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Ask PFW: Looking ahead

Posted Feb 5, 2013

The focus of this week's PFW mailbag is on the upcoming free agent signing period and the NFL Draft.

In my opinion the Pats have four needs to address in free agency/the draft: 1. CB/S (needs to be physical) 2. Pass rusher (seems this is a need every year) 3. Deep ball receiver (doesn't need to be elite just get a fast/physical guy) 4. A faster LB who can come in on passing down What do you guys think are the pats biggest needs?
Mike T.

I know that we are trying to improve the secondary and are having trouble (i.e. Dowling staying healthy, etc). Would we be better off to get another pass rusher like Chandler Jones as a high draft pick to take some pressure of the secondary?
Dalip Mahal

When free agency and the draft arrive, what positions would the Pats need so they will be ready for the next season?
Christopher Baluha

Who do you think is at the top of the list for the pats this free agency?
Robert Dench

I'd just like to start by thanking you guys for keeping us up to date on everything Patriots. Keep up the great work. Anyway, on to the question. If the Pats let Welker go (which my gut feeling tells me to prepare for), which free agents do you see them chasing after with the chunk of change Welker's exit will open up?
Kaleb Olson

Mike and Dalip are on the right track here. New England’s needs in both free agency and the draft are pretty much the same as they’ve been the past few years, starting first and foremost, I believe, with another talented edge rusher (defensive end or outside linebacker type). Cornerback talent and depth is still an issue as well, and the need for speed and size at wide receiver would be my third most pressing concern for this team. After that, o-line, linebacker, and potentially another quarterback would be my second-tier areas to target.
Erik Scalavino

Tom Brady and the Pats haven't had an explosive receiver since Randy Moss in the '07 season. I think that this (coupled with a few other reasons) is why they can't get their forth ring. If they can get that fast, long-ball weapon for Brady, what are their realistic chances for a title? And who might that player be?
Kyle Starbird

We just sent our latest issue of Patriots Football Weekly to the printer (it’ll be on newsstands tomorrow). In it, you’ll find our annual breakdown of all the free agents-to-be, including at wide receiver, and in April, you have the most comprehensive analysis of all the top players available in this year’s draft. Grab yourself a copy, Kyle, to see who we think would fill that role best… better yet, order yourself a subscription (1-800-494-PATS or www.pfwonline.com).

As for their chances of winning another Super Bowl, they need more than a deep-threat wideout to improve those (see above answer).
Erik Scalavino

Do you think Gronkowski will be 100% at the beginning of next season, or will the re-break of his forearm cause a problem that continues over the long term? Thanks.
Joe Theban

I’m not a doctor, but I’m guessing that with several months to heal, rather than just a few weeks, Gronk will be just fine come summer when training camp begins. Will he have lingering effects from the two breaks in separate places on that left forearm? Possibly. Again, I can’t say with any certainty because I don’t have a medical degree, but I’d be stunned if this impacts his career adversely.
Erik Scalavino

Just wondering why Brandon Lloyd's 2012 season has been mostly labeled as disappointing? [His] 74 Receptions for 911 Yards are not too shabby, ranking 22nd and 28th in the NFL, respectively. There is only so much wealth to go around in the offense. Keep in mind that Chad Johnson had 15 Receptions for 276 Yards the previous season. Now that is truly disappointing. Perspective, people. Perspective.
Travis Hilton

No one is disputing that Lloyd’s output far outpaced that of the former owner of jersey number 85 here in Foxborough. Those numbers speak for themselves. What you and other Lloyd apologists are overlooking, Travis, is Lloyd’s performance based on expectations coming in.

He was touted as this “long-ball” threat that could help stretch defenses like Randy Moss used to do. People weren’t saying Lloyd was Moss, but that he could bring that element back to the Patriots offense. He rarely did so. Lloyd made a couple of nice deep catches over the course of the season (against Buffalo and Houston in the regular season), but Lloyd was not a guy who made many clutch catches. His yards weren’t gained on big plays – not necessarily big gains, but big in terms of the importance of the circumstances (crucial third-downs and the like).

That, I think, is where most critics take issue with Lloyd’s 2012 season. In addition, he was almost always seen dropping to the ground to make catches and failing to gain many yards-after-catch, another area where critics have a valid basis for their arguments against him. Yes, 900-plus yards are great, but just imagine how much better those numbers would have been had Lloyd not dropped so many balls or been more Donte’-Stallworth-in-2007-like with the balls he did hang onto.
Erik Scalavino

I saw that Ed Reed is a free agent and wouldn't mind playing in New England. Given his age, would the Pats be interested and in terms of cost, and would it be doable?
Keith Nelson

It sure is possible. Reed and Bill Belichick are unabashed founding members of their mutual admiration society. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this to happen, however. Reed’s ties to Baltimore are strong, and perhaps the goodwill of having won a Super Bowl there will convince him to stay. If contract talks get contentious, though, I could certainly see the Patriots swooping in and making an offer.
Erik Scalavino

If you had to pick, franchise Welker for $11.4 million or Talib for $10.66? Who would make more of a difference in the W-L column?
A. Snibbets

There’s no debate here. It’s Welker who’s more of a difference-maker in wins and losses for this team. He’s proven that over the last six seasons. Talib, no matter for whom he plays next season, is going to be vastly overpaid for this skills, simply because he finds himself the most talented player in a very weak free agent crop at his position. His arrival in Foxborough mid-season certainly helped with depth and personnel placement in the secondary. No question about that. But to say he made much of a difference in the win-loss column is a stretch.
Erik Scalavino

Any status updates on some of our guys that were out with injuries such as Edelman and Dowling? I'm hoping they will be key contributors next year regardless of whether or not we re-sign Talib and Welker.
Erik L.

Saw Edelman with my own eyes walking through the Patriots locker room on January 21, the final day the 2012 team was together. The broken right foot he suffered in early December against Miami didn’t seem to be giving him any trouble. I’ve not seen Dowling since he went on IR early in the season. Both are injury-prone and, while I like Edelman’s chances of contributing more than Dowling’s, neither should be counted on that much (assuming Edelman re-signs with New England… he’s a free agent) given their inability to stay on the field for 16 games.
Erik Scalavino

If we keep Welker, do you see the possibility of a Welker/Amendola tandem to go along with Gronk and Hernandez? I think about how much opposing defenses would have a hard time trying to stop Gronk and Hernandez alone. Now adding Amendola to the mix with Welker would be pretty terrifying!
Daniel Hill

Hmmm… yeah, I’m terrified, Daniel. Terrified at the thought of your namesake, Danny Amendola, joining the Patriots. He’s a very poor man’s version of Welker, and a fragile one at that. I couldn’t imagine his taking the kinds of hits Welker has over the years and playing a 16-game season. There are better options out there for the Patriots to target at slot receiver. They should steer as clear from Amendola as possible. I don’t think he’d be worth the return on investment.
Erik Scalavino

Up front, I am a native New Englander, season ticket holder, and life-time fan of the Patriots and always will be. Our team has had an amazing run. I remember our lean years well, and was in the Air Force and in hostile territory when the Bears and Packers beat us. It is good therapy to travel down memory lane to cheer up when seasons don't end well. Last season I had to do that because it seemed like we could and would beat the Giants after being heartbroken in the first iteration. Why do I not feel like I need to be cheered up about our failure to go all the way this season?
Andy Fletcher

Perhaps because you’re a mature, well-adjusted individual who has his priorities in proper order and realizes there are far more important things in this world than the results of a professional sports team – an entity that, from your perspective, exists purely for the benefit of your entertainment… or am I off-base in that assumption?
Erik Scalavino

Huge fan from Toronto, Canada. Great job to get fans involved. Anyhow, couple questions. If Welker is going to ask for big bucks, isn't Edelman a much better option considering his value? Love Welker, but we can use the cap space. Also, why all the Ed Reed talk? He's past his prime; we need to spend money on a hard-hitting playmaker nearing his prime or in it. Let’s get real here, Brady only has 2-3 great years left, we need to win now or this annual AFC title game will be a thing of the past.
Jimmy Poma

I’d like to refer you to my response to the earlier question posed by Erik L., in which I detail Edelman’s unreliability to stay healthy over the course of a season. That is something many of Welker detractors often conveniently overlook or take for granted. Edelman – or any player, for that matter – is of no value if he can’t stay on the field.

With respect to Reed, he certainly has more football behind him than ahead of him, but is the future Hall of Famer a better option for the Patriots secondary than anyone currently on the roster? You better believe it. I’d bring him on board in a heartbeat.
Erik Scalavino

My question is about the conditioning of players. Is it left up entirely to the players or are they each given an individual program to follow and is it monitored?
Ellen Gilbert

Great question, Ellen. In virtually every instance, players are given a specific off-season (and in-season, actually) training regimen from their club’s strength and conditioning coaches. This is tailored to the player’s size and position (o-linemen, for example, are training for strength more than speed, whereas a receiver is looking to stay lean and fast, not overly bulky). Players who are under contract can work out either at the club’s facilities (when league rules allow) or wherever they live in the offseason. Veteran players who are in free agent limbo are usually up to their own devices when it comes to working out and staying in shape this time of year.
Erik Scalavino

Why wasn't a penalty called and a fine imposed when Steven Ridley took a helmet-to-helmet hit in the Baltimore game and was knocked unconscious. Tom Brady's foot was up in the air when he got knocked to the ground and he got fined? I know this is a late question, but I can’t find an explanation.
Sam Gammons

Helmet-to-helmet hits are not considered fineable or flag-able offenses when a receiver or runner is not in a so-called “defenseless” position. Ridley’s hit from Bernard Pollard falls into this category. What’s more, if you watch the replay, you’ll notice that Ridley lowers his head first and almost seems to initiate the contact with Pollard’s helmet. In Brady’s case, his leg didn’t just happen to be “up in the air.” He purposely kicked Ed Reed, and later apologized for his behavior. Brady was justifiably fined for his poor sportsmanship.
Erik Scalavino

I think the problem with the Pro Bowl is everyone thinks and feels it is a football sporting event. They expect it to be a typical smash-mouth game. I say, remove the expectation so everyone knows right away it is a reward for hard work through the season for the pros and a casual event for the fans. Make the game a flag football game, no helmets, no pads. Bring back the Quarterback Challenge and other fan favorites. What do you think about working to change the expectations of the fans?
Phil Savoie

Here is my take on how you can improve the Pro Bowl: first thing, drop the game itself. Nobody gets hurt and we're not bored to death watching it. Solution: make the Pro Bowl a full weekend of competitive events for the Pro Bowlers to participate in, just like the old 70's, 80's show "Battle of the Network Stars." Howard Cosell was the announcer, remember? The athletes could compete in track events, tug of war, strongest man, best dunk, QB competition, fastest man and so on...what do you think? I'd sit home to watch that.
Michael Montrond

Some decent ideas put forth here, guys. What I’d like to see is the Pro Bowl be turned into a post-season awards extravaganza. Do away with the game, I agree. Move the event to the weekend after the Super Bowl, like it traditionally used to be. Bring the entire league to Hawaii to celebrate the season that was, in part by announcing and handing out all the awards: MVP, Coach of the Year, Rookies of the Year, etc. Have some fan-related events throughout the week, and maybe even make them part of the ceremony. You can still honor the Pro Bowl selectees with a tribute during the awards show. Let’s face it, all the players really want is the free trip to Hawaii. This acknowledges that fact and gives the people who make this league so popular (the fans) a chance to take part in the fun.
Erik Scalavino

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