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February 20, 11:00 AM ET
Chat with Mike Reiss

Mike
  (10:56 AM)

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

Mike
  (10:59 AM)

Continuing to go through each team in the NFL as part of an offseason study that focuses on team needs, team-building philosophies and poewr structure. Takes some time but feel like I am picking up valuable insight and helps add context to things with the Patriots. Also working on draft preparation and feel like every day I gain a little more of a feel on the prospects and overall draft class. One example ...

Mike
  (11:01 AM)

... If the Patriots are serious about addressing TE in this draft, it's good context to know that after the top four (Ebron, Amaro, Seferian-Jenkins, Niklas), there is a fairly steep drop in terms of draft grades. So if you're the Patriots -- is 29 too rich for a TE, but if you wait, will one be there at the end of the second round? Those are some of the fun dynamics to me in studying a draft. ...

Mike
  (11:02 AM)

... The NFL Combine is ongoing in Indianapolis. Lots to talk about. Curious what's on your mind.

Rob from stoughton [via mobile]

Mike - with not much else going on it comes as no surprise that much of the chatter surrounding the team would be how it plans to attack free agency and the draft. I look at the pieces coming back in wilfork, mayo, kelly, vollmer, gronk and take into consideration all the rookie/second year players having another complete season under their belt and think there's no reason we won't be right back at the top of the league next year. My question to you is this. I haven't heard much if anything about Armand Armstead and Adrian Wilson. Those are two potential impact guys we didn't even get to see on the field this year. What kept them off for the entire year, and will they be able to contribute to the team in anyway this upcoming season? - Thanks

Mike
  (11:05 AM)

All right, Rob. You lead us off today. Armond Armstead is indeed still on the roster and was viewed as a top-3 defensive tackle by coach Bill Belichick entering 2013 before surgery for an infection derailed his entire season. So expect him to be a big part of the mix in 2014. As for Adrian Wilson, I didn't think he was going to make the '13 team, so I wouldn't project big things for him in '14. I wouldn't be surprised if he is released to create salary cap space.

Matt (CA)

Hi Mike, Any comments from teams on picks being more valuable than usual this year due to the deep draft? e.g. Any chance of a 1 for 2-3-4-7 type of swap again this year, or do teams value those mid-round picks even more in this type of year?

Mike
  (11:07 AM)

Matt, I think it will depend on each individual team and where they are in their team-building process. For example, Titans GM Ruston Webster talked this morning at the combine about some of the "pressure" in drafting a player who might take 2-3 years to develop, because that player might ultimately be playing for a new head coach/GM if the results don't improve in a more immediate timeframe. So some teams need to go for it, because jobs are on the line. Others will practice patience. No uniform answer here.

sportzznut (Cape Cod, MA)

Hi Mike! For the most part, I'm a believer in Bill Belichick's method of drafting for "value' and often felt it was best to trade down out of the 1st round to accumulate more picks in current or subsequent drafts. What I don't understand is his lack of aggressivness when it comes to his defensive style of play. All one has to do is view the defenses from SF and Seattle and juxtapose that tp the Patriots and see a huge difference in philosphy and types of players. Will he ever go in that direction or is he content to remain a "bend-but-don't-break" defense? Thanks!

Mike
  (11:10 AM)

I think Belichick would contest the idea the defense is "bend but don't break", and I also think we need to be careful about labeling the Seahawks as a high pressure defense (they are really more of a defense that can get pressure with the standard four rushers and doesn't blitz too often). All that said, I understand your point and agree with parts of it. I've said in recent weeks that I have questions about the defensive approach and am still learning more about it. Until I feel like I understand it better (it takes time), I'll just dip my toe in those waters for now.

Mike
  (11:12 AM)

My thoughts are rooted in the belief that disrupting opposing quarterbacks seems more important than ever before and it's an area the Patriots seem to struggle with on a more consistent basis than other teams. I want to know why. I think the personnel is solid, which leads me to scheme questions.

Mike
  (11:12 AM)

As we know, one thing that helps the rush is good coverage. In turn, one thing that helps coverage is good rush. How do you marry those up in your scheme? That's really what we're talking about here.

Ryan (Auburn) [via mobile]

Do you see the Pats drafting a quarterback at all this year? And if so, who are some of the possible picks?

Mike
  (11:16 AM)

Ryan, I do think a QB is a reasonable expectation this year for the Patriots. Ryan Mallett enters the final year of his contract and the idea of grooming another backup for 2015 is smart business, especially if you can get a one year head start on the process (similar to 2011 when they picked Mallett). LSU's Zach Mettenberger (middle rounds) and Pitt's Tom Savage (mid-to-late rounds) are two who come to mind as bigger guys who might have the hand size and overall skills that could appeal to the Patriots.

MarkJ (Japan)

Mike, I am curuious to hear what Jason Licht, the rookie Bucs GM, would say at the Combine. Is there anything that how he and Bucs drafts affects the strategy of Patriots?

Mike
  (11:17 AM)

MarkJ, there might be some traits of players that we see some linkage, but I think the main thing will be what schemes head coach Lovie Smith runs. Traditionally, it's been quite different than what the Patriots do on defense. So probably not a team where if you're the Patriots, you're worried about too many "direct hits" on your draft board.

corky NPR Florida [via mobile]

Mike I still have not picked up my yearly draft guide yet so way behind in educating myself on the college kids. I am more worried about loosing the two best playmakers on both sides of ball. Please talk me off the cliff and give me some good news about signing our own guys....

Mike
  (11:18 AM)

Corky, this time of year is all about projecting the market and I think they'll be able to keep one of the two if things head the way I think they will. My guess would be Talib will be their priority. I just think Edelman will be able to command more on the market than the team is comfortable absorbing given other needs and their cap managamement.

Mike
  (11:19 AM)

If I had to project, I don't think the money will be a huge sticking point with Talib. I think it will be more about how the bonus/guaranteed money is paid out (all at once or on a per-game basis?).

Joey east Windsor NJ [via mobile]

Hi mike, if the pats sign Talib to a long term deal and make their cap cuts I.E Soapoga, Wilson etc... How much cap do you project them having and do you think it's enough to go after a big name reciver like nicks or decker? Thanks

Mike
  (11:20 AM)

Joey, they can do that if they want, but I think it would be out of character and wouldn't project it to happen. I don't see them paying big money to Nicks or Decker. On Decker, that Super Bowl performance would give me caution from paying him big money.

Dan (Worcester, MA)

What is your honest assessment of the offense going forward? They've gone back and forth from multiple WR sets, 2 tight ends, to power running game. With the personel they have, what is in their best interest going forward? Thanks!

Mike
  (11:23 AM)

Dan, I think the two top issues are interior offnesive line and tight end. I believe the WRs will ultimately be OK. Expecting big second-year jump from Dobson, as we've seen from Marvin Jones (Cincinnati), Randall Cobb (Green Bay), Kendall Wright (Tennessee) ... I could go on and on because these jumps happen all around the NFL. If it doesn't, big disappointment. You want to be the most well-rounded offense as possible. So square away the heart of the offensive line (center, possibly right guard), add a TE in free agency/draft, and I think things are looking pretty solid there.

George (Warwick, RI)

I've heard/read (before last SB) that NEP needed to give TB12 more weapons...after the SB, it was "bolster the DEF"!...in looking at the rosters of both DEN & SEA, seems to me that a big key is to have a solid number of impact players operating under their rookie deals...in other words being able to marry talent evaluation w/ the schemes being used. Where have the NEP come up short, in that regard?...where have they been successful?

Mike
  (11:26 AM)

George, the Patriots have been to the AFC championship game the last 3 years. So let's start with that context. One thing I've noticed, after co-hosting on a local radio show earlier in the week, the view of the Patriots trends more negative locally compared to nationally. For example, respected veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News pointed to the Patriots as the model for any team to follow in this area: http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/columnists/rick-gosselin/20140218-gosselin-key-to-cowboys-rebirth-following-patriots-plan-of-acquiring-cheap-labor.ece

Mike
  (11:28 AM)

Now, looking at things with a critical eye, I'd say their safety evaluation in the draft hasn't been good enough -- Brandon Meriweather (1st round, 2007), Patrick Chung (high 2nd round, 2009) and Tavon Wilson (mid-2nd round, 2012). That's one small piece of a large puzzle, but no team gets it right all the time.

Liuz Medeiros (Curitiba/Brazil)

Mike, With all the Safety talk, the Seahawks type of play and our salary cap this year, the Adrian Wilson situation intrigues me. Reports says he expected to be ready for the start of the offseason workouts. Whats your thoughts about it? Do you think there's a chance that Bill will give him another chance at camp before release him?

Mike
  (11:29 AM)

Liuz, I thought Wilson looked out of place by the end of the preseason last year. I just don't see it, especially at a $1.8 million cap hit. The bigger surprise to me will be if he is still on the roster by training camp.

tom (Miami)

Mike, Echoing what you mentioned in your opening post about the tight end, I can foresee a very realistic situation in which Bill may try to trade down from 29 to perhaps 35-37 in order to grab another later round pick while trying to still land a top 4 TE. thoughts?

Mike
  (11:31 AM)

If so, Tom, I think Notre Dame's Troy Niklas would be his guy. I like Niklas. He's that bigger TE who is a factor in both the blocking and pass-catching areas.

George (Juarez Mx)

Can you envision BB trading out of the first round to get more picks in the second round and get a RB (Kadeem Carey) and a TE (Ebron or Seferian-Jenkins), i belive all the player mentioned are good fits for the Pats. your take?

Mike
  (11:32 AM)

Ebron shouldn't last past the first half of the first round, and Seferian-Jenkins might not make it to 29 either. I also would be mildly surprised if they go RB that early. Other areas more important IMO.

Rick (Providence)

Patriots need to bolster both lines. Center and RG could use an upgrade. If the O-line played a little better it could have been the Patriots getting beat by the Seahawks

Mike
  (11:32 AM)

That was clear to me in film review, Rick. The entire line didn't play well enough, but I'd start at center in that game. Couldn't block Terrance Knighton. I wonder how that one performance will be viewed relative to Ryan Wendell's overall body of work in the season. I think you can win with Wendell, but if you can upgrade, you strongly consider it.

Mike (Canton,OH)

Whom will the Patriots look at to replace Edelman if they do not retain him. Amendola or some one not on the roster?

Mike
  (11:34 AM)

Mike, it starts with Amendola, no doubt. He's a real good player -- just needs to stay healthy. Same thing I would have said about Edelman at this time last year. Missouri's T.J. Moe will also be a fun player to watch as he was an undrafted free agent in 2013 who sustained a season-ending injury early. Has a similar skill set as that smaller, quick-twitch type player.

kais1man (NYC)

Hey Mike. I've heard some rumblings about teams potentially interesed in trading for QBs, with expers guessing the Vikings may have interest in Cousins or Mallett. They speculation is they would have to give up a second rounder. With how loaded this draft is, if you were BB would you take an extra second rounder for Mallett?

Mike
  (11:36 AM)

I'd be surprised if another team gave up a 2 for Mallett. I don't think the preseason film warrants that rich of a pick. But if another team would do it, yes, I take that deal and sign a veteran in free agency to provide insurance while drafting a QB as a developmental type.

grandjordanian [via mobile]

When Wilfork is cut this Spring because his body fails him, does he take Pepper's place on the D coaching staff?

Mike
  (11:36 AM)

No, I think he goes and joins Pepper in Buffalo as a three-headed monster with Marcel Dareus (teaches him about being a pro) and Kyle Williams.

Mal (Syracuse)

BB seems to relish picking up FAs from the AFC East - any candidates in the next few months?

Mike
  (11:37 AM)

Mal, how about Bills TE Scott Chandler? Or Dolphins safety Chris Clemons? Those were two names that I jotted down during my offseason study of those teams.

max (my cube)

Mike, the Steeler fans I talk to do not think very highly of Emmanuel Sanders. What are the attributes that you see in him that makes it worthwhile for the Pats to pursue him (at the right cost)?

Mike
  (11:39 AM)

Max, I think Sanders runs well and has some inside-outside type versatility that could fit well here. The hands look a little inconsistent from what I've seen. I wouldn't overpay but on a moderate deal in the $2-3m per year range, that's a worthy investment, I believe.

Jacob (New Orleans) [via mobile]

Hey Mike, A lot of people are calling for a pass-rushing DT at 29 this year, but I think the answer is already in house. Isn't Armstead a pass rush specialist? If healthy I think he could make a difference. I also think if Chris Jones doesn't have to play every down this year, he would be good as an inside rushing coming in occasionally. Thoughts?

Mike
  (11:41 AM)

Jacob, my view on defensive tackle is that what you really want is a bigger presence in there who is a combination pocket-pusher/run-stuffer. Probably more of a developmental type. I'm intrigued by Penn State's Daquan Jones as a post-round-1 option.

Gary (Falls Church, VA)

Mike, what do you think it takes to sign LeGarrette Blount?

Mike
  (11:43 AM)

Gary, I think it's probably similar to the Danny Woodhead deal in San Diego -- somewhere between the 2-years/$4 million and 2-years/$3 million range. Shouldn't be a bank-breaker, especially at that position.

Valerie (Stockholm, Sweden)

Hi Mike: Brady's performance in the last 3 AFC Championship games has been below average. All on the OL?

Mike
  (11:44 AM)

Have to put some of it on Brady himself, Valerie. Nothing about the overthrow to Edelman in this year's AFC title game was because of the OL. Brady had the time and great protection after the play-action fake.

Clarence (Sioux City)

Seems like a lot of folks really think Wilfork is not only done, but should be cut. This is ridiculous to me... he's valuable to the team in so many ways. Why not extend him to lower the cap hit and offer some extra guaranteed $?

Mike
  (11:45 AM)

I feel the same way, Clarence, with one caveat. If there is some credible information that Wilfork is having trouble in his recovery, then it changes the context of everything.

Earthwind (Couch)

If they do not draft a pass rusher with one of their top 2 picks I am becoming a Bengals fan. The more I read the more I hope the Pats draft Tuitt. He is big and had a great sophmore year.

Mike
  (11:48 AM)

Tuitt is a "lightning rod", according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. Might be more of a pure 5-technique as a 3-4 DE, and I'm not sure that's what you're looking for. I need to look closer at Tuitt, but there seems to be a wide range of opinion on him.

charlie (jacksonville)

Do you wish the NFL trade deadline was as exciting as the NBA trade deadline?

Mike
  (11:49 AM)

Charlie, every day is exciting to me. I love the NFL, football, team-building, and everything that goes into it.

Alex (New Jersey)

Mike, in hearing the news that the salary cap is higher than expected at $130 million as opposed to around $127 million, I have to wonder how much impact this is going to have. Obviously the Pats have a little more money to work with so they can sign more FA, but every team has more money. So wouldn't the effect of the savings cancel out because the players will be bid at a higher price? I am curious to hear your thoughts on this

Mike
  (11:51 AM)

Alex, every bit helps. I think the Patriots are tighter to the cap than they normally would be, so it's a little relief. Think of it like a belt that you put on. You just had a big meal and it might be a little tight. So you just loosen it up a little bit for more comfort.

Mike
  (11:51 AM)

I don't necessarily think it means everyone gets more money, but it allows teams to ante up a bit more if they so choose or get into a competitive situation on a player.

Ash (Toronto)

I think banking on dobson, boyce, KT to have a 2nd year jump is really being too optimistic. Since there is a lot of depth in this draft, do you think it would be good value drafting another WR? If we *bank* on anything happen, that is automatically setting things up for failure. You hope the 2nd year leap progression happens, but realistically, it might take longer.

Mike
  (11:53 AM)

Ash, I don't think you bank on it and leave yourself vulnerable. You still layer the position with insurance, just like the Patriots did last year when they signed Danny Amendola and then re-signed Julian Edelman just in case. If you draft another WR, that's fine, but no guarantee of immediate impact there. That's why a mid-level FA like Emmanuel Sanders makes sense.

Dustin (Buffalo)

Hi Mike, if Wilfork doesn't restructure his contract do you think the patriots will actually cut him? I think they should try to extend his contract to create cap space, he can still be a vital part of the defensive line.

Mike
  (11:54 AM)

I don't, Dustin, unless there are medical issues I'm unaware of with the Achilles.

Shaun (Sharon)

Mike can you give us the 3 most likely CBs you could see the Patriots targetting if the talks with Talib break down and a little comment about each?

Mike
  (11:56 AM)

1) Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie -- similar man cover skills.2) Kyle Fuller -- Rookie out of Virginia Tech who Mike Mayock views as No. 3 player at the position.3) Bradley Roby -- Rookie out Ohio State falls into second tier of CBs in draft; has big-game experience and some traits that could appeal in a post-round-1 situation.

Alex (New Jersey)

Mike, what are the chances that Jared Allen signs with the Pats in free agency? He would be ideal as a nickel rusher. Are there any other candidates in FA that would help, or maybe the draft that improves the pass rush? Or is it about developing Michael Buchanan? Where do you see the team going?

Mike
  (11:57 AM)

Alex, I think they'll look to add a free agent at that position, and Will Smith and Jared Allen are intriguing possibilities. It's similar to what was said about WR -- you don't bank on the youngster(s) in Buchanan without protecting yourself.

Mike
  (11:58 AM)

Let's take a few more...

Monster (Long Island, NY)

Only Pats fan here, do you see much separation in the AFC East for next season? What direction do you see all 4 teams going, whether it be improved or getting worse?

Mike
  (12:00 PM)

Monster, I like the defenses of all three teams. Dolphins OL a major concern and I think until we know how that unfolds, hard to invest in them. Bils -- is EJ Manuel the answer? Until we know, hard to invest in them. Ditto for the Jets with Geno Smith. So, in the end, it still looks like the Patriots' division to me. A lot can happen between now and the season, but that's based on the current snapshot.

Joe (Waimea)

Mike, I'm sure the Patriots evaluate every draft day trade on it's own merits, but do you think their philosophy on trading down has been altered by the rookie salary cap?

Mike
  (12:02 PM)

Joe, I don't think that's it. I think the philosophy on trading down is probably best epitomized by last year's 4-for-1 deal. For one pick (Cordarelle Patterson), they got four players (Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce and LeGarrette Blount). Given the importance of depth, and all the injuries we see, that's a deal you pretty much take 10 times out of 10 (unless a Vince Wilfork falls to you at 29).

DJ (Springfield) [via mobile]

thoughts on grimes being a potential replacement if talib talks fall through?

Mike
  (12:04 PM)

At 5-10, 190, I don't see him as much of a valuable matchup corner as Talib in terms of the multiple options he gives you. For example, I don't think the Patriots put him on Jimmy Graham if they have him. Good player, obviously, but I like Talib.

Ian (Boston)

Mike, you've said that one of the top needs for the D has been a hard hitting safety. I've heard that Pryor could be the next Cam Chancellor. Any chance he's there for the Pats at 29 or that we go up and get him?

Mike
  (12:05 PM)

Mike Mayock compared Calvoin Pryor to a bigger Bob Sanders, the former Colts hard-hitting safety. Would be a good pick, but don't envision he's around at 29.

Jon (Masaya, Nicaragua (via New Bedford))

Miggy - Why won't DEN re-sign DRC? I think the Pats should just go after him anyway and say goodbye to Talib who's injury prone at the wrong times (i.e., last 2 AFCCGs among other significant stretches in the reg. season).

Mike
  (12:06 PM)

I think Denver would want to re-sign him, Jon. I was just answering a question about options the Patriots might consider if Talib doesn't come back. It would be competitive.

Mark (Framingham South)

T or F - high first round pick safeties have been busts recently?

Mike
  (12:06 PM)

False. Seattle's Earl Thomas, to me, looks like Ed Reed in his prime. Love that guy.

Adam (Denver, CO)

In a deep draft, I see Belichick going contrarian and moving up in the first round to target an impact defensive player who has dropped due to all the tackles and wide receivers being taken. I think the number of teams trying to build depth on their rosters will represent good trading partners. If this scenario plays out, do you think Belichick would take the second or third best DL or the top safety who would likely still be available?

Mike
  (12:09 PM)

Let's end it here, Adam. Probably the top safety, unless the second DL was Louis Nix III and they felt he could be the next Vince Wilfork. Some debate with Nix on if he's more of an old-school 3-4 nose who is a two-down player, or if he can develop into what Wilfork has become -- a three-down player.

Mike
  (12:10 PM)

Thanks to everyone for the questions. Appreciated, as always. Look forward to doing it again next week.