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Ask PFW: Free agency forecast

Posted Mar 13, 2012

Free agency began on Tuesday afternoon, meaning there is plenty to talk about in terms of comings and goings in New England. It's like Christmas, and fans are excited to get the frenzy underway!

Hey guys, With free agency right around the corner I was just curious of some under the radar names you think the Patriots may be interested in? Maybe a Josh Morgan, OJ Atogwe, Terrell Thomas, or Eric Wright just to throw a few names out. Keep up the great work!
Alex Sabo

Terrell Thomas is a guy I've always liked, and wanted the Patriots to draft one pick ahead of the Giants back in 2008. Even though he's coming off injury, he's probably going to garner more interest and money than New England would be looking to invest. One area that I'd look for some under the radar names is along the defense line. The team needs to add some experienced depth in that area. Maybe a guy like Shaun Rogers to fill the Gerard Warren void? Amobi Okoye? Red Bryant? Who knows, and that's what makes this time of year so exciting.
Andy Hart

In years past the Patriots were a chameleon team that could adapt to the style of their opponents, whether they be a finesse team or a physical team. In the past few years it seems that the Patriots, and Tom Brady in particular, have become vulnerable and unable to adapt to the physical teams like the Steelers, Ravens, Giants and even the Jets in 2010. Part of the vulnerability seems to be the fact that Brady has become a statue in the pocket ala Drew Bledsoe and Dan Marino. Good pass rushing teams know exactly where he is going to be, they collapse the pocket impeding his ability to throw. While not fleet of foot, in the past he would at times tuck the ball away and run for even just a few yards to keep the defense honest. In the Super Bowl he had the opportunity to run on the play that he threw the interception to Chase Blackburn. It seems that his inability to roll out on occasion or throw on the run hurts the offense against physical, good pass rushing teams. While he is never going to be a Michael Vick or Aaron Rodgers, the ability to throw on the run would add another dimension and change the angles that defenders would have to play. Do you think it's possible for Brady to add a little of that dimension or has that ship passed? It seems to me that if the Pats played the Giants again the result is going to be the same, a low scoring Pats offense with a tentative Brady.
Gary Goldstein

While I've never been much of a proponent of Brady running the ball, I understand where you are coming from. PFW pooh bah Fred Kirsch has been making the same argument for a while. But at this point in his career, and since his 2008 knee injury, I don't think No. 12 has any interest in running. As you said, that ship has passed. Maybe that means the offensive line needs to do a better job and earn its money more than in the past. Maybe that means you are just going have to accept days when the pass rush is going to make life very tough on Brady. But I don't see him running on any more of a regular basis in the future. In fact it will probably grow less of an option as each season wears on.
Andy Hart

Would the Pats consider bringing Randy Moss back?
James Taylor

NFL Network was reporting that the 49ers, Saints and Patriots were in the running for Moss' services when the future Hall of Famer decided to sign with San Francisco. Not sure what NFLN had to base that report on, but it surprised me. I didn't think that Bill Belichick would be looking to revisit the Moss situation. According to the report, maybe he was. But now the point is moot, as they say. Moss is Jim Harbaugh's weapon/problem now.
Andy Hart

Since the Patriots need help in the secondary should they pursue Jim Leonard from the Jets? I think he would cost less than Landry. Thanks.
Mike Thomas

Leonard was always a heady, solid player for Rex Ryan's defenses. But I'm not his biggest fan. If I were going to go for the consistent, calming force I'd rather see the team give James Sanders another run in the secondary. Both would clearly be cheaper options than former Redskin LaRon Landry. But I don't think he'd be a good fit, either. I think he's overrated and has been ever since he entered the league out of LSU. Now, based on his Hulk-like photos on the web, he's more interested in body building than being a great football player. No thanks. I've always kind of liked Reggie Nelson, even though he was a bust in Jacksonville. Sounds like maybe he's become more of a professional and maybe turned his career around a bit in Cincy of all places. Might be worth a look, depending on the price.
Andy Hart

Hi Guys, Will you please give your assessment of Brandon Lloyd. The only thing I remember about him is his behind the head one handed catch when he was with the 49ers and that seems like forever ago. Will he really improve the offense that much? Is he a burner?
Monty Borrowman

Lloyd is a well-rounded type receiver. He makes some spectacular catches, as you recall. He had his best seasons under Josh McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, the only 50-catch seasons of his career. He also averaged nearly 19 yards a catch for the Broncos on his career-best 77 receptions 2010. He has a questionable reputation as a locker room guy, probably the reason that he's played for five teams in nine seasons. If he can get on the same page with Brady, then he probably has the skills to help the offense. But that's always the big if with all receivers coming to New England. It's one thing to be comfortable with McDaniels, and another to get along with No. 12. He's not a guy to build the offense around, but he could be a nice complement to the overall unit given his theoretical comfort in the McDaniels/Patriots system.
Andy Hart

Most people feel the Pat's need an edge rusher, DB, Safety, speedy wide receiver, DL and maybe OL help. I think if the Pat's can get one very good player and one solid player in free agency they can come close to filling their needs. My questions are: 1. If the Pat's sign a big money free agent, do you think that forces them (salary cap) to trade away one of their first round picks? 2. Belichick likes to have a draft choice in every round, do you expect him to trade down for lower picks? 3. If we get Carter and or Anderson back and the OL decide not to retire, how would prioritize the Pat's needs? Thank you.
Richard D'Andrea

I think the Patriots two biggest needs, almost regardless of who returns and who doesn't, remain an edge pass rushing athlete and a safety. If, by chance, the plan is to move Devin McCourty to safety full-time, then the team likely needs a top-end cornerback. Regardless, the top needs remain on defense to build a solid, long-term corps. The offensive line does become more of an issue if Brian Waters were to retire, but since that hasn't been reported at this point I think there is a good chance he'll be back for another year. Finally, I do not believe that going for a big-money player in free agency would force the team to trade a first-round pick. The bigger impetus for such a move would be Belichick's “value” style and the fact that he doesn't like to have gaps in his draft. He might want to add not only some later picks this year, but also increase his picks for 2013. But if he sees two guys he just has to have late in the first round, I think he'd go get them.
Andy Hart

What about running back Michael Bush he is a north and south runner and great hands coming out of the back field?
Mike Ryan

I have always been a Bush fan. I think he could be a very productive player on the Patriots offense. He's coming off his worst season in terms of yards per attempt (3.8), with a career-high 256 carries. He also had a career-high 37 catches. If BenJarvus Green-Ellis chases the money elsewhere in free agency, I think Bush might actually be an upgrade to add to the New England committee.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, looking ahead to the 2013 draft - it looks like it is going to be LOADED and far deeper than this year's crop of players. That being said is this the year where it will be a really good thing to trade out and stock up for next year? I know we need a lot of help but watching the PATS D last year the biggest thing we were missing was experience - lets concentrate on signing some key veterans to step up and lead the team and stock up for some studs next year.
Mike Anderson

Doesn't it feel like next year's draft is always more loaded? The grass is always greener? Anyway, I'm just glad we found at least one fan that's not only in favor of, but suggesting to trade away picks into next year's draft. Depending how free agency starts, and how the first round is unfolding in front of him, I certainly wouldn't expect Belichick to hesitate considering a deal that might send one of this year's two first rounders in a deal for a first-round pick next year and other picks. Of course the counter argument to this is that the Patriots need add as many playmakers as possible as soon as possible before the Brady-led championship window closes.
Andy Hart

Is there any chance of the patriots picking up another cornerback or two? Kyle Arrington got burned on a lot of plays last year they need an upgrade at that position. Plus, a big, fast wide-out to go along with Welker and Gronk and Hernadez. I think that would make us close to unstoppable. Don't you think this is the year Robert Kraft goes all in, Brady isn't getting and younger?
Sal Masiello

The depth at cornerback is tied in to whether McCourty will remain at the position or move to safety. It also has to do with the health of 2011 second-round pick Ras-I Dowling. If he's healthy and McCourty stays, Arrington isn't a terrible third corner option. I agree that, despite tying for the NFL lead with seven interceptions last year, Arrington isn't a starting level corner on a good defense. But as former first- and second-round picks, both McCourty and Dowling should be. So there is need to add some depth at cornerback, but maybe not for first-round talent. And every team would like a big, fast receiver to make plays outside the numbers and down the field. There just aren't enough of them to go around. At the right price, I think the Patriots would love to have one. As for Kraft, he pays Belichick a lot of money to make all the key football decisions. He obviously is involved and signs off on things, but the praise and criticism needs to go to Belichick in terms of the team's roster formulation and free agency work.
Andy Hart

What do you think of our chances of acquiring Mario Williams in Free Agency?
David Kelley

Based on nothing other than my own gut analysis, I'd go with 17.6 percent. He's the perfect fit in many ways for New England, but will also be a very attractive, high-priced target for a lot of teams. Belichick doesn't generally get into bidding wars and hand out a lot of $80 million contracts. But shouldn't stop us from dreaming about Williams as we head into free agency!
Andy Hart

My question is the future qb of the patriots. In my opinion i think when all is said and done Ryan Mallet will be the man. Am i wrong about this or has Hoyer impressed you going forward?
Scott Rodriguez

The Patriots quarterback for the immediate and foreseeable future is clearly Tom Brady. I think that eliminates Hoyer from being the heir, as he'll reach maturity and probably get his NFL chance before Brady is ready to pack it in. Mallett has a lot to like in terms of physical skills, but I haven't seen enough to prove to me that he's a guy who will be a sure-fire successful NFL starter. This will be a big summer/preseason for him to develop. I think I'll have a better feel for his future after this August.
Andy Hart

Hi Guys, I'm seeing lots of speculation about trading a 1st rounder for Mike Wallace. Is he worth it? Based on three years in Pittsburgh, it looks like he is good for about 70 catches, 1100 yds, and 8 TDs. He started strong last year, and then faded fast. Antonio Brown emerged as the big play threat for the Steelers. Has Wallace proven he is really worthy of giving up a first rounder?
Bob Malloy

If it were just about the first-round pick, I'd give it up in a heartbeat. Though some think that Wallace is a one-trick, go-route pony, he's pretty good in that role. But it's not just about the pick. You also would have to give Wallace a big-money contract that may pay him $9 million-plus per year. Is he worth that money and the loss of the first-round pick? That's the big question. I actually think that Brown may end up being the better all-around NFL receiver. But it's hard to say how much of a difference a guy like Wallace makes on an offense. It's not just about his receptions and plays; it's about how much time opposing defenses spend worrying about him. The Patriots defense made sure he didn't get behind them last year. As such Ben Roethlisberger threw underneath and completed 36 of 50 passes in victory. Wallace deserves some of the credit for all of those completions. That's the type of impact a big-play threat can have. But would I pay him the money and give up the first-round pick? Probably not.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, As of this writing Peyton Manning is a free agent, but hasn't found a new team. Do you think the Patriots change how they address their needs in FA and the draft if Manning ends up on a team they have to face 2x a year (i.e. focusing really strongly on the D-side of the ball?) Thanks.
Chris Moloney

I'm pretty sure that Belichick knows he needs to improve his defense and his pass secondary regardless of whether Manning ends up in the division or not. Right now it looks like the Patriots will luck out and Manning will end up in Denver. But the major needs of this team remain the same. They've allowed a lot of questionable quarterbacks to put up Manning-like numbers in recent years. Just because they don't actually have to beat Manning for the division, they may have to go through him to get back to the Super Bowl. And there are plenty of other quarterbacks out there who put a lot of stress on a pass defense. That's a major problem in New England, regardless of anything else that happens other than the league maybe banning the forward pass. And that would hurt the Patriots offense as much as it would help the defense!
Andy Hart

Did we ever find out what really happened with Tiquan Underwood before the Super Bowl? Was he cut for disciplinary reasons or strictly for football strategy reasons?
Erik L.

My understanding is that Underwood being released just before the Super Bowl had nothing to do with discipline, that is was simply a football decision.
Andy Hart

Hey, PFW. I love this Q & A. I know we brought in Randy Moss for a fourth-rounder, but what about doing the reverse? How feasible do you think it could be to trade our players for picks (hopefully for this draft) to clear up space? We could establish a connection with a team that needs corner help, and ship off one or two of our youngsters for more options in the draft, and/or to clear up cap room for signing at least one big-name free agent. We saw in Moss that a change in system and atmosphere can lead to a player's success.
Dante Swinton

I would not be surprised to see Belichick deal off a player or two in an effort to fill some holes in the latter rounds of his year's draft. He's done this in the past, like when he shipped Ellis Hobbs to Philly for a couple fifth-round picks. If it happens I think the deals would be about adding picks more than cutting cap space, though. But I will never rule anything out when it comes to Belichick wheeling and dealing.
Andy Hart



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