Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
Going to get settled here for a few minutes. Let's plan on a 12:05 p.m. kickoff. We'll go until 1:05 p.m. ET.
Going to lead off today with some Wes Welker thoughts. There have been some conflicting reports out there, and it makes one wonder, "What can we really believe?" I'll start by relaying what I know, and then will add in what I think ...
What I know is that the Patriots and Wes Welker had been making progress toward a multi-year extension. They had built more momentum toward that goal in recent weeks. It was certainly much different than this time last year. They obviously didn't cross the goal-line, but they were pretty close to it, as I understand it.
As for what I think, I do believe Welker wants to be back in New England. I also think he realizes that as a player, you don't often get a chance to see what you're worth on the open market. This is the first time he's had that chance and that's why he's testing it (and also, in part, because the Patriots haven't blown his doors off with their offer).
I don't read too much more into it than that. I'd be surprised if Welker isn't back. It could happen, but I view that as a longer shot at this point. I expect things to move quickly to a resolution on this one.
Assuming nothing happens between Welker and the team before free agency, do you think the team will give Welker time to test free agency or would they try to sign someone like Danny Amendola?
Dave, I think this is a really good question, and it sort of ties in to the last thing I just wrote. Timing is going to be interesting here. While I think Welker wants to be back, and I think the Patriots want him back, I'd be surprised if the club waits around because they could miss out on other replacement options. So if the deal isn't completed by March 12, then my view of the Welker-returns-to-Patriots likelihood would change. Essentially, the idea is that the legal tampering period (March 9-11) should provide the answers Welker is looking for and then we'll be closer to a resolution.
That's why I think this legal tampering period actually works well here for both sides -- Welker to see what he's worth on the open market, and the Patriots to give Welker the chance to see that without losing the chance to sign a replacement in the unlikely event he does sign elsewhere.
Even if Welker signs with the Patriots, is it possible they go after amendola as a possible future replacement? He is young and is very reliable(excluding his injury history).
Ryan, I'd think signing both Welker and Amendola is highly unlikely. The reason is that while they are different players, they'd fit into the offense in a similar role. It would be a bit too much duplication IMO.
Mike...do you think Brady is in Welker's ear asking him to sign with the Pats or would he stay 100% out of it?
I think Brady is a friend of Welker, first of foremost, so if he's in his ear saying anything it's, "I hope whatever happens is what you truly want." Brady obviously wants Welker back, and he can be persuasive, but I don't think he'd force the issue if he knew it wasn't what Welker truly wanted.
Mike, one thing that drives me nuts is that based on past production, people say you should "pay the man" if he was productive enough. I believe this is completely wrong because contracts should be based on what you project them to be, rather than what they were. Your thoughts?
Amen, Alex. Couldn't agree more. Sure, there is an element of past production that factors into talks, but the majority of the negotiation is about projected performance.
Wouldn't you think Amendola's handlers are telling him not to jump at anything either, knowing that he is so "in play" for the Pats..?
Brian, one thing I've learned in my time covering the NFL is that timing is everything. If you sit on an offer, it might not be there a few hours later. Things change fast, so as a player, you have to be cognizant of that. I love the strategy behind that.
I could see the Pats getting fed up with the Welker stuff and moving on, quickly. Thoughts?
Tom, to me, Mrach 12 is the cutoff date. If it's not done then, I could see them moving on. I don't know if it would be that they were fed up as much as that they have to execute their free-agent strategy and at that point they couldn't rely on Welker's presence at a time when players could officially sign with other clubs. That's why I expect a quick resolution.
Will the Pats be forced to keep Lloyd and pay the $3M bonus if Wes Welker finds a team willing to pony up the money?
I don't think so, Dave. If they've decided they don't want to keep Lloyd, which many assume, I don't think Welker's status will dictate their decision. I think we could draw a good parallel to last year's situation at DE. They didn't have Andre Carter and Mark Anderson back and many were asking, "Who's going to fill that spot?" I vividly remember Bill Belichick's remarks on Sirius NFL Radio on the topic, which were basically, "Everyone thought we were in trouble last year but it worked out." I see it the same way at WR if that's the way it unfolds.
Here is the link to revisit those BB remarks on Sirius. http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4725820/belichick-likes-backup-qb-battle
Good afternoon Mike I just wanted to know how important is drafting for value and spreading the wealth across the 7 rounds, contrast to drafting the best player available at 29?
Bijon, this is sort of a loaded question. Ideally, the two areas marry up. But my personal belief is that teams that draft for value/need usually end up in the same spot the next year. The idea is to collect talent. I like the Nate Solder example from 2011 for the Patriots. Was that the top need that year? No, not in my view, but he was the best player. And they've solidified that position, making the Matt Light to Solder transition rather smoothly.
Mike, is there any team that sees Sebastian Vollmer as LT? If so, his price tag would be more than the Patriots would accept and he would be gone.
We don't know that, MarkJ, but if I had to guess I'd say no. He's a right tackle with the ability to swing. Injury history has to be part of the discussion. $7-8m per year is the range I'd be shooting for if I was Vollmer's reps. Let's see if he gets it.
Ideally, my guess is that the Patriots would let him walk for anything north of $7m per.
Do you think the Patriots might sign Eric Winston over Vollmer?
Ben, my hunch would be they'd more likely go with Cannon at this time and see what unfolds in the draft. That would be a post-draft move, if it was under consideration at all (and if Winston was available at that time).
Of the notable Pats free agents (Welker, Vollmer, Talib, Woodhead), who do you think is back with New England next season? And what is your best guess regarding a notable free agent signing from outside the current Pats roster?
Brent, I think Welker, Talib and Woodhead will be back. I wouldn't give up on Vollmer, either, but that's been a tougher one for me to read. I'm still trying to figure out how he is going to pass a physical at the start of free agency after undergoing a knee scope a few weeks ago. That complicates things to me. As for a free agent outside the organization, we're going through the free-agent fit series on ESPNBoston.com and there is a more thorough accounting of that there. We've done CBs and safeties to this point.
Going to dig you up a link here...
Hi Mike, first I want to thank you for the work you put into this blog, it's much appreciated.My question is a bit out of box thinking, do you see a scenario where the patriots draft a TE with on the first two picks?I know they already have 2 great ones, but wouldn't 3 equally gifted TEs be a matchup nightmare for the DCs of the opponents. Thanks again.Greets from Germany
Alex, I'd be surprised at that one. With Jake Ballard also on the roster, that's a quality 1-2-3. And that's not to mention, Daniel Fells is still under contract (for now, at least), and Michael Hoomanawanui could be back too.
Hi Mike. I was wondering if I can play the Devil's advocate for a moment. We now know Wes Welker wants to test the free agent market. Worst case scenario, he signs with another team. If that's the case, the only proven WR on the roster is Brandon Lloyd. As much as I like Julian Edelman, assuming he's re-signed, I don't think he can replace Welker's production, even a little bit. So, would this mean the Patriots offense could undergo a change, whereby the slot WR is no longer the driving force? Historically, the offense has gone through Troy Brown and Wes Welker. But if Wes decides to leave, do you think the Pats offense might consider a change in philosophy, with new WRs on the team? Thanks Mike.
I could see that, Mike. Real fair point. I think that's something privately that the Patriots' brass probably thinks when it comes to Welker's production -- part of it is a result of the system. It's not a slight to Welker's talent, but it's an acknowledgement that the system has contributed to slot WRs putting up big numbers.
Hey Mike I just wanted to know do you buy the premise that with the Patriots likely to get rid of Lloyd and the uncertainty of Wes and Julian's future with the team, that they could be real contenders in the pursuit of a Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings etc.
I guess you never say never, Curtis, but I'd be surprised if they get into the big-money area with free-agent WRs. That's traditionally a volatile area IMO, and something that doesn't strike me as their type of business.
Any talk Kraft will bid for a future Superbowl?
He joked about it (I think it was a joke) when New York was awarded the Super Bowl, but I think he realizes it is highly unlikely and thus is a non-starter for him.
Hey Mike, of the (3) guys we just decided to let test the free agent waters, I see Vollmer as the most replaceable because of Brady's awareness and our history of winning with no name RT's. I think with a year of maturation, Marcus Cannon could do that job. With that being said, wouldn't bring Talib back and acquiring an Ed Reed or Dominique Rodgers Cromartie improve this team more than just bringing back Vollmer and Talib? Thank you for your time, it was great chatting with you!
Hi John, we'll keep it between us that you're chatting at work, OK? Good stuff. If you're telling me that the tradeoff of opening next season with a top three CB group of Talib/DRC/Dennard is that the Patriots lose Vollmer, I could live with that. I still have some uncertainty on Cannon (he did look just fine on Nov. 22 vs. the Jets), but with Dante Scarnecchia coaching him up, and the possibility of a solid draft pick there too, I like the thought.
Are we seeing a return to the bad old days when our starting WRs were the Reche Caldwells and Doug Gabriels of the world? How is this going to sit with #12?
Tony, I think they'll load it up. It might not look that way now, but this is just one piece of the offseason. I think free agency is overhyped in one respect, and we have to remember, this is a process. As for the "bad old days" of 2006, that was one of Brady's best seasons. Amazing to think what he did with that WR crew. They were in the AFC title game and nearly won it. Not saying it's ideal, but it's funny to me that the context of "bad old days" is that.
Mike, great work. Team needs seem to be: 1) S, 2) CB, 3) DL, 4) WR, 5) OL. However, the draft seems to have depth in the early rounds on the levels of: 1) OL, 2) DL, 3) S, 4) WR. If the team keeps the first round pick and does not trade, it seems like either a DB or DL (interior DL to add significant depth behind Wilfork, while also looking more to the future). Based on the depth at CB, it seems odd to me that the team would draft anything other than a DL with the first round pick (that is if they keep the first round pick, and do not trade for more picks). Maybe going Safety if they think the need won't be addressed as well through free agency. What are your draft thoughts? Any particular prospects standing out to you in the early-middle rounds if the team lands more picks via trade? I see the team getting at least three more picks and adding depth at the areas of need listed above through the draft. Your thoughts about such a scenario?Belichick doesn't seem to have a lot of respect for reporters based on media interactions, your thoughts? Seems like he would appreciate the work more than he does based on the quality of the reporting. But this doesn't seem to be the case?
Day, I'm not sure BB would agree with you on safety being No. 1 on the list. I think he liked what Steve Gregory brought in terms of intelligence and getting everyone lined up. That aspect of his game maybe made it easier for the staff to overlook some of the other areas that maybe didn't always measure up (e.g. tackling). Overall, I just think we need to be careful looking at the draft that way, in terms of locking in on a DL in the first round. I understand the viewpoint, but I just don't think you ever lock into a position like that leading into the draft. As for BB and respect for reporters, I think if he feels like you work hard and go about things fairly and don't make it personal, you'll be OK.
Do you think New England will go back to 3-4 base this year? Or possibly look to move Hightower to the Mike linebacker with this being Spikes last year on contract? I am 50/50 on Spikes return to the Patriots
I've thought about it, John, and at this point my conclusion is that they could be more multiple than maybe they were in 2012. I don't know if they'd go pure 3-4, but maybe introduce some more of it into the scheme.
Mike, given the recent events in court, what do you expect to be the availability of Denard this offseason/next season?
Just a guess Mark, because I'm a football reporter and not a court reporter, but I think he'll be available.
Hi Mike: A bit frustrated that we're discussing S and DL as a Patriot need. They took a DB (Wilson) and a DE (Bequette) in the first 100! picks in the country last year.
Very true, Tom. Easy to forget that. Just because they were picked doesn't mean they will emerge, but the Patriots thought highly enough of them just 11 months ago. A good reminder.
Mike, I noticed the Pats have a little over 4.5 million in "dead money" that is being counted against the cap. is that a high number versus the rest of the league? Is is because of all the players he signed last season that did not evern end up making the team but still got paid (Shiancoe, Winslow, Fanane)?
Correct, Phil. That dead money from 2012 contracts was a little higher than the norm. A big part of that was Fanene, which was a little unique. It might turn out that the Patriots recoup that money and, speculating here, maybe get a salary cap credit.
Let?s not overreact to the news that Wes Welker is going to test the FA market. This is a cat and mouse game being played by the Pats and Welk. The fact that Wes is hitting the market tells you the Pats have set a value on Wes and he probably is not ecstatic with the offer on the table (less than 8/year?). The reality for Wes is that with the grouping of TEs the Pats have and the likely resigning of Edelman, the Pats have a ton of inside weapons. Wes Welker is a very talented pass catcher who has benefited in playing in a system that caters to his strengths. If he was to play in a different system with a different QB, the results are going to be drastically different. I strongly believe that Wes needs the Pats more than they need him. Fans don?t want to hear this because he is a fan favorite (I have his jersey too), but the Pats may be ready to allocate Wes? money somewhere else. A savvy business move would be to sign Edelman and Amendola to replace Welker. Amendola is a fantastic slot receiver, returns punts (so DA could back up Edelman too), he?s a few years younger, already played for Josh McDaniels and would cost less money than Wes. I think DA would offer flexibility that would allow the Pats to allocate money toward different areas of need such as CB. The only problem I see is one where TB feels like he was mislead (who knows what was said in negotiations) when he renegotiated in hopes that the money he saved toward the cap with his deal would go toward signing his best buddy Wes.
Eric, I'm all for not over-reacting. Thanks for sharing the viewpoint. Let's see what happens as the process unfolds. I still think he's back with the Patriots.
Do you really think Patrick Chung will command $12M over 3 years? I'm not sure he can achieve that. Do you think the answer to the poll would be different if it was $8M over 3 years?
That's a little rich, I would think. Chung is probably going to look at a 1-year prove-it type of the deal IMO. Teams I have spoken with have questions about his health.
Mike, I love and respect Wes Welker. However, the Pats have committed great financial resources to Gronk and Hernandez who essentially threaten the middle of the field - the same zone as Welker. Wouldn't be wiser to go after Wallace (or another speedster) to threaten the outside and top of the defense regardless of price. Isn't time to sell the future for the next 2-3 year window?
Dan, why not both? To me, the idea that Gronkowski and Hernandez threaten the same zone as Welker is a bit of a shaky thought. I see the point, and I do believe the Patriots were thinking along those lines too, but Gronkowski isn't running those option routes the same way Welker does. Ditto for Hernandez. Different skill sets. So I look at it this way -- why not bring Welker back and threaten the outside with another player (e.g. Tennessee's Justin Hunter in the draft).
Mike, this is an off the wall question, but curious what your response would be. Lets pretend, for just one moment, that Welker signs with the Jets and Revis signs with the Patriots. Who benefits more?
For how many years, Dave? I'd say Patriots in that hypothetical exchange (in the real world, would be very surprised if Revis ever winds up here).
Hey Mike, was wondering if this is the year Myron Pryor can finally stay healthy and make an impact. In games played don't his impact and stats point to a difference maker?
Jeremy, tough to rely on that. I think the way to approach Pryor is that anything you get is a bonus. Relying on it comes with great risk.
When will we expect your first mock draft?
Alec, we'll do our regular reader mocks. I don't have one planned just yet. Still need to learn more about the prospects.
Hi Mike. What's your take about how the team feels about Jake Bequette's development? Is he going to make a contribution? Last April, many of the 'experts' on the Pats Blog conversation forums were convinced this was JJ Watt lite, but we obviously saw no indication of the type of player. What do we have in him?
I think it obviously went a little slower than they anticipated. If you would have told them at the start of the season that rookie free agent Justin Francis would be starting in the AFC championship game, and Bequette would be a healthy scratch, they would have been surprised. So that's a little bit of a concern at this point. But then we're reminded that players develop at different rates, and maybe an offseason in the team's program could lead to a big jump. So I'd sum it up this way: Too early to write him off, but some early concerning signs.
Mike, what would you put the chances at of a Richard Seymour returns home story? And do you feel he has HOF credentials?
Drew, 0.5 percent on that one. Some hard feelings there, I believe, from the way it ended. As for Hall of Fame, I'm not great at that stuff. Would think he could have a chance, but wonder how the last four years in which he basically played in obscurity (not a lot of national TV etc.) could affect it.
Come on Mike you gotta acknowledge that Ballard is a legit starter even on the Patriots? Ballard, Gronk, Hernandez that's quite a start?
Bob, I think Ballard's presence is intriguing, no doubt. Still, let's see how he looks coming off a serious surgery. He wasn't the fastest player before the surgery. But in terms of quality, I'd put that 1-2-3 at TE up against anyone in the league; not exactly a bold thought, I know.
Mike: Do you think Josh McDaniels has run out of "trust me on this guy" cards with Bill? Seems everyone he brings in from his previous teams doesn't work out as hoped...Lloyd, Fells, Hooman etc..
I don't, Steve. In fact, I think BB really trusts his personnel evaluation and that's why he remained at the NFL combine to help with some of the defensive back evaluations. It's all context to me. We can't include Hoomanawanui in that discussion because he was a need pick-up; they were concerned with Fells' health and needed a quick fill-in at the time. On Fells, they were in on him a few years ago, too, when McDaniels wasn't even here. On Lloyd, it didn't exactly work out as planned, but it wasn't like it was a complete dud.
If Vince went down, the Pats would be toast. Draft a stud DL
I could see it, Marty. This draft is considered deep at the position. Also, Wilfork has two years remaining on his contract, so while you'd think he has a lot of good years left, the team also has to consider the future and protecting itself. When I was asked Wednesday on "SVP and Russillo" to make a first-round draft choice for the team (the question surprised me), I went with Alabama DT Jesse Williams. Your thoughts?
I think Lloyd worked out, he was exactly what we expected.
Marc, I felt similarly, to a degree. I do think some had the expectation that he would be more of a stretch-the-field WR, which was more of a media creation than anything. That's not what he was. He is a competitive outside threat who can win some 50-50 situations and help balance out the field a bit. Not sure it was the perfect fit in the locker room, but nothing they wouldn't overlook as long as the price was right.
Mike, why is it that I don't hear more about the Pats acquiring Dashon Goldson? With Chung possibly seeking more than he's worth and with Dennard getting into trouble off the field, I don't see our secondary as much of a strength - especially at safety. What's your view of Goldson? Good fit schematically and financially?
Nick, a couple of things here. On Goldson, he's probably going to cost a premium price and I don't think they see him as a premium player (just speculation on my part).Also, you have Tavon Wilson who you drafted in the second round last year. I don't think they've given up on him. Take Wilson, the promise that McCourty showed at safety last year, and their positive thoughts on Steve Gregory, and I'm not sure they view the position as great of a need as we do.
The type of pressure that gets Brady in trouble is the type that is right in his face up the middle, in my opinion. I think the area in the line that needs the most upgrade is at C. I don't think Wendell has the size or power to hold up, your thoughts?
John, the Patriots love Wendell. This sort of goes back to something that Scott Pioli said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference -- how many outside of the meeting room have no idea who gives up a sack or executes a blocking scheme (with all due respect to the hard-working media members). With that said, some inside chatter makes me think they were thrilled with what Wendell gave them in 2012. Maybe their biggest surprise of the year.
Going to go for another 10 today. Feel like I've been a little slow on the draw. Hang with me for a minute ...
Hey Mike, Thoughts on grabbing 2 BIG physical CB in free-agency to help stuff WR off the ball al-la Seattle? I think that would be a huge boost for the pass-rush and help the S as well. Is Cason from SD a UFA?
Ed, I said this to colleague Field Yates the other day, "Why not 2?" If you can bring Talib back, I still think there is money there to add another solid CB. Cason is a free agent. Glad you brought up his name. I missed him on the free-agent fit series, putting Quentin Jammer on there instead. I should have mentioned Cason. Nice catch.
What do you think Steve Gregory's role will be with the Pats next season?
Matt, I think that will be tied to Tavon Wilson's development. If Wilson takes the next step, Gregory is the third safety. If Wilson doesn't, we could see Gregory back in the starting lineup next to Devin McCourty.
Mike, always appreciate the insight... thanks for the chats. Can we eliminate the talk of replacing Welker with Amendola? Nowhere near the same player. They basically have ONE thing in common, and it ain't on the football field.
Clarence, I think it's a natural comparison based on the way Amendola was used when McDaniels was there in St. Louis for the 2011 season. But in terms of comparing them as players, it's not fair to Welker. He's produced more and been much more durable.
Do you see Brandon Spikes getting a new contract this summer?
James, I don't at this point. Still think there is a question as to what Spikes is in terms of his fit -- is he a true three-down LB? My answer is no right now. We saw some of the concerns crop up in coverage again. Unless he was willing to accept a deal as a two-down LB (and why would he do that now?), I don't see the movement there.
so funny Mike...here in NY fans are crazy that Revis is going to be gone and Brady is signed for 5 years at "below market" money...what a differance in perspective.
Ken, I still don't understand the Revis stuff. How does that make the Jets better -- in the short- and long-term? To me, the idea is collecting talent and Revis is a player to build around. Unless you're getting multiple No. 1 picks, I'm holding on to him and absorbing the big salary.
Hey Mike. On our off-season needs as they relate to the offense. Our O was hand-cuffed in the Ravens game, and it was the reason we lost the game. 14 points, not enough. Same can be said in varying degrees about all our recent playoff exits. Gronk wasn't in that game. Gronk was hurt in last season's loss. If Welker can't carry the load if Gronk goes down, he's not worth big money. He's just not. We need a WR that can attack a different part of the field and win one on one battles. Hate to be a broken record, but while Welker is good at what he does, what he does is not what this offense needs as currently composed.
Understand what you are saying, Dominic, and I agree with it from the economic perspective. You set your value on Welker with that in mind. That said, I still want him on the team if the financial numbers work for both sides. I think the idea that you subtract Welker and add an outside threat and get better is tough for me to adopt. Welker is a game-changer in a different form. Maybe my favorite Welker moment was the 2009 game against the Panthers at Gillette. The team was flat. Gillette was quiet. And it was Welker who made a couple of big catches, getting lit up in the process, and igniting everyone. We talk about game-changers, and to me, that's an example of how Welker is a game-changer. He brings life to his team, and in that case, to the stadium. Patriots went on to win that day, 20-10. Lackluster game in which Welker was the spark. How many times have we seen that?
What are the chances of a one year deal with the Eagles Namdi A. I feel like if he was given another chance as a possible 2nd cb to Talib that could be a scary force.;
Ryan, would fully endorse that. Think Asomugha would be great here. Spent a little time with him in '09 on a visit to the Raiders facility. Really came away impressed with him from an off-field perspective based on that limited interaction.
Interesting on your take with the Spikes contract situation. Although I proudly wear a Spikes jersey, I recently hedged my bets and bought a Hightower jersey. Is Brandon falling into the trade bait category?
I like what Spikes brings to the team and think he still has value, Drew. The question/answer was more in response to contract extension. I just think more information is needed before you can get the proper value there, unless Spikes is willing to undersell himself.
Do you think this is the off season in which the Patriots re-boot the receiving corps? much like the last few years where they targeted TE (Gronk/Hernandez) and RB (Ridley/Vereen). How much do you think this is linked to the re-signing of Welker? If they don't re-sign him, do they target a top free agent WR? thanks
Mike, let's end on this one. I do envision some new blood for the Patriots at WR, but I'd be surprised if they're in the big-money area at the position. A few names that come to mind as possibilities from this amateur scouting view -- David Nelson (Bills), Mohamed Massaquoi (Browns), Brandon Gibson (Rams) and Ramses Barden (Giants). Part of the thought process there is some bigger targets with the red zone in mind.
Thanks to everyone for the questions. Great stuff and overflowing inbox. I'm not even coming close to getting all of them. I'm going to plan to answer a few more on our Patriots blog over the next few days. Thanks for the passion and interest.