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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri May 07 - 12:00 AM | Sun May 09 - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: Endless RB questions

Hey, I was wondering with all these draft picks, why not just take the best RB in the draft and still have plenty of picks fill other needs. Besides can you picture the PATS with a talented RB to go with everything else?
Paul Singleterry
Greenland, N.H.

What college RB do you think the Pats will try to go after more between Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones?
Alex
Abington, Mass.

How likely do you think it is that a running back of the quality of Oregon's Steve Jackson will be around when the Pat's make their first draft selection and also do you think the Pats will trade up to get a back that could potentially help the Patriots for years to come. Or is it a situation where the Pats will take the best available back when they are on the clock.
Rich
Manchester, N.H.

Hey guys, just writing in to see how you guys feel about the running back situation in NE. Who do you like, and do you see them landing here? BB and Pioli really keep you guessing. I really like Steven Jackson but it looks like we'd have to trade up to grab him. Also how do you feel about that probable trade with Clinton Portis going to Washington. I think Denver is crazy for even considering it. Thanks A lot.
Dylan Swanson
Salem, N.H.

Since free agency is right around the corner and the draft is about two months away, has management decided as of right now where they will fill needs? Take running back for example. Do you think Bill & Scott have already decided to fill that position via the draft or is that decision they make after they are unsuccessful via free agency and/or restricted free agency? Personally, I'd like to see Charlie Garner and a RB taken in the second round of the draft. What are your thoughts? Thanks
Tim Guinard
Alfred, Maine

What do you think of the possibility of trying to make a trade for a young first-round caliber running back, say like Larry Johnson or Willis MaGahee? This years draft pool seems awfully thin at the running back position - only 4 of the top fifty picks are RBs according to USA Today, and that's only if you throw in Maurice Clarett (who wasn't listed). Since the decision not to option Antowain Smith, wouldn't it make sense to go with someone already in the league rather than risk getting a top notch back with so few options and so many other teams trying to improve?
Tom Early
Oak Harbor, Wash.

I've seen a lot of draft discussion regarding the Pats likely candidates at RB. Why is Michael Turner of No. Illinois never brought up? He is faster than Chris Perry and a tough back to bring down. I think he would compliment Kevin Faulk nicely. Also, we can probably get him somewhere in round 2 without trading the farm. Your thoughts?
Greg McGurin
Pawtucket, R.I.

With so many questions being sent in about the running back spot, including potential options in the draft and free agency, I figured I would lump a number of them together and try to answer them in one, all-encompassing response.

First, in terms of the draft it looks like Oregon State running Steven Jackson has established himself as the cream of the college crop although guys like Kevin Jones, Greg Jones and Chris Perry fall right behind him on the list of viable early-round options. With the Patriots sitting at the 21st pick there is little question that for them to acquire the top running back, or maybe one of the top couple backs, the team would have to trade up to the earlier stages of the first round. That said, the team clearly has the picks at its disposal to make such a move. The question that remains is how much value Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli place on this year's group of top runners. We have all seen that in most cases, value outweighs all else in Patriots personnel decisions.

In terms of free agency there are a couple of names that I think could draw some interest from New England. After buying out of his deal in Oakland, Charlie Garner's name is already being tossed around in these parts as a potential target when free agency kicks off on March 3. The 32-year-old, 10-year veteran is a versatile talent that could be a good fit for Charlie Weis' system, but would essentially be a short-term solution. Garner also has somewhat similar talents to Kevin Faulk, another free agent that New England will have to make a decision on. The Patriots other running backs from a year ago, Michael Cloud and Antowain Smith, are both also going to hit the open market on March 3.

Although people generally scoff at the trade market in the NFL, Clinton Portis' name has been linked to trade rumors out of Denver, possibly to Washington in exchange for franchise cornerback Champ Bailey. Portis is unhappy with the remaining portion of his rookie contract after two consecutive 1,500-yard seasons to kick off his pro career and any potential trade for the back would likely involve a re-worked contract with a significant raise on his 2004 salary of $380,000. Any team looking for a back would be crazy not to at least look into the Portis situation, but the chances of the Patriots being able to work out such a deal would seem to be less than slim.

To address Tom Early's question, what would the Patriots gain by trading for a guy like McGahee or Johnson? The former has yet to do anything in the league and brings more questions than a draft day selection might, while Johnson was barely a first round pick in a weak running back class a year ago. In my opinion, neither guy brings any more value or upside than the backs in this year's class.

So in the end, heading into free agency and the draft the hole in the New England backfield behind quarterback Tom Brady is a huge one, but the options to fill it are many. New England could decide to go the free agent route for guys like Garner or Tampa's Thomas Jones and then draft a player later in the draft to develop for the future. On the other hand the Patriots have the draft day firepower to move up in selection process to go for what the team might perceive as a franchise back or sit tight and select whatever runner falls to it at 21, 32 or another spot on day one of draft weekend. The only certainty would seem to be that when the defending Super Bowl champions take to the turf at Gillette Stadium next season there will be at least one and probably a number of new faces lining up behind Brady and carrying the ball for New England's rushing attack.

Andy Hart

HOW DID THE PATRIOTS AQUIRE THE 2 PICKS IN ROUND 1 AND 2. DID THEY TRADE A PLAYER??
Paul
Parlin, N.J.

The Patriots acquired Baltimore's top pick, number 21, in a draft day trade a year ago that sent New England's second first-round pick, number 19, to the Ravens in exchange for a 2003 second-round pick, number 41, and the team's 2004 top pick. The Patriots acquired Miami's second-round pick in this coming April's draft in a trade on the eve of draft weekend a year ago in exchange for New England's third-round pick, number 78, in the 2003 draft. The Patriots also have their own first and second round picks for the April 24-25 draft.
Andy Hart

Two questions from "Crabland"1. Why do different players generally return kicks and punts? The only difference I see is the "live ball" of a kickoff. Can't the same player do both or is it a different skill?2.Will the Pro Shop offer "retro" merchandise featuring the oldest logo described by R.R Marshall in PFW by Mr. Pingree? I think it was a cool and simple logo, not as good as "Pat" but much better than "Elvis".

Brendon Bowers
Bethesda, Md.

In some cases the same player does return both punts and kickoffs, but they are certainly different skills. Returning kickoffs is generally an easier skill in that the returner has more time to worry about catching the ball and getting into his return before the opposing coverage unit is on top of him. On punts, many times the coverage unit is just a yard or two away from the returner when he receives the kick. This makes for a much more pressure-filled job and takes a certain degree of skill that isn't required on kickoffs. That is probably a reason that a youngster like Bethel Johnson is thrown into the fire to return kickoffs, while the Patriots rely on a veteran with the decision-making skills of a Troy Brown to return punts. It is also easier to return kickoffs because the returner generally knows where the ball will be kicked to and can field the kick coming forward. With all the different factors that play into the punting game a returner not only has to make a decision on whether to return to the ball or not, but may have to make the catch on the run in any direction, including going backwards. That is why returning punts is a much more difficult skill.

As to your merchandise question, The Patriots Pro Shop does not carry anything with the original logo, the tri-cornered hat, nor are there any plans to do so in the near future.
Andy Hart

Do you think the Pats will keep the same players they had for the 2003 season? I read that Antowain Smith might be leaving the Pats please tell me its not true. Thanks
William Mills
Wichita Falls, Texas

Short answer to the first question, no. I think there will be a pretty large number of new faces on the Patriots roster next season, especially considering the team will be defending a Super Bowl title. New England has 21 unrestricted free agents and one restricted free agent, while four other players are exclusive rights free agents. That means that 26 different players are not currently under contract for next season, meaning at least some of them will not be back. As for Smith specifically, the Patriots chose not to pay a $500,000 bonus to extend his contract for three more years, therefore he will become an unrestricted free agent when the free agency period officially opens on March 3.
Andy Hart

I heard that a Super Bowl XXXVIII version of 3 Games to Glory is in the works. Have you heard this and if so do you have any idea when the Patriots and/or the NFL are going to release it?
Steve T.
Canton, Mass.

Steve sounds like you have some good sources. There will be a Super Bowl XXXVIII version of 3 Games to Glory coming out in late April. The two-DVD set will have endless amounts of behind the scenes footage and content from the Patriots championship run that you won't be able to find anywhere else. While the disc will be available in the Patriots Pro Shop and on Patriots.com in late April, pre-orders for the action-packed set will be taken on Patriots.com in the coming weeks.
Andy Hart

This is my first time on PFW and I am sure these questions have been asked before. It would be helpful if you could briefly explain the difference between nickel and dime coverage. Also, what is the distinction between I, tail, half and fullbacks. Thanks.
Dave Whittaker
Newburyport, Mass.

On an average play a team's defensive unit has four defensive backs, a group comprised of two cornerbacks and two safeties. When a team goes to nickel coverage it means they bring one extra DB on the field in exchange for a defensive lineman or linebacker, making for five defensive backs and the reason behind the nickel name. Dime coverage is when a team has six or more defensive backs on the field and is generally done in sure fire passing situations.

As for the running back names, I, tail and halfback are all essentially different names for the same position. They generally refer to the deepest back in the backfield, the guy who will carry the ball most often. A fullback is generally lined up in front of the tailback (when they are in a line it is the reason the tailback is sometimes called the I back) and is primarily a blocker for the ball carrier.
Andy Hart

Do we have a list of teams we'll be playing next year?
John Amoroso
Sebring, Fla.

Aloha from Patriot Nation- South Pacific division. My wife and I want to see them play in 04,in Arizona, but your web site does not give the date of the away game in Tempe, could you give me the date!
Mark Sullivan
Wailuku, Hawaii

We have received numerous questions about the 2004 schedule and when it will be available on the website. While the list of opponents is already set, the actual dates and times will be announced by the league later this spring. New England's home games for 2004 will be against the Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Bengals, 49ers, Seahawks and Colts. The Patriots will play the Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Browns, Steelers, Cardinals, Rams and Chiefs on the road.
Andy Hart

I was wondering how likely it is that Rosevelt Colvin will return and be 100 percent for this coming season?
Eric Matlack
Seekonk, Mass.

All the reports we are hearing from both Colvin and the team are that he is on track for a complete recovery and should be ready to go for next season. That said, with an injury as serious as a fractured hip, including the subsequent surgery, there is always a level of uncertainty in the recovery process. But if we are to believe everything we hear, and everything we see as Colvin was walking without the use of crutches or cane with no noticeable limp in the New England locker room late in the season, then the athletic outside linebacker is on track for a 2004 return.
Andy Hart

Will the NFL Europe games be televised in America this year? If so, which channel(s)? I'm very interested to see how Rohan Davey plays.
Eric Brightman
New Bedford, Mass.

As of right now the TV schedule is not set for the 2004 NFL Europe season. The games will definitely be aired on DirecTV, but if and when they will be aired on Fox SportsNet or the FOX network itself is yet to be determined.
Andy Hart

I was just wondering how many years Rosie Colvin and Rodney Harrison have on their contracts? Were they long-term deals or otherwise? I'm a huge fan of both, but Rosie barely played, so I would like to see him stick around to make an impact for a few years. I know Rodney Harrison probably wont stay around much longer since he's been in the NFL so long. I was just curious as to how much longer they're going to be Patriots. Thanks.
Rich M.
Lawrence, Mass.

Rich, Harrison is under contract through 2007 while Colvin is signed through 2008. Based on age the 10-year veteran Harrison might be more likely not to see the final years of his contract, but other factors could play into the Colvin deal. Colvin's salary jumps from $2.1 million in 2004 to $2.6 in 2005 to $3.65 in 2006 to $4.6 in 2007 and $5.5 in 2008. Depending on how he recovers from the hip injury there is a chance that at some point those salaries and subsequent cap numbers might exceed Colvin's value. But only time will answer that question.
Andy Hart

Obviously if a player is drafted by a team he is expected to sign with that team if he wishes to enter the NFL. What mechanism is used to prevent a team from just slapping whatever contract they wish on such a player? I know they have a minimum salary, but what recourse would a player have if he believed himself to be worth much more than the minimum?
Andrew
Orange County, Calif.

NFL contracts fall into what many people refer to as slots within a team's rookie pool. A given team has a certain amount of money to sign all of its draft picks based on the number of picks a team has and where those picks fall. Generally the negotiating on rookie deals revolves around the signing bonus the player will get and the length of the contract, with many young player's salaries falling at or near minimum levels early on. As in any negotiations the player can always choose not to sign a contract and that is why you sometimes see holdouts when players refuse to go to training camp. Players can do the same thing on any contract, the most recent example being Clinton Portis who discussed not showing up to training camp for the Broncos if he didn't receive a new contract.
Andy Hart

Is anyone currently tagged as our franchise player? If Woody were tagged do you think the Pats could trade him and get more draft picks, like they did for Tebucky Jones?
Mark Ciecko
Worcester, Mass.

The Patriots have not tagged anyone as the team's franchise player. While there was speculation that the team could take that route with Woody, the potential $7.021 franchise number for offensive lineman was obviously more than the value the Patriots put on the Pro Bowl guard/center.
Andy Hart

In response to Kenny Muise's question from last week about getting Terrell Owens. I live in the Bay Area, but am still an avid Pat's fan. Terrell Owens would be a bad match with the Patriots. The Patriots are about the Team first and foremost. No one individual is bigger than the team. T.O. is about himself.Any (jerk) that pulls out a sharpie to sign an autograph during a game, is only about himself (only to be outdone by the bigger (jerk) that pulled out the cell phone). Just needed to express my opinion.

Christopher Riedell
Alameda, Calif.

I agree. I don't see any way that a guy with as loud a mouth as Owens would fit in with the Patriots, either on or off the field.
Andy Hart

Do you think we will pursue Adewale Ogunleye from the Miami Dolphins? I think he would be a good fit opposite Richard Seymour, and I see a place open for him with Bobby Hamilton up for free agency. I know he is a restricted free agent, but I think Ogunleye deserves a careful look.
Zac Helm
Palermo, Maine

I do not think Ogunleye would be a good fit in New England. He is a 4-3 type defensive end who excels in rushing the passer, not the type of player that would fit in well in the Patriots 3-4, two-gap system. A guy like Hamilton will never put up numbers like Ogunleye's 15 sacks of last season, but not too many players drew more praise from Bill Belichick for knowing and excelling in their role within the team's defense. I also think Ogunleye is a bit overrated in the fact that he played opposite Jason Taylor and benefited from the extra attention that focused on Taylor and left the lesser known pass rusher with more favorable matchups. He clearly has talent, but I am not sure he is a guy you necessarily build a defense around and I don't think he would fit in New England, nor do I think that is one of the team's more pressing needs at this time.
Andy Hart

Will Bob Kraft and some players be bringing the Lombardi Trophy around to New England Capitals again as they did in 2001? If so do you know the schedule and dates?
Mitchell Gordon
Barre, Vt.

Similar to the events following the 2001 championship, plans are in the works to visit other New England states with the Lombardi Trophy. While nothing has been decided in terms of a definitive schedule, look for these trips to take place sometime in April. Stay tuned to Patriots.com and your local papers for more information as it becomes available.
Andy Hart

I heard once that Bill Belichick played college football. What college did he play for, what position was he and how good was he?
Nathan
Moosup, Conn.

Belichick earned three letters in football while playing center and tight end at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. He also played lacrosse and squash at the school and was named captain of his lacrosse team as a senior.
Andy Hart

Is there some way to write to an individual Patriot player?
B. Wheeler
Tarzana, Calif.

You can email a Patriots player by going to the Fan Zone section on Patriots.com and sending an email under the "Interact" section.
Andy Hart

Who are all the Patriots unrestricted free agents and who do you think will likely NOT be re-0signed?
Ceasar Solari
Hayward, Calif.

The Patriots list of 21 unrestricted free agents consists of Chris Akins, Fred Baxter, Larry Centers, Je'Rod Cherry, Michael Cloud, Mike Compton, Don Davis, Kevin Faulk, Bobby Hamilton, Antwan Harris, Damon Huard, Brian Kinchen, Rick Lyle, Patrick Pass, Anthony Pleasant, Antowain Smith, J.J. Stokes, Ken Walter, Dedric Ward, Ted Washington and Damien Woody. In terms of who may not be re-signed, that is a tough question. Personally I think there is a very good chance Woody has played his last game with the Patriots, while I believe guys like Faulk and Washington could very well be back in 2004. Walter is another guy who likely will not be back. I think many of the other guys could go either way, including veterans that still may be able to contribute in New England like Compton, Hamilton and Baxter. Either way, it should make for an interesting spring.
Andy Hart

I know that we are in need of a punter pretty badly next season. I also understand that one of the reasons it was tough to part with Walter was because of his holding abilities for Vinatieri. First question: there seem to be a lot of punters on the free agent market this season... is that the better place to pick one up? Second question: I see that Tom Tupa is available. I know he already played here and would be a good fit (especially with his back-up quarterback abilities in a pinch)... did he ever hold for Vinatieri? I'd love to see him back in a Patriots uniform.
Stephen Hartigan
Tyngsboro, Mass.

I would be shocked if the Patriots don't pursue a veteran punter in free agency, as well as possibly draft one in the mid to later rounds of the draft. That certainly is a glaring need heading into 2004, one that doesn't seem like it can be brushed aside any longer. In terms of Tupa specifically, he is definitely a solid veteran punter who brings added value with his emergency quarterback skills although he has thrown just two passes over the last four seasons. I would assume he would be on a list of veteran punters the team could go after as well as guys like Chris Gardocki, Darren Bennett and others.
Andy Hart

Great Job you are doing!When and where are the Pats going to do their pre-season training? I grew up in New England, my dad played for the Providence Steamrollers who preceded the Boston Patriots. I'd love to meet the players and observe the masters of the profession at work.

Pete Chestnut
Eaton Rapids, Mich.

Training camp is held on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. While the exact dates aren't set yet, it generally runs from the middle of July to the middle of August and is open to the public with one or two practice sessions on each day.
Andy Hart

PFW Equation:Serious football question Serious football answer = EducationalSerious football question Serious football answer humorous quip = Educational and FUN reading!BRING BACK THE LAUGHTER! Please continue to amuse those of us who appreciate your senses of humor ! !

Joe
Foxboro, Mass.

Joe, unfortunately many emailers didn't enjoy our sense of humor as much as you did. We received many complaints about our immature and offensive jokes and therefore have gone to a more straightforward approach to answering the questions. But I urge those of you who miss our lighthearted approach to the answers to send us an email in the hopes that there will be enough response to allow us to return the humor to Ask PFW.
Andy Hart

Well first off, I am from San Diego but born in Boston and actually attended the Super Bowl with my dad. MY QUESTION is why don't the Patriots look at drafting Reggie Williams from Washington and has there been anything you have heard with him? He is tall, fast and everything the Patriots are always talking about. Forget about trading all the way up for Larry Fitzgerald, Williams should be around by the 10-21 pick. Plus, I think he is better than Fitzgerald and all you ever see in Magazines and Personnel talk is that the Patriots don't have a receiver over 6'. Well Williams is 6'5!!!!!!! And he predicted himself to go #1 when he decided to leave early.
Scott Cohen
San Diego, Calif.

You are right on a number of fronts. The Patriots could still use a big target at wide receiver and there are a large number of big time receivers available. Based on the depth at that position I would not be at all surprised if New England used one of its 10 picks on draft weekend on a wide receiver, even though the team drafted three wideouts over the last two seasons. Stranger things have happened.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, I thank you for the time to consider my questions. I don't want to bore you with the RB drafting or the Ty Law questions cuz you get them a lot, but I was wondering if the Pats are looking into any linemen this year. I think Woody might be leaving, and Koppen deserves his starting position, but I think the guard and right tackle spots is somewhat weak (no offense to Tom Ashworth or whomever). Do you think the Pats are going to draft any O-Linemen? Also, i want to know if Kevin Faulk is going to be a free agent. According to Madden 2004, his contract is up. Did the Pats re-sign him? Thanks.
Andy
Quincy, Mass.

First off, Faulk will be an unrestricted free agent as of March 3. In terms of the offensive line, I do believe the team could use more help there. With the potential loss of Woody and Compton as well as the always questionable health of Joe Andruzzi, an offensive line that didn't allow a sack through the postseason is still a bit of a question mark. Matt Light has solidified himself at left tackle and Koppen did a decent job as a rookie starter at center. But Ashworth, Koppen and Hochstein still all have a lot to prove and bringing in another young draft pick to develop would add depth to the group. That said, the team has also had success developing former practice squad players and undrafted free agents like Andruzzi, Hochstein and Ashworth and could decided to continue to focus on that route through next season and stay away from poor line draft picks like Adrian Klemm and Kenyatta Jones.
Andy Hart

Bryan,Just to clarify that the Patriots did indeed use Phillips Academy in Andover in the mid to late 1960s as their summer training camp, during the Mike Holovak days. I grew up in Lawrence (right next door), and my Dad took my brother over there every year when we were kids. The players were very accessible for autographs and pictures. The old AFL needed all the fans they could get. I have great memories of the old Boston Patriots, both in Andover and at Fenway Park. Favorite opponent - Lance Alworth of the Chargers!Keep up the good work. I love PFW's coverage year round.

Jack G.
Miami, Fla.

Thanks to another fan for cleaning up Bryan Morry's mess. Where would he be without you guys? Just kidding, thanks for the personal recount of your training camp memories.
Andy Hart

I do not understand the usage of the franchise tag. When and why a team would make a player a franchise player?
Chad Boucher
Litchfield, N.H.

Essentially a team places the franchise tag on a player who is one of the best at his position entering free agency. The tag says that the team must make a one-year offer equal to the average of the top five highest paid players at the given position. The player can choose to sign that one-year contract and enter free agency again the following year. Without getting too technical the player can also continue to negotiate with his current team on a longer contract or with other teams. The team can also choose to match any contract offer the player signs with another team. If they choose not to match the offer the other team must give the player's former team two first-round draft picks in order to acquire the player. Basically the franchise tag is a way for a team to insure itself against losing one of its best players without getting anything in return.
Andy Hart

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