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Ask PFW: AFC Championship edition

Posted Jan 14, 2014

Answering fans' questions from this week's PFW mailbag.

[Julian] Edelman is going to be a free agent in the off-season. Is there any chance that they bring him back? Also if they bring Edelman back, would [Danny] Amendola be a potential cut? Zach Strong

First off, of course there’s a chance the Patriots re-sign Edelman, their best wide receiver this past season. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ensure this by designating him their franchise player. Even if they don’t, there’s still a chance that he and the Patriots work out a deal that’s agreeable to both sides. However, after the season he’s had, other teams might be tempted to throw larger sums at Edelman, which might prove too lucrative to turn down.

Secondly, Amendola isn’t going anywhere, regardless of where Edelman signs in 2014. He was brought here last offseason on a multi-year, multi-million dollar pact, and has done nothing to shake the club’s confidence in his abilities. Sure, he’s played injured for the entire year (groin issues), but that may have been more of a testament to his toughness, rather than a detriment. Amendola has been sure-handed and reliable, which is all you can ask of a receiver in this league. He’ll be around for the foreseeable future. Erik Scalavino

OK, one time is a fluke, but twice in a row? [LeGarrette] Blount has run rampant over opposing defenses the last two games. I know it is a mix of offensive line opening holes and good recognition and timing from the running back to see the holes and get through them. Blount has been on the team the whole season. Why is he just starting to peak now (which is perfect timing!!!)? Why didn't we see some of his "running rampant" earlier in the season? Sam Spammer

Those of us who pay close attention to this team certainly did see Blount’s “running rampant” immediately. Allow me to take you back to the preseason opener at Philadelphia, where Blount plowed through the Eagles secondary: 11 carries, 101 yards, two TDs, including a 51-yard scoring jaunt in which he outraced the entire Philly defense. And certainly, Blount’s 1,000-yard rookie campaign as a Tampa Bay Buc a few years ago gave us an early indication of his abilities at this level.

Blount’s performances in recent games came as no surprise to me. He’s been getting more opportunities of late at the expense of Stevan Ridley, who still might be the most gifted of the team’s ball carriers, despite his fumbling propensity. Ridley was the main back earlier this season, but when he struggled with lost fumbles midseason, Blount stepped in and made the most of his chance. He’s due to become a free agent once the season ends, so, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots address his situation. Erik Scalavino

Hi, guys. It's been an amazing year and one in which both [Tom] Brady and [Bill] Belichick's all-time greatness was never more in evidence; and, I love what the Pats are currently doing in lining up in power formations, telling the opponent they're going to run, and then running the rock down the defense's throat. However, I do have one very big concern for next week, and (hopefully) for early February: The Pats have NO outside threat. As terrific as Edelman is, apart from the occasional play, he (and Amendola) work inside the numbers. (The rookies have been awful to non-existent apart from the Saints and Steelers game). What happens if the Pats fall behind by two scores and have to pass? With no outside threat, they are totally defensible in that situation. Tony D.

I understand and appreciate your concern, Tony. Best answer I can give you is this: they were down 24 to Denver two months ago and rallied to win in overtime. And they didn’t have any “outside threat” then either. It can be done, but I agree that in the playoffs, it’s much, much more difficult to expect a double-digit comeback. Erik Scalavino

How badly hurt are the guys on IR? Would any of the earlier ones (like Jerod Mayo or Tommy Kelly) have been candidates for the short-term IR had we not used the tag on [Shane] Vereen, or were they all season ending injuries? Paul Dymond

Impossible to say for certain, Paul, given how jealously the Patriots guard their injury secrets around here. I suppose it’s possible that some other player, besides Vereen, could have been a candidate for the short-term IR, but he was definitely deserving of the designation, and the rules only allow one such player per team per season. No sense playing the “what if” game at this point. Erik Scalavino

I am very disappointed with the play of Kyle Arrington. He misses tackles and gets burned in coverage consistently. So my question is this. In your opinion, how does he continually make the roster? The Patriots have let James Ihedigbo, Darius Butler, Asante Samuel, and other DBs go, and now they start for other teams... meanwhile, they continue to keep Arrington AND let him play. Any thoughts on how he makes the team? Thank goodness Dennard was healthy least week. Greg White

Arrington has become a popular target of Patriots critics, and not entirely without merit. He is often victimized in coverage for big gains. However, in previous seasons, he was very productive, even being asked at times to line up as a pass rusher (hand on the ground). He was a hard-working special teamer who actually played fairly good defense for a while, which earned him a sizeable contract extension. Perhaps he’s coming back down to earth a bit, but when a team pays a guy significant money, he’s forced to play. You’re right, though, about the many other corners they’ve had and let go. It’s been a tough position for New England. They’ve gambled with several talented players and lost quite often. Erik Scalavino

Hi guys! Big fan from Costa Rica! Keep the great work. Sealver Siliga is doing a heck of a job in our defense. Since he lined up as NT, our defenses improved a lot! Why the heck doesn’t Austin Collie get more reps? Every time he gets in, he always catches the ball and always converts 1st downs! He has great hands and could help us a lot more! Alonso Oviedo

Yes, Siliga has been a pleasant surprise since being called up from the practice squad late in the season. The youngster has made up for the disappointing play of veteran Isaac Sopoaga, for whom the Patriots made a last-minute trade mid-season. Siliga’s emergence has given the defense a bit of a boost, both in the run game and the pass rush.

Collie is a solid player, too, but still not nearly as good as the players ahead of him on the depth chart. He’s a role player and performs that role well, when called upon. But guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are more reliable and more talented, so they get more of the reps. Plain and simple. Erik Scalavino

The Patriots will have 8.5 million in dead cap next year. Is there any way for a team to clear dead cap space? Michael Baker

Not sure where you’re getting that figure, or if it’s even accurate, but in general, teams can be credited for cap hits if a player if forced to return any money given to him, or if the team is no longer required to dish out future payments (if, for example, a player is determined to have breached his contract). Erik Scalavino

Dear PFW Gentlemen: Two questions, if you'd please. 1. If it turns out that Ryan Allen is hurt for the next game, is [Zoltan] Mesko still out there? If I have this correct, he got cut by the Steelers then signed with the Bengals for the playoff game. I assume this excludes him from being picked up even if the Bengals lost, but maybe it was a game by game contract? How does this work? And if not, Mesko, who else is out there if Allen's out? When would they need to sign someone else? 2. I know the Brady-Manning showdown stories are a bit overdone perhaps, but I would like to hear all of your individual, genuine opinions on how each of these stars go out in the next couple years. Do you think Brady will go out on top or will know when to stop? Same with Manning. I mean, does Tom go out like Favre or like Elway? If Peyton wins it all this year, does he hang 'em up? I can't imagine Tom would yet. And, you being all middle-aged men (like myself), can you imagine what it must be like to be in your late thirties and know you're at the peak of what you love most? That your physical self just won't be able to do what your mind has become one of the best in the world at? I wonder where these guys go emotionally in a few years... Thanks so much. Richard King, New London, CT

If the Patriots do need to sign a punter for the remainder of the postseason, Mesko is not an option. He was on the Bengals roster when Cincinnati’s season came to an end, meaning he is still under contract with them, at least until the new league year starts in March.

Your second question is a profound one. I certainly hope neither Brady nor Manning goes the Favre route, hanging on far too long and tarnishing their reputations in the process. My hope is that both of them hang it up before Father Time begins exacting too heavy a toll on them. Brady’s deal is set to expire after 2017. He’ll be 40 by then, and that would seem like a logical time to call it quits. Manning may choose to do so sooner. An ESPN report over the weekend indicated that a medical test on his neck this offseason would be more of a factor in his decision than the outcome of these playoffs. Manning was asked about that after the Chargers game, but deflected the question with a comical response.

For both their sakes, I’d like to see them exit gracefully, which might mean doing so before either is mentally prepared to do so. I feel pity for guys like Brady (who seem to have it all, yes), when they say, as he has often, that he doesn’t know what he’ll do with himself after football. That he wants to play as long as possible because that’s all he knows. It is truly sad to hear that. Sure, he loves football. So do a lot of us. But there is a great big world out there with infinite possibilities.

Brady and Manning and other NFL players are forced to spend nearly every waking hour during their careers focusing on nothing but this game. That makes for a very boring, one-dimensional person. So, it’s understandable that he knows not what he’ll do when he retires. But trust me, there’s WAY more to life than football.

For instance, they could take music lessons, learn to cook, travel the world, go back to school, start a charitable foundation, volunteer at their church or other civic organization… the list goes on and on and on. Who knows, one of these activities just might be more enjoyable to them than football ever was! You know what they say… Life begins at 40. Hopefully, Manning and Brady embrace that philosophy. Erik Scalavino

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