Official website of the New England Patriots

Ask PFW: From Malcolm Butler to ... Darrelle Revis?

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First of all, we don't really know exactly what Belichick is or would be willing to pay Butler. Certainly it seems, though, that it's far less than what he went out and invested in the surprise free agent signing Gilmore. The biggest issue, one that's been a hurdle in the past in New England contract negotiations, is Butler's restricted free agent status. He is essentially under contract for one more year and historically the Patriots have asked players to play out their rookie/existing contracts. Logan Mankins' situation was one major example of this. New England doesn't have to treat Butler like a true free agent because he's not yet a true free agent. That's both reality and leverage for the team. My guess is that Belichick also sees Gilmore's size and speed advantages over Butler as being more valuable for a true NFL No. 1 cornerback. Theoretically, the unknown of Gilmore's fit in the New England system and Butler's proven history in a Patriots scheme should favor the incumbent corner, but it has not seemingly played out that way this spring.

Andy Hart

I know Andy is doing the Ask PFW segment this week and he likes to answer a wide variety of topics, so now's my only chance to ask this. I have a proposed idea for kickoffs. Before you or many others complain to stop changing the game, this is actually beneficial to all parties involved. I would like to see the option of kickers having the chance to earn points on kickoffs. I think it should be worth 1 point & you have to kick off from the 25-yard line and get it between the uprights downfield. If you make it, you get a point & teams start at the 25. If you miss (i.e the ball goes out or the team elects to take a touchback & not run it out) teams start at the 30. That makes this a risk/reward sort of thing. It helps the kickers out since they could possibly redeem themselves for a missed extra point after the TD. Helps the NFL because most teams' attempts will miss and probably fly out of the end zone so there's no return thus less risk of injury/concussion. And helps the opposing team because if the other team misses, they start 5 yards closer from 25 to 30. Of course you could elect not to kick off for the points and if you do that, then the kickoffs remain the same at the 35. Thanks!

Kraemer Soto

While you accurately assessed the fact that I'm the only PFW staffer who takes all questions on equal footing and loves crazy ideas….you underestimated by old-school philosophies in regards to changes to the game. I flat out don't like change in football or really in life in general. I'm a creature of habit and history. I didn't like the recent changes to the kickoff rules or touchbacks. I certainly don't like your plan to add even more new-age, MTV Rock 'n' Jock, Arena League vibe to the kicking game. No offense. It's just too much. I like history, consistency and old school kickoffs. But thanks for asking and keep the unique ideas coming my way every third week here at Ask PFW!

Andy Hart

Patriots should trade Jimmy G for Browns 12th pick and early 2nd and try to get a 4th too, then draft best available player at 12 and come back with Browns early 2nd and draft Cal QB Davis Webb!

Marco Silveira

I am all for trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns for a package that includes the 12th overall pick. I think it would maximize an asset and increase New England's chances of winning another Super Bowl or two in the near future. I don't, however, like your idea to draft Webb that early. I think he's more of a developmental prospect coming out of the Cal system than second-round value and may not even really have a strong NFL future. I also would wonder what's wrong with developing Jacoby Brissett, who was the rookie favorite flavor of the month at one point? I'd rather used the No. 12 pick on an elite front seven prospect (Zach Cunningham, Derek Barnett?) on defense and then come back around with the best player available in the second round of your scenario for maybe a cornerback, running back or even a tight end.

Andy Hart

Butler for the Saints #11 1st round pick-Hell Yes! Is he worth a 1strounder-Hmmm,maybe to them he is? Upside of this whole scenario-Patriots come out better either way. By keeping him they have 2 top-notch DBs possibly for the long term if they can sign him to a contract. I say if the Saints don't bite, then pay Butler and "Let's Go!" What's the PFW take on this?

Gary Abrams

I would love to see the Patriots find a way to keep Butler and pair him with the newly-rich Stephon Gilmore to form one of the top handful of cornerback combos in the NFL today. Sure there may be questions about Butler's desire to play on the RFA tender, but I can't see him doing anything other than putting forth a good year to get to free agency in spring 2018 with as impressive a resume as possible. I simply don't see the need to trade Butler. Keep him and figure out a way to get him to play at a high level this season, as he really has no other choice or any real leverage. And having watched him for three years, I just don't see him letting his contract frustration ruin play or work. He's too much of a scrappy competitor for that. I also don't envision the Saints giving up the No. 11 pick and then a huge contract to acquire Butler. But, I've been wrong many times before. It would be a real coup for the Patriots. Imagine if they had the No. 11 pick for Butler and the No. 12 pick for Garoppolo! That would be fun. Hey, let a draft analyst dream.

Andy Hart

Would you say that BB might have given a slimmed down Revis a short-term low-risk contract if that money did not help the Jets and Revis did not trash Patriots in the media and Revis could play in the slot for the lack of outside speed? Are these three strikes against bringing Revis in?

Jess K.

I think the only things that Belichick would care about are whether Revis still has the skill to play and whether the future Hall of Famer still has the motivation to play. It's all about business and value. And there is no team Belichick would rather make look bad than the Jets. Does Revis still have the drive and pride to get in shape and prove his embarrassing 2016 was not the end? If so, I think Belichick would listen to a potential cost-effective reunion with the game's ultimate career mercenary.

Andy Hart

It may be a bit premature for draft talk in March, but it's the next big step in the offseason now that the free agency fervor has died down. I'm curious as to how we should view the organization's, or more specifically Belichick's, attention to specific prospects. For example, I've seen some articles or tweets lately concerning Belichick paying particular attention to Zach Cunningham (LB-Vanderbilt) and a bit of interest in Raekwon McMillan (LB-OSU). Judging by draft history, how much stock should we place into prospects that have more public interaction with the organization? Could making their interest known actually be a front to throw off other teams? As is custom, I expect to be scratching my head throughout the draft in regards to our picks however I enjoy the attempt at deciphering the Patriot draft enigma. Thank you PFW crew.

Connor Haley

I wouldn't read too much into the Patriots or Belichick showing interest in a prospect. New England and its coach do their homework on virtually every guy available. History has shown that interest could mean something. Or it may not. There are plenty of examples of both. I also think some of this is due to modern media. Belichick has been to plenty of pro days over the years. But more media with easier access to photos and videos via smartphones puts more of the scouting trail front and center on the internet in the 24/7 world of NFL coverage.

Andy Hart

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It is my understanding that if the Saints offer Malcolm Butler an offer sheet, the Patriots can either match the offer or accept the 11th pick as compensation. I also read that the Saints may not want to give up that pick and offer some alternative compensation? This confuses me, I thought the Saints have to give up that pick. Can you please clarify this?

Joe Taylor

Indeed, if the Saints sign Malcolm Butler to a restricted free agent offer sheet that would require New Orleans own first-round pick in this year's draft – No. 11 overall – go to New England if the Patriots chose not to match the deal. But, that's only if the Saints actually sign Butler to an offer sheet. They are unlikely to do that because they are unlikely to see the Pro Bowl cornerback as worth giving up such a high pick and then a huge contract extension. More likely is that they agree to contract extension terms with Butler and then try to sign acquire him via trade of alternate compensation from the Patriots, many assuming that such a deal might involve New England's former first-round pick – No. 32 overall sent to the Saints in the trade for receiver Brandin Cooks – returning to the team.

Andy Hart

I have a theory on the Malcolm Butler contract situation. I think Bill Belichick is unwilling to pay Butler top 5-10 CB money, because he (BB) feels Butler benefited from developing in the Patriots system and wants him to take a team-friendly contract. Belichick is willing to pay a guy like Stephon Gilmore top-tier money because he has produced at a high level outside of the Patriots system and Belichick thinks he will be elite in the Patriots system for several years. What are your thoughts on my theory? Let's go get ring #6! Go Pats!!

Mel

Sac Town

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First of all, we don't really know exactly what Belichick is or would be willing to pay Butler. Certainly it seems, though, that it's far less than what he went out and invested in the surprise free agent signing Gilmore. The biggest issue, one that's been a hurdle in the past in New England contract negotiations, is Butler's restricted free agent status. He is essentially under contract for one more year and historically the Patriots have asked players to play out their rookie/existing contracts. Logan Mankins' situation was one major example of this. New England doesn't have to treat Butler like a true free agent because he's not yet a true free agent. That's both reality and leverage for the team. My guess is that Belichick also sees Gilmore's size and speed advantages over Butler as being more valuable for a true NFL No. 1 cornerback. Theoretically, the unknown of Gilmore's fit in the New England system and Butler's proven history in a Patriots scheme should favor the incumbent corner, but it has not seemingly played out that way this spring.

Andy Hart

I know Andy is doing the Ask PFW segment this week and he likes to answer a wide variety of topics, so now's my only chance to ask this. I have a proposed idea for kickoffs. Before you or many others complain to stop changing the game, this is actually beneficial to all parties involved. I would like to see the option of kickers having the chance to earn points on kickoffs. I think it should be worth 1 point & you have to kick off from the 25-yard line and get it between the uprights downfield. If you make it, you get a point & teams start at the 25. If you miss (i.e the ball goes out or the team elects to take a touchback & not run it out) teams start at the 30. That makes this a risk/reward sort of thing. It helps the kickers out since they could possibly redeem themselves for a missed extra point after the TD. Helps the NFL because most teams' attempts will miss and probably fly out of the end zone so there's no return thus less risk of injury/concussion. And helps the opposing team because if the other team misses, they start 5 yards closer from 25 to 30. Of course you could elect not to kick off for the points and if you do that, then the kickoffs remain the same at the 35. Thanks!

Kraemer Soto

While you accurately assessed the fact that I'm the only PFW staffer who takes all questions on equal footing and loves crazy ideas….you underestimated by old-school philosophies in regards to changes to the game. I flat out don't like change in football or really in life in general. I'm a creature of habit and history. I didn't like the recent changes to the kickoff rules or touchbacks. I certainly don't like your plan to add even more new-age, MTV Rock 'n' Jock, Arena League vibe to the kicking game. No offense. It's just too much. I like history, consistency and old school kickoffs. But thanks for asking and keep the unique ideas coming my way every third week here at Ask PFW!

Andy Hart

Patriots should trade Jimmy G for Browns 12th pick and early 2nd and try to get a 4th too, then draft best available player at 12 and come back with Browns early 2nd and draft Cal QB Davis Webb!

Marco Silveira

I am all for trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns for a package that includes the 12th overall pick. I think it would maximize an asset and increase New England's chances of winning another Super Bowl or two in the near future. I don't, however, like your idea to draft Webb that early. I think he's more of a developmental prospect coming out of the Cal system than second-round value and may not even really have a strong NFL future. I also would wonder what's wrong with developing Jacoby Brissett, who was the rookie favorite flavor of the month at one point? I'd rather used the No. 12 pick on an elite front seven prospect (Zach Cunningham, Derek Barnett?) on defense and then come back around with the best player available in the second round of your scenario for maybe a cornerback, running back or even a tight end.

Andy Hart

Butler for the Saints #11 1st round pick-Hell Yes! Is he worth a 1strounder-Hmmm,maybe to them he is? Upside of this whole scenario-Patriots come out better either way. By keeping him they have 2 top-notch DBs possibly for the long term if they can sign him to a contract. I say if the Saints don't bite, then pay Butler and "Let's Go!" What's the PFW take on this?

Gary Abrams

I would love to see the Patriots find a way to keep Butler and pair him with the newly-rich Stephon Gilmore to form one of the top handful of cornerback combos in the NFL today. Sure there may be questions about Butler's desire to play on the RFA tender, but I can't see him doing anything other than putting forth a good year to get to free agency in spring 2018 with as impressive a resume as possible. I simply don't see the need to trade Butler. Keep him and figure out a way to get him to play at a high level this season, as he really has no other choice or any real leverage. And having watched him for three years, I just don't see him letting his contract frustration ruin play or work. He's too much of a scrappy competitor for that. I also don't envision the Saints giving up the No. 11 pick and then a huge contract to acquire Butler. But, I've been wrong many times before. It would be a real coup for the Patriots. Imagine if they had the No. 11 pick for Butler and the No. 12 pick for Garoppolo! That would be fun. Hey, let a draft analyst dream.

Andy Hart

Would you say that BB might have given a slimmed down Revis a short-term low-risk contract if that money did not help the Jets and Revis did not trash Patriots in the media and Revis could play in the slot for the lack of outside speed? Are these three strikes against bringing Revis in?

Jess K.

I think the only things that Belichick would care about are whether Revis still has the skill to play and whether the future Hall of Famer still has the motivation to play. It's all about business and value. And there is no team Belichick would rather make look bad than the Jets. Does Revis still have the drive and pride to get in shape and prove his embarrassing 2016 was not the end? If so, I think Belichick would listen to a potential cost-effective reunion with the game's ultimate career mercenary.

Andy Hart

It may be a bit premature for draft talk in March, but it's the next big step in the offseason now that the free agency fervor has died down. I'm curious as to how we should view the organization's, or more specifically Belichick's, attention to specific prospects. For example, I've seen some articles or tweets lately concerning Belichick paying particular attention to Zach Cunningham (LB-Vanderbilt) and a bit of interest in Raekwon McMillan (LB-OSU). Judging by draft history, how much stock should we place into prospects that have more public interaction with the organization? Could making their interest known actually be a front to throw off other teams? As is custom, I expect to be scratching my head throughout the draft in regards to our picks however I enjoy the attempt at deciphering the Patriot draft enigma. Thank you PFW crew.

Connor Haley

I wouldn't read too much into the Patriots or Belichick showing interest in a prospect. New England and its coach do their homework on virtually every guy available. History has shown that interest could mean something. Or it may not. There are plenty of examples of both. I also think some of this is due to modern media. Belichick has been to plenty of pro days over the years. But more media with easier access to photos and videos via smartphones puts more of the scouting trail front and center on the internet in the 24/7 world of NFL coverage.

Andy Hart

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So just hear me out, huge Brady fan obviously but given the Patriots history of moving a player before his aging decline, do you think it would be smart to trade Brady at the end of the season and extend Jimmy G. This is assuming that BB thinks he is the QB of the future. Imagine how many draft picks we could get for Tom Brady!

Matt McLendon

Love emails and talk radio calls that open with, "Hear me out." I read it completely and, probably to your surprise, I agree. Trading Brady after this season probably would be the smart move. He's likely to begin to slow down and show his age soon. He could probably land a pretty good haul from a desperate team, although the older he gets I wonder just how much teams would sell out for him. Smart, though, doesn't mean it's the right move. Trading Brady would be the ultimate Belichickian move. It would rock the sports world and Patriot Nation. And it would put even more pressure on Garoppolo as the heir to the GOAT. I also wonder how the Kraft family would feel about such a potential deal that would shake the fan base in a way we've never seen before or even imagined. It's not a dumb move. It's just one that would seem almost impossible to make.

Andy Hart

I remember when in a snowy Denver when the Broncos came back to beat the Patriots, and their RB Anderson, not an elite speedster outran our entire front-7 on a game sealing play. Is Duron Harmon chartered to defend fast and pass-catching RBs? I don't see anyone besides him and Chung who has the speed for the job?

Luke Perry

Paul is going to be so jealous I answered an email from a 90210 star! Certainly the lack of speed on defense was on display at times in the Super Bowl. But dealing with speedy running backs is often an issue for team defense. On the ground, it's about setting the edge and not letting them get to the outside. Then it's about defenders flowing to the ball with safeties and linebackers making tackles. In the passing game it is also a group effort and often about guys flying to the ball to tackle and minimize run-after-catch. Certainly Harmon's new contract means he and Devin McCourty are a part of that plan moving forward. Chung is getting older and I don't see speed as a strength of his game at this point. He's still a key force in the box. I also think there will be an effort to add some athleticism, youth and speed on the edge and at linebacker through the draft in the next year or so.

Andy Hart

I am perplexed by the Butler camp. If Malcolm signs his $3.91 tender, he most likely would earn a 5-year, $75 mil contract next year which would make this a 6-year, $79 mil deal. How can he expect to make Stephon Gilmore money (5y/65m) when the Browns received a 2nd rd pick to eat up 16 mil in cap space? The first-round compensation pick as a RFA would be worth at least 20 mil and reduce his value by that much, agree? Secondly, do you think Bill Belichick has any incentive based clauses in his contract that affects how he handles these negotiations?

Joe Gora

I think players generally try to get as much money as they can as early as they can when they are healthy and playing at a high level. That's what Butler is likely trying to do. I think he should. The problem he would probably have with your scenario is "he most likely would earn." Players look for security, not "most likely would earn." That doesn't mean he should or will get what he's looking for. Hell, we don't even know for sure what Butler is looking for. The market decides that. For example, back in 2006 Deion Branch went down a similar road and ended up getting his payday after a trade to the Seahawks. Other guys play out deals and end up getting less than they hoped/expected on the open market, with Dont'a Hightower probably the latest example of this. I'm more perplexed with why the Patriots wouldn't try to get Butler around for at least one more year, if the reports of trade talks with the Saints were actually true. But I'm most intrigued with your final question. As far as I am aware the only people that really know anything about Belichick's contract are the coach and the Kraft family. I doubt he has specific clauses in it regarding budgets and player negotiations. I would find that hard to believe. I would guess he's paid a huge sum of money to do what's in the best interests of the Patriots and to win. And he does that better than any pretty much any coach ever has.

Andy Hart

Hello from PA, as always thank you very much for keeping Patriot fans well informed throughout the year. I have two questions; Do you think that it is likely Brandin Cooks gets an extension from the Pats at some point? I know they can pick up his fifth year option after this year, so at the moment they have him under contract for 2 years. To me they gave up a lot of draft capital if they only plan on him playing here for 2 years. Do you think the Pats could be allowing the Saints to set the market for Malcolm Butler so that they may offer him a contract of their own? It would be somewhat similar to the Hightower/McCourty situation except Malcolm isn't an unrestricted free agent. If the Pats let the Saints think Malcolm is available for trade it would be a good way to find out what kind of contract another team would offer him so that they may counter.

Michael Pizzoli

Cooks will get a nice raise for his fifth-year option. But you are right that trading a first-round pick for a receiver for just two seasons would be a lot. The flipside of that is signing him to a big-money extension before Cooks plays a single down in the system with Tom Brady probably would be a potentially costly leap of faith. Ideally Cooks plays next year, has huge numbers and fits in well with his new scheme and quarterback. Then he signs an extension that would keep him in New England for an extended period and might even lower his 2018 cap number from the fifth-year extension slot. But we've seen plenty of times in recent years that these contract negotiations rarely play out in an ideal fashion. First and foremost is getting Cooks to work making plays for Brady. As for your Butler point, as a restricted free agent he was able to negotiate with any team he wants and sign any offer sheet he wants. That would essentially set the market, too. Whether it's via RFA or trade, Butler's contract value won't be as high as it would be if he were a true free agent. That's just the reality of his lot in life right now. The Patriots swift, aggressive and big-money approach to adding Gilmore certainly spoke volumes for all involved. Butler may want some team to treat him that way, but he's not a free agent and it's not going to happen.

Andy Hart

You say that Patriots paid Gilmore what the "market would bare" but who else was offering $40M guaranteed money to this less than durable and not always elite CB that Patriots had to compete with?

Stan C.

The Patriots acted quickly to sign Gilmore. So, you are right that there aren't a lot of other reported offers for comparison or to set the market. But it certainly looks like the Patriots paid market value for a Pro Bowl cornerback free agent when you look at what A.J. Bouye got and compare it to other high-end free agent cornerback contracts. Cornerback is annually one of the big-money positions in free agency. The Patriots know that and acted accordingly for a guy they clearly very much wanted to sign with the biggest free agent deal in team history, by a lot. They also seem to have a good feel for the market based on the Hightower situation and getting him back at a very team-friendly contract after he tested the open market. You can question whether Gilmore is really a top cornerback or worth the money, but it's hard to argue that he got a deal out of line with the market value with a guy on the open market with his resume.

Andy Hart

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This is more of a media question than football. I am amused by the mass media analysts regarding Garoppolo trade: some are genuinely wondering if he is to be traded, others are speculating, some going as far saying what Patriots should or shouldn't do, and the most amazing ones are those who are shilling for Patriots and those who are trying perhaps to drive the trade price down. I am convinced that BB does not give a hoodie of what anyone thinks, but I wonder if fans say in Cleveland could be influenced by media and that puts some subtle pressure on a more vulnerable to their public views Browns organization? Your media expert opinion on this?

Jacob Solomin

You are right that Belichick is essentially immune to media pressure or even fan pressure. That's not true of almost any other team, coach or GM. Part of it is his personality, but most of it has to do with the five Super Bowl trophies he's brought to New England. That buys you a lot of rope and good will. In Bill We Trust became a phrase more than a decade ago, but its true strength has grown in recent years to where Belichick is about as untouchable as any person in any job. Cleveland on the other hand is in the midst of a horrific stretch of failure and the team is now being run by a lot of smart people with almost no football background, guys with resumes built on analytics, in law and even in other sports. They can't afford to screw things up and know it. They are just about past their honeymoon period with the Browns and certainly are aware of outside influences and pressures. It's the reality of their lot in life.

Andy Hart

I know this is short-term thinking and I know that the Patriots will be the Patriots long after BB and Brady leave but why aren't we doing more to become arguably the greatest dynasty ever? We need one more Super Bowl to tie the Steelers right? We need to make some crazy moves like cutting guys that may not start this year and signing those who will make a difference. I know we got Cooks and Gilmore and Kony plus we re-signed Hightower but we are 1 player away (insert Malcolm Butler) from being the scariest team in the NFL by far. Why don't we cut Gostkowski and go get a cheaper but slightly less reliable kicker and then put that money towards Butler? Butler is our best DB and we need him for guys like Antonio Brown, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, etc. Especially when teams have more than 1 stud receiver like the Broncos, Raiders and Steelers. If we have Butler, then we have arguably the best secondary in the league. Without him, we don't. Plain and simple.

Robert Miles

I have two problems with this. First, the Patriots have been aggressive and active this offseason, causing many to say they are indeed "loading up" for another Super Bowl run. Second, New England has plenty of cap space right now to give Butler basically anything he wants without making any other cap-cutting moves. In many ways the team has more money than it could spend right now, with the big-money early days of free agency already long passed. Finally, Gostkowski has a cap hit of around $4.5 million this year and would carry a cap hit of $3 million if cut. Once you replace him, that's well less than $1.5 million in savings, which amounts to nothing. All that said, I agree with your larger point that the Patriots would be better with Butler in 2017 than without him. As I said earlier, I'd keep him around. But you and I don't make the decisions. And the guy who does has a pretty good track record. It's why he's trying once again to defend a Super Bowl title. Why he's once again trying to win three Super Bowls in four years. Why he's been to six straight AFC title games. As his former boss would say, he's pretty good, now.

Andy Hart

Should Patriots fans be worried about the rapidly declining QB Julian Edelman? Just two years ago he had a perfect QB rating in the playoffs, averaging a record 1 TD per pass attempt. With his recent performance in Super Bowl LI (0% completion percentage) do you believe Bill might have another player in mind to draft that can take that work load off of Jules?

Mike Davis

Edelman's throw in the Super Bowl against Atlanta was indeed a dangerous one. He's lucky he got away with it. Of course while this is a joke that actually made me chuckle, there is also some potential reality to the idea. Edelman is in the final year of his current contract. He's going to turn 31 this offseason and we all know he takes a huge beating in his key role in the Patriots passing game. Those guys don't last and sometimes the end comes quickly. Finding a guy to develop as the next in line at the slot receiver position – an impressive list that includes Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Edelman – wouldn't be a bad idea. There is currently no one on the roster with the skills to fill the void moving forward at whatever point Edelman is no longer the go-to guy.

Andy Hart

If Revis doesn't get picked up anywhere and Belichick offers him a one-year deal for $8mm, given the fact that the Jets still owe Revis $6mm, would New England's cap hit be $2mm?

Ralph Colucci

No. Whatever the Patriots pay Revis would be his cap number under traditional accounting procedures. And believe me, any reunion between the Patriots and the much-maligned cornerback won't happen at anywhere near $8 million. It's likely to be closer to the veteran minimum. The cap ramifications are for the Jets. They can lessen their cap commitments to the fading cover man due to contract offset language, but the team that signs him doesn't get a benefit.

Andy Hart

Hello, Guys! First of all thank you all for the excellent coverage in the free agency frenzy, It's well appreciated! I would like to get a little bit ahead of things and would like to hear your opinion of North Carolina slot receiver Ryan Switzer. Guy reminds me eerily of Wes Welker and Julian Edelman... Thank you in advance and keep up the excellent work!

Richard Farkas

Speaking of potential Edelman replacements…Switzer jumped off the screen when I was watching footage of North Carolina QB prospect Mitch Trubisky. He looks like a Patriots slot receiver with his quickness, hands and run-after-catch. According to our friends over at NFLDraftScout.com Switzer is a late-round draft prospect. So there is no reason he couldn't land in a developmental role in New England. It's still a longshot for the 5-8 playmaker who caught 96 balls last fall to end up a Patriot, but he looks the part.

Andy Hart

So with Dallas just losing half its secondary, a bidding war between NO and DAL? Even a novice agent like Simpson should be able to exploit THAT situation, No?

Pete Clark

I don't understand the shots at Butler's agent by so many fans and media, but I'll leave that alone. Certainly the Cowboys are in need of help at cornerback after losing veterans Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. But, do they like Butler? Would they be willing to give up draft pick compensation and a ton of money to get him? These are questions I don't have the answers to. But I'm probably just a novice Patriots analyst, so what do I know?

Andy Hart

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I see several areas of improvement on this team before it being proclaimed "overwhelming favorites" to win the next SB including: speed at ILB and OLB/DE, stronger G, and retaining Butler, or perhaps taking a chance on Revis on a low-risk deal. Which areas would you like to see improve most?

Lorane Klein

Keeping Butler would be atop my list, but that's going to play itself out in the coming weeks. After that I think you were dead on pointing to the edge of the front seven on defense and overall speed and athleticism at linebacker. I would be concerned with the pass rush and speed up front heading into next season. I think there is going to be a lot of pressure on Trey Flowers to put together a full season and become a 10-sack type pass rusher. Rob Ninkovich isn't getting any younger or more productive. Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard are gone. There are a lot of questions on the edge of the front, even with the Kony Ealy addition. I'd also wonder about the depth at the running back spot if LeGarrette Blount isn't brought back. As for guard, I the the team really likes the young core of players at the position and has expectations that both Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are entrenched starters who'll be that much better in 2017. It's all about the edge players and linebacker depth on defense for me.

Andy Hart

This is going to sound crazy but hear me out. The Patriots should trade for Tony Romo. Who are the Patriots main threats in the AFC.... Oakland, Pittsburgh, KC. What about Denver or Houston? Both have great defenses and really good receivers. Both are missing quarterbacks. Tony Romo will probably join one of those teams unless the Patriots intervene. If either one gets Romo they are the greatest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. So why should the Patriots trade for Tony Romo. First they need to trade Garoppolo to Cleveland (12th pick this year and one or two 2nd rounders next year). Now they need a backup quarterback and should trade a 5th round pick for Romo. Romo will probably not be happy but tough. This allows the Patriots to trade Garoppolo and still have a good option in case Brady goes down, and this keeps him from the Texans or Denver. If another team in the NFC loses their quarterback and gets desperate (Minnesota last year) you can flip Romo for a 1st or at worst a 2nd. The Patriots control where Romo goes at this point.

Ed

Framingham

I heard you out. Read the whole thing. And it still sounds crazy. Because it is crazy. The Patriots have enough to worry about with their own backup QB/trade commodity without trying to manipulate the entire quarterback trade market! But I appreciate the effort.

Andy Hart

Glad with the off season moves thus far, as well as PFW's coverage. But, I would not be a "true" Patriots fan if I did not nitpick the Hightower contract. To be clear: if you asked me a year ago who should the Pats try to keep if they could only pick one; Hightower, Collins or Butler, I would pick Hightower. I would even go so far as to say Hightower is just as important, if not more talented and important to the defense as McCourty. Still, part of me if unsure about the 4-year contract and price point. Again, he is every bit the playmaker and leader that he should be, I just have some serious questions about his durability. As Paul outlined, he only had one season in which he played 16 games, and I don't think the new contract is suddenly going to be improve his availability. I just don't see it. So, for arguments sake - worst case scenario and Hightower starts to regress or is constantly injured, do the

Patriots have an "out" in the contract?

Nick Depasqualle

I think the Hightower contract was extremely team-friendly. Clearly he was not an overly hot commodity on the open market. He got what I would say is below market pay for his resume and I'll assume the questions about his knee and shoulder were a big part of that. He's a Pro Bowl inside linebacker/of-the-line linebacker with versatility. He got less money than most guys in that mold. Heck, he got less money than Jerod Mayo got back in 2011 when the then-Patriots captain wasn't even a free agent. I agree with you on Hightower's importance to the team and the defense. He was borderline irreplaceable for this season. And he's back on about as a friendly a contract as you could have expected. I think it's a huge win. Remember Mayo missed 10 games in both 2013 and 2014 and that didn't really hinder the Patriots financially, so I wouldn't worry too much about the Hightower deal even if he misses time to injury moving forward. Also, despite his regular season issues Hightower has always found a way to be on the field and making key plays with the season on the line in the postseason. That's invaluable. That said, I would like to see the team ad some youthful talent behind Hightower on the depth chart as cost-effective insurance.

Andy Hart

Gentleman, love the [PFW in Progress online radio] show! I'm Originally from Lowell Mass but lived in South Carolina the past 25 years were the Patriots are hated big time (SB38 & SB51 didn't help either) I just moved to Northern Florida and expected the same here but to my surprise there is more Pats jerseys then all others combined so were hoping for a partial home crowd when we play in Tampa this year. My question is related to free agency. I put myself in the shoes of guys like Hightower and Butler and I ask myself, with NFL careers being short do I take my 2 rings and leave to try to make 10-20 percent more $ elsewhere knowing my chances will be slim to none of getting to another Super Bowl? The rings and memories alone would make me stay and then I got to thinking about how much better champions do then others when it comes to endorsements and it seems to me I would rather do a little more work on the endorsement side of things to make the extra $ and then stay with the team were I could possibly be part of one of the most rarest feats in sports, a shot at 3 out of 4 SB dynasty. So may question is HOW much better do players do with endorsements when on a championship team or when part of a dynasty verses a non-championship team?

Daniel Borghi

This is a hard question to answer and very much based on each individual player. I will say it's hard to recoup money in the range of millions of dollars on local endorsement deals. It's just not overly realistic, especially for guys who are very good players but not superstars. If they want to make money, and I would never blame them, the best way to do so is through guarantees in their football contracts. If that comes elsewhere it is what it is. Winning is great, but you can't feed your family with Super Bowl rings, as one Patriots legend once said. I would never criticize a player for pursuing every last dollar on the open market, especially if he's already experienced winning earlier in his career. NFL careers are short and players have very little leverage with which to maximize their earning. And thinking you are going to make up lost earnings with local endorsements or through a life of free drinks as a local legend is probably unrealistic.

Andy Hart

So just hear me out, huge Brady fan obviously but given the Patriots history of moving a player before his aging decline, do you think it would be smart to trade Brady at the end of the season and extend Jimmy G. This is assuming that BB thinks he is the QB of the future. Imagine how many draft picks we could get for Tom Brady!

Matt McLendon

Love emails and talk radio calls that open with, "Hear me out." I read it completely and, probably to your surprise, I agree. Trading Brady after this season probably would be the smart move. He's likely to begin to slow down and show his age soon. He could probably land a pretty good haul from a desperate team, although the older he gets I wonder just how much teams would sell out for him. Smart, though, doesn't mean it's the right move. Trading Brady would be the ultimate Belichickian move. It would rock the sports world and Patriot Nation. And it would put even more pressure on Garoppolo as the heir to the GOAT. I also wonder how the Kraft family would feel about such a potential deal that would shake the fan base in a way we've never seen before or even imagined. It's not a dumb move. It's just one that would seem almost impossible to make.

Andy Hart

I remember when in a snowy Denver when the Broncos came back to beat the Patriots, and their RB Anderson, not an elite speedster outran our entire front-7 on a game sealing play. Is Duron Harmon chartered to defend fast and pass-catching RBs? I don't see anyone besides him and Chung who has the speed for the job?

Luke Perry

Paul is going to be so jealous I answered an email from a 90210 star! Certainly the lack of speed on defense was on display at times in the Super Bowl. But dealing with speedy running backs is often an issue for team defense. On the ground, it's about setting the edge and not letting them get to the outside. Then it's about defenders flowing to the ball with safeties and linebackers making tackles. In the passing game it is also a group effort and often about guys flying to the ball to tackle and minimize run-after-catch. Certainly Harmon's new contract means he and Devin McCourty are a part of that plan moving forward. Chung is getting older and I don't see speed as a strength of his game at this point. He's still a key force in the box. I also think there will be an effort to add some athleticism, youth and speed on the edge and at linebacker through the draft in the next year or so.

Andy Hart

I am perplexed by the Butler camp. If Malcolm signs his $3.91 tender, he most likely would earn a 5-year, $75 mil contract next year which would make this a 6-year, $79 mil deal. How can he expect to make Stephon Gilmore money (5y/65m) when the Browns received a 2nd rd pick to eat up 16 mil in cap space? The first-round compensation pick as a RFA would be worth at least 20 mil and reduce his value by that much, agree? Secondly, do you think Bill Belichick has any incentive based clauses in his contract that affects how he handles these negotiations?

Joe Gora

I think players generally try to get as much money as they can as early as they can when they are healthy and playing at a high level. That's what Butler is likely trying to do. I think he should. The problem he would probably have with your scenario is "he most likely would earn." Players look for security, not "most likely would earn." That doesn't mean he should or will get what he's looking for. Hell, we don't even know for sure what Butler is looking for. The market decides that. For example, back in 2006 Deion Branch went down a similar road and ended up getting his payday after a trade to the Seahawks. Other guys play out deals and end up getting less than they hoped/expected on the open market, with Dont'a Hightower probably the latest example of this. I'm more perplexed with why the Patriots wouldn't try to get Butler around for at least one more year, if the reports of trade talks with the Saints were actually true. But I'm most intrigued with your final question. As far as I am aware the only people that really know anything about Belichick's contract are the coach and the Kraft family. I doubt he has specific clauses in it regarding budgets and player negotiations. I would find that hard to believe. I would guess he's paid a huge sum of money to do what's in the best interests of the Patriots and to win. And he does that better than any pretty much any coach ever has.

Andy Hart

Hello from PA, as always thank you very much for keeping Patriot fans well informed throughout the year. I have two questions; Do you think that it is likely Brandin Cooks gets an extension from the Pats at some point? I know they can pick up his fifth year option after this year, so at the moment they have him under contract for 2 years. To me they gave up a lot of draft capital if they only plan on him playing here for 2 years. Do you think the Pats could be allowing the Saints to set the market for Malcolm Butler so that they may offer him a contract of their own? It would be somewhat similar to the Hightower/McCourty situation except Malcolm isn't an unrestricted free agent. If the Pats let the Saints think Malcolm is available for trade it would be a good way to find out what kind of contract another team would offer him so that they may counter.

Michael Pizzoli

Cooks will get a nice raise for his fifth-year option. But you are right that trading a first-round pick for a receiver for just two seasons would be a lot. The flipside of that is signing him to a big-money extension before Cooks plays a single down in the system with Tom Brady probably would be a potentially costly leap of faith. Ideally Cooks plays next year, has huge numbers and fits in well with his new scheme and quarterback. Then he signs an extension that would keep him in New England for an extended period and might even lower his 2018 cap number from the fifth-year extension slot. But we've seen plenty of times in recent years that these contract negotiations rarely play out in an ideal fashion. First and foremost is getting Cooks to work making plays for Brady. As for your Butler point, as a restricted free agent he was able to negotiate with any team he wants and sign any offer sheet he wants. That would essentially set the market, too. Whether it's via RFA or trade, Butler's contract value won't be as high as it would be if he were a true free agent. That's just the reality of his lot in life right now. The Patriots swift, aggressive and big-money approach to adding Gilmore certainly spoke volumes for all involved. Butler may want some team to treat him that way, but he's not a free agent and it's not going to happen.

Andy Hart

You say that Patriots paid Gilmore what the "market would bare" but who else was offering $40M guaranteed money to this less than durable and not always elite CB that Patriots had to compete with?

Stan C.

The Patriots acted quickly to sign Gilmore. So, you are right that there aren't a lot of other reported offers for comparison or to set the market. But it certainly looks like the Patriots paid market value for a Pro Bowl cornerback free agent when you look at what A.J. Bouye got and compare it to other high-end free agent cornerback contracts. Cornerback is annually one of the big-money positions in free agency. The Patriots know that and acted accordingly for a guy they clearly very much wanted to sign with the biggest free agent deal in team history, by a lot. They also seem to have a good feel for the market based on the Hightower situation and getting him back at a very team-friendly contract after he tested the open market. You can question whether Gilmore is really a top cornerback or worth the money, but it's hard to argue that he got a deal out of line with the market value with a guy on the open market with his resume.

Andy Hart

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This is more of a media question than football. I am amused by the mass media analysts regarding Garoppolo trade: some are genuinely wondering if he is to be traded, others are speculating, some going as far saying what Patriots should or shouldn't do, and the most amazing ones are those who are shilling for Patriots and those who are trying perhaps to drive the trade price down. I am convinced that BB does not give a hoodie of what anyone thinks, but I wonder if fans say in Cleveland could be influenced by media and that puts some subtle pressure on a more vulnerable to their public views Browns organization? Your media expert opinion on this?

Jacob Solomin

You are right that Belichick is essentially immune to media pressure or even fan pressure. That's not true of almost any other team, coach or GM. Part of it is his personality, but most of it has to do with the five Super Bowl trophies he's brought to New England. That buys you a lot of rope and good will. In Bill We Trust became a phrase more than a decade ago, but its true strength has grown in recent years to where Belichick is about as untouchable as any person in any job. Cleveland on the other hand is in the midst of a horrific stretch of failure and the team is now being run by a lot of smart people with almost no football background, guys with resumes built on analytics, in law and even in other sports. They can't afford to screw things up and know it. They are just about past their honeymoon period with the Browns and certainly are aware of outside influences and pressures. It's the reality of their lot in life.

Andy Hart

I know this is short-term thinking and I know that the Patriots will be the Patriots long after BB and Brady leave but why aren't we doing more to become arguably the greatest dynasty ever? We need one more Super Bowl to tie the Steelers right? We need to make some crazy moves like cutting guys that may not start this year and signing those who will make a difference. I know we got Cooks and Gilmore and Kony plus we re-signed Hightower but we are 1 player away (insert Malcolm Butler) from being the scariest team in the NFL by far. Why don't we cut Gostkowski and go get a cheaper but slightly less reliable kicker and then put that money towards Butler? Butler is our best DB and we need him for guys like Antonio Brown, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, etc. Especially when teams have more than 1 stud receiver like the Broncos, Raiders and Steelers. If we have Butler, then we have arguably the best secondary in the league. Without him, we don't. Plain and simple.

Robert Miles

I have two problems with this. First, the Patriots have been aggressive and active this offseason, causing many to say they are indeed "loading up" for another Super Bowl run. Second, New England has plenty of cap space right now to give Butler basically anything he wants without making any other cap-cutting moves. In many ways the team has more money than it could spend right now, with the big-money early days of free agency already long passed. Finally, Gostkowski has a cap hit of around $4.5 million this year and would carry a cap hit of $3 million if cut. Once you replace him, that's well less than $1.5 million in savings, which amounts to nothing. All that said, I agree with your larger point that the Patriots would be better with Butler in 2017 than without him. As I said earlier, I'd keep him around. But you and I don't make the decisions. And the guy who does has a pretty good track record. It's why he's trying once again to defend a Super Bowl title. Why he's once again trying to win three Super Bowls in four years. Why he's been to six straight AFC title games. As his former boss would say, he's pretty good, now.

Andy Hart

Should Patriots fans be worried about the rapidly declining QB Julian Edelman? Just two years ago he had a perfect QB rating in the playoffs, averaging a record 1 TD per pass attempt. With his recent performance in Super Bowl LI (0% completion percentage) do you believe Bill might have another player in mind to draft that can take that work load off of Jules?

Mike Davis

Edelman's throw in the Super Bowl against Atlanta was indeed a dangerous one. He's lucky he got away with it. Of course while this is a joke that actually made me chuckle, there is also some potential reality to the idea. Edelman is in the final year of his current contract. He's going to turn 31 this offseason and we all know he takes a huge beating in his key role in the Patriots passing game. Those guys don't last and sometimes the end comes quickly. Finding a guy to develop as the next in line at the slot receiver position – an impressive list that includes Troy Brown, Wes Welker and Edelman – wouldn't be a bad idea. There is currently no one on the roster with the skills to fill the void moving forward at whatever point Edelman is no longer the go-to guy.

Andy Hart

If Revis doesn't get picked up anywhere and Belichick offers him a one-year deal for $8mm, given the fact that the Jets still owe Revis $6mm, would New England's cap hit be $2mm?

Ralph Colucci

No. Whatever the Patriots pay Revis would be his cap number under traditional accounting procedures. And believe me, any reunion between the Patriots and the much-maligned cornerback won't happen at anywhere near $8 million. It's likely to be closer to the veteran minimum. The cap ramifications are for the Jets. They can lessen their cap commitments to the fading cover man due to contract offset language, but the team that signs him doesn't get a benefit.

Andy Hart

Hello, Guys! First of all thank you all for the excellent coverage in the free agency frenzy, It's well appreciated! I would like to get a little bit ahead of things and would like to hear your opinion of North Carolina slot receiver Ryan Switzer. Guy reminds me eerily of Wes Welker and Julian Edelman... Thank you in advance and keep up the excellent work!

Richard Farkas

Speaking of potential Edelman replacements…Switzer jumped off the screen when I was watching footage of North Carolina QB prospect Mitch Trubisky. He looks like a Patriots slot receiver with his quickness, hands and run-after-catch. According to our friends over at NFLDraftScout.com Switzer is a late-round draft prospect. So there is no reason he couldn't land in a developmental role in New England. It's still a longshot for the 5-8 playmaker who caught 96 balls last fall to end up a Patriot, but he looks the part.

Andy Hart

So with Dallas just losing half its secondary, a bidding war between NO and DAL? Even a novice agent like Simpson should be able to exploit THAT situation, No?

Pete Clark

I don't understand the shots at Butler's agent by so many fans and media, but I'll leave that alone. Certainly the Cowboys are in need of help at cornerback after losing veterans Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. But, do they like Butler? Would they be willing to give up draft pick compensation and a ton of money to get him? These are questions I don't have the answers to. But I'm probably just a novice Patriots analyst, so what do I know?

Andy Hart

7fc530c02d3441ea8a4d7504f126396b.jpg

I see several areas of improvement on this team before it being proclaimed "overwhelming favorites" to win the next SB including: speed at ILB and OLB/DE, stronger G, and retaining Butler, or perhaps taking a chance on Revis on a low-risk deal. Which areas would you like to see improve most?

Lorane Klein

Keeping Butler would be atop my list, but that's going to play itself out in the coming weeks. After that I think you were dead on pointing to the edge of the front seven on defense and overall speed and athleticism at linebacker. I would be concerned with the pass rush and speed up front heading into next season. I think there is going to be a lot of pressure on Trey Flowers to put together a full season and become a 10-sack type pass rusher. Rob Ninkovich isn't getting any younger or more productive. Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard are gone. There are a lot of questions on the edge of the front, even with the Kony Ealy addition. I'd also wonder about the depth at the running back spot if LeGarrette Blount isn't brought back. As for guard, I the the team really likes the young core of players at the position and has expectations that both Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are entrenched starters who'll be that much better in 2017. It's all about the edge players and linebacker depth on defense for me.

Andy Hart

This is going to sound crazy but hear me out. The Patriots should trade for Tony Romo. Who are the Patriots main threats in the AFC.... Oakland, Pittsburgh, KC. What about Denver or Houston? Both have great defenses and really good receivers. Both are missing quarterbacks. Tony Romo will probably join one of those teams unless the Patriots intervene. If either one gets Romo they are the greatest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. So why should the Patriots trade for Tony Romo. First they need to trade Garoppolo to Cleveland (12th pick this year and one or two 2nd rounders next year). Now they need a backup quarterback and should trade a 5th round pick for Romo. Romo will probably not be happy but tough. This allows the Patriots to trade Garoppolo and still have a good option in case Brady goes down, and this keeps him from the Texans or Denver. If another team in the NFC loses their quarterback and gets desperate (Minnesota last year) you can flip Romo for a 1st or at worst a 2nd. The Patriots control where Romo goes at this point.

Ed

Framingham

I heard you out. Read the whole thing. And it still sounds crazy. Because it is crazy. The Patriots have enough to worry about with their own backup QB/trade commodity without trying to manipulate the entire quarterback trade market! But I appreciate the effort.

Andy Hart

Glad with the off season moves thus far, as well as PFW's coverage. But, I would not be a "true" Patriots fan if I did not nitpick the Hightower contract. To be clear: if you asked me a year ago who should the Pats try to keep if they could only pick one; Hightower, Collins or Butler, I would pick Hightower. I would even go so far as to say Hightower is just as important, if not more talented and important to the defense as McCourty. Still, part of me if unsure about the 4-year contract and price point. Again, he is every bit the playmaker and leader that he should be, I just have some serious questions about his durability. As Paul outlined, he only had one season in which he played 16 games, and I don't think the new contract is suddenly going to be improve his availability. I just don't see it. So, for arguments sake - worst case scenario and Hightower starts to regress or is constantly injured, do the

Patriots have an "out" in the contract?

Nick Depasqualle

I think the Hightower contract was extremely team-friendly. Clearly he was not an overly hot commodity on the open market. He got what I would say is below market pay for his resume and I'll assume the questions about his knee and shoulder were a big part of that. He's a Pro Bowl inside linebacker/of-the-line linebacker with versatility. He got less money than most guys in that mold. Heck, he got less money than Jerod Mayo got back in 2011 when the then-Patriots captain wasn't even a free agent. I agree with you on Hightower's importance to the team and the defense. He was borderline irreplaceable for this season. And he's back on about as a friendly a contract as you could have expected. I think it's a huge win. Remember Mayo missed 10 games in both 2013 and 2014 and that didn't really hinder the Patriots financially, so I wouldn't worry too much about the Hightower deal even if he misses time to injury moving forward. Also, despite his regular season issues Hightower has always found a way to be on the field and making key plays with the season on the line in the postseason. That's invaluable. That said, I would like to see the team ad some youthful talent behind Hightower on the depth chart as cost-effective insurance.

Andy Hart

Gentleman, love the [PFW in Progress online radio] show! I'm Originally from Lowell Mass but lived in South Carolina the past 25 years were the Patriots are hated big time (SB38 & SB51 didn't help either) I just moved to Northern Florida and expected the same here but to my surprise there is more Pats jerseys then all others combined so were hoping for a partial home crowd when we play in Tampa this year. My question is related to free agency. I put myself in the shoes of guys like Hightower and Butler and I ask myself, with NFL careers being short do I take my 2 rings and leave to try to make 10-20 percent more $ elsewhere knowing my chances will be slim to none of getting to another Super Bowl? The rings and memories alone would make me stay and then I got to thinking about how much better champions do then others when it comes to endorsements and it seems to me I would rather do a little more work on the endorsement side of things to make the extra $ and then stay with the team were I could possibly be part of one of the most rarest feats in sports, a shot at 3 out of 4 SB dynasty. So may question is HOW much better do players do with endorsements when on a championship team or when part of a dynasty verses a non-championship team?

Daniel Borghi

This is a hard question to answer and very much based on each individual player. I will say it's hard to recoup money in the range of millions of dollars on local endorsement deals. It's just not overly realistic, especially for guys who are very good players but not superstars. If they want to make money, and I would never blame them, the best way to do so is through guarantees in their football contracts. If that comes elsewhere it is what it is. Winning is great, but you can't feed your family with Super Bowl rings, as one Patriots legend once said. I would never criticize a player for pursuing every last dollar on the open market, especially if he's already experienced winning earlier in his career. NFL careers are short and players have very little leverage with which to maximize their earning. And thinking you are going to make up lost earnings with local endorsements or through a life of free drinks as a local legend is probably unrealistic.

Andy Hart

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