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Ask PFW: Combined efforts

Posted Feb 18, 2014

With the combine on the horizon, the draft and free agency top the list in this week's "Ask PFW" mailbag.

Which non-Patriot free agents should the Patriots pursue the most?
John Moore

This is a very broad question but I'll try to offer some specifics. I think the Patriots need some help at pass rusher and in the secondary. They also could use an outside receiver. If you're asking for my top pick, I'll go with a pass rusher and there are a couple that I'd like to grab. Greg Hardy is intriguing but the Panthers aren't likely going to let him leave. Hardy has also said he wouldn't mind being franchised so it would appear he'll stay in Carolina. I'd take Jared Allen from Minnesota even though he's 31. He can still rush the passer and is a proven commodity. I like his work ethic and at his age his price won't break the budget. I also am interested in Cincinnati's Michael Johnson, who is coming off a down year but is talented. He's also much younger at 27 and has been productive in the past. I believe if the Patriots can add some production to the pass rush then the entire defense will benefit.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys love what you do. Anyways, could you see the Pats picking up Anquan Boldin on a one- or two-year deal?
Connor Furu

I actually could see this happening, depending on the type of dollars Boldin would be looking for at this stage of his career. Boldin is a proven performer, especially when the games matter most. His ability to fight for the ball in traffic would add a different dimension to the passing game that has been lacking in recent years – especially when Rob Gronkowski has been injured. Boldin is long in the tooth and doesn't have many years left, but a short-term deal like the one you described would makes sense, and I believe the Patriots could be thinking the same way.
Paul Perillo

This question is toward the TE corps: if we drop Matthew Mulligan and D.J. Williams and get Gronkowski back at full throttle can you see the Pats going after a guy like Fred Davis from Washington? He has a lot of talent and just needs a good QB.
Jeremy Roberts

Davis is definitely a talented guy but he also has his share of baggage. He's been suspended multiple times and will be sitting out the first six games of next season for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. That's not exactly the way to make yourself attractive as a free agent. Davis is also quite inconsistent, and it's not due to subpar quarterback play. Robert Griffin III may not be Tom Brady at this point but he's still a pretty talented passer and yet Davis couldn't even get on the field consistently (he was inactive six times). I doubt the Patriots would have much interest in an oft-injured, oft-suspended, inconsistent tight end like Davis.
Paul Perillo

Obviously the Patriots have a major need at the outside wide receiver position. Larry Fitzgerald doesn't look like an option anymore (not that he was a real one in the first place). Now that Bill O'Brien is in Houston, is it possible for the Pats to throw together a package for Andre Johnson? Correct me if I'm wrong but he was saying he was somewhat unhappy in Houston at one point.
Zach Forgrave

I don't see a trade like that happening. Johnson expressed his displeasure last season before O'Brien arrived. The team is currently changing gears with a new coaching staff but the Texans have talent, and Johnson knows this. O'Brien also knows Johnson will be very important to the development of the new quarterback, whoever that may be. I don't see a smart coach like O'Brien letting Johnson go unless is a lopsided trade in his favor, and I don't see the Patriots overpaying for a veteran like Johnson.
Paul Perillo

What are your thoughts on T.J. Moe? Do you think he will be a contributor next season? Does he have the same explosive speed like Danny Amendola? I'm excited to see him play and what he can do.
Aaron Sander

I don't actually have many thoughts on Moe, and I also think I have a much different definition of the term “explosive speed” than you because I don't feel Amendola possesses that quality. Moe was an undersized slot receiver in college and he may have a chance to develop into something along those lines at the pro level. I didn't get a chance to see him in pads with the Patriots before he got hurt so I couldn't tell you how he fits in the offense. I don't expect Moe to make the team next season, and on a personal level I'd like to see the Patriots move away from the small slot types and feature more outside the numbers wideouts in the future.
Paul Perillo

I am a big Patriots fan but I don't think this team could ever compete with the Seahawks. I would like to see them dump Tom Brady and go after a younger, mobile quarterback?
Michel Leoce

This seems to be one of the new debates around the NFL in today's game. Does a team need to have a mobile quarterback to be successful? My answer would be a resounding no, but that's just me. Some of these mobile quarterbacks are terrific. I love Russell Wilson's ability to lead his team, and his running ability is certainly one of his greatest physical attributes. Colin Kaepernick has been successful as well. And I feel Andrew Luck is the best of all the newbies with his combination of mobility and arm strength. But there's still a place for Brady and Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and all the rest of the pocket passers out there. I wouldn't put Brady out to pasture just yet, and the Patriots won't be doing that anytime soon.
Paul Perillo

We all saw that Tom Brady and his offense came to a kind of invisible wall, and by this I mean they literally at times could not produce. When Gronk was playing you could clearly see that they were a different team, but what does the Patriots offense need to do to get back to that elite offensive attack?
Nibs Abadi

I think you already answered your question. When Gronk is healthy this offense is every bit as potent and dangerous as ever. When he's not it's an average unit. Unfortunately, Gronk hasn't been part of the equation more often than not lately so the team is going to have to find a way to be more diverse. Assuming Gronkowski is back following a torn ACL, the Patriots still need to find a quality tight end to complement him (and serve as insurance). They also need another option at wide receiver, specifically a guy who makes plays on the ball downfield and outside the numbers. I think Aaron Dobson may be that guy if he can stay healthy and make the proverbial Year 2 jump. There are some good tight ends in the draft and perhaps the Patriots can use a second-round pick to grab one, and if Dobson improves the offense could become more consistent.
Paul Perillo

Duron Harmon, couldn't he fit the SS role? He's 6-1, has an instinct for the ball and has that Rutgers connection/chemistry with Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan (assuming he starts aside a hopefully soon-to-be signed Aqib Talib). And speaking of Talib, if he is re-signed, do you think the Pats draft another tall corner to backup Talib? Because IMO, Alfonzo Dennard is not a suitable backup for Talib.
Zak Salant

That's the position Harmon plays now. He's the backup for Steve Gregory and I wouldn't be surprised to see those roles reserved next season. He's got more size than Gregory and if he can show the ability to tackle more consistently I'd expect his playing time to increase with a year of experience under his belt. If Talib stays I don't expect Ryan to start on the other side. Dennard is the better player of the two, but Ryan showed some promise as a rookie and I'd expect to see continue to get playing time. Overall, if Harmon can make the leap to the starting lineup next season and Talib is re-signed, the secondary could be as deep as it's been in years.
Paul Perillo

How do you see Aqib Talib's contract extension playing out? Is he going to seek and receive big money, or will he get a cap-friendly deal? We obviously need and want him back, but every player comes with a price. Also, how do you see Brandon Spikes' contract situation? The general consensus seems that he's on the way out with Jamie Collins stepping up. I would like to see him stick around because he's our healthiest physical presence at this time.
Kendall Schultz

I believe Talib will get plenty of attention on the free agent market. When healthy last season he showed he can be a true shutdown corner who is a difference-maker on defense. I feel he should get something in the $8 million-per-year range and I'm not sure the Patriots would want to make that type of investment in his long term. If it's a shorter term – maybe two or three years – then I think there's a chance he'll be back. If it's a long-term contract then perhaps the Patriots will be reluctant to do it based on Talib's injury history. I will say this, however. Talib has fit in well in the Patriots locker room and is a well-liked and respected leader. He has earned the opportunity to be a free agent and I'd be surprised if multiple teams didn't express significant interest in him. Assuming that's the case, my guess is he won't be back. As for Spikes, I don't think there's much need for a run-stuffing linebacker who can't play every down. Dont'a Hightower showed he could fill Spikes' shoes late last season and he offers more upside as an every-down player. Collins can remain on the outside in Hightower's spot, and I don't believe the Patriots will miss Spikes at all.
Paul Perillo

Writing all the way from Brisbane, Australia. Long time reader of PFW and of course Patriots fan. Do you know what's going on with Brandon Browner and his suspension in the league? Is he available for free agency and would you like to see him in a Patriots uniform? 2. Do the Patriots have enough cap space to sign both Talib and Edelman?
Evan Bahre

Browner is under indefinite suspension from the league and can apply for reinstatement after a year. He is currently a free agent but obviously he's not going to be playing for anyone anytime soon. And no I wouldn't want to see him in a Patriots uniform. As for cap space, the Patriots can certainly fit both Talib and Edelman but the question is, how far are they willing to go to do that? I can't see the Patriots being willing to extend themselves too much in either case. Edelman may be willing to take a little less to stay here given his rapport with Tom Brady, but he could be in line to get about $5 million per year while Talib should command upwards of $ 8 million. If the Patriots wanted to do that it would require some maneuvering but it's possible.
Paul Perillo

Can you see the Patriots taking Michael Sam? Who cares if he's gay, I care about what he can do on the field, he's a top player in a position we need and if he slips down or even doesn't get drafted, getting the top defensive player in the SEC in the third-fifth has got to be some favorite Patriot value right?
Alex Marr

Would the Pats ever be able to get Michael Sam with the 29th pick? It would be a good place because he is a heck of a player and a very liberal geographic. Also it's a no-nonsense, media-circus kept quiet type of team here.
Kevin Wu

The question with Sam has almost nothing to do with his sexual preference and everything to do with his ability to play football at the NFL level. Many scouts and draft followers believe he is a Day 3 pick, meaning he would go anywhere from the fourth to seventh round. There are some experts who don't believe he will be drafted at all. He's projected in that area due to his 'tweener status – he's a defensive end who will likely have to move to linebacker in the NFL. That's not always an easy transition to make, and at 6-2 he doesn't possess ideal size or speed for the position. A lot will depend on his workouts but I don't feel he's a good football fit for the Patriots. While I agree 100 percent that the environment in Foxborough would allow Sam to succeed on a personal level with the high level of professionalism at Gillette Stadium, the bottom line is he doesn't fit the mold of edge players Belichick likes to employ. It will be interesting to see where Sam winds up but I doubt strongly it will be New England.
Paul Perillo

I have been reading your PFW forums for over a decade, but now I am done with it. There is very little useful information you provide, and most of the time you reject fans suggestions regarding free agents even those which make sense. But truth is obvious, if Patriots brought a couple of worthy free agents instead of washed up Isaac Sopoaga, we probably would have played the Broncos in Foxborough. Every year, BB has an opportunity to sign free agents which can make this team a true contender and he blows the cap space on washed up or risky players who don't work out and you generally stand by this logic. So as you commonly tell your forum visitors - thanks but no thanks.
Jeff D.

Sorry you feel that way and thanks for the 10 years of reading. I think if you look at the previous answers to some of the posts you'd see that I sometimes agree with suggestions and other times I don't. I base this on my opinions and not simply on what Bill Belichick chooses to do. If you read us as frequently as you say you do I don't think you'd say we simply stand by the team's logic on all personnel moves. I feel the team has done a questionable job in free agency in recent years bringing in players like Adrian Wilson, Jonathan Fanene, Shaun Ellis, Chad Ochocinco (trade), Albert Haynesworth (trade) and many others. Aside from Fanene, which is a move I liked until I learned about his health situation, I hated the other moves and said so from the start. I also didn't love the big-money signing of Danny Amendola last year, and many of your fellow fans took me to task for it. So clearly there are times when we side with Belichick's decisions and others when we don't. Either way it's based on our views and not those of the team.
Paul Perillo

My question is about the Pats trading Ryan Mallett for a decent draft pick. I've heard a few reasonable interests involving organizations with Patriot ties (Texans and Browns) and I really don't see him as the successor to Tom Terrific. Give the kid an opportunity to start. What are the chances and what would you say he's worth. What positions do you think are high priority for the Pats this upcoming draft? I feel like another pass rusher could finally complete this defense.
Mike Ruiz

I picked out a couple of your questions and will try to answer them Mike. I don't believe Mallett has much trade value at this stage of his career – certainly not anywhere near what many others believe. Mallett simply hasn't played enough to generate any value. His lone snaps have been in the preseason so I just can't see a team offering much for a completely untested commodity like Mallett. Maybe a fourth-round pick at best, but even that would be a stretch. Matt Cassel was coming off a terrific year in which he went 10-5 as the Patriots starter and he and Mike Vrabel netted just a second-round pick in return. That said a team looking for a change at quarterback may overpay for him in an effort to create some competition. I just don't think it's likely that he'd generate much more than a Day 3 pick. As for the Patriots draft, I'm right with you on the pass rusher. I'd like to see the best available pass rusher or defensive back, especially if they wind up losing Talib. Either position would benefit from another impact player and that's where I'd go early come May.
Paul Perillo

Are the Patriots getting a compensatory pick for Wes Welker's loss and if so how?
Nader Behbehani

The Patriots won't likely receive a compensatory pick specifically for Welker because they signed Danny Amendola and those two unrestricted free agents basically cancel each other out. The Patriots did lose other free agents like Danny Woodhead and Patrick Chung so they likely will be awarded a pick or two – probably after the sixth round. The league has not yet announced those picks but I wouldn't expect anything much higher than that.
Paul Perillo

Which position would you put a highest priority on in the draft between interior offensive line, defensive tackle, tight end and cornerback?
Michael McDermott

I would probably go in the inverse order in which you listed the positions. Of the four positions you mentioned I'd say cornerback first, followed by tight end. From there I'd probably go offensive line and then defensive tackle. I'd also put pass rusher at either the top ahead of cornerback, or at least 1A with corner.
Paul Perillo

How far in the draft do you think Zach Mettenberger will have to fall in the draft before the Patriots grab him as a backup (potentially to replace Ryan Mallett)?
Maxx Crosby

I'll start by saying I love Mettenberger. I think he has all the skills to be a successful NFL quarterback. That said, he's coming off a torn ACL and that will likely make him an excellent mid-round pick for someone. The Patriots could roll the dice on a guy like that, even if they wanted to have him sit out the entire year as a third- or fourth-round pick it wouldn't be the end of the world. Depending on what they think of Mettenberger, it might make some sense. In fact, as I'm typing this I'm talking myself into the idea and will give you full credit for it if it happens, Maxx.
Paul Perillo

 
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