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Ask PFW: Fans getting restless

It seems like everybody is jumping ship, is it time to get worried? Givens, Davis, Fauria, McGinest etc, etc, do you guys think that the Pats will re-sign anyone? I understand the organization's blueprint for signing and re-signing players, but do you think that perhaps it's time to start paying a little more cash for players? As it stands now the Pats are well under the new salary cap, they should have plenty of money to sign some quality free agents and all their upcoming draft picks.
Mike Webber

You raise an interesting point Mike. We know the Patriots establish a level of value for players and try to stay within those parameters when they're deciding whether or not to sign, or re-sign, a guy. So far this offseason there haven't been many signings to speak of while several players have either left New England for more money elsewhere (Givens, McGinest, etc.) or spurned the Patriots offers for more lucrative ones (Deshea Townsend, Jason Fabini). I think it's too early to tell whether this is a mere coincidence or a developing trend. It is worth monitoring, though. It could be that more players around the league now understand that playing in New England may mean playing for less. That's not a good reputation to develop. But there also have been plenty of examples of guys re-signing here (Brady, Light, Vrabel, Jarvis Green, etc.) so I don't think it's time to jump ship just yet.
Paul Perillo

I know the track record speaks for itself BUT I think this year the PATS have gone too far. It make me sick to see David Givens leave at age 25 when he is just in the prime of his most productive years. Some players coming out of college are his age now and they are unproven and high risks. The plug and play philosophy works when you have enough talent to plug and play. Look at all the stiffs that the PATS have tried at wide receiver the last four years...I think the PATS blew it this time! Maybe Flutie can play WR/KR for a year...he would be better than any WR/KR they brought in the last four years...DAVID WE ARE GOING TO MISS YOU!
Randy Barko

I have read that the Patriots are well under the salary cap. Yet, we still haven't made a major move in the free agency. We have needs all over the team (LB,RB,DB,DB,DB,WR). Do you think we need to throw a chunk of change at a big name free agent (Julian Peterson, Charles Woodson) to solidify certain areas of the team? Do you have any idea what is going on with the Pats? I live all the way in Oklahoma and from my view it doesn't look like we are trying to stay a top tier team. I know it is early in free agency and the draft hasn't happened yet but I'm getting kind of worried. Any info will do. Thank you Long Distance Oklahoma Fan.
Alvin Mayes

I just heard that David Givens and Kevin Mawae were signed to contract by the Tennessee Titans. I had hoped with the additional cap room we'd keep Givens seeing he's only 25 and a very good receiver. I hope we're gonna at least keep Adam Vinatieri. With Givens gone our receivers are now Deion Branch and Troy Brown. Are the Pats just gonna let everyone walk and have to trade down in the draft to stockpile picks for wide receivers, running backs, cornerbacks and linebackers? This is seriously looking like a MAJOR rebuilding year so far.Bob Stuart

Like I said to Mike, it's not time to panic yet. The Patriots don't have any games to play for almost six months. That's plenty of time to build a roster and find some depth at positions that might need addressing. And actually your wide receiver corps is even smaller than you said since Troy Brown is also a free agent. The Patriots are dealing with more than just their 2006 free agents. Several top players are set to hit the market after this season (Seymour, Branch, Koppen, Samuel, Graham, etc.) and they must start dealing with those contracts now before it's too late. I also expect the Patriots to bring in some players in addition to Reche Caldwell for this season. The first week of free agency was not kind to the Patriots but there's a long way to go before the offseason is complete. Let's wait to see where it takes us.
PS – To Randy: Maybe we can try Flutie at linebacker, too. I'm sure if we built the defense around him our problems would be solved.
Paul Perillo

First, let me qualify by saying I live and die with every Pats play, and I do believe if we hadn't fumbled away the Denver game we would have won it all again. But I'm wondering now if chickens aren't coming home to roost. Weiss, Crennel and Mangini all took fat Pats playbooks with them, and you probably don't come up with a new one of those over lunch. A lot for a team with too many average or inexperienced players to overcome, I'm sure. But where did this cheapness with the wallet and the apparent rabid need to let quality players like Willie know that they are worth an exact number of pennies and not a single one more. Sure, there's a salary cap, but other teams seem to be able to find enough in the seat cushions for their stars (must I say Indy???) If they can sign three top receivers and overpay Manning (who is NEVER going to win the big one by the way) by 50 million, and all in the same year, why can't we sign our top hitters? Are people serious that they would rather let Seymour walk as long as we get a decent pick for him? I'm sick of watching the Pats hemorrhaging top free agents to other teams (mostly to teams in our own division or conference so they can come back and kick our ass in revenge) and picking up crap like Starks in return (memo to Pioli: we love you Scott, but Phoenix is where you send your junk to; it's not a team you can raid for talent). Yes, we pulled a masterstroke a couple years ago in Dillon, but you can't go out to dinner on that for the next 20 years. We can watch out if Miami signs Brees (which I bet they will have by the time this goes out, because there's no way in hell he's going to the Saints).Phil Moseley

I must admit, Phil, the urge to call you out for that last line is overwhelming. I can't control my fingers right now as I'm typing. But I'll let you off the hook and focus on the first part of your email. The coaches don't take the system away from the team when they leave. The Patriots system is the same right now as it was when Weis and Crennel were the coordinators. The playbook is still here. Certainly there are changes to be made with new coaches now calling the shots, but the basics of the system remain. The Patriots financial plan has also remained unchanged since Belichick took over in 2000. They set a value for a player and try to leave the personal side out if it. So while it was no doubt difficult to watch a veteran like McGinest go, the Patriots feel comfortable with their system and that their approach is best. It's not necessarily cheapness. It's a philosophy, and it's one that has served them well in the past. Now the question is will it continue to serve them well in the future?
Oh, and I can't resist, what team did Drew Brees sign with again?
Paul Perillo

It is a few days into free agency and I still fail to see what direction the Patriots seem to be going in this offseason. They appear to be letting everybody we all know and love as Pats fans go. What direction do you think the Patriots will take in the next couple months (what's the word on any potential free agent signings)? Is this a possible youth movement (which I support)? Also, I'd like to know your thoughts on what you think the Patriots will do in the first couple rounds of the draft? Can you update us on the status of Vinatieri? Also, do you think we will see a big Seymour deal at some point this offseason? I know this is a lot of questions but thanks.
Andy D.

I do believe the Patriots are trying to get a little younger this offseason and some of their moves thus far (McGinest most notably, perhaps Troy Brown, Vinatieri) seem to support that. But many of their free agents are in the prime of their careers (Givens, Neal, Ashworth) and they haven't re-signed yet. But with a linebacker corps of mostly 30-somethings the need to get younger is evident. I'd expect a linebacker signing to go along with an early-round draft pick. Belichick needs to inject some youth to complement Vrabel, Bruschi and Colvin (29 at the start of the season) and the draft seems to have some candidates. Vinatieri is still looking around but it has to be considered a positive sign that he left Green Bay over the weekend without a contract, so there's still at least a chance he could be back. As for Seymour, I don't see him agreeing to an extension unless the Patriots make him a very lucrative offer. Seymour has waited for his chance to become a free agent and I don't see him suddenly accepting a below-market deal with just a year left before he's set to hit the market. That said, I'd be surprised if he signs a long-term deal this offseason.
Paul Perillo

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I love you to death but please...stifle! Pats fans you are driving me crazy. I live in San Diego right now but I am a Boston boy through and through. I love everything about New England especially the rabid fans and their knowledge of sports. If I have to read one more question as to if Ty Law is coming back or when are we going to make a big splash signing from free agency I am going to start pronouncing my "r"s and pretend to be a fair-weather Charger fan. Don't forget how lucky we are to have Bill Pioli and BB running the show. I just watched AJ Smith and Spanos ruin a great Charger team. They have a weak schedule and they just let Drew Brees walk. NO playoffs for them guaranteed and the draft hasn't even happened yet. Seriously, we are embarrassing ourselves. Aren't Bill and Bill the best player evaluators in the game? Didn't they reward us with 3 championships in four years? If the Denver game goes different you know we don't lose at home to the Steelers hello 4 in 5! When was the last time we made a surprise free agency big name grab … Rosie Colvin. Before and after that mostly solid veterans with the correct agenda. Winning and team. Pull out your 3 disc set of 3 games to glory and chill out. My guess is that Bill and Bill will have this team loaded and ready to go on the first day of camp with playoff hopes on the horizon. Instead of complaining about the best team in the game enjoy the rest of your winter...I'm going golfing!! See you at the draft I'll be the one Pats fan with a tan!!!Cheeney

Wow, that's quite a note. I don't think even Fred Kirsch is THAT optimistic about the Pats! Anyway, not to burst your bubble because I'd rather take the positive side myself, but for starters it's Bill and Scott, as in Belichick and Pioli. Not Bill and Bill. Second, you say if the Denver game went differently the Pats could have won 4 in 5. Sure, that's possible. But what if the Oakland game went differently in 2001, or Tennessee in 2003 or Philadelphia in 2005? It's a pretty silly argument. The Patriots weren't very competitive in most games against quality teams last season. Whether that was because of injuries or simply because they weren't good enough, who knows? But they'll need to make some improvements either way this offseason and the fans have been unhappy with the pace of those improvements thus far. It's still early and those pessimists aren't looking at the big picture, but you're just ignoring the fact that the Patriots haven't done much yet and are assuming they will before the season starts. Maybe they will, but maybe the moves they make won't pan out. We can't possible assume everything is fine because we just don't know yet.
Paul Perillo

Are you guys totally sick of telling people to be patient? As far as this die-hard fan is concerned, BB & Pioli have carte blanche do to WHATEVER they want building the 2006 edition of the Patriots, including not re-signing Willie Mac and Adam. Every year tough decisions need to be made. The guys calling the shots for the Patriots are very adept at calculating a player's relative value - fans should understand and appreciate this. I love David Givens, but he can get out of Dodge for $25 million. I'd rather we spend the cash on Richard Seymour - THIS is what "fans" need to remember before they start whining about us not spending our cap room. The right moves WILL be made for us to field the best team in the AFC east AGAIN come September. Incidentally, the schedule that NFL stiffed us with last year set us up for failure, but I digress.
Russell Rososky

Seems to be two very different schools of thought this week. One showing absolutely no hope for the future and no faith in the organization's decisions thus far and the other so overly optimistic is makes your head spin. Russell, you're with Cheeney in the latter category. Bill and Scott have carte blanche to do whatever? So if they sign Beisel, Brown and trade for Starks again you're OK with that? I'm not. We can just let everyone go and not worry about it? What if Seymour is next? Then will you worry? To just make a blanket statement saying the right moves WILL be made without even the hint of analysis telling us why is ridiculous. Just because they made great moves in the past doesn't mean they always will. If that were true, wouldn't they win the Super Bowl every year? One reason they didn't win it all last year was because the players who filled in for the injured weren't up to par. In the past they were. So if they picked up players that were capable of contributing last offseason maybe the injuries wouldn't have hurt as much. Again, there's a long way to go before the season starts and many moves will be made between now and then. We have the draft and the rest of free agency still. But to just say the Patriots WILL be the best team once again – just because – is little more than blind faith.
Paul Perillo

All right I've seen the all the questions on free agency, and how it seems that teams that are in cap trouble always seem to sign all the big name free agents (Redskins, Titans, Dolphins) and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one saying what the @#$#@ is going on here. I'm watching all our talent go, all of the other teams talent go somewhere else other than New England, this isn't panic; it's general concern. Face it, the last really worthwhile free agent we signed was Colvin (and a great one) other than that a long list of wash ups have come in and been proven a waste (Brown, Starks, not to mention a few others), or have had little impact, I don't think the waiting game has proven a very good approach, There I said it. I just don't see why they couldn't sign a von Oelhoffen, or a Madison, or an Arrington (we all know we are in need of LBs) what gives? These are all great fits that would keep this team a cut above the rest. They have the cash, why don't they spend it?Mike G.

Again, I can understand the concern that many Patriots fans are showing. Quality players are getting scooped up and the Patriots haven't signed any as of yet. But that doesn't mean they won't and it doesn't mean guys like Caldwell won't help as well. The Redskins have been big players in free agency every year and what has that done for them? Unless you're looking for a win on wild card weekend and then a trip to the golf course, very little. Look, am I concerned about the holes currently on the Patriots roster? Yes. But that doesn't mean Belichick will open the season with those same holes. I would have loved Sam Madison in a Patriots uniform and the Giants didn't have to pay too much to get him. But there are 31 other teams trying to sign players and sometimes the other guys get them. That's the way the system works. I'm not going to apologize for all the moves that have taken place thus far, but I'm also not going to get all up in a lather complaining until I have a better vision of where this team is headed.
Paul Perillo

With Givens going, do you think the Patriots will sign a veteran, or could PK Sam be stepping up to a prominent role? Personally, I think the Patriots should sign an average to good WR, such as Terrell and give PK Sam some playing time. The Patriots are rebuilding, I know this will be controversial, but, I think they should start the year with Brady and if the team isn't within playoff contention they should consider starting Cassel much more, with a view to trading Brady, then re-signing Seymour. The Patriots have tried numerous young safeties in Harrison's place, without a whole load of success. Could the Patriots draft Darnell Bing from USC? I'm not sure which round he will go, but I think a 3rd round choice might suit him. In a mock draft I saw they had Tamba Hali going to the Pats in round one and Joseph Addai in the 2nd, my concern with this is Hali played DE in college, is he a strong candidate to become an OLB. What do you think of all my ramblings?
Tim Hart

To be honest, Tim, I think you must be related to Andy Hart because benching Brady is about the dumbest idea I've read during the entire time I've been doing this forum. Rebuilding or not (and I'm certainly not convinced this is what's going on) Brady is the quarterback and as long as he's healthy he plays. Period. End of sentence. As for the draft, Hali probably translates more as a 3-4 DE in the Patriots system like Ty Warren rather than a candidate to play OLB. He's pretty big already and likely will add 15 pounds to his frame. He could add depth up front if the Pats wanted him, but I doubt they look in that direction in the first round. Addai is a decent back cut in the Kevin Faulk mold. He's bigger than Faulk but I'm not convinced he'll be a quality every down back in the NFL. But hey, I'm no Mel Kiper Casale. As for Darnell Bing, no way he gets to the third round. In fact, he could even go late in the first.
Paul Perillo

Since almost all of the linebackers the Pats have are getting old, and with the lack of a decent MLB to play next to Bruschi, what are the chances of free agents like Jamie Sharper, Sam Cowart or Chris Claiborne joining the team? Beisel sucked and shouldn't be playing linebacker because his tackling is horrible. Those free agent backers seem to have the size and experience to play for the Pats, at least for now.Kyle

If you're looking to get younger at linebacker, then signing Sharper (32) or Cowart (31) isn't necessarily the way to go. Claiborne will be 28 at the start of the season so he's a little younger. If the Patriots are looking for a veteran then maybe one of these guys makes sense. But if they're looking for some youth, I don't see why they'd sign any of them. Sharper and Cowart both have experience playing in the 3-4 so perhaps that could be intriguing.
Paul Perillo

Now that the Cowboys have released Keyshawn Johnson, is there any chance of him wearing the Patriots uniform next season?
Jim Boudreau

Johnson is close with Belichick and other members of the Patriots organization so it was only natural to think of that as a possibility. But then Keyshawn made a crack about playing for the Patriots if he wanted to make $5 next year and now I'm not so sure it's in the cards. A lot can change, though, and if Keyshawn gets out there and realizes there isn't much money available, maybe he'd be more interested in playing for a coach he's familiar with.
Paul Perillo

I think I will always remember where I was when I heard the news that Big Willie signed with the Browns. I don't hold a grudge against him or the Pats, but I am quite sad to see him go, especially since I have worn his jersey for years. That being typed, what is the protocol for getting a new jersey? Do I get a grace period since Big Willie is the greatest of all time when it comes to playoff sacks and helped the team win 3 Super Bowls? Or do I have to go out and get a new jersey? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Chris

I say there is no protocol for such things. If you like Willie then keep wearing his jersey to Gillette Stadium. Don't be one of these types that suddenly starts trashing our former players just because they've left. You know, the Fred Kirsch types who love Ty Law when he's in a Patriots uniform but then suddenly have a change of heart after he's released. You can buy a new jersey if you'd like, but if Willie's your guy stick with No. 55.
Paul Perillo

I would like to start by saying that my family and I love Willie and David. My younger sister is obsessed with Givens. We will really miss seeing them on the field every Sunday. Now my question: maybe it's just me, but I don't really understand what changed with the labor agreement. I know that the salary cap was raised, but I feel like nothing really changed. Am I wrong? I'm looking forward to another great year of football. Keep up the good work.
Frank Osborn

The changes made were between the owners and the players in terms of the amount of money the players now get with regard to the salary cap. In the past, the cap was calculated by a percentage of the money the owners shared with the players, which amounted to revenues from the national TV contract and ticket sales. That was known as designated gross revenue. Now all revenues that are shared between the owners are in turn shared with the players. So while in the past the players only received a portion of a percentage of the owners' money, they're now entitled to 59.5 percent of the owners' total revenues. That means the cap will rise to higher levels, meaning the players stand to make more money.
Paul Perillo

Is anyone awake at the wheel here? ... Has Mike O'Connell hijacked the front office? THIS IS A JOKE!!!
Paul Daly

I included this only because I thought it was the funniest post we got all week.
Oh, and for you non-Bostonians out there, Mike O'Connell is the Bruins GM and he refuses to spend any money.
Paul Perillo

My question is regarding Bethel Johnson. With the departure of Givens and others do you see him as a starting receiver or has that ship sailed permanently? If so why do you think he just never panned out? He definitely has the speed.Francis Brown

I don't see Bethel Johnson as anything more than an occasional homerun hitter and kick returner. He's never displayed the techniques in terms of route-running and getting open consistently that a top receiver needs. He also hasn't done himself many favors by consistently getting into Belichick's doghouse for a variety of reasons. If he's back next year, I still see him as a 4th or 5th receiver and a returner. Speed is only one part of a receiver's job. Tony Simmons could run, too. But there's a lot more to it than simply being fast.
Paul Perillo

Dynasty, Shmynasty! We had a good run but now it's over so let's get used to it. We got a good coach but we also need good players. Letting all good free agents go is absolutely ridiculous. Next year it will be Seymour cause the Pats are not going to spend enough money to keep him. We got our memories and DVD's of Super Bowls so keep them handy, as we will not see those days again.
Dick LaFleur

Please tell me the Patriots are just waiting for Eric Moulds to be released. Reche Caldwell is nothing but a 4th or 5th receiver. Are you kidding me with these numbers of his (Caldwell established career highs with 28 receptions and 352 yards while playing in all 16 games). It's not like he had a bad QB throwing to him! Drew Brees is really good. Troy Brown had a better year last year than Caldwell. This signing does nothing to address the need for a #2 WR. Please tell me there is more to come?Chris Clark

Wow, what an improvement we got by replacing David Givens with Reche Caldwell. Givens' stats last season were only a mere 59 receptions for 738 yards and two touchdowns, Caldwell on the other hand, 76 receptions for 950 yard and seven touchdowns. Wait a minute! Those stats I just quoted about Caldwell were for his entire NFL career! What a pick up Patriots!
John Roberts

I sense a little sarcasm there, John. Is Caldwell going to step in and replace Givens? Probably not, but he's not a bad signing for a team in desperate need of some receiver help. Provided they get somebody to complement Branch as the No. 2 guy, Caldwell is still young enough to make a significant improvement in his career. He was hampered by injuries from time to time in San Diego and maybe a change of scenery will do him well. As long as he's an extra receiver, I think it was an excellent signing.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys. I was just curious what your take was on the Patriots backup QB situation was. I heard they might be interested in bringing back Doug Flutie for another season. Although I am a big fan on Flutie, and think there will always be a place on the Patriots for him, (QB Coach maybe?) I think there is so much talent on the free agent market that even if the Pats bring Flutie back, they should at least bring someone in to compete for the job of Brady's back up. Maybe someone like Tim Hasselbeck, Chris Weinke, Ken Dorsey or maybe even Joey Harrington if he would be willing to sit on the bench. I think anyone one of those guys would be a great fit. They are each veterans who has had some playing time within the past three seasons. They might not be great QBs, but that's why they would be backups. What's your take?
Adam Sennott

I don't think Flutie will be back so the Patriots are going to need to add another quarterback at some point. I feel Matt Cassel is a very promising prospect and he might be ready to be the backup. He has shown terrific skills during training camp and preseason and then again during the season finale against Miami. All he needs is more experience, which he will get this summer. But Belichick might want to bring in an experienced backup who can provide insurance in case something happens to Brady. Honestly, I'm not enamored with any of the individuals you chose. Only Harrington has shown anything at the pro level – and most of that hasn't been all that impressive. I'd stick with Cassel as the backup and look for another young player to develop.
Paul Perillo

Hey I was looking at a list of restricted free agents and was wondering who the Pats might target in that pool. With multiple 3rd and 4th round picks, I think they could easily afford to target a few of these players. Also, when a team like the Patriots, who have multiple picks in the third thru 5th rounds, sign a restricted free agent, how does the league decide which pick the team gives up?
Nicholas Foukal

I can't say for certain if the Patriots are targeting any specific restricted free agents but there are some intriguing names available. Personally, I'd like to see them take a run at Minnesota wide receiver Nate Burleson. He received a mid-level tender, which means the Patriots could get him for a third-round pick (plus whatever they have to give him in a contract). It's always tough acquiring RFAs because the other team can match, but I'd like to see Burleson as a potential replacement for Givens. Also, the third-round pick would be the one that originally belonged to the team that signed the player. So the Patriots would give their own third-round pick and hold onto Baltimore's from their earlier trade. And the Patriots only have one pick in the fifth round (from Oakland). They traded their pick to Cleveland for Andre' Davis.
Paul Perillo

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