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Patriots Replay Fri May 29 | 12:00 AM - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: Angry Andy fires back (Part I)

In the 2-7 Ask PFW, Paul Perillo responded to my question about the Pats tagging [David] Givens by saying that the tag for WRs cost 7.7 million last year and will probably go up this year and the Pats will definitely not give him that kind of money. The NFL just released the new tag numbers for '06 and WRs who are franchise tagged will be paid 6.17 million and transition tagged WRs would receive 5.16 million. That's still a lot of money but a big difference from what Paul quoted. I personally think Givens is worth it. Here's my question though, does Paul actually do any research or does he just make stuff up and hope no one notices?Tim Mahan

Here's my answer, Paul does do research and knows as much about the Patriots and the NFL as just about anyone covering the team right now. He didn't have the 2006 numbers for inclusion in last week's mailbag, but that certainly doesn't change the point of his answer. Do you really want to use the franchise tag on Givens and pay him more than $6 million? If so, what are you then going to do when Deion Branch is looking for his money? The only way I see the Patriots using the franchise tag on Givens (a designation that needs to be made by Feb. 23) -- and I think this is a real long shot -- is if the team isn't exactly sure where he is in his development. He's shown pretty consistent improvement through his first four seasons and if the team believes he could continue to grow and become a sure-fire No. 1 WR-type talent then a year under the tag to make certain of that before giving him a long-term deal (also delaying the big money signing until a new CBA might be signed) might be a useful tool. But that still doesn't take into account that the team's No. 1 receiver, Branch, needs a new deal after this season. Do you want to keep Givens at the expense of Branch? All this would be easier on the team if either Bethel Johnson or P.K. Sam had developed into a legitimate option in recent years. But with Branch and Givens at the top of the depth chart needing new deals, and every other option including Troy Brown, Tim Dwight and Andre' Davis going into free agency, the Patriots could find themselves in a tough spot at receiver. But all this information probably isn't up to your high standards anyway. I don't really know why I am even answering for a know-it-all like yourself. I should just make stuff up, that's what everyone does in your eyes. Isn't it? Come on, act like a real Mahan.
Andy Hart

In the context of a recent Dominick Davis question, the redoubtable Mr. Perillo answered, "First, what's so special about Domanick Davis? He's a marginal back at best. He'll get you 60-80 yards a game and catch a few passes, but he's not a difference maker..." Wow, you should call this column "Answer PFW." Well, Paul, for your edification, the following stats applied for Davis' 11-game 2005 season: 976 Rush Yards for 88.7 per game; 6 total TDs; 337 receiving yards for 30.6 receiving yards per game. That projects out to about 1419 rushing yards, 9 total TDs, 490 receiving yards, in a healthy season. With Houston's O-line. With (ahem) David Carr to take the pressure off him. You don't think he saw some 8-man boxes? He probably saw 11 men in the box on the occasions Carr actually completed a touchdown pass. But he did lose a fumble this year. Yes, a fumble - as in one all season. Is he Edgerrin James? No. Do we have Edge money to spend? Again, no. I should mention, the question was phrased as a bargain hunt: Will he be available for "yesterday's news" money, if Reggie Bush comes to Houston? Paul, Paul, Paul, that's the real story, not your frail grasp of statistics (though yes, they only go so far.) I hope the Pats still look for value rather than "gee wiz" potential - my assertion is that, assuming some of these details ARE in line with what I'd like, Davis provides value. And, as opposed to Dillon, he is young. If Davis is a bargain, sit him behind Dillon until the next injury. Rotate him in with Faulk. Groom him. I call 'em like I see 'em, and I suppose Mr. Perillo does as well. Hey, was that you wearing the Zebra stripes in the Super Bowl a couple weeks ago?Dan Halberstein

Tough week for Paul, I guess. Nobody seems to like his opinions. Who knew Domanick Davis was such a lightning rod topic. But I have to agree with Paul on this one, and that's a difficult thing for me to do since we argue all day long in the office. Davis is an average back. He's not a big-play threat, has had injury concerns (it might be his next injury you would be waiting for) throughout his college and professional career and barely averages four yards a carry. He's also scheduled to have salaries of $1.7 million, $3.34 million, $4.18 million and $4.55 million over the next four seasons. That's far too rich for my blood. He's OK, but he's certainly not what I would consider anything resembling a franchise back or anything near what Corey Dillon was in 2004. That's what teams search for. It's no longer about 1,000-yard backs. Elite backs are guys that surpass the 1,500-yard mark. That's the type of back that takes pressure off Tom Brady and can make an offense dynamic and unstoppable. Get enough "OK" players on your team and you're an "OK" team. The offensive production has to come from somewhere and it can't rely solely on Brady. The standards have been set and they are pretty high. Is that "OK" with you Davis lover? And by the way, when someone asks a question we try to answer it. Answering a question with another question would just be stupid. Don't you think? And was that you I saw in a dress last week?
Andy Hart

Is it true that Bill Belichick is interested in trying to get Antwan Randle El from the Steelers? And are the rumors true that Ty Law might be making his way back to New England?Robert Brown

Did you see Elvis at the Stop and Shop in Attleboro? Or the Bigfoot in Pacific Northwest? How about the guy in the big red suit on Christmas Eve? I hear Tom Cruise just built a $100 million mansion in my town. I swear. A guy I know knows a guy who worked with a guy who helped in the construction. Do we really believe everything we hear these days? Some rumors end up being true, others couldn't be further from the truth. Belichick rarely tips his hand in free agency, preferring to work quickly, quietly and efficiently through the process. Randle El is a versatile player, but certainly has yet to develop into a go-to receiver. He's never caught more than 47 passes and that came as a rookie in 2002. Also, he could be a relatively attractive asset in a relatively weak class of wide receivers, therefore inflating his market value. I'm just not sure it's a good fit in New England, although I think Belichick would have fun utilizing Randle El's unique package of skills. As far as Law goes, not much has changed from the previous 10 times we've answer this question (Do you people even read the answers or do you just keep sending the same questions each week to mess with us?). Law did say recently that he was looking for $10 million in bonus money for any contract he might sign in free agency once he's given his walking papers in New York. If that's the case, then there is little chance he'll be back in New England. No way. Too much money. Too late in his career. Too many questions about his potential return. Too many rumors.
Andy Hart

I saw his agent's quote that David [Givens] said he would like to return as a Patriot. Do you think there is any chance of him taking less money and come back to play for the Pats next season?
Amber Bennett

No. I think Givens wants to be paid and treated like a top developing young receiver. While he got a little money playing for the $1.43 million restricted tender this year, as a seventh-round pick he never had that big rookie deal and is coming off maybe his best season. Givens has worked hard to become a very good all around receiver and now I think he's more than ready to reap the rewards of all that work. As Rod Tidwell so famously said, "Show me the money." I certainly wouldn't blame Givens for taking that attitude. If he doesn't look out for No. 1, then who's going to?
Andy Hart

With all this talk about linebackers, I was wondering if Mike Vrabel is going to stay inside or move back out? Since Rosevelt Colvin is turning back into a dominant outside linebacker, I think it would make sense for Vrabel to stay at the inside spot alongside [Tedy] Bruschi.Kacper K.

My guess is that Vrabel will remain on the inside, at least for next season. One thing that could throw a wrinkle in the plan at linebacker is the status of Willie McGinest. The veteran is schedule to have a salary of $3.5 million for next season, a $3.5 million roster bonus as well as remaining signing bonus money for a cap figure of more than $8 million. That has to be dealt with. There is no way he's going to play for that money or anything anywhere near it. If by some chance he's not back in New England, then Vrabel might have to play on the outside. Either way, as it stands right now the Patriots have just four veteran linebackers for the team's four spots. Not knowing what the team will do in free agency/draft in the coming months, that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room at the position. Vrabel has already shown he can be successful inside and outside, so if the team has to shake things up a little he'd be the first guy to move around.
Andy Hart

I know the Pats signed Zuriel Smith from the Cowboys. He's 5-11. And from what I hear he's fast, which is great. But I think they could use a few tall WRs . What do you think the odds are that the Pats will get a WR that is tall?Matt

Can we get past this thing with tall, wide receivers! I understand that it would be nice to have a bigger target in certain situations, but height isn't the most important thing. As Belichick has told us a million times he looks for two things in his receivers – the ability to get open and the ability to catch the ball. That's what counts. If you are a foot tall and can do both of those things, you have a chance to play. Conversely, if you are seven feet tall and can't do those things then you are a useless oversized body. Right now the Patriots just need receivers to fill out the roster and be on the other end of Brady's passes. And thinking that Smith, a guy who was out of football last season and has three career catches, is anything more than an NFL Europe allocation and camp body is a little overly optimistic. At best he might have an outside chance as a returner.
Andy Hart

Paul, I don't think it is time to leave this topic until we get some answers. I know no one wants to admit it but the SB officiating was so bad one cannot rule out the possibility that the game was fixed. Again, no one wants to face this possibility because what it would do to the game but how else can you explain so many horrible calls going against one team. The most telling bad call (clearly not the worst call but the most telling one) was the holding call when Seattle was making a go ahead drive in the 3Q and had gotten down to the 2-yard line on a completed pass. You know as well as I that there is some level of holding on almost every pass play so the officials normally will only call it if it is egregious. Moreover, in SB games the officials have traditionally shown even more restraint so as not to affect the game result. That holding call was completely unjustified at a time in the game when Seattle was going to make a go ahead score. I saw more holding by the Steelers line on their pass plays but no calls. I saw Steelers holding in the interior line on running plays but no calls. I have no problem with the "no calls" as long as the refs are consistent. Obviously that was not the case in this game. This holding call was horrendous at a critical time for Seattle and lost the game for Seattle in my opinion. I believe that had Seattle scored on that drive they would have won the game. The NFL should not be investigating MH's comments about the officials (which were fully justified in my opinion) but should be calling for a federal investigation of the officials. I do have a few questions. Assuming these SB officials are not indicted for racketeering, what are their consequences in the NFL? Do they get a free pass and get to officiate more games? Does the NFL impose any sanctions/ repercussions for awful officials? This last question brings me to matters closer to the heart. The worst PI call I ever saw in my life was in the Patriots playoff game. What happens to that official who single handedly ruined the Patriots playoff run. (Yes I am serious. This was the call that caused things to go down hill for the Patriots. If there was no bad PI call, no touchdown for Denver on the drive. No kickoff to Hobbs etc etc. The horrible PI call started the bad chain of events – that cannot be denied). Do you know the name of the official who made that call in the Denver game? If the NFL will not do anything, maybe the fans can start up the old Bruins chant in the Garden "Friday is a bum, Friday is a bum" but substitute the name of the lousy NFL official for Friday when he comes to Gillette. (Do you remember those days with the Bruins Paul?). At least this will work out some tension for the fans. Seriously, although I am not completely unserious about the last suggestion, there needs to be some kind of replay rule for PI calls. Perhaps give the coaches an extra challenge each half just for PI. I have just seen too many games decided by those lousy PI calls and the momentum of games changed completely – the Patriots playoff game again is a perfect example. Lastly, Paul. I may be mistaken but wasn't it 3rd down when BR got the freebie touchdown call on the goal line in the SB? I think you stated last week that you thought the Steelers would have scored 7 on the drive anyway but wasn't it 3rd down at the time of the gift?
George
Mobile, Ala.

Take a step back from the keyboard and repeat after me. "My name is George and I have a problem. I am totally nuts." Feel better now that you have finally admitted it? Your long, rambling email is typical of your sort. Conspiracy theorists around Patriots Nation may feel your pain, but I think you are delusional. With that in mind I will go with a rambling answer to match your rambling questions. First, the Super Bowl was not fixed. There were plenty of bad calls in the game, just like there were throughout the postseason in general. It was a bad run of games for the guys in stripes. Second, the worst PI of the postseason came in the Super Bowl and cost Seattle, clearly your team of interest in that game, a score. Yes, the bad call in the Denver game hurt the Patriots but with all the other mistakes they made I don't think they would have won the game. As for Roethlisberger's questionable touchdown run, it did come on third down. But with a power running team like Pittsburgh, it certainly wouldn't be out of the question to go for the score on fourth-and-goal from the 1-inch line. The Back Judge who made the call in Denver was Gregory Steed. But I have chant of my own for you. "George is crazy. George is crazy." But thanks for the email. We don't discriminate here at Ask PFW. And officials are graded every time they step on the field. Those grades affect what games they are assigned in the future. And if they are consistently bad enough, I'm sure it could affect their job security.
Andy Hart

I know who the Pats opponents are next year. When does the actual schedule come out. I want to plan my road trip.
MIKE SMITH

I try to get out of town when the Patriots play, too. Unfortunately for me my boss won't let me. Just kidding. The schedule is announced during the month of April, although the league doesn't have a set date. For reference, last year's schedule was announced on April 13.
Andy Hart

How you doing Tom [Casale]? Here is a question my ten-year-old kid can get right. Let's see how you do. Which statement is grammatically correct? a) ...Bush will be there man.... b) ...Bush will be they're man.... c) ...Bush will be their man.... Nope. Guess again. How did you break into journalism, anyway, Tom? I'm thinking about getting my kid a job. Have a nice day. Your pal in el lay.Donnie Davis

How you doing? What's this, a mob movie? Tom posts a ridiculously long and in-depth mock draft and you mock him for one little editing error? And via email no less? I realize that Donnie Davis is probably not your real name because you would never be man enough to use your real name. And don't kid us, you don't have a kid. That would imply you found a woman willing to spend more than 10 seconds with you.
Andy Hart

I feel your mock draft of the Patriots and there first round pick of Laurence Maroney is right on! I can't think of a better fit! But what about the later rounds? I know we need to address a few holes like Linebacker, Defensive back and Safety, maybe a Back up Defensive Tackle. Now Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick have been awesome in finding player in the later rounds, any clue on who maybe a wise pick for us in the later rounds???Guy Giguere

Predicting the later rounds of the NFL draft for any team, especially the Patriots, is like predicting the weather here in New England. While we will all be continuing our research into the prospects in the coming weeks and months (including PFW/Patriots.com coverage of the Combine and watching boatloads of video footage of the players), matching those players with the Patriots team needs is still a challenge. Too much can happen on draft day. I think a lot of your positions of need are dead on, but knowing how that will unfold in the later rounds of a draft that is still two months away is a different matter. That said, here are two names I want to keep an eye on: Abdul Hodge (LB), Iowa and Richard Marshall (DB), Fresno State. I will add more names of interest as I continue my research. Good, Guy?
Andy Hart

Subject: Patriots TodayTake this freakin' show off the internet. How dreadful.Clark Campbell

It must be nice to sit back and take cheap shots at others behind the veil of email secrecy. Patriots Today has and will continue to be a work in progress. It is an entertaining option for all Patriots fans. We will never be able to please everyone, but thanks for voicing your kind words of constructive criticism.
Andy Hart

Just to put my two sense in, on this debate (if it can have any sense at all), my first thought of having T.O. on the Patriots is "are you drinking???". My second thought is somewhat similar. But wait, let's look at some history here. The Randy Moss trade. although not as TO as TO, he's as close to TO as one can get without being TO. Someone asked Yoda, errrr, Bill B if he would consider having Moss as a player. If I remember correctly, his response was a lot more positive than a lot of people would of suspected. He even said he "understood" why he took plays off. Those sentiments can be transferred somewhat to TO also. TO will be TO, but to really understand what happened this year, one has to look at his motives. His motives were to get him out of Philly, and they worked. His biggest complaint the first year of his contract (after the $$$ of course) was that he would be open, and McNabb would not get him the ball....now, we have a QB who's biggest strength is (well, one of many strengths)...yeah, getting the ball to the open man. Although I have no illusions that he could in any way be muzzled, I am sure him entering a locker room with Harrison, Seymour et al, would have some calming effect. I for one, would love to see him catching passes for the vet's minimum in a Pats uniform...Greg Mowery

We have nothing if we don't have our dreams. I think plenty of Pats fans would love to see Owens on the other end of a few Brady TD passes. Hey, you never know. Stranger things have happened in this crazy business. But I do have one comment on your memory of Belichick talking about Moss. I was at the speaking engagement at Bryant University when he was asked about Moss. He definitely downplayed some of the receiver's transgressions, but I don't remember him saying he understood Moss taking plays off. I could be wrong. What I remember is Belichick comparing the Moss situation to Corey Dillon's reputation before coming to New England and then how the view of the running back changed when he got to the Patriots. So maybe Belichick would consider the TO situation. As I said, you never know. Two coaches that Belichick really respects, Shanahan and Saban, seem to have some interest. Why not Belichick?
Andy Hart

This is a belated question, but one I haven't seen answered anywhere. Why were the Steelers able to handle the Denver blitz packages so effectively, enabling Roethlisberger time to pick apart the Broncos, while the Pats could not give Tom Brady the protection he needed against those same blitzes?Peter Adair

There is probably no simple answer to this question, but I will try. First, the Steelers are considered to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. That means they are better prepared to handle the blitz and have more experience working together. Second, the Patriots struggled all season in protecting Brady, a weakness that was compounded by the loss of Matt Light and Dan Koppen during the year. Starting two rookies and a couple other guys who began the year as backups isn't necessarily the perfect formula for matching up against an aggressive, productive defensive front. That's not meant to be an excuse, it's simply the facts of the situation. In the end it all came down to execution. The Broncos executed better than the Patriots one week, and were out-executed by the Steelers the next.
Andy Hart

How good is Artell Hawkins? Take away the fact that Hawkins was signed off the street and had never played a down as a safety and was undersized for a strong safety but willing to support in the run game. Now were the press clippings that he was doing a great job based merely on his play or because his play was being judged against the factors noted above? Point is, if he can really play, is there a chance that, when Rodney comes back, he could move to free safety and Eugene Wilson play corner? Or is Wilson too entrenched in the free safety spot. It would seem that if a wide receiver can learn to play corner, then a free safety ought to be able to learn, especially when he spend four years playing it in college at a high level.Snibbets

I was very surprised at Hawkins' effect on the secondary late last season. He was universally praised for his calming presence on the unit that had been in flux all season. But does that mean he's good enough to be an option at safety heading into a new, likley restocked training camp? That's a tough question. I don't think Wilson is too entrenched at free safety to go back to corner, but as it stands now I have to think you will need Wilson and another player to man the safety spots for at least the first half of next season. Even if Harrison can return in 2007, I think anything earlier than midseason would be an absolute miracle based on the severity of his injury. Hawkins is a free agent, so it's possible he could draw interest from another team based on his versatility and late-season production. But I would guess that he will be back to fight for a roster spot with the Patriots next summer. No team places a higher value on versatility than the Patriots and that should serve Hawkins well with the team.
Andy Hart

I have read numerous articles about the officiating of late, primarily in the playoffs. I have my own theory...it seems to me that the officials have been in steady decline since the start of replay...maybe they feel like their authority has been taken away or something, but that's just a thought.Bill Heaney

I have had similar thoughts myself. Sometimes it seems like the officials are afraid to make a call or are too likely to rely on replay to fix mistakes. It's like they make a call based on whether it can be fixed by replay, rather than just making what they believe to be the right call. As I have said all along, I'm not sure what the solution is but the officiating need to improve. I don't think like crazy George that the games are fixed. They just make mistakes, seemingly at very costly times. I'm not looking for perfection, just honest attempts to make the right call more often than not.
Andy Hart

My understanding is that Chester Taylor will be a free agent. Any thoughts on the Patriots possibly signing him to take over for Dillon next year? I know you can never say yes or no with BB, but I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.Dave Gibbs

Taylor is a going to be a free agent and could be intriguing. He's young and been relatively productive in his opportunities to carry the ball. I had heard some talk that Baltimore was more interested in keeping Taylor than Jamal Lewis, who is also set to be a free agent. I don't know exactly what Taylor would command in free agency, but he'd certainly be an interesting option if available on short money.
Andy Hart

I figured I'd give you guys a week off from me, but I'm back now! Anyway, it sure seems like the NFL missed the Pats in the Super Bowl. Having Belichick be an ABC pregame analyst, having Brady do the coin toss, and to a lesser extent we see Deion Branch at the previous MVP ceremony. I also heard rumors of McGinest and Seymour taking some role in Super Bowl activities. Am I missing anyone? Either way, I'm quite baffled by Brady doing the coin toss. What kind of sense does it make to have an active NFL player tossing the coin? Aside from the fact that the Pats and Steelers have become rivals, to me this sends a message saying, "Tom and the Pats, wish you were here." Seems like a roundabout slap in the face to the Steelers. Also, a majority of the former Super Bowl MVP's were out on the field, and they choose an active player to toss the coin? I love Brady, but it seems like the NFL wasn't thinking so much about this move, or that people like Bart Starr, [Roger] Staubach, [Jerry] Rice, etc. were all there too.Nathan F.

I didn't get the Brady coin toss either. It was odd and a little bit of a slap in the face to both the active players and the past MVPs in attendance. Want a two-time MVP, how about the original one in Starr? It was just plain awkward to have Brady chatting with the Seahawks while totally ignoring the Steelers. Another in a long line of some poor decisions by the NFL on Super Bowl Sunday. The Rolling Stones? And what was Aaron Neville singing, because it sure didn't sound like the National Anthem?
Andy Hart

I am tired of hearing the need to have T.O. on the Patriots team. We don't need him. What we need is to strengthen the linebackers, CB's and specially running backs. I would rather management spend the dollars on a fast, quick, young running back than a troubled player who is in decline, both in talent and respectability. I would like to see the Pats work on renewing some of the current players' contracts than spend millions on someone like T.O. who in the long run will be a loss in investment. Look at his track record since leaving SF; even in SF, fans were tired of his poor attitude. People may say he's a playmaker, but that all he does makes 1 (one) good play a game. The rest of the time, he only diminishes team unity. WE DON'T NEED THAT OR HIM!Andres Ochoa

You can argue that TO is a bad guy and hurts teams in the long run, but let's not downgrade his playmaking ability. That simply can't be argued. He gets it done on Sundays. And any team that gets him is likely not going to have to pay huge money because he's damaged goods. He needs to prove himself again and that's what makes him an interesting option. He's going to have to be on his best behavior if he wants to make any money and that means he'll be making plays. All I can say is you never know. Stranger things than TO coming to New England have happened. But I guess this Andres has a different perspective on that than the eight man.
Andy Hart

I was wondering what a typical Pats draft-value board looks like. Have you ever seen one of their draft boards? If so, are they anything close to something like [Mel] Kiper's, or are they shockingly different? As laymen spectators of the draft, how far off the mark are we in evaluating talent? For instance, I remember everyone acting perplexed when Seattle traded up for Lofa Tatupu saying he was taken two rounds early, but they were obviously wrong. Was everybody wrong, or did the real talent evaluators (i.e. NFL coaches) know exactly what the Seahawks were doing?Morgan Van Lent

I have not seen the Patriots draft board, but I know that it ranks the players both vertically and horizontally, as all boards do. That means a guy might be the third best under running backs, but could the 100th best player in the team's eyes in terms of all positions and players. I also know that Belichick tends to use a tactic that Jimmy Johnson used to employ, writing down list of all the players he'd like to end up with after the draft, regardless of their position or where they might get selected in the seven-round affair. And overall talent evaluation is a very inexact science, as most NFL types will admit to. Tatupu was a perfect fit in Seattle. That doesn't mean he would have had success in other systems or cities. That's why coaches and talent evaluators always talk about how players would fit in their systems, not just in terms of measurables or general ability. But in general teams clearly know more about what fits for them than outside talent evaluators do. We just pretend to know that much. And it's fun to do so, especially when there are not consequences for being wrong for us. It's almost like we are TV weathermen.
Andy Hart

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