Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat.
We'll get started in a few. The Patriots are holding a conference call with offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer at noon ET, so I'm also listening in on that. Overall, things have quieted down a bit on the team-building front. This is the way it usually goes, as we slowly turn our attention back to the draft.
A lot of clean-up type of stuff from this perspective over the last week. Got back from NFL's annual meeting on Wednesday, March 20 and have stayed on top of things while also focusing on organization/email clean-out etc. It's been a nice little step back. Curious what's on your mind today.
Hi Mike, I was wondering about the update on Ryan Mallett was. Is he potentially going to be traded? And if he isn't, what do you see for our backup quarterback at the end of 2014 if he leaves?
Jordan, when the Browns signed Jason Campbell as a free-agent this week, it is something to consider that could affect their interest in Mallett. If Mallett is to be traded, that's the team IMO. These things can always change, but I'd say it's less likely there is a trade right now. Sometimes things along these lines can pick up during the draft.
With all of this talk about Ridley, Vereen, and Washington, what about Brandon Bolden? He was good before he got suspended, especially aginst the Bills. What role will he have this year?
Good one, Derrick, because Bolden was an early-season surprise. My take on Bolden is that he has to win back the confidence of the coaching staff after his in-season suspension. Everyone is accountable for their actions and Bolden let the team down with the suspension. We saw his offensive playing time really trimmed back upon his return from suspension. This year represents a fresh slate. Let's see what he does with it. I'd project him as the top backup behind Ridley in the power back type of role, which is different than the Vereen/Washington role.
I got excited when the Patriots brought Freeney and Abraham in for a visit, but there hasn't really been any movement on either of them since then (nor by other interested teams). With Dumervil and Umenyiora agreeing to contracts it seems like these guys would be the next pass-rushers to go. Do you sense any movement happening soon, and how much are the Pats in the mix?
Alex, not sure if you saw this, but Michelle Beisner of NFL Network reported that Freeney was looking for $6 million per season. That will slow things down pretty quickly, because I'd be surprised if a team pays him at that level. I think if the market comes down to a more reasonable level, that's when we'll see some movement. As for the Patriots being in the mix, I'd say more for Abraham than Freeney.
Going into the draft the Patriots look pretty good. The O-line is intact and has depth. THe RB position is young and talented. The TEs are the NFL's best. The one thing I would love to see is WR size on the outside. A WR over 6-2. I know we have had success over the years will the small quick WRs but I think having some size at the position will really open up this offense.
I think there are plenty of other Patriots followers/media members thinking along those same lines. In studying up on the draft, Tennessee's Justin Hunter (6-4, 195) is the type of target who could fit along those lines.
The idea is to balance out the field a little bit. They have some excellent options in the middle of the field (Amendola, Hernandez, Gronkowski), but could use some help on the outside.
Mike as of this point I'd have to say I'm more than a little dissapointed in the patriots free agency movement. Although I still think we need some dline depth I'm looking for one more veteran signing for the defensive backfield. Do you see any scenario where A player like Brent Grimes comes here on a 1 yr low money deal w/ incentives or even DeAngelo Hall looking for that one year image revamping deal and considers signing with us at a reasonable (talib deal) rate? If neither of them are there any other veteran db's you see as possibilities?Thanks,Tony
Tony, I have heard others echo your thoughts. I think part of it is that the Patriots focused more heavily on retention (Talib, Vollmer, Arrington) than going out and getting others from other teams. This is often the best way to go, and then adding complementary parts in free agency. We'll see if the Patriots have done enough, but I actually view the activity as pretty solid right now. They had more to lose than gain IMO. As for the veteran CBs, I could see that. It all depends on what level contract. The team has about $13m in cap space right now, but some of that has to be kept for future flexibility/draft picks. If those CBs are willing to be here for $3m on less in terms of cap hit, sign me up. I'm just not sure they're thinking along those lines right now.
Do you really think that the Pats need to add another outside pass rusher? Jones was playing great before his injury and Ninovich is good as well. Also, with the departure of Woodhead, will Vereen see more playing time? thanks
Alex, I think a team could always use more pass rushers. I think someone like Trevor Scott coming back could be a solid move. He doesn't have the name like a Freeney or Abraham, but I sort of like what he brought last year (Dec. 2 at Miami comes to mind). Helps on special teams too. ... As for Vereen, look for his playing time numbers to increase. He was at 12.7 percent of the snaps last season. I'd expect around 33-34 percent, which is what Woodhead played last year.
Mike, any update on the Emmanuel Sanders situation?
No movement at this time, Rob. We know the deadline to draw up an offer sheet is April 19. So still some time for it to happen, but with the salary cap space at $13m, the idea of putting together an offer with a high first-year cap charge so the Steelers are reluctant to match might not be feasible.
We all want him, but do you see the Patriots actually signing John Abraham?
All depends on the price, Sean. If Abraham called up and said, "I'll sign today for $2 million on a one-year deal", I think it's done. Or something along those lines.
Do you think Darius Heyward-Bey could be a good fit for the patiots? He has had some trouble catching but he has blazing speed and at 6 foot 2 he could be the deep threat the patriots need.
Just for the speed alone, I'd think he's worth a look. But I'm not sure how the Patriots view him from a complete-package standpoint. Does he run the full route tree? How are his hands? Good locker-room guy? It's tough to answer decisively without knowing the answers to those questions. But it makes sense that they would at least explore it, right? They need to add more WRs and he's available.
Hey Mike - I'm worried about the receiving position. Even if we hit it in the first round, it's unlikely we'll see significant contributions this year. Unless we bring back Lloyd and Edelman, I think the Emmanuel Sanders pickup is a shoo-in simply because otherwise our starting wideouts are Amendola (good) and Donald Jones (not so good). I just think if we don't get a ready-to-play receiver, we could be in trouble (even with the tight-ends we have). Are you as worried as I am at this point?
George, I wouldn't be worried. Everything is an incomplete picture at this point, and there are still plenty of options available to bring aboard -- free agency and draft. It reminds me of the 2003 season. The Patriots had a big hole at nose tackle and they opened camp with Jarvis Green there, hoping he could make the transition from end to NT. It didn't work out. So they traded for Ted Washington and that was a great move that solidified the spot for a year. I thikn the point is that no team is complete right now. Let's give it some time and see what they can put together between free agency and the draft.
Mike you hurt my feelings saying the Pats could use another pass rusher. Did you forget about me? Think I can start?
Can't forget about you, Armond, even if Bill Belichick was playing a little coy last week about your potential role. You're going to be on this team. How much you produce, and what role, will be something fun to watch because of your potential and playmaking ability.
Has Lloyd generated any interest around the league? I know he was a bit of a disappointment last year, but I'd love to see him come back for reasonable money.
Jay, haven't heard anything on Lloyd. Assuming the door is still open for a return if he's interested, considering they had attempted to work out a restructured/reduced contract.
Tommy Kelly was released by the Raiders recently. Sedrick Ellis has been on the market a while. Considering the Pats need at DT, are either of these guys on their radar?
Al, I remember Bill Belichick raving about Kelly prior to the 2005 opener against the Raiders, calling him one of the best DLs in the NFL. Not sure how genuine that was, or if it was more "opponent build-up", but the words were so over the top I still remember them today. So that did come to mind when I heard that Kelly was released. Not sure regarding anything on Ellis.
Mike, is Donald Jones being overlooked? I feel he could be a solid addition to this receiving corps. He is fast, lines up anywhere (even the backfield), and runs good routes. Your thoughts?
Alex, I think the best way to approach Jones' situation is that anything you get from him is a bonus. To rely on something at this point would be risky IMO. There is a reason the Bills didn't tender him a contract as a restricted free agent. I'm not saying that means Jones won't pan out here, but more from a managing-expectations standpoint.
Even with the addition of Adrian Wilson, did Bill Belichick drop the ball on not picking up his man crush Ed Reed?
Kim, we'll soon find out, but I'll say no right now. Here's why: Ed Reed came with much more financial risk (3 years, $15 million) than Adrian Wilson (3 years, $5 million) and I like the size and physicality that Wilson brings at the position, not to mention the leadership/locker-room fit. I think he can be a good mentor for Tavon Wilson. ...
... Reed is a great player, but those who have watched him closer than I have say he's closer to the end of the road and might not have that much more to offer. We'll see how accurate that is. Let's circle back on this and hold me accountable on this one. I know local sports talk show host Michael Felger has been beating this drum. He could be right. Then again, he could be wrong, sort of like how he was saying for 3 years that the Patriots should be more like the Jets in building their team.
Ouch. Did my fingers really type that?
Couldn't resist. Just having some fun. Michael does a great job; I just think I might start making a list of things he says so someone holds him a little bit accountable.
Hey Mike! In War Room and Patriot Reign (which I thought was the better book by far), Holley explains BB's creation of a scouting system that grades prospects so they are compared with current NFL players and college peers. Have you ever received any info on how this system has been so off for WRs and DBs? It would seem like something needs to change, nd given BB's driver and perfectionism, he would institute those changes. Thoughts?Thank you,Shimon
Shimon, I don't think the misses have been tied specifically to comparisons between prospects and current players. That's just once slice of the evaluation process. On the WRs, this is something that has been talked about for some time now. BB was asked about it last week. Here is a snippet of his answer:
"I think the college passing game is a lot different than the pro passing game -- it involves pass protection, pass rush, pass execution and pass defense. We all look at the same film. We're all trying to evaluate the same players. But it's a lot easier to watch a guy in the NFL perform and translate his skills for your team than watch a guy in college perform because of the discrepancy in the passing game. It's nobody's fault. That's just the way it is."
That answer might help explain why the Patriots would consider signing Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet instead of drafting a receiver. They might have more comfort level going that route.
Any word on Edelman. I have not heard a thing about him for weeks.
Still on the market, Mark. I've made some calls on his situation, and don't quite know the holdup. I'm assuming it's related to the foot injury that landed him on injured reserve in December. He's too dynamic of a threat as a punt returner to not be signed at this point. My guess is that he'll be back. Just a guess.
Hi Mike, Seeing how pass rusher is a key to upgrading the defense. Could you see the Pats bringing back Richard Seymour?
I'd be surprised at that Doug. Don't think that one ended too well here.
Mike, when you mention how the Pats put a $ value on a player and won't budge from that, is it BB assigning these values or is it Kraft?
AJ, the cash-flow budget is ownership-related while the football-related values would be set by Belichick. That's part of what makes Belichick so good at what he does. He generally has great "product knowledge" and combines that with the economic side.
Hi Mike, I remember that you said earlier in 2012, when Jermaine Cunningham was rushing from the inside the Patriots where using something similar to a NASCAR package. With Armstead, do you think they'll go to a full NASCAR package with C.Jones, Armstead, Cunningham and Ninkovich (or veteran pass rusher).
Steve, we saw something similar from them at times last season. I certainly think that is something to consider going forward. It doesn't have to be an all-the-time thing, but it makes sense to think it would be part of the plan.
Hi Mike, do you think the lack of draft picks is holding a Sanders deal back? It seems like it must hurt to give up 25% of their picks....
I'm sure that's part of the consideration, Michael. But at the end of the day, if you like the player, and think it represents good value based on what you might do with that pick otherwise, I don't think you ultimately hesitate from making that move.
Hey Mike, you still draft down and take McCourty over Bryant in 2010? Although some headaches do come with him, I'm thinking the latter makes a much bigger difference to winning ball games.
Looking back, Jon, I can't fault the Patriots' decision-making there. One thing I've learned about the Patriots' approach over the years is that the first-round pick has to represent the values of the overall program because he's the leader of that entire group of rookies. McCourty embodies what BB wants in his program. Bryant, I don't see that same dynamic.
Mike, my gut tells me Julian Edelman comes back after he can pass a physical. Did you see his tweets yesterday about working out with New Patriot Will Svitek?
I did see that, Bill. I didn't know Svitek had a Twitter account, so I started to follow him after that. I'm not sure how much to read into that tweet from Edelman, but it makes sense to me that he'll be back in NE.
Can you give an idea of what we'll see at the Pre-Draft Party next weekend? Mostly Patriots talk?
Sean, for those who don't know, this is the ESPN SportsCenter draft party for Patriots season-ticket holders. You'll see Trey Wingo, Tedy Bruschi, Trevor Matich on stage talking all things Patriots and draft. The idea is to hopefully help season-ticket holders become more informed on the draft and the team. It's a lot of fun from this perspective. Any time you can be in the presence of Tedy Bruschi, there is usually a lot of passion, energy and football knowledge involved.
Hey Mike, do you think the Pats will stock up on FBs again this offseason? What role do you think a solid FB would have on the team?
John, they reinstated Tony Fiammetta to the roster, so that's a start. I think he'll have a chance to make the roster, but here's the point we have to consider (in the words of Bill Belichick): The FB position is really tied to the tight end and linebacker spots as well, as it relates to special teams. So if the FB wins that competition, maybe they can do some more things with him in the traditional role. But if not, we saw TE Michael Hoomanawanui do some of that last year.
Can you talk about how much cap space we need to sign draft picks?
Gabe, right now, only the top 51 players count against the cap. And another thing to keep in mind is that the draft picks don't count against the cap until they actually sign. Rookie free agents would count immediately. I'd budget around $3-4m for future planning, but that's just throwing a few darts. I'd want to look a little closer at the numbers, so don't hold me to it.
Lots of talk about the depth of this draft in various opinions. Do the Pats try to project future draft depth when trading picks for guys like Ocho and Haynesworth. I know its an inexact science but they seemed to have misplayed the strategy not only on those players traded for but the loss of buying power in a deep draft.
I don't think so, Steve, because it's so hard to know about the underclassmen who will ultimately become eligible. This year's holes are probably easier for them to accept based on drafting 33 players over the last 3 years. They probably looked at it and said, "Some of these late-round picks aren't even making our team all the time, so we can be a little more liberal here."
Just wondering on Tom Condon and how he will affect any chance Lloyd has of resigning with the Patriots (at a reduced rate, ofcourse).
I don't see it as a factor, Sid. Let's just say Lloyd is open to coming back, and there are no other offers for him, I don't see Condon holding him back. It's worth noting that Sebastian Vollmer's agency, CAA, is the one that Condon is part of. That Vollmer deal was creatively put together in a way that met both sides' needs. I thought it was a good example of two sides working together to produce an agreement that worked for everyone. I'm thinking the Condon angle might be a bit overstated at this point.
Mike, do you think that the Pats might be OK with fewer draft picks this year? I mean, I'm guessing they'd prefer to have a few more than now, but given all the investment in picks made over the last 2-3 years, it'd be tough to make 7, 8, 9 picks and have even half make the team, wouldn't it? Thanks...
I think that's the point I was trying to make there, Matt. There is an ebb and flow to building a team and you can sort of see it when looking at the draft picks made by year in the Bill Belichick era ...
2012: 7 ... 2011: 9 ... 2010: 12 ... 2009: 12 ... 2008: 7 ... 2007: 9 ... 2006: 10 ... 2005: 7 ... 2004: 8 ... 2003: 10 ... 2002: 6 ... 2001:10 ... 2000: 10
So let me fix an error from before. They made 33 picks from 2009-2011. That's why I think we're seeing a dip in 2012 (seven picks) and this year (currently own five picks). A team can't keep the numbers that low on a consistent basis; otherwise it hurts your depth (e.g. Jets).
Hey Mike, I'm wondering how much stock you put in Kraft's statements after the Welker signing with Denver? I always remember BB talking about how many players the Pats have parted with over the years that have come back to haunt them. Better to lose a player a year early vs a year too late.
Ross, I think Kraft's comments were based in frustration. They wanted Welker and felt they offered him a fair deal. When it was rejected, the assumption was that he must have a better deal elsewhere (with a $15 million signing bonus, as that's what was being asked for) because Welker and his reps had the three-day legal tampering period to get those offers. So when the Patriots saw Welker's deal with Denver, it was frustrating to them because it wasn't close to what his reps had been asking for over a two-year span. I think that's what I took from Kraft's remarks.
I know a lot of people are tired of the Welker angle. I'd just conclude with this: The Patriots can be tough negotiators. They often leave emotion out of it. They can hold a hard line. All that said, in this case, I think they were ready to consummate a deal if the other side was more reasonable.
Let's get away from that...We'll go for another 5.
Mike, Love what the Pats did a few years back by doubling up on the tight ends. Can you see a scenario where they would do the same at the wide receiver position this year. Love to see them count of this draft with a large receiver like Hunter, Hopkins or Dobson from the first round followed up by a Steadman Bailey or Markus Wheaton in Round 3. I think this is the better scenario long term and will allow future drafts to be defense based in future years. Thanks Mike
Dan, a couple chatters asked the same question. I could see it, but let's be honest, it's a lot of guesswork at this point. When free agency started, I remember writing something along the lines of an overhaul at the position with a double-layered approach between free agency and the draft. I think most would agree that they aren't yet done addressing the position, so I'd go along with the thought they could add multiple pieces there if the fit is right. In 2010, I don't think they went into the draft saying, "let's add two TEs." Or in 2011, I don't think they went in to the draft saying, "let's add two RBs." But the way the draft unfolded, and the way their board was stacked, those turned out to be the best picks. If that's the way it goes this year, I don't think they'll hesitate.
Hi Mike, do you see Andre Holmes or Kamar Aiken getting any playing time?
Jrue, I'd say that's a longshot for Holmes and Aiken. They could earn it, but to count on that now seems too risky.
Do the Pats have faith in Mallet as a long term replacement for Tom (When that happens)? If not, when do we make a move for that?
Dan, based on what we've seen to this point, I don't have that faith from a long-term perspective. That could always change and apparently the staff is really high on Mallett. I'll be honest -- I haven't seen it. But it does come with a cautious tale from 2008 when I learned a good lesson on judging too quickly with the quarterback position. I remember writing in preseason that the Patriots were cooked if they had to turn to Matt Cassel after one of Cassel's shaky performances. Well, we know how that one turned out. Not my finest hour. 11-5. I ended up apologizing to Cassel. Pretty poor on my part.
The thing I take from that experience is that the coaching staff is strong here, they have a lot of talented players around the quarterback, so that if they did have to make a change at QB, they might be able to adapt things to make it work.
Will we ever see Jeff Demps in a regular season game?
Mike, this recent development with Demps puts a lot of uncertainty around his situation. As I was reminded by one of the chatters on this forum, Shimon, one of the things that the Patriots have long said is that "football has to be one of the most important things to a player" for him to fit with the Patriots. I don't get that sense from Demps. That doesn't mean it can't work out, but if I had to forecast right now, I think we'd be looking at Demps landing on a reserve list. After that, anything is possible, I guess. But what seemed like a promising addition last year now looks a lot less certain/clear.
Hey Mike, Lets end on this one.... Happy Easter everyone!
It's a good one, Hurtle, but let's keep going for a few more...
Mike,I'm usually pretty rough on the guys who cover the Pats (as you've probably noticed from some of my previous mail bag/chat questions/takes) thinking they are in the bag for the team but I really enjoyed you defending that notion on Felger
It was fun to mix it up a bit, Rob. I just don't understand the notion of "being in the bag for the team." What does that mean? I take it to mean that you write favorable things about them in exchange for information/access, and if that's what they are saying, it's ridiculous. Nothing is more important than our integrity in this position. The way I approach it is that I try to be as fair as possible, representing all sides, because that's the way I'd feel I'd want it done if I was on the other side of the exchange. Now, after that process is complete and the facts as I know them are laid out, I might opine on what I think unfolded or why it happened. That can be sometimes a little blurry lines to cross. ...
... But overall, if you base your work on fairness and trying to get all sides of the story, that to me is being in the bag for the truth. That's where I try to stand.
Whats going on with Ras I Dowling? Does he have one more year to prove himself in New England? Thanks Mike!
Jordan, I'd draw the parallel to Terrence Wheatley in 2010. That was Wheatley's third season with the team after being drafted in the 2008 second round. It was a prove-it year for him after a few injury-filled seasons. I think Dowling is in the same boat, entering his third year with the team.
Mike, What have you heard on the status of Jake Ballard? Do you think he can be a big contributor this season?
I think so, Josh. His rehab seemed to be on a positive course when the season ended. I think the coaching staff is anxious to see how he fits.
Can we put the Larry Fitzgerald to New England draft day trade idea to bed for certain? The Cardinals will not trade him. Right? Right?
Correct, Mike. I'd be shocked if the Cardinals traded Fitzgerald.
Hey Mike, does the announcement that the Ravens will start the season away mean the Patriots are out of consideration as an opponent?
Spencer, the Patriots' game against the Ravens is locked in to be played at Baltimore.
Mike,Can you explain playing time bonuses? Is this something the team can manipulate? What happens if you're on the active roster and available, but say Cannon takes a couple series away from Vollmer?
Absolutely, Dan. When a player gets an incentive for number of snaps played, that is sometimes dictated by a coach's decision. I have heard from agents who had lamented some of those decisions in recent years because it's cost their clients the chance to reach certain playing time bonuses.
Hey Mike, I can't see Belichick doing anything with his first round draft pick this year other than trading down for a second rounder this year and a future first rounder. I was wondering what positions and players he might target in the second round with multiple picks, knowing how much BB values his second round picks.
Ben, if BB could pull that off -- trading a 2013 first-rounder for a 2013 second-rounder and 2014 first-rounder -- that would be a good move IMO. As for the second-round picks, I'd think WR, DL, OL and CB are the ones that stand out to me if opportunity matches up with need.
Hey Mike, I know there was talks with Pats looking for help for big Vince in the middle. What about Sione Pouha?
Donte, the one thing about a move like that is that I would think it comes more after the draft, if the team hasn't selected a DL.
Mike what do you think about my fellow Brockton Boxer football player Jason Vega coming out of CFL?
Always like the local feel-good stories, Brian. Will be pulling for him to make the roster. Always hope for good things for the underdog.
are the Pats going to add anymore big name free agents?
Let's end on this one, Kevin. This morning, we posted a snapshot of the Patriots' salary cap space (about $13 million) and when factoring in that some of that has to be budgeted for future flexibility/draft picks, I'd think any signings will be in the low to moderate range monetarily. Sometimes a big-name player will agree to that. Overall, I sense that is the dynamic in play right now for the team in terms of future signings.
Thanks to all for chatting. It's a fun part of the Thursday routine. Look forward to doing it again next week, but I might have to alter the time. Should we go earlier (10 a.m. ET) or later (3 p.m. ET)? I'll take your feedback and then decide from there based on the majority.