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Ask PFW: Marching toward free agency and the draft

Posted Mar 4, 2014

With the Combine in the history books, free agency is on the immediate radar on March 11 while the May 8 NFL Draft also sits on the distant horizon. That means Patriots fans have plenty of roster-building questions for this week's Ask PFW!

As always, love your comments and follow the Pats till the end of time... I can't understand what's going on with Julian Edelman. Does he want to leave the Patriots? Is there some reason the Pats wouldn't pay their most prolific receiver to build some momentum for this offense? I realize that they need to address the lack of a vertical threat, but Edelman seems to be able to do almost anything they need from a receiver.
Doug Tozier

Edelman is coming off his first healthy NFL season, a year in which he set a career high with 105 receptions, nearly double his output from his previous four seasons combined. This is a guy who had single-digit receptions in both 2010 and 2011 while playing in Wes Welker’s shadow. So there is a question as to whether he can be a 16-game, 100-catch receiver on an annual basis. Another issue that clouds Edelman’s value in New England is the fact that the team signed similarly-skilled/productive Danny Amendola to a five-year, $31 million deal last offseason. It’s not crazy to think that Edelman’s people want something in that range. But the Patriots probably can’t pay two injury-prone slot receivers all that money. Edelman probably owes it to himself to at least get to the open market and see what kind of money is out there for him. As a former seventh-round pick who drew nearly no interest in free agency last spring this may be Edelman’s first and only time to cash in. Sure he’s probably loyal to the team that drafted and developed him. Sure the team would probably love to have him back at the right price. But the finances are difficult and may not work out for the marriage to continue.
Andy Hart

If the Patriots fail to agree a deal with Aqib Talib, what are the chances the team makes an offer to Alterraun Verner?
Alex Marr

I think it would be doubtful. If New England were to invest in a top free agent cornerback I would think it would be the guy they’ve grown to know over the last year-plus who has fit in so well inside the locker room. Aside from the injuries – which are a major concern – Talib has been a great fit for the Patriots. Verner is almost two years younger and has never missed a game in the NFL. He’s coming off career highs with five interceptions and 23 passes defensed in Tennessee last fall. He’s going to get paid. I won’t pretend to have seen him play enough to compare him to a guy I have seen often in Talib, but I give Talib the edge in terms of size, physical play and shut-down ability. Like Talib, Verner is one of the better cornerbacks on the free agent market and if New England won’t go the extra financial mile for Talib, I don’t see that happening for a player they are less familiar with.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, first off thanks for answering a few of my questions already. I follow the game so closely and it's hard to find someone to have an intelligent football discussion with. OK, so ever since A.J. McCarron voiced his wish to be a Patriot at the Combine it's made more and more sense to me. Could you see the Pats trading Mallett and drafting A.J.? My second question is just a fun thought about the Pats logo. After seeing the Dolphins, and now the Bucs, switch it up and modernize a bit it made me think: Could you see the Pats changing up the flying Elvis in the near future? I could see a more military theme look, in support of our troops, the real "Patriots". If you look up the definition of a patriot it actually makes a lot of sense, but what's your best idea for a new "face of the franchise?" Lastly, now that the Combine has come and gone would you agree the Pats could trade back a bit (like we all know they will) and still get an effective offensive weapon like Kelvin Benjamin? Sorry I have a lot of questions, there’s a few. Thanks again guys.
Mike Ruiz

Ryan Mallett’s trade value/possibilities will be a major topic this offseason – and throughout this mailbag. But I don’t think it really ties into McCarron or any other specific QB prospect. Mallett is entering the final year of his rookie contract and sort of at a crossroads of his time in New England and his NFL career. I certainly do see McCarron as a guy who could be a very legitimate possibility for the Patriots to draft, depending on where his perceived value settles in come draft time. In terms of the logo, I can’t see the Patriots altering things any time in the near future. Logo changes/uniform alterations are generally done with teams looking to change their image and brand, teams trying to build something. The Patriots have been the top team on the field in the NFL for more than a decade and one of the great brands off the field over that same time. If it ain’t broke, as they say, don’t fix it. Finally, given the overall depth the draft, including the wide receiver position, I do think there will be talent available at that position in the second, third and fourth rounds that could have success in the NFL. Not sure a guy like Benjamin falls in that class, though, as I think he’s going to go either late in the first round or pretty early in the second.
Andy Hart

With most of the talk being draft related, I'll begin with a draft related question. Many project NE to pick TE Jace Amaro in the first round. I agree with picking up a TE but why not fill another void in the first round and go for C.J. Fiedorowicz in the second? At 6'7", TB would have a twin tower set he could really use in the red zone. Also, if Ryan gets shopped, do we see Tebow back at camp? And lastly, if Amendola is let go/traded, does that open the door for a new Julian contract? Thanks for being our crutch!
Don Blakeborough

I put tight end as one of the biggest positions of need on the team right now. There simply isn’t a healthy, starting-caliber player on the depth chart right now. Amaro is an interesting target for his comparisons on the field with Aaron Hernandez. He has some flaws, but also great production at Texas Tech. I think that Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins – who has a broken foot right now – and Fiedorowicz are a couple of the other names in the conversation. Where New England takes a tight end – I do think they will have to draft one at some point – will depend on how the rest of the draft shakes down and where the value comes in when the Patriots are on the board. Regardless of what happens with Ryan Mallett or any other backup quarterback – veteran or rookie – I don’t see any way that Tim Tebow would be back with the Patriots. He failed miserably last summer and seems to have moved on to a broadcasting career, even if he holds out of a dream of playing again. Finally, if Amendola were to get cut/traded it would certainly leave more room on the roster for Edelman to return and leave more long-term money for him, although it would actually cost the team more in the short run in terms of cap money already devoted to Amendola.
Andy Hart

Love reading you guys every week! Everyone is saying this is a deep draft class. Does that mean 2015 won't have as much talent? If that's the case do you think the Pats should trade some of next year’s picks to get some of the crop this year?
Nick Cabrera

Everyone does seem to agree that this is one of the deepest draft classes in years and maybe of all time. But I don’t think you can read too much into what that means for next year. It’s hard enough to evaluate a talent crop when it is defined with its seniors and underclassmen. Trying to project which players will perform well next fall, and make themselves eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft, is almost impossible. Remember, all these guys who are leaving schools are being replaced with guys who have a lot of talent and potential. So let’s focus on one draft at a time. That said, if the Patriots do like a lot of players in this draft, I wouldn’t be opposed to be trading something from the future for more talent now. But keep in mind, New England was a very young team last fall and has a lot of young talent at a lot of positions. Not sure how much younger the team can get and for it to still be a good thing. Next year won’t be the deepest of all time, again, but it might still be a pretty good class once it evolves over the course of the next year.
Andy Hart

I've been a diehard Patriots fan since the 1960s -- yes, I remember the 51-10 loss to the Chargers in the '63 AFL Championship game. No one appreciates more than I the impressive record Belichick has compiled as head coach of the Patriots, but it is hard not to feel frustrated at this time each year, impending free agency and the draft. All the talk about who to sign, who to re-sign, who to draft, and yet our talent pool seems incrementally thinner each year. We cut Gregory to save $2.5 million, but we will also have to replace him with someone at least as good. And I can't see us being able to re-sign both Talib and Edelman, so it's hard to imagine we'll have a stronger roster next year with this trend. I don't see how we came out better with Amendola instead of Welker last year. And how many clunkers have we drafted (Tavon Wilson et al) and free agent duds (Adrian Wilson et al)? Is there anything you see to indicate that Belichick is getting any better at assessing talent and filling true needs on the roster before we finally run out of time in the Brady era? Thanks!
JD

I think Belichick is very similar to what he has been over his decade-plus in New England. He’s had plenty of swings, plenty of misses and plenty of homeruns. He has the benefit of covering up some of his personnel errors with one of the game’s best quarterbacks. Depth has been a struggle due to some draft misses in the middle rounds and some poor free-agent signings. But overall he continues to put together teams – including Tom Brady, a key ingredient – that are among the best in the game. Three-straight AFC Championship Games is pretty impressive, even if the end result was not what most fans would have hoped. I understand some of your frustration, but I urge you to allow the entirety of the offseason – free agency, trades and the Draft – to play out. I assure you that the Patriots will acquire plenty of talent in an effort to upgrade. I also expect the team is planning/hoping some key young players like Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Duron Harmon, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and others continue to improve.
Andy Hart

I've been reading a lot on how we should dump Amendola. Yet I don't blame Amendola for his not so great season. I mean to me it looks like Brady finds a favorite receiver and keeps trying to feed the ball their way ex.: Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski. Thoughts?
Tim Adams

I do think at times Brady does focus on certain receivers more than others or, conversely, seemingly ignores others. But the story with Amendola is a bit more than that. Brady and Amendola seemed to have a fine rapport until the slot receiver got hurt in the opener and then struggled for much of the year to get open. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was really never healthy and at his full athleticism after opening day. Therefore, I think that Brady knew that Amendola wasn’t necessarily his best option much of the time. It will be interesting to see if that changes moving forward, assuming Amendola is on the team and healthy next fall.
Andy Hart

Hi from Rio de Janeiro, guys. Please give me your thoughts about the perfect Patriots offseason in my opinion. Trade Mallett and Amendola for Houston's 2nd round pick and maybe a late-round pick. Draft Kelvin Benjamin, Jace Amaro and Jason Verrett. Get 2 DL by free agency, probably Red Bryant and Jared Allen. Keep Talib! But the cap may not allow do all this, so release Kelly, Sopoaga, Arrington and Connolly or Wendell. Go Pats!
Gustavo Ferreira

Individually, I like a lot of your moves and the areas of need that they address. But I don’t think they’re all realistic as a combination of transactions. Keeping Talib is going to take decent money – the market seems that he’ll be in the ballpark of four years and $32 million or a bit more with about half guaranteed. Signing Allen would probably require more money than most assume, and than the Patriots will be willing to spend at a spot that could have a large number of options, including some who’ll be more financially palatable. I don’t think Houston would trade the first pick in the second round for Mallett and Amendola – an unproven backup QB and an injury-prone/overpaid slot receiver. Even with that deal, I don’t think you could get Benjamin, Amaro and Verrett in the group of top three picks you suggest. All three players, though, are options the Patriots will be looking at individually. I also don’t want to release Tommy Kelly, as I think he’s affordable depth on the defensive line. But this is the time of year for these types of emails and offseason ideas, so keep ‘em coming!
Andy Hart

Hello guys, I'm a Patriots fan in Brazil and I love your articles! The Saints applied the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jimmy Graham, I wonder, with the health of Gronk always questionable and constant lack of impact players on offense, if it's worth investing a lot of money and 2 draft choices and bring a player of that level?
Humberto Araujo

I don’t have any interest in giving up two first-round picks and a huge contract to bring Jimmy Graham to New England. I don’t think the Patriots will either. It’s just too much to give up for a team that has a number of other holes to fill. I’m also not of the belief that Graham is worth that package, even in a bubble. He’s a great receiver. But he was taken out of the game by Aqib Talib last year. I would only ever consider giving up the two first-round picks and big money to acquire a franchise quarterback. I wouldn’t make such a move for any player at any other position. It’s just not worth it.
Andy Hart

Thanks for all the great work, PFW! (does Andy talk about his "Mock Draft" on the progress or simply put out a name for the tracker? It would be nice to read his reasoning on Kelvin Benjamin's fit and BB's potential selection than simply a NFL.com breakdown.) Were you guys able to see Kareem Martin (DE,UNC) at the Combine? He appears to have great size and his numbers are decent for a 3rd-round grade. Looking through the prospects I am searching for players with enough size to play DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4. What is the "necessary" height and weight for a player to garner consideration and hopefully success as a versatile DL player? I appreciate all your answers, and I look forward to reading the article every Tuesday.
Tom B.

I don’t generally do a mock draft until we print our pre-Draft issue of Patriots Football Weekly in mid-April. I will, however, be putting out plenty of positional prospect rankings and analysis on the PFW blog on Patriots.com. So be sure to check that early and often throughout the next two months as I get more comfortable with the prospects through increased film study and research. I didn’t meet with Martin at the Combine, but I can answer your more general question. Ideally a guy who can play tackle and end as you suggest in the two schemes is built a lot like Richard Seymour or Ty Warren. That’s a guy who’s probably in the 6-4 to 6-6 range, weighing probably 300-320 pounds or so. He needs to be pretty strong and stout, but also offer some length and athleticism. It’s pretty rare combination of characteristics.
Andy Hart

Since the Pats don't wanna take a loss, how do you see the Patriots fitting both Edelman and Amendola in the system again this year? I know having a backup slot WR is like an insurance policy but they really have some of the same characteristics and there’s no need for both of them. Also, I know we’re going to get a good TE in the draft but what big target WR interest you the most for a good late pick, maybe Rutgers Brandon Coleman?
Jeremy Roberts

The offense showcased Edelman and a banged up Amendola most of the this season, so it’s certainly not impossible to keep and use both players. But it’s probably not the most efficient, productive, value-based way to build the offense. The more I look at it the more I think Amendola will be back and expected to earn his money and that Edelman will probably leave via free agency. I think it’s too early to cut ties with Amendola after the team was so hot to get him last spring and give him five years and $31 million. And I think that Edelman, who’s had just one healthy, truly productive season, will find a decent contract on the open market. Why wouldn’t a team like the Lions, Bengals or others look to add his skills to their offense? As for Colemen, I did put him very much on my radar at the Combine as a big receiver worth keeping an eye on and his Rutgers roots don’t hurt. But, remember New England already has Mark Harrison, another big receiver from Rutgers, in the mix. It will be interesting if he can carve out a role for himself in New England this summer and moving forward as a potentially unique weapon.
Andy Hart

What are the chances that the Patriots trade Ryan Mallett to the Texans for maybe a second rounder and a late round pick? Bill O'Brien was there when Mallett was drafted so he must have some interest in him. I feel like we could do a lot with the extra pick. Either use them both or trade up for a big receiver like Mike Evans. What are your thoughts?
Corry Porter

Hey Guys, greeting from south Jersey. Great job as always keeping us entertained during the offseason. I read recently that the Texans may be interested in trading for Mallet. Save the O'Brian connection, I am not sure why the Texans would consider this. But let’s say that they were interested, would trading Mallet and our #2 pick for the Texans' #2 and #4 pick be worth it for both sides? AND if we did trade Mallet away, who do you think the Pats would try to bring in to be Brady's backup? Thanks.
Marc Roy

What do you think of the possibility of trading Ryan Mallett to the Texans? With their new head coach Bill O'Brien being the former offensive coordinator for the Patriots he has already worked with Mallett and this would end their debate of whether to take a QB or Clowney with the first overall pick.
Rory Harwood

I don’t understand why we assume that because O’Brien worked with Mallett that means he’d want him as his starting quarterback? Mallett has proven nothing in the NFL and in my opinion still shows things in practice/preseason that cause me to very much doubt he’s a starting-caliber quarterback. O’Brien already has a trio of more proven passers in Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates on the roster. I can’t see how O’Brien would want to add Mallett to that mix. I also don’t see any way that Mallett would garner anything near a second-round pick in a trade. He’s a former third-round pick who’s done nothing in the NFL. If Belichick pulled that off, it would be one of his more impressive coups. This is indeed a key offseason for Mallett as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. But I can’t see the Patriots dealing him for anything of note at this point. Regardless, I do think New England is in the market for a backup quarterback moving forward. It’s hard to see Mallett in the mix in 2015, so a developmental draft pick to be the backup in two years and maybe more than that in the future would seem like a credible scenario.
Andy Hart

We know Bill likes his farm schools, like Rutgers. Brandon Coleman WR Rutgers, is a 6'6" 225lb 34" armed freak who performed well at the combine. 4.56 - 40, and 7.33 3 cone. Do you think he would be a possibility in the 3rd round?
Mike Baker

Coleman is a confident freak who I spoke with for a bit at the Combine. I’m sure he’s very much on the Patriots radar as a unique target on the outside, a possession type and potential red zone weapon. But as I said in a previous answer, I think the same can be said in some ways about former Rutgers player Mark Harrison, who spent last season in New England on IR with a foot injury. Remember Coleman’s name come May, but I wouldn’t necessarily say he is a likely Patriot at this point.
Andy Hart

Hello. I have been reading for awhile and I love you guys. Now the question I read somewhere that we are interested in Dion Bailey and Deone Bucannon. Is that true and if so what are the chances we get them between the 3rd and 4th rounds? And to address the DT position how do you feel about Ra'Shede Hageman, and the what are the chances we can get him?
Jaycob Sparkman

Pretty sure you read about Bailey and Bucannon in a blog post that I wrote on Patriots.com regarding things I took away from the Combine. Those are guys that interested me and who I thought might fit the Patriots needs. I haven’t seen anywhere, nor did I write, that the team actually has interest in them. Both are considered mid-round prospects. As for Hageman, I’m not as in love with him as a potential Patriot as some. He would have been a nice fit in the old days of 3-4 fronts. But New England has been primarily a more traditional 4-3 team in the Chandler Jones era and I don’t see that changing. I don’t think Hageman, who’s a Richard Seymour type, is a good fit for the front right now. I also am not looking to invest a first-round pick on defensive tackle.
Andy Hart

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