbers WR the Pats might get in FA. However, the Pats got Moss and Welker in trades for low rd picks. Are there any WR's that BB might try to get via a trade for a low rd pick?

Mike
  (12:13 PM)

Dorf, with the free-agent class so deep, and the draft class also deep, I'm not sure trade is the best way to go.

Skyler from Tempe, Arizona [via mobile]

Hey Mike huge fan always love reading everything you have to say. With regards to the draft, ive been studying poe closely and after his great combine, he reminds me a lot of Wilfork comin up (really good with so much poe-tential). The Pats have 2 picks in the 1st and 2nd rounds, I say they do everything in their power to get Poe, what are you thoughts?

Mike
  (12:15 PM)

Thanks Skyler. You were the first question in the queue today, so nice job getting off the line of scrimmage quickly. Like the Poe-tential too. I wouldn't get crazy on deadling picks to move up too high for him. Still some risk involved there, but in general, players that size with that athleticism are hard to come by. So that's where he intrigues me.

Nick (Denver)

Mike, I read the other day that the Pats view Marcus Cannon as a tackle, not a guard. If this is the case, then don't the Pats have to address the interior OL in the draft? Connelly and Koppen are both free agents, and Waters is probably a year away from retirement.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

Nick, for a line that values flexibility, I find it hard to believe they're going to lock Cannon in at one spot. My view has been that the idea is to get your best five linemen on the field, and if that means Cannon is at right guard, I don't think they'd hesitate to work him there. Overall, I do think they could look to an interior OL, particularly a center if a good value pick is there.

Mike (North Adams)

I love Welker and everything that he stands for as a player- blue collar-hard worker..coming back so quickly from injury..and the fact that he played through his contract despite outperforming it, but ~31, small, has had major injury? Any way Pats consider paying D.Jackson instead.. much younger..more explosive. Not like Pats to pay for past performance.. While Welker still should perform well for couple more yrs.. wouldn't franchising him for 1 yr.. be paying him for past.. then next year either take what you're worth for multi yr deal or move on... is Bill getting soft?

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Mike, I just don't see it. Not to sound harsh, but Welker is everything a Patriot should be. Jackson, from what I've read and seen first-hand, is not.

Jon (Boston)

Hey Mike, appreciate all your work on the Pats beat. Always look forward to your mailbags and chats. I read a report that said to expect Vincent Jackson to come to the Pats if he doesn't re-up with the Chargers. Do you envision this happening or do you think they will sign Welker and Lloyd? Any chance of all 3 coming in? We certainly have the open spots for all 3 if they cut Ocho, as that leaves us with no starting-caliber receivers on the roster.

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Jon, you never know on this stuff, so I'll just speculate on why I think it's unlikely: If you have Wes Welker on the books for $9.4m, are you really going to pay Vincent Jackson around the same money (which is what it would take to get him)? I just can't see the Patriots devoting that much salary cap space to two players at the same position. I envision a different scenario where they target Lloyd, whose price should come in at a more reasonable number from a team perspective.

Clark (Muncie,IN)

Why do some fans seem to think a "slot" WR holds less value than an outside WR? Seems to me Wes should be thought of with much more respect. He takes a beating that is more comparable to that of a running back.

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

Clark, you've hit on a subject that fires me up. I think it's an insult to call Welker a slot receiver. That 99-yard TD against the Dolphins in the season opener didn't look like a slot receiver to me. He's obviously not Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, but to me, the label slot receiver means third option. Welker is much more than a third option. He plays in all packages.

Josh (In a Blizzard)

Hey Mike, hope your staying away from this snow up in the Northeast. Anyway, I really would like the Patriots to draft a front 7 player on the defense. If they can get someone to compliment Wilfork OL would have a tough time to scheme around that. Who are some of your top players from the combine?

Mike
  (12:23 PM)

Josh, a few of the players who stood out from the combine, through a combination of interviews/tests, were Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State), Kendall Reyes (UConn), Dontari Poe (Memphis), Michael Brockers (LSU) and Whitney Mercilus (Illinois). I know that doesn't narrow it down that much, but I could see all of them helping the front seven in New England.

Greg Ortiz (Salem, NH)

Hey Mike as far as the upcoming draft goes, I feel there are always players that are scheduled to go way later than they should. Last year, I had a feeling DeMarco Murray was going to shine, and other than injuries he was quite explosive for a while. This year, with the Pats holding 2 picks at the top of the first round, trading down has got to be the answer. 2 Players that really stand out to me are Ronnell Lewis (OLB) and Kendall Reyes (DL). Should the Pats not trade down into the second round and select these 2 freak athletes? Also, with LeMichael James and his freakish talent projected 3rd round isnt that a no brainer even if he doesnt fit the mold of a "patriots running back"?

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

Greg, I liked Lewis' athleticism at the combine. The hard part for me was projecting what position he'd play in the scheme. ILB? Doesn't seem like a fit. Probably would be OLB and just wasn't sure if it was the right spot for him. Definitely someone on my radar too. Ditto Reyes. Not as familiar with James, but analysts say teams have to be comfortable with his character. That raises a minor flag for me there.

Steve (Pittsburgh)

Hey Mike! Thanks again for all the great work you do. I had a question about what chance you thought the Patriots had of drafting Chris Rainey. To me he seems like a perfect second round pick due to his speed and his ability to not only rush the football but to catch it all over the field. He had 31 receptions his senior year, which is more than some of the WRs in the draft. He would give Brady yet another option and it would be quite something to see Hernandez, Gronk, Welker, and Rainey. Could he be sort of a young, speedy Kevin Faulk? RB with superb catching ability?

Mike
  (12:26 PM)

Rainey is on my list, Steve. Speed. Need to boost the kickoff return game (29th in the NFL last year). Rainey's skill set somewhat reminds of Dexter McCluster from a few years back in the sense that he's the type of player who could create matchup problems in different ways.

Steve Belliveau (Clearwater Fl.)

Zero-must signs. They will bring back a center,a core special teamer or two or three,but they have choices in every group.The way the talent in this draft looks vs. the picks we have,is anyone worth the steep price to move up and get?

Mike
  (12:28 PM)

Thanks Steve. Interesting answer on the lead-in question. I tend to agree. Was going to answer Matthew Slater myself, which probably speaks volumes to the solid position the team is in right now. In the draft, and anyone being worth the steep price to move up, DL Michael Brockers was the first thought to come to mind. But I don't think he's that special to give up the ammo it would take to move up relative to what a team could get where the Patriots are.

Prem (NH)

Hi Mike. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on players that the Patriots might trade this year for draft picks. Besides the possibility of Hoyer, I haven't seen any mention in your blogs. Are there no other serious candidates or is the speculation for such trades so wide open?Thanks!

Mike
  (12:29 PM)

Prem, in terms of players the Patriots might trade, no one jumps off the page. I'd say Hoyer and Mallett are the ones to watch based on the importance of the position they play.

Kyle (Burlington, Vermont)

Hey Mike, I think the most interesting thing to watch this offseason is how the Patriots approach the wide reciever position. Here are my thoughts. 1.) You have to resign Welker, and I think they will. 2.) I think you need to sign someone else in free agency, whether it be Lloyd, Wayne or somebody else 3.) Here's where things get tricky, but I think you need to draft a young talent to develop with one of the top picks. 4.) If Ochocinco doesn't want to restructure, I think he's gone, but I believe he will restructure. The patriots will give him a fair shake. I also believe that you should bring Branch back on a one year, low money offer, since he said he wants to retire here. It then becomes a battle between Ocho and Branch for the number 3/4 reciever spot depending on what they do in the draft. My opinion is that Ocho has alot more ability than Deion at this point in their careers, so if he can show up to camp and prove that he can mold into this offense, hes an upgrade, and I think you are saying bye bye to Deion. I don't see the patriots having their top 4 wideouts above the age of 30. It will be very interesting to see what happens and I think alot of this hinges on the draft and on how/if ochocinco improves.

Mike
  (12:30 PM)

I agree with each point here, Kyle. Nicely done IMO.

Gary (Boston)

After reading Bill Barnwell's glowing review of Mike Wallace, I think the Pats should do what it takes to get him. He has put up some impressive numbers so far and is entering his prime That being said, wouldn't you prefer a combo of Wallace on the outside and Edelman in the slot over Welker in the slot and Lloyd on the outside? I think Edelman can do the job and you can use Hernandez more on Welker type routes, while Wallace gives you the intermediate/deep threat that the offense has been missing. I'm not sure of the numbers, but I think the salary #'s would be a wash too. What do you think Mike ?

Mike
  (12:32 PM)

Gary, this is an interesting one to consider. I think we could fill up four hours of sports talk radio debating the pros and cons of it. I'm voting for Welker/Lloyd and here's my main reason why: You know what you have in the system with both players, which eliminates a HUGE variable. Wallace is great in Pittsburgh, but do we know for sure he'd be great here. That sort of concerns me when considering I'm giving up a 1st round pick and the big contract.

Adam (Minneapolis)

Hi Mike - Gotta go with Dan Connolly for my top must-sign free agent. Dan Koppen has many more miles on his odometer, and it'll be tough to draft/develop a center to fill Connolly's shoes before the 2012 season. Plus, gotta give some love to the big guys!

Mike
  (12:33 PM)

Thanks Adam. Connolly has started 24 regular-season games over the last 2 seasons. His value has never been higher as he prepares to hit the market.

Jake Cole (Palmyra, NY)

Mike,I think consistency and leadership are big concerns for FA so I'd work hard to bring back Slater and Connolly. Anderson and Carter would be good to bring back as well if those spots are targeted in the draft. Gut feeling is that BJGE is on the way out, if that happens then who becomes the main back? Haven't seen enough of Vereen to judge but Ridley was decent (aside from the fumbles).

Mike
  (12:34 PM)

Thanks Jake. I think Ridley would be the main back in that scenario, although as we saw with the RB snaps this year, it was almost an even split between Green-Ellis and Woodhead. The Patriots lean on the "passing" back a lot more than other teams.

Kevin (Boston)

Hines Ward is one of those players that I have always respected because of his hard work and love for the game. I think he would fit very well into the Patriots system as he has a great football IQ and is always looking to get down and dirty while on the field. i would feel very comfortable going into next season with Ward, Ocho, Welker, Edelman, and hopefully a speedy young player out of the draft (not to mention Slater). What are you thoughts on the Patriots going after Ward instead of another FA WR and do you think it is a possibility?

Mike
  (12:34 PM)

Kevin, I respect the heck out of Ward and the way he plays the game. At the same time, I think the Patriots need to go younger and/or faster at the position.

john (kansas city)

Mike i really think the pats need to resign andre carter. Before he got injured he was having a great year. I feel as though if we had carter in the superbowl we would have generated alot more pressure on Eli Manning. With the recent news of the steelers not using the franchise tag on Mike Wallace i think the patriots should be extremely aggresive on signing him. Thoughts?

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

John, like the thought on Carter. Mutual interest there, according to Carter's agent. As for Wallace, I think he's the type of player the Patriots need, but I think they'd be smarter to find the next one in the draft (easier said than done).

Matt G. (not Gutierrez) (Portland, ME)

Mike, do you think FA signings and draft picks on the defensive side of the ball will give any indication of the Pats' leanings toward a 3-4 or a 4-3 next season? (Regardless, the point is well taken that the sub seems to be their base at this point anyway...!)

Mike
  (12:37 PM)

Not necessarily, Matt, as the team was trending toward the 3-4 late last season and both Andre Carter and Mark Anderson -- viewed by many as 4-3 guys -- were playing a lot. I'd think they'll be going back to the 3-4, but that's just speculation.

Kyle (Cranston, RI)

Mike, I can understand why some people don't want the Patriots to trade back but why people think the Patriots should trade their two first round picks to at best move up into the mid teens is beyond me. Given the crap-shoot that is the draft and all of the positions we can address, two top 31 players beats 1 mid first round player every time.

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

Kyle, I think this is one of those things where it's easier to get excited when there's a trade-up. It's the idea of, "Oooooh, they like the player so much, they're making the move!" As an observer, when you see that, how can you not get a little fired up? The opposite end of the spectrum is "Man, they're trading back three spots and went with Jerod Mayo." Both can be effective, but when you're moving up, it's aggressive and I think people like aggressive.

Dawn (Providence) [via mobile]

Which receiver in the draft do you believe would fit best in our offense?

Mike
  (12:39 PM)

Dawn, I liked Reuben Randle of LSU based on the interviews/workouts at the combine. Both Arkansas targets -- Jarius Wright and Joe Adams -- are on my radar too.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

Lead in answer. Mark Anderson. I fits both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and given his age ( 29) and his experience he is a good fit for the Patriots.

Mike
  (12:40 PM)

David, I like Anderson quite a bit. But here is the challenge and it's a fascinating one to me. He played 47 percent of the snaps on the year, so is he a full-time guy who will be paid like a double-digit sack guy? Or is he a nickel rusher who will be paid accordingly? This is almost like Tully Banta-Cain, circa 2010, all over again in my view. I'm curious to see how it unfolds. Anderson playing almost every snap at the end of the season and I thought he played quite well.

Matt G. (not Gutierrez) (Portland, ME)

Hi Mike - to answer the lead-in question: (Besides Welker), I'd say keeping Andre Carter would be #1, but Law Firm is close second. The NFL is more of a RB-by-committee league, and he's as dependable as they come, particularly in light of Woody/Vereen's injuries this year, and the likelihood of Faulk hanging it up. Can they get production elsewhere? Probably, but BJGE is a big part of what makes the Pats tick - no fumbles, consistently going forward, and team-first (plus the MHK love on his TD doesn't hurt...) My two cents from a snowy Portland... Thanks!

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

Thanks Matt. I think the running game will be more of a focus in 2012. Just a hunch.

Paul (Scituate)

Do you think BB goes hog wide in free agency? He did it after the loss to the Colts in the 06 AFC Champ game.

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

Adalius Thomas that year ... Mario Williams this year? We can dream, right?

Tarae (Ocala) [via mobile]

What do you think of CB Jenoris Jenkins? I dont think CB is as big a need as people have made it out to be, but he is just to talented to pass up if he falls to 27 due to character issues. He is a shutdown corner and a bonafide playmaker. Could you see the Pats taking him if he slips?

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

Tarae, this is a tough one for me. I would have never thought they'd take Brandon Meriweather after the head/helmet-stomping incident at Miami and they did. So I never know where the line is drawn for the Patriots. My guess, and it's just a guess, is that they'll stay away.

Scott K (Salisbury, MD)

My must resign is Matthew Slater- great special teams player.

Mike
  (12:43 PM)

Slater is a great story, Scott. I remember just a few years ago, a lot of us in the media had him on the roster bubble. Good for him. He should cash in with a fair deal at a couple million per season for a top special teamer.

Neil (North Branch, MI)

First off my must sign is a lower level guy Matt Slater, I think he is the engine that drives our special teams units and lest we forget special teams is one third of the game!!! I think during free agency we must sign a veteran safety do you think there is any chance we will go after Tyvon Branch of the Raiders he is a pretty accomplished safety and still very young (25 I think)?

Mike
  (12:44 PM)

Lot of love for Slater on the chat today. Got to get a safety, Neil, in my view. Whether it's Branch, Griffin, Landry or someone else, that's No. 1 on my list. Just want to have my list ready in case Bill Belichick asks :)

theridgesmoviespecialedition@amazon.com (Athens, OH)

Any interest in Plaxico in New England?

Mike
  (12:44 PM)

Don't see it. Not their kind of player, IMO.

Neil (South Boston)

Mike, thanks for all the thorough coverage as always. Folks need to pump the brakes on this combine stuff...how many reps at 225, how fast you run the 3-cone drill, how quickly you run the 40...yea, it's kinda cool, but it's a gauge at best and not indicative of how these guys will perform on the field. They're all fast, they're all strong. As we know from the Brady-6 documentary, you can't cut these guys open and look at their hearts.

Mike
  (12:45 PM)

Neil, it's fair. I think the important thing is to treat it as one piece of the overall puzzle.

AJ (Oakland)

Why are people so intent on keeping BJGE? Ya, I know he doesn't fumble, but if the SB proved anything it is that the Pats lack explosiveness with BJGE in there. Give Ridley and Vareen a chance.

Mike
  (12:46 PM)

AJ, I think there is an appreciation for Green-Ellis' hard-charging running close to the goal-line and his reliability. The question, however, is what value you place on that.

Joe (Concord)

It seems like everyone wants Wallace or a WR. I think a Mario Williams is a much better option

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Joe, you put Mario Williams on this defense, and I think Bill Belichick might have trouble sleeping when considering all the intriguing possibilities.

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

Cost, as it always is, will be a huge factor.

Eric (Boston)

Hey Mike, I am dreaming of waking up one day and turning on the TV to see "Breaking News: New England Patriots sign Super Mario Williams". I know Belichick will do his due diligence, kick the tires, etc... but please tell me, do you think there is any chance that this actually happens? Thanks and keep up the great work.

Mike
  (12:48 PM)

Eric, this is pure speculation and complete guess-work. Here is my view: Why wouldn't it have a chance? You're Bill Belichick and you've had three years to turn this thing around on D, and the results probably haven't been as good as desired at this point. You have a rare opportunity to land a difference-maker that could accelerate the progress rather quickly. Why not at least consider it?

Mike
  (12:50 PM)

Two follow-up thoughts: 1) Cost, as always, is going to be a huge factor. Not sure how deep they'd be willing to go; 2) There is a part of me that thinks it's too bad the team can't go the Texans' route and load up on players in the draft (Watt, Barwin, Reed, Cushing) and build a stellar D that way. To me, that's the way to go if you can. But they're not there and this is a potential bonanza.

Tom (Miami)

Mike, Any chance at all that the Pats lose Hoyer depsite tendering him? Thanks as always for the great work.

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

I don't think so, Tom. I figure they tender him at the second-round level and I don't see another team doing that.

Robert Meachem (New Orleans, Louisianna) [via mobile]

Why is nobody talking about me possibly landing in New England? I'm not gonna be back in NO, they are worried about locking up Brees, Colston and Nicks. I'm big, fast, a solid route runner and played in a complicated system, much like New England's. I'm not a selfish guy, i'm not expensive, I can stretch the field. Why am I getting no love from one of the teams that flirted with me when i was entering the draft?

Mike
  (12:52 PM)

Hey, Robert. Thanks for joining in on the chat. You're on the "hit" list of free agents who would be worth a look for the Patriots.

Patrick (Phoenix)

Just curious as to your thoughts on letting Welker go into free agency. The Patriots obviously could fill his role to some extent with a few free agents at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, they have a couple of young tight ends whose rookie deals are set to expire in a few seasons. I love Welker, but perhaps it's time to move on.

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

Patrick, I think they need Welker. I wouldn't let him walk. On the TEs, one thing to consider is that they're both signed through 2013. At that point, the new TV deals will increase the salary cap, creating more room to sign them.

Eric (Burlington)

Lets talk some numbers -- Do you have any ballpark guesses for how much acquisitions for various spots would be? IE: Veteran safety help, Lloyd, any of the likely resignings, and/or just for fun, Mario Williams?

Mike
  (12:55 PM)

I'll just toss a few out there, Eric. It's hard to gauge numbers, but veteran safety help (4-5m per year), Lloyd (you're hoping for an Ocho type deal at $3m per but might have to extend to 4m) and Mario Williams ($12-15m per). That is pure guesswork and I could be way off without having the time to research more.

Ryan (Maryland)

There's been lots of talk about picking up Brandon Lloyd or Reggie Wayne in free agency, but how about a taller, younger, possibly cheaper option in #RobertMeachem?

Mike
  (12:56 PM)

More Meachem love. The reason I now put Lloyd first is that you've seen what he can do in this system. Very close with McDaniels, too.

Mike (DC)

My must re-sign isn't a re-sign, its a renegotiate. Throw a couple extra million at Matt Light, he's certainly earned it, and get one last hurrah out of him so there is insurance at Tackle while the Pats sort out Solder with a full offseason and evaluate Vollmer's back issues long-term.

Mike
  (12:56 PM)

Interesting one, Mike. Like it, but not sure Light is the type of person that would make a big difference to in terms of coming back or not.

Blake (Washington DC)

Put it in ink - Stephon Gilmore to the Pats in the 1st round

Mike
  (12:57 PM)

Blake, Gilmore helped himself at the combine. Likes to tackle. Thought he displayed some Patriots type qualities/characteristics.

theridgesmoviespecialedition@amazon.com (Athens, OH)

Good Day Mike-I was wondering is there any chance the Pats trade for Osi? If so what do you think it would take? Do you think it would be a good pick for the DL? Thank you for your time.

Mike
  (12:58 PM)

I don't see it with Osi. Have to go younger there.

Steve (St. Joesph, MO)

What are your thoughts on FA OLB/DE Jarrett Johnson from the Ravens? I think he could be a good, low price signing. The only problem is I could see Rex making a push for him too.

Mike
  (12:58 PM)

Steve, my hesitation would be the last time the Patriots went for a player like that, it didn't exactly work out (Adalius Thomas). Not that it means it wouldn't this time around, but it was the first thought that came to mind.

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Meaning a player specifically from that system, at that position, projecting to this system.

Don (Tulsa, OK)

Mike, can we expect Matt Patricia to be named DC this year?

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Makes sense to me, Don.

Bob (Snowy NH)

Mike, Sorry but I do not see any MUST sign names on your list. Maybe a few yeah I would like him back ie Slater. But doesn't this also prove the job that BB did last year and that he can pretty much replace any piece with another piece and keep on chugging. Also makes me think that maybe it was a little smoke and mirrors last year. We went to the SuperBowl and other than Welker could lose all the other free agents and still keep going....

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Fair, Bob.

Mike
  (12:59 PM)

Five-minute warning here...

StanMala (Lincoln, Ri)

I am going to change the lead-in question slightly - I think they need to sign Brandon LLoyd. He is a mature, quick WR who has played in the system so his learning curve should be lesser than most. Having him in the offense would open up the middel for Wleker and the TE's.

Mike
  (1:00 PM)

Can you do that? I didn't realize the lead-in question could be altered like that. Impressed with you, StanMala.

Mike
  (1:00 PM)

And like the thought, too.

Nate (Oxon Hill MD)

Hey Mike off question , what do you think of N-Dame safety , I think he can be had when we pick and I rather do that because he is different from Chung and a playmaker . Barron is more like Chung strong safety , draft Harris move Devin or Ras to safety and we are set . Thoughts ?

Mike
  (1:01 PM)

Nate, I like Harrison Smith, the safety from Notre Dame. Good player to keep on the radar.

douglasbrien@aol.com (Hilton Head SC)

Reading I think it was NFL insider that in 2014 the cap will increase as much as thirty million a year and that a lot of teams were restructuring contracts with that in mind such as the Steelers, who are at the cap. Can that help the Pats now?

Mike
  (1:01 PM)

I think the biggest help in that respect is that the two young TEs will be up at that time. Perfect timing.

Erik G (Los Angeles)

regarding your must sign question, your colleague, James Walker insists that there is no way that both Gronkowski and Hernandez will remain on the Patriots after their current deals expire because "they play the same position". I don't see it like that. It may say TE in the program but they clearly play different roles and I believe they should be treated as such. Perhaps they extend one and give Welker type money to the other in 2-3 years. Thoughts?

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Erik, I think they can keep both. Hopefully they were taking notes with how the 2009 situation with Wilfork/Seymour went down and maybe they'll approach it a little differently this time. I thought they waited too long on that one.

Alvin (Amherst, MA)

Second biggest priority should be pass rusher Andre Carter regardless of the defense Bill Belichick will employ in 2012 (granted he's healthy). The whole 3-4 vs. 4-3 seems irrelevant when the defense runs sub packages over 60% of the time.

Mike
  (1:03 PM)

Thanks Alvin. Need to get back to Amherst soon.

Greg Ortiz (Salem, NH)

Mike, 2-minute warning would be more appropriate. If the the Patriots offered Mike Wallace an offer sheet and the Steelers were going to take the compensation and not match, what would the ball park figure be? Having wallace's speed on the out side to finally stretch the field would make this offense lethal.

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

Greg, it has to enough for Wallace to sign the offer sheet, so you figure an average of $10m per season with $25m in bonuses/guarantees is going to be around the area.

Dan (Leominster, MA)

Where's Hochuli with a Stanmala flag?

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

Hochuli is at the gym working out, Dan. He can't be bothered with this.

Dave (Charlotte)

And let's go for 5 more...

Mike
  (1:04 PM)

Sure, why not Dave, it's just a nasty day here in New England and what else do I have to do?

Chris (AZ)

If they can extend Welker at a reasonable number ($6-7 mil/yr), that should leave enough money to make a run at Mario Williams. If I'm BB, that's the best way to spend the money we have - and still keep our picks. Thoughts?

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Chris, I just don't see why Welker would take that. If he can make $9.4m guaranteed this year, why would he sign on for an extension that pays him $2-3m less than that on a yearly basis. Unless the bonuses and guarantees are such that he can double his money today with a big signing bonus, I'm not sure what incentive he'd have to do that.

Paul (VT)

With that 40 time, is Sanu off the Pats WR draft board even if he drops in 2nd round?

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

I don't think so, Paul. They drafted Spikes in the second with the slow 40 time.

Eric (MA)

I'm feeling left out Mike with you picking all the other Erics!

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Welcome, Eric.

Marty (Boston)

Hey Mike. To me, one of the most overlooked needs for the patriots at this point is the running back position. The patriots really have not been able to keep opposing defenses honest with a serious running game the past few seasons. Any chance the patriots pursue a big name FA running back (i.e. ray rice)? I know it hasn't been the patriots M.O. in the past, but to me an improved ground game would enhance the overall effectiveness of the offensive as much as any wide receiver addition. Thoughts?

Mike
  (1:07 PM)

I don't see Rice, Marty, but I wouldn't be shocked if they alter their offensive approach a bit to get back to the 2004-type/Dillon-style approach. That's something I've been debating with some colleagues and we want to study it more.

Dan (Denver)

I was pleased to read in Peter King's column that Ras-I Dowling's rehabilitation is going well. Hopefully, the same is true for Shane Vareen. I think they can both make an impact in areas that need improvement if they can stay healthy. Do you know the status of Vareen's rehabilitation at this time?

Mike
  (1:08 PM)

He'll be ready to go, Dan. Dowling had surgery last year, which is something that has made his offseason more strenuous than initially anticipated.

Ryan (NYC)

For me, it's got to be Benjarvus Green-Ellis. He's exactly the type of back that compliments our faster runners like Woodhead and theoretically Vereen, and if Belichick and McDaniels can't learn to trust Ridley in a hurry, I'm worried that we'll often abandon the run game - and we all know that as good as Brady is, being one-dimensional is a death knell in this league.

Erik G (Los Angeles)

I think we need to convince Matt Light to play out his final year. With Solder/Cannon still a little green and Vollmer still consistently sore, we need a dependable veteran leader in there and his reasonable price tag. Matt, are you reading this? One More Ring!

Mike
  (1:09 PM)

Thanks Ryan and Erik. I don't believe Matt is a faithful reader, unfortunately.

Bunk (Baltimore)

Mike, I gotta disagree with those who say Carter or Anderson are critical players to resign for next year. They had decent sack totals this season, but most of their sacks seemed to be the result of good coverage and the QB Holding the ball too long, as opposed to actual pressure on the QB. In other words, I don't think either Anderson or Carter generated much real pass rush pressure, and certainly not enough to warrant a significant salary for the upcoming season. What do you think?

Mike
  (1:10 PM)

Bunk, I liked them both, but I'd be disciplined in how much I'd extend for them. I thought they both generated some good rush. But at other times, it was a result of the coverage.

Jake (Palmyra)

with the locker room chemistry issues of a few years ago, I don't understand why people don't think some of these leaders aren't MUST SIGNs.

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

It's always a mix, Jake. If you would have told me Alge Crumpler wouldn't have been back last year, I would have been surprised. So some push and pull there.

Jason (Denver, CO)

Two questions from Matt G and you haven't answered mine? Where is the even distribution we like to see in New England?

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

There it is. My favorite chatter is the open chatter.

Jamaar (Rochester, NY)

In your honest opinion, what do you see happening for us this offseason with the draft and FA signings?

Mike
  (1:12 PM)

I could envision an aggressive approach, Jamaar. I do think it starts with Welker.

Mike (Boston, MA)

What was the feedback you heard on Luke Kuekely? Seems like he must have helped himself with the time he ran. I don't think he is a great fit for the Pats, but he should go in the top half of the first round, no doubt.

Mike
  (1:12 PM)

I'd agree with that Mike. Seems like many have him going to the Eagles at 15. Makes sense.

Kev (NYC)

Why isn't Gronk a candidate to hold out? He just set all types of records at his position, saw Jermichael get way overpaid by Gronk standards and has no guarantee that he will have as good a season as the one past...I'm not saying that he's the type of guy to hold out, but would you blame him?

Mike
  (1:13 PM)

Kev, he has two years left on his contract and is two years into his career. I'm not sure that would be such a smart approach. Maybe next year is the time to push the envelope.

Bunk (Baltimore)

Hi Mike. In the past you have speculated that Belichick will coach at least 3 or 4 more years, or until Brady retires. We all hope that Belichick stays with the Pats for a long time, but if he were to retire in a few years, he would only be in his early to mid 60's. I can't imagine him just lounging all day in retirement, so what do you think he might do after leaving coaching? Do you think he might stay in the NFL in a front office? Maybe work with a college football or athletic program (perhaps Navy)? Be a roadie for Bon Jovi?

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

Coach college lacrosse is something he's mentioned. And he'd keep his cell phone on to make sure he could consult Josh McDaniels, the Patriots' next head coach :)

Dan (Leominster, MA)

Wow, big time bunk favoritism

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

Are you charting my tendencies, Dan?

Eric (MA)

In my opinion the game tape for the players is the most important for the draft. Not the combine stats. Hill maybe great but he's shown that his hands are iffy in games... Game Tape baby.

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

Like it, Eric.

Mark (Astoria, NY)

What impact do you think losing Tom Martinez will have on Brady? Is this a big concern, as he seemed like a fantastic coach and person.

Mike
  (1:15 PM)

Mark, I think it's something that can't really be measured. I think Brady will still play at a high level, but when you lose your mentor and sounding board ... nothing ever replaces that.

David (North Attleboro,Ma)

Coverage sacks? I saw some but none when manning and Falco were marching down the field. More pressure to make the coverage better is what the Pats need.

Mike
  (1:16 PM)

Always a mix of both, right?

Shorty (Hollywood, CA)

Mike - do you think Brian Ferentz left because he wasn't offered the OC job? Everyone spoke highly of him and he did a great job with the tight ends. Thanks!

Mike
  (1:16 PM)

Not at all, Shorty. Rare opportunity for him to join his dad and coach his brother.

Kevin (Boston)

Do you think we would be better off going after a safety in FA or in the draft (or both if the value is good)?

Mike
  (1:17 PM)

Kevin, I think free agency is deeper. If you don't get the top two guys in the draft, not sure you can fill the void.

AM (NH)

Mike, thanks for being the lifeline for all us fans this time of year. Question: what do you think would be a fair deal to bring Green-Ellis back? I was wondering if, say, 4 Yrs., $18 mln., with $6mln guaranteed would be in the ballpark? (Not that I have much say over it . . . )

Mike
  (1:17 PM)

AM, I think that would get it done. My hunch is that the team isn't at that point with him.

Greg Ortiz (Salem, NH)

Mike do you not find it crazy that after all Wes Welker has done over the past 4 seasons there's actually people leaving him out to dry? Do they watch the games and realize how vital Wes is to New Englands offensive gameplan?

Mike
  (1:19 PM)

Can't ask for much more than what Wes Welker has given you.

Jimmy (London)

To the lead in Q...Carter or Anderson, or both. Lets not totally start from scratch on the Pressure" guys on defense. CLose second would be one of the centers. It scares me that we are so close to losing Light, Waters, and our Center.

Mike
  (1:19 PM)

Thanks Jimmy.

Jake (Palmyra)

Mike, thanks for the good and extended chat today.

Mike
  (1:20 PM)

You got it, Jake. Let's end it there. I'll just wrap by saying I'd like to answer every question. There were more than 300 in there queue. I try to spread it around. Thanks for bringing up some great topics. Have a great day.