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Ask PFW: Signing up

Posted Mar 6, 2012

With free agency set to begin next week there are plenty of potential targets to choose from. Curiously many seem to want a wide receiver above all else.

You guys do a great job love the show! My question for you is ideally who would you like to see the Patriots pick up most for the WR position? Would it be a free agent like Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd or Mike Wallace or would it be drafting a WR like Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffery or Stephen Hill? Keep up the great work!
Alex Sabo

I'm going to veer a bit into fantasy world here but my answer would be, why not both? The Patriots need younger and more explosive players at the wide receiver position. This offseason happens to provide loads of candidates both in the draft and through free agency. I'd like to take a run at Mike Wallace as a restricted free agent and am more than willing to give a first-round pick as compensation. He's certainly worth it. It would also cost a good deal of money in order to discourage Pittsburgh from matching it, but his speed and big-play ability outside the numbers are exactly what the offense needs. Lloyd makes sense too given his knowledge of the offense but he's much older and doesn't pressure the defense down the field like Wallace. Colston is more of a possession receiver so I'm not all that interested in him with Wes Welker already here. Jackson is intriguing but would be expensive and risky given his situation in the league's substance abuse program. One more strike would result in a year-long suspension for Jackson. As for the draft, I love Floyd and Hill. Both are big and fast. Jeffery has great size but not great speed, and he's had weight problems in the past that make me wonder about his commitment. Wright is interesting. He was considered a burner but then ran a pedestrian 40 at the Combine. He is coming off an injury so perhaps that was responsible for the so-so time. He's talented but a bit smaller than the others. I'd love to sign and draft receivers, even though the team's bigger needs are probably on defense.
Paul Perillo

What are the chances of the Pats landing WR Mike Wallace and or trading up to have a shot at Alabama RB Trent Richardson? It seems that although with the significant impact the team had in 2011 on offense, the inclusion of one or both of these individuals to the roster would make defending against the Pats a whole new world of hurt.
Michael McMillan

Do you think Bill is willing to go after Mike Wallace?
Alex Fernandez

I already talked about how much Wallace would be a perfect fit for the Patriots offense but I didn't mention one negative. As a restricted free agent the process of waiting a week to see if the Steelers would match may discourage New England in some way. In other words, if the Patriots signed Wallace to an offer sheet, they would then have to wait a week to see how Pittsburgh responds. That could impact the team's further actions in free agency given the money that would be tied up. That's not a reason that would prevent me from doing it, but just something to keep in mind. (It certainly didn't stop the Patriots from pursuing RFAs in the past). As for Richardson, he's a terrific player but not one I would trade up for. Running backs to me have become complementary parts on offense. The Patriots like to throw the ball and while any improvements to the running game would help, I'm not sure I can make an argument for using resources to move up to get a player who would be, at best, a secondary option. I like Richardson and believe he will be a good player, but I'm not sure I agree with using extra picks to get him, especially with the needs the team has on defense.
Paul Perillo

What do you guys think of picking up Ronde Barber since he's a free agent and moving him back to safety alongside Patrick Chung? I realize it would be a one year band-aid for the other safety position, but couldn't you see a lot of great things happening with him back there if he is healthy and still has a year left in the tank? Maybe a Darren Sharper-like season from a few years ago? 
Travis Zembower

I really like Barber as a player and he's been quite versatile throughout his career. But I haven't watched him much lately and have no idea if he's a, still capable of playing at a high level and b, capable of playing safety. He's listed at 5-10, 184 and that would represent a really small safety. Just as a point of comparison, Chung is considered a small safety and he's listed at 5-11, 212. That's a huge difference. Barber has always been a playmaker who has done well both on the outside and in the slot. He's shown the ability to rush the passer and perform well in coverage. Based on that I'm guessing he could perhaps convert to safety but I'm not sure. But I also wouldn't mind signing him to add some depth to the secondary in general. In any regard, I'm with you Travis ... I like Barber and would like to have him on the Patriots.
Paul Perillo

I noticed that on your free agency wish list you didn't have Mario Williams on it does this mean any hopes of signing him are gone?
Jacob Mattson

Williams is definitely a stud that any team would be interested in. He's a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism and there just aren't that many guys around that have his skill set. But for that reason Williams is likely to break the bank in free agency and that could mean as much a $80 million-$100 million contract. I'm not saying that would dissuade me in any way from going after him but it is a lot of money. To be honest, I'm not sure why we didn't have him on our free agency wish list but my best guess is it was an oversight on our part. Obviously, he'd be one of if not the most coveted defensive free agent available.
Paul Perillo

What do you think the Patriots will do to upgrade at safety for next season? The safeties didn't do so hot at the Combine, but could they use the 31st pick on the best one? And how does the pool for free agent safeties look this year? Or could they just use Kyle Arrington and (possibly) Ras-I Dowling as corners next season while having Devin McCourty move to safety? McCourty seemed to do better last year in that spot at times last year.
Michael Howlett

The safety crop in the draft is not a deep one. Mark Barron from Alabama is widely considered the only first-round prospect and most believe he'll be off the board when the Patriots pick at 27. But his groin injury has some thinking it's possible that he'll fall a bit and if that happens I could see the Patriots making a move to get in position to grab him, especially considering Bill Belichick's relationship with Barron's coach, Nick Saban. Further down the line I think Notre Dame's Harrison Smith is a guy the Patriots may have some interest in. He's a cover safety with the ability to get physical as well. He also played for Charlie Weis for a couple years so there's another source of information available to New England's decision makers. As for the McCourty situation, I came away far less impressed with his work at safety than most. Yes he was better there than he was at corner but by no means was he good. He was caught out of position several times against Baltimore in the AFC title game when Torrey Smith ran by him regularly. But if Dowling is healthy and capable, perhaps your theory will be put in place. McCourty is a physical player who tackles well so safety is not out of the question. But even if that happens the Patriots need more at the position.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, love reading the column and listening to the podcast, keep up the great work. I have an interesting question for you. The Niners situation (choosing to tag safety Dashaun Goldson instead of corner Carlos Rogers due to the roughly $5 million savings on the franchise tag for a safety instead of a corner). How do they determine what position you will be paid according to? What if a couple years down the road New England tried to tag McCourty at the safety rate instead of corner and he had played similar time that season at both positions? Any idea?
Adam Marland

It would depend on playing time at the specific position. If McCourty continues to play safety on a regular basis then he would be allowed to be tagged as a safety. But he would have to play a lot more at that position than he did down the stretch. He is still predominantly a corner so as of now he'd be considered such. So, if a certain percentage of his plays came as a safety he could be tagged as a safety. But that's still a few years away since he's only entering his third NFL season.
Paul Perillo

Should the Pats keep both first round picks, how about S Mark Barron and DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus?
Eric Kneut

I'd be thrilled with a draft like that. I really like both players a lot, and both would really fill needs. Barron is widely considered the best safety in the draft, although it would be hard to believe he'd be on the board at 27. And Mercilus can rush the passer and has the athletic ability to other things as well. The only concern with him is he really only did it one year at Illinois. He had 16 sacks last year and only 18 for his entire career. So there is some fear of him being a one-year wonder. But that would definitely be a chance I'd be willing to take.
Paul Perillo

Do you think there is a chance the Pats could bring in both the MWs (Mario Williams & Mike Wallace) in free agency? I know the Steelers tendered Wallace with a first rounder, but couldn't the Pats just give up the 31st pick? I think if they bring them both in it could be a guaranteed Super Bowl. Also, if we can't get Williams and the Raiders cut Kamerion Wimbley, as rumored, do you think the Pats would seek him out to fill the pass rushing void?
Ian B.

I don't think there's any chance the Patriots would sign both Wallace and either Williams or Wimbley. I could definitely see one of the three but not two. That would require a lot of money, and in the case of Wallace a first-round pick as well. I feel there is enough talent available that could be acquired without having to cough up that much in the way of resources. Obviously I'd be thrilled to have Wallace or Williams but I just don't think it's realistic to expect both.
Paul Perillo

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