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Ask PFW: Heading for the home stretch II

Part II of this week's mailbag.

I was interested to see you mention Patrick Pass as being in competition with Chad Morton for a roster spot. It's difficult to guess what tradeoffs Bill Belichick might make, but that seems like one of them. Chad Morton has some very interesting rushing average yards and passing yards after catch, although in a limited number of plays. (2003 rushing: 48 plays, 4.5 avg., 2 runs over 20 yds., 9 1stD; 2003 receiving: 15 passes, 12.5 avg., 3 over 20 yds. including 36 yd., 10.1 yac, 1 TD, 7 1stD). While Patrick Pass has been a solid contributor and has to be respected on passing downs, it has been a while since the Pats had a fullback who was more than just a solid option on passing downs but has potential to make some nice gains. If Morton's rushing yards are not atypical, it would make it even harder on defenses to play for both a run and pass option by Morton.
Richard Brewer

I would think any competition between Morton and Pass would be as a returner. Pass has been the Patriots second option as a kick returner alongside Bethel Johnson. Morton is obviously known most for his return work. So if Pass and Morton are fighting for one roster spot, my guess is their return work will be the deciding factor. I don't see Morton being able to serve as a fullback at his size – even as an unconventional change-of-pace type. He's proven capable of working out of the backfield in a Kevin Faulk-type role, but I can't see him taking time away from Pass at fullback.
Paul Perillo

I live in a suburb of that makes me an Eagles fan...Do you picture the Eagles and Patriots facing off again in the Super Bowl?
Ray Burns

I really think there are a lot of similarities between the Patriots and Eagles in terms of the way both organizations run their businesses. They take similar approaches to free agency and generally don't break the bank to re-sign most of their veterans, choosing instead to search for alternatives that fit their systems. For this reason, I believe both can remain competitive over the long haul and have very legitimate claims to returning to the Super Bowl in Detroit.
Paul Perillo

I would just like to take a second to get Pres. Putin off the hook as he seems to be taking some major heat for simply acting in accordance with Russian customs. I spent a year studying at the University of Leningrad back when, and as part of my "briefing" prior to going to the USSR (as it was in those days), I was instructed to NOT be overly effusive when admiring someone's possession, as they would then feel obliged to give it to me! This is simply the "way things are done" in that culture. "You love it? It's YOURS!" Prez Putin was not being light-fingered or presumptuous in assuming that Mr. Kraft intended to gift him with the ring. If Kraft had been better briefed himself by a cultural attaché, he would not have shown the ring off if he had not intended to give it away. We Yanks are SO in the dark about the customs of other cultures that we are too ready to assume the "foreigners" are clods and thieves. There's a whole world out there that doesn't necessarily share our cultural customs. Give the guy a break. And I thought Mr. Kraft showed what a very classy guy he is by immediately responding graciously - that class is reflected by the New England Patriots football team as a whole.
Miranda Good

Thanks for the update on Russian customs … I bet Mr. Kraft will take your words into consideration next time he's in that position.
Paul Perillo

The writer asked whereabouts of Mack Herron. This name crosses my mind now and then. Was he as good a kickoff returner as I remember?
Jack Cooper

Mini Mack Herron was a terrific return man for the Patriots from 1973-75. He currently ranks eighth in team history with 1,796 yards on 71 career kickoff returns (25.3 average). He also ranks sixth in punt returns with 888 yards on 74 attempts, and his 12.0-yard average is tops in team history.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, I know the Patriots are all set at RB with Corey Dillon. But how long is Corey's contract extension? I know it was a five-year deal, but is it a complete five years or is there an option in there somewhere? Which leads me to my next question. What do you guys think about Cedric Cobbs? Do you think he could be the back of the future for New England? How is his health and how long do the Patriots have him under contract for?
Curtis Levesque

Dillon did indeed sign a five-year extension earlier in the offseason but the Patriots have to decide whether to pick up an option for the final three years of the deal before next season. Since the $25 million deal is structured well for both sides, there's an excellent chance that Dillon will remain a Patriot as long as he remains effective. In other words, the Patriots won't have to make him a salary cap casualty if he is still churning out 1,500-plus yards per season. As for Cobbs, there's very little to go on right now. He didn't get many reps last season, in part because of the rookie's leg injury during camp and part because of Dillon's record-setting performance. Cobbs will be a guy to watch this summer to judge whether or not he's made the transition from his primitive college offense at Arkansas to the intricacies of the NFL. This is the final year of his contract, but he'll become an exclusive rights free agent and won't be able to go anywhere unless the Patriots waive him. He's certainly a talented kid with loads of production under his belt. Now it's time to see if he can have those skills translate to the next level.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, I think the Patriots are in great shape at WR. We have Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch and David Givens as the starters. But that also brings up a problem. Both guys are free agents after the season, do you think the patriots will re-sign both or just make a strong push in signing one to a long term deal, and who would that be? My next question is whom do you see as the third WR? Is it time for Bethel Johnson to step up? Troy Brown? Or does David Terrell have a great year with his old QB? And if he does have a chance in becoming the Patriots pick to re-sign to a long-term deal?

Branch is not a free agent after the 2005 season since he signed a five-year deal as a rookie in 2002. Givens, however, will become an unrestricted free agent and most likely is looking for a more lucrative contract elsewhere. He has maintained the desire to remain a Patriot, but he's not going to do that without a long-term, big money deal. Givens has said in the past he'd like to sign a long-term deal but so far the Patriots haven't been willing to meet his price. My guess is Givens is playing his last year in New England and will eave for the free agent dollars next March. In terms of the third receiver, I think it's David Terrell's job to lose. If he can produce I think he'll get the opportunities. If not, then I can see old reliable Troy Brown sliding into a role he's been very familiar and productive with. I don't see Bethel Johnson as anything more than an occasional home run threat on deep balls. It will be interesting to see how the picture at wide receiver develops during the summer.
Paul Perillo

I'm fascinated by the logjams at certain positions this preseason, especially at receiver. Since we can't predict what Coach B. will do, I'm going to ask the esteemed PFW's opinion: how do D.T. and P.K. look to you? Do you think that David Givens' possible departure next year could influence personnel decisions now? Does the signing of Chad Morton mean more than a tryout, i.e., pressure on Dwight and Johnson to be productive in training camp?Chris W.

I thought both looked pretty solid during mini-camp. Of course, with nobody wearing pads and getting hit, a lot of players can look good. I thought both Terrell and Sam used their size to their advantage and both caught the ball extremely well during the drills and the seven-on-sevens. I don't think Givens' contract situation will have an effect on the 2005 season. If he deserves to be one of the receivers in the mix, he will be regardless of where he winds up in 2006. I think Morton's signing definitely puts some heat on Dwight and Johnson, especially the latter. Belichick signed Dwight and Morton – both renowned for their return work – during the offseason and at least part of the reason had to be to give Johnson a little kick in the pants after a promising, yet frustrating, first two years. If Johnson continues to show the immaturity that caused Belichick to bench him as a healthy scratch on two separate occasions over the past two years, I think his roster spot could be expendable with alternatives like Dwight and Morton in place.
Paul Perillo

I have a great deal of respect for the accomplishments and contributions of Richard Seymour. But how can holding out help negotiations on a new contract? The Pats are now in a situation where giving him the money will likely be perceived as caving to his pressure... and ultimately opens the door for others to use the same tactic. In my opinion, Rodney Harrison is even more deserving, particularly with the on-field coaching job he did last season... AND he has continued to participate on all offseason camps and activities. Richard's actions may have helped Rodney's case even more than his own.

I don't see the Patriots deciding to redo Harrison's deal BECAUSE Seymour decided to hold out. Using your logic, wouldn't other "team players" like Harrison then be in line for raises and thus want their piece of the pie? And just as a clarification, Seymour was in Foxboro throughout the offseason program working out at the stadium and during passing camps while Harrison did most of his work at home. The only offseason work Harrison did in Foxboro was the mandatory mini-camp.
Paul Perillo

Can we win without Seymour? A better question is could we have won without Brady? Out of those two players I believe Brady and not Seymour was the right (big one) this year. I respect his decision to take care of his business, but I respect Rodney (the Missile) Harrison a lot more. If in fact Seymour sits out till Week 10, can the Patriots fill that void? Who is out there for a stopgap replacement?
George Porter

I think the Patriots feel Jarvis Green would adequately replace Richard Seymour in the event that the All-Pro decides to sit out the season. Green filled in very well last year during the playoffs when Seymour was injured, and he's been a regular part of the team's rotation up front since his rookie season in 2002. At this point in the offseason, it's hard to imagine a quality player being available on the open market, but the Patriots have used this time of year well in the past so it's not out of the question for Belichick to sign another defensive lineman to help replace Seymour. But that scenario isn't likely to unfold as Seymour is under contract and stands to gain very little if he holds out.
Paul Perillo

I'm not sure if this a question, a comment or just a good ol' cry of frustration. We all know about the Richard Seymour contract situation...he didn't show up for mandatory mini-camp, most believe as a method of getting the Patriots attention to give him an extension. He has two years left on his contract, but wants more … and now. I don't know about you guys at PFW and all the readers out there, but in the business world that I know of, a contract is a legal binding agreement between two parties … a mutually agreed upon agreement I might add. Maybe you make out better in one and not so good in the next, but you agreed to the deal and you have to stick with it, whether it's fair or not. Lord knows I have made some deals in business that looked great at first, then later I wished I could change it. But we working Joes can't do that can we? You suck it up, take your losses and make a more favorable deal next time. I think that I am not the only one that thinks some of these "professional" athletes are getting way out of line and need a dose of reality. Now I know ... Tom Brady got his, and probably deserved it. Richard Seymour will likely get his ... and probably deserves it. They are two classy guys who well represent the Patriots organization. But when you sign a contract, nobody forces you to do it. If Richard Seymour wanted to roll the dice, he could have signed a four-year contract and been a free agent this year. I don't want to hear how the Patriots wouldn't do that ... once again, you negotiate a deal that is mutually agreed upon, even if there are some points you don't like. Recent contact squabbles from Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin are absolutely disgusting and show a lack of respect to the game and the fans that pay their salary. Does Owens really have the nerve to sign a multi-year, MULTI-MILLION dollar contract, and after one year ask for an extension or he will hold out? Boldin played ONE YEAR and screams for more money. Now, if they play like crap next year, can the Eagles or the Cardinals ask for some of the money back? We all know that's not going to happen. Heaven forbid a team breaches their contract. I realize that these players can be seriously injured for life. They deserve to make good, fair salaries for their services. They can be released at any time … more than I can say for the NBA and MLB where players get a big contract then do next to nothing because it's guaranteed. (Jason Giambi of the Yankees and Mark Blount of the Celtics come to mind). Maybe to sum this all up these guys can't have the best of both worlds. You can't sign a contract and then constantly nag on how underpaid you are. That's life boys, you better get used to it because that's how everybody else has to work in society. I don't know how you guys think about all of this but enough is enough.
Shane C.

Actually, Shane, I couldn't disagree with you more. You make many references to a contract being a binding agreement, but in the NFL it's only binding one way – for the player. A team can break a contract anytime it sees fit. A player cannot. Those are the simple facts of life in the NFL where most contracts are not guaranteed. So saying that Richard Seymour shouldn't holdout because he has to "honor his contract" isn't really fair since the team that signed him to it doesn't have to operate under the same rules. You ask if a player like TO or Anquan Boldin plays poorly if a team can ask for the money back. In essence, this is exactly what all teams do. They can't get the money they already paid back, but you can bet anything they still owe isn't getting paid. And for you to simply dismiss the idea that the Patriots wouldn't sign a first-round pick to a four-year deal is ill informed. There's absolutely no way the Patriots would have signed Seymour to a five-year deal, let alone a four-year deal. With Seymour being such a high pick (No. 6) the Patriots wanted to lock him up for as long as possible. Otherwise he would have cost the team big money to re-sign as a free agent. It's smart on the Patriots part but Seymour was really in a no-win situation, much like Benjamin Watson last year. The player has no leverage and has two choices – either sign the deal the team is offering or sit out. For a rookie who has yet to prove anything at the NFL level, that's not much of a choice.
Paul Perillo

The Pats have a huge collection of quality LBs, some young and some old. Which of the current LBs will still be around beyond this year?Moses Ip

Good question and I wish I had a good answer. But since I can't even say for sure which LBs are going to be on THIS year's team, it's almost impossible to look ahead to 2006. But I'm never afraid to make myself look foolish so I'll play along in the name of good, clean fun. My 2006 linebacker corps will look something like this: Rosevelt Colvin, Mike Vrabel (with restructuring), Monty Beisel, Tully Banta-Cain, Ryan Claridge, Chad Brown plus some newcomers. Ted Johnson and Willie McGinest are entering the final year of their contracts, and Tedy Bruschi's health situation remains unclear. Larry Izzo could be back as the special teams captain, but the team might try to save some money and get younger with that spot. Kind of tough to predict, but that's all I got.
Paul Perillo

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