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Ask PFW: Branching Out

With Deion Branch being told to gauge other team's interest regarding a potential trade, we've received a lot of e-mails suggesting possible players the Patriots could pick up for the disgruntled receiver. Those possibilities and concerns about the linebackers in this edition of Ask PFW.

Hi all, I just read that the Patriots traded Brandon Gorin to the Cardinals. My question is, wouldn't it have been better for the Patriots to trade him to Dallas for one of their linebackers? It seems like they have plenty. The same goes for Ross Tucker. Thanks for reading, keep up the good work!Dave Bui

I think the Patriots shopped around Gorin and took the best deal on the table. If they really liked one of the Cowboys linebackers and they could have traded Gorin for that player, they would have done so. They way I see it; the Patriots like next year's draft class and are stockpiling picks. They not only got two draft picks through trades, they should also make out pretty well on compensatory selections as well. They received two additional draft picks for players who most likely wouldn't have made their roster. If you ask me, that's good business. And as far as Cowboys linebackers go, don't forget about Oliver Hoyte. He's playing well but with their depth at linebacker, his best shot to make the team is probably the practice squad. Hey, I'm still trying to get my boy in New England.
-Tom Casale

After his great performance against the Cardinals, do you believe that Bam Childress is going to make the final 53-man roster?Nate Graf

I like Childress and the way he's progressing. He's not the biggest guy in the world but with his speed and quickness, I think he can do some damage as a slot receiver in this offense. Plus, when you add in his ability to return kicks, he has that versatility the Patriots like. I think he's on the roster at this point because he's one of those players who keeps getting better every time he steps on the field and while he'll never be a superstar, he does a lot of different things that can help the team win.
-Tom Casale

I know that I am writing this as a spoiled fan that has enjoyed three Super Bowls in a four-year span. However, the past two years have seen questionable free agent signings/pickups (Duane Starks, Monte Beisel, Chad Brown, all of whom had subpar years, and that is being nice). Going into the free agency period in early 2006 (After Super Bowl XL) and into this past draft the team knew that LB (and WR) were big needs. Willie Mac was gone, Ted Johnson left the year before, Bruschi and Vrabel, while effective were getting longer in the tooth, and the depth lacked badly. Why did it take the powers that be two weeks into the preseason to try and add to the LB position? And the addition was another aging, likely ineffective LB (The Seau pick reminds me of Chad Brown, once very effective, both very old and playing linebacker for 10 years takes it toll physically). The powers that be could have addressed the need at linebacker in free agency or in the draft and didn't. Let's start holding them accountable for the past two years with questionable player personnel acquisitions. I have an idea; let's sign Jerry Rice to fill the gaping holes at WR!Dan Isenbarger

You have a point when you say some of the player the Patriots have brought in, especially at linebacker, haven't panned out. When it comes to linebacker, I don't know the reason why the team hasn't been more aggressive at adding depth to the position. As we all know, the Patriots draft the best player available. Perhaps they had someone like Bobby Carpenter rated very high but once he was off the board, they weren't going to reach for the next best linebacker just to take a linebacker. In other words, they're not the Colts who were going to take a running back no matter what, and in my opinion reached badly for a player who wasn't talented enough to ever start in college unless someone ahead of him got injured. So instead, the Patriots "settled" for Laurence Maroney with the 21st pick. I don't think too many people are complaining about that selection right now.

Then, maybe they were going to select a linebacker in Round 2. However, Chad Jackson started to slide and they felt he was rated high enough on their board to trade up and grab him. A lot of different things happen in a draft that affects which players end up on certain teams. The Patriots select the best players on their board and that's a strategy I happen to agree with. And let's be honest, until they stop winning, it's hard to argue with their results.

Once again, I'm not sure what their plan is at linebacker but this is still a very talented team. In today's NFL, virtually every team has holes somewhere. With the Patriots, their biggest concern is the lack of depth at linebacker. But it's hard to criticize their scouting department. Sure, they miss on a few guys but not too many teams were lining up for Artrell Hawkins either.

I do hold the Patriots front office accountable for the moves they make. However, last year they battled through numerous injuries and came within one bad performance from appearing in their fourth AFC Championship in five years. If we are going to hold people accountable based on what they've done, that's a pretty good track record. I know you're worried about the linebackers but call a Colts fan and ask them what happens if Dominic Rhodes gets hurt. Maybe it's me but I wouldn't feel very confident with Joseph Addai and Kory Chapman as my two primary ball carriers.
-Tom Casale

What is the timetable for Chad Jackson? After reading that he was making a good impression during mini camp I had visions of him and Deion Branch hauling in passes from Brady this season. We all know Branch's story but I have not heard anything on Jackson. I don't expect to hear anything about his hamstring injury but I would like to know if he is attending the meetings and does he show up for the practices? Can he be a contributor this year or should we expect the same thing we got from Ben Watson two seasons ago?Deron Maybury

Hi guys, I have few questions regarding Chad Jackson's injury and the resulting lack of practice. How serious is his hamstring injury? How long does it normally take to recover? After he recovers, how much time does a healthy rookie WR usually need before he can contribute? Basically, what do you guys think is a reasonable expectation of the rookie's contribution to the team this season?TC McDao

It's hard to set a timetable when we're talking about a hamstring injury. We've seen this with the circus going on in Dallas and Terrell Owens. For a receiver, a hamstring injury is tough because they need to cut and push off all the time. I think in Jackson's case, he felt a little better, tried to practice but his hamstring still wasn't entirely healed, so the team pulled him back rather than risk further damage.

As far as Jackson contributing this season, it's going to be difficult for him. He's doing everything he can off the field as far as film work and studying goes but there's no substitute for being at practice and building chemistry with Brady. As long as his hamstring doesn't linger into the season, I think Jackson will contribute, just not as much as I originally predicted. I was hoping for around 50 receptions and eight touchdowns but I've brought down my expectations to 35 receptions and five touchdowns. Traditionally, receivers who miss the majority of training camp don't put up big numbers on the field. Jackson has the physical ability to buck that trend but my guess is he'll be much more of a factor in 2007. He just needs the reps. Physically he has the size and athletic ability to dominate in the NFL.
-Tom Casale

I have heard that the Pat's are substantially under the salary cap. Is this true? I would be very disappointed if it is. After not signing Ty Law and re-signing Adam Vinatieri or upgrading the linebacker position.Jack Perreault

First off I think you guys are great in print, and on the net. Keep up the great work! I was just wondering about the Patriots salary cap. They have a lot of left over money this year and according to the news reports should have more money to work with next year. Should they sign some of their key players (Branch) or are they waiting around to see is if any camp releases will help them with some of their depth shortages? (LB and receiver) I know the Patriots brain trust has done an excellent job in the past but with all the money coming into the salary cap shouldn't they be a little more proactive?James Boudreau

I believe the Patriots stick to their guns no matter what. When it comes to players like Law, or any other free agent for that matter, they put a value on him and offer that player a contract based on what they think he's worth (As we've seen, that goes for their own players as well). Again, I think it's smart business sense. There's two ways of looking at this. The Patriots way is to pay players what they think they're worth, regardless of their financial situation. Another way is to spend a little more money at a position of need if you have that extra money to spend. Now let's take a look at the teams that use the different models.

Other than the Patriots, teams like the Steelers and Eagles are similar in how they work the salary cap. Those have been the three most successful teams over the past five years along with the Colts. The Colts don't spend a lot of money on free agents but they may overspend a little to keep some of their own players.

Now let's take a look at a team that manages the salary cap another way: the Washington Redskins. The Redskins go out and sign player after player during the free agency period, vastly overpaying for guys at certain positions. They spend money for the present without giving much thought to the future. Meanwhile, the Patriots attempt to put a competitive team on the filed, while also keeping an eye on the future so they can sustain their success over a long period of time. It's like one team tries to make money in the stock market over a 10-year span while the other is trying to get rich quick.

There are the two different philosophies. The Patriots did go after some free agents this year but other teams paid more money than New England was willing to pay because they believed the player wasn't worth it. So, while Redskins fans are having fun every March celebrating all their new high-profile signings, Patriots fans have to wait until late January when they're team is competing for another Super Bowl title to have their fun. By that time, the Redskins business plan has usually been flushed down the toilet and they're sitting at home watching the playoffs from their couches. Remember, it's always exciting to sign a big name like Terrell Owens but in the end, it's the best TEAM that wins the Super Bowl and I believe that's why the franchises mentioned above continue to have success. Just ask the Eagles what happens when a team changes its entire philosophy just to sign one player. You can also ask the Cowboys that same question in about a week.
-Tom Casale

I have been really impressed with the depth at running back. I really like the work that Cobbs has done for us in practice and in the games. Does he have a chance to make the roster?Dean Godin

A couple of weeks ago, I would have had Cobbs on the practice squad for sure but after an impressive preseason, the youngster out of North Texas is now battling for a roster spot. Cobbs played primarily in an option offense for most of his college career and that hurt his draft stock, despite him leading Division I in rushing yards a couple of years ago. He's shown good speed and quickness and while it's been against second and third string defenders, he showed those same qualities in practice too. When he was playing the scout team for the Falcons offense, wearing No. 28, he actually looked like Warrick Dunn. I believe what to do with Cobbs is going to be one of the toughest decisions the Patriots coaching staff has to make. Right now if I had to guess, I would still say practice squad but it won't surprise me in the least if Cobbs makes this team. Like I said, this is probably the toughest call of any player on the roster. If you asked me the same question an hour from now, I would probably give you a different answer. Luckily, I don't have to make these tough decisions.
-Tom Casale

I think Patrick Cobbs is a much better RB than Kevin Faulk. I think they should trade Faulk for a second or even a low first round draft pick. I know people are going to say well he's one of the best third down backs in the NFL. I think he could be one of the top RB's in the NFL if he could hold on to the ball! ! I think Cobbs has great speed and power plus he can hold on to the ball. Letting Cobbs go would be a big mistake by the Pats. I want to know what you think.Matt

I think you're crazy, that's what I think. By the way, it's nice to know that you have concluded Cobbs can hang onto the ball and is "much better" than Faulk by his whopping 31 touches this preseason.
-Tom Casale

I love the work Andy and the rest of PFW do. I am a New England resident and a die- hard Pats and Sox fan. But your comment on 8/22 that the Sox season may as well be over is ridiculous. It seems that nobody recalls that in 2004 (the championship season) the Sox were over six games behind the Yanks in late August. About the same as now! I'm not writing to debate anything, only to say that there's still a lot of baseball to be played and the Red Sox Nation should not be giving up on their team. If they blow it...fine. But the season is certainly NOT over yet.Adam Chaves

Well Adam, on 8/29 the Red Sox just finished getting swept by the last place Seattle Mariners, are seven games behind the Yankees in the AL East and currently have the worst record in Major League Baseball for the month of August. Seriously my man, stick a fork in them because they're all done. I say give up on that joke of a pitching staff, fire up the grill, put on a Patriots jersey and get ready for some football.
-Tom Casale

Why wouldn't you trade Martin Gramatica instead of just releasing him? I'm sure that someone needs a kicker.Michael Logue

No team in their right mind would trade for Martin Gramatica. The Patriots got a late-round draft pick for Brandon Gorin and he started at tackle for a Super Bowl team. Kickers like Gramatica grow on trees. Let's just hope the Patriots don't need to go picking from that tree later on this season.
-Tom Casale

One question, what role do you see Jarvis Green playing this year, with the lack of depth at LB and the D-line being so deep, is it possible that he will get on the field as a starter in a 4-3 or do you think they will still go with a 3-4 base and 4-3 when needed/wanted? Thanks for all the good info over the years.JD Harris

I see Green in the same role that he's always had here, being the fourth defensive lineman and situational pass rusher. I don't think the Patriots will go to a 4-3 as their base defense because Belichick can do so many more things that confuse opposing offense out of the 3-4 set. I'm not saying the team won't use more 4-3 looks this year – that scenario is entirely possible – I just don't believe they'll use the 4-3 as their primary defense. Belichick is comfortable with the 3-4 and a lot of the things he does defensively are based off that formation. Unless injuries decimate the linebacker position, I say the Patriots will continue to use the three-man line as their main defensive front.
-Tom Casale

Would Drew Henson look good in a Pats uniform, yes or no? Thanks for your help in this matter.H. Freiter

I think Henson would look great in a Pats uniform. I know we have a company softball team and we're desperate for a pitcher. We wouldn't be able to let Henson hit but I hear he's an animal on the mound in slow pitch softball. I say sign him up.

By the way H, I had intended to answer the first part of your question as well but I cut it off somehow and can't find the original e-mail. If you send it in again, I'll make sure it gets answered next week.
-Tom Casale

Based on the Patriot philosophy, and a shortage of good linebackers, is it possible Coach Belichick will train say a second line fullback or tight end to fill in from time to time on defense, like troy Brown has done on occasion and Mike Vrabel offensively?Patrick Fennell

Playing linebacker in the Patriots system is extremely complicated. It's much easier to teach Mike Vrabel to go out and catch a pass than it would be to teach a fullback the instincts of a linebacker and how to shed blocks, penetrate the correct hole, etc. If you want to know how hard it is to play linebacker for the Patriots, just ask Monty Beisel. And he actually is a linebacker in the technical sense.
-Tom Casale

Hey Deion, just count your $1 million contract as a $2 million cause you only play half the games every year anyway. I knew we should have signed Givens since he is the more complete player. And oh yeah, that Super Bowl MVP trophy, leave it next to Rodney Harrison's locker, cause we all know he was the real MVP of that game. Maybe next year when someone overpays for you, you and Ty Law can rent out big hall and throw a huge Super Bowl party while you money hungry bums watch Brady and Seymour win another ring.Donald Trump

Okay Mr. Trump, I see your point. My only question to you is if Branch comes back to the team, are you going to cheer for him? I hope all the fans who are writing in saying Branch is dead to them plan on turning their backs and not cheering if he scores a touchdown in a Patriots uniform.
-Tom Casale

I see they are going to let Branch talk to other teams. Have the Pats gotten that arrogant and full of themselves that they think the players can be replaced with anything with two legs. Their rookie is hurt, Caldwell has a lot of drops at SD and did it in the preseason. Troy is old. What do they get? A draft pick for next year? YAHOO!!! If the Pats don't make the Super Bowl everyone is going to look at what went on with Adam, McGinest, Givens and now Branch and blame it all on Belichick and Kraft. They need to remember "it's what have you done for us lately" and they didn't win last year.Robert Garrison

I agree with you 100 percent Robert. It is "what have you done for me lately." Lately – without Deion Branch – the Patriots have outscored their last two opponents 71-3. And before you say it's just preseason, both the Cardinals and Redskins came in here trying to win those games and they got destroyed. The defense has been dominating and Tom Brady (If it's possible) looks better than he ever has. That's what the Patriots have done for you lately.
-Tom Casale

Since it is now officially "Let's Make a Deal with Deion" week, what do you think about getting Donnie Edwards from the Chargers for Deion Branch? The Chargers get a top- notch target for Philip Rivers while the Pats get an oldie but goodie at MLB, where depth has been nonexistent of late.Bryant Hopkins

Edwards is a good player but he's an aging linebacker with a huge contract. There's no way the Patriots would ever make that deal but if they want to, I expect the Chargers would be more than happy to drive Edwards to the airport for us.
-Tom Casale

What do you see happening with Branch and if he does get traded what is his value? I wouldn't mind seeing Boldin come in from Arizona.Jason Downs

I wouldn't mind seeing Boldin come from Arizona either. The only problem is, Arizona would mind, so there's no way it can happen. Boldin caught over 100 passes his rookie year with quarterbacks like Josh McCown and Shaun King throwing him the football. He would catch 200 balls if Brady were his quarterback. Boldin is in an entirely different league than Branch. So much so, I'm not sure the Cardinals would take Branch and a high draft pick for him. Nice thought though, just no chance of it happening.
-Tom Casale

Hey, I have been watching the Patriots for years and I have a small question to ask. Do you guys think that the Pats can trade Branch and Sullivan for Moss? Oakland could use a good WR like Branch and a nose tackle.Tim Karpuik

Tim, your subject asked if we could please finally put your question in Ask PFW because you write in to us all the time. I put it in this week but you won't be making a return appearance if you don't ask better questions in the future. I understand that not everyone is a football maniac and that some people are just casual fans. However, even the most casual fan has to realize that the Raiders would never trade Moss for Branch and Sullivan. I have to be honest with you; I don't think they would trade Jerry Porter for those two. It's good to know, however, that we've acquired Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin for Branch, as well as trading Faulk and Gramatica for future first-round picks. It's a shame the Patriots didn't keep David Givens. They could have traded him for Marvin Harrison and a draft choice. It reminds of that Seinfeld when George tells Steinbrenner, "I think I found a way where we can have Griffey and Bonds in the same outfield and it really wouldn't cost that much."
-Tom Casale

What is your opinion on Junior Seau and the nose tackle from Saints, which Pats acquired in trade in terms of making contribution to the team?Sam F.

I think Seau was a great signing. Even at 37, he's still better than the Patriots other options at inside linebacker. I don't think he can be a full-time player for 16 games but I do think he can be a solid contributor to a Super Bowl team.

I watch Sullivan every time he's in the game and he gets totally manhandled. He either gets thrown down or driven 10-yards back virtually every time. Even when he does make a tackle, it's only because he was driven back so far, he's actually out of position. I've watched all the defensive tackles for the Patriots during the preseason, and he's the only one I see that never penetrates the line of scrimmage. His first steps are always backwards and this is against offensive linemen who may not even make their teams. I keep hearing reports that Sullivan is improving. I would love to sit down with the people making these claims because I just don't see it. He may make the team but up to this point, Sullivan has shown all of us here at PFW very little when he's been on the football field.
-Tom Casale

Notice in an answer to a letter elsewhere here that staffer Tom Casale (?) said, in answer to another question elsewhere here, that no New England Patriots media guide shows a Doug MacIntosh that is the bailiff on TV's the People's Court ever played for the Patriots and insinuated that it was a rumor! I am now watching the show on Thursday, August 25, 2006 in Las Vegas on the ABC (TV13) affiliate at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time and the judge asked Doug on the air, during a trial, who he played for and he said The New England Patriots. Not the Patriots (in which case he could have played for the BOSTON Patriots). Did Tom not do his homework completely before answering the question on here or did Doug not tell the truth?????? Thanks, I'd really like to know.Don Usherson

What do you want from me Don? Actually, I spent way more time trying to find the answer to your question the first time around than I should have. Again, let me make it clear for you: The New England Patriots organization has no record of a Doug MacIntosh ever playing for them. Now, maybe he signed for a day and was cut or played in one preseason game, I don't know but I did all I could from my end. The Patriots don't keep records of every player that spent a week here but I can tell you this: Doug MacIntosh never played a regular season game for the New England Patriots and that comes straight from the Patriots Media Relations Department. Now for some advice of my own: Get out of the house every now and then instead of being one of the seven people who still watch People's Court trying to figure out which team the bailiff claims he used to play for. Seriously, you care way too much about this subject to be healthy.
-Tom Casale

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