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Ask PFW: Butler's future with Patriots

Fans' questions answered in this week's PFW mailbag.


Erik, I'm curious what you think Malcolm Butler's future will be with the Pats. Obviously he was the hero of the Super Bowl, but I think most people forget that he took a lot of first team reps in the preseason. Once [Brandon] Browner came back from suspension, Butler became somewhat of an afterthought. Obviously what happens with [Darrelle] Revis will impact things, but if Butler makes the kind of year 2 jump that Jamie Collins did, do you see Butler challenging Browner for a starting position next year, or is he more likely to be lost in the mix again with [Kyle] Arrington, [Logan] Ryan, and [Alfonzo] Dennard - battling for playing time in nickel and dime packages? Joel Lindgren

Excellent question to start us off this week, Joel. I and my PFW colleagues were the first to take notice of Butler during training camp last summer, as our daily blog posts and podcasts will attest. I was very impressed with the way he carried himself both on and off the field as an undrafted rookie and liked the way he played in camp and in preseason games. You're right, though. Once Browner returned from suspension, Butler, who was getting significant reps with the "ones," played more of a reserve role. Even after his heads-up play in the Super Bowl, there's no guarantee he'll lock down a roster spot this summer, but I certainly like his chances at this point. I'm anxious to see just how big a "Year-2" jump he can make as well. I just hope all this offseason attention doesn't go to his head, but he strikes me as the kind of guy to whom that won't happen. Erik Scalavino


Hi guys, it's been a while since I asked a question, and thanks for your insight to the greatest team ever. In regard to Revis, why is it unthinkable to let him go? Why not trade him and his massive cap hit for a high first rounder and draft the next great corner for a fraction of the cost? Sign [Devin] McCourty to a long-term deal and maybe even snag another good DB in free agency, again for cheap by comparison. I say, thanks Mr. Island, but we need the money for other things... maybe he even agrees to stay for less?!* *Doug Tozier

Hey guys. So I love what Revis brings to the table. But I personally believe that McCourty is more of a priority for the Pats. Do you think that the Pats front office feels the same way? Noah Aumann

Gents, there is no way on Earth that either of you can convince me that there is a bigger need this offseason for New England than to get Revis back in the fold at a palatable price. He is the best cornerback in football and his presence made an enormous difference on the 2014 Patriots. I believe he truly likes playing here and would be open to working out a longer-term deal, but at a cost that both sides can swallow. If Revis' history is our guide, he won't "stay for less," as Doug suggests. And the Patriots' front office is not in the habit of sharing its thoughts with Team PFW, so, I have no idea how they feel about this situation, but it would stun me if they don't agree that Revis is Priority #1 this offseason. Erik Scalavino

When the Patriots drafted James White, I assumed they were looking ahead to 2015 to find a Shane Vereen replacement. He got almost no playing time though. Given that he was a weekly inactive, what was the advantage of keeping him on the roster instead of the practice squad? If he had been on the practice squad, was there too big of a chance that another team might sign him? Zach P.

First of all, Zach, in order to get White on the practice squad, the Patriots would have had to cut him last summer. In which case, I'd bet one of the 31 other teams would have scooped him up pretty quickly. So, he never would have cleared waivers to make it onto the practice squad. But if he did, he would certainly have been vulnerable to being plucked from there by another team. The risks, therefore, were too great. Besides, with the NFL's ridiculous rule of having to deactivate seven players on game day each week, someone had to be sacrificed, and with an abundance of backs, the Patriots could afford to "red-shirt," if you will, the rookie White. He's another player I'm anxious to see in Year 2 this summer because I think he has some talent that could help this offense. Erik Scalavino

Do you think the Patriots should draft another QB in this year's draft or will Jimmy Garoppolo do the job when Brady leaves?*
*Billy Griffin

In an annually changing world of the NFL, have you seen enough of Garoppolo in the short time he's been a Patriot to believe he is Brady's successor or is he merely a cheaper version of [Brian] Hoyer, [Ryan] Mallett, and [Matt] Cassell? Clint Johnston

I really liked what I saw from Garoppolo throughout last season, beginning in the preseason with his weekly development and in the few mop-up sessions he was given in the regular season. By the end of last summer, I was convinced that he was light-years ahead of any of those three erstwhile backups you mentioned at similar stages in their careers. I'm far more confident in Garoppolo taking over for Brady long-term than I was with them, too. So, no, there's no need to draft another QB this year. Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, super Pats fan up here in Canada! Now that the Pats are into off season mode, going forward what are your thoughts on Nate Solder coming back? I believe he's on last year of his rookie deal and earlier in the year you guys talked about him possibly not coming back. However with the O line playing a lot better throughout the course of that season, do you think it's a good chance we retain on a long term deal? Secondly, with LaRon Landry getting released do u think we take a shot at him? Thanks keep up the great work! Shaun Rempel

Solder is indeed entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. The team exercised his fifth-year option last spring to the tune, I believe, of some $7.5 million. My sense is that he is well-liked by the organization as a whole, and I agree with your contention that he and the o-line performed better as the 2014 season unfolded. I suspect Solder might be a candidate for a contract extension either before or during this coming season. Erik Scalavino

It seems like nobody is talking about the priority of signing [Stephen] Gostkowski. It seems like he leads the league in points every year. Great kickers are hard to come by. How do you feel about losing him? Thomas Bateman

As a former kicker and punter, I have a soft spot for those positions. New England has been extremely fortunate to have two of the game's best in Adam Vinatieri and his successor, Gostkowski, for the past two decades. There was a time when there were only a handful of really good kickers in the NFL, but the position is taken much more seriously nowadays, meaning the margin between the best and worst kickers is not as great as it once was. I like Gostkowski, both as a player and as a guy to shoot the breeze with now and then, so, I'd like to see him return. If he doesn't, though, it wouldn't be a disaster. The team could find a viable option either in free agency or the draft, but I'm with you, Thomas, in that I'd prefer to keep the player I already know can perform at the desired level. Erik Scalavino

Hi guys! I've been hooked on your Podcast since 2006. I think your draft coverage is second to none. My question is, what do you see as the Patriot's position of greatest weakness from this past season? Further to that, what is their greatest weakness leading into next season and how do you think they should address it? Thanks! Stay awesome lads! Stephen Hornigold

The answers are one in the same, Stephen. New England's greatest vulnerabilities in 2014 were at interior offensive line (guard, in particular) and defensive line, and they remain the biggest needs heading into this season. I was happy with rookie Bryan Stork at center, but feel the team could upgrade their guard positions. There's no need to spend big money on a free agent, so, I'd go the draft route to address that need. On the other side of the trenches, they could still use a premier pass rusher at DE and a younger big-bodied player at tackle. I'm still familiarizing myself with the available players in free agency and the draft, but my guess is they'll dabble in both areas to shore up the d-line. Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, what a great season, really fun to watch. I guess we are onto the draft!! My question is draft related, being from Ireland I'm not totally clued in on all the draft day rankings, I know the 1st round is decided on the strength of each team's record, win it all & pick last, but how is the order of rounds 2-7 worked out or is it just the same order as the first round? Many thanks. Rob Masters

It's the same as Round 1, Rob, although there are compensatory picks –extra selections given to teams who've lost key free agents – that are tacked on to the end of rounds from the middle to the end of the draft. And, of course, trades always affect the order, but in general, the later rounds mirror the first. Also, just to clarify, we're onto free agency first (beginning March 10), then the draft (April 30-May 2). Erik Scalavino

Fun one for you guys here, I want to see some creativity: Since the Seahawks secondary call themselves "The Legion of Boom", what witty name do you think the Pats secondary should go by? M. Ruiz

I think they should be known as Super Bowl XLIX Champs. Has a nice… "ring" to it, wouldn't you agree? Erik Scalavino


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