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Ask PFW: Monitoring safety

Posted Apr 1, 2014

With a little more than a month to go before the draft fans have plenty of suggestions for the Patriots.

Do you think that if the Patriots start to inquire about DeSean Jackson, would he come to the Patriots just to play with Tom Brady and for Bill Belichick? Also, do you see Logan Ryan moving to safety?
Vikram Sakotai

First, I don’t believe the Patriots will make a run at Jackson and actually as I’m writing this there are reports indicating he could be signing in Washington soon. While I love Jackson’s talent and what he might bring to the offense, I don’t feel the Patriots can go after a player with alleged ties to gangs who could potentially cause more problems for the organization. If the team did decide to pursue him, Jackson would sign in New England if the Patriots offered him what he was looking for in terms of money.

As for Ryan to safety, I read the report you are referring to and I don’t like the idea. At 5-11, 195, Ryan would make for a small safety and with Devin McCourty (5-10, 195) already at one spot that would be a really small tandem. I believe the Patriots need some physicality at the position and I’m not sure either of those players meets that requirement. McCourty is a good tackler but that doesn’t mean he’s a physical player. If the Patriots aren’t going to acquire anyone at the position I’d rather see Duron Harmon get a shot to start alongside McCourty.
Paul Perillo

I realize our safety needs a little help. Now with Steve Gregory gone an Adrian Wilson being fragile, McCourty seems solid in his position. Why not kick the tires on a guy like Thomas DeCoud? He's still young has good size. I think he could be scooped up for a cheap deal.
Steve DeMoura

I like DeCoud even though he had a tough season in 2013. He’s been a durable player during his career and at 6-2, 195 he’s a little bigger than McCourty. However, DeCoud is also more of a free safety type like McCourty and isn’t considered to be a big physical presence. He’s also 29 coming off the worst season of his career so perhaps it’s the start of a downward trend for him. I’d definitely be interested (it looks like Detroit is poised to get him) in adding some depth though.
Paul Perillo

I, like Andy, am really hoping the Pats get Deone Bucannon. However, every mock draft I've seen has him going early to mid-second round before the Pats pick. My question is would you take him in the first round? He doesn't seem to be a first-round talent but he fills a glaring hole in the secondary. I would hate to miss out on him because I think he is a potential difference maker and he is "De-one" player the Pats need to draft.
Jake Smith

This one is entirely dependent on the team’s evaluations. Personally I don’t believe he’s a first-round talent but if the Patriots do then I’d be all for taking him at 29. Teams get in trouble when they reach for players who aren’t talented enough to be drafted in a particular spot but instead fill a positional need. I think the Patriots do a good job of avoiding that trap and I wouldn’t expect that to change if they don’t feel Bucannon is worthy of such a draft pick. I like Bucannon but I don’t view him like Eric Berry or Earl Thomas or other safeties that have gone in the first round recently. And if he’s available in the middle of the second round the Patriots should be able to move up to grab him if they like him.
Paul Perillo

I hope you can answer this email because like many Patriots fans I am dismayed by the re-signing of Ryan Wendell and to a sizable contract. While PFW rightfully called him a scrappy player, yet together with Dan Connolly they form perhaps the weakest C-G tandem amongst the playoff teams. Now there might have not been better options available, but if Patriots draft some big center say in round 6, can he be coached up to be a starter by playoffs in the absence of Dante Scarnecchia?
Keith C.

Wow, that’s a lot of hostility toward Wendell and Connolly. I’m not sure I agree with your negativity in this regard but I do believe there is the possibility of improvement at the center spot – whether that means someone plays right guard in place of Connolly while he moves to center or otherwise. Also, I wouldn’t be too concerned with the reports about Wendell’s contract. While I don’t have any official information, I believe the reports have ranged from inaccurate to misleading with the regard to his two-year deal. Some reports have already indicated the contract is worth much less that what was originally stated. He’s by no means a lock to remain in the starting lineup, but he has been a durable player for his two years as a starter and has done a decent job anchoring the middle. You can always improve but I don’t look at center as the team’s glaring need at this point.
Paul Perillo

Greetings from Hungary. As I see things are going in the right direction for the Pats. I mean, the secondary became stronger, Vince Wilfork is staying, Armond Armstead and Tommy Kelly will be back so the D line became better. Additionally, there is a new target for Tom Brady and an extra pick for the draft. I don't know what your pre-draft feelings are, but in my reading, with the addition of a reliable safety, someone for the D-line too (as for the future) and an additional target for Brady could be ideal early round options. An inside linebacker could have some value in the late rounds (plus someone for WR/TE positions), and the Pats can be a champion caliber team for 2014. Of course, there are many "ifs" remained, and the Pats always surprise me in the draft.
Jozsef Bakk

I think this is a long way of asking what I feel the teams remaining needs are, and if so I’d answer the following – pass rusher, safety, tight end, defensive tackle. Depending on how the draft unfolds, I’d try to address those areas are early as possible. I don’t see wide receiver as a huge need unless someone drops unexpectedly to the bottom of the first round. The Patriots have five WRs almost certain to stick in Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell and Josh Boyce. They also have Kenbrell Thompkins with a year of experience under his belt. There doesn’t appear to be much room for another wideout. I like the idea of adding depth to the interior offensive and defensive lines in the middle or end of the draft, but I’d like to add a tight end, pass rusher and safety early on.
Paul Perillo

With the additions of two man-to-man corners and McCourty’s ability to play the "centerfield safety" position, do you think it may be time to see what Nate Ebner can do on the field? He's looked fairly good in preseason and may be able to rush the passer from the "in the box" safety position.
James Phillips

What little I’ve seen of Ebner on defense I have not liked very much. He’s a terrific special teams player and he seems to be doing well in that role. But on defense he looks indecisive and lacks instincts at the back end. That’s understandable considering he never played defense in college. I don’t really want to see Ebner at safety unless it’s an emergency situation, and obviously if that happens it’s not good. And I still don’t understand what Duron Harmon did that was so wrong that few people feel he is capable of taking on a bigger role in his second year.
Paul Perillo

I haven't seen anything about the Patriots Hall of Fame this year, but I have a question. I saw an article that said Lawyer Milloy went to a Patriots game and talked to Robert Kraft. He said he will always be a Patriot. So it seems the hatchet has been buried by Milloy and I would assume the Patriots also, correct me if I am wrong, but will this help Milloy get into the Patriots Hall of Fame? Or at least on the ballet? Do you think he deserves to be in Patriots Place based on his seven years with the Patriots and not taking into account the ugly divorce between him and the team? Do you believe Rodney Harrison deserves to be in over him? I know I have only written you guys twice and both times were about Milloy's place in history with the team, but hey, he is my guy and was the reason I became a Pats fan in 1996.
Tim Dillard

I feel Milloy is definitely worthy of consideration for the Patriots Hall of Fame, but he is not yet eligible for the honor. The rules state a player has to retired for at least four years and Milloy’s last season was 2010, so he will be eligible next year. I believe he and Harrison are both worthy candidates but I’d have to say Milloy has the stronger case based on longevity with the team. However, with all of the talented players who were instrumental in winning championships coming up on the ballot over the next few years it will be difficult for all of them to get the recognition that he deserves. But Milloy is definitely deserving of consideration.
Paul Perillo

Cap space is fluid but would it be economically sound for the Patriots to trade out of the first round for a second and third rounder as those contracts would be lighter on the pockets, or if there was a gem at tight end or defensive tackle left late in the first round who would be the best pick for each position, and what would their salary implications be?
Sean Johnson

I’m not going to get into specific players who may or may not be available at various stages of the draft but I will say the financial implications of drafting players late in the first round as opposed to the second or third rounds are minimal. The new CBA makes rookie contracts much more affordable and contracts should not be discouraging teams from selecting players early in the draft. The salaries are all slotted and it’s not a huge burden to carry a first-round salary as it was at times before the new CBA. If the Patriots want to move around the board as they have often come draft time, they certainly have the ability to do so but finances shouldn’t be the lone reason for such trades.
Paul Perillo

What are the chances the Patriots dive deep into this draft, surprise all and send Ryan Mallett and their first to Houston for the first overall? Then select Jadeveon Clowney. Am I dreaming?
Jeff Jordan

Only if you think you can get the No. 1 overall pick for Mallett and No. 29. Why would the Texans want to do that when they could get so much more? Mallett is an unproven player entering his fourth season with virtually no real playing experience. I’m not sure he’s worth a third-round pick at this point. Now, as long as we’re playing in Fantasy Land, I’d love to see Belichick use a special athlete like Clowney and see what kinds of schemes he could create for him.
Paul Perillo

With starting defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly restructuring their contracts along with backup defensive tackles Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga and Joe Vellano on the Patriots current 53-man roster, are the Patriots not confident in the defensive tackle prospects in the early-to-mid-rounds of the 2014 NFL draft? If so, are the Patriots more likely to draft a defensive tackle or two in the later rounds of the draft or more likely to wait to the conclusion of the draft and sign rookie free agents instead?
MacKenzie Kirkey

I don’t think any of the moves you mention have anything to do with the Patriots feelings toward the defensive tackle position in the upcoming draft. Wilfork and Kelly are veterans who still provide quality inside up front. The kids, along with the potential of Armond Armstead, provide depth. If the Patriots like a defensive tackle early I could see them grabbing him with an eye toward the future. Wilfork and Kelly won’t be around forever and some young blood will be needed soon. I would rather see the Patriots use a late pick to add youth at the position and perhaps an undrafted player like Vellano last year. I feel there are some big and strong run-stuffers in the league that weren’t necessarily high draft picks that contribute to their teams each year. I’d rather the Patriots got that route to eventually replace their veteran defensive tackles.
Paul Perillo

Would signing DeSean Jackson win the 'arms race' with the Broncos for the Patriots? He can stretch the field, help in the return game for the Patriots and play 16 games, all things the Patriots sorely need. The window for Brady is closing. Let’s provide a win-now team while we have Vince Wilfork, Darrelle Revis and Logan Mankins and then we can rebuild the team when they all move on with their massive salary hits. Not to mention Jackson is 27, his presence can still help Dobson/Thompkins/draftee develop as a No. 1 receiver. Also his offseason troubles are nothing like as bad as Aaron Hernandez as Hernandez had a history in college whereas Jackson has no serious trouble and could benefit from a team with the leadership presence of Brady, Wilfork, McCourty, Mankins, which were lacking in Philadelphia.
Alex Marr

I’m a huge Jackson fan but even I don’t believe half the stuff you say about him. You feel Jackson could help young receivers develop based on what you’ve observed of him in Philly? And you criticize the Eagles lack of leadership in the locker room when they overcame a potentially disastrous situation with Riley Cooper last summer and emerged as a playoff team under first-year coach Chip Kelly. That sounds like strong leadership to me. Look, I don’t have all the answers as to why Jackson was let go. I know what I’ve read but I don’t know what the real story is. But I do know Hernandez did have ties to that kind of lifestyle and it resulted in the worst incident in Patriots history. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not eager to relive such an ugly time with another potentially controversial figure in Jackson.
Paul Perillo

Long time Pats fan from N.C. What do you think about the Patriots signing SS Yeremiah Bell?
Fred Mather

Bell is a little long in the tooth for my liking at 36. The Patriots tried the veteran safety route last summer with Adrian Wilson and that was a disaster. Wilson was likely going to be cut had he not gotten injured and now I’d expect him to be released at some point soon. Bell is a decent player but I’m not sure he’d provide much at this stage of his career. Otherwise he wouldn’t be looking to join his fourth team in the last four years.
Paul Perillo

Idea: Best of three Super Bowl, team with best record hosts first game, second at opponent's field, third at neutral field. Two weeks off for each team mid-season to make room for these extra games and recovery from season injuries. Reduces chance of a blown call deciding champion. Local fans get to see their team at local field. Would double ticket sales, commercial TV time and media coverage. What do you think?
Tony Peterka

I’ll be blunt: I hate it. The beauty of the NFL playoffs to me is the one-and-done format. Same for the NCAA basketball tournament. Having a best of three series does nothing for me. I like the Super Bowl the way it is at a neutral field – of course I wish they would keep it at warm-weather sites but that’s a rant for another day.
Paul Perillo

Karen Guregian reported that Logan Ryan could move to free safety displacing McCourty to strong safety (if that exists anymore). Logan is taller than McCourty and has been just as solid against the run. Wouldn't you rather leave McCourty where he is and let Ryan ball hawk inside the box where he had most of his interceptions last year?
Mike Baker

As I stated earlier, I don’t like the idea of moving Ryan to safety. I also don’t view him as a ball hawking player just because he had a few interceptions as a rookie. McCourty had seven in his rookie season and I didn’t feel he was a ball hawk either. Neither Ryan nor McCourty is a physical player and for that reason I’d rather not team the two of them up at safety. McCourty is a solid tackle but that doesn’t mean he’s a big hitter. I feel the Patriots need some size and thump next to McCourty and Ryan doesn’t offer that. Keep him at corner and perhaps move him to the slot full-time to see if he can build off a promising, not spectacular, rookie season.
Paul Perillo

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