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Ask PFW: Marty B., Jimmy G. and an offseason spree!
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on Patriots.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New England Patriots organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Patriots officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
I could be wrong, but I don't think Marty Bennett will get as big an offer on the FA market as everyone thinks. He played very well this season, with TB12 and played banged up most of the season sure, but one season doesn't make a superstar. And let’s not forget that Gronk was out a good portion of that time too. So what would Marty's numbers have been if Gronk was healthy? I get that now is the time for him to get the big dollars for himself and his family, but is it out of the question that he'll get a reasonable offer from New England and stay?
My personal opinion is that Bennett is as good as gone. He was already a Pro Bowl talent when he arrived in New England and went out and had a very good season, while battling injury, to help the Patriots win a Super Bowl. As he said in the immediacy of that win in Houston, he’s in position to be overpaid. I wouldn’t expect him to take any sort of discount to stay in New England, nor would I expect the Patriots to pay him as much or more than Rob Gronkowski. Until Bennett reaches a deal with another team, there is always a chance he could return and the Patriots certainly have the money/cap space to make it happen. But as arguably the top free agent tight end on the market I’m guessing at least one team will be willing to pay him far more than where New England is willing to go. Even NFL Network – which previously reported that Bennett would be a “priority” for the Patriots this spring and also that the tight end would be in line for ankle surgery that doesn’t seem to have come to fruition – now seems to indicate that the veteran tight end will test the free agent market. So, it sounds like the Patriots will once again be in the market for a Gronkowski sidekick/backup.
Do you think the Patriots could trade Jimmy [Garoppolo] to the Browns and grab Mike Williams? How fun would it be to have Hogan, Williams, Floyd and Mitchell?
I’m swimming upstream here, but I still don’t really see the Patriots getting a top-three pick for Garoppolo, even if New England packages the backup QB with other assets. But, to play along here, if they got the No. 1 pick I think they, like most teams, would probably use it on Texas A&M edge player Myles Garrett. That would be a case of the best available player also filling a key need on the Patriots defensive end depth chart. Williams is a great player and assuming he reaches his NFL potential would be fun to pair with any existing passing attack, but I don’t see that being a huge need for New England and the risk would be beyond the reward.
The opinions on whether Garoppolo will be dealt and what he might be worth on the trade market vary more than almost any major NFL story I can remember in recent memory. For example, Peter King is among those who think the Patriots are going to keep the backup QB but the MMQB boss also wrote recently that Cleveland should offer up the No. 12 pick and No. 65 pick in April’s draft for Garoppolo. I think that would be a major coup for the Patriots. I still think the best deal might be Garoppolo and something else to the Browns for that No. 12 pick. But right now the question of whether Garoppolo will even be traded and how much he’s worth might be the biggest story in the NFL heading into the new league year (March 9) and this week’s NFL Combine. In terms of free agency, I expect the Patriots to be active but not necessarily with huge-money signings. There could be a slew of second-tier additions to add depth and talent to the championship roster while replacing what could be a pretty long list of free agent departures. For example, as I brought up last week on PFW in Progress, Green Bay’s Datone Jones and Pittsburgh’s Jarvis Jones are two still-young front seven players who might be interesting value signings for New England. Both disappointing former first-round picks still could have upside. As is so often the case, though, New England’s biggest signings might come in regards to retaining its own players.
Now that we are in another offseason with a Super Bowl Championship we can have some fun debating not-so-serious topics. The question that I have is, in their prime who would you take as your slot receiver, Wes Welker or Julian Edelman? While Welker may have the more prolific numbers, and it's no knock on Welker's toughness, I give the slight edge to Edelman based on size, toughness and his performance in the clutch. Your thoughts?
This is a fun, made-for-talk-radio topic. I love it. If durability and production are the top criteria, then Welker has to be the choice. But, if timely playmaking is weighted more highly, then I think Edelman gets the nod. For me, I’m still partial to Welker for the production he put up week after week, year after year while taking a pounding like few I’ve ever seen before. His ability to stay on the field and produce was remarkable. I know a lot of fans hold the Super Bowl “drop” against Welker, but to me he’s a franchise legend who one day deserves to land in the Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon. In no way does that diminish the grit, work ethic and contributions that Edelman has made over the years, including a pair of Super Bowl titles. They are both great. And, by the way, if Troy Brown had played longer in his prime with Tom Brady I think he would be the obvious choice over both Welker and Edelman! It’s quite an impressive run of slot receivers New England has had over the last two decades.
With the issues with kick returning last season do you think the Patriots might consider [Cordarrelle] Patterson from Minnesota? He hasn't been a success as a wideout but is an excellent kick returner. And surely the Pats could find other ways to use his speed and elusiveness? He shouldn't be that [expensive] due to his form as a wideout to date.
Patterson is the type of secondary option and complementary value that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Patriots pursue. But his career-high 52 catches last season will likely price him out of the New England market. Some team will presumably still see the former first-round pick as a potential offensive contributor and more than just a value in the kicking game. But there is no question his work on kickoffs – three out of four years he’s averaged basically 32 yards per return with at least one touchdown – would be a nice upgrade for the Patriots. I won’t rule it out, but my guess is that Patterson – who was actually taken with a first-round pick Minnesota got in a trade with New England – will find more money and a potential bigger role elsewhere this spring.
Jose Manuel Cuin
Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico!
At this early point in the offseason process, the wide receiver position looks to have solid continuity and depth heading into 2017. Julian Edelman (98 catches in 2016) is coming off a relatively healthy season and returns as the top slot target. Chris Hogan (38 catches/17.9 ypc/4 TD) had a better first season in Foxborough than anyone probably could have envisioned. And Malcolm Mitchell (32 catches/401 yards/4 TD) had one of the best rookie seasons of any receiver during the Bill Belichick era. Those three should be the core of the passing attack next year. There is also the possibility that Danny Amendola restructures his contract for the third straight offseason to remain as a key complementary contributor. That doesn’t leave much room or need for a high-end addition at receiver, either through the draft or free agency. More likely will be a few guys added – maybe value veterans and rookies – to compete for depth jobs. Tight end is a different story. With Bennett seemingly destined to depart in free agency and Gronkowski coming off back surgery there really isn’t much certainty at the spot. I could easily see a tight end draft pick – either a high-end talent or a value selection like Michigan’s Jake Butt (ACL) – making a lot of sense. I also would expect a solid veteran to be brought aboard assuming that Bennett does indeed flee for more money elsewhere. From where I sit, tight end is a pretty high need and wide receiver is pretty stocked, especially if Michael Floyd ends up being in the plans moving forward.
Here's a two-part question. With the likelihood of keeping Butler, Ryan and Harmon decreasing significantly after the Super Bowl, particularly after Ryan's amazing playoff performance, which two of the three do you push for? In my opinion Harmon and Butler, but with the caveat that we package some players for a trade. My trade proposal is as follows: Patrick Chung, Eric Rowe, and a day-two pick for Johnathan Joseph. Is this crazy talk? Thank you for all that you do for us fanatics outside the New England area and here's to the Blitz for Six!!!
I don’t think that’s your real name, but whatever. I said last spring at this time that 2016 would be Ryan’s last season in New England and I feel the same way today. He’s a prime-of-his-career cornerback coming off a solid year with a good resume. He’s about to get paid on the open market, probably significantly overpaid. Butler, to me, is one of the top overall priorities of the offseason. I wouldn’t risk simply tendering the restricted free agent at first-round money, I’d try very hard to ink him to a long term deal. My guess is that Harmon will find money and a greater opportunity in free agency, but I don’t feel as strongly about his impending departure. I also don’t think your trade is crazy talk. The Patriots would essentially be swapping two starters and a second- or third-round pick for a 32-year-old cornerback. It’s probably a better deal for Houston. Joseph is still solid when healthy, but I’m not sure how much longer he can play at a good level. I’m not in love with Rowe’s future role based on what I saw this fall/winter, but he’s still a second-round pick heading into his third season. That might be giving up on him a bit quickly for a short-term return. Really, though, as long as Butler remains to be New England’s No. 1 corner in 2017 (and hopefully beyond) I’ll be comfortable with the base to build on in the defensive backfield.
Would the Pats be interested in Titans Orakpo or McCourty if they were cap casualties as expected? I'd still love an upgrade at RG and let Mason compete with Andrews at center. Would Dante agree?
I do think the Patriots would have interest in both Orakpo and McCourty, though they wouldn’t be the only ones. Each aging veteran has a proven track record and is coming off a solid 2016 season. Both guys would fit nicely into New England’s need for depth at cornerback and pass rusher. But with Orakpo fresh off a 10-sack season my guess is that he would warrant serious attention on the open market that would price him out of the Patriots plans. McCourty’s situation might be more interesting if he has a desire to play with his twin brother, Devin. Maybe that’s worth a discount on his contract. I’m sure it’s an angle Belichick and the Patriots would play up if they got into recruiting the veteran cornerback. At this point I’d guess both guys are longshots to land in Foxborough as I’m not sure either will actually even reach the market, but the Patriots certainly have the money and the need to be interested. As for Mason, I think the Patriots are still very much focused in developing him as a guard and see him as a guy who they think still has a high ceiling at the position.
I think it's obvious - though I haven't heard anyone say it – that the Pats had to be a much better team than Atlanta in order to come back the way they did. If the teams had been as evenly matched as the score, then neither team would have given up a 25-pt lead. Can you imagine the Pats coming back from 25 down against Seattle in 2014? 10 points was miraculous enough, and they almost lost it at the end. I think the stats accurately represent the gap between the two teams. Atlanta was not as good as I thought they were, and the writers who foretold Patriot dominance were right - if the Pats hadn't dug such a hole for themselves. Equally obvious is the need at cornerback. There's also a need at DE. I hope Bill is planning to get Rob Ninkovich back to playing 4-3 defensive end, and they need to re-sign Chris Long as the third DE. Then we draft the DE of the future - IF the other teams in the draft make it possible. Do you see a quality DE available for the Pats? Bearing in mind that BB will not give up more than a third-round pick to move up? Final note (a real question!): I thought compensatory picks could not be traded? What gives on the Jaimie Collins trade? Why haven't we seen other trades of compensatory picks? This is the first one I've seen.
Last things first, the trading of compensatory picks started being allowed this year. So, from now on they are in play for trades of all types. Now, getting to your first point, I don’t really understand it and what I do get I don’t agree with. I was very impressed with the way the Falcons played in the Super Bowl to build a 28-3 lead in the third quarter. They were efficient on offense and aggressive/swarming on defense. They faded in the end, in part because of poor decisions by the coaching staff, but that doesn’t erase the work they did early as a team. Conversely, the Patriots did not play well early, making too many mistakes on both sides of the ball, and needed some help from Atlanta to pull off the miraculous comeback. The one thing I do agree with is that I can’t see such a comeback happening against the Seahawks. Clearly the Patriots were the better team in Super Bowl LI, which is why it was so surprising that they were getting blown out in the third quarter. As for your draft needs, I think defensive end is one of the biggest. I would be surprised to see Long brought back. Jabaal Sheard is an expected free agent departure. And given Ninkovich’s age and declining production in recent years, I’m not sure counting on him moving forward is a great idea. At 33 he’s much closer to the age where guys consider retirement than they should be considered the backbone of a defense. Trey Flowers is really the only lock to be back and counted on to play at a high level in 2017 after his breakout second season. New England likely needs to add an end in the draft and through free agency.
In reading about how the Patriots need to acquire another pass rusher, I often disagree with the premise. I do agree an elite pass rusher is nice, but the way I see it the Pats don't bring pressure like other teams. Instead of rushing, blitzing etc. every passing down the Pats seem to wait for opportune moments and bring a blitz from an unexpected direction at crucial moments. I'm sure the Pats like to get pressure rushing three and sometimes do, but to think they need a pass rusher who tees off every passing down in a four-man rush, I think, runs counter to the Pats scheme. Thoughts?
While I don’t think the Patriots make pass rush the be-all, end-all of the defensive scheme, I do think they like to pressure opposing passers. And they can’t always rely on timely blitzes or scheme to get it done. Flowers evolved into a key cog in the rush this year and will be expected to build on that moving forward. Other than that, there isn’t much pass rush potential returning for 2017. I think there will be a need to add multiple pass rush options this spring through both free agency and the draft. Belichick’s Patriots have always worked the rush and the coverage in concert to strive for solid overall pass defense. But they still need guys to win one-on-one battles in the trenches and get near the opposing passer, especially as the team prepares to face a decent list of quarterbacks/passing attacks in 2017 that includes Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr and others. Belichick may not sell out to add pure pass rushers, but first-round picks in the recent past used on Chandler Jones and Dominque Easley show that the coach very much values disruptive players on the defensive front.
When would Jerod Mayo be eligible for the Patriots Hall of Fame? And what are the rules for being a finalist and being enshrined? Thanks!
Players are eligible for the Hall after four-year waiting period that begins upon their retirement. Mayo, who played his final season in 2015, would become eligible for induction in 2020. He will be among the candidates considered that offseason for induction by the Hall’s selection committee. That group meets each spring to come up with a field of three finalists who are then be voted on by fans on patriots.com to pick the inductee in any given year. The induction ceremony generally takes place in August.
I'm just wondering if the team would have any interest in RB McNichols out of Boise St. He seems to be a Kevin Faulk-type, small in size, but can run between the tackles as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. Could he be a mid-round backup/replacement for James White (last year of his rookie deal) and/or Dion Lewis (durability issues)?
I don’t know a lot about Jeremy McNichols at this point in the process but he does seem to project as a mid-round prospect. That said, I don’t see a huge need for a passing back, even with the year-too-early theory. I wouldn’t rule out White signing an extension heading into the final year of his rookie deal. Lewis’ durability remains a concern. But let’s not forget that the Patriots kept undrafted rookie D.J. Foster on the roster all of last season. He’s clearly a pass-catching option that they like and see potential in moving forward. That’s three guys in the mix for a similar type role for this year at this point. I would say the team would put a much bigger premium on potentially drafting a bigger, early-down back than adding yet another passing back to the stable.
I couldn't hear the SB. Was McClellan penalized for jumping over a guard on an extra point which I thought was legal as opposed to jumping over the center which is illegal?
I believe McClellan was called for lining up over the center and jumping him to block the PAT. I think the Patriots believe that the linebacker lined up over the guard and therefor the call was incorrect. It certainly looks that way on replays, with McClellin coming in from an angle as he jumped in the gap between the guard and the center. Given the way the game played out and the importance of every point, it was one of the many key details in the Super Bowl that get lost in the overall shuffle. I also think it was a bad call against the Patriots.
Hi Guys. I know this question is a few weeks late, but can you explain how a futures contract works? Thanks!
They are contracts teams use to sign players who are not on NFL rosters to finish the prior season in order to get them under contract for the upcoming year. For the most part they are used for teams to lock up guys from their practice squad for the following season. They are technically reserve/futures contracts that don’t actually begin until the new league year – which is March 9 for the 2017 season. But sometimes they are used to bring in veterans early in the process who for whatever reason aren’t under contract with a team, as was the case for the Patriots in the past with Dion Lewis and, this year, tight end Rob Housler.
What are the chances that the Patriots sign a big receiver like Josh Gordon, Terrelle Pryor or even Calvin Johnson Jr. out of retirement?
I’m not sure if you are using the word “big” in regards to size or name recognition. Either way, I don’t see much chance of any of the three you mentioned landing in New England. Gordon remains out of football and is not eligible at this point. Pryor is a hot, young commodity who’ll be targeted by many teams if he’s allowed by Cleveland to hit the open market. And Johnson seems very much content with his retirement decision. Could the Patriots go after a lesser big-bodied receiver in free agency or the draft? Sure. But the three you listed wouldn’t seem to be realistic options at all.
Right now, given that both are under contract through 2019, three years would seem to be the most easily defined guess. Brady’s age and Gronkowski’s injury history, including him currently working back from his third back surgery, make it a very fluid situation. But, being the optimist that I am – just ask anybody! – I’m going to say the two Hall of Fame talents play three more years together at a highly productive level. Fingers crossed. I hope so, because they are fun to watch together. When Brady has a healthy Gronkowski to work with is when the Patriots offense is at its best.
If Pats go safety or linebacker in 1st round, they need to bring in a pass rusher with 64th pick. One such target might be Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280-lb. DE from Villanova. Huge wingspan and dominated FCS completion as well as excellent Senior Bowl workouts. Also if Bennett leaves, do you think the Patriots might take a low money 1-year flyer on 36-year-old Benjamin Watson? He caught over 70 passes in 2015 with Saints but sat out 2016 injured for Ravens who likely won't bring him back. Even if you draft a young TE in later rounds, bringing extra depth to camp doesn't hurt.
I wouldn’t expect a true safety pick in the first round. I think you are probably talking about Michigan’s versatile defender Jabrill Peppers, who has been a popular Patriots pick in many mock drafts. I would consider a true linebacker or a defensive end a much bigger need. I’m sure Kpassagnon is a guy that will be under consideration given his measurable and production. (Personally, I’d vote against him just because I don’t want to have to type his name a million times! Nothing personal, Tanoh!) I am intrigued with your Watson idea. If he continues playing and can get healthy I don’t hate the thought of him being the veteran presence brought in along with a relatively high draft pick at the spot. For now, though, Watson remains under contract with the Ravens for one more year and is coming off a torn Achilles, a bad injury for a guy of his age. So he would seem to be a longshot.
I know Brady is the GOAT, but if the Pats trade Garoppolo I see us being one of those teams searching for a first-tier QB when Brady retires. It becomes a question of whether we want two or three more years with Brady, or 12 with Garoppolo who could become the third X Patriot QB to win a Super Bowl.
This a fine theory and debate. The problem is the time line and the fact that Garoppolo wants to be a starting quarterback. Brady is under contract for three more years and says he plans on playing longer than that. Garoppolo has just one more year on his rookie contract. Even if you were willing to pay both guys starting salaries – which in the NFL would be near $20 million a year each – I don’t know how you would convince Garoppolo to stick around. If you want to keep Garoppolo around for the long run, I think the only way to really do it would be to trade Brady. And I don’t know anyone who is advocating for the Patriots to trade Brady. Not anyone who should be taken seriously away.
Great work on keeping us fans updated. I know Hightower will get a new contract from the Patriots but the player the Patriots can't afford to lose is Logan Ryan. BB loves when cornerbacks are willing to tackle and Ryan was one of highest rated in that category. So do you see anyone in the draft or in free agency that can even replace or come close to that production? Who do you want/think the Patriots will draft with the first pick?
First, I’m not sold that Hightower is going to get a new contract from the Patriots. I still think it’s a real possibility, but not a forgone conclusion. And while you list Ryan as a player the Patriots can’t afford to lose, I see him as a guy they can’t afford to sign. He’s a solid No. 2 cornerback who is likely to get some big offers in free agency. One of the reasons he has to make a lot of tackles is that he allows a lot of completions in front of him. That’s not a shot, just a reality. He certainly is a very good tackler. But if the Patriots were going to look to replace him in the draft, I’d focus on guys with better pure coverage skills as well as the ability to tackle. Maybe that’s too much to ask for, but a guy like Butler shows it’s possible and can even come in the latter parts of the draft or free agency. I have not yet decided who I’d like the Patriots to pick – with the 32nd pick or a selection added via a Garoppolo trade – and I don’t think the team has come close to making any decisions, either. We are still in the early stages of the pre-draft process, though we’ll take a major step forward with this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indy.
Can you place franchise tag and still go ahead and work out a contract to override that?
Yes. In fact that’s very often the case. Though the long term deal must be signed prior to July 15, otherwise the player must play out the franchise tag for that season.
Do you think the Patriots might get Christian McCaffrey
That has been another popular slotting in recent mock drafts. It’s one I don’t agree with. First, I don’t think McCaffrey is worth a first-round pick. Second, I don’t think the Patriots are in need of another passing back type. I think there are too many other needs and too many other players with higher upsides. To me it’s sort of a lazy mock draft slotting. But what do I know? I’ve been wrong plenty in the past.
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