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Ask PFW: Headed for the beach

Late June is a pretty dead time around the NFL but that hasn't stopped Patriots Nation from checking in. Asante Samuel continues to dominate as the topic of conversation in this week's edition of "Ask PFW."

At this point do the Patriots have cap space to give what Asante Samuel is asking for? I guess what I'm asking is "why are the Patriots holding out on Asante?" Is it that a) they don't have the money, or b) they don't see eye to eye with him about his actual value?J. Hus

Cap space is not a major factor in this situation at all. Samuel is already scheduled to count $7.79 million against the cap based on the franchise tender he was offered by the team. If the Patriots gave him a long-term extension, it would likely be structured in a way that would actually lower the cap hit in the first year (or keep it around the same as it is now). For example, if the deal gave him something like $8 million-$10 million in a signing bonus and a five-year deal with a base salary of around $1 million in the first year, then the cap hit would drop. Obviously the Patriots would have to include something like a sizable roster bonus due next March, which wouldn't count on this year's cap. My guess is Samuel is looking for around $20 million in guaranteed money (or virtually guaranteed with roster bonuses and stuff that he almost assuredly would get). The Patriots have the money; I'm just not sure the two parties agree on the player's value. That's usually the case with these contract squabbles.
Paul Perillo

Are there any recently cut players from all of the other NFL teams that you would definitely like to see be signed by the New England Patriots or at the very least be brought in by the New England Patriots for a tryout?
John Moore

Honestly, no. I think the Patriots roster is as deep and talented as the 2004 team if not more so. I don't see the need to grab another team's castoffs at this point. But if we're nitpicking and looking for some extra depth, maybe a backup defensive back as insurance for Samuel. Other than that, I just don't see a lot of talent out there available at this point.
Paul Perillo

Do you think Kareem Brown will supplant Mike Wright as primary back up to Vince Wilfork? And beyond that, does he have starter potential?
The Kissin' Bandit Brian Lahti

You should be a pro wrestler with a lame nickname like that. Anyway, I don't see Brown as Wilfork's backup in Year 1. Over time, however, I do believe he has the potential and pedigree to do so. As of now Wright would probably be the first choice with Le Kevin Smith and Brown possibly battling for time as well. Without having seen Brown in a Patriots uniform yet (other than without pads at mini-camp), it's tough to say what kind of potential he has in terms of starting, but at times at Miami he was a very productive defensive lineman. I'm intrigued by his athleticism but we'll have to wait to see how that translates into the Patriots system in training camp and beyond.
Paul Perillo

How about the Patriots trade Asante Samuel to the Vikings for Antoine Winfield and first-round pick.Mussaad Jamshaid

Great, sign me up. In fact, I'll drive Asante to the airport. Of course I'm not so sure the Vikings would make that deal since Samuel and Winfield, at the very least, are comparable players so I don't see Minnesota tossing in a first-round pick just because Winfield is four years older. I think Samuel is a better player than Winfield, but not by much.
Paul Perillo

I've heard Samuel say that he is holding out for the best interests of his family and stuff like that. The main reason players don't sign the franchise tag is because they want contract security; being able to know that they still get paid if they get hurt, blah, blah, blah. What is the difference between a 1-year franchise tag deal and a long-term contract if you got badly injured? What's the difference between having the long-term deal in place and getting cut and having a one-year franchise tag on you and just not getting re-signed to any team?
Nick Mortell

The major difference is the long-term guy would likely not get cut because it would be cost prohibitive against the cap for the team that signed the player. If Samuel signs a five-year deal with a $10 million signing bonus and then gets hurt in the first year, he not only already got that $10 million but he likely would get the Year 2 salary and probably Year 3 as well. If the team cut him loose after the injury, they would immediately incur $8 million in dead money (the unamortized portion of the signing bonus). That would likely cause the team to hold onto the player and wait for him to get healthy. If the same thing happens to Samuel as the franchise player, he gets $7.79 million and would be a free agent coming off an injury looking for work. That's why players hate the franchise tag.
Paul Perillo

I can't help but point out that Marquise Hill was trashed pretty hard in past PFW questions. It seemed that weekly, someone wanted Hill's roster spot for a borderline corner or middle linebacker. I always felt his lack of playing time was due more to those ahead of him on the depth chart. A young DT/DE from a good school with drool inducing size and solid character seems like a Patriots kind of guy. Belichick's praise for Hill's "year around" work ethic pretty much answered any questions about the type of player he was and gave some insight into the player he might have been. Since he was generally trashed as a player by many, can you tell us what he was like as a person?
Chris Jackson

Unfortunately, there's not much more known about Marquise as a person as there was a player. Marquise was generally pretty quiet in the locker room during the time the media was allowed in. Obviously as a backup player he didn't generate a lot of attention from reporters who usually stick to the starters and front-line players during their limited access time. By all accounts Hill was a fun-loving person who enjoyed a laugh and was quick with the jokes among his teammates. On the field, he never seemed to pick things up to the point where he earned any playing time. Unfortunately now he'll never get that chance.
Paul Perillo

If Asante Samuel is not signed by July 15, he is only able to play this season under the franchise tender (7.79m), correct? So how would a trade work after that point, if he is only able to sign a one-year deal? Can we still trade him after July 15? At that point, is he given a "clean slate" with his new team and allowed to sign a multi-year offer?
Mike Lohrmann

Basically Samuel would have a clean slate with a new club, the July 15 date would only apply to the Patriots in Samuel's case. According to the CBA: "Any club designating a franchise player shall have until 4 p.m., New York time, on July 15 of the League Year (or, if July 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the first Monday thereafter) for which the designation takes effect to sign the player to a multi-year contract or extension. After that date, the player may sign only a one-year player contract with his prior club for that season, and such player contract may not be extended until after the club's last regular-season game."
If Samuel were to be traded, most likely, it would be the same as when the Patriots traded Tebucky Jones as a franchise player a few years ago. Jones signed the one-year tender with the Patriots and the team traded that one-year deal to New Orleans. The Saints then signed him to the long-term deal.
It is also possible to do a sign-and-trade, where the player signs the new deal on the same day as he is traded and it still counts as a contract signed by the new club. This is a little dangerous in the event that he were to revert back to the Patriots if he, for example, failed a physical. The Patriots would then be on the hook for that new deal.
Paul Perillo

I have researched on the topic of Asante Samuel's tag and many sites have claimed that he has a non-exclusive franchise tag, giving the Patriots the option of getting two first-round draft picks. However, if the information is true that the tag is worth $7.79 million dollars, equal to the average of the top five paid cornerbacks of THIS year, then the tag is exclusive and Samuel cannot negotiate with other teams. If the tag was worth $5.89 million dollars, it would be non-exclusive and the two first-round draft picks if the offer wasn't accepted would be an option. Is this a non-exclusive tag or is it really exclusive, as the numbers show it to be? Also, can Samuel explore free agency if he has an exclusive franchise tag if his tender/1-year deal doesn't get accepted by Samuel?
Akshat Shekhar

According to the NFLPA, the 2007 franchise number for cornerbacks is $7.79 million, which represents the average of the top five paid cornerbacks last season. An exclusive franchise player is entitled to the average of the top five cornerbacks as of the end of the restricted free agency period, or roughly $9.25 million. As a franchise player, Samuel's tender offer was for $7.79 million.
Paul Perillo

It seems like every player that has the franchise tag put on them is upset by it. Why, if a player is a free agent, is the team allowed to put a franchise tag on that player? And why hasn't the players association and the players put up a bigger stink to have the franchise tag taken out of the NFL if they hate it so much?Jason Cote

You're second question is real problem. Every player I've ever asked about the franchise tag has said the same thing – they hate it. But yet the players association still allowed it to be included in the new collective bargaining agreement. It makes no sense. Evidently Gene Upshaw's boys were more concerned with other issues during the negotiations. This is something that I've wondered about ever since I started working here and heard players complaining. But yet here we are nine years later and the players are still complaining and the rule is still in place. Until that changes, you can't blame NFL teams for using all of the weapons at it disposal.
Paul Perillo

Are there any plans for the Pats to wear their throwback uniforms this season, or is there any type of alternative uniform going to be used this season?Geoff H.

Nothing like some good uniform talk to finally breaks us free from the constant Asante Samuel barrage. The Patriots will wear their silver alternate jerseys for their home game Sept. 23 against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.
Paul Perillo

Do you know if the Pats will be wearing their classic throwback uniforms this year? (I am a big fan of the classic red jersey and Pat Patriot helmets).Brian Hamilton

More uni talk … gotta love it. Anyway, you're in luck Brian. Sort of. As I just told Geoff (and the millions – Rock-like pause – and millions of fans reading this worldwide), the Patriots will be donning the silver jerseys for one game this year and again next year. But my moles are telling me (yes, PFW has moles too) starting in 2009, which will mark the Patriots 50th anniversary, the silver jerseys will be gone while the throwback red ones take their place. It's obviously too early to say which specific games Pat Patriot and the red jerseys will be worn in, but rest assured they will be making an appearance soon.
Paul Perillo

It's summer time and there isn't much going on in Patriots nation. This has left me with time to ponder our coaching future. Do you think Belichick will be back next year? Since I'm already asking you to forecast the future, I will push the issue even further. What if Belichick retires and Romeo Crennel is fired, what are the chances that Crennel rejoins the Pats? I know this is out there but what else is there to discuss?Terry Jackson

My question would be, with a sun-filled sky and burgers and dogs waiting to be eaten from the grill, why do we have to discuss anything related to something that hasn't happened … and likely won't? Bill Belichick isn't going anywhere and Romeo Crennel is still the coach of the Cleveland Browns. If Crennel gets fired, then I could definitely see Romeo Crennel, assistant head coach/defense on the Patriots staff next year. But until then grab a drink, kick back for a while and relax until training camp starts.
Paul Perillo

I recently heard Culpepper could be an option for the Pats as a reserve QB, I think it would be a good fit. Do you think that will happen? Or will the rookie QB evolve as No. 2 because I don't think Matt Cassel has what it takes.Travis Bachman

What have you seen from Matt Cassel that leads you to believe he doesn't have what it takes? To be fair I'd ask you the same thing if you said you were convinced Cassel was the man. The fact is Cassel simply hasn't played and until he does there's no way to know for sure if he has what it takes to fill in for Tom Brady in an emergency. As for Culpepper, I don't think he'd be a good fit for the Patriots. In Minnesota, there were complaints that Culpepper rarely read defenses well and had a tendency to just throw it up for Randy Moss. Even though Moss is now in New England, I wouldn't expect the Patriots to change their offense just to accommodate him. So Culpepper would need to learn to do the things he wasn't doing in Minnesota, not to mention find a way to get healthy.
Paul Perillo

After watching Patriots weekly it occurred to me that as good as the Pats look going into this year an injury to Laurence Maroney would certainly put us in the proverbial outhouse. He is coming off surgery and with the Asante Samuel situation doubt has crept into my otherwise optimistic mind. I then asked my son if it is possible that a good running back to complement Maroney and give us some depth might somehow be available. His answer is exciting. Larry Johnson is having negotiating problems with the Chiefs. That said could you with your expert opinion even entertain this as a possible trade of one kind or another? Randy Moss proves nothing is out of the question. Just imagine how Larry Johnson would fit into this already great offense.
Ed Simkin

First of all, Larry Johnson is not a complementary back to Maroney or anyone. Johnson is a workhorse back that routinely carries the ball 400 times and picks up 1,800 yards. There's no way the Patriots could afford to bring him in. Randy Moss was on the verge of being out of a job. There's a big difference. Maroney's long-term durability is a concern but based on his performance last year he is capable of handling the job.
Paul Perillo

Who will return kicks for the Patriots this year? Ellis Hobbs and Laurence Maroney both did well, but the risk of injury to either of them might be too great without Corey Dillon and maybe Asante Samuel.
Johnny Murt

I think both Hobbs and Maroney will be in the mix, but I'd expect Wes Welker to take on the bulk of the returning duties. He has a lot of experience returning both kicks and punts from his time in Miami. I agree that the injury risk to Maroney and Hobbs might be too great, but those two coupled with Welker and veteran Kevin Faulk gives the Patriots plenty of options.
Paul Perillo

*Note: July is vacation time in the NFL and PFW is no exception. The crew will be enjoying some fun and sun next week and "Ask PFW" will be taking a vacation as well. Look for the mailbag to return on July 17.

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