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Ask PFW II: Offseason potpourri

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Thanks for your weekly answers at PFW. I'm really interested in the running back situation of Patriots. There are some good players in there but three of them are close to the end of their careers and Laurence Maroney is not the real answer for the future. Do you think that BenJarvus Green-Ellis could have a role in the rotation? What do you think of his future and the roles of the five RBs in the 2010 season?
Jozsef Bakk

I think exactly the same way right now that I did heading into the 2009 season with regard to the running back position. I don't see one lead back but I see plenty of depth to get the job done. I like the committee approach (I guess I'm one of the few) and believe the mix of old (Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris) and relatively new (Laurence Maroney, BenJarvus Green-Ellis) is a good one. Injuries hit this spot hard last year, which is to be expected with three backs in their 30s, but I don't feel the position was a big part of the team's earlier-than-expected playoff dismissal. Green-Ellis has been productive in small bursts but I'm not sure he's ready to replace anyone in the rotation at this point. Of course that could change in training camp if someone gets banged up and Belichick is forced to make a change. I would guess that someone among the group of Taylor, Maroney and Morris doesn't wind up with the club but I'm not sure which it will be. Overall, I'm not as concerned with this spot as most.
Paul Perillo

Was our running back group really "good enough" to counter Jets blitzes, to make a critical fourth down vs. Colts, to help Brady against Baltimore in the playoffs? Last year Tom Brady and Randy Moss played hurt, and Welker went on IR. So why not improve our RB position?
Sam B.

Again, I just don't think running back was a huge problem last season. Could the Patriots have better players at the position? Sure, but how many spots would you not say that about? Quarterback, left guard, nose tackle … not too many others. I'm not sure having Adrian Peterson would have increased the Patriots chances to pick up the blitz against the Jets or to convert the fourth-and-two at Indy. Kevin Faulk is among the best in the business at doing both – blitz pickup and moving the chains with key catches. I understand what your point is about relying more on running the ball; I just don't think it's necessarily a matter of who is doing the ball carrying. Like I said, I like the Patriots committee approach and I think the group will get a tad younger this year and even more so in the future.
Paul Perillo

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]()I've been a reader for a while and I love the feedback you guys have given. My question is, why not trade for Shawne Merriman? He is young (only 25), has the physical tangibles (6-4, 265) and has six years of pro experience, and was a sack machine for the first four. I know the knock on him is that he's produced nothing as of late, but maybe a fresh start is just what he needs. He seems to blitz a lot in the SD defense scheme, but as of late he hasn't gotten many sacks. Maybe in the Pats read and react system, he can pick his spots to rush and be more effective. Plus, why not give up a second-round draft pick for a proven guy with the tangibles, when we were ready to use a second-round pick on an unproven guy with a similar build (Sergio Kindle)?*
*Jake Avakian

I'm not a huge Merriman guy – I'll state that right up front. First, he's only been in the league for five years, not six. Second, he was only productive for three of those seasons, not four. Also, he has four sacks over the past two seasons after recording 39.5 in his first three. The difference? The major knee injury he suffered before the start of the 2008 season, and subsequent decision to try to play with it before having surgery following the first game. The guy just hasn't been the same player since, and that's not because of any scheme or style. I wouldn't give up a second-round pick for him, and I certainly wouldn't sign him to any kind of long-term deal. Now, if Merriman were willing to come on a one-year, prove-it-to-me type of deal then I would be interested for say, a fourth-round pick. But Merriman sounds like a guy who still thinks he's an impact player. Until he shows that, I'd be content to let him stay in San Diego. Thus far the rest of the league seems willing to do so as well.
Paul Perillo

So, we have two first and two second rounders next year … how about giving up our pick for Shawne Merriman and whatever else ices the deal for him? I see he wants a long-term deal. Imagine moving him up to a DE during situational downs with Banta-Cain close behind. I think that would increase our pass rush. But even acquiring him is worth the risk since so many players declared for the draft early this year. Who knows if the talent will even be there for us next year. I'd like to see something now instead of three first-rounders and five second rounders in 2012.John Himmelberger

Like I just said, no way would I give anything of substance for Merriman until he proves to me that he's healthy and can be productive. It's been two years since that has been the case. A first or a second? No way. And Merriman and Banta-Cain play the same position so I'm not even sure what you want to do as far as lining one up behind the other. If that were a great way to rush the passer why wouldn't teams do that regularly? The Patriots could have put Mike Vrabel as a down defensive end with Willie McGinest standing up behind him. Maybe for a play or two here or there but not as a long-term solution. And I also disagree with your notion about the draft. One of the big misconceptions about this draft was the abundance of underclassmen. Actually, the number was exactly the same as it was a few years ago and right in line with most other seasons in recent years. So to think there won't be any talent worth drafting next year because of all the underclassmen that declared this season I don't believe is accurate.
Paul Perillo

What would your thoughts be on trading Matt Light to the Bills for Marshawn Lynch? The Bills need a left tackle and we need a solid running back. The Patriots already have a better replacement for Light with "Sea Bass" and Lynch can be a featured back. Please let me know if this sounds fair or if I'm crazy. Thanks for keeping me up to date during the offseason.Monty Borrowman

While I don't think your proposal is crazy I'm not sure it does much to help either team. Light is nearing the end of the line so I'm not sure he alone could garner Lynch via trade. But I'm also not convinced that Lynch is anything more than Maroney in terms of a featured back. He's a solid, unspectacular runner who would represent another member of the Patriots committee in my opinion, not a replacement for said committee. I agree that Sebastian Vollmer will be starting somewhere on the offensive line and that Light's left tackle spot may be the place. Getting something of value for Light, with the veteran nearing his 32nd birthday, would be wise at this point. I'm just not sure Lynch is the feature back for a good football team. In fact, I like Fred Jackson more than Lynch in the current Buffalo backfield – and neither can touch rookie C.J. Spiller.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, wanted to know what ever happened to big Redd? You know the undrafted OLB rookie who is 6-6 260 runs a 4.8 40 and has a 38-inch vertical jump? I remember everyone talking about this guy and all the potential he has and is exactly what BB is looking for in his hybrid OLB. I know he didn't play all that much last year if at all. But I do think BB kept him around and put him on the practice squad last year. Do you guys know if he is still on the roster/practice squad? And do you think that Big Redd is what BB has up his sleeve?Daniel Paulin

That would be Vince Redd and I'm sorry to inform you that he's been gone for quite some time. Redd was released last Aug. 2, right at the start of training camp on the same day the Patriots signed Rob Ninkovich. Redd spent the 2008 season on the Patriots practice squad and was activated late in the season when injuries hit the defense hard. He played in five games and made eight tackles for New England. He definitely had the size and athleticism to play the position but he never amounted to much during his brief time here. Redd was picked up by Kansas City last summer but was cut before the start of the season – and then was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. After his suspension he spent time with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL and Alabama of Arena League 1. Not sure if he's surfaced on anyone's roster for 2010.
Paul Perillo

I just read Andy's starting lineup and the first thing I went for was the position I'm most worried about – wide receiver. Moss and Holt are both great players but with both potentially having their first and last season in New England isn't it time to try out some of the new blood at the position? Do you guys see any chance of either Brandon Tate or Taylor Price in the starting lineup and being the starter for the long-term future?
Emil Pirchert

I think there's a strong chance of one of those guys winding up in the starting lineup depending on how Belichick uses each player. Assuming Tate and Price play on the outside and not in the slot – which is a big assumption since I've yet to really see those players participate in training camp to gauge exactly how Belichick views them – then I think there's a chance one of them could start. That would have Randy Moss on the other side and Torry Holt in the slot (at least until Wes Welker is ready to go). That's probably asking a lot from Tate and Price, both of whom essentially are rookies since Tate saw very little action last year. I'll reserve judgment until I see them out on the field every day, but I don't think that scenario is far-fetched at all.
Paul Perillo

Thanks for keeping us right up to date during the long months of inaction. Am I right in thinking that only two players have left the fold (Adalius Thomas and Chris Hanson)? If that is the case, are there some tough personnel decisions ahead to make room for free agents and draft picks and is there a possibility that some big names will be traded before the final cuts are made?
Damian Moran

The Patriots have lost more than just two players (Jarvis Green, Chris Baker, Junior Seau) but I understand your larger point. I'm just not sure this season's cuts will be any more difficult than most others. Since the Patriots established themselves as a contender, Belichick's task of whittling down the roster has been a difficult one. This year will be no different. But I don't think the current roster is filled with the kind of talent that existed, say, back in 2004 or 2007. The Patriots have drafted 24 players over the past two years but it's highly unlikely they'll all be sticking around. Some might wind up on the practice squad or injured reserve, but in terms of the 53-man roster not all of them will stick. The Patriots only signed a handful of players to make room for – Gerard Warren, Damione Lewis, Torry Holt, Alge Crumpler, Marques Murrell – and not all of them are locks to even make the team. So I don't see the roster logjam that you're describing taking place here. Cuts are tough, but that doesn't mean that big names of talented players will be going. It just means the talent level is spread pretty evenly.
Paul Perillo

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]()Hey what's up PFW? I'm just really concerned about our safeties. I thought Patrick Chung would be a playmaker for the Pats but there hasn't been any talk about him. What's the deal with Pat? He was practically a first-round pick a year ago. What role do you see him playing this season? *Bill Florez*

I actually see safety as one of the deeper position on the roster. James Sanders is a rock solid veteran who rarely is caught out of position. Brandon Meriweather misses too many tackles for my liking but he's developing into a playmaker. Brandon McGowan showed some flashes of physical play last year. Chung did not impress as a defensive player but did contribute on special teams. And Chung wasn't practically a first-round pick last year. He was the team's first pick but he was chosen in the second round (34th overall). Plus, some of the corners have played some safety in the past. This is actually a pretty deep position.
Paul Perillo

New England needed a wide receiver, Dez Bryant was said to be the next Randy Moss. Moss is expected to retire. Walker is coming off of an injury. They signed Torry Holt. How much can he help? If you had a choice, Holt or Bryant, why not take Bryant? Than with the third they got from Dallas they drafted Taylor Price? Is Taylor Price better than Dez Bryant? Did Jerry Jones get the best of Belichick? I am not buying the character issues. Belichick has taken players of questionable character before. If Bryant is the next Moss, who better to learn from than the real deal?Frank Bretschneider

Bryant was a polarizing figure in the draft. Many felt exactly like you – that he will be the next Moss. Others believe he lacks the discipline and intelligence to fully grasp the NFL game. I'm not familiar enough with Bryant to make a determination of his character and intelligence level. What I can say is drafting players is tough enough when there aren't any of those concerns to worry about. Plenty of first-round picks with spotless off-field records don't make it for whatever reason. So why up the level of difficulty by taking a player who does have things other than ability to worry about? No one is saying Holt is a better long-term answer than Bryant, but for 2010 he just might be. And Taylor Price could develop into a contributor at receiver right away, even if he's not as physically gifted as Bryant. I like Bryant's overall game but if personnel people were scared away for other reasons then I could see that.
Paul Perillo

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