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Ask PFW: Bowl season and Ochocinco

I have heard a few rumors about the Pats getting Ochocinco (sorry if I misspelled that) from Cincinnati... can you verify this?
Grant Lamb

Do you see the Pats making a move for Chad Ochocinco seeing as how he and Belichick have a good relationship? If not, are there any other players you might see the Pats try to trade for?
Logan Byers

What are your thoughts on Chad Johnson's comments about possibly coming to NE. Do u think there's something behind it or is he just telling us a bunch of BS.
Jason Roeder

I've heard Chad Ochocinco (He's currently changing it back to Johnson) say he wants to be a New England Patriot. Bill Belichick has coached him for the Pro Bowl and I think that if he wanted to do that, he'd need to clean up his act. I also think that he's changing his name back to show that he's outgrowing his old self and because he wants a trade to the Patriots and we already have an 85. Thoughts?
Nick Reguin

Ochocinco is an interesting guy right now. He obviously has a solid if strange relationship with Belichick. He's tweeted that he'd like to play in New England -- "PePe and Bill #EPIC." (For those who don't know, Ochocinco also calls himself PePe.) He's under contract for next season in Cincy with at $6 million. That's a lot for a 33-year-old receiver who's numbers have been on the decline the last three seasons. It's also a lot for a guy who can be very emotional, easily distracted, immature and seemed to be quite a handle for Carson Palmer to deal with. All that said and assuming that Ochocinco (which is what I'll call him until his legally goes back to Johnson) gets released by the Bengals, I would be interested in him at the right price. He had 67 catches for 831 yards and four scores in 14 games this season. Not exactly the guy who rolled out of bed with 1,200 yards and 90 catches, like he did in from 2003-2007, but it's still decent production. If Ochocinco is truly humbled, and comes to New England with his hat in hand ready to fit in and try to win a championship I'd be happy to have him compete. I still think it's a long shot at this point, but his relationship with Belichick really can't hurt. The Patriots need a guy to get down the field and add depth at receiver, even if there are concerns about No. 85's speed. Ochocinco/Johnson needs a winning home. It worked for a couple years with Randy Moss. A new diva wide receiver marriage? I've seen stranger.
Andy Hart

I think the Patriots should have seen early in the year that they needed to look for a proven offensive coordinator, someone that can keep other teams guessing, even teams that are in our own division they play and know all too well. The offensive plays that were being called from the sidelines just won't do it in the big games. I know of many fans that can see this, I wonder why it hasn't been mentioned at all?Joe Dussault

We're back to criticizing the play calling again? Just to be clear, didn't the Patriots lead the NFL in points this season? Are we also blaming Bill O'Brien for the offense failing to do its job in Super Bowl XLII? He wasn't even the play caller or coordinator at that point. I think O'Brien did a good job this year leading the offense, especially considering the transition it went through after the Moss trade. I think the Patriots, for the most part, have called the same plays in many situations dating back to 2001. There have been alterations here and there, but lots of screens and draws. Lots of short passes. A pretty good deal of shotgun work, variety in formations and play action sprinkled in. It's the execution that I see varying from year to year and game to game. That's why I generally focus on praising the players when they succeed, because I also hold them accountable in terms of execution when they don't do as well. Coaches play a huge part in the NFL, but let's not go overboard. I'll end with my general question for anyone asking to replace a coach – who would you want to hire to call the plays on offense?
Andy Hart

If Von Miller falls outside of the Top 10, what are the chances the Pats will package one of their first rounders and some others to move up to grab him?Ryan Joyce

That's a great question, that no one really has the answer to right now. Miller is considered the elite edge rusher in the draft. The Patriots have huge need for an edge rusher. Holy perfect match made in heaven Batman! When it's all said and done Miller, who had a strong Senior Bowl week, said he wants to be the first defensive player drafted. If that happens, he's going to be a top-5 pick. That's probably too rich for the Patriots blood. But in your scenario, and even though Miller isn't prototypical in terms of the Patriots ideals for OLB and setting the edge, I'd have to think New England would consider moving up a handful of spots from No. 17 to fill their biggest need. But we're still a long ways away from me being ready to predict such a scenario or even see if Miller will be available beyond say No. 5 overall. The draft process is a long one and guys will rise and fall in the coming weeks and months.
Andy Hart

Tom Brady has not only been 0-3 in the last 3 postseason games, he has not gotten out of the 1st round in the last 2! People are worried! Perhaps he has lost an edge, Perhaps he falls a bit short of the all-time greats! Before we get all bent out of shape with those concerns lets go back to the great Joe Montana immediately following his team's best Super Bowl winning season 1984! People forget this-- Joe Cool lost 3 straight 1st rounders himself between 1985-1987 (coincidently Jerry Rice's 1st 3 years in the league) 2 of the losses were at home (21-10 '85 NY Giants) 36-24 '87 to the mediocre Minnesota Vikings and one was a downright shellacking 49-3 to the eventual Super Bowl Champs of '86 Giants! We all know what Joe did the following 2 years of 88 and 89! Will Tom do that? Lord only knows! Can he? Come along now! I believe he CAN and Will! And will go one or two up!
Will Shorr

I like your overall point, Will. Sure it seems like the sky is falling in terms of the Patriots recent postseason play. But it's not. The one problem is that two of the 49ers losses were as wild card teams on the road. They were the underdogs and not expected to win. The three Patriots losses have been with New England as the favorite, either at home or on a neutral site. That's a different light on this losing streak compared to Montana's. But the bottom line is that even the great Montana went through his own postseason losing streak. Brady, too, is human. But the future could be as bright for No. 12 as it was for No. 16 after the three-game playoff hiccup. Preach it, brother! I'm with you.
Andy Hart

My question concerns the wide receiver position. With the rumors of Chad Johnson and Stallworth saying he wanted back in New England do you see either of them wearing the red white and blue? Also how vital is it that we add another deep threat? The Jets took away the middle of the field and that seemed to really hurt us in the playoffs but are the deep threats we need already on the team? Can Brandon Tate mature into a viable option? In the very little I saw of Taylor Price he seemed to be talented and tough. Can he step up on the outside next year?Nicky Nick

As I said above, I'd be willing to bring Chad aboard in the right situation and see what he could add to the offense. I'd say the same thing about Stallworth. He was solid in his one season in New England, but obviously has done much on the football field (19 catches in three years) since then. As a low-price veteran option, his experience in the system would make him a nice potential addition. But both guys would be short term answers for the Patriots need for an outside receiver with the ability to get down the field. Tate and Price are long term options. I don't have high hopes for Tate moving forward. I have yet to see much from him to lead me to believe he can be a consistent, reliable, functional option in the passing game. Heck, he hasn't even shown the ability to be a reliable big-play threat. Price is a total unknown. I liked what I saw from him in early training camp and even his bit of action in the finale. I think he's a more fluid route runner than Tate, may have better hands and is also pretty fast in his own right. I still have high hopes for Price to be a versatile option in the passing game. But he clearly has to prove it. I wouldn't want him to be the only guy expected to step up in 2011, but if you combine him with a veteran option like Chad, Stallworth or someone else it would be a nice potential boost to the passing game.
Andy Hart

Are the rumors that the Patriots will trade Wes Welker this offseason true? If so, then where would he go and what would New England get in return?Blake Stewart

I've heard those Welker trade rumblings, but not as anything more than low-level internet rumors. That puts them on the same level as aliens being the cause of the recent run of snowstorms. While Welker is heading into the final year of his contract, and was benched for the start of the recent playoff game, I don't think there is much chance of him not being a Patriot in 2011. I also don't know if there would be a ton of interest for him on the open market. He's only a year removed from a major knee injury, needs a new contract and is seen, by some, as a product of the system in New England. Fair or not, he's not really seen as a truly elite receiver or a guy around which a passing game can be built. The bottom line, though, is he's a huge contributor in New England and Tom Brady's favorite target. I expect him to fill that role once again this coming fall.
Andy Hart

I know you guys haven't delved into your draft homework yet, but after watching highlights of JJ Watt and Adrian Clayborn, I can't help but get excited! I love JJ's bull rush ability, and Adrian's ability to set and play at the edge. I feel great about the Patriots chances. On to my question: what do you think the Patriots will offer Mankins? Will it be more, less, or the same than what they offered during the preseason.Hank B.

This is another one of those great questions. Clearly, based on his recent comments, Mankins doesn't expect the Patriots to offer up the lucrative long term extension he's been looking for. He seems to think, and I agree, that the most likely scenario at this point is for the Patriots to slap the franchise tag on the All-Pro guard. That came with a tender of $10.731 million last season. Given the lack of a CBA moving forward and the uncertainty in the labor front, that's about all we can really expect at this point. If a new CBA gets done under similar rules as the old one for veteran free agents then I think Mankins will once again be looking to get Jahri Evans money. The Saints All-Pro guard got a reported seven-year deal worth $56 million, including $19 million in first-year coin and $25 million over the first three years. That's the type of comps the Patriots will have to deal with if they attempt to sign Mankins. Otherwise they may have to use the franchise tag as a tool before trying to trade the anchor of the offensive line. I still hold out hope that a deal will get done with Mankins, even if he doesn't seem too confident. Last year the Patriots took care of key centerpiece players like Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady. This year that money should go to Mankins. He's everything you look for in an offensive lineman, on and off the field. It would be a shame to let him go, especially with the uncertainty around free agent Matt Light as well as oft-injured guard Stephen Neal. But until the new CBA gets done, questions like this about guys like Mankins will simply blow in the breeze of uncertainty.
Andy Hart

What do you think of this train of thought: the Pats have had 3 straight playoff losses, but in those same yrs, good or great reg. season records. Do you think if the team looks at what went "wrong" in just those 3 games and makes those "corrections", the Pats could solve the playoff problem? They don't seem to have a problem with reg. season play.
Giovanna Sabatini

I'm sure that's a question that Bill Belichick has been mulling over as he's going through the end-of-season process. Clearly the Patriots were a very good team in the regular season. But for the second straight January they didn't measure up in the postseason. Are the two losses a coincidence or a statement about how the team is built? Only Belichick can really make that call and work to fix it. One theory is that the current Patriots were in some way built to compete with teams like the Colts, not more physical styles like the Jets and Ravens. I'm not so sure I buy that, but it's a theory. Obviously you're not talking about blowing anything up. In my opinion the Patriots need help on the defensive side of the ball. A few more playmakers there would go a long way. Most postseason games, even for some of the greatest offenses ever, come down to the need for a team's defense to make some major contributions. So while the Patriots offense has clearly failed to live up to its regular season resume in the last three postseason losses, I think the defense remains the biggest target for an upgrade. Offensively it's about complementary pieces around Brady. Defensively it's about getting back to the days when the unit made the key plays it needed at key time in big postseason games.
Andy Hart

What do you guys think the chances are that BB and the rest of the front office change their recruiting plans similar to what they did after the '06 AFC Championship game going into the 16-0 season? I see similarities to the way the season ended then and now; we were a great shot to make it to the Super Bowl and we lost to a team that on our day we could beat. In my mind, this would mean an aggressive move in FA (Asamougha or Ocho) or perhaps trading up and getting Quinn or Von Miller). How much of this will depend on the CBA dramas?
Anthony Pearson

Everything, certainly in free agency, will depend on the CBA. But even trading up could depend on the CBA in terms of a rookie pay scale making high picks more valuable. While the Patriots spent most of last season re-signing their own players, aside from Mankins it would seem there might be more focus and resources spent on free agents from other teams. If/when the CBA gets done, nearly 500 players could be available on the open market. That might make a good time for Belichick & Co. to strike to supplement the roster. I also wouldn't be shocked to see Belichick trade up to get a specific player in the draft. The team has the resources to do so, and having taken a dozen players in each of the last two drafts there is probably a greater need for more top end talent rather than youthful depth at this point. What exactly Belichick's approach will be is anyone's guess, but the signs may point toward a bit more aggressive approach in both free agency and the draft.
Andy Hart

With all the draft picks that we have, what picks could you see the Patriots trading away for a proven receiver such as Larry Fitzgerald? Also could they use high picks on a proven defense playmaker and at what cost?
Liam Hall

Do you see the patriots going after Vincent Jackson in the free agency or trading away picks for Larry Fitzgerald?
Cody Filingeri

I don't think the Patriots would have any interest in Jackson in free agency. I think the cost would be too high for a guy who's had his off field issues. Fitzgerald is a different story. (Of course no one knows if he's on the market, despite rather vague internet reports that he could be had but only for the "right price." Heck, everyone's available for the right price. Right? And Fitzgerald has said he wants to stay in Arizona.) If he does become available I think the Patriots would have to at least do their due diligence. He's already under contract (through 2012), so there wouldn't be a big bonus to consider. He's not been in trouble off the field. He's an elite talent. Even with suspect QB play in Arizona, the 27-year-old receiver had 90 catches for over 1,100 yards with six touchdowns. He's caught at least 90 balls in each of the last four years. He's topped 10 touchdowns in four of the last six years. He's about as consistent an elite receiver as there is in the game and he's still in the prime of his career. I'd take him in a heartbeat and assuming the asking price in trade wasn't too ridiculous I think Belichick would consider it as well. Why wouldn't you?
Andy Hart

I was wondering if you see the Pats bringing back Moss, I doubt he will ask for top dollar because of his performance last season, and do you see the Pats trading for an elite pass rusher with one of their 1st round picks, or do you see them maybe getting Tamba Hali from KC who had a monster season in 2010.Mike Jackson

I don't think the Patriots will bring Moss back. I've sort of changed my mind on this. Previously I kind of thought that given all the positive words said by both sides after the Moss trade that he might have a chance of returning. Now, I think the Patriots have just moved on. Sure they still need some help at receiver and a guy who can stretch the field. But there is some question as to whether Moss is capable of doing that anymore. I think the Moss era is over in New England, but I never say never. As for Hali, I think he'd be the perfect fit for the Patriots. He had a huge year with 14.5 sacks for the Chiefs in Romeo Crennel's Patriots-like scheme. He's young, just 27 with five years of NFL experience with at least 7.5 sacks in four of his five seasons. But I don't think there's much of a chance of Kansas City letting him go. They'll either sign him to an extension or use their franchise tag. Could Belichick and Scott Pioli work out a trade like they did with Matt Cassel? Maybe, but why would Pioli want to part ways with one of the best young players on his developing defense? As a Patriots fan it's nice to dream, but it's not likely to happen. Another 3-4 pass rusher who might fit their needs is Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley. Given his role in the shadow of guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh maybe there's a better chance of going after him. Maybe. He's played in a slightly different scheme and may have benefited greatly from the talent around him, but he's still notched double-digit sacks in three-straight seasons. That's the kind of production the Patriots need.
Andy Hart

Should the Pats trade up (this would be a change) and go for the best pass rusher? We need to get to the QB. Watching all the top teams it is a very big must have. It makes things happen! And by the way who do you think is a top QB killer that we could get, draft or free agent. Thanks.
David Ford

I do think the Patriots need to go the extra mile to get a pass rusher this offseason. If that's free agency, then pay the extra dollar. If that's the draft, then trade up to get the guy you think is the best. Miller is obviously getting a lot of buzz as one of the draft's elite edge rushers. I'm still interested in Robert Quinn. Hali or Woodley would be good candidates in free agency. I'd have to say I'm most intrigued by Quinn, but Hali's knowledge of a similar system also makes a lot of sense. Any of the four would likely make the pass rush better. It can't get much worse.
Andy Hart

Do you think its possible the patriots could pick Adrian Clayborn at 17, then Casey Matthews at 28?Corey Lima

Sure, it's possible. Anything's possible in the draft. But let's not try to make up for missing out on Clay Matthews by overdrafting his brother. By most accounts the latest Matthews is a mid-round inside linebacker. The Patriots have pretty good talent and depth at that spot. And despite sharing a last name with his pass rushing brother, this Matthews isn't the same player. Drafting this one won't make up for not drafting the last one.
Andy Hart

Just wondering about the OL coach. I know he's been in NE forever. Why hasn't he ever been mentioned as a possible head coach. He seems to be able turn lemons into lemonade but rarely gets any attention. Your Thoughts.Mike Breen

In my opinion Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best assistant coaches in the game. I think he maximizes his offensive line talent every year. He makes decent players good, good players great and questionable player competitive. What more could you ask for? He's also one of the nicest men I've come across in this business. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves. He's been with the Patriots for 27 of his 29 seasons in the NFL. He's the team's assistant head coach and has made it through plenty of coaching changes, even ownership changes. That speaks to the type of man and coach he is. At almost 63 years old I don't think he's in line for any head coaching jobs. I'm not sure he ever really aspired to be a head coach. Not sure he would like all the media and other tasks that go with being a head coach. I think he loves football and loves working with his players. By becoming a head coach you tend to miss out on some of that stuff. Regardless, Scarnecchia is a valuable member of the Patriots organization and has had a big hand in the team's success over the years.
Andy Hart

Why do you think Tom Brady couldn't make big plays or the wide receivers couldn't bring in the ball do u think the jets cheated?
Anthony Snurr

No.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, if you could sign one free agent who didn't play for the pats this season, who would you pick and why? (assuming the pats signed players like Logan Mankins already) I personally would like to see them grab Asomugha, a top receiver like Rice, or a good safety (if there are any on the market).Peter Mulard

Hali or Woodley. I still think the Patriots biggest need is the pass rush and either guy would help in that area.
Andy Hart

What are the chances of a Wilfork and Haynesworth combo up front?Chase Foster

Zero point zero. Haynesworth didn't want to play in the 3-4 in Washington, why would that change in New England? Plus, I don't think Belichick has any interest in bringing in a guy who's such a pain in the butt. I'd have no interest in Haynesworth, and I don't think Belichick would either.
Andy Hart

Am I the only one that feels that the Patriots defense lacks the same intelligence level as Seymour, Vrabel, Harrison and Bruschi? They weren't fast but they were always at the right spot. I remember Belichick even praising Vrabel that he had not missed an assignment in multiple seasons. Can't say that about our current defensive players.David Samuel

The defense clearly lost something with the loss of those key guys. It could be intelligence. It could be talent. It could be the ability to make big plays. It could be a combination of all those things. Clearly intelligence is a key in the Patriots defensive schemes and we've obviously seen guys make mental mistakes at linebacker and safety in the last year or so. Those may not have happened with those veterans in the mix. Now the key is finding guys who have the mental ability as well as the playmaking ability. Devin McCourty looks like one. Jerod Mayo looks like another. That list needs to grow in the coming years if the Patriots defense is going to get back to its glory form.
Andy Hart

Realistically how high up do you think the Pats could trade up if they gave up the 17th and 28th picks in the draft? Is there any Outside Linebacker that is worth trading up for? Are there any free agents available that could help our pass rush? Thanks guys.Mike Anderson

According to the well circulated and generally well regarded draft value chart the 17th pick is worth 950 points and the 28th spot is worth 660 points. Together they total 1,610 points, enough to get you to the No. 6 pick in the draft. Another 200 points in pick value (equal to the 78th pick in the draft) would get you as high as the No. 4 pick, while it takes 3,000 points to get to the No. 1 overall pick. By trading their first three picks – 17, 28 and 33 – the Patriots could get to the No. 3 pick. Would such a trade up be worth it for Miller? Quinn? Maybe, although I've not yet done enough research on those players to make that call. I don't think the teams have made that assessment yet either.
Andy Hart

With everything that has happened in the last two or three years, will this be the year that BB will get off his high horse and figure out that he can't do everything by himself and bring an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator? We missed the opportunity last year to have the old group back together with Weis and Crennel, so maybe this year he will reconsider and have an OC and DC. We, and I mean all Patriots fans, are getting tired of the ONE-AND-DONE postseason appearances, especially after the great season we had this year. So, will Bob Kraft have any say on this? And is it time for BB to start considering retirement (although he will go down as one of the greatest coaches ever), and bring in new blood to the coaching staff? Bill Cowher still available, so is Jon Gruden, among others. Do you think one of these great coaches would ever come to Foxborough? What do you think?Sergio Oliveira

My guess, and this is just my speculation, is that Bill O'Brien will be promoted to offensive coordinator at some point this offseason. It may not even be with an announcement, just a titular promotion that takes place. On defense, I'm not sure there will be a coordinator next fall. That job may continue to be split between Belichick and linebackers coach Matt Patricia. I don't think the lack of coordinators is the reason the team lost in the playoffs. I certainly don't think it's time to start pushing Belichick out the door. While Kraft as the overall say in anything he wants as owner, he leaves the football decisions and coaching staff choices up to Belichick. And I have no interest in replacing Belichick with Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. I actually think Cowher is a pretty overrated head coach. His teams failed in the postseason as often as they succeed, even losing to the Patriots at home a couple times. He also doesn't have a history in making personnel decisions. From where I type, Cowher is one of the most overrated coaching commodities in history. He's a good coach, not great. And, in my opinion, not a guy I'd hand the keys of my franchise to with the idea that he can overhaul everything and turn things around. I'll stick with Belichick, thank you very much.
Andy Hart

Hi I was wondering what positions and what players the Patriots would try and go after in this years draft? Also what happens if there is no NFL next year? Does that mean all our draft picks go to waste or do we just get them when the league returns.
Kevin Mchale

The draft is going to occur not matter what this April. The only change is that those picks, and any undrafted free agents, cannot sign with teams until the new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out. If a work stoppage went longer than a full year from now, and into next April's draft I think things would get really ugly. But that's a long way away. As of right now, the Patriots will use all their draft picks this April and then simply have to wait to sign them until a new CBA is negotiated, if one's not already in place by that time.
Andy Hart

How are Mike Wright, Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden physically? I am really confused and scared with Wright but am hoping everybody makes a full recovery.
Jackson Perry

It bears watching as all three key defenders work to get back on the field. I think Bodden is a lock to be back and healthy for next season after surgery and rehab on his shoulder. I'm not too worried about him. Warren had hip surgery and is still rehabbing. The prognosis for his full recovery seems pretty optimistic, but I still have fears about big guys like Warren and the idea that he has to come back from hip surgery. But given how long he'd played through the injury, the hope is he'll be back and ready for 2011. For me, Wright is the biggest concern. He was still reportedly having post concussion issues when put on IR nearly two months after the injury, including trouble watching TV. Concussions can be very touchy to return from, especially serious ones. We've seen that over the last year with Marc Savard for the Bruins. Even if Wright gets back to full health this offseason, how will he respond to the hits he'll take in a practice or game of football? No one has the answer to that. That worries me.
Andy Hart

I'm really confused as to why everyone is saying we need a corner when we have Bodden coming back this season and I know Arrington is not that great but i think he would be a great nickel corner. And I am hearing a lot that we need a #1 back which also make no sense to me. I thought that BJGE was more than capable of carrying that load and would be happy to see him doing it again next year. He doesn't fumble and almost always ends up with positive yardage even if it is only a couple here and there it still much better then a back who skips around and ends up on his back losing yards.Chris Theberge

I'm with you on the Bodden thing. I think Bodden and McCourty make up a nice starting pair of corners. Arrington, Darius Butler and others will fill out the depth at the position. But I see the running back situation differently. I thought Green-Ellis was good this year, probably better than I thought he'd ever be. I didn't think he ever really carried the load, but rather was a complementary contributor to the passing game. He certainly wasn't Corey Dillon circa 2004. He certainly was better than Laurence Maroney, who you seemed to reference with your closing comments. I still think the team could benefit from a running back who not only can be consistently positive, but also a threat for a big play or to wear away at a defense. I'm not sure that Green-Ellis was or ever will be that guy. I'd like to see a stud back in the mix, if possible, although I don't think it's the biggest issue for this team. That honor still falls to the defense, and the pass rush in particular.
Andy Hart

Do you think Tom Brady could have done a better job at running the ball if it wasn't for his foot injury. Or does he just doesn't like to run the football?
Jose De La Curz

Tom Brady doesn't make his living or win games with his feet. He's slow to start with, isn't that far removed from an ACL injury and was dealing with a foot injury. If I'm a defense I consider it a victory any time Brady runs the ball, regardless of how many yards he gets. I also don't think he would have gotten many yards on the ground against the Jets regardless of his health. Brady make his living standing in the pocket and picking apart a defense. That's it. If you want a quarterback to run, you should look elsewhere.
Andy Hart

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