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January 31, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.

Mike
  (12:01 PM)

Just getting settled in here. The plan will be to chat until about 1 p.m. ET. Just finishing listening to TE Rob Gronkowski's interview on sports radio WEEI. Gronkowski is doing promotional work at the Super Bowl and that has him making the media rounds. Biggest takeaway for me: Gronkowski wasn't confident upon his return to the field Dec. 30 against the Dolphins.

Mike
  (12:02 PM)

Curious, as always, what is on your mind today.

Michael (NYC)

What's your view on Joyner's piece last week that the Brady drop-off has begun?

Mike
  (12:04 PM)

Michael, I didn't read the piece, just glanced at the headline. Things have been a bit hectic here, even though the season has ended. It's sort of weird in that regard. But my general feeling is that Brady still has five years of Pro Bowl level play in him. An injury would change things, obviously, but I don't see any sharp decline right now. Bill Belichick has acknowledged in the past that there can be a quick drop-off for players later in their careers, which must be respected, but Brady is the last guy I am betting against.

Michael (NYC)

Mike, what's your hunch: will Ed Reed sign with the Pats?

Mike
  (12:04 PM)

Michael, if he hits the market, I'd think the Patriots would be one of the leading candidates. Tough to project the market, but Bill Belichick has praised Reed as much as any player I've heard over the last decade.

Paul (NH)

Mike, No one has really talked about Arrington much...I was really excited last year when he led the league i believe in INT's. what happened this year to have such a big drop off and will Arrington or RAS-I be back next year?

Mike
  (12:06 PM)

Paul, I thought Arrington's best fit was in the slot. Could be a case of where he was pressing a bit earlier in the year, perhaps with the idea it was a contract year. Tough player. The type of player I think a team wants because of his contributions on special teams and in the sub defense.

Mark (Boston)

Would the Patriots trade Ryan Mallett for an early second round pick to a team outside the AFC East looking for a QB?

Mike
  (12:07 PM)

Mark, I think they would do it in a heartbeat. I'd be surprised if there was a team willing to do that, though.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who do you think will win Super Bowl XLVII?

Mike
  (12:07 PM)

Chris, I'm leaning 49ers, but to be honest, haven't spent much time dissecting the matchup.

Rodney Harrison (WNNNNNNBC)

Is Ed Reed really the enforcer type SS the Pats need? I think he's better as FS and playmaker. Unless they plan to move McCourty back to CB, I rather they spend their free agent efforts elsewhere and draft someone like Matt Elam or Jonathan Cyprien - who love to be physical, like me, and bring an attitude back to this defense. I get what you're saying about some of the hits and they need to win the war in the trenches. But that middle of the field enforcer will make help bring some fear back into the Pats defense.

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

I'd agree that Reed is more of a free safety type. He's not that enforcer type. But he's a difference-maker in a different form, and I'd never turn away a difference maker. At the same time, I agree with the idea of Elam/draft. I think that's the spot where you get the best long-term answer if you get it right (e.g. Mark Barron/Harrison Smith in 2012 draft).

KTP (Wonderland, Blue Line)

Mike- Ras I Dowling makes the team and contributes next year. Yes or No?

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

I'll take the positive approach and say yes. Based on what? Tough to say, because it's been a disappointment to this point.

Tom (Boston, MA)

Hi Mike, I submitted a similar question to your blog, but it didn't get answered, but I'm wondering if there is ever any fall out from the fact that within 2 hours of Gronk breaking his arm, and while the game is still being played, news comes out of the Pats locker room that he's done for the post season. This is SO anti-Belichickian. Is there a "rat" in the Pats medical staff/xray room that leaks this info to the media? Or does the media not pursue that story because its in the media's best interests to promote the dissemination of injury related news as it relates to the Pats. I can't imagine that BB was happy the news was leaked so that the Ravens could prep as though Gronk was not going to play.

Mike
  (12:11 PM)

Tom, the news could have come from a Gronkowski family member, too. Maybe an agent. Always tough to trace that stuff.

Bill D (Boston)

Mike, I agree that its time for Marshall Fault to move on, but I've read McGinnest's and Light's statements and neither of them are absolute, unequivical denials, are they? Has anyone in the media, to your knowledge, asked any Pats player directly "what did you know and when did you know it?"While Faulk should move on, imagine if it came out now that the 2007 Giants had two assistants watching the Pats practices and take notes: do you think Pats fans would still be bitter?

Mike
  (12:11 PM)

Understood, Bill. The players I've asked told me that they had no knowledge of anything going on like that.

DJ (Ann Arbor)

We know the fans' consensus about what the NEP should do this offseason: sign Welker, Talib, and Volmer. And a physical strong safety and a coverage LB. Plus Mike Wallace. But of course that's impossible because of the salary cap. So here's the hard question: given the necessity of making a sacrifice, where should the team *save* money? Who shouldn't they sign, or what position shouldn't they upgrade, hoping that what they've got or can draft will be good enough? Where would you economize, given economic reality?

Mike
  (12:13 PM)

DJ, it's almost an impossible question to answer without knowing the economic market for each player. It's a great thought, but I'd just be throwing darts at this point. For example, is the market for Welker really in the $11 million per year range? Or is it $7-8 million per year? Or something else? Once we had that information, I think we could answer more decisively.

Eric (MA)

Hey Mike, what are your thoughts on a trade involving Spikes? I absolutely love the guy, phenomenal player, but right now our linebackers seem to be mostly of one mold, particularly Hightower and Spikes. Could you see merit in getting some good value for him, and filling the hole with someone that better compliments the others? Or would it be premature, before we see how they develop their skills in defending the passing game?

Mike
  (12:14 PM)

Eric, I'd keep Spikes on the team. I think there is greater value in keeping him as compared to what I'd think the team could get in return (maybe a mid-round pick, if that).

James (Your UMASS Buddy) (The cube)

Hi Mike!With all this Ed Reed talk, I?m wondering what that would mean for McCourty. Reed and McCourty are both best suited for the free safety role. Can one of them play more in the box? I know the Pats do a lot of two deep safeties, so it could work great, just hoping to get your thoughts?Thanks!

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

James, while I agree I like McCourty better at safety, he could also be a factor at cornerback for a year if Reed ever came to New England. Or you could pair Reed-McCourty and still have a solid pairing. I don't think that would be all that bad. While it's not the traditional free safety/strong safety type of pairing, those are two good players, and it's not like Reed doesn't deliver big hits. I've seen them against the Patriots, for one.

Clark12to81 (Muncie,IN)

I was wondering did the NFL open up media day to fans again this year like they did last year in Indianapolis? I still find it amazing how different a press conference can be in person as opposed to on TV.

Mike
  (12:16 PM)

Not sure on that one, Clark. I'm not down at the Super Bowl this year.

Steve (NJ)

When is the Falcons chat?

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

Steve, Falcons interest here on ESPNBoston.com isn't that high. We stick to the local clubs.

alan (new hartford, ct)

hey mike, what's the chance that welker, woodhead, and eddleman all make it back next year? i really love all 3 of them and dont wanna see any of them go, you cant have enough small quick guys with good hands IMO.

Mike
  (12:17 PM)

Alan, I could see a scenario where they are all back. A lot will depend on what the market bears.

Matt (Bristol CT)

So what are your Super Bowl plans? Watching with the family?

Mike
  (12:18 PM)

Not a Super Bowl party guy, so will probably ask my wife to put the kids to bed that night, and watch quietly at home. Maybe have an online chat/open dialogue on the game here on ESPNBoston.com

trader75 (wilton, ct)

This Ed Reed talk has to stop. The guy is in a contract year and when given the opportunity, he intelligently "created" a situation where he signs with the evil patriots. Obviously the Ravens wouldn't want that. He upped his leverage through the over speculating media. Smart man.

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

Smart thinking by Reed in that regard, although one could also say selfish when putting his own situation over the team before the biggest game of the year.

redxabi (CT)

Mike, Any plans to do the mock draft on the Pats board this year again. It was great fun last year.

Mike
  (12:19 PM)

For sure. As we get closer, will get organized.

Dan (Leominster, MA)

Mike, Lingering disappointment still. I also can't get over the thoughts that we will run through the regular season again and then not pass the "smell test" once in the playoffs and playing the best teams. While I enjoy the week to week wins, I'm so looking forward to another championship.

Mike
  (12:20 PM)

Understood, Dan. Seven AFC title game appearances in 12 years is remarkable. How do they get over the hump again? That's the question and it reflects how high the bar has been raised.

Michael (NYC)

Mike, I though from an earlier chat that you said you'd be going to the Super Bowl whether the Pats were in it or not. Am I mistaken?

Mike
  (12:21 PM)

I thought I would be, Michael, but plans changed. Happy to be home. Got two little ones at home and they need their dad around. If my team isn't involved, I have little interest in being there.

Garrett (Fargo)

saw somewhere that the Pats may have interest in Titus Young if/when released by detroit. thoughts?

Mike
  (12:22 PM)

Garrett, what I know about Young from studying him coming out of the draft is that he's a talented player who has run into some off-field problems. If the Patriots think they can manage the second part of it, it's certainly worth exploring. I think that WR position is going to have a heavy focus this offseason.

chris (Boston)

brady still hasnt been blasted for his horrendous play against the ravens by you guys in the media....why not

Mike
  (12:24 PM)

Chris, I can only speak for myself. After the game, I make a quick-hit analysis of three players I thought played well and three I didn't. Brady was on the list of those I felt didn't play well. Later, when assessing some of the common threads in the playoff losses since 2005, a lack of clutch play was noted. Is that blasting a player? I don't know, but it seems like a pretty straight-forward analysis to me. Maybe because I'm not shouting on sports radio, it doesn't come across that way, but not sure what you're looking for there.

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

I think Brady's play in some of these big games hasn't been up to the high level we've seen in the past.

mpc12pats (Work)

Mike - is 2013 going to be like 2007, with respect to overhauling the WR position? In 2007 Gaffney was the only holdover and they added Moss, Welker and Stallworth. Could we see something similar with maybe Lloyd or Welker the only holdover and 3-4 new faces in town? All respect to Branch but he's running on fumes, and Edelman can't play 16. Reche Caldwell isn't walking through that door. :)

Mike
  (12:25 PM)

I think we'll see Edelman back, but Lloyd and Welker aren't locks in my view. A lot will depend on the market/economics. I'm interested to see how they approach it.

Dougie (Beantown)

Nothing about Ray Lewis using PED's to come back quicker from injury? What do you think about that and impacting his legacy?

Mike
  (12:28 PM)

Dougie, I don't know the spcifics on the situation, so I can't comment with authority, but I'd just say that I'm not naive on this stuff. I'd like to think every player in the NFL is clean, but I know they aren't.

Steve (San Diego)

Hi Mike, Chandler Jones mentioned how he wants to add upper body strength to "to play the 2 technique like he should". What did he mean by that? Thanks!

Mike
  (12:30 PM)

Steve, what he said was "2-gap" and that's a technique for defensive linemen in the Patriots' defense where they are responsible for gaps on both sides of the player blocking them. So a player like Dwight Freeney, he's more of a one-gap penetrator. Asking him to stand up an offensive lineman, hold his ground, and play two gaps, wouldn't be utilizing his skill set to the fullest. The Patriots generally like that two-gap style for their big guys up front.

Joe (RI)

Why hasn't Steven Ridley been released yet? Its pretty clear that he can't hold onto the ball and thus has no business in the NFL. And no Mike, Saying "Bernard Pollard hit him really hard!" does not excuse him. This is the NFL buddy, you're gonna get hit. HOLD ON TO THE FRICKING BALL!!!

Mike
  (12:31 PM)

Joe, I think if we adopted this mindset, Kevin Faulk would have been released in 2000. He had some early struggles in his career, particularly holding on to the ball. Sometimes with a young player, you have to ride through some of the early storm, accept some of the mistakes, and give him time to grow, Ridley obviously shows talent. I think he would benefit from learning to protect himself more. On the Pollard hit, he put his head down. That's on him.

Doug (Brooklyn)

mike, you think they'd be willing to just cut Lloyd? seemed like he was improving towards the end of the season.

Mike
  (12:33 PM)

If they keep him, it's a $4.5m cap charge. Just comes down to if they think he's worth that, as opposed to cutting him (post June 1 would be $1 million in dead money for 2013 and another $1 million in dead money for 2014, if I have my math right). I think he has value. Just not sure how the coaching staff assesses it as it relates to economics.

Steve (Livermore)

Hi Mike,Any concerns regarding Gronk's ability to stay healthy for an entire season and most importantly in the playoffs? I'm curious if his forearm is now going to be a problem area moving forward...

Mike
  (12:34 PM)

Yes, Steve, I think it's only natural to have some concern. It should heal, but I think it's a natural question to be asking. It's something I'll be watching.

Dan (Rhode Island)

Mike, thanks focusing on football throughout the season unlike so many other ESPN writers who tend to focus on everything else besides football.

Mike
  (12:35 PM)

Dan, we're not perfect here, but I appreciate the thoughts. We try to do what we think is right while staying as true to ourselves as possible.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Mike, what are the odds that Marcus Cannon is the starting RT next season? If the team is able to come to terms with Vollmer and retain his services for another few years, does Cannon then supplant Connelly, returning him to his previous reserve Guard/Center role that he filled so well?

Mike
  (12:37 PM)

Munchkin, it all depends on Vollmer, who I would think is a top priority to bring back. On Connolly, I didn't think it was his best season. Not sure Cannon could replace him at RG, but I'd give him a shot to compete for it. Cannon hung tough in reserve duty at RT, but I've always wondered if his better fit is at guard.

Bijon(Detroit) [via mobile]

Hey Mike my question to you is... What WR's in the draft do you see the patriots being interested in?

Mike
  (12:38 PM)

I'm just getting into it, but one who caught my eye was Texas' Marquise Goodwin. Speedy. Also, West Virginia's Tavon Austin is intriguing to me. Those are two players I want to learn more about.

Derek (Wayland)

Hey Mike, another great year, from all of us who read you even in March, great job. Anyway, defense wins championships, and the Pats are heading in the right direction. So your thoughts on Talib and the franchise tag? Does Richard Seymour have anything left in the tank to add some depth? And in that vein, does the recent signings of 'space' players (D-line & LB) signal we might see some heavy 3-4 packages next year. Thanks again Mike.

Mike
  (12:41 PM)

Derek, I think the tag would be around $10.6 million for Talib. I think that's a little rich on the one-year term, but can I have a little more time to think about that? On Seymour, no love lost between him/Pats at time of his trade in 2009. I'd be surprised at a return unless there is a change of heart. On the 3-4, I didn't make that connection with some of the recent moves. I think it's more about building a better sub defense, as the Patriots were in sub 57 percent of the time this past season, and just adding more talent to the roster.

T.J. (Melbourne, FL)

Mike, Happy Super Bowl week! I was wondering what you think our biggest need for pick 29 will be. Do we go CB, or Safety, or DL. I know often we go best available, but I was wondering do you think BB has someone in mind for that pick?

Mike
  (12:42 PM)

It's early, but last year, I was high on Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith for the Patriots. He had a good year for the Vikings. Along those lines, I think a safety like Matt Elam of Florida could be a good fit for the Patriots. Potentially solidifies the position for 5 years.

postsurgery (Keene, NH)

During last week's chat, there were many questions adressing would'a/could'a's regarding the Pats/Ravens game. I was in surgery in Boston during your chat and didn't get to ask: Would having a healthy Gronk have made the difference for a Pat's win, or do you think the Ravens would still have been the better "team" that night?

Mike
  (12:46 PM)

Hope the surgery went OK. The loss of Gronkowski hurt. Here is a defining stat to me: Of the three players who replaced him (Branch, Hoomanawanui, Fells), they played 85 snaps and had 2 targets. Also, the Patriots were 1 of 4 in the red zone. That's where Gronkowski does his best work.

Mike
  (12:46 PM)

Rob Gronkowski on SportsCenter now. He's making the media rounds. Just listening real quick.

Bob (Mansfield)

Mike would the Pats really invest another pick in a Safety after drafting Wilson last year in the 2nd round?

Mike
  (12:47 PM)

I think so, Bob. I'd point to 2010 when they drafted two tight ends (Gronkowski and Hernandez).

Jay (Springfield, MA)

Tavon Wilson was a second round pick and Bequette was a third round pick (top 100 players in the country). They did not get much production - another string of high wasted defensive selections?

Mike
  (12:50 PM)

Jay, it was notable to me that Bequette had a tough time breaking through, while rookie free agent Justin Francis was starting in the AFC Championship Game. But before we say it definitively, I think we owe it some more time. Rookies develop at different rates. Wilson still has a chance, too, and in this day and age of sub defenses being so prevalent, he can be a help in the dime (LB type role) and on special teams.

Rick (Natick)

Should we be concerned that Wilfork and Mankins bodies may not hold up much longer?

Mike
  (12:51 PM)

Rick, Mankins had a tough year. Wilfork made it through healthy. At this stage of their careers -- Mankins entering year 9, and Wilfork year 10 -- that's a natural area to keep an eye on. But I think every team has players in that category. I wouldn't "over-worry" about it.

Danny (San Diego)

Looking at the Baltimore game and the mismatch that Boldin provided when Talib was sidelined. Do you see BB heading in the direction that Seattle did with bigger DBs or do you see them addressing other needs such as WR or OL?

Mike
  (12:53 PM)

Danny, specific to Boldin, that is a question I'd like to ask BB at some point. What made him feel that Marquice Cole was the best matchup against him in the slot after Talib went down? Why not put Tavon Wilson/Patrick Chung in the game at safety, move McCourty back to outside corner, and put Arrington in there? I wonder if he's second-guessing himself on that one. As for the bigger DBs, I don't think size is the main key. I think it's a combination of size and athleticism. A player like Talib isn't overly physical, but I think they'd like to keep working with him because he is a good athlete and covers generally well.

Dan (Denver)

I would love to see Danny Woodhead return but understand the business side of the NFL. How much interest do you expect him to draw from other teams? In particular, could you see him signing with the Broncos? Denver is not too far from his hometown, and I could see him being an effective weapon there. What are your thoughts?

Mike
  (12:54 PM)

Yes, Dan, I could see that. The Broncos' director of pro personnel is Keith Kidd, who previously spent some time in New England. Not that it means much, but there is that connection. If they need a third-down back, I'd think Woodhead would draw some interest from them. He's a good player.

alan (new hartford, ct)

seeing dennard shine this year after being selected in the 7th round reminds me of brady being selected in the 6th round. do you know of any other low end draft choices in recent years that have panned out so well for the patriots?

Mike
  (12:58 PM)

That was a great pick by the Patriots based on what we saw, and you just gave me an idea for a blog entry tomorrow. Thanks Alan. I'll be sure to credit you. As for late-round draft choices that have panned out well for the Patriots under Bill Belichick (outside of Brady and Dennard), here are a few that come to mind: 1. WR David Givens (7th round, 2002); 2. DE/OLB Tully Banta-Cain (7th round, 2003), 3. QB Matt Cassel (7th round, 2005); 4. WR/PR Julian Edelman (7th round, 2009); 5. DL Brandon Deaderick (7th round, 2010); 6. RB Patrick Pass (7th round, 2000).

Stephen Gostkowski (Foxboro MA)

Hey Mike do you think that going into this offseason I should be worried about my job or do you think coach B brings in some competition through the draft or free agency?

Mike
  (1:00 PM)

I could see some competition, Stephen (not really Stephen, but we are playing along). To me, it comes down to economics. With a base salary of $2.5 million, I try to think about Bill Belichick's mindset. He might look at what he could save with a cheaper option in the complete team-building concept. For example, if a rookie kicker comes in, and saves you $2.1 million, you might be able to sign four other players with that saved cash.

Charlie in Utah (Murray utah via Belmont MA)

Do you think Brady would be willing to restructure his contract again to free up more cap space and add more talent so he can win one (or more) more ring(s)?

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Charlie, Brady has a $22 million cap charge and two years left on the deal. It couldn't be a restructure. Would have to be an extension. In that case, I wouldn't expect him to lose any money.

Mike
  (1:02 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Butch McFetters (Columbia, Mo)

Mike. I think Pats fans have spoiled for 20 years of quality of football thanks to the Kraft family. Just think there are 2 generation of fans, never witnessed a 1-15 season or sitting at Sullivan Stadium with only 20k fans in the stands for dec game. Do you think the Pats have 2-3 year window of being Super Bowl contenders.

Mike
  (1:05 PM)

Butch, I'm more on the 5-year mindset, because that's how long I could see Brady still playing at a high level. Whenever the transition to a new QB comes, there would naturally be some question about the Super Bowl contender window closing. They won 11 games without Brady in 2008 (didn't make the playoffs), so while there would be a transition at the game's most important position, I'm not convinced the Patriots still wouldn't be in the mix. Maybe that's optimistic.

Popsy(Moncton, New Brunswick) [via mobile]

Hi Mike I finally made it to a chat. My questions about the CFL. Do you think there's any reason why NFL teams don't go after the CF L's best players on the yearly basis. You would think that the top quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and defensive plyers s would have teams looking at them. Any thoughts

Mike
  (1:06 PM)

Welcome. I think the level of play isn't as high, so while there are a few players who successfully make the jump -- and maybe we'll see a few more in upcoming years -- it's a bigger jump for the CFLers coming to the NFL.

WTE (Manchester)

Hi Mike, I've heard a lot of media folk saying the Patriots likely won't be able to bring back Talib b/c another team will offer more money than NE is willing. I don't agree w/ that. I believe Belichick realizes his value, Talib seems to like playing here and we have a great shot at bringing him back. What do you think?

Mike
  (1:07 PM)

With a salary cap that isn't growing from last year, I'm not sure how much money is going to be flowing out there for big-time free agents. There are always a few big deals, but we might see a depressed market across the board.

Frank (Maine)

Any idea on if Ballard will be completely healthy by minicamps?

Mike
  (1:08 PM)

Saw him around a lot this year, Frank. Just a guess, but I think he has a good chance.

Spencer (Maryland)

Hey Mike, I saw the note that Jerod Mayo and Matthew Slater were booed at the pro bowl. Why was this? Because the other pats players didn't come? Or that many people just hate the pats?

Mike
  (1:09 PM)

Spencer, probably the latter from this viewpoint.

Dan (Leominster, MA)

I think it's a big mistake feeling Brady will be playing at a high level for 5 years. I think they need to look for their next QB in the next two drafts (unless they feel Mallet is it) and stop developing the backup as a trade pawn. Brady could easily be done in two and if we're not ready, we could slide quickly.

Mike
  (1:11 PM)

Dan, I don't think you ever stop developing QBs. Look at it this way, they signed Mike Kafka for 2013 and he was a former fourth-round pick (2010). So one could make the case they just added a fourth-rounder. Obviously, it's not that simple, but he was once touted at that level. They have Brady, Mallett, Kafka ... and maybe Matt Cassel comes back. As BB once said, if you don't have someone to play that position, you're in trouble.

Julian Edelman (Medical Rehab)

Mike what is the earliest the Patriots can sign me for next year? What would be a fair market deal for both me and the team. Let's lock me in for 4 years.

Mike
  (1:12 PM)

They could do it now, Julian (not really Julian, but playing along). I project more of a one-year deal, which will give you a chance to get healthy, prove you can make it through another year, and position yourself for another shot at the market next year.

mpc12pats (Work)

Can the Pats really keep Woodhead in 2013? With Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden, and contracts coming up for Welker, Woody, Vollmer and Edelman, I feel ike Woody is odd man out. Can sign everyone right?

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

Fair point. To me, it comes to setting a value. Knowing the depth they have, the Patriots probably won't extend too far for Woodhead, which sets up a scenario where another team could swoop in. You never know what's important to the player, and maybe Woodhead would less to stay. Let's see how it plays out.

Ed Reed (New Orleans)

I'm just here to say hello to Patriots fans. Can't wait to play in Foxboro next season.

Mike
  (1:14 PM)

LOL. Let's end on that note. And we can have a poll on the site for best beard -- Ed Reed or Rob Ninkovich.

Mike
  (1:15 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting. A lot of great questions -- couldn't get to them all. We'll do it again next Thursday.