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April 18, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

  (11:59 AM)

Good afternoon and welcome to today's chat. We'll get started in a few.

  (12:04 PM)

We'll have this chat and then next week's before the NFL Draft. Exciting that this event we've dissected, analyzed, talked about for so long is closing in. My most intriguing storyline is that the Patriots look like they will take a WR, and given their shaky history drafting and developing, I'm intrigued to see how it unfolds. Of their 30 pre-draft visits at Gillette, about 8 of them have been WRs. I read into that.

  (12:05 PM)

And we also have the NFL's schedule release tonight (8 p.m. ET). That is also exciting. I like the idea of planning the fall and looking at some of the things that can make a schedule tough (e.g. short weeks, prime time etc.). What will be the best opener? That was a topic I touched on in a blog entry now on

  (12:06 PM)

  (12:06 PM)

Finally, you'll read some tweets, blogs etc. with reaction from special teams captain Matthew Slater and defensive end Rob Ninkovich today. They are scheduled to speak with reporters at Gillette and Mike Rodak is covering that for us on We'll have director of player personnel Nick Caserio's news conference on Friday (12 p.m. ET).

  (12:07 PM)

So those are some of the thoughts from here. What's on your mind? We'll go until about 1 p.m. ET today.

Mike, Tampa florida [via mobile]

Hey mike, First off- God Bless Boston!! Second- I have to ask, Aaron Hernandez worked out with Brady nobody talked about an injury. Then, he has Shoulder surgery! Did it happen during working out with Brady in California or was this a lingering problem? And Fells Shin surgery,was that from last year as well? Injured TEs galore! :(

  (12:10 PM)

Thanks Mike. Tough week. Born here. Lived here all my life. Big part of who I am and who I want to be. Don't think we want to do too much on that in this space, which we've treated as a diversion for others. ... On Hernandez, don't think he ever worked out with Brady. Was just out in California rehabbing/training. Thus, shoulder injury not a result of any work with Brady.

Alec T. (Lehigh, PA) [via mobile]

Do you think the Patriots still have a chance to sign John Abraham? He'll probably be more beneficial than any other rookie they could select and it would allow them to focus on other areas in the draft.

  (12:12 PM)

Alec, I do think the Patriots still have a chance to sign Abraham. My read on that situation is that Abraham is looking for more than teams are offering, and if his price comes down, it has a chance. Also, a veteran like that might not be as inclined to join a team now and go through the offseason (even training camp). So he's not in a rush.

Troy/Indianapolis [via mobile]

Hey Mike, What other moves do think NE will make in what's left of free agentcy or in the draft that will be SB winning moves or do you think those players have already being taken?

  (12:14 PM)

Troy, we just touched on Abraham. I think a player like that is still possible. But other than that, any other moves would likely be depth-based at this point. Maybe a Deion Branch or Donte' Stallworth. I don't think you're looking at too many starter-types (if any) at this juncture. As for the draft, WR, DB, DL, OL are the areas I could see them hitting early.

Ryder John (Goffstown, NH)

Several draft experts have now identified Defensive End as one of the Patriots top needs. We also know that the Pats brought in Freeny and Abraham for visits. It has been a common theme this offseason that the Pats must improve their pass rush to bring the defense to that next level. My question is: are these themes a negative statement on Rob Ninkovich? I understand pass rush comes from other places such as interior linemen and blitz packages, but I feel that this has been addressed through Kelly/Armstead and Wilson/Hightower respectively. I don't think it's Chandler Jones that people are looking to upgrade or replace, so that leaves Ninkovich. If they do sign Abraham or draft a pass rusher, where does Ninkovich play in passing situations? He could be the answer at coverage linebacker as we stated before, but he is too valuable take off the field in sub packages in my opinion. Thoughts? Thanks.

  (12:16 PM)

Good stuff here. Ninkovich has some versatility that can be tapped, but I think you still want him rushing most of the time. And you're right on Jones. So any DE, in my view, would be at the No. 3-4-5 levels of the depth chart, a player who factors in sub (57 percent of the snaps last year) and could fill-in in the event of injury. I'm not as bullish on DE as a need. I'd like to see what development we see from Justin Francis and Jake Bequette, first and foremost. Jermaine Cunningham is also in the mix as well.

EJ - Los Angeles [via mobile]

Hey man! Since I moved from Boston to LA I look forward to these chats to keep me updated on the not so main stream Pats news, so thank you. My question is, why did BB bring in running backs for pre draft visits? This seems like a position that already has great, young talent. Since each team is only allowed 30 per draft day visits, isn't it a waste seeing Eddie Lacy and Spencer Ware?

  (12:19 PM)

I like this one, EJ. The information that a team gains on a pre-draft visit can be valuable in many forms -- in the future, if you're facing the player as an opponent, medical etc. You want to be as thorough as possible. It would be a shock to me if they draft Lacy, but that doesn't mean the information isn't valuable (it could tip you off to an opponent's intentions). On Ware, I wouldn't be surprised if they drafted him. He seems like their type of back. I look at Ridley, Vereen and Washington as locks. Bolden still has something to prove after his suspension (can he earn the trust of the coaching staff?). So there is a potential opening there for a draft pick, but I'd think middle rounds at earliest.

Dave (Langley AFB)

Hey Mike, Thanks for all the work you and the team at ESPNBoston do to keep us current on what's going on with the Patriots. I think the Patriots are missing an opportunity on another RFA receiver. Danario Alexander seemed to come on strong the 2nd half of last year and he is an original round tender as an undrafted rookie free agent. He wouldn't be expensive, wouldn't cost a draft pick and seems to have some potential. Do you have any thought on why the Patriots haven't made an attempt to sign him?

  (12:20 PM)

Dave, I've noticed this topic coming up in various places (chats, mailbag etc.). I don't have any good information on it, other than the idea that Alexander played for the Rams in 2011 when Josh McDaniels was offensive coordinator. So they have good intel. There must be something there that isn't viewed favorably based on the salary it might take to pry him away.

Frank Portland Oregon [via mobile]

Is there any chance of Waters coming back or can he sign with say the CHEIFS. And would we get any compensation.

  (12:21 PM)

I'd be surprised at that one, Frank. He is under contract to the Patriots, so he can't just come back and play for anyone. It's Patriots or no one and I don't think he wants to play here.

Todd (Michigan)

Mike,With the way the Patriots high tempo offense runs, which receiver in the draft would you figure to fit the tempo? I'm in belief the player has to be one of the hardest working guys to run a play down field and hurry back to the line. This position isn't for lolly gagging show boats!

  (12:23 PM)

Fascinated by this whole WR thing, Todd. It's my "favorite" storyline of the draft. I like Oregon State's Markus Wheaton. I could also see Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins being of interest to the Patriots, although he's not that burner on the outside. Had previously thought Tennessee's Justin Hunter might fit, but not so sure anymore.

Jon (Bangkok (via New Bedford))

Hey Mike, Great work on the offseason. Looking forward to the draft even though conventional wisdom indicates BB will trade out of the first round if possible due to the depth at NE's needs (WR, CB, DE) and dearth of picks this year. Along those lines, any chance Brian Waters gets traded to a Texas team (or close) for a 3rd round pick this year? Many teams are tight against the cap but I seem to remember his salary being relatively low. BB dealt with Jerry Jones a few years ago on draft day and Dallas's o-line is always in need of improvement. I could see Waters ending up there if he wants to play this year.

  (12:25 PM)

Thanks Jon. I'm not sure what type of condition Waters is in, and if he even wants to play. But if the Texans were willing to give up a third, I think the Patriots would do that. Last year, I think there was reluctance to trade Waters to the Texans (Waters wanted to play closer to home) because they were a top contender in the AFC. But if you're talking about a third-round pick, I think the Patriots would do that. Just not sure Houston would, and where Waters' mindset is now in terms of playing.

Pete (Vermont)

Hi Mike I realize we don't have a lot of draft picks this year but I think it is going to be a pretty interesting training camp following the 2nd year players progress, new additions, and players that were injured last season. What is the status of Marcus Forston? Is he on the roster ?

  (12:27 PM)

Forston is on the roster, Pete. I like his work ethic, from what I've seen. I remember talking with Vince Wilfork last year and he said, "He's going to help us at some point." One of the things Forston did behind the scenes last year that made an impression on some of his teammates was playing scout-team OL when they had a run of OL injuries. That's what you have to do to make yourself valuable to a team. Obviously, Forston wants to break through as a DL and I wouldn't count him out.

Nolan (Groton, CT)

Why is everyone clamoring about wide receivers? Even with Welker and Moss, the Patriots did not win the Superbowl. All three titles came on the backs of half decent receivers (2001: Brown/Patten, 2003:Brown/Branch, 2004:Givens/Branch) and most importantly, the stout NE defense. While I understand "using Brady to his fullest potential" (good receivers), I do not understand why everyone is demanding drafting one or even multiple recievers with such little draft picks. I think we need to continue to work on the D, and the rest will fall into place.

  (12:30 PM)

It's a good topic, Nolan, and I know there are others who feel the same way you do. I agree that the D needs reinforcements. My question: Why does it have to be one or the other? I think you can do both. In terms of WR, my feeling is that you want to surround Tom Brady with as much firepower as possible. I know they've won in the past without top WRs, but that doesn't mean it will happen again. And as for not winning the SB with Welker and Moss, they were as close as can be. If not for a crazy on-the-helmet catch by David Tyree, they probably would have. So that one play would change the context entirely. In summary, I don't think it's black and white. It doesn't have to defense instead of offense. It should be both. And whichever side of the ball comes first in the draft can be dictated by how the board falls.

T. (Maine)

Mike, Still amazed at the mystery surrounding Armond Armstead. Has he been made available to the media yet? Can you shed any light about him? Last I recall, we don't even know if he's 275 or 300lbs let alone what early expectations are for him. Is there a stratedgy to letting him drift back off of the radar?

  (12:32 PM)

Armstead reported for the start of the voluntary offseason program Monday, but he has not had any group media access. Still a little bit of a mystery in terms of his fit, but I'm thinking interior DL at this point, with some flex to maybe line up at end.

Frank (Tonga)

Mike - Who actually ranks the players on the Patriots draft board? What is this person's background?

  (12:33 PM)

Frank, they have an extensive process that involves scouts, coaches etc., but in the end, we know the Patriots have a very small draft room that is led by Bill Belichick. Director of player personnel Nick Caserio, director of college scouting Jon Robinson and football research director Ernie Adams are big parts of the process, too. But to answer your question, it starts and ends with BB in my view.

Dylan (San Diego) [via mobile]

Hi Mike, I believe BB will trade out of the 1st round, likely to a QB needy team. First, how likely do you see that scenario? Second, what kind of compensation is to be expected?? Thanks

  (12:37 PM)

Dylan, I was watching the news conference of Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and one of the points he made was that part of what makes this draft unique is that no one knows who is going to go in the top 10. Usually you can pencil in the top 4 or 5 because it often includes a QB, but not necessarily the case this year. So even teams are guessing right now. Telesco, whose team picks 11th, joked that he hopes 5 QBs go in the top 10 (he is set with Rivers) because it would push a non-QB to his spot. So I can't really answer the question with authority. My one hunch is that the Bills could surprise by taking Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib as high as 8. If that happened, it might lead to QB-needy teams jumping up a bit higher than 29. If the Patriots do have a suitor, I think you look for a 2 or 3 this year and a 1 next year.

BoomBoom (Financial District)

Mike to leapfrog onto Nolan's comments, I totally agree with him about the need for WR and I'd be totally surprised if WR is their first pick unless they totally love a guy (Robert Woods, Keenan Allen or DeAndre Hopkins would be the only 3 I can see). But due to BB's comments about how hard it is to evaluate receivers at the collegiate level, do you think many of our fans will be disappointed because we don't select a WR with one of our top 2 or 3 draft picks? Just to add to that too, there are plenty of WRs who have been drafted in the later rounds that have worked out in the NFL. Is defense going to be the key again?

  (12:39 PM)

Thanks for chiming in, BoomBoom. We could look at several examples of WRs who have emerged as later-round picks, but the deeper you go into the draft, the lower the likelihood is of landing a No. 1/2 type. To me, that's what you're looking for if you're the Patriots. Agree on the defense, but also think they need to come out of this draft with a WR. Otherwise, they aren't maximizing their best asset (Brady).

Ernie (SoCal)

Mike,Being from the LA area I got to see alot of Robert Woods from SC. I'd be excited if the Patriots were to draft this kid. He's got great hands and can play inside and outside. Do you even think BB would take a shot at WR in round 1?

  (12:41 PM)

Ernie, I do think they could take a WR in the first round. They never have in BB's tenure, but I don't think there is a hard and fast rule against it. In fact, I remember in 2006 that BB said Chad Jackson was a consideration in the first round that year (they took Laurence Maroney instead, were surprised Jackson was still available, and traded up for him in the second).

  (12:42 PM)

Not a draft BB can look back fondly on, but the point is that I don't think they are against a WR in round 1. Look at how it worked for Denver with Demaryius Thomas. Pretty solid.

The Earl of Mangwich (Planet Earth)

Mike, why all the focus on edge rushers when it comes to defensive pressure? There are other ways to create pressure: inside rush, strong coverage in DB or mid LB to prolong the plays, etc. What are the best options in FA/draft at this point to improve defensive pressure, or do the Pats feel that inherent depth is enough (with the additional experience gained)?

  (12:44 PM)

This is a good point that is easy to overlook. I think Tommy Kelly will help, and I think Aqib Talib's return is probably the biggest key. He opened up a lot of possibilities for the defense last year. Outside of Abraham, I think we're looking at mostly depth-based additions at this point.

zac (Boonville, IN)

hey mike, I was wondering if you think the patriots would even draft tavon austin if he was there in front of them with their first round pick? I honestly think they would pass on him (ugh I would not like that) and do you think cunningham even makes the roster this year? shown good flashes but cant finish a season for the life of him.

  (12:47 PM)

Zac, Austin almost assuredly won't be there at 29. If he was, I think they'd probably pass based on the thinking that they are looking for more versatile WRs who factor on the outside as well as the inside (I think Austin is mostly an inside guy). On Jermaine Cunningham, he really let the team down last year with the suspension. Has to win back the trust of his teammates and coaches. At this point, I'd put him on the bubble depending on the development of second-year players like Justin Francis and Jake Bequette.

nathan (northampton, ma)

Hey mike, what was our offense ranked the year reche caldwell was our no. 1 receiver? It seems ever since Moss left all we ever hear on chat boards is the hope of getting another receiver who can stretch the field, but our offense is typically in the top three every year? I understand that we lose some tough games in the playoffs, but that is more a result of our defense not being up to par. Both Super Bowl losses the offense put the team in a position to win without the major contributions of a no.1 outside receiver. If I were drafting I'd focus on defensive line and even offensive line to give the team a mean streak. This is where football starts and ends. Thoughts?

  (12:50 PM)

Nathan, I understand the viewpoint and agree with the idea that toughness up front is a great place to start with building a winning football team. So if the Patriots draft a DL or OL with the top pick, no shocker there. But I also think there is something about the WR that is being overlooked by many who don't view it as a need. Let's go back to the 2009 Bill Belichick documentary; remember when they showed footage of him in the coaches' meeting saying that the offense was too easy to defend? Put a safety over Moss, take that away, and bracket Welker, and we're toast. It wasn't rocket science. You and I could have figured that one out. You want to make yourself tougher to defend, and right now, they are lacking one top WR IMO. It doesn't mean they couldn't win it all without it. But it would be harder than it has to be if they don't from this view.

Steve (Southbury)

Time to get out your crystal ball for the draft Mike. We know Belichick prefers to stick to his draft board, but is he in a secure position to do that this year? Can he afford to come away from the draft without a WR?

  (12:52 PM)

Steve, I think they'd still be a contender. But I also think there would be disappointment because what is currently on the roster doesn't seem to be enough. Receiver is a tough position to trade for midseason because of how complex a system is to learn (that's why the Branch trade was so key as he had prior knowledge). So I really think the best chance to find a 1 or 2 at the position is right now in the draft (nothing out there at the Nos. 1-2 level in free agency). That's why I'm intrigued.

  (12:53 PM)

That might sound like I'm straddling the fence, so let me straighten it out. I think they could still win it all. But they'd be making life a lot harder on themselves than it had to be.

Pat (Pennsylvania)

I know this sounds crazy, but I'm predicting the Patriots draft TE Tyler Eifert in the first round. It looks like he might be available at 29. Health concerns surround both Gronk and Hernandez and we know the Pats value the TE position enough to use a first round pick on the position. Eifert seems to be ranked above other TEs in the draft, and the same cannot be said for any of the WRs still likely to be available when the Pats are on the board. Doesn't it seem like a typical Belichick move?

  (12:54 PM)

Pat, I'd be surprised at that one. Let's revisit it in two weeks. If it comes to fruition, I'll buy you lunch if you're interested.

Vinicius (France)

Do you think with Sanders staying in Pitt the Patriots would take Justin Hunter in the 1st round? He has amazing upside and could be a huge presence in our offense

  (12:55 PM)

I had Hunter on my short list but a report today out of Milwaukee, which pointed out a low Wonderlic score, has me hitting the pause button. I'm not sure that's fair. Just need some time to process it.

Chris (Tenn)

How could their offense be easy to defend? its not like they scores zero points in the last half of the playoff game.....oh wait

  (12:55 PM)

Oh, Chris.

Ralph (Boston, MA)

Good afternoon Mike. I'm intrigued by Margus Hunt, but at 26 yo, would the Pats draft him in the 1st round. I think he could be a stud in the interior with Vince, pushing the pocket and batting down balls with that huge wingspan. Are you hearing anything about him and where he could go in the draft?

  (12:57 PM)

I'd be surprised if they took him in the first round, Ralph. The age is the big concern. You get through the rookie contract and you're 30 or 31. I think that drops him down at least a round in the eyes of the Patriots. The Patriots did well with an older pick in Nick Kaczur back in 2005 but that was the third round. Would be surprised if they go Hunt-ing in the first this year.

Soledad (Phoenixville, PA)

Any chance the patriots sign my favorite player, Victor Cruz to an offer sheet? Will BB go with highest player on his draft board instead of drafting a WR in first round?

  (12:58 PM)

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm 99.9 percent sure that won't be happening. Too much to give up.

Chip (Denver)

Will you buy me lunch if they trade up for Austin?

  (12:58 PM)

Yup :)

  (12:58 PM)

Who else wants lunch?

Jon (Greensoboro, NC)

Hey Mike, Do you think at the 29th pick a WR like Hunter, Woods or Hopkins would play more snaps than a DE they draft a like Datone Jones. It seems like Belicheck would put more value into who will be an imediate impact more and that might be a pass rusher.

  (12:59 PM)

He's pretty good at balancing the short- and long-term view (e.g. OT Nate Solder in 2011 over a player like DL Cameron Jordan at No. 17, even though Jordan could have projected as a more immediate contributor). I don't think that would be a major factor for BB, the short-term view.

Dan (Leominster)

Mike, Thoughts and prayers for all the victims (physically and emotionally) on Monday. Our lives are changed for the worse, forever, once again. What is your take on the uncertainty of both Gronk and Hernandez? Seems like we are counting on them for an awful lot of offense this year and as of this date both are questionable as far a health?

  (1:02 PM)

Right on, Dan. Concern on Gronk, but keeping it in context. Four surgeries in a span of 6-8 months isn't good. I think he will eventually be OK, but this wasn't the way it was supposed to go. On Hernandez, more routine maintenance than anything. Overall, you never like to be in these situations, especially after committing long-term deals to both. But I wouldn't panic or anything like that. This is a physical game.

Matt (Lowell, MA)

I understand that wheaton is fast but don't you think the pats would be better off with a taller WR on the outside? I can't help but feel like drafting someone like him doesn't fix any of our problems, your thoughts?

  (1:03 PM)

Matt, I think someone like Wheaton could have a Mike Wallace-type impact if develops as hoped. He might not have prototype height, but it's a combination of a lot of traits that makes it work. He has a lot of good things going for him, including speed, which can't be taught. He also has some flexibility to move inside and out, which is a key in this offense.

  (1:03 PM)

5-minute warning...

Tim C (Colorado Springs, CO)

Will you buy me lunch if BB trades out of the first round? I'll even fly back from Colorado for it!

  (1:04 PM)

I can't sign off on that one, Tim. That would be like me handing over my credit card right now.

Neal (King of Prussia, PA)

Quick question. Do the Patriots have the inside edge when Emmanuel Sanders becomes a unrestricted agent next year? After all they did help him get a $1.2 million raise from the Steelers restricted tender. Of the wide receivers on the draft board that will be available when the Patritos pick, who in your opinion is the best match to fit in the Patriots' offensive scheme talent wise?

  (1:06 PM)

Neal, we touched on the WRs earlier with Wheaton, Hopkins and possibly Hunter. Just a hunch from here on those guys. No inside info. On Sanders, that was also Scott Pioli's belief -- a player like Sanders won't forget that the Patriots got him a raise. That said, the other times the Patriots offered one-year deals in restricted free agency, the player never signed with the Patriots the next year.

Derrick (Bristol) [via mobile]

Do you really think the Pats will trade down in the first round? I know its a deep draft but if you think about it, the Pats already signed Armsted who's equal to a third or fourth round pick and Vega who is probably a seventh round talent. Instead of trading down in the first round, why not trade down in the third?

  (1:07 PM)

Derrick, if there is an interested team, and if the Patriots have a cluster of players they could live with regardless of who it is, yes I think they will trade down to accumulate more picks. Entreing with just 5 makes me think that is a strong likelihood should those factors fall into place.

munchkin (glenwood springs, co)

Mike, as a runner and someone who made the trek from Fenway to Copley to watch Bill Rogers win another marathon Monday's unfolding of events was shocking; alternately, the immediate response of many "average" citizens was life saving and exemplary of the best of humanity. Truly humbling to an outside observer.It would seem that unless there was a real issue between the coaching staff and/or Brady and Lloyd he should be back in a Pats uniform before the season starts. He wasn't what a lot of us had hoped for but he played every game and he had reasonable production. I trust the offense will score points irregardless of his presence. It may not be the best marriage but it didn't seem to be totally dysfunctional either.

  (1:09 PM)

Nice thoughts, Munchkin. I wrote this in Tuesday's mailbag; I'm not sure how the Patriots truly view Lloyd. Did they really consider bringing him back on a reduced salary? Or did they just want him gone regardless? I don't know. I had previously thought it was all related to prodcution tied to economics. Maybe I was wrong.

Paul O (Kenosha, WI)

Mike, It is generally assumed that the Patriots will trade out of the first round. However, if a very highly rated player unexpectantly falls for whatever reason do the Patriots make the pick. Or is it a foregone conclusion they move down no matter what.

  (1:10 PM)

Paul, it is not definite. Strange things happen in the draft. A good example is 2004. The Patriots never thought Vince Wilfork would be there at No. 21. He was just rated too high. So they pounced.

Anthony Powell (Boynton Beach, FL)

Mike had Chad Jackson turned out to be a stud when they traded up for him in 2006 that draft would have looked really good to me its the Chad Jackson move that makes it look so bad

  (1:13 PM)

Maroney ... Jackson ... Thomas ... Gostkowski. Not a good one, Anthony. Probably BB's worst in his tenure. The Jackson pick, in particular, seemed to be totally out of character in the sense that it seemed to almost overlooked the entire scouting process. I can't imagine the Patriots scouts were that high on Jackson based on his one-year production and other factors. It was almost as if BB trumped the process, perhaps based on his relationship with Urban Meyer. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but it's my perception of what went down that year.

Mary (Baltimore)

The analysts did not envisioned Caepernick & Wilson performing at such a high level so why are they so quick to say the QB class is lousy

  (1:13 PM)

Great point, Mary. And one I heard Bills GM Buddy Nix make the other day as well.

Andy (Hartford)

I suspect BB will be busy as usual trading both backwards and forwards, but I'm predicting the Pats end up with at least some of the following "Pats type" players: Datone Jones or Tank Carradine for DL, Robert Woods or Stedman Bailey at WR, Travis Frederick or Brian Schwenke at interior OL. Any two from that list would make me very happy. Thoughts?

  (1:14 PM)

Andy, writing it down and will add you to the lunch list if one of them comes through.

Kevin (Boston)

Y U no answer my questions?

  (1:14 PM)

There are a lot of them in there, Kevin. I try to get to as many as possible.

Steve (Winchester)

B STRONG!!!!!!

  (1:14 PM)


  (1:15 PM)

Thanks to all for chatting today. We'll do it again next Thursday. Same time. Check us out tonight for our analysis of the schedule etc.