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Ask PFW: Flowers, Brown, Schiano and much more!

Plenty of questions about free agency and a new-look coaching staff fill out this week’s edition of Ask PFW.

AskPFW-Thumb-20190212 Trey Flowers

Hey PFW! Big fan from your neighbors up north! In my opinion in terms of free agency, our top priorities should be re-signing Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. I think they were both very important pieces in our most recent Super Bowl run. My question is what type of contract do you think each of those players will need to stay with the Pats? Do you think they will be able to afford both of them? Do you think either will be candidates for the franchise tag? Would love to hear your guys' opinion! Thanks.


Hello guys, the Pats have a number of key FA this year and they obviously won't be able to re-sign them all. In my opinion the two biggest priorities are Flowers and Brown although it's safe to say at least one of them will be moving on. My question...if you can only re-sign one of them who would be your pick. Thank you.

Jamie Bains

There is no question that Flowers and Brown are the two biggest names on the Patriots list of potential free agents. Both are young, developing talents at marquee positions coming off impressive seasons for a Super Bowl champion. In free agency, that's a recipe to get paid. Or, as Brown told about his desires during the season, a way to "hit the lottery." Both guys could get deals north of $12-15 million per season or "totals" beyond $60-plus million. Given his versatile play and impact off both the edge and on the inside, some have projected that Flowers could get more than $17 million per season, especially considering the huge deals passed out to the likes of Chandler Jones, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack in recent years. For Brown, his desired comp is probably the contract that Nate Solder got to go from New England to the Giants last offseason. My perception is that Brown will be playing elsewhere on a large contract next season. With first-round pick Isaiah Wynn returning from a torn Achilles, the Patriots have a replacement in-house and probably aren't looking to lock up Brown long term. I'll be honest, while he had a good season I don't view him as a truly elite left tackle. I'd also have concerns that once he gets a huge deal the questions about his weight, conditioning and work ethic that got him traded out of San Francisco could return. Flowers, on the other hand, is practically a perfect player in terms of work ethic, attitude, durability and just about all other factors other than elite production. The only question is his value. I would love to see the Patriots try to work a deal with him before he gets to the open market, because I think once he sees the money that's out there it's going to be hard for him to turn it down, even if he truly does love playing in New England. I would certainly consider using the franchise or transition tag on Flowers, something I think the team will ponder doing. I would love to see Flowers back in a Patriots uniform moving forward, but it's hard to imagine New England paying the kind of money he could get on the open market. So, the ball may be in his court. It won't surprise me if both guys end up elsewhere. It would surprise me if they both return.

Andy Hart

Thank you to you and everyone there for another great season of Patriots news and reports. I wanted to get your opinion of re-signing Patterson. While his numbers aren't staggering, he was a valuable asset throughout the season. His versatility was impressive. When the ball was in his hands, he ran hard and never hesitated. I know he's not a great WR, but he can be used all over the field, and he looked comfortable on the field. Now with a full season with this offense, I believe he can do even more. Of the free agent WRs on the roster, I think he should be the one to be brought back at the right price.

Wayne Simmons

I think you are accurate in that Patterson's obvious value is his versatility. He can do so much for an offense – and as a kickoff returner – even if he never will be a reliable, every-down type receiver. While I'm not sure his role can increase much moving forward, I would be all for bringing him back at the "right price." There would seem to be a lot of uncertainty and possible turnover at the receiver position this offseason, it would be nice to have Patterson back as a unique weapon for the new-look offense. I could see it happening.

Andy Hart

Is it reasonable to pay a 32-year-old Devin McCourty close to $10M per year (with over $13M cap hit) while letting young key defender Flowers walk and not pay him $10M per year?

Stuart Kronn

McCourty's future in Foxborough is certainly worth watching. His comment regarding retirement prior to the Super Bowl made it sound like a distinct possibility if the team beat the Rams. So, it won't stun me if he decides to call it a career at this point. That would probably be the easiest for all parties involved, because you are right to question the veteran safety's value at a $13 million cap figure. He's a leader, captain and key communicator in the back end. But the team already pays Duron Harmon starter money at the position as a possible replacement. Might McCourty be open to a contract restructure and reduced salary? Maybe. McCourty's future is just one of the many decisions and uncertainties the defending champs face in this very interesting offseason.

Andy Hart

We had a lot of changes in the coaching staff. Given how much our receivers block, do you think that Nick Caley could be the WR/TE coach at the same time? Do you think Bret Bielema is gonna be the next defensive line coach? Who do you think is gonna be the next linebackers coach? I read somewhere that DeMarcus Covington was already doing these duties with Flores as play caller. Do you think Steve Belichick will be defensive backs coach or another cornerbacks coach will be promoted?

Gregorio Ladeira

These are all fair questions and though I don't have definitive answers, I can offer my thoughts. Bielema would seem to make sense as a defensive assistant after a year spent as a consultant to the head coach. He has a history on the defensive side of the ball as a coordinator and linebackers coach. So, a job on the defensive line or at linebackers could be in line. Brian Belichick could certainly be a consideration for a promotion to position coach, a move up from his current job as a coaching assistant in which he seemed to spend a lot of time with the defense. Fellow coaching assistants Cole Popovich (who has worked with the offensive line among his other duties), DeMarcus Covington (who could be an option as linebackers coach) and Mike Pellegrino (reportedly a fast-riser on the staff) are all legit options for internal promotions. Beyond the reports that Greg Schiano will be joining the staff to run the defense, another college name to keep an eye on would be former Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. There were reports last summer that he might be joining the Patriots staff. Graham has a history on the defensive side of the ball and working with linebackers. Another wild card name would be Nick Caserio, New England's director of player personnel who formerly coached the Patriots wide receivers back in 2007. He's one of the most versatile front office men in the game and certainly could serve as a position coach if the need were great enough, although balancing that with his scouting duties might be a bit much. It will be very interesting to see how Belichick's staff is formulated this season, both in terms of roles and titles.

Andy Hart

Hello. I just read the Samsonite Make Your Case article – What is the Patriots biggest area of need entering the offseason? -- and got me thinking. Linebacker was not even an option. Don't get me wrong: I like what I see when I look at the current starters. Dont'a Hightower and Kyle van Noy are both awesome but I see them mostly outside linebacker - defensive edge - pass rusher hybrid players. I am also aware two promising rookies (Christian Sam and Ja'Whaun Bentley) will return healthy next season. Albert McClellan has shown he's a valuable addition. Still I get the hunch this team could use a stud sideline-to-sideline Mike in the mold of Leighton Vander Esch. I understand the best LB prospect (Devin White) is projected to slide to the middle of the first round, would you trade up to grab him? What do you think would it take to get this deal done? Would our first-round pick and a second-rounder suffice? Would you try and grab a middle linebacker in the second round? I presume this Tuesday Andy Hart will answer this question and being a former linebacker I would love to read his thoughts on this topic. My second question is about rookie QB Danny Etling. What do you think of him? Shall we see him as a successor to Tom Brady? Shall we see him as a successor to Brian Hoyer? Would love to see much more of the young guy. Last preseason I liked what I saw of him. (Although that was not much...) Thank You in advance!


While I didn't take part in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case debate, I would not have put linebacker anywhere near the top of the list. Any team would love a young, sideline-to-sideline linebacker, but it's a question of utilizing your resources to fill needs. The Patriots are going to have pressing needs at wide receiver and tight end. There's a strong possibility they will have pretty big needs at defensive line and safety. Quarterback always has to be a consideration. As you said, as it stands now the team has three solid returning veterans in Hightower, Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. I am very intrigued by what I saw in a limited sample from Bentley. Sam is an athletic option. There is talent and depth at linebacker that just doesn't exist at many other positions. So while a guy like White is a pretty obvious talent, I don't think I'd utilize assets to trade up to get him. There are more pressing needs, especially if the team is as high on Bentley as it appears from afar. As for Etling, he seems like a great kid and a good athlete. I'm just not sure I see an NFL-caliber upside as an accurate, timely passer. Certainly, though, he deserves the chance to prove himself this summer with a full season in the system and the possibility of showing the ever-hopeful Year 2 jump. Maybe he's made huge strides, but right now I certainly don't think he's the heir to the position and I'm not even sure if he's going to be a reliable backup. But we'll all know more by the end of August.

Andy Hart

Is it true that something like 6 out of our 9 2018 draft picks ended up on IR? If true how often does a team lose two-thirds of its draft class to IR? Shouldn't those guys be healthy for next season? Doesn't that mean we get two-thirds of our draft class back? Combine last year's draftees returning from IR with the 2019 draft class and that sounds like a ton of potential for coaches to add youth, fill holes in the roster, add depth and at least make for a more competitive training camp. That makes me pretty optimistic. Yes, I know we have to wait and see how it all plays out but I am a glass half full kind of guy. What is your take on all this?

Dave DaLuca

Yes, six of the nine draft picks landed on IR, though second-round pick Duke Dawson actually returned to the active roster late in the season. Getting first-round offensive lineman Wynn, Dawson and Bentley back could be huge additions for New England in 2019. All three could fight for either starting jobs or key rotational roles. The rest are much longer shots, though I won't rule out Braxton Berrios given the many openings and uncertainty that may come at the receiver position. While Wynn returning from a torn Achilles bears watching as the summer begins, I have not heard anything indicating that the second-year players won't be ready for next season. Their return as well as the addition of this year's rookie class could certainly provide for youthful competition this summer and the chance to help an aging roster get younger in a number of spots. As I said, I look forward to what Wynn, Dawson and Bentley can bring to the team.

Andy Hart

Wow, what a coaching exodus this year. Now we all know the mantra "as long as BB is a HC".... Still in his army unit, captains, lieutenants and even sergeants do matter. He not only needs to find capable replacements but groom them and that takes years. Does he already have these replacements in house?

Brian Loemick

As I said in the earlier answer I do think there are some capable, intriguing options among the young coaching assistants to help fill the voids on the coaching staff. But, I also won't overlook the losses in proven assistants and will certainly be watching how all the new coaches and new roles come together this summer and fall. While Schiano has a long history with Belichick and some of the veteran players on defense, that's not the same as working with somebody 20 hours a day, seven days a week for months through the ups, downs and grind of the season. No one can really know for sure how that will play out. The same goes for all the other coaching changes. The large number of changes on the staff is a situation that's far from ideal. Having Belichick overseeing it all is a huge positive. As is the return of Josh McDaniels, Dante Scarnecchia and Ivan Fears to oversee the Tom Brady-led offense. That should allow Belichick more time on defense where his input, experience and leadership may be needed more this year than maybe ever before.

Andy Hart

Is this the first time that so many assistant coaches left at one time to go to the same team? Do you think the 4 coaches going to the Dolphins make them a threat to the Pats? Did Bill change his stance on allowing players more freedom in what they are allowed to say to the press; reference what Chung said at send off and Gronk at various times.

Mike Moretti

This certainly is the most turnover on the coaching staff we've seen on the years, with most departures joining Flores in Miami. Given the success that ex-Patriots have had in the past, including last season when Mike Vrabel and Matt Patricia pulled upsets over New England, it is worth noting. Certainly games in Miami have often been challenge over the years. That won't get any easier with a familiar staff on the other side of the ball. But, until Miami has an elite quarterback to build around, the Patriots are still very much the team to beat in the AFC East. As for the comments made by Gronk, Chung and others, it did seem that some veterans felt a little more liberated this year. Gronk admitted that the team not only embraced the critics, but used the noise as motivation. A number of players have said similar things. I'm not sure this was any sort of spoken loosening of the limitations Belichick puts on his players' comments, but maybe more just trusted veteran leaders feeling comfortable in their roles and voices.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, just trying to look ahead to the free agent class for 2019. Obviously need to lock up Trey Flowers and a few others first. A couple of players I think should be on the radar for BB would be Tyler Eifert (if Gronk retires) and Devin Funchess, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, and Dante Fowler Jr. Wanted to get your thoughts.

Scott Bedarian

As I said earlier, re-signing Flowers would be a great start to an offseason plan, though the finances of such a deal could be interesting and potentially prohibitive. As for possible targets on the open market, I don't hate the idea of going after Eifert, though he's obviously had his issues staying healthy. I'm not as high on your other targets, although I did think that Fowler played very well in the Super Bowl for L.A. and showed that he can be more than just a pass rusher, which would be required of him in New England. One name I would keep an eye on at the receiver position, a spot of clear need, is Golden Tate, who was thought of as a possible target via trade last fall. There are plenty of options at plenty of spots this spring and will have a full rundown of the potential comings and goings in free agency in the coming weeks.

Andy Hart

I know it wasn't a factor in the result, so there's obviously not as much attention as the obvious defensive pass interference in the NFL Championship Game, but wondered why Jared Goff failing to throw the ball to the line of scrimmage when he was standing in the end zone wasn't flagged as an intentional grounding penalty and judged a safety. This was midway through the third quarter when it was still a 3-point game, so could have extended the Patriots lead to 5. Whenever the Competition Committee look at reviewable plays, and whether to extend what can be challenged, do you think that play would be mentioned?

David Beckett

There was an obvious intended receiver in the vicinity, so the ball doesn't have to get back to the line of scrimmage. Same as when Brady and other QBs throw the ball into the ground at the feet of a running back on a failed screen pass. As long as there is a receiver in the area it is not intentional grounding. If/when replay of penalties becomes an option, this is certainly a play that might get looked. And I believe the call on the field would have been correctly confirmed via replay. At least that's the way I saw it.

Andy Hart

It sounds like Nick Foles wants to leave the Eagles. What do you think of Foles coming to New England, sitting behind Brady for a year or two then taking over? Do you think McDaniels could improve Foles' play? Belichick rarely trades up to get a good rookie to work with or takes a quarterback in the first couple rounds either.

Raymond Boulay

I am not nearly as enamored with Foles as many seem to be. At the age of 30, looking to make starter money (say $25 million) and far from a proven commodity, I just don't see the long term appeal. He's had some nice runs of play in the NFL, including the postseason run through the Patriots that earned him a Super Bowl MVP. Overall, though, I think he's really just a backup. And if the Patriots were going to have two quarterbacks making $20-plus million on the roster they should have/could have just kept Jimmy Garoppolo. To me, Foles isn't really an option for the Patriots and I really wouldn't want him to be.

Andy Hart

Gentlemen. Now that the dust has settled, it still amazes me that the Pats defensive performance is still not getting the national recognition it deserves. Other than Steve Young calling BB's game plan brilliant and comparing it to a "Rembrandt" or "Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel," folks haven't been overly enthusiastic as one would expect. To hold a team that averages 33 points a game (and with a 1,200-yard rusher and two 1,200-yard receivers along with an offensive wizard as a coach) to 3 points is nothing short of remarkable and this game plan should be looked at with reverence for the next generation.

On another note, count me among those that were pleasantly surprised this team pulled it off. I thought, based upon the 3-5 road record with all five losses to non-playoff teams, that this team simply did not have "IT" this year and that they would lose to KC. It amazes me that the Patriots turned this "doubt" into a motivating factor because under any fair analysis of their performance, their record, and their body of work through December, they did not deserve to be favored to win the Super Bowl. But I guess that is what makes this one so special for them and for us. . . ..

Tom DiGangi

I'm gonna have to disagree, Tom. I have heard, read and seen endless praise for the Patriots defense and its players. Many thought it was unfair that someone from the unit didn't win the Super Bowl LIII MVP, even though many can't pick a particular player for the individual honor. While offensive players, including Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman will always get their praise, this was a rare game where the defense – including its coaches -- was roundly cheered for taking home the title that so many thought was unlikely. And make no mistake, it was considered unlikely as recently as the AFC title game. I can be honest, I picked the Chiefs because of the Patriots road struggles. I'm happy to say I was wrong. The transformation this team made from December to January/February was indeed remarkable. And the defense, led by Stephon Gilmore, Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and others, was a huge part of that. I think most have acknowledged that, even if you would like them to get even more love!

Andy Hart

Hello from New Hampshire. Hi guys, two questions. First, with Devin McCourty contemplating retirement who do you see taking over his spot? Second question should Rob Gronkowski retire do you think Cordarrelle Patterson could move to the tight end position? Thanks.

Mark Bushnell

Duron Harmon, who's practically already a starter, would be next in line to take over McCourty's free safety spot on a full time basis if the veteran doesn't return. That would probably leave guys like Dawson to fill out the depth in packages with five and six defensive backs, adding the rest of the returning mix. No, I can't see Patterson playing tight end. He's not big and strong enough to be an in-line blocker and not a well-rounded enough route runner. He's a very versatile player, but asking him to move to tight end is more than I think he could handle. I don't think it would be productive for the offense.

Andy Hart

Please give us an update on Patrick Chung. How is he recovering from the Super Bowl injury? The Fans wish him well. He's been a big part of the defense for many years.

John Stavropoulos

Based on a few posts on his social media accounts we can see that Chung had his broken arm surgically repaired, leaving a huge cut on his arm that was closed with, apparently, 23 stitches, matching his uniform number. There were also reports that Chung would be having a torn labrum in his shoulder repaired this offseason. He certainly has work to do this offseason to rehab and prepare for another year, but based on social media he appears to be tackling that task with the upbeat and ferocious energy with which he attacks opposing players. It's early, but all signs seem positive for Chung to return to his huge, key role in the New England defense.

Andy Hart

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