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Ask PFW: Julius or Jason?

The draft is approaching but Patriots fans are still trying to decide between acquiring Jason Taylor or Julius Peppers. Choosing between the two and plenty of draft stuff highlight this week's "Ask PFW" mailbag.

With the recent meltdown in Denver and the more recent interest in Jay Cutler by the Jets (which I would not like to see), could you see Philly doing a QB trade with Donovan McNabb for Cutler? Is there any scenario you can see where Bill Belichick plays a role steering Cutler to Carolina in order to grab Peppers?
Mark Davis

In today's NFL, where deals are becoming more and more prevalent, it's hard to dismiss almost any trade scenarios. McNabb's relationship with Philly has grown a bit contentious over the past couple of seasons and perhaps both sides would welcome a change at this point. I'm obviously not privy to the details of the situation there, but if Andy Reid and the Eagles brass have grown tired of McNabb, dealing him for Cutler would seem to make sense. While I don't believe Cutler is McNabb's equal, he is younger and would likely have his best years ahead of him. I'd stick with McNabb since, in my opinion, he's more suited to Philly's West Coast offense than Cutler would be, but no one's handing me the keys to an organization anytime soon.

In terms of Carolina, Belichick wouldn't be playing any role in a potential Cutler trade there. The Panthers would be crazy to make such a drastic move based on input from someone outside of their organization. Cutler obviously makes sense in Carolina with Jake Delhomme's inconsistency, but to have Belichick orchestrating such a trade would not be in the Panthers (or the Broncos) best interest.
Paul Perillo

I read PFW every week and I like the insight you guys bring to us thank you. What are the chances of the Patriots getting Keyshawn Johnson look-alike Ramses Barden? He is a big target at 6-6, 230 and has great hands and has been given the title of best blocker for wide receivers in the draft. He could potentially be a great red zone threat with the jump ball. What do you guys think? The Pats could pick him with one of the 2nd round picks? The pats need a WR too, right?
Mario Palencia

I think the Patriots need for a wide receiver has been greatly diminished by the acquisitions of Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis. Those two with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, plus Sam Aiken to fill in, should give the team enough depth at the position. I wouldn't be surprised to see the team draft a wideout at some point. I'm just not sure it makes sense to use such a high pick on one given the additions already made. But like I said, I wouldn't be surprised to see Belichick draft someone to create some competition in camp. Lewis in particular will likely need to fight for a roster spot and if a rookie shows some promise there would be room for him to contribute. Barden obviously has great size but he didn't play at a high level in college at Cal Poly. I'd take him at the end of the third or perhaps in the fourth, but not the second.
Paul Perillo

I'm always waiting for Tuesdays to roll around. My question is about the Jets and some the moves they've made. Trading for Lito Sheppard for only a fifth-round pick seems like a steal and it seems like a trade that the Patriots should have made. Did the Pats just miss the boat on this one or were they not interested in Sheppard (it would be hard to see why). There was lots of talk last season about trying to trade for Sheppard but the consensus was that he would require a serious contract extension, which is one reason that the Pats didn't go after him. Is he still expecting a new contract? What is he making this year? I guess I'm just confused that the Pats wouldn't move to get a top quality corner when the asking price was only a fifth-round pick and no new contract needed to be negotiated. Any thoughts?Jonah Wexler

First and foremost, I think you think a lot more of Lito Sheppard than I do. He is a talented corner but also comes with a ton of baggage. If you watched any of the Eagles playoff games you must have noticed that he didn't play much. Even when Asante Samuel was battling injuries and coming off the field, Sheppard did not replace him. There's a reason for that – he's not a team player and the Eagles coaching staff grew tired of his act. He constantly complained about his contract, wanted to bigger deal, refused to play in the past when the field conditions weren't up to par and just was an overall bad influence in the locker room.

That said, he would have been a big improvement in the Pats secondary last year. But I wouldn't have made a deal for him, either. He was looking to renegotiated his contract and would have cost more to acquire last year than this year. The Jets got him a year after he hardly played so his value was down. According to reports, the deal still was for a conditional draft pick that will fall somewhere between a second and a fourth, although those reports may not be accurate. The Jets also redid the deal and now only get him for one year and $3 million since he has a $10 million option bonus due next March, which won't get picked up and will make him a free agent, which is what Sheppard wants. If he does play well, and the option is picked up, Sheppard could earn as much as $30 million. So while I understand that Sheppard has some ability, I'd rather have Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden for modest bucks that worry about keeping a malcontent happy.
Paul Perillo

I expect Tom Brady to be back and help us get more Super Bowl rings before his career is over. I am not greedy. I just believe that Brady-Belichick-Kraft are the best in the business. There is one caveat though – Tom's mobility. He may be hungry and healthy to play, but can he escape the collapsing pockets like he used to? Can he stand there and take hard hits as he did in the past? He may be willing to, but his injured knee? If I am the opposing defense, I would be even more interested to get to Brady now, especially given the fact that a dumb play that seriously injured him went completely unpunished.
Adam B.

There's really no possible way to answer your question until we see Brady out on the field and performing in a real game with defenders flying around him. Brady isn't the fastest player in the world, but his mobility in the pocket was outstanding before the injury. It remains to be seen if that's still the case after such an invasive surgical procedure. And we won't know if the knee is sound enough to take a hit until he takes one. As for the opposing defenses taking runs at his knee, I wouldn't expect to see anything like that. There have been a ton a quarterbacks who've gone down with serious knee injuries over the past several years. Carson Palmer, Daunte Culpepper and Peyton Manning have all had knee injuries recently and I can't recall a single instance where defenses took cheap shots at their legs after they returned. I know that kind of talk is great at times like this when the owners meetings are taking place and they're discussing putting rules in to outlaw hitting the quarterback below the waist, but the fact is those types or plays don't happen often and more often than not are unintentional.
Paul Perillo

Now that we got a late third-round comp pick, it's time to find another Asante Samuel with it. I don't understand why we sometimes find diamonds in later rounds, and not consistently in the first round? And not just us, all teams. I would think that getting a solid starter out of the first round should be a no-brainer, and yet it's not. Why?Dave B.

If only it were that simple. Obviously the chances of finding good players in the draft decrease as the rounds continue, but if it was as easy as you make it out to be every draft would consist of future Hall of Famers going in the top two or three picks, followed by perennial All-Pros and Pro Bowlers, then some solid NFL starters, then some special teams players and guys who serve as camp fodder at the bottom of the draft. Obviously, it doesn't work that way. Good players can be found in every round and no one has a perfect system to find them. The Patriots have been pretty good with their first-round picks under Belichick with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson and Logan Mankins all serving as legitimate NFL starters at the very least. The fourth round hasn't been anywhere near as successful. There are occasional hits like Samuel, Jarvis Green and Stephen Gostkowski, but there have also been long-forgotten picks like Greg Robinson-Randall, Kenyatta Jones, Jabari Holloway, Rohan Davey, Dan Klecko, Dexter Reid, Cedric Cobbs and Garrett Mills. It's not a no-brainer to get a quality player at the top of the draft, but it's certainly a lot easier than in the later rounds.
Paul Perillo

How high are you on Adalius Thomas? Since Carolina wants something for Julius Peppers, how about a trade of AD plus a lower end pick for Peppers? That would eliminate $6 million-$7 million off of Thomas' contract and give NE some cap room to sign Jason Taylor. Julius Peppers/Jason Taylor sandwich with Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo in the middle. Excuse me while I wipe my drool.Hank B.

For starters your premise for this entire trade is way off base. Trading Adalius Thomas would save $7 million on the cap; it would cost an additional $7.2 million tacked on to his already sizable $6.4 million hit. Trading him would result in a cap hit of over $13 million for 2009 – that's not very sound strategy. Thomas has more than $13 million remaining on his unpaid signing bonus and that would be accelerated to this year's cap. So trading him would be virtually impossible. Plus, I wouldn't want Peppers and Taylor without Thomas. That would give the Patriots two outside linebackers trying to learn the system and I'm not sure that would be a better option than Thomas with one of the others. But since it can't happen, I won't waste any more time discussing it.
Paul Perillo

How many games do you think Matt Cassel starts before he is replaced? Am I the only one who saw that Cassel that threw the ball behind the receiver over the middle 95 percent of the time? I'm pretty sure I can count the accurate deep balls he threw on one hand. Without Moss, Welker or Josh McDaniels, I don't like his chances.Danny B.

Danny you're the last of our Killer Bs stretch as the fourth straight poster with a last name starting with B. And you also are by far the most negative. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but to answer your second question directly, yes, you are then only one who thought that his passes over the middle were consistently off target. While I don't think Cassel is a lock to start every game for the Chiefs this season and become the next great NFL quarterback, I think you're dramatically underselling his 2008 performance for the Patriots. Once he got comfortable with the offense, which in my opinion occurred during the second half of the Monday night win over Denver in October, I thought he was terrific. You mention the deep balls – I would contend that Moss dropped more accurate deep throws than Cassel missed him with. I obviously have no stats to back that up, but I recall a number of perfectly thrown balls in Moss' direction that weren't caught. (Remember the crossing route against Pittsburgh late in the first half?) I'm not saying Cassel will be going to Pro Bowls every year, but he's a much better quarterback than you're giving him credit for.
Paul Perillo

Back in 2000, wasn't Tom Brady selected with a compensatory draft pick? That was compensation for which departed free agent signed by which team? How'd the rest of that player's career go?
Tony Denninger

Brady was indeed selected with a compensation pick – sixth round, 199th overall – in the 2000 draft. The NFL issues those picks based on a formula weighing a team's gains and losses via free agency during the previous season. But it's almost impossible to determine for sure which player was responsible for each individual pick. That year, the Patriots received four compensation picks – a fourth, two sixths and a seventh. Which players were responsible for which picks is tough to determine. This season, the Patriots got three picks – a third, a fifth and a sixth – for losing Asante Samuel, Donte' Stallworth and Randall Gay. It's pretty easy to assume Samuel garnered the third-round pick, but it's unknown whether Gay or Stallworth got the fifth or sixth.
Paul Perillo

Who do you think the Patriots will get Peppers or Jason Taylor?Dillan Roe

This is my kind of question – straightforward and to the point. My guess, if it's one or the other, would be Taylor. He would be much easier to acquire and wouldn't command anywhere near the pricetag that Peppers would. He has some experience playing in a similar defensive system in Miami under Nick Saban, and Belichick has more familiarity with him from his days with the Dolphins. For those reasons, I feel Taylor would be the more likely candidate to become a Patriot.
Paul Perillo

If we don't get Peppers or Taylor, what's our plan for the next outside linebacker?
Ford Schweitzer

This couples perfectly with the previous question. If the Pats can't get either player, then they'd have Thomas on one side with a bunch of young players fighting it out on the other side. Pierre Woods, Tully Banta-Cain, Shawn Crable and Vince Redd all have some experience in the program but none has shown the ability to be an every down player at this point. There are some attractive candidates as outside rushers in the draft but it's had to tell which one Belichick feels would be able to make the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker. My guess would be Belichick would grab one of those guys in the top three rounds and mix him in with the young guys here and see how it all plays out.
Paul Perillo

So now with the compensatory picks handed out, it would be difficult to argue that anyone is in better position both current roster-wise, and potential to improve on draft day, than the Patriots. So that said, when Belichick has the best hand at the table, what does he do? Are we going to see another Moss type of addition or are we going to see more of a youth movement to solidify in a deep draft? I'm leaning at this point toward the latter. I can see the Patriots signing Jason Taylor, over Peppers because of the value play, and the depth in this season's draft. However I can also see the Patriots targeting some specific players by drafting guys they are convinced they really want and then trading picks for future years in lower rounds because so many other teams will be thinking "this is such a deep draft we need more picks." Where are you guys on the Pats moves up to and including this year's draft?
Charlie Bourque

I'm not sure exactly what you're question is, Charlie. You seem to have pretty much covered all the bases. I, like most people, feel that Belichick will certainly do his share of trading with all of the extra draft picks at his disposal. The three compensation picks obviously can't be dealt, but they offer more flexibility for other deals and Belichick will likely use those to his advantage. Belichick is on record as saying he believes it's a deep draft so I wouldn't be surprised to see him target some players and maneuver the best he can to get them. I, too, like Taylor over Peppers because of the cost factor – but if Peppers is attainable for a reasonable price – in terms of money and compensation – I'd be open to that as well. Overall, I see Taylor coming aboard and Belichick wheeling and dealing his way through draft weekend and coming away with some good players and some first-day picks for 2010.
Paul Perillo

I'm glad to see that we got the three compensatory picks, including the highest one possible. That being said, I don't like the idea of them. It seems too subjective. Every team has a fair chance to sign free agents, so why reward teams for not being diligent? I seriously think we will bundle some picks and trade up because I don't expect there to be enough room on the roster for all these rookies. My late-round steal is Jasper Brinkley from South Carolina. He's been a proven starter for years, can be a dependable run stuffer and his combine numbers were not too far behind Aaron Curry's across the board. Any input would be appreciated.
Brendan O'Connor

I tend to agree with you. I don't like the idea of compensation picks in any sport. As you said, free agency is open to everybody and every team has the same opportunity to sign and re-sign players. Losing one should not result in added draft picks, but that's the way they do it in baseball and football. Anyway, I love Brinkley. He was great before he injured his knee. Now I feel he could be a key late-round steal. He's very athletic and makes plays from sideline to sideline. If the Pats have a chance to grab him late, I'd jump on him.
Paul Perillo

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