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Ask PFW II: Trading places

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Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork at the 2010 Pro Bowl. AP Photo.

Do you think the Patriots will exhibit class and sign up Vince Wilfork, Stephen Gostkowski and Logan Mankins without using the franchise tag and without making the process nasty? They could use this opportunity to signal a change to their players that first-class contributors are appreciated. Plus, perhaps they will nail down Julius Peppers in the offseason this time. They could have used him last season.
Jim Tully

I understand your point and I actually agree with the basis of it. I do think that there have been times when the "right" business moves haven't always been met with positive reactions in the Patriots locker room and that sometimes can have a negative effect. I thought that was the case the past season when Richard Seymour was traded in what most of us believe was a good deal yet when no one was signed to an extension as a result there seemed to be a negative overtone in the locker room. That said, I don't think there's much of a chance of your scenario coming true. I do believe Wilfork will be franchised and Mankins and Gostkowski will be simply tendered as restricted free agents. They have very little bargaining power and therefore will have little choice but to sign the tenders. Will this cause friction? Maybe, but that can't prevent the team from doing what it believes is right. Personally, I'd like to see some compromise where some of these hard line decisions are softened a bit, but that's easy for me to say since it's not my money being spent. This is a difficult period for the team heading into the uncertainty of an uncapped year and we'll going to have to wait to see how the Patriots respond.
Paul Perillo

After a season of waiting for new contract extension, Wilfork has demonstrated unusual maturity and patience while contributing heavily to the Pats defensive efforts. Why has the top office seemingly failed to reciprocate? Is it just because of the cap instability? It seems that they could at least be talking. If there is no cap, would it not be apt to give Wilfork a huge signing bonus to cover a smaller contract during the no cap year. Then his total remuneration would not bankrupt the cap after this year?
Jon Nicholson

Your solution to the uncapped problem is a common one but it's also not possible. Teams can totally frontload contract because of the uncapped year. For example, if Wilfork were to receive a $20 million signing bonus with small salaries moving forward, first, the cap hit for the bonus would still be prorated over the life of the deal. If they chose to give him a roster bonus, that would be considered salary as well and therefore the salary for the second year could not decrease by more than 50 percent by rule. So frontloading contracts to get the hit off the books in an uncapped setting sounds better than it is. I don't see Wilfork signing any extensions at this point. He's so close to hitting the open market that it wouldn't be wise for him not to wait to see what's available. He's likely to receive the franchise tag and get stuck playing under that in 2010.
Paul Perillo

Can you explain why in the NFC Championship Game with less than two minutes to go the Vikings got a 5-yard penalty for having 12 men in the huddle after a timeout? Usually a team has till the ball is snapped to get the other man off the field.
Bruno Libratore

That would be the case if the defense had the extra man on the field. The offense cannot have 12 players in the huddle at any time. This would make it difficult for defenses to substitute personnel based on the packages the offense has on the field. For example, if the Patriots had Benjamin Watson, Chris Baker, Dan Connolly, Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney in the huddle, the defense would want to make sure it had its base defense on the field to best stop the run. If the offense were allowed to have Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Sam Aiken in the huddle at the same time as the aforementioned group, the defense would have no way of knowing whether or not to put extra defensive backs in to best stop the pass or bigger guys up front to stop the run. Therefore the rules prevent that kind of deception and the offense is automatically flagged anytime it has 12 men in the huddle.
Paul Perillo

What do you think are the likelihood of these moves: acquiring Julius Peppers, put the franchise tag on Vince Wilfork, releasing Matt Light (or trade for a draft pick) & signing Sebastian Vollmer? Would they consider bringing in T.O.? Last question, what do you think are the needs that the Pats will try to address in this upcoming draft?David Gomez

In short, less than 50 percent, close to 100 percent, about 75 percent (release, not trade) and unnecessary since Vollmer is already under contract for three more years. I don't think they would even consider bringing in TO and neither would I. As for the draft, it's still far too early to delve into it with any sense of knowledge but I'd say the biggest needs are pass rusher, cornerback, wide receiver and inside linebacker.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, love the show, can't get enough of it. I was wondering, what would be the chances of the Patriots hitting the long ball and trading up in the draft for a guy like Ndamukong Suh? Also, do you think the Patriots, being the character team they are, give Tim Tebow a shot?
Manny Mejia

I don't think there's any chance the Patriots will trade that far up in the draft to take a player in the top three and that's where Suh is likely targeted. I think he's a terrific prospect based on what little I've seen of him, but to get there would cost the team quite a bit in terms of draft picks and money to sign him. As for the character issue, I'm not sure that should be a major qualification for selecting a player. There are loads of talented guys who don't have Tebow's reputation who are equally strong in terms of locker room presence. I don't like the idea of taking Tebow because he seems like an upstanding citizen. I don't believe he will ever be an NFL quarterback and that's the reason I wouldn't take him. I'm certainly not a talent evaluator but he doesn't appear to possess the necessary skills to thrive at that position, and his overall athleticism to make the switch to something else appears to be lacking. I wouldn't simply take Tebow based on his reputation.
Paul Perillo

Hello from Texas, very much appreciate your support from back home. I just read a good explanation in today's PFW in regards to loading up a new contract (say with Brady) with a signing bonus that pays out in the uncapped year, however the explanation was the bonus would be prorated over the years of the contract. My question is a follow up to that, why not frontload a big contract with Brady? Most contracts are heavily backloaded to the point most often they have to be redone because the last year(s) are so high. Why not set Brady up with a huge year 1 and reasonable years 3-4? Of course there are risks but when aren't there, the upside of cap space could be a significant benefit.
Todd Green

As I mentioned earlier the problem there is the rules prevent that. Salaries cannot decrease by more than 50 percent from one year to the next and bonus money counts as salary in terms of a one-year payout. So if you frontload the deal with a huge salary in the first year, that number can't drop by more than 50 percent going forward. Put in simplest terms, there aren't as many loopholes dealing with the uncapped year as many thought there might be. Check out the latest edition of PFW for more details on the subject.
Paul Perillo

What do you think of the Pats drafting an ILB and moving Gary Guyton to his true position at OLB? Then we can get another pass rushing linebacker. Gary will be the cover guy. He is just not strong enough to play ILB in a 3-4.
Aaron Jones

I agree with your assessment of Guyton in terms of his viability in a 3-4 defense. I don't believe he's big enough to hold up inside in that alignment. He's also not big enough to play outside in the 3-4 to hold up setting the edge against the run. He seems best suited to play weakside linebacker in a 4-3 set, and as a nickel package cover linebacker where his speed and athleticism can be accentuated. This is how he was used for the most part during his rookie season. I think the Patriots should look at some options at inside linebacker in the draft, and hopefully Tyrone McKenzie can factor into that mix as well.
Paul Perillo

Am I out of line for asking if Tom Brady got focused on one or two players for throwing to 83 and 81, instead of spreading the love a little more like when they didn't have Moss or Welker?Shawn Flinchbaugh

You're not out of line at all, but I would disagree with you. I don't think they had many other viable options to turn to, and why would you look to Sam Aiken and Julian Edelman when Moss and Welker are on the field? I understand why people get frustrated when the wins aren't there but my feeling is the offense moved the ball pretty consistently all season long. Things bogged down at some critical times but that wasn't necessarily because Brady fixated on his two main targets. I feel if he had another reliable wideout to turn to things would improve, but I wouldn't want to see Moss and Welker be ignored because of that. Brady has proven to me over the years that he'll find the right guy to throw to. Based on the frequency he looks to his top guys my feeling is that was probably the best decision at the time. Obviously it would be great to return to the 2007 offense that was unstoppable. But there's a reason why that's the highest scoring unit of all time – it was pretty special. I believe the offense will be fine in the long run but the team needs to find some targets for Brady to throw to – especially with Welker injured.
Paul Perillo

As an avid Pats fan for 15 years, I've seen a lot of turnarounds. Brady being drafted low with low expectations and turning into the stellar QB he is today, Matt Cassel going from second string to being the starter in 2008 bringing the Pats to 11-5. Moss going from malcontent in Minnesota to star player in New England. Could we see maybe T.O. or Donte' Stallworth end up on the Pats roster? They are bargain priced and really I think, looking to revive their careers. Either way one or both could easily fill the shoes of that WR we need ... at a discount.
Kristopher Jones

Why are we so concerned with finding a discount? Why can't we just find the best players available? First, I want no part of TO on my team. The guy doesn't concern himself with winning; only what he can do individually and if that happens to lead to a win then that's great. Bringing him in would be a huge step in the wrong direction – and I'm not sure you'd be able to get him for as little as you think. As for Stallworth, I personally love the guy. I know he had a serious legal issue but I honestly believe he's a good person who unfortunately did a very bad thing. But he's been out of the game for more than a year now – is this the best we can do for wide receiver help? I'd rather either sign a free agent or look to the draft. Regardless this team needs some more talent at the position and what it currently has won't be around forever. It's time to make a transition to the next era of wideouts and TO and Stallworth aren't it.
Paul Perillo

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