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Ask PFW: Free agent frenzy

Posted Mar 11, 2014

The first day of free agency has brought plenty of questions from fans looking to add to the Patriots roster.

I believe Hakeem Nicks will be signable at a good price and they could give Sidney Rice a contract structured like Donte' Stallworth's was where it was essentially a one-year, prove yourself type deal. Thoughts?
Christina C.

I actually like the idea of signing either one of these guys on a short-term deal. Both are legitimate outside receivers who are capable of making big plays down the field. Nicks has said he'd be open to a one-year contract and I believe he'd offer some value for reasonable dollars. His talent is still there and with Tom Brady throwing him the ball I believe his numbers would be solid. Rice is more of an injury concern. He has stayed healthy for a while but as you suggested, Christina, an incentive-laden, low-risk deal could prove to be valuable. I like the talent level of both receivers, and neither would be asked to come in a carry the load by themselves. If Rob Gronkowski can be healthy toward the end of the season, having another complement like Rice or Nicks would make the Patriots offense more dangerous.
Paul Perillo

Enjoy reading your column every week. The team is obviously saddled with salary cap limitations but I think there are reasonable moves they can make to improve the overall team. Here are a few ideas (please feel free to critique and explain your reasoning and suggest an alternate solution). (1) Cut Wilfork and others (i.e. Isaac Sopoaga, Wilson, O'Connell, etc). (2) Use the cap savings to sign DE Michael Johnson (Bengals) and a cheaper FA CB vet. (3) Package a first and a third/fourth rounder to move up the boards a few spots in the first round and draft the best DT available. This I think will improve the interior defense significantly but sacrificing a bit on outside D (Talib would probably be unaffordable at this point). For offense I will: (1) sign FA TE Scott Chandler. (2) Draft the best TE available in second round. (3) Sign the best OG available in rounds 3 or 4 (it's been written that interior lineman position is deep in talent this year). (4) Sign an affordable vet interior lineman through FA.
Jaimie Bains

I'm with you one some things and not so much on some others. First, our agreements. I like Michael Johnson and I would have loved to grab him but it doesn't look like that's going to happen since he's reportedly set to sign in Tampa. He could be a potential difference-maker on the edge in his prime, though, and a worthwhile target. I'd definitely part ways with Sopoaga and Wilson, assuming you're talking about Adrian. (I don't know who O'Connell is or who you may have meant). I also like the idea of drafting a tight end in the second round. There are some athletic players at the position and assuming one you like is available at the end of the second round I'd wait till then to grab one. Now the stuff I don't like as much. I wouldn't cut Wilfork, and I say that as much for what he brings off the field as for what he provides on it. He's a true leader in the locker room and cutting him coming off an injury would send a bad message. Obviously I don't want him back for a cap hit of more than $11 million either, but an extension would allow the Patriots to gain the necessary space. I have no interest in drafting a defensive tackle in the first round, let alone moving up to draft one. Wilfork was lost for the season last year and the Patriots couldn't stop the run, and yet it didn't affect the defense one bit. The running game is little more than a complementary part of most offenses today and I don't see the need of drafting a defensive tackle that high. I'm also not in love with Scott Chandler, who drops a lot of catchable passes. He's average at best and I wouldn't extend myself at all to sign him. Finally I don't think offensive line is something that needs to be addressed as strongly as you suggest. Draft one late if you want a young guy to develop but I don't see that as being a huge need.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys, I've become frustrated with our management the past few years. We have let a lot of good players go and the ones with whom we've replaced them have rarely panned out. I understand we spend up to the cap every year but it's diluted into quantity, as opposed to quality. I truly believe if we get two top playmakers on both sides of the ball it will make all the difference in not just getting to the super bowl, but actually winning the whole thing! It seems unfair how we give away great players and other teams scarf them up and we tend to end up on the short end of the stick. A standard of excellence has been achieved by BB and as such competing isn't enough. Winning it all is all that matters and if were not actually doing that then what's the point?
Jon Dowling

I think this view is a bit strong for my liking. I believe the Patriots have certainly made some mistakes in their talent evaluation over the years and certainly some of those have been the result of money. But it's also hard to ignore the fact that the team wins consistently every year and has generally been a deep playoff team since Tom Brady took over as quarterback. I understand the frustration of getting close and not being able to win it all since 2004, and the desire to grab another talented player or two is definitely understandable. At the same time it's unrealistic to expect four more players – two on each side of the ball – to sign. Every team would like to do that but it's just not realistic. At times I wish the organization would be a little more aggressive in its approach, not necessarily in spending but more in terms of identifying players they like and getting them. John Abraham last offseason is an example of what I'm talking about. He was not a high-priced player but yet the Patriots failed to sign him. Overall, though, the Patriots success rate is tough to argue with.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, love the work you do keep it up. I was wondering if you think the Patriots might pursue Chris Johnson in free agency? For the right money (like every free agent needs to be) I think he could be a great addition to our backfield. A combination of him and Ridley and Vereen has the potential to be the strong point of our offense. Let me know if you agree.
Callum Fleming

Well, I don't agree and even worse Chris Johnson is not a free agent. The Titans would probably trade him if they could but he's due $8 million in salary. Even if he were available, I don't see Johnson making a huge impact in New England at this point. Tom Brady remains the focal point of the offense and I believe Johnson wouldn't get the amount of carries he's used to. He's also a bit of an all-or-nothing type of guy where he can certainly make some big plays he also gets stuffed at or behind the line a lot. Johnson is dynamic but would coast some money and I'm not sure he'd be worth it in a pass-first offense like the Patriots.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys from New Zealand. With all this money being thrown at Brent Grimes and Sam Shields, I think Aqib Talib might be out of reach for the Patriots. Who would be the next best corner to go after? Also is Antonio Cromartie worth a one- or two-year deal he might come cheap?
Pearce Bennett

The other name at the top of the cornerback list seems to be Tennessee's Alterraun Verner but he won't come cheap either. He's smaller than Talib at 5-11 but he's also younger and has been more durable. Cromartie is an interesting possibility. He's said a lot of derogatory things about the Patriots and Tom Brady specifically over the years but I don't think that would be a deal-breaker is push came to shove. But I do think he'd cost more than you'd think, and his play tailed off a bit last year. I like the idea of a one-year deal but that would not solve the issues if Talib is not re-signed. As free agency kicks off it will be interesting to see where all these dominos fall into place.
Paul Perillo

Love reading your stuff (especially when I'm bored sitting in lectures in college). I have heard of speculations concerning trading Ryan Mallett to the Texans. If this indeed does happen, what are the chances of taking a new QB that could potentially be the replacement for Brady after retirement, and furthermore what are the chances that someone like Aaron Murray might be that guy? Thanks!
Blake Wright

I don't believe there is any chance the Texans would trade for Ryan Mallett. He's an unproven player heading into his fourth season and the Texans wouldn't want to give up anything for such an unknown commodity. Mallett's trade value wouldn't seem very high with just preseason reps under his belt at this point. As for Murray, I think he's a very good college quarterback but I'm not sure he's a sure-fire pro prospect. He's coming off a serious knee injury as well. I'd rather take a shot with LSU's Zach Mettenberger or even Alabama's A.J. McCarron to a lesser extent.
Paul Perillo

Will/can the Pats receive cap relief from the Aaron Hernandez contract?
Jimmy

There are some possibilities that the Patriots could receive some cap relief for Hernandez depending on the outcome of some of his potential trials. But any potential help they would get would be well down the road as he's still awaiting trial at this point and there would certainly be no guarantees of relief even if he's found guilty.
Paul Perillo

With the recent release of Champ Baily do think the Patriots might make a move to sign him to improve the secondary.
Tyler Spangenburg

Bailey is a great player but he's seen better days. He couldn't stay on the field last year and barely played, and in 2012 he was torched by Balitmore's Torrey Smith throughout the Ravens double overtime victory in the divisional playoffs. Bailey could probably still help a team as an extra defensive back but his days as a shutdown left corner are over – and he's likely looking to be paid as a starter and not a backup.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, just a quick question here regarding the Patriots TE situation. A lot has been said about the Patriots possibly taking Jace Amaro in the first round. I don't think that is necessary. What is your opinion of Colt Lyerla, the TE from Oregon? He seems to have a very similar play style to that of Amaro. I know there are some character concerns, but the Patriots seem to be a great place for misguided players to straighten themselves out. I think this could be a value pick in the later rounds that would fill a big need for the pats. Your thoughts?
Jay Penerian

I wouldn't tough Lyerla in any round. He's had some issues with drugs and was kicked off the Oregon team. After what the Patriots just went through with Hernandez I'd rather not take any chances with known problems at this point. There are enough quality players available in the draft that the Patriots shouldn't have to take one with so many known troubles.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys, big Pats fan from London here. Do you think the Pats would be interested in making a move for the recently reinstated Brandon Browner. BB has history with getting the best out of players with troubled pasts. His four-game ban will hurt his market value so he could be picked up at a fairly decent price. I know his performances have tailed off the last couple of seasons but he has a point to prove in the league. Do you think the Pats could be a good fit for him?
Greg Brown

Hey guys! I'm a big fan of yours from Buffalo. I'm curious as to what your thoughts are about signing Brandon Browner along with Aqib. He could provide size to a secondary that was terrorized by 6-3 Demaryius Thomas once Aqib went down. Signing him to a one year "show me" deal makes sense. Thanks for your time.
Richard Hillman

I'd say pretty much the same thing about Browner as I did Lyerla. It seems Patriots fans are enamored with getting players with checkered pasts under the guise that the value would be high. I don't see it that way. Instead I think there's little value in that approach. Guys that have off-field problems are rarely reliable on it. Browner has been suspended multiple times and as you said, he'll be sitting out four more games to start 2014. There's certainly no guarantee that he'll make it much further without getting nailed again. If that happens, then what? Why not find a player who can help who doesn't have as much potential to disgrace the team? I've had enough of serving as a rehab center for troubled football players. And just as a point of fact, Thomas was destroying the Patriots before Talib went down as well.
Paul Perillo

Do you think we should let Julian Edelman walk? He had one great season injury free. Why not take the flyer on Emmanuel Sanders for slot/outside and Hakeem Nicks as a prove-it type deal.
Matt DiGiacomo

I know this sounds incredibly homer-ish but I'd be perfectly fine with whatever they did with Edelman (unless they gave him huge bucks). I believe Edelman is worth keeping and that he is a valuable player, but I also don't think he's worth going to the wall to retain. If there's some middle ground to be found I'd be all for it. He reportedly turned down a three-year deal to become a free agent, although we don't know what it was worth. In terms of your replacements, I'd take Nicks for a year. I think he has some talent and for various reasons (injuries, Eli Manning's ineffectiveness in 2013) he hasn't been as productive lately. But in 2011 I know Bill Belichick believed Nicks and Victor Cruz were the keys to the Giants passing game, and for one year I believe Nicks could rehab his rep with Tom Brady throwing him the ball.
Paul Perillo

I think if we really want a TE in this draft, we are going to end up reaching. Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jace Amaro will likely be gone by the 29th pick. C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Troy Niklas could go as early as the 2nd round. Plus the Pats never do what you expect them to do. So, what's the best alternative in the 1st and 2nd round?
Mike in South Dakota

I honestly have no idea what this question is asking so I'm going to take the last part and focus on that and disregard all the tight end stuff. In the first round I want help on defense, specifically an edge pass rusher or a cover guy. In the second round I'd be more interested in a tight end, but I also wouldn't mine sticking with defense and grabbing a safety. I like the group of tight ends that you mentioned and I believe they could get one they like in the second round, but I'd rather focus on improving the defense. Of course all of this could change depending on what happens in free agency.
Paul Perillo

If we lose Aqib Talib is there a chance of getting Alterraun Verner and Jairus Byrd together and why not go for Colt Lyerla later in the draft.
William Schrak

There's no chance of getting Verner and Byrd but I believe Verner is a possibility if Talib is not re-signed. He said Devin McCourty has been trying to lobby for him through his brother Jason, who has been Verner's teammate in Tennessee. Byrd is looking for cornerback money (reportedly $9 million a year) and he's more of a free safety type. McCourty already plays that spot and I feel the Patriots need more of a physical presence next to him. As for Lyerla, as I said earlier, less than zero interest. Let some other team take on that problem.
Paul Perillo

What do you guys think about signing either Roman Harper or Malcolm Jenkins? Both could be cheap options for a talent needy secondary. I think Major Wright could bring a physical presence to the back end of that defense as well. BB loves special teamers so why not try to woo Devin Hester to New England?
Logan Mullins

I think Jenkins would be an interesting signing. I like his versatility as a former corner and he has a good combination of coverage skills and a physical style. Harper is too old at this point. He's had a terrific career but is not the same player – think Adrian Wilson. I don't like Wright much, although you are correct that he is a physical player. He's slow and often out of position. I would be intrigued by Hester if Edelman walks. He would add some danger to the return game but that's certainly not a huge priority.
Paul Perillo

I enjoy reading all the articles on patriots.com. My question, is Armond Armstead still under contract with the Patriots? If so, can you give some insight as to what he has been doing and if you think he has a chance to get a rooster spot.
Shawn Sissell

Armstead is indeed still with the team after missing all of last year following surgery to deal with an infection. Bill Belichick mentioned him during his press conference after the season as being in the mix at defensive tackle and I expect him to get every opportunity to be part of the mix there in 2014. The offseason program hasn't even started yet so when we get a chance to see the team at OTAs (in May) we'll pass along more information on Armstead at that point. But I think it's safe to say there's a chance we'll see him in 2014.
Paul Perillo

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