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Ask PFW: Kicking things around

With the recent signing of Martin Gramatica, the Patriots at least have added a potential replacement for the departed Adam Vinatieri. But judging from the responses of Patriots Nation, he may not be the last kicker New England adds to its roster this season.

Who do you think is the most likely kicker for the Patriots next year? Paul Edinger is a bit of a risk, Todd Peterson's getting old, Josh Brown might be a good option, except he's restricted. Do you think there's a possibility we might use one of the mid-round draft picks to try and grab the top kicker in the draft?
Robbie Mitchnick

Obviously you sent this in before Martin Gramatica was signed late last week and before the Seahawks re-signed Josh Brown. But Gramatica's presence certainly doesn't rule out your possibility of drafting a kicker (or signing a rookie free agent) to compete for the job. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if another veteran was signed between now and camp to increase the competition. The kicking job will be wide open come July and whoever performs the best will ultimately wind up replacing Vinatieri.
Paul Perillo

Do you think Pats are saving room to sign a guy or two guys that may become available later in the offseason such as the June 1 cap cuts, and final roster cuts? A veteran WR for example, like Isaac Bruce, Jimmy Smith or Marcus Robinson. Are there players at other positions you feel/hear that could be released, that might fit nicely?
Bob Anderson

I think the June 1 cuts have been one of the most overrated aspects of the NFL offseason for several years now. It seems we always read about various veterans all over the league that are about to be let go and then very few of them wind up on the open market. This year, with the additional cap space created by the extension of the collective bargaining agreement, there figures to be even fewer quality players available because teams will have more wiggle room. I'm sure there will some players available but I wouldn't count on too many impact players at that point. Guys like Roman Phifer, Bryan Cox and Antowain Smith – all of whom were signed after June 1 in 2001 and wound up being major contributors – are rare. And Isaac Bruce re-signed a three-year deal to stay with the Rams so he's not going anywhere. And Robinson will likely be safe in Minnesota with the Vikings losing Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson. Smith could be one of those cap casualties, though, but based on his dreadful performance against the Pats in last year's playoffs, you can keep him.
Paul Perillo

Two positions the Patriots figure to add to are linebacker and running back. With the Cardinals signing Edgerrin James, J.J. Arrington may be expendable. Could you see the Pats trading a draft pick or two for Arrington and then drafting a quality linebacker such as Bobby Carpenter? I know Parcells likes him at No. 18 but the Patriots have a history of moving up and down in the first round, so if they think he's as good as I do, I can't see why they wouldn't go after him. The Eagles could be a trading partner with the 14th pick. Living in eastern Pennsylvania all I hear is that the Eagles are leaning toward a running back. If DeAngelo Williams is off the board, they may be willing to trade down knowing Laurence Maroney and/or LenDale White will still be available.
Shawn Spencer

Why would the Cardinals want to deal a young running back they have under their control for short money for the next three years? Even though they signed The Edge, Arrington is a cheap backup (making around the minimum in base salary through 2008) who provides insurance. So unless the Patriots were to offer something pretty substantial (which wouldn't make a lot of sense for a guy who couldn't beat out Marcel Shipp last year), then I doubt Arizona would just give him away. As for drafting Carpenter, PFW is right on board with you. Andy, Tom and I all agree that he'd be a nice pick at 21 and there's a reasonable chance that he would be available. And like you said, the Patriots have the picks necessary to move up a few spots if they feel they need to in order to get him. Now the question is, do the Pats feel he's worth it?
Paul Perillo

It appears that Pats are repeating their last season free agency approach by signing a big receiver and a bunch of bodies well past their prime. In draft, there is a talk of Pats going after Fresno State player in 1st round. I feel like we are reliving last preseason. Why does the management think that it is the winning formula? Has any free agent the Pats signed last year been even close to impressive? Has any of LSU or Fresno State players Pats drafted in rounds 1-2 over the last years been all that stellar? I can certainly see a financial logic in this approach. If a player gets hurt, he better be $500,000 and not $2.5M player. Meanwhile, signing second-tier school players gives Pats negotiating leverage with them. But is this the way to go back from 10-6 record to winning SB?Adam

There are so many flaws to this logic I don't even know where to begin. First, who are the free agent signees that are "well past their prime?" They signed Chad Brown last year and he is the only possible player that could fit into that category. This year they've signed Mel Mitchell, Reche Caldwell, Martin Gramatica, Tebucky Jones and Eric Warfield. Which of those players is over the hill? Jones is 32 and he's the oldest. As Fresno State players, Logan Mankins stepped in and started every game as a rookie. I'd say that's pretty impressive. And the Pats drafted exactly one other player from those schools in the first two rounds – Marquise Hill. So yes, Hill has yet to do much to warrant that second-round selection. I guess you're right.
Paul Perillo

While I don't doubt the decisions made by BB and SP in letting good players leave the team for whatever reasons each year, I still don't get some of the things they do. Yes we've been lucky to have a good system with great coach, great GM and great owner. But we might have to learn a bit from the past. Shouldn't we? We all know how the Pats perform even after losing great players. But... How come no one realizes how bad we had also become after losing some good players and adding some "average" players in hope of making them great? Well, I am referring to the players we lost and the players we brought in? Was Scott? Starks? anywhere close to what Law was? Was Beisel or Brown anywhere close to Ted Johnson or Bruschi (when he was injured)? Was Jarvis Green anywhere near to what Seymour was? Yes Dillon was highly productive in '04, but what about in '05? And also of all the receivers we brought in, was Davis any closer to what Patten was? Did Dwight fair better than any of our past punt returners? And that BIG wideout from Michigan who was supposed to work well with Brady, what happened to him? And yeah we got good Rookies on the offensive line but wasn't Andruzzi better than all of them? Now, didn't the Pats fail in all these positions I brought up in terms of replacing the departed ones? If yes, then how come we don't open up the pocket a bit and get some quality players in town? Instead of bringing a bunch of average or below average players in, why not sign a couple of players who are capable of changing the game whenever they are on the field? I just can't see how we just keep ignoring the failures we had faced in the recent years. As loyal as we are, I believe BB and SP should give us some reasons to believe. And that can happen only with the personnel we will see on the field. ThanksJonas Yonzan

You're looking for reasons to believe, Jonas? How about three of them – big, huge banner hanging inside Gillette Stadium signifying Super Bowl titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004. How's that for reasons to believe? Look, no one is going to agree with every personnel decision a team makes and I certainly don't agree with every move BB and SP have made over the past six years either. But it's awfully hard to squabble about these moves based on history. For the most part, the changes have been for the better. While I agree with most of your person-for-person evaluations above, that's not really how the Patriots look at it. The money saved on these individual moves is invested elsewhere on the roster, which allows the team to improve itself in other areas. So while it's true that letting Law go and replacing him with Starks, for example, was a major downgrade, it's also true that the differences in those players salaries was also huge and that's why the Patriots are better prepared to deal with injuries and other unforeseen problems than most teams. Like I said, I don't always agree with the philosophy that Bill and Scott use (and Ty Law would be one instance I would disagree) but they are very consistent and the results speak for themselves.
Paul Perillo

I don't expect you to publish or answer this e-mail. It's easy to dismiss reader's dismay over losing Adam. However, I do take issue with your comments regarding his status in Indianapolis. He's not a star yet. But just think once he becomes one, he can do the "cut that meat" ad and look as big a boob as Peyton Manning.
Nancy Beal

I'm not sure why you didn't think we'd publish this, and I'm not sure what your point was in sending it. But since you said we wouldn't print it, here it is. Now all of our readers can have trouble understanding what you mean.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, great job with the Q & As. I'm a New England fan through my wife who is a local and can't wait to return to the area for the 06/07 season. My question: Most draft boards see this draft as being very strong through the second and third rounds. Do you see BB and Pioli possibly trading down with the first pick, and up with 4th and 5th rounders to acquire extra picks in this area of the draft? With multiple areas of concern - WR, RB, CB, ILB, OLB, possibly SS - this would allow them to address areas of need with "more likely to succeed" picks. Also with their trend for draft day maneuvering, this seems likely to me. Look forward to your response.Owen Meehan

Obviously the Patriots aren't afraid to move around the board and have done so often in the past. But even if your assessment of the draft is accurate and the second and third rounds are strong, wouldn't the first round still be better? I don't see why a second or third rounder would be a "more likely to succeed" pick than a first rounder. I have no doubt the Patriots will make some moves because they almost always do, but I doubt they'd want to move down and out of the first round.
Paul Perillo

What's the real scoop on Eric Warfield from K.C. and Mel Mitchell from N.O.? I know the Pats need to add depth in the secondary but are these two guys the answer? Both are coming from teams not known for their defensive prowess. While I'm glad the Pats are addressing the secondary, the glaring holes seem to be at WR and K. I'm glad they don't have any games to play for a while... I hope BB and SP draft smart. They should have Bill and Scott go on one of those Texas Hold 'em Poker tournaments I see on TV. They'd really clean up! Keep the faith Patriot Nation!
Paul Foster

Are they the answer? That depends on what the question is. If anyone is expecting Warfield and Mitchell to come here and perform like Ty Law and Rodney Harrison, then no, they are not the answer. But that's not why they were signed. Mitchell specifically is a special teams player and has very little experience playing defense during his career. He will become one of the team's core players on the coverage units, joining guys like Izzo and Davis. Warfield is an experienced, versatile defensive back who can play both corner and safety. That's the kind of flexibility that Belichick likes to have and I can see Warfield playing a significant role in the secondary.
Paul Perillo

I know the first day each team gets 15 min. and the second day each team gets 10. I think I'm right on the times but not sure. I know the time can be used to work out deals. But do they need it that much time? I think that most all of the teams know who they want to draft. I wonder if other fans would like to have the time changed to like an 8 min draft clock for each team for both days.Matt

First, teams get 15 minutes for their first-round picks, 10 minutes for the second and five for each of rounds 3-7. But overall I agree with your premise that 15 minutes is too long and I'd like to see the first round limited to 10 and rounds 2-7 to five minutes. But they don't usually ask my opinions on these things.
Paul Perillo

I want to first thank you for the good info and opinions. I don't always agree with you but I find that most of those times it's because I really don't know the facts or let emotions tilt my logic scales. Anyway, my question, on compensation picks what would someone like Vinatieri or McGinest bring, if any, to the Pats? Does the NFL give draft picks for the value to the team, the order they were taken when they were drafted, or for the money they were asking for or got signed for. I seem to get confused trying to reason why a team gets a specific value for a lost player?
Nick Motzny

There's a good reason you're confused, Nick, because the NFL has a formula they use for this and they don't share it with anyone. Compensation picks can vary between the third and seventh round depending on how well the players do in their new homes (games started, etc.). But the formula is only for players lost through free agency. So Vinatieri and David Givens will likely earn the Patriots picks in 2007, but since McGinest was actually released by the Patriots, he won't account for anything in return. Plus you have to subtract any free agent signings the Patriots make and take the net of those (again, using the NFL's formula) to determine how many picks the Pats will get and which rounds they will be in.
Paul Perillo

First, I'd like to compliment Tom Casale's analysis of draft prospects from a Pats point of view. (i.e. Youboty, Bing, etc. being lost most of the time yet are inexplicably overrated). I'd also like to ask him to quit mentioning how strong Fresno St. CB Richard Marshall is. Seems to me he's been flying under the radar and no one else sees him as one of the top 3 CBs coming out. Let's keep it that way! With some of the LBs available, I'm not sure we should spend a 1st round pick on a CB. My 2 part question is: 1) Is there any real chance Marshall will still be available @ our second-round pick? 2) If Greenway, Carpenter and Lawson are still on the board @ 21, who would make the best Patriot?
John Constantine

You don't seriously think Tom Casale knows more than members of various NFL scouting departments, do you? He barely knows more than Fred Kirsch about this stuff. So to suggest that Tom shouldn't write about Richard Marshall because he's flying under the radar is a little silly. There is a chance Marshall could be around in the second round, but not likely. At worst, I don't see him getting out of the top 10 of the second round so it's doubtful the Patriots would be able to get him without trading up. As for the second part of the question, Carpenter is PFW's pick. None of us likes Greenway all that much, but Lawson is an intriguing guy.
Paul Perillo

Now that the Patriots have Gramatica, will they sign another free agent or go to the draft to find someone to compete with him? And what about Ellis Hobbs? Will they be looking at him to possibly start or be a nickel corner?
Joe Robinson

My guess is both. I'm expecting two other guys to join Gramatica in camp, with one being a veteran free agent (Todd Peterson?) and another being a rookie, whether through the draft or a rookie free agent. Hobbs will get a chance to earn a starting job just like everybody else. It's too early to say whether he'll end up the starter or the nickel back or some other role, but my guess would be he and Samuel opening as the starters unless further improvements are made.
Paul Perillo

The signing of Tebucky Jones gives us much more depth in the secondary. Do you think that Jones will be able to maybe take over FS and allow Wilson to move back to his natural spot at CB? It seemed to me he struggled last year back there after Harrison went down. Plus doing that would most likely allow us to worry about CB and Safety in the later rounds of the draft, wouldn't it?

If you feel like the secondary is an area of need now, then why wouldn't it continue to be no matter where Wilson and Jones are playing? I like the Tebucky signing more than most people because of his experience in the system and his athleticism. But I don't think his presence affects our draft needs much either way. If the Patriots feel they need some help in the secondary then I don't think Tebucky will change that.
Paul Perillo

With the re-signings of Hawkins, Poteat, C. Scott, G. Scott, return from injury of Harrison and the newly signed players like Jones, Mitchell and Warfield my guess is that the Pats won't take a DB in the first round or even entire draft for that matter. My guess is BB and staff won't take a receiver with the 21st pick. So that leaves linebacker and halfback. I would love to see the Patriots draft DeAngelo Williams if he slides and then trade up in the second round to grab Iowa linebacker Abdul Hodge. Hodge's stock is rising and he can play the middle, which would allow us to move Vrabel back to the outside. What do you think?
Shane Taylor

I think the Patriots absolutely will draft a defensive back at some point, maybe even in the first round, so I guess I totally disagree with you. Of the eight DBs you listed, four of them were here last year and Harrison was 100 percent healthy. You can replace Tyrone Poole for Warfield, Dexter Reid for Mitchell, Duane Starks for Hawkins and Antuan Edwards for Jones. There really isn't much difference between those groups and yet the Patriots still added James Sanders and Ellis Hobbs through the draft. So I wouldn't rule out defensive backs this year either. They still need a shutdown-type corner and Belichick might like a guy like Tye Hill or Jimmy Williams at No. 21 to fill that role. As for Hodge, I think he remains a solid early second-round prospect and could make sense for the Pats if they think he's worth trading up for. I'm not sure they're eager to move Vrabel back outside after he performed so well inside last year and that spot seems more difficult to fill. But a guy like Hodge would make sense.
Paul Perillo

A couple of days after you critically referenced Tebucky Jones in your assessment of defensive backs declining in the draft, the Pats signed Tebuck. What does Bill and company see that you don't? Is it just a matter of getting some veterans in who have played in the Belichick system? At least your comments prove your editorial independence! Keep up the good work.Ian Campbell

I think you must be referencing Tom's characterization of USC safety Darnell Bing, who he believes is not worthy of first-round consideration, much like Tebucky Jones should not have been a first-round pick back in 1998 when Bobby Grier took him. Tom believes Bing would be a quality pick in the third or fourth round but believes, much like Jones, that he lacks the instincts and tackling ability to make him the first-round pick that many believe he can be. So I guess there might be a difference of opinion there.
Paul Perillo

Alert the media! The planets must be in alignment. Am I to understand that the Pats are playing the Broncos in Foxborough? I guess it had to happen some time. They will probably play at Mile High for the next 20 yrs to make up for it. One other observation - Martin Gramatica - are you kidding me? Living in the Tampa Bay area I am forced to pay attention to the Bucs and I have never seen a place kicker with a worse case of the 'yips'. He got to the point where he was hooking extra points. If you think he is going to win games for the Pats you're probably expecting David Duval to win the Masters.Jim Delfino

Typical of Patriots fans that always believe the NFL has it out for our boys … while certainly the Patriots have played more in Denver than vice versa recently (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005), Denver has played in Foxboro occasionally (1999 and 2002) too. So in a 9-year span from 1999-2006, the teams will have played seven times in the regular season, four in Denver and three in Foxborough. Sounds like a conspiracy to me.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys, While other people have been bombarding you with trivial matters such as free agency and the draft, I have an important issue to I would like you guys to address. My concern is the "alternate" uniforms. Since the Patriots don't play on Thanksgiving, they will not automatically wear their throwback uniforms this season. I believe that teams can choose which alternate uniform they wear for the two games in which they wear alternates. Ever since the silver alternates came out, the Patriots have worn them rather than throwbacks. I assume the whole reason for wearing alternates is jersey sales and revenue, so I would think that the team would choose to wear the jersey the fans like most. The vast majority of fans I know would rather see, and possibly purchase, the throwback. What kind of sentiment do you think exists around Patriot Nation regarding silver vs. throwback? Could someone on the PFW staff let the necessary people know that the fans want to see the throwbacks in 2006? Personally, I would never buy a silver jersey but I would consider a throwback if I could get a couple good looks of it on some current players. Thanks for your time and focus on this extremely important matter.
Dan Mason

Without question the most important question we've ever received. I mean seriously, this is what's keeping you up late at night? From what I'm told, the Patriots will wear their silver jerseys at some point this year but that game has yet to be determined. Other than that, there aren't any plans to wear the red throwbacks in 2006. And I'll be sure to relay your views of the throwback vs. alternate jersey situation to the powers that be.
Paul Perillo

Do you think that Tully Banta-Cain is capable of producing at a starter's level? How would you compare his style to that of McGinest, or Bobby Carpenter and Manny Lawson? Does he have the physical and mental tools to excel in the Pats system or is he forever a special teamer?Will Benson

At this point I believe Banta-Cain is a pass rusher off the edge and not much more. But that doesn't mean he can't be anything more than that. He's been in the system for three years now and this would seem to be his time to show he's worthy of an expanded role. I like his athleticism for the position but it's impossible to know how well he's grasped the intricacies of the system after making the transition from defensive end to linebacker. In that regard, I guess he has a lot in common with Manny Lawson and McGinest, but those guys were much higher rated than he was coming out of college. Carpenter is a different kind of player and is more of a pure linebacker with the versatility to play inside and out.
Paul Perillo

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