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Ask PFW: Making the moves

Posted Jan 28, 2014

The Super Bowl is around the corner but the Patriots have already moved on toward 2014. The offseason is in full swing and we attack some suggestions in this week's "Ask PFW" mailbag.

I’ve read a lot about how the last time the Patriots lost to Peyton Manning in the championship game in 2006 and the need to revamp the receiving corps we went out and got Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Donte’ Stallworth. I know this year is far from the same with some promising rookies turning to second-year players but just from your point of view if Bill Belichick wanted to go the same way as 2007 who could he realistically bring in?
Rob Masters

There are some veteran free agent wide receivers who would realistically makes sense for the Patriots such as Denver’s Eric Decker, the Giants Hakeem Nicks, San Fran’s Anquan Boldin, Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones and Green Bay’s James Jones. There are others available as well, and the Patriots certainly could add one to the group. Julian Edelman’s pending free agent status could affect the team’s course of action as well. But with the three rookies on board I don’t see a repeat of 2007, or last year, with a complete overhaul of the wide receiver position. I’d like to see the team add a veteran to go with what they already have, but I don’t think a complete re-do is necessary.
Paul Perillo

My question is about Jamie Collins. I know that Coach Belichick is totally aware of all his players’ abilities, skills and athleticism. That being said, if Brandon Spikes had not gone on IR when he did, would Jamie Collins even had his breakout game against the Colts and how well he played against the Broncos? Would we have even known who Jamie Collins was until sometime next season?
David Whitehead

I don’t Spikes being place on IR impacted Collins all that much. Collins had been playing a major role on defense over the last half of the season. Once Jerod Mayo went down, his role grew seemingly by the week. In fact, Collins was playing more than Spikes down the stretch of the regular season because Collins is more versatile and capable of playing on all three downs. Spikes is pretty much a run-stopper and therefore wouldn’t have seen the field much against the Colts in the playoffs. Indy uses a lot of three- and four-receiver sets and doesn’t run the ball that much, so Spikes’ role would have been diminished. So, I feel Collins would have played in a similar fashion regardless of Spikes’ status. Hopefully Collins can build on that experience and enjoy an even better second season where he uses his athleticism and versatility to his advantage.
Paul Perillo

I know Bill values loyalty and Eric Mangini was disloyal. But he was a better defensive coordinator than anyone since he left. And we haven’t had a good defense since then. Any chance Bill could bring him back?
Gerry Billadeau
North Hampton, N.H.

Gerry I just don’t see something like that happening. I’ve learned to never say never but things obviously did not end well between Belichick and Mangini and unlike some other once-fractured relationships this one doesn’t seem to be repairing anytime soon. Mangini spent the 2013 season as a senior offensive consultant for the Niners and they even considered making him the quarterbacks coach if offensive coordinator Greg Roman left for a head coaching job elsewhere. It doesn’t seem that Mangini is going anywhere at this point.
Paul Perillo

How many compensatory might the Pats get? Can/will they get a compensatory for Aaron Hernandez?
James Siegel

The league has yet to release the compensatory selections for the 2014 draft as of yet but there’s a chance the Patriots would add a pick or two to their total of seven current selections (one in Rounds 1-4, two in the sixth and one in the seventh). The Patriots would not be eligible to receive any draft picks for losing Hernandez, however. It’s possible, depending on some legal proceedings, the league could provide some cap relief for Hernandez but the team is not entitled to extra draft picks.
Paul Perillo

After the struggles of Tom Brady and his receiving corps and as well as the offensive line, who do you think the Patriots will be targeting in free agency or the draft? Is it possible they get any top tier receiver like Eric Decker if he leaves and Larry Fitzgerald if the Cardinals are willing to trade?
Stefan Hackshaw

As I mentioned earlier I believe the Patriots could add a veteran receiver via free agency this offseason while holding onto Edelman, Amendola and the three rookies. They have plenty of cap space to make such a move. I’m not a huge Decker fan but certainly he’d represent an upgrade on the outside as a bigger target who can make plays in traffic. The Fitzgerald phenomenon in New England has long amused me. He’s obviously one of the best players in the league and he has a big contract that has many believing the Cardinals will trade him. I’m not sure why Arizona would let him go. The Cardinals won 10 games and believe they are a playoff team. And then if they do trade him we all assume it will be to New England. Again, I’m not sure why that would be the case. Obviously I’d love to have him but I just don’t think that will happen. As far as the draft goes I believe tight end, defensive back and help on both lines would make sense. I haven’t really begun my draft prep at this point so I don’t have a specific player to target but I’d say those positions would make sense in the early rounds.
Paul Perillo

I read an article about getting rid of Danny Amendola. I’d like to know if there is any chance of cutting or trading him. And if we are able to trade him, what kind of draft picks would we get for him?
Aron M.

I don’t think Amendola is going anywhere. The Patriots made a long-term commitment to him by giving him a five-year deal last offseason and he struggled through injuries in his first season with the team. I think they’ll give him a chance to recover and try it again this season, and if he can stay healthy he should be more productive. I wouldn’t be stunned, however, if the team did decide to move on. He received a $6 million signing bonus, which means he has about $4.8 million remaining on a cap hit if he’s traded or released. The Patriots could spread that out over two years -- $1.2 million in 2014 and the rest ($3.6 million) in 2015 – if they designated him a post-June 1 cut. I don’t think he’d garner much on the trade market coming off another injury-plagued year that saw him produce at a moderate level, maybe a mid-to-late-round pick. I don’t expect that to happen, though, and if he can remain healthy I wouldn’t be surprised to see him approach the production Julian Edelman provided this season.
Paul Perillo

What is going on with Hernandez’ contract with regards to the Patriots getting money back or not paying out and is it all in limbo until the results of his trial?
Russell Spencer

The short answer to this question is the latter – much of this is in limbo while the legal process plays out. There are other cases that Hernandez has been tied to, and if he’s found guilty of a double murder that took place before he signed his new deal the team could get cap relief for the entire signing bonus he received. Again, the legal process needs to play out before anything can be stated with certainty, however.
Paul Perillo

Moving on to the offseason I think the Pats should run more of a base 3-4 defense in 2014. We know Coach Belichick is a game-to-game situation coach but we need to go back to our roots kind of like what we did this year.
Jeremy Roberts

I don’t think the alignment up front is all that important. I’ve seen the Patriots succeed playing 4-3 (2001 Super Bowl season) and a 3-4 (2003, 2004 Super Bowls). To me it comes down to personnel and right now I feel the personnel is better suited for the 4-3. To run the 3-4 effectively you need big, strong defensive tackles – three of them. Think back to when Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork were patrolling the interior of the Patriots 3-4 front. With the 4-3 you only need to such behemoths on the inside (Wilfork and Tommy Kelly) with the ends smaller, more athletic types like Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. Depth at defensive tackle was a problem this year after Wilfork and Kelly went down, leaving to many smaller, inexperienced players manning the interior. Therefore the team struggled badly to stop the run at times. Again, I don’t think it’s a big deal which alignment they use as their base defense as long as the personnel improves. Add some depth up front and that should be the case whether Belichick uses the 4-3 or the 3-4.
Paul Perillo

Just wondering what your thoughts are on some of these potential free agents that might be fits with the Pats: Emmanuel Sanders, James Jones, Kenny Britt (character conversation), Scott Chandler and Fred Davis (suspension)?
Zach Strong

I’m not really in love with any of these players. I’d take Jones and Chandler for moderate price tags but wouldn’t be willing to break the bank for either. Chandler is a productive tight end who could be an interesting running mate for Gronkowski (assuming Gronk is healthy). Jones has been productive in a passing offense in Green Bay and I like his ability to make plays downfield, especially in the red zone. He will likely be looking for some cash, though, so he’s probably a long shot. Otherwise I’d be content with Sanders but again, not willing to spend too much to get him. He’s a solid second or third option on the outside. The bottom line is the Patriots need one of the three rookies to make a significant jump next season. My money would be on Aaron Dobson.
Paul Perillo

While offseason movements of players and coaches is the norm, seems as if there is an extraordinary mass exodus of the coaching ranks from the Patriots. Is there's something out of the ordinary at work here?
James Farrell

I don’t really think so. Collectively it may appear that way but individually I think it’s understandable. Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement was not at all unexpected. It’s a plan that has been in the works for a couple of years so I don’t think there’s anything out of the norm with that situation. George Godsey tried to leave with Bill O’Brien a couple of years ago but was under contract at the time and the Patriots didn’t allow him to leave. His contract was up and now he went back with O’Brien, with whom he’s had a relationship with since their days together at Georgia Tech. It was O’Brien who brought Godsey to New England in the first place. As for Pepper Johnson, this is the only one I found surprising. Johnson may have felt it was time for him to ascend the ranks a bit as a defensive coordinator and perhaps he felt that wasn’t going to happen here with Matt Patricia being a young guy in that role. I don’t know if there’s anything else to this story but I did find it interesting that Pepper decided to leave Belichick after so many years working together.
Paul Perillo

What do you think we will be looking for in this year’s draft? Do you think we will be bolstering our defense and finding players that will eventually replace players like Big Vince at DT? Maybe some players in the secondary? Offensively speaking as well, do you think we will be targeting more skill players such as TEs or WRs? And lastly, how soon do you think we might look into a backup for Brady? I want to say Ryan Mallet is a viable option but I haven't seen much promise during the games he has played during the preseason. Or do you think he is the answer?
Blake Wright

We’ll obviously be looking at the draft much more closely in the coming weeks but I believe the positions the Patriots need to address are secondary, tight end and both lines. With Gronkowski’s status tenuous at best, the Patriots need a viable tight end to match with him. I also think corners and safeties are always high on the list of needs, and depth along both lines could be upgraded. I don’t think the need for a backup quarterback is all that high. I’m in the minority in thinking that Brady’s potential replacement doesn’t necessarily have to be in the fold two or three years before Brady hangs them up. Nowadays it seems starting caliber quarterbacks change teams more often than ever, think Alex Smith this year as an example, and a veteran like that could slide into the role if the Patriots don’t have a young guy on the roster when Brady’s days are over. If a quarterback that Belichick really likes were available in the draft at some point, then I’m fine with drafting him as the potential replacement. I just don’t think it’s a necessity.
Paul Perillo

Do you think Adrian Wilson will factor in this season?
Philip Jackson

I believe Wilson would have been cut outright after training camp this season had he not been placed on injured reserve. He was not playing much toward the end of his career in Arizona and watching him in camp and during the preseason I can see why. He was slow in coverage and missed many tackles. Perhaps he was dealing with whatever the injury was (he tweeted about Achilles surgery during the season) and that was the reason for his subpar play. I don’t think he’ll make it to training camp next year.
Paul Perillo

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