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Ask PFW: Franchise tag and free agency questions

Fans' questions answered in our weekly mailbag.


Do you think the Pat's will use their franchise tag on Stephen [Gostkowski]? Or do you think they will use it on Trey Flowers? Sandra Goodnow

My sense is they won't use it at all. Certainly, Gostkowski and Flowers are leading candidates if the team eventually does decide to tag someone this year. They have until 4 p.m. Eastern next Tuesday, March 5, to decide. Erik Scalavino

With [safety Patrick] Chung possibly not ready come preseason, and with the McCourtys' future up in the air, do you see NE adding new bodies to SS and CB positions through draft/FA? Also, would you say it is imperative that a TE is added? Ron Mahler

Since Ron's question came into our inbox, Devin McCourty has announced he's returning for the 2019 season, while his brother Jason has made it clear he's also planning on playing and would like to stay in New England. Even if both brothers are back on the team this spring, when the offseason program and practice sessions begin, I think you'll see some new faces at both safety and corner. Perhaps more at safety than corner, as the Patriots already have a number of young players making noise at the CB spot and the safety roster is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. Erik Scalavino

I think Trent Brown should be the #1 priority [because he's] Brady's security and a great run blocker. How about a substantial signing bonus and then a reasonable long term contract? [Isaiah] Wynn is still an unknown commodity and maybe injury prone. Plus it usually takes time to become an accomplished pass protection blocker. Thanks! Brian Baker

A year ago, Trent Brown was a right tackle for the 49ers and on no one's radar screen. He's traded to New England, wins a Super Bowl, and suddenly he's your top priority? I'm not saying he's not a good player. He replaced Nate Solder seamlessly and will likely get plenty of attention on the free agent market. My point is only that he can be replaced just as easily as he replaced Solder. I'd welcome him back if the price were palatable for the Patriots, but I'm not willing to break the bank for him. Erik Scalavino

If Josh Gordon is reinstated after his treatment, what are the odds that the Patriots would take him back? He was as best as I could tell a good teammate, he was overall fairly productive and the team certainly needs receiving help. Josh Browne

Do you think that Josh Gordon will be back on the Pats for this upcoming season? Harold Seigel

While it's not inconceivable that Gordon eventually gets reinstated to the NFL and returns to Foxborough, I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. His reinstatement by the league is no guarantee, first of all, and while he was a solid player in his brief time with the team this past season, he was by no means indispensable. New England needs an infusion of youth and talent at wide receiver, yes, but I'm not relying on Gordon to be one of those players. If he winds up being one, that'll be a pleasant surprise. Erik Scalavino

Forgive me if you've answered this before. Is there interest in changing the PI penalty to 15 yards or spot of foul, whichever is less? An alternative would be a straight 15 yards from line of scrimmage. To me, there are just too many potential game-changing PI calls, creating an unfair advantage for the offense. Greg Pickering

I'm not sure if any clubs will suggest this rule change at next month's NFL Annual Meeting, which I'll be attending in Phoenix. However, I'd be intrigued if someone did. I agree with your larger point about the pass interference rule, as currently written, being too lopsided a penalty against the defense. I'd be open to changing it to more of a college-type penalty, with 15 yards being a maximum. Erik Scalavino

Our slot receiver [Julian Edelman] won Super Bowl MVP. Why are the Patriots looking at slot receivers versus a tall, fast outside receiver? Eric Ferren

With Brady coming closer to an inevitable retirement, and a replacement in need of being found early enough to hopefully be mentored… Are the Pats watching the recently started AAF for prospects? Jeremy Stewart

The Patriots' scouting department always does a fantastic and exhausting job of scouting every prospect at every position at the college and pro level. It's called due diligence. They're looking at all types of receivers, quarterbacks, and other players, with a focus right now on the college crop, given the rapidly approaching NFL Draft. Players who are currently in the start-up leagues are already known commodities, for the most part, given their prior histories in the league and college programs. I'm sure New England's scouts will consider their game tape at some point, but at the moment, the priority is the college talent with whom they're less familiar. Erik Scalavino

I wanted your thoughts on a potential way to convince [Rob Gronkowski] to ride with Pats Nation for one more run. Bring Gronk back on a one-year deal at $10 million. He is primarily used in the run game blocking, which minimizes the shots he takes to the knees especially. Send him out on pass routes in big moments and let the big fella do his thing. At playoff time, he is healthy, rested, and ready to be unleashed to solidify his first ballot HOF resume. Franklin Wallace

Well, Franklin, Gronkowski is already under contract and scheduled to earn around $9 million in 2019. So, I don't see much need to redo anything in his contract if he chooses to play out the remainder of his deal. Plus, the scenario you described is effectively what his role was this past season. Nothing's changed. Erik Scalavino

What is the thinking behind the NFL rule that allows a team to only dress 47 players on game day instead of the entire 53 that are on the roster? Robert Borkow

First off, Robert, the game-day active roster is a maximum of 46, not 47, just to be clear. Seven players are declared inactive each week by each team. The rationale, as I understand it, is to help ensure that a relatively healthy team doesn't have too much of an advantage over an opponent that might be dealing with more injuries on its roster. Generally, there are only a handful of players on any given team who are so badly injured that they are able to remain on the roster, but not fit to play that particular week. But some weeks, a team is in good shape physically. If all 53 were allowed to be active, that would mean a team with several seriously injured players would have fewer bodies available on game day than a healthier opponent, who could substitute more freely than the injured team. By forcing teams to deactivate seven players each, this helps ensure that both sides have approximately the same number of healthy players available on game days. Erik Scalavino

When do you see the Patriots playing in the U.K. again? I appreciate they will not give up a home game, so, is there much chance of it happening? Ian Buttriss

Not soon enough! The two London games we experienced at Wembley Stadium with the Patriots in 2009 and '12 were fantastic, and I'd love to see the team play at the eventual new Tottenham Hotspur venue. We can say for sure that New England won't be among the international games in 2019 because the league already announced those participating teams, and the Patriots aren't among them. The earliest we could be back in London is 2020. With the NFL's desire to expand and grow the sport globally, I'd love to see a day when all 32 teams are playing at least one international contest each season, alternating between a road game and a home game from year to year. That would be the fairest solution and the most exciting from a fan's perspective. Erik Scalavino

I have been looking for videos of the Patriots Super Bowl locker room celebration and a Pats-Rams Belichick Breakdown with Scott Zolak. Will the Patriots be releasing any of these online or will they be shown on the 'Road to Super Bowl LIII' or 'Three Games to Glory' productions? Marie Parsons

I believe those segments have been part of previous "Three Games to Glory" DVDs the Patriots have produced. So, I'd expect you'll find it there again on the upcoming disc dedicated to Super Bowl LIII, which is in production at the moment. Erik Scalavino

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