I like the Patriots free agent signings, however, I still think they haven't addressed the deep threat wide receiver or pass rusher(s). I think Darrius Heywood-Bey would address the WR deep threat and Osi Umenyiora or Dwight Freeney would solidify the pass rush. Of course they would have to fit into the financial structure of the Pats. What are your thoughts on remaining needs and best available FA to fit those needs?
I actually agree with your areas of concern. I believe they need more depth at wide receiver and specifically a guy who is capable of playing on the outside and providing a deep threat. Although Heyward-Bey hasn't really done much in his career, I'd definitely be interested in giving him a try. He's got great speed to get deep and plays outside the numbers. Give him Tom Brady to work with and maybe he realizes some of the potential that allowed him to be a top 10 pick in the first place. It also wouldn't cost a ton given his overall lack of production. Could be worth a look. The pass rush also needs to be addressed and it certainly seems as of the team agrees. The Patriots have talked to John Abraham and Dwight Freeney and reports indicate they've expressed interest in Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil is the youngest and therefore would require the most money so he's probably a longshot. I'd take either Abraham or Freeney in a reduced role with Abraham my first choice. Neither player should be to taxing on the cap and I expect at least one to be signed.
Any chance we sign Elvis Dumervil and give the Broncos a little kick in the nuts for signing Wes Welker? I think he would be a great pick up.
I do think there's a chance but I don't think it would have anything to do with the fact that he was on Denver. The Broncos did nothing wrong in signing Welker and in fact did so at a very reasonable rate. It's not like they offered him a boatload of money the Patriots simply couldn't match. And Dumervil is no longer a Bronco due to a silly technicality and now teams are in position to take advantage. If the Patriots sign him it was be because Bill Belichick believes he can help out the pass rush and provide some stability. It won't be to tweak anyone.
If you had a choice of getting Emmanuel Sanders or Elvis Dumervil, which one would you take? Although Sanders isn't a great receiver he can stretch the field and that would help our tight ends and the slot receiver work the middle of the field. Also, we really have no wide receivers. On the other hand, greatly improving our pass rush would be fantastic, especially with the expected improvement of Chandler Jones.
With that choice I'd go with Dumervil simply because he's a much better player. Both would fill a need but Dumervil is more of an impact player than Sanders is at this stage. He's still in his prime and could be expected to record double-digit sacks in the immediate future. Sanders might develop into a more productive receiver with more opportunities but that's a projection at this point. With Dumervil there's less uncertainty – and both would require relatively significant contracts to acquire. I'd go with the pass rusher because to me it's a bigger need – as is the defense in general.
If the Patriots offense is comprised of Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Emmanuel Sanders and Donald Jones, would you be OK with that if it means Aqib Talib, Sebastian Vollmer and John Abraham are on the team?
That's a lot of ifs to discuss with Edelman, Sanders, Vollmer and Abraham all currently unsigned. But to play along, yes, I'd be fine with an offense that has those six receiving options plus running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Of Amendola, Sander and Jones, it's reasonable to expect at least one to develop a rapport with Tom Brady. If another of that trio works out, then the offense should be on par with last season in replacing Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. I also like retaining Talib and if they can add Abraham the defense should improve. But like I said, that's a lot of ifs, and there's no way of knowing if these guys will sign, if they'll all stay healthy and if they develop in the Patriots offense. I would also like to add another defender in the first round and a wide receiver in the second.
I don't know a lot about Donald Jones. Could he be the big, fast outside the numbers guy we have been looking for?
Jones is actually more of a slot guy and has done much of his work inside with the Bills. But he is capable of playing outside and has done that against the Patriots in the past. In speaking with him last week, Jones said he's comfortable playing either spot and felt his versatility was likely one of the things that attracted the Patriots to him in the first place. But he's just 6-0 and hasn't really dominated outside the numbers in his career so expecting the team's search for a big, fast, outside receiver to be over is a stretch.
All this Darrelle Revis trade talk got me thinking. With teams spreading the field so much, would it be better to have an all world corner or all world safety (think Ed Reed in his prime)?
I'll take the corner every time. Having a true shutdown corner like Revis allows a defense to do so many things. You lock up the other team's best receiver and basically can handle the rest anyway you'd like with double teams and matchups all over the field. A great safety can impact a game as well, particularly by taking away the deep ball. But I believe a cover corner can eliminate half the field in a way that safeties cannot and for that reason I'd take Revis over Reed in his prime.
OK, I need some help here to understand the reasoning behind the dumbest move by the front office I have seen so far, and NO, I am not thinking of Danny Amendola over Wes Welker - but resigning Kyle Arrington for $4 MILLION PER YEAR?!?!? I was really hoping some other dumb team would pay him to leave as I actually think of him more as a liability - the guy can't cover anybody! I know last year he was thrust into the starting lineup because of injuries, but how on earth does that justify a four-year, $16 million dollar deal? There was a reason he was behind the injured players on the depth chart!
I'm going to start by saying up front that I, too, was a bit surprised to see how much money Arrington received. Several reports indicate he will get roughly half of that deal guaranteed, and I'm more than a little surprised to him get so much. That said, Arrington wasn't a fill-in starter because guys got hurt. He's been a starting cornerback for two years and after Aqib Talib came last year he moved from the outside to the slot. Now, I'm not saying I believe Arrington is great in the slot because I don't believe that to be the case. But to refer to him as starter only because of injuries is wrong – and that's even if you consider Ras-I Dowling the starter despite the fact that he's never healthy. Arrington has played a lot of football for the Patriots the last two seasons and even though he wasn't exactly a ballhawk he did tie for the team lead with seven picks in 2011. Still, I can understand your amazement with his contract because I have to admit I feel the same way. I feel Arrington is a suitable slot corner, although not as great as some others have suggested, and that's a starting position in today's NFL. The money is a bit curious, though.
I have been listening in on the PFW podcasts and I am getting the general consensus from all you guys that durability from Danny Amendola is a huge concern. We all do know that he is injury prone, even the Patriots organization knows that. I feel that they see something in that move that many others out there do not see. This is my opinion, I feel that they see that Welker is getting old and he is not the same as he once was. You can rely on him to make the catches and move the ball down the field. But he has also made key drops as well. I noticed he did make significant third down drops last year. I don't see the loss of Welker as big of a concern as many others out there are making it out to be. I feel that bringing in Amendola allows the Patriots to use him in many ways, not just a "slot" guy. They can use him as a guy on the outside if they so choose. I do hope that he doesn't get hurt and I don't think he will as long as they don't ask him to do too much. From listening to the podcasts, I hear you guys emphasize how you would rather have a receiver on your team who catches 40-50 passes a season where those catches go for high yards per catch and high yards after the catch. And would not rather have a guy like Brandon Lloyd who catches 70-80 passes and none of those catches go for a lot of yards after the catch or those catches don't go for a lot of yards. I feel that Amendola can be productive and do something with the catches he gets. I know the 8.8 yards per catch he had last season is low but he was not in a high octane passing offense like the Patriots have. Amendola has a better QB now to throw him the ball and I feel he can do things after the catch in the Patriots offense. If we can get Amendola to have those 40-50 catches and each one of those catches be significant ones, he won't be too heavily relied upon like how Welker is and therefore he won't be prone to getting hurt. If you expect Amendola to have 110 catches, then yes you increase his chances of getting hurt. The offense needs to be focused on the thw tight ends. The receivers should compliment what the TEs do on offense whenever they are used as receivers on plays. What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you agree or disagree?
Wow, I feel like I just finished reading "War and Peace." First, I don't really care about yards after the catch as long as the ball is getting thrown down the field. For players like Welker and Amendola, YAC is very important because most of their catches come within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. If they're not picking up additional yardage they're not all that useful. The fact that Amendola averages less than 9 yards per catch for his career is disturbing to me. This wasn't Welker's strong suit either but at least he averaged better than 11 yards for his career. When we talk about 40-50 catches being better than Lloyd's 70, they would have to come on ball down the field – go routes, deep out, deep in-cuts and crossing routes. I don't want 40 or 50 catches at or around the line of scrimmage and then hope for broken tackles and YAC to make them productive. Amendola should be able to replace Welker's underneath role but I'm not sure he's as capable of providing an outside presence as you are. He looks to be faster than Welker but not as quick and certainly not as fast as most outside deep threats. He'll line up outside the numbers on occasion but that's not how he's going to earn his money. I agree with you that Gronkowski and Hernandez are the keys to the offense. If they stay healthy then everything should be fine. They're matchup problems for just about everybody and the Patriots will take advantage of that. Of course, health will be a key factor for every team.
Letting Wes Welker go was the dumbest thing they've ever done. And to Denver of all places. And Danny Woodhead also. Having said that, I'd like to know how Tom Brady feels about this. He gave up some money to get some players and/or keep some? And they didn't. Sounds like they botched the negotiations.
I know the loss of Welker hit all of Patriots Nation quite hard. He's exactly the kind of player everyone in New England loves to root for – dependable, tough, productive, hard-working, overachiever. Unfortunately it didn't work out. The Patriots believe Welker's camp overestimated what he was worth. Welker's camp believes the Patriots never offered a contract. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle but at this point it doesn't really matter. He's gone now and the Patriots had no say about where he was going. He signed with Denver and the Patriots will have to deal with that. As for Brady, he did not give up any money; he simply restructured his deal and receiver a big chuck of his salary up front so the team could receive additional cap space. So far the Patriots have used much of that by signing Amendola, Aqib Talib, Adrian Wilson and others – and they're surely not done acquiring players. Brady will be just fine.
What is the status on Julian Edelman? Do you believe the patriots will re-sign him, because I believe he has a similar stature to Wes Welker. And do you think Ed Reed will become a Pat?
Edelman is still a free agent but I do believe he will be back. He's not yet shown the consistency needed to be a productive player over the course of a full season so I don't think another team would be willing to fork over any significant cash for him, therefore I believe he'll be back. Obviously there are no sure things but I think after the league meetings we'll see him re-sign with the Patriots. As for Reed, it looks like he's being offered somewhere around $6 million per season in Houston and could get even more. If that's the case, it will be between the Texans and Ravens. I don't see the Patriots getting involved at such a steep price – and I agree with the Patriots there. Reed is not worth that type of money at this stage of his career.
Hey guys love your work and reading your column every week. Just wanted to get your take on a few things, this offseason has me slightly concerned. Tom Brady restructured in order to free up cap space in what was reported wildly as a win-now approach, re-sign our key free agents and bring in new players to contribute. The moves made so far seem to be a complete rebuilding scheme at wide receiver. So many players at this position have struggled with our system and to get on the same page as Brady, what makes, Jones, Amendola and Sanders (if we sign him) any different? Also these are players (1st two mentioned) that have huge injury risks, what if they can't stay on the field? I think given the circumstances re-signing Edelman is even more important!! Just a thought, but what about bringing in Darrius Heyward-Bey? I haven't seen much of him play the last few years but coming out of college he was a real flyer & let's face it we need some bodies at the receiver position!! Thoughts?
Well, I agree with the points you make other than the one about rebuilding. The Patriots offense is not rebuilding, not with most of the key elements back in place. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and most of the offensive line (Vollmer is still unsigned) return. They also have more depth at tight end with Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and Jake Ballard, plus the newcomers. Amendola is a proven slot receiver who should be able to at least be a reasonable facsimile to Welker, and I agree that Edelman will be back as insurance. That leaves some work to be done on the outside to replace Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch. I believe one replacement will come early in the draft (second round). So in my view the question marks start with health – but that's the case with every team – and then with a Lloyd replacement. I'd take a crack at Hayward-Bey, as I mentioned earlier, and between him (or another free agent), Jones and a rookie, I believe the offense will be just fine.
A lot of the talk about the Pats offense is that they are going to a 1.5 TE set (Hernandez as the .5). Given that, and their recent signings and releases, who is going to be "the depth threat" on the outside? Demps has the speed. He has world class speed. I am not overly fond of any available free agents (including Lloyd). Is there someone who has the speed to play outside or is this "a position of need" for the draft?
Put me in the both category. It's a position of need via free agency (I've stated a guy like Darrius Hayward-Bey would make sense) and through the draft. I like Baylor's Terrence Williams the most but there are others who will be available in the second round. We've been through this earlier so I won't rehash too much, but yes there's a need for an outside threat and I believe the Patriots will fill it with someone who is not yet on the roster.
Just saw Paul P on "Patriots All Access" and he pointed out that Amendola had a history of missing games and Welker missed very few, and that Welker was very durable. I don't dispute the games missed, but I question the conclusion. Both Welker and Amendola had one season ending injury. If Welker tore his ACL on Week 1, he would have missed a whole season. If Amendola had broken his collarbone on Week 17, he would have missed no games. I don't see that one is more durable than the other. Sometimes you have to look past the stats for the meaning behind them, like teams that run the ball for more than 100 yards tend to win games. No, teams that are winning games run the ball a lot in the fourth quarter to knock down the clock and teams that are losing pass a lot because they need to catch up. Same stats, but a careful analysis yields a better conclusion. Just like the timing of an injury, or the number of season ending injuries, that than a quick and dirty how-many-games-did-he-miss?
My high school baseball coach used to have a saying anytime we'd explain how much better our batting averages would be "if" all of our hard hit balls didn't get caught. It went like this – "If my aunt had [blank] she'd be my uncle." Unfortunately you fell victim to the very lack of analysis you complain about. Amendola has missed big chunks of two seasons with serious injuries – an elbow injury cost him almost all of 2011 and the clavicle injury he suffered last season. Plus he also missed time last year with a heel injury late in the season. These are facts and they really aren't open to analysis. Players get hurt and sometimes the only difference between a player missing time to injuries or not is simply luck. Welker has certainly taken many big hits over the years and just as easily could have been sidelined because of them – but mostly he did not. Unfortunately, Amendola has – and not just because of the clavicle injury he suffered last year. And as flawed as your timing theory is, I'll play along. Let's say Welker tore his ACL in Week 1 and missed the entire 2009 season (that's the year he tore the ACL). OK, then he missed 18 games in his 10-year career due to injuries (15 for that mythical 2009 injury plus the three he has missed). If Amendola suffered his broken clavicle in Week 17, then he would have missed four fewer games. The clavicle cost him four weeks (Weeks 6-9). So, that would mean Amendola would have missed 16 games in four seasons due to injury. The bottom line here to me is this – I hate injuries. I wish every team was able to operate at 100 percent health every season and injuries did not impact the games at all. I hope Amendola stays healthy all year and misses no time with the Patriots. But to suggest I somehow mischaracterized his injury history is absurd. He played in only 12 games the last two seasons and he was forced to leave four of those early. He's suffered some serious injuries and hopefully those are a thing of the past.