Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

February 7, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon. Let's plan for a 12:05 p.m. ET kickoff. Just finishing something up.

  (12:05 PM)

Just filed a blog entry on a visit to UMass Memorial Children's Medical Center in Worcester, where safety Steve Gregory was visiting with patients.

  (12:06 PM)

I like to attend these types of things, mainly because it's a chance to further build relationships with players. Gregory made a favorable first impression on me this season. An added bonus is that I know first-hand what a visit like that means to those in the hospital. It's not always fun in there. Gregory made some kids' day today, so I want to start things off with a tip of the cap to him for that.

  (12:08 PM)

One of the things I was worried about was finding a place to have the chat. I found a gem, here in Northborough, Mass at Wegman's supermarket. Free wireless. Plenty of space. If you're from the area and want to say hello, I'm in the back corner. I'll be here until 1:15.

  (12:08 PM)

We'll get it started...

Terrell (Boston)

Will the pats do something to make that defense better?

  (12:09 PM)

Yes, Terrell. One thing about Bill Belichick, he's always going to turn over/tweak parts of the roster. You can be sure of that. The key is making sure they are the right moves.

Jovie, Tampa Florida [via mobile]

Hi Mike Reiss, Thanks for all your Threads you provide us every Day. Keep us informed! Do you think BB will sign 1 or 2 difference Maker FAs in March or shortly there after? Such as Reed, Goldson, Possibly Canty etc. Or Will he keep drafting for what he says is the middle class of the Team? Because, you know, we should kick the tires on Jarius Byrd as well... We are only a play making Big WR or a play making SS away from being a dominant Team. Why not go for it? Thoughts?

  (12:10 PM)

Jovie, they'll have a detailed plan, and I would imagine it starts with retaining their own. The key is correctly projecting the market for Welker, Vollmer and Talib and being able to be competitive to retain their services -- at least 1 or 2 of them. As we know, it's tough to keep them all. So when we talk difference-makers, that's where I'd start -- the difference-makers already in-house.

  (12:10 PM)

Then you react from there...

Mark (Boston)

Hello Mike I think the Patriots took Tavon Wilson in last years draft because they knew Chung was not the answer at safety. He seemed to play the dime package good but a lot of fans seem to only remember the 2 play action plays versus the Rams and Seahawks while ignoring the troubles all the other rookies had at various times during the season. Do you think he starts next season? Also do you think that the days of the big SS type of player is outdated as more teams are now looking for safeties who can tackle but also play the pass game and not just be an in the box run stopper?

  (12:13 PM)

Mark, the big strong safety player is outdated. If you're a true box safety and you can't cover, an offense will manipulate you and expose that. So we can't have it both ways. I've heard some say that the Patriots need to add a physical presence to the secondary (e.g. Rodney Harrison) and I don't disagree. But if he can't cover, that's no good either. That's why it's hard to find those players. As for Tavon Wilson, I had that discussion this morning with colleague Field Yates. I think they have to give him a chance. Wilson has to earn their trust.

Pete (Vermont)

Hi Mike Do you see the Patriots renewing their effort to get a fullback ? Fiammetta and Larsen didn't pan out but they sure had getting one in mind. Get your snow shovel out

  (12:13 PM)

I do, Pete. I think it's something Josh McDaniels wanted, but it never came to fruition for a number of reasons. Snow shovels out, indeed.

Jim (Brisbane, Australia)

Mike - what impact do you think the exit of Floyd Reese will have, and who might the Pats look to replace him with?

  (12:14 PM)

Cousin Floyd is doing well, thanks for asking Jim. With respect to Reese, I don't think his departure will have a major impact. Nick Caserio is more than capable to take on more duties.

Dave (Boston)

How high of a draft pick would a team have to give up to get Ryan Mallett?

  (12:15 PM)

Dave, I would think a 3 would start discussions. That is equal value to what the Patriots "paid." If that happened, I'd expect the Patriots to sign Matt Cassel once he's released (assuming he is) to fill the void.

Sam (Shanghai)

Mike, I read that Brady and Hernandez are planning an off-season workout plan. I envision a scenario where our offense evolves slightly, where Hernandez steps in a hybrid-slot role, negating the need for Welker, and Ballard+Gronk the traditional tight end roles. It would certainly give Brady a bigger target and improve run blocking. I think that a combination of Edelman/Hernandez really minimizes the need to sign Welker. But I also see the Pats getting after Amendola as well. How feasible is this scenario?

  (12:17 PM)

Sam, I don't think plans are finalized on that for Hernandez yet, but it wouldn't be surprising if that does indeed comes to fruition this offseason. I'd just be careful of the idea that Hernandez negates the need for Welker. I know they are similar in the sense that they are at their best working the middle of the field, but I see plenty of differences there. Edelman is more similar, but I also see differences there. Welker is special with those option routes. I'd be surprised if Amendola lands here.

Dom (MA)

As a non Patriot fan the biggest difference that I see is that the 2001-2004 teams were physical ,especially on defense.( To be fair the rules have changed Ty Law wouldn't be allowed to tackle Marvin Harrison today). The teams since 2005-present have more finesse, are supposedly the greatest offensive teams ever, yet get shutdown by the more physical defensive teams-Ravens, Jets Giants, Ravens. Brady was a much better QB(- 2005- present) then he was in 2001-2004 yet he has';t won a Super Bowl when he's in his " prime. Your thoughts about the physicality of the defense?

  (12:20 PM)

Dom, I think if you asked Bill Belichick, he'd agree to a point. I think they want to get tougher. That said, I do see some toughness on this defense -- Brandon Spikes hits as hard as anyone. Did we see that hit by Jerod Mayo on Dennis Pitta in the AFC Championship Game? That was a big one. So while I agree with the overall point, I don't think it's a complete void. A few tweaks could make a big difference.

Tom (Btown)

Do coaches have a prime and have we seen the best of Bill Belechick? There was a time that the Pats HC and staff were considered head and shoulders above the other 31 staffs. Large disparity between them and the league.Maybe it was because of Romeo and Charlie, the erosion due to success (coaches leaving) whatever. This staff and HC are no longer head and shoulders abve the rest . If you look at the losses 2006 Colts, AFC championship, Giants in both Super Bowls 2007 and 2012 and Jets in 2010- they were unable to make the necessary adjustments to prevent losses. I didn't mention the Ravens because they were basically beat downs. When you also consider that with the exception of Coughlin the SB winning coaches are all under 50- Peyton, Harbaugh, Tomlin- coaching in the NFL appears to be a younger man's game. Your thoughts?

  (12:21 PM)

Tom, I still think BB is one of the top coaches in the game. I think what we've seen is that there are other very good coaches, too. I don't think we've seen the best of BB.

MIKE D (AussiePatsFan), Sydney, Australia [via mobile]

Hi Mike. There's a likelihood that we draft a WR this year, coz pundits are saying the position is deep. Well, if we do, can we make sure he's from a school that graduates on time, so he can get to Camp on time? Taylor Price and Jeremy Ebert were significantly disadvantaged weren't they, Mike? Thanks for all the great work. Is it September 5th yet?

  (12:23 PM)

Mike, I see the point. I'm going to give you a counter -- Josh Gordon of the Browns. He was a supplemental draft choice and he had a pretty good year for them. I guess what I'm saying is that while it would be nice that they are there on time, it shouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker.

Hurtle (New Mexico)

Good morning Mike, I think the Pats need to draft DB Leon Sandcastle at #29, what say you?

  (12:23 PM)

LOL. Would be a great pick.

jblackburner (ATL)

If Woodhead comes back on a reasonable deal and Demps sticks, do you see the Pats carrying 5 RBs in 2013? And if so, does that pretty much rule out the Pats carrying a FB?

  (12:25 PM)

I think they'd carry 5 RBs (Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead, Demps, Bolden) and it would make the FB tougher to absorb. But as BB said, the FB is really more tied to LB and TE because of special teams considerations. So I wouldn't point-blank rule it out.

Adam (Boston)

Am i crazy for salivating at the mouth for thinking of a Brady Bowe combination?

  (12:25 PM)

Yes, Adam. On Bowe, I'd say be careful what you wish for.

Todd (Philly)

Is there a possible scenario where the Pats take Cassel anyways and move on from Mallet?

  (12:26 PM)

Todd, after what we saw happen with Brian Hoyer this past offseason, I think anything is possible. Mallett would have to have his development dip in the wrong direction, obviously, for that to happen.

Paul (Springfield)

One area that I think that needs to be addressed is a pass rushing DT. I like Love and Deadrick on first down but putting pressure on the QB is not their strong suit. As you noted yesterday, Wilfork has played more snaps than any DT in football the past two seasons. I think adding someone who can hold up in the run game but excells in the pass game should be a priority this offseason. This would allow Wilfork to come off the field in obvious passing situations and still be able to substitute Cunningham in at the other DT slot.

  (12:27 PM)

Paul, I like the thought when looking at things through the 4-3 lens. Armond Armstead, perhaps? I know that's asking a lot, but I'm intrigued.

Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, FL)

Mike I hope the NFL Doesn't make the Patriots Play at Baltimore on September 5th Baltimore has the Best Homefield Advantage in the NFL Second Only to Seattle.

  (12:28 PM)

Anthony, that's a tough game for the road team to win. Since 2004, when the tradition began of the Super Bowl champion kicking off the next season, the road team has won just once (Cowboys over Giants, 2012).

Tom (Malibu)

I think we can all agree that changes are coming in the WR corps. But do you think BB changes the style of passing offense based on what new personell he can aquire this offseason/draft, or do you think his ideal scheme is already set and he is going to look for players that fit it? Personally, I'd like to see them get away from dink and dunk.

  (12:30 PM)

I think the scheme will always trump the players, Tom. The reason is that if a player is injured, and you're built the entire scheme around him, what do you do then? But I think the point about maybe becoming more of a potent outside/downfield passing game -- which is what I think you're getting at -- is a good one. I do believe that will be a focus for them this offseason.

Dave (Charlotte)

Opening up against Baltimore would be great...if you lose, no one expected you to win...if you win, it could help set the tone for the entire season.

  (12:31 PM)

Dave, you're a glass-half-full guy. I like that. It's a good way to live.

mike (greenwich ct)

Hi Mike,Know you have a lot of questions .. been asking this one for a while .. any chance we can get Larry Fitzgerald? He can't be happy in AZ with no hope of getting a QB anytime soon ... He is everything we could want in a receiver - smart, fast and big. His addition would make the offense very very hard to stop .. giving us that deep threat missing since Moss left - but of course now we have the TE packages we didn't have back then. Stating the obvious - we need to offer enough for AZ to part with him ... Is a 1st this year and a 2nd (or 1st) next year plus a few players that helps AZ at TE or the line - places where we have depth - do the job. And there would be a few players I would not want to give up (eg Brady, Gronk, Vince, Mayo) ... Thoughts?

  (12:32 PM)

Mike, that would be a dream-like scenario. I don't see Arizona unloading him. He's their best asset. As an aside, Fitzgerald was the best interview I've ever conducted with an NFL player. So articulate, so in tune, so knowledgeable. When I talked to him, my thought was, "This is BB as a player." Maybe it can happen some day, but I don't think right now. Special player.

Alberto (Treviso, Italy)

Hi Mike, My question is: who is your favourite WR of this NFL draft and why? Thanks

  (12:35 PM)

Alberto, I'm still getting into the draft, but I'm more in tune with it this week than I was last week. A few I've spent some time getting familiar with are Tavon Austin (West Virginia) and Marquise Goodwin (Texas) because of their speed. But while they're fast, they are more undersized. Ideally, you'd like the fast, good-hands receiver to be in the 6-2-plus, 215 range but those players are hard to find. I'll need a little more time, but we'll keep working at it.

Katie O'Connell (Millis Ma)

Hi Mike, with the potential losses at reciever and cornerback, not to mention the need for safety help, where do you see the Patriots drafting the first 3 rounds? I know Chandler Jones will have a season under his belt and be completely healthy come next season but I would also like to see them address the pass rush as well...your thoughts?thank you

  (12:37 PM)

Katie, I drove through Millis this morning on the way out to Worcester. Nice town, and covered some Millis Mohawaks football games back in the day, in the Tri-Valley League. On the draft, I think any position on defense would be in play, then WR and OT on offense. I know that doesn't narrow it down much, but sometimes in the draft, BB is thinking 2-3 years ahead of time, not always about the present day.

MarkJ (Japan)

I don't like referees calling the regular season games one way and the postseason games the other way. I am not totally agreeing with what Jim Harbaugh said, but it is sad referees become center of attention in the Super Bowl in the season that started with replacement refs.

  (12:38 PM)

MarkJ, one thing I've learned from spending the last four years learning the game at the side of Tedy Bruschi is that you "have to do business as business is being done." No referee excuses, ever. Figure out the way they're calling the game and adjust. That's part of being a pro.

Ush (Asheville, NC)

Mike, One offseason need that might be overlooked is the running game & O-line. One of the big differences between the Ravens

  (12:39 PM)

Ush, I thought they ran it well overall this past season, but not when they needed it. If they had a bulldozing fullback, I wonder if it might have been different. So when I think along these lines, I think more fullback than OL.

Alec T. (Lehigh, PA)

Over at Bleacher Report one of the Patriot beat writers thinks that the Pats should take a chance at 6-6 Ramses Barden. I don't know if he would fix the Patriots problem, but considering he would probably get a minimum contract he's worth the try. What are your thoughts on the Pats picking up Barden?

  (12:41 PM)

Alec, I don't much about Barden, other than what I remember coming out of the draft a few years ago -- Cal Poly, good size. Not a lot of production with the Giants and would need to investigate more as to why that is the case. Tough to do rapid fire in the chat setting.

Ethan (Monmouth )

Hi, mikeWhat are the chances we trade our back up QB? Seams to be some buzz around him and it could be the weekist QB draft class in years.

  (12:42 PM)

Ethan, it only takes one team, but my take on Mallett is that I'd think teams would want to see more concrete evidence on film before they invest a significant chip to acquire him. Not a lot there the last two preseasons.

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

Man, Mike, I was just at Wegman's Cafe not too long ago. (Decent sushi...) Sorry to have missed you. My question: I noticed Brian Waters on the Patriots-Roster-by-Age Blog post... What exactly is his status after sitting out last year? Do the Pats still control his rights this year, now?

  (12:43 PM)

Matt, Patriots still control Waters' rights. His contract tolls. Wouldn't expect to see him in 2013, though, if he didn't want to play in 2012. I suppose that could always change, but I wouldn't want to count on it.

Dave (Charlotte)

It seems like all of Boston has weighed in on Gronk wrestling in Vegas with his broken arm...what are your thoughts?

  (12:45 PM)

Dave, my main thought was that he just hads to be smart and understand that he is representing something bigger than himself and people are counting on him. It's not smart if he's putting his career at risk. My other thought: It's striking to me how TMZ is sometimes dictating the sports discussion on things like this. Not my favorite, to be honest, but part of the culture we're in. I think I have to do a better job accepting that.

Nate (Levittown)

'Haven't seen the best of BB?' That's a bold statement Mike. I mean if he comes up with a game plan next year that has a player whining in 2023 like M. Faulk is 2013 I'll be duly impressed. Both with your prediction and in BB's staying power.

  (12:46 PM)

I'll strongly stand by my take, Nate. Appreciate the dialogue.

Jim Bob (Oregon)

The biggest need is Defensive Line. Tackles! The Pats lost to the Ravens because Kyle Love was injured and played 3 quarters of the game with only 2 tackles. The Talib injury was secondary to the Love injury. Going into next season, the Pats D-line is currently Wilfork (whose play could drop off at any time given his age), Love and Deaderick (late round picks/UFAs), and a guy from the CFL who had a heart attack. If Wilfork gets injured for any length of time next year, the Pats D will be the worst in the league.

  (12:47 PM)

Wouldn't be surprised if they go for a "big" DT, Jim. It's not just this year, but the future. Wilfork has two years left on his contract. Deaderick and Love are in the final years of their deals. As noted, BB is often times thinking 2 to 3 years ahead of time with his picks.

Joe, Hollis Nh [via mobile]

Hey mike! I know your all going to laugh but what chance is there that the patriots bring Back Randy Moss this offseason?

  (12:49 PM)

Joe, last year, I thought the door had closed. Just a few weeks ago, I thought maybe it would be a consideration after sensing that maybe Moss was finally accepting of where he is at this stage of his career. But after seeing the Super Bowl, I'd take a pass. Not worth it. Time to move on, I think.

Eric(Houston) [via mobile]

Hi you doing Mike I just wanted to does it matter how tall a WR is as long if he can stretch the field? And I also want to know who would you pick Tavon Austin or Goodwin at WR?

  (12:51 PM)

Austin is a superior player, Eric, although they aren't carbon copies of each other. As for height, I had two thoughts come to mind -- Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson. Those are field-stretchers. Smith is 5-9 and Jackson is 5-10. I think at times we have to be careful getting too caught in mesaurables. Yes, as Scott Pioli noted in his underclassmen breakdown in Monday Morning Quarterback two weeks ago, there is the idea of a good "height, weight, speed" prospect. But if that's all we're looking at it, we're missing a big part of the picture.

Marc (Rhode Island)

Mike, I do think this team needs some minor tampering, like a vertical threat or another safety, but I think this team is pretty much set already. The thing that has killed them the past two postseasons has been injuries, if the Pats could have stayed healthy (Gronk) then they're probably bringing home at least one Lombardi Trophy. Especially since the Ravens are going to have to cut a lot of key guys plus losing some to free agency, it seems as though (besides the Broncos) the Patriots are pretty much the favorites to come out of the AFC again. With good teams, eventually they put a complete run together, look at the last few Super Bowl champs: Ravens had their share of heartbreaks over the past couple years, as did the Giants, and Packers. So I do believe one of the next couple years the Pats will finally win the big one without having to completely overhaul the roster, like some suggest.

  (12:52 PM)

Marc, I don't hear many calling for an overhaul. My sense is that most view this more as a tweaking situation. I think they'll be in the mix again.

Bobby D (Watertown)

Mike, around my circles of friends, many multi year season ticket holders and knowledgeable fans, Josh McDaniels is NOT well liked. The prevailing thought is that his play calling was a huge part of the problem this year. Senseless trick plays that killed so many drives, too much Lloyd, a clock management/timeout problem that reared it's head for the first time in the TB/BB era, the terrible decisions to not try for FGs at the end of the halves(Arizona/Baltimore), the erratic use of the hurry up and the marginalizing of the QB sneak. Then the two punts from the 35 which gained us NOTHING pushed us over the edge. What are you thoughts about some of his struggles? I wish he wold go.

  (12:55 PM)

Bobby, my thoughts are that the offensive coordinator is the lightning rod with this team; it's always been that way. First, Charlie Weis. Then McDaniels. Then Bill O'Brien. Now McDaniels again. It seems to be the easiest position to criticize. McDaniels isn't perfect, but I think he's a solid play-caller relative to the competition. My kick-back question to those questioning McDaniels is "Who do you like as an offensive coordinator?" I'd take that answer and could almost guarantee I'd find criticism of that coordinator in that team's home market. It just seems to come with the position.

Anthony (Chicago)

Would it suprise you if Patriots were terrible next year say 5-11 6-10?

  (12:56 PM)

Very much so. I think they'll be better than that.

Kyle (Indianapolis)

Hi Mike, big fan of the blog/mailbag/chats every week. I just got moved out to Indianapolis for work, and I'm wondering if there's the possibility of some type of tweet up activity for the combine. Thanks

  (12:56 PM)

Kyle, I'm not sure I can pull that off this time. If you're on Twitter, hit me up there, and maybe we can meet at Shapiro's, Best corned beef sandwich around.

Dave (RI)

What did you think about Robert Kraft's SB comments about Tom Brady and his future here in New England? Kind of made it seem like they could/would move on after 2014

  (12:57 PM)

Dave, wouldn't read into those comments one bit. Seems to me he was trying to stay neutral.

Danny (work) that the season is over, do you spend much time if at all at the Patriots offices/facilities or do you work from your office writing/researching stories, blogs etc.??

  (12:58 PM)

Danny, most of the work is done away from the stadium. For example, today I was in Worcester with safety Steve Gregory.

Lav (Central MA)

Mike, Happy Off-season!!!! Any chance the Pats think about restructuring there defensive strategy. Bend/Don't Break works ok in the regular season, but in the playoffs, as we have seen, not quite the same thing. I think a fast, punishing defense needs to be incorporated or we will be close but no cigar yet again. Also, we are hearing a lot of Franchise Welker or Franchise Talib - what is the Tag # on Vollmer? Would think he'd be the cheapest of the three to tag and would solve one area of concern....

  (1:01 PM)

Lav, I know what you are saying, but one thing to keep in mind: We just saw a bend-don't break defense win the Super Bowl. Still, this is a good topic IMO. Someone asked me this question: Does this scheme bring out the best in the young talent? Let's keep that one on the front-burners over the offseason and it will take some studying for me to have a more authoritative answer.

Sean (Denver)

Reading some of these posts and hearing comments over the past couple weeks, many people believe the Pats need to improve their "toughness." I think too many people are interpreting this to mean "harder hitting" when what seems to be more true is "tougher at the line of scrimmage," and "putting heavy pressure on the QB." We don't see a lot of Pats defensive plays end in the offensive backfield anymore. Your thoughts? How do they fix it?

  (1:03 PM)

I like that Sean. and likewise, when they need the 3 yards on third-and-2, they can get them running. I believe it's a mindset and mentality, first and foremost, and then it's putting the right players on the field. Look at Aqib Talib as an example. His presence changed the defensive backfield. Add a player like that in the line of scrimmage aspect of the game, and the results could improve.

Matt (S Florida)

Hey Mike, read the piece by Jackie Mac where Kobe talks about Belichick, Kobe said "He talked to me about how he coaches the game, how he minimizes mistakes, the value of a possession,". This got me thinking, Could this method be great for the regular season but too conservative for the postseason? Maybe during the postseason more chances need to be taken? Kind of what Belichick alluded to this year when he said something along the lines of taking the fight to the other team and not just waiting. Just a thought as we have seen risk reward plays hurt us in recent playoff losses. Of course I am talking the other teams being rewarded by higher risk plays vs the Pats.

  (1:06 PM)

That was a great story by Jackie MacMullan, and I'm glad you read it Matt. I'd recommend it highly. Honestly, Matt, I don't think it's as much about approach as it is execution. I don't think it was anything about philosophy that had them botching the clock at the end of the second quarter. They were playing fast and aggressively at that point. They just broke down. And if Wes Welker catches that football -- not to pin it solely on him -- maybe it's a different story in a two-possession game. I just think there are too many variables in play that could have swayed the outcome to think a philosophical shift would have changed it.

Tesh (Washington DC)

Long time follower and a die hard Pats fan; Mike, I am seeing all this run towards getting a deep threat! yes a real good one will be good to have, but they are not in abundance. I think the current offense works for the Patriots, what we need is that mean defense! we need hard hitters big physical DBs and ability to generate pressure on the QB. It would be a shame to let Talib walk, I think he can behave in the patriots scheme of things; build around him this off season. What do you think?

  (1:07 PM)

Tesh, I think they want Talib back, but they won't over-extend. This is the way the Patriots roll -- they will set a value and generally stick to it. Reminds me of Moss in '08 when he was coming off the one-year deal. They'll hold their line and live with the consequences (Pats almost lost Moss to the Eagles that year).

Brian (Mansfield)

Mike,What could be a perfect way to avenge 2 heart-breaking SB loses, and get the elusive 4th SB for Brady and BB (1st post-Spygate) than by winning the SB on the home field of the Giants and Jets next year in the Meadowlands?

  (1:08 PM)

And using the Jets home facilities in the process.

Dan (Sheffield, UK)

Mike, now that the season's at a close, what was your personal highlight of the past six months? I'm slightly ashamed to say that mine was the buttfumble. I still cannot stop myself laughing when I watch it. It was one heck of a hit.

  (1:09 PM)

Dan, pretty fun trip to London and seeing the Patriots practice in Hyde Park as if they were back on the playgrounds. Also brought my pops to Seattle and those trips are always memorable.

BK (Boston)

Hi Mike!Thanks for another great year! I gotta think the pats will tag Talib as a one year rental while they try and develop another corner and attenmpt to sign Vollmer. I think the reality is that Welker is third on the priority list and probably won't be back

  (1:11 PM)

BK, I think the tag on Talib would be around $10.5 million. That's a lot of cash on the one-year term and would leave them with just $8 million or so to play with. Is it out of the question? No, but I don't think that would be their preference.

trader75 (wilton, ct)

Mike, I don't think toughness is the issue as much as intensity may be the issue. The Ravens throughout the playoffs looked much more intense than any of their opponents. They looked energetic and determined. You could see that the moment the superbowl kicked off. How do the pats get the eye of the tiger back?

  (1:13 PM)

Trader, I respect the viewpoint, but see it a little differently. I don't think intensity lifted them over the Ravens in the divisional-round. There was also some very good fortune. They were defeated in that game if not for Rahim Moore making a critical mistake. But since you mentioned "eye of the tiger", let's cue up the Rocky III reference. The way to get it back, as Apollo Creed said, is "to go back to the beginning." If we want to take it one step further, to me, that means defense first.

  (1:13 PM)

Let's go for another 5...

Neil (South Boston)

I respectfully disagree with Field Yates' assessment that Julian Edelman is a Tier B free agent priority for the Patriots. While I agree he is valuable on special teams, he has demonstrated an inability to stay on the field. Games played since his rookie year: 11, 15, 13, 9. Meanwhile, Welker's game played are 16, 16, 16, 16, 14, 15, 16 16. I'm not saying Edelman isn't a good player who can fill a role on the team, but I am saying it would be foolhardy to think Edelman can step in for someone as reliable as Welker has been over the years.

  (1:15 PM)

Neil, I think it would be a mistake to think Edelman could replace Welker. There is only one Welker. The point I would make is that Edelman is probably going to be there on a one-year deal at limited dollars based on his injury. The economic picture is important to consider. Welker is at a much higher rate and ultimately we have to look at the difference in dollars and determine, "Can we live with this option at 1/4 1/8, 1/12, 1/16 of the cost?"

Glenn Warwick, RI [via mobile]

Hi Mike, A lot is being made about Welker's contract this off-season, unfortunately I think we have seen the last of #83. No one has been a better slot reciever in league than Welker, no one can take that away from him, untimely drops or not. The problem is BB has always preferred an offense that flowed through a slot reciever because they've been so cheap. With the sucess the patriots have shown using this offense the slot has not become a premium position but one who's value has certainly risen since '07. So the question becomes what is the bargain position now? I say RB, the team has a veritable stable of quality backs that are all young and ready to run through brick walls for the team no questions asked (i.e. Ridley), and are all much easier replaced than a $9m/yr WR. I'm also not as optimistic as most about Brady and his advancing age and deteriorating physical skills (specifically throws 15+ yds, down the field). I think there is going to be a shift to a more physical ground based offense, where you might see a package like; Lloyd, Hernandez, Gronkowski, Ballard and RB du jour that can line up in anything from a power set to spreading it out and go 5 wide. All while taking the Welker money to franchise Talib, a coverage LB (another topic) and a true SS to line up next to McCourty. Thanks Mike.

  (1:17 PM)

Interesting thoughts, Glenn. As Belichick pointed out this year, the Patriots have traditionally had high production out of the slot, with Welker and before him Troy Brown. It's partially how the system is set up, but let's also credit the talent of the players. If they put you or me in the slot, it wouldn't look so good :) That said, I see the point -- if Welker isn't back, or they deem the money isn't worth the value, the structure of the offense could have a different look.

James (England)

If Brandon Lloyd is still on the roster next year, do you see him having a much greater impact with another offseason learning the system?

  (1:17 PM)

James, I wouldn't expect a major change there.

BK (Boston)

Mike, follow up question... If cap space becomes an issue, what are the potential surprise cuts we could see??Thanks!

  (1:18 PM)

A couple folks have asked about surprise cuts, and I don't see any clear-cut ones. A lot of times when we see these cuts, it's because teams have to make the moves to trim space. The Patriots aren't in that position.

Theo (Plymouth)

Is Cunningham another wasted high draft pick?

  (1:19 PM)

Theo, he really let them down this year with the suspension. Had been playing well until then. Wasn't a factor after. We're three years in, and he hasn't had a major impact.

Ryan (Watertown)

What are the odds Tebow ends up in a Pats jersey after he's released? I feel like it's bound to happen. Nobody is going to give Tebow a starting job at QB nor are many teams going to be willing to deal with the circus around him. So if he's going to be playing another position such as TE/HB, why not come here? McDaniels traded up to draft him in the first round because he clearly thought he could fine a way to use him and let's not forg that Belechik courted him around the North End. Besides, if the team can't work out a deal with Welker, this could be a good way to make up some of that lost production. I'm not one of the Tebowmaniacs by any means, but this kid is a great football player and knows how to make things happen when he has the ball in his hands. Just makes too much sense to me.

  (1:20 PM)

Ryan, you're freaking me out. I'm prepared for the possibility. Josh McDaniels obviously thinks very highly of him. I don't think they'd trade for him, but I could envision a scenario where they sign him to a minimum type deal.

Nick (Montreal)

Hi Mike, I know everyone is talking WR, but let's not forget this team did score the most points in the league. Even without drafting one offensive player, they still have a great combo in TE, Lloyd, and hopefully they can get Welker back. Demps should add an explosive element at KR, and Edelman should be back fielding punts if signed. I think they should focus on pass-rush and secondary in the draft. Also think Pryor can help the pass wush next year.

  (1:23 PM)

Let's end on this one, Nick. The question to me is why the offense has struggled so much in playoff losses that ended their season in recent years. 13 points in the AFC Championship Game isn't good enough. I agree with a focus on defense, but still think more speed at WR would help, and continiung to develop that mentality/mindset with the running game. I think a Vonta Leach-type FB could help them.

  (1:24 PM)

Thanks to everyone for chatting today. It's the offseason, but the season never truly ends. We'll be working, and based on the 250-plus submissions to the chat, it looks like you'll be ready to be chatting. Enjoy the day. Catch up again next week.