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Patriots Replay Thu May 06 | 12:00 AM - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Big holes to fill

It appears to me that the Patriots are unwilling to pay the BIG bucks to their free agents out of pride. Almost as if they are saying, "you should want to play for us no matter how much we offer." Woody has gone on to more money, Mt. Washington has just exited, and Ty Law will be next. Do the Pats not have a lot of money to offer, or are they not willing to cave in to players' egos and line their pockets? They are an exciting team, which has won two out of the last three Super Bowls, and one would imagine they generate enough money to keep key free agents from moving on. Also, was Colvin their largest free agent signing to date?
Bryan
Miami, Fla.

Bryan with a Y. That a boy. AndI Hart gives me a lot of heat for spelling it that way. The Patriots have paid out plenty of money, but they don't like to do it all in up front signing bonus. They prefer, it seems, to spread out the cash outlay with tiered bonuses and guaranteed salary. They also are disciplined when determining what they perceive to be a player's value financially. Once the player crosses that threshold, with occasional exceptions of course, the team goes in another direction. I don't think it has anything to do with pride, ego or that they think they are better than anyone else or that their way is the best way. It's part of the system that is in place and they choose to pay more players decent money than a few players a lot of money. That's their approach. They would rather not release 4 guys for salary cap reasons so that they can fit one under the cap with a big bonus and salary. I don't think they begrudge the players in any way for walking away and taking the money. But their philosophy, whether you agree or not, is that they are building a team and not collecting talent. They recognize that they are going to lose players because of money. It's not like they didn't want Damien Woody or Ted Washington. They did. It's not that they just arrogantly think they can win without any of these guys. They hope they can by making prudent financial decisions and drafting, developing and coaching players.
Ty Law isn't going anywhere this year and might not next year. He is under contract through 2005. His salary in 2005 is $8.7 million. That's high, but workable. The portion of his signing bonus that will count against the cap next year will count whether he stays or goes so it's all about whether New England thinks he's worth $8.7 million. If he stays, he doesn't hit free agency until he's 32 so while his strong play gives him a ton of leverage, the Patriots have some as well since he is under contract for two years and doesn't stand to make as much bonus money at 32 as he would if he was a free agent now. Incidentally, he will be among the highest paid cornerbacks in football for those two years as he has been for the last five. Colvin is the team's biggest ($$) free agent signing to date by far in terms of signing away a player from another club.
Bryan Morry

Paul, you aren't funny, but it's fun to see you try.What part will Dave Ragone play on the Patriots this year?

Jason Gargan
Keflavik Naval Air Station
Iceland

I agree. Paul's attempts at humor are weak to say the least. Now is it true that there is more ice in Greenland than in Iceland and more green in Iceland than in Greenland? Jason, are you serious? Did I miss something? As far as I know Dave Ragone is on the Houston Texans roster so I don't expect him to play a big part in the 2004 Patriots season unless he comes off the bench in Houston and beats the Dolphins or Jets or Bills or some other rival in a big game that helps New England. But while you're visiting the site, thanks for defending our country.
Bryan Morry

What is the deal with Ken Walter? And why did we have that rookie for a week and then have Ken back? I wasn't impressed with his kicking all season but he's still around. It seems like there is a story there. Thanks!
Trevor Readinger
Waldoboro, Maine

Ken is not on the roster. He is a free agent who is unlikely to return following a performance that earned him his release last year. He was only gone a week and returned to perform somewhat better. They liked him better than Brooks Barnard and after watching the rookie punt for a week and realizing the upgrade was marginal if at all and the fact that Walter was the holder as well, I just think they felt more comfortable with the guy they knew.
Bryan Morry

Is it true we could lose both Ty Law and Ted Washington? I know that I should just relax and sit tight because Scott Pioli & Co. know what they are doing. But loosing two shutdown guys could be too much to take even for this defense. What do you think?
Raghu
Bengalore, India

As I said at the top, Ty Law is not going anywhere. He is being paid on the level with what the top corners make. His 2004 salary, or new money, will be around $6.8 million. The Franchise number for cornerbacks this season is $6.8 million. He definitely deserves that kind of pay and he is getting it so other than trying to negotiate an extension, why would the Patriots let him go? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and is ridiculous. If Ty was a free agent, would you Franchise him just as the Redskins did Champ Bailey, the Raiders did Charles Woodson and the Ravens did Chris McAllister? Of course you would. The Franchise number will probably go down next year since it will be based on the top 5 salary cap numbers for 2004 excluding Franchised players. Law will undoubtedly top that list again as he did in 2003. But with Bailey signing a new contract, his cap number will be low in the first couple of years and the same goes for Antoine Winfield. If Woodson and McAllister remain Franchised, they won't count toward that total. The Patriots might feel that next year he is making too much, but they could deal with that for one season and then let him go to free agency. If he is still at the top of his game at that point, at age 32, the Patriots can Franchise him and retain him. Washington is a big loss who will be difficult to replace. He is unique and I laugh at the stat out there that he played only 30 percent of the snaps last year. He missed almost seven full games with a broken leg. I'd like to know what percentage of the snaps he played in the game in which he was healthy. It's closer to 50 percent.
Bryan Morry

In regards to running backs, I'm curious to know why there isn't any talk of Knight out of BC. His running style and size (same as Sir Barry Sanders) as well as his stint at BC (The Patriots seem to draw on those local players) seems to me to be a good fit. What gives?
Bob M.
Providence, R.I.

First of all, if the Patriots had interest in him, it would surely be on the QT. I think Belichick has a solid relationship with BC coach Tom O'Brien and will know everything he needs to about Derrick Knight. He is probably too small to be an every down guy in the NFL and I'm not ready to compare him to Barry Sanders. Additionally, as a BU guy, I feel that the fewer BC kids on the roster, the better. Just kidding. I, unfortunately, like Woody, Koppen and Cloud.
Bryan Morry

How does the salary cap work with respect to the draft. Many teams are currently at or just under the $80 million limit (i.e., New England) and I'm wondering what the rules are as to signing the rookie class (are they included in the $80 million, or will another person have to be cut to make room once they figure out who's been drafted)?
Jeremy Hus
Calgary, Alberta

Until the first week of the season, only the top 51 players count against the cap and after the draft, none of the unsigned picks, who at that point are assigned a minimum value of $225,000 would count. So they do not have to have room under the cap until they actually sign the player and he is among the top 51 salaries. But the NFL assigns a value to each pick and then totals that to assign a team a rookie pool that is basically a subset of the salary cap. The teams can divide the pool any way they choose. They do not have to give the exact value assigned by the league to the player according to his draft spot. They could give it all to the first round pick and not sign any of the others if they so chose.
Bryan Morry

Hey guys! First off, another thumbs up for bringing back the humor. Second, Jan Stenerud is currently the only Place-kicker in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Mort and Gary Anderson will probably be #2 and 3 when they become eligible. If Vinatieri continues to have success and a lengthy career, what kind of shot does he have? Is an above average career and two (possibly more!) Super Bowl winning kicks enough for him to eventually beat out QBs, WRs and RBs? I sure hope so.
Bob
Nantucket, Mass.

I don't think there is any question that if Adam continues on his current path, he is a lock for the Hall. He is only the second player to score 100 points in each of his first eight seasons and assuming he continues that for another eight, I don't see how he can be kept out especially given his two game-winning Super Bowl kicks and the kick that might just be the greatest of all time, which is his 45-yard game-tying kick in the Snow Bowl against the Raiders in the 2001 playoffs.
Bryan Morry

I agree with Brandon on Mike Cloud. He was a star for BC. Before sitting on the bench for KC, every time this kid touched the ball he made positive yardage and POINTS. We need to take a good look at him this spring and give him the ball for more than one or two times in a half. If he gets the ball for 20-25 time in a game your looking at 130 plus yards.
Jeff
Douglas, Mass.

Jeff, I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong because I haven't seen enough of Mike Cloud, but he has now played for three different head coaches and none of them have apparently seen him as a 130 yard per game type of back. I know BC fans love him, but I will compare it to Denver where every runner seems to excel in their system. BC sends offensive linemen to the league every year. How much do the runners benefit from the strong line play? I don't know the answer, but I find it difficult to believe that three different coaches have missed the boat on Mike. Maybe they have. Maybe he will emerge the way Priest Holmes did. I hope he does whether that's in New England or elsewhere, but I guess at this point I am skeptical.
Bryan Morry

Since it looks as though the top RBs might not be available when the Pats make their picks, and with Ted Washington leaving, what do you think are the possibilities of the Pats going for a Vince Wilfolk, who could be the true 3-4 DT that they are looking for, and they could move Ty Warren to DE, I realize that this makes 3 DLs in the last four years.
Peter Hudson
Sackville, New Brunswick

I think it's very possible that New England could use a high pick on a defensive lineman even though it's used first rounders on DLs in two of the last three drafts. You can never have enough good defensive linemen and if there is an opportunity to get one of the best, you take it. But the Patriots wouldn't trade up into the top 10 to pick a DL unless they think he is a Richard Seymour-type of player. Last year, Belichick said something to the effect of, "We were looking for a Richard Seymour this year and we'll be looking for him next year. Those guys don't come around very often." There wasn't one last year, which is why the Patriots didn't package their picks and move up as many speculated they would. I don't know if either of Wilfork or Tommie Harris project to have a Seymour-type impact, but if they do, the Patriots will have interest in trying to get one of them.
Bryan Morry

Do you think the Pats will trade up for a much higher draft pick, to get a running back, say like RB Steve Jackson (Oregon State)? Also do you think that Kevin Faulk can be the premier running back in N.E.?
Donovan Altman
Huntington Beach, Calif.

As much as I like Kevin, I don't think he's a lead back. I think he is tremendous when used in a way that accentuates his strengths. He is a tremendous receiver with excellent hands and operates well in space with his shiftiness. He's not overly fast and not a guy that will pound you 25 times a game, but he is a good, versatile player and a valuable asset to have. I think the Pats would consider trading up for Jackson, but it depends on how high. The Lions at 6 might be the first team interested in taking a runner with a high pick. The Cardinals might need one, but neither Jackson nor Kevin Jones appears worthy of the third pick. Beyond that, the Steelers (11), Bears (14) and Bucs (15) might have an interest in a back. I don't think the Patriots would be able to move up in front of Detroit without giving up too much. But if it is Jackson they want and Detroit doesn't take him, the Patriots should be able to package their ones and get to the 10th spot in a trade with Houston. The Jets and Bills pick 12th and 13th so it's difficult to imagine making a deal with one of those two to get in front of Chicago. The Steelers might be willing to move back considering they traded up in the first round last year for the first time in team history. Perhaps they would move down to pick up the extra pick they lost last year and settle for one of the other running backs.
Bryan Morry

Hey PFW- I was wondering what you thought of a few potential low-salary free agents to fill some holes for the Pats: Travis Claridge (ATL) at guard and 3-4 linebacker Adalius Thomas (BAL). Linebacker Brandon Short (NYG) might be possible as well, despite the unimposing name. Or am I WAY off (which has been known to happen)?
Brian Wolfe
Newton, Mass.

I'm not going to claim to be an expert on all those guys, but they seem to make some sense. Thomas played in Baltimore's 3-4, started 11 games and made 43 tackles with four sacks. He is 6-2, 270 pounds. Short played in a 4-3, but at 6-3, 253 has good size to seemingly play in the Patriots system, although I'm not sure how good he is. He also started 11 games with 74 tackles and three sacks. The Patriots need an offensive lineman with some versatility after losing Woody and Mike Compton, both guys who could play multiple positions up front. Right now, they have mostly guys who play either tackle, guard or center, but not more than one of those. Russ Hochstein has taken preseason snaps at center, but has only played guard. Dan Koppen has only played center. Tom Ashworth and Matt Light have only played tackle and Joe Andruzzi has only played guard. Brandon Gorin is a tackle. I don't know what kind of versatility a guy like Claridge has. I could see the Pats taking a shot at Thomas. I know they need some youth at inside linebacker, but they don't likely have a roster spot for another linebacker unless one of the incumbents is let go.
Bryan Morry

Hey guys, love reading your answers. I think Daniel Graham had a very good year, without those drops he would have had an awesome year. I don't think the Patriots use him enough in key situations. If you remember when Coates was playing they would always throw him the ball on 3rd and 4 and in key spots. I think Graham could be almost as good as Coates---what do you guys think? (by the why he's probably a better blocker too)
Sean Pawlick
Lawrence, Mass.

It's tough to say Graham had a very good year when he dropped so many passes. You can't just eliminate those. Some of them were very big drops. If he can settle down and improve his hands, he can be a star, but he has to show it. He's a mean blocker and he has tremendous speed for his position and can create some matchup problems, but he has to be more consistent. He is not Ben Coates because Coates caught everything thrown his way. He was a proven reliable receiver when he became Drew Bledsoe's security blanket. Not to speak for Tom Brady, but I doubt he views Graham as a go-to guy because of the drops. The talent is definitely there, but the consistency hasn't shown up yet.
Bryan Morry

Supposedly the Patriots are super at dealing with the cap but it seems like every year they are over the cap and need to ask half the team to re-negotiate their contracts. This year they could not sign Ted Washington and they're other free agents because they are over the cap. Supposedly the Patriots have no superstars except Tom Brady and Ty Law yet they are over the cap, and meanwhile, the Washington Redskins and all these other teams get to sign all these high priced free agents for huge amounts of money without asking half the team to re-structure their contract. How can that be?I know they have won two Super Bowls in three years and I can't be happier I am just wondering why this happens.

Neo Matrix
McAllen, Texas

Very clever Neo. I had no idea Keanu Reeves was a Pats fan. The Patriots could have signed Ted Washington and Damien Woody if they wanted to. You can always sign a guy. But they place a value on a player and if another team is willing to pay more, then the Patriots are disciplined enough not to fall in love with any one guy and therefore, will let him go. It's a business-like approach. But the Patriots are up against the cap for a couple of reasons. First, contracts like those belonging to Ty Law and Willie McGinest (two of the higher cap numbers on the team) were signed before Bill Belichick arrived here. Law will account for 10 percent of the cap this season. They also have about $4 million of cap money being spent on Lawyer Milloy for 2004. But the real reason the Patriots don't have a bunch of room is because they have a strong middle class on the roster. They have about 19 players who will count more than $1 million against the 2004 cap and more than half of those will count more than $2 million and almost a third will count more than $3 million. They have another eight or so that will count between $600,000 and $1 million. In fact, those 27 or so players count more than $61 million against the $80 million cap. Then factor in dead money for contracts like Milloy's that total almost $7 million and you are looking at $68 million for only 27 players. That leaves about $12 million for the other 21 players that count against the cap at this point. It's likely that Daniel Snyder is sacrificing his team's future to try to win now, although I haven't seen the contracts. The Patriots don't go that route. Snyder is doling out huge signing bonuses and in a few seasons his team will have to cut a ton of players to get under the cap because those contracts all likely escalate significantly after the first two years of the deal. The Patriots try not to do that. They want to spread the money around and build a team from 1 to 53 that can compete rather than have some stars making big money and a bunch of minimum salary guys who would be unable to fill in for injured players. That's their philosophy. It doesn't mean it's the right way or the only way, but it's their way. They don't want to create a scenario where every guy whose contract runs out wants a big bonus bigger than the last guy. For example if the Patriots signed Woody and paid him a $9 million bonus, why wouldn't Matt Light get even more since he plays left tackle? How many guys could you pay that kind of money to without mortgaging the future? They don't want to mortgage the future. They don't want to go for it and then cut it all down. They're looking for consistency from year to year.
Bryan Morry

Hey, I just wanted to say, I'm glad to see the humor restored. I also wanted to ask if you guys think there is any chance the Pats could or would hire Chris Gardocki of the Cleveland Browns? He has a better lifetime average than Ken Walter's longest punt last year? Thanks and keep up the good work.
Steven Selvaggio
Delta Junction, Alaska

Well I'm sure you know by now that Gardocki is a Steeler, but I left the question because I still think a punter is one of this team's top three needs given the importance the team puts on field position. Perhaps Darren Bennett or Tom Tupa would be options. If not look for them to use a mid-round pick on a punter.
Bryan Morry

What are you doing? We need Ted Washington. Are you a moron? Are you crazy? If we do not stop the run like 2002 you deserve to be terminated.
Gus Jenkins
San Jose, Calif.

Terminated? What the heck for? All I do is answer the questions. Are you talking about Bill Belichick? Scott Pioli? Yeah, let's fire them. I agree. I mean two Super Bowls in three years … who needs that? Granted, losing Ted will hurt. He is a unique player who will be difficult to replace and may be even impossible to replace if they want to run the same defense they did last season. But they decided he wasn't worth the price at age 36 that the Raiders were willing to pay. They might have made a mistake. Time will tell. But you really want to fire them for it? Are YOU crazy? C'mon Gus. Let's think rationally here. The Patriots were 0-for-42 and have won 2 of the last 3 Super Bowls. Now that doesn't shield the decision-makers from any criticism or mean they can't make mistakes, but doesn't it buy them some job security. It does in my book, that's for sure. I think we can safely say that Bill Belichick is the best coach the Patriots have had and Scott Pioli has proven to be a pretty solid personnel chief.
Bryan Morry

Are you stupid? Please explain this move. We need Ted.
Joe Baker
Pensacola, Fla.

Yes. They're stupid. Any more insults people? I'm trying hard not to throw the insults back at you because I think you and Gus are off base here. They tried to re-sign the guy Joe. Did you just want to give him a blank check? They placed a value on him and tried to sign him. I think, at least according to reports, that they met his agent's demand for three years and $8 million. The Raiders beat the offer and since Ted knows this is his last NFL contract. He took the money. Good luck to him. He was a big part of the championship team and will certainly help the Raiders.
Bryan

Now that Ted Washington has signed with Oakland, will the Pats try and sign someone like Gilbert Brown from Green Bay? One would think that nose tackle would be a critical position for a 3-4 defensive scheme. Any thoughts?
Chris
Downingtown, Pa.

Unfortunately, I don't think Gilbert Brown can hold a candle to Ted Washington. While both are very big men, my impression of Gilbert Brown has always been that of a fat guy who is out of shape and just tries to take up space whereas I always felt that Ted Washington was a guy who could move well inside at 370 pounds. He is athletic. I must admit that my impressions of both men were from afar, but watching Washington play up close for a season I think confirmed what players like Dave Wohlabaugh and Damien Woody said about him when he was playing for the Bills. His footwork is a strength along with his size and ability. Nose tackle is definitely a critical position in the 3-4 though, so the team will have to address it if it wants to remain in that front.
Bryan Morry

Are the Patriots going to re-sign Ty Law and are they going to upgrade the running back and receiving corps?
John
Destin, Fla.

Ty Law is not a free agent. He is under contract through 2005. The team certainly hopes to upgrade at running back since Kevin Faulk is the only running back on the roster as we speak. They had Sammy Morris in for a visit although I don't necessarily see him as much of an upgrade over Antowain Smith. I think they will draft a runner and sign another veteran to compete for the lead back job. I am not concerned with the receiving corps. They have drafted a wideout in the second round each of the last two years and have three receivers who are either in their second or third seasons. I wouldn't be adverse to drafting a big receiver, but for 2004, I'd be happy with Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens, David Patten, Bethel Johnson and J.J. Stokes or five of those six assuming they can stay healthy. This is apparently a terrific receiver draft so perhaps the Patriots will spend another second rounder on a wideout.
Bryan Morry

Now that Thomas Jones signed a four-year deal with Chicago, it would seem that Anthony Thomas will be on his way out. If so, would the Patriots be in the running for Thomas?
Michael Pesca-Santise
Yonkers, N.Y.

I don't think signing Thomas Jones means Anthony Thomas is on the way out. If he is, I definitely think the Patriots would have interest in him. I don't think the guy's a franchise back by any means, but he may be a younger version of Antowain Smith with a little more pep in his legs. He may be able to get the tough, important yards. But I don't think he'll be available.
Bryan Morry

Hey, it is obvious that the Pats are going to take a marquee RB on this year's draft. I would like to know who you think would fit better in this offense? Oregon State's Jackson, Virginia Tech's Jones, FSU's Jones or Michigan's Perry. Also, who's the fastest and the most powerful? I just love very fast powerful RBs like Clinton Portis so it will be interesting to have that kind of back over here.
Alex Quezada
Panama City, Panama

I think that Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech is probably the fastest of the backs you mentioned and Greg Jones of the Florida State is probably the most powerful. I think Oregon State's Jackson may have the best combination of the two and Perry might be the most versatile of the bunch in terms of doing all things well. If I had to pick the best runner, I would probably go with Kevin Jones.
Bryan Morry

Just chipping in my 2 cents worth about a return to humor in your replies. One of my favorites was your suggestion to a correspondent WRITING ANGRILY IN ALL CAPS that he "come in off the ledge." I yukked about that all day. Judging from what I have already seen during the first days of free agency, we Pats fans are going to NEED a little levity. Antowain Smith gone, and today Ted Washington heads for the Oakland Traitors. Can Ty Law be far behind? Big money is breaking up that old gang of mine. Sigh.
Lynne
Novato, Calif.

Well Lynne, your sighs are warranted. It's hard to watch good players from your championship team leave for thicker wallets, but it's also inevitable. You could do idiotic contracts like the one the Colts just did for Peyton Manning and cut half the team or you can allow players who price themselves out of your range to leave so that you can keep the others. How much money will the Colts have now to replace the five players they just cut to get Manning signed? In the Patriots view, it's often a tradeoff. It's this guy or these three? More often than not, they choose the three mediocre guys over the one star-type player. Just ask Lawyer Milloy. I asked Bill Belichick last week about the priority he has placed on the running back position and he said, "We don't have a game for a while so it's not like we need one by March 10." If he's not worried, I would suggest holding off on your worrying as well. Now if he's saying that in August than I might not believe him so readily. Since Bill and Pioli have arrived, they've been quiet during the first few days of free agency when spending is wild. They should start making some noise any time now.
Bryan Morry

Since Ted Washington is now gone I think that the Patriots should draft Junior Siavii. He is 6'4 344lbs. If possible you need to tell the coaching staff or whoever you know from the Pats to draft him.
Chris Sherry
Wayne, Nebraska

Consider it done. Junior and Rodney back together again.
Bryan Morry

Well, big Ted Washington is gone. Is it true Chad Eaton is a FA? If so, what are the chances of BB bringing back one of his favorite players?
Andrew Grigg
Hamden, Conn.

Chad Eaton was released by the Seahawks and is a free agent. I'm not sure what kind of shape his surgically repaired knee is in and don't just accept that it is fine because it was reported. I've heard otherwise as well and don't know which is true. I also find it hard to believe that Chad would leave the West Coast to return to New England. He is from Washington and I don't think he wants to leave, although I haven't spoken to him in a couple of years. If I was a betting man, he'll be back with Seattle on the cheap when all is said and done.
Bryan Morry

My 7-year-old son and I are out of state Patriot fans who will be in the area in April. Is it possible to just drop by Gillette Stadium to see the place, perhaps the trophies on display, etc. Gillette web site is not very helpful and I did not see anything in the PFW Archives. Thanks.
John
Crofton, Md.

Sorry John, as of now there are no tours of the stadium offered to the general public. Check back periodically to see if that changes.
Bryan Morry

OK, it seems that a lot of the big name players are going to free agency this offseason. It makes me wonder. Who is getting paid so much (obviously Ty Law)? But who are the Pats paying so highly that they can't re-sign Woody, Washington, etc? I see other teams have at least 20 million under the cap. Why are the pats so close? I thought cutting A. Smith would free up a lot of cap room. Could you give me the top 5 players with the highest salaries (omit Law)? And I say we restructure Colvin's contract, because he only played 2 games last season and didn't live up to his money. There's some cap room. Thanks.
Andrew
Quincy, Mass.

I essentially answered this in one of those long answers above. Beyond Law, the top five highest cap numbers belong to Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin. Brady is more than $8 million and the others range from about $3.6 million to $4.6 million.
Bryan Morry

Being from Maine originally, I bleed Patriots red, white and blue! Here's my question: I keep reading that the Pat's have a need for young ILBs, but that they are deep in OLB. What is the difference? Speed, strength, brains?? Can't they just slide and OLB inside?
Steve Tibbetts
Syracuse, N.Y.

In some cases yes. Roman Phifer moved from outside to inside last year. But there are differences. Outside linebackers tend to operate in more space and don't deal with interior offensive linemen as much. The inside guys are usually bigger so they can take on guards and centers and fight off those blocks to get to the ball. The reads are different as well, although one would think they could all make that adjustment. I would generally say that it's more of a size, strength issue, although I would guess there are more outside guys that could move inside as opposed to the opposite. Also the outside linebackers in the Patriots 3-4 front are more hybrid defensive end types who can rush the passer so they are not suited to be standup inside linebackers on an every down basis.
Bryan Morry

How well have Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri been compensated over the past four years? And what are they due for the upcoming season?
Wayne Roma
Windham, Maine

Brady received a small bonus and played for the rookie minimums his first two years before getting a contract extension after the 2001 season with tiered bonuses that he will receiver throughout the life of his contract. He will earn $5.5 million this year after taking home about $3.1 last year. Vinatieri signed a fully guaranteed deal after the 2001 season and I don't have all the details of his contract.

I have been a huge fan and subscriber since 1995. I don't know how I would make it till September without you guys! I have two questions. Miami picks 20th in the 1st round, so why is our traded pick the 24th and after Dallas (25th if you count Houston) in the 2nd round?
Chuck "BeerBlaster" Yates
Vienna, Maine

Chuck, Miami finished 10-6 along with five other teams so their picks rotate through the rounds. Miami may pick first among the six 10-6 teams in the first round, but sixth in the second if you get my drift.
Bryan Morry

With Ted Washington gone will Ty Warren get more playing time or will the Pats look to someone else?
Glen Orcutt
Tampa, Fla.

Yes. I mean both. I think Ty Warren will certainly get more playing time this year and would have even if Washington stayed. But the Patriots need to add a capable body up front even with Warren getting more snaps. They also will likely lose Anthony Pleasant, Rick Lyle and Bobby Hamilton.
Bryan Morry

Does the J.J. Stokes signing mark the end of the Troy Brown era? I'd hate to see him go. But something tells me that Stokes is about to make a name for himself. What do you think?
Chris MacMillan
Stockton Springs, Maine

Nah. Stokes has been in the league for nine years. His name is what it is. And he is not better than Troy Brown. Brown would only go for salary reasons and I'm guessing that if that were to happen, it would have happened already.
Bryan Morry

With Champ Bailey becoming the highest paid CB ever, one has to think that will hurt the Pat' positioning with Ty Law. With that said, do you think BB & Pioli are prepared to throw the big dollars at Ty or will they let him play out the 04 season and then cut him loose?
Tim G.
Alfred, Maine

They would like to sign Ty, but they could keep him through 2005 and then tag him as their Franchise player so as well as Ty has played, he doesn't hold all the negotiating cards. The Patriots would like to sign him to an extension, but after he called their initial offer "a slap in the face" I would say that what the Patriots thought might be a negotiation ended right then and there. I'm sure Ty would like to be let go now so that he could be a free agent and get some of the windfall corners seem to be getting just as he got in 1999 when he received a $14.2 million bonus that was unsurpassed by a cornerback until last week.
Bryan Morry

I've got two questions, first off what ever happened to Andy Katzenmoyer, the Pats first round pick in 1997. He seemed to have a lot of talent then after a year or two he dropped off the radar all together. And my second question is do you think that the Pats need to trade both their first round picks to move up and get a RB like Jones from VA Tech or Jackson from Oregon State, I think there will still be plenty of talent left at the RB position when we get on the clock with the 21st pick.
Josh Irvine
Pierre, South Dakota

Big Kat retired because of a neck injury and I believe he went back home to Westerville, Ohio. If the Pats want Kevin Jones or Jackson, they probably have to move up to get one. If they like Greg Jones or Perry, they can stay put. If one of the top two makes it into the teens, I think the Patriots have to consider a trade that wouldn't require giving up both first rounders. But it depends on what free agency brings between now and April 24.
Bryan Morry

Can you discuss how a signing bonus works against the teams cap and how much is up front money and how much is guaranteed? For example Manning is getting a signing bonus of around 34 mil, how much would he get now and would it be applied to the Colts cap for 04.
Jacob Green
West Bridgewater, Mass.

There is no set formula for when a bonus is paid. Manning could have agreed to get his signing bonus in installments. But in the average contract, a signing bonus is paid up front and is the only guaranteed portion of a contract. Even though the bonus has been paid, it is prorated over the life of the contract in terms of its cap value. For example, in a five-year contract that includes a $5 million signing bonus, the bonus money counts $1 million per year against the cap. I don't know the terms of Manning's deal. But let's make it easy. If he signed for 10 years and received a $34 million bonus, his bonus would count $3.4 million per year against the cap over the life of the contract. Then his salary and any other incentives or other bonuses worked into the contract would count when paid.
Bryan Morry

Great job this season "Pats"...I salute you....(not a question)
SSG Martin M. Elliott
Hohenfels, Germany

And PFW salutes you.

Ok this is my third try to get a question answered. I know you have been getting a lot of questions about various running backs and I apologize for adding another. I also am sorry if I sound like I am just supporting a player because I go to the same school.Has there been much thought to drafting Tatum Bell from OSU? If I read it correctly he had the fastest time at the combine for a running back and I saw him run over guys quite often. He was also 4th in the Big 12 in rushing while missing a couple games from an injury. I haven't heard him discussed much, so I think he will be around in the second and possibly third round. He could be a good choice for the Pats in those rounds, he wouldn't be as expensive and would allow for picking up a high profile player in the first round. I do enjoy the humor you put into your responses, keep it up.

Shane
Stillwater, Okla.

Shane, with all the needs the Patriots have to address, I do think it's possible that Bell could be on their radar screen as a second or third round pick. He's not the proto-type in terms of size at 204 pounds, but has some speed and quickness and is a north-south type of runner. He could be gone by the end of the second, so it's doubtful New England would get him with the last pick in the third round. He could be there for the Pats second round pick at 64 and could draw consideration in that spot.
Bryan Morry

Time to play one of our favorite games "What to do with Klecko"Will Klecko ever be more than a solid backup/special teamer ? Not that that's bad, but could he be in the mix at linebacker? I don't think he has the physical tools at D-line to shed the blocks he needs to in the running game. With Huard not signed and Davey in Europe will we see Klecko at QB to provide competition for Brady ? HA ! P.S. What about Tully BC. I think these two guys and a healthy Colvin might keep the Pats out of the LB market at least at the top of the draft.

Dominic
Nashua, N.H.

I'd like to take a few pounds off Klecko and move him to inside linebacker. He would need more speed and maybe shedding 10-15 pounds would help him get that. He would probably take a couple of years to develop there much the way Tedy Bruschi needed time to grow accustomed to playing linebacker. I like Banta-Cain as well, but I'm uneasy about Colvin's return from a broken hip. If he loses his speed and quickness, he loses his rushing ability.
Bryan Morry

Please tell me about the current contract status of Troy Brown.
Joanna McKinnon
Concord, N.H.

Troy has one year left on his deal and will earn more than $2.2 million next year.
Bryan Morry

How will the Patriots fill the open positions with Ted Washington and now Damien Woody both leaving the Patriots via free agency? Perhaps they feel they can do as well without them otherwise they would not have let them leave?
Rich Gulezian
Manchester, N.H.

Manch-vegas. The city of lights. I've answered the Washington part of your question already. It would appear right now that Russ Hochstein would be the starting left guard although the Patriots will most certainly sign a free agent and draft an offensive lineman.
Bryan Morry

I still don't understand what an offer sheet is.
Nathan
Mossup, Conn.

An offer sheet is a contract offer given to a restricted free agent. The player signs the offer, but because he is a restricted free agent, his current teams has a chance to review that offer and match it within 7 days or allow him to leave. The offer must be matched exactly how it has been presented by the other club.
Bryan Morry

Can anyone tell me what was the starting lineup for the offensive and defense for the 1976 Patriots?
David Rucker
Columbia, S.C.

Here is the offense with the number of starts in parentheses:
WR 1 Randy Vataha (8), Darryl Stingley (4), Marlin Briscoe (2)
LT Leon Gray (14)
LG John Hannah (14)
C Bill Lenkaitis (14)
RG Sam Adams (14)
RT Bob McKay (14)
TE Russ Francis (12), Al Chandler
WR 2 Darryl Stingley (9), Marline Briscoe (3), Steve Burks (1), Al Chandler (1)
QB Steve Grogan (14)
RB Andy Johnson (12), Sam Cunningham (1), Ike Forte (1)
FB Sam Cunningham (10), Don Calhoun (3), Andy Johnson (1)

Defense:
LE Tony McGee (13), Mel Lunsford (1)
NT Ray Hamilton (14)
RE Julius Adams (14)
LOLB Steve Zabel (14)
LILB Steve Nelson (11), Sam Hunt (2), Donnie Thomas (1)
RILB Sam Hunt (9), George Webster (3), Jim Romaniszyn (2)
ROLB Pete Barnes (7), Steve King (7)
LCB Bob Howard (14)
RCB Mike Haynes (14)
SS Prentice McCray (14)
FS Tim Fox (13), Dick Conn (1)

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