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Ask PFW: Moss back, Samuel gone

Free agency is open and the departures of Asante Samuel, Donte’ Stallworth and Randall Gay left fans of Patriots Nation feeling left out of the fun.

Although I am not surprised that Samuel left, I am surprised that he didn't sign for more money than he did. Don't get me wrong...32 million in the first three years is big bucks. I just feel that the Pats could have worked out something under similar terms...maybe a little less, but close. It just seems like they didn't put up much of a fight to keep him. Do you feel that the Patriots did not value him the same as other teams did?Shane Cahill

I have no problem with letting Samuel was a business decision, and it's time to move on. But now, what is the solution? I don't see many free agent CBs left on the market who can step in and start right away. I don't think Meriweather is the answer either. What do you think the answer will be?Lance Mackler

So...Randy Moss for $9 million a year. How much are the Pats under the cap now?Anony Mous

Moss and Samuel were obviously the two biggest issues over the first week of free agency in New England, with the two ending in very different ways. Samuel was one of the top players on the market, visited Philly and never left. I was a little surprised with the deal he got – reportedly six years, $57 million – as I thought he might get a bit more. But from what I've heard and read it's a pretty realistic contract in which he should see the bulk of the dollars and will get his $30-plus million over the first three years. That's what matters most to players and agents these days in the world of NFL contracts. I think the deal is about right in terms of the going rate for a top-flight corner. Not ridiculous, not a steal – just about right in the current economic landscape of the league. I guess the Patriots don't put that type of value on Samuel's services or his role as the team's top corner. But it certainly leaves a huge void in a secondary that in my opinion struggled at times last season even with the All-Pro Samuel in the lineup.
The loss of Samuel is compounded by the fact that 2007 No. 3 corner Randall Gay marched off to New Orleans for what I thought was a ridiculous deal from the Saints. Now the Patriots need top-end talent and depth at corner with just Ellis Hobbs returning as a proven commodity there, and he himself coming off a suspect season that couldn't have ended any worse in the Super Bowl. My guess is the team will add a couple veterans from either trade or free agency and will target the corner spot with at least one if not two first day picks in the draft. I do think that it is likley that Meriweather will take plenty of reps at corner in camp, as he did last summer. But I'm not sure how productive he can be at corner. While he has versatility, he spent much of his time at Miami as a safety as he did later in his rookie season in New England. He's also struggled with his hands, dropping plenty of interceptions as a rookie. That's not a good thing at corner, where you have to take full advantage any time the ball touches your hands, something Samuel has done a great job of over the last two seasons.
In terms of Moss, I think it's a great thing that he's back and I think it came via a very palatable contract for the Patriots. Based on production, Moss was clearly underpaid last season. An average of $9 million per year for a relatively short term, with $15 million in guarantees, sounds like a pretty good deal to me for a guy who made the New England offense otherworldly last fall. Moss wanted to be in New England the Patriots wanted him back. It took a little while longer than we might have expected, and scared a few fans in the meantime, but the two sides got it done. Everyone, most importantly Tom Brady, has to be very happy.
Andy Hart

Losing Gay and Samuel was no surprise, but we haven't brought anyone else in yet. Any chance we could work out a deal with the Eagles for Lito Sheppard? Maybe Sheppard and their first round (and maybe another draft pick) for our 7th overall pick? Would a deal like that even be worthwhile?Kent Barnes

The trade seems to be a popular idea for fans and media types looking to fill the void left by Samuel's departure. I think Sheppard is a good corner, maybe a step below Samuel's level. Sheppard is young and proven. I like that. But first I'm not sure he's even on the market, despite published reports as such. And if he is, it's because he wants to sign a new, lucrative contract extension that would likely put him up in the financial bracket of Samuel. If that's the case, then why not just sign Samuel in the first place, a guy who's already proven he can perform in the New England system? Setting money aside, I'd clearly trade the 7th pick for Sheppard and the Eagles first-round pick. I just don't think the Eagles would even consider such a deal.
Andy Hart

The one thing that I think has been missed in the all the comments about a failed season because of a Super Bowl loss is that the Pats gave us 19 great games. It was one of the most enjoyable seasons to watch. We may have lost the Super Bowl, but it was one of the most enjoyable ones to watch. I think, as a fan, enjoying the game is more important then the Ws and Ls.
P. Evenson

P., what do you do for work? And if you run the company or even a department, are you hiring? I'd love to work in the "trying is good enough" atmosphere that you promote. Also, it's a good thing I didn't forward this to Chiefs Head Coach Herman Edward to do a guest answer here on Ask PFW. Can you just imagine how many times he would have repeated the line: "Hello! You play to win the game."
Andy Hart

I know the most popular choice right now for the 7th pick (if they can't trade down) would be to take a corner. But to me the top-rated corners are all too hit-or-miss to justify drafting that high. What are your thoughts on Keith Rivers out of USC at #7? He is listed at OLB but seems to have the bulk and ability to play inside or outside. Also, a later round LB prospect that sticks out to me is Vince Hall from VT. He will drop because he doesn't have elite speed, but he can take on bigger blockers and was a tackling machine in college.Anthony Gorgone

I agree with you that the corner market is a little suspect for a team picking as high as in the top 10. I'd be scared to take any of the top names at No. 7. I, too, am leaning toward taking the best fitting linebacker at that spot. If the team thinks that is Rivers, then so be it. I'd rather go with Vernon Gholston, but I think Belichick knows a bit more than I do about the players that fit his scheme. I'll defer to him, of course he's also never taken a linebacker in New England on the first day of the draft. We'll see if this is the year.
Andy Hart

What is the status on Sammy Morris? I thought he ran very well before he got injured. I was wondering if he is under contract because it would be nice to have him back this season with Laurence Maroney.Chad Alexander

Morris is under contract moving forward through 2010. He's still rehabbing from the rare chest/clavicle injury he suffered last year. The rehab was progressing well near the end of the season. I expect he'll be healthy by the time the new season rolls around. I think he will have a similar role as he had carved out in his first month with the team, serving as a second option behind Maroney with the versatility to do a variety of things. I was surprised with how well he played in his opportunities in the first month and so were many of his teammates. If he can avoid another freak injury, look for Morris to have a relatively significant role with the team next fall.
Andy Hart

I was wondering what your opinion on the Patriots getting Vernon Gholston? I feel like if he is there, there isn't a question he should draft him. I fear the Jets are going to draft him. Do you think that they could trade up to No. 5 to get him? I also saw that the Jets traded Dewayne Robertson, maybe the Jets would draft Sedrick Ellis? You guys have done a great job at the Combine....
Big John Cavallo

With the recent release of Roosevelt Colvin, I'm not aware of his contract specifics, but do you guys think this could be an attempt to free up salary cap and maybe take a pick with the 7th in the draft, or make significant moves in free agency. Also, what do you guys thinking of the Pats drafting Vernon Gholston?David Grew

I came away from the Combine very impressed with Gholston. I think he's an elite athlete who could be a very good fit at outside linebacker in New England. I was also impressed with his attitude and the way he handled the media's questions. Is he a future All-Pro? That's for more talented scouts than I to figure out. But he certainly has all the physical tools and measurables to be one. He sort of reminds me of Adalius Thomas in that way. He also has a friendship with Mike Vrabel, something that could benefit him in learning the complex 3-4 system in New England. Regardless, if I'm taking a guy at No. 7 and handing him a $40-plus million contract with $17-plus million in guarantees I'd like it to be a guy who had college high-level production and has elite physical tools. Gholston fits that bill. Now the only question is whether he'll be there at No. 7 and does he fit New England's Bill (as in Belichick).
And you are right in that the recent moves the Jets have made along both lines and at outside linebacker with Calvin Pace could influence the team's draft needs this April. I still think they could use another pass rusher and another defensive lineman, so that would leave both Ellis and Gholston as options if either is there at No. 6. I don't think the Patriots would be looking to pay the price to move up (both in terms of trade and additional contract dollars) to get to No. 5 in a draft that's generally considered to lack elite, blue-chip talent. Just my opinion.
Andy Hart

Are the Patriots going to draft better and younger lineman? I feel that it is time because the defense gets tired very easily.Billy Moore

Hello PFW! As I read the Jets sign [Alan] Faneca and now getting to [Damien] Woody, I'm left wishing for our OL to get an upgrade. Do you think we can win SB with aging [Matt] Light and [Nick] Kaczur at tackles? Thanks!
Brad Buleff

I find it funny that the Super Bowl loss has really left fans very much down on both the offensive and defensive lines. First, I think the defensive line played very well in the Super Bowl. I know they let Eli Manning escape for the play that will go down as one of the great ones in championship history, but aside from that I think they had a pretty good day even if they did get a little winded. The offensive line, on the other hand, stunk. But that doesn't mean they can't play. They had a very good regular season, led by the trio of Pro Bowlers. Maybe they got a little overrated along the way and got some praise simply because of the overall hype of the passing offense. But that doesn't mean they all need replacing. Kaczur clearly is the guy with the least hold on his position. I do think that that two-time Pro Bowler Light, an All-Pro this past fall, is a bit overrated. I think he's a decent tackle but not great. But I do certainly believe the Patriots could win a Super Bowl with the line as currently constructed. That just wasn't happening against a Giants front that seemed almost possessed on Feb. 4, 2007.
Andy Hart

Hello big fan here from Springfield, Ma. With Dante Stallworth out, do you see Kelly Washington having a bigger role this upcoming year in the passing game? When he was with Cincinnati I noticed he had a lot of potential to be a solid receiver and I think he would be a good fit as the No. 3 receiver behind Moss and Welker, maybe even No. 2. He is quick, nimble and seems like he could be very explosive off the line. How does this sound, Moss #1, Washington #2 and then Welker #3 in the slot, followed by Gaffney #4, Jackson and Aiken as special teamers and reserves, Thanks GuysMark Barnes II

Funny you bring this up, because this is the very topic we were arguing about yesterday afternoon in the office. I think Washington is now very much a special teamer first and wide receiver a distant second. Based on what I saw from him last summer in training camp action, I don't think he has very good hands. I also think that if he were good enough, he would have found a way to make a few more plays in his five combined seasons in Cincinnati and New England. I don't think he's ever going to be more than a fourth-type option at this point, and certainly based on last season Gaffney, if he returns to New England, has to be ahead of him on the depth chart. To me the guy who is the real question/key is Jackson. He's healthy this offseason and should head into camp as such. He's got two years in the system and the playbook. As a former second-round pick it's time for him to show his potential and make some plays. That's not something he's been able to do much in limited opportunities. I still haven't seen him show off the football speed that he should have based on his 40 time. This is a huge summer for Jackson. Either he's healthy, takes a huge step forward and starts making plays as a contributor or he could be in a very tough fight for a roster spot. Make or break time, baby!
Andy Hart

Hey guys, do you think the Patriots will sign free agent corner back Fernando Bryant who was just cut by the Lions? I personally don't think much of a defensive player coming to the AFC from the NFC but it seems like a Patriots-type of move. I mean two years ago we picked up Chad Scott, then last year we picked up Tory James (what happened to James anyway?). So it makes sense that the Pats would go after a nine-year vet like Bryant. What do you guys think?
Kenny Tasney

After initially making the team out of training camp last summer Tory James was cut just before the season opener on Sept. 8 when the Patriots lifted a roster exemption it had for Asante Samuel coming out of his franchise-tag related camp absence. As for Bryant, it does feel like a Patriots-type move in that he's a veteran who just got cut but was once seen as a somewhat promising prospect as a first-round pick out of Alabama. He went to Detroit as a free agent from Jacksonville in 2004, but battled injuries that cost him 26 games in three seasons. He also battled a foot injury this year, although he played all 16 games and tied a career-high with two interceptions. He was due a salary of $3.35 million this year and a roster bonus, money in the total range of $4 million that Detroit wasn't willing to pay despite the fact that his release essentially left the team with just one cornerback on the roster. I haven't seen him drawing much interest as a free agent, and I certainly don't think he's a starter or an upgrade on a championship-level team, but he's certainly a veteran body who could compete for a depth job in camp.
Andy Hart

Not much being said about Brandon Meriweather's first year, is this no news is good news? How do you rate his 2007 and what do you expect this year!Richard Riberdy

Do you think Brandon Meriweather will be a starter next season, with James Sanders doing a great job at SS and FS?
Joshua Brand

Meriweather came on late after a slow start to his first year in New England. After getting most of his reps at cornerback in camp with Asante Samuel not yet in uniform, Meriweather saw action as a safety and sub defensive back last fall. He finished the year with just 16 tackles and three passes defensed. He dropped a couple potential picks, but the fact that his playing time increased down the stretch and into the postseason has to be seen as a positive sign. Based on things we've heard, it sounds like he may have struggled a bit learning the defensive system and that may have led to how long it took him to see more playing time. I think there is a chance the team will take advantage of his versatility again this summer with reps at cornerback in light of the departure of Samuel, Gay and another former versatile safety-type, Eugene Wilson. Meriweather hasn't really shown me much to think he's a playmaker worthy of a first-round pick, but it's only been one year. I'm withholding my real scouting report on him for now. But I think he has a long way to go for a guy whose draft preview bio from one source actually had the words "Ed Reed" in it. I think the Patriots enter the year with Sanders and Rodney Harrison starting at safety with Meriweather either starting at cornerback or playing a nickel role. Of course moves made between now and training camp could change my thoughts on that. There is a long way to go before even the first preseason game.
Andy Hart

What the freak!!! Why did we release [Rosevelt] Colvin when we're 100 years old at LB and short depth? I know Rosie is injury prone but he is good, very good if you ask me. I know we're not getting Vilma, which would have been awesome, so what the heck are they doing? Is Pepper Johnson going to play or is there some wondrous player that were getting?Evan Noel

Evan, step away from the edge. I feel your pain, I really do, but there truly is a long way to go. Colvin was cut because he had a $7-plus million cap number from his original free agent contract that wasn't commensurate with his production. He was good, not great, but was going to be paid top dollar coming off another season-ending injury. As hard as it is, you can't allow a lack of depth at a position force you into a move that is financially detrimental to the team. You are right in that as of now there simply aren't enough bodies to even run a practice with a 3-4 defense, never mind compete for an NFL title. Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel help things out in that they can play inside or out. Tedy Bruschi is back, but I think expecting him to play all 16 games again and lead the team in tackles is a bit of wishful thinking. Beyond that there isn't much defensive help on the roster. I'm not sold, even after playing in the Super Bowl, that Pierre Woods is ready to play. I think the ship has passed on Eric Alexander. Something has to be done through either the draft or free agency -- or probably both. Or maybe Johnson will have to play. Somebody has to.
Andy Hart

Hi guys. I want to thank you for your great work. I was wondering what your opinion is on the Pat's maybe switching to a 4-3 base defense. We have four great defensive linemen and with the aging linebacker corps it may make sense. It seems to me that our pass rush struggled at the end of the year. I think that Jarvis Green can be a great pas rusher if given a full time opportunity. Maybe I am way off base. Just wondering.Brian Tweedie

Last year the Patriots tried to copy cat the Colts offensively! What are the chances BB forgoes the 3-4, in favor of a Tampa 2 type defense. The Colts very seldom bring in high priced free agents for their defense. Defense players in that scheme are smaller, faster and easily available through the draft?George Raab

I tought I taw a putty tat. I did. I did.
Anyway. My guess is the 4-3 talk will be a theme this offseason in light of the lack of players at linebacker. But even if the team plays some more four-man fronts in 2008, I don't think Belichick is going to scrap his whole two-gap defensive philosophies to move toward the Tampa 2. It's not who he is or what he thinks is best. And are we really looking to copy the Colts defense now? After years of mocking the unit? My how things really have changed. Of course to make a such a switch work we'd probably need Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney. The bottom line is I do think we might see a few more 4-3 fronts in 2008 if the roster depth necessitates it, but I think the overall philosophies of the defense will remain somewhat similar. The only change I see is that maybe the addition of Dom Capers to the coaching staff might bring some new blitz looks and a little bit more of an aggressive approach to the 3-4 front. Of course that is always dependent on the team having the personnel to employ such tactics.
Andy Hart

Do we have any shot at Chris Long with the No.7 pick?Lou Persinger

With the way the top of the draft is shaping up right now, I think almost any player could be available at No. 7. There is no sure-fire No. 1 pick and the same can be said on some level right on down the line through No. 7. The draft lacks elite, top-end talent and that should make for an interesting first 10 picks on draft weekend. Some guys seem like fits with some teams, but in my mind the whole top 10 is very much up in the air right now. And we haven't even really considered trade possibilities yet.
Andy Hart

How about picking up Ty Law he has just been released from the Chiefs and I believe possibly a one year deal would work well to start with?Jim MarCroft

Ty has said he'd be open to coming back. I wouldn't mind seeing him come back. I don't think he's a top-level guy anymore, but I'd take his experience, instincts and knowledge of the system. And right now the team doesn't have much depth at corner. There is an opening for a starter, for a nickel back and for depth jobs. I have to think Law could help that out. Now the question is how much money is he looking for because I'm not looking to give him much money. I think he can still play a little bit, but his days of big bonuses and high salaries are long gone.
Andy Hart

I was just wondering how much cap room the Patriots will have for the 2008 FA and Draft? I know Moss is going to be costly to keep him in NE, but I believe the 7 Million increase to the cap will more than cover that.Dave Ross

According to various published reports and comments made by Patriots President Jonathan Kraft the team entered free agency with somewhere around $22 million in cap space to work with.
Andy Hart

Hi, I was wondering do you the Patriots will be good next year, with Randy Moss back and despite losing whole bunch of other players?Shanquessa Tisdale

Yes. Bill Belichick Tom Brady = AFC East title.
Andy Hart

Do you think the Patriots should draft Aqib Talib? He can be the next Ty Law in my opinion.Ian Moe

I haven't watched tape yet, but I didn't like what I saw from Talib at the Combine. He came in smaller than expected and looked stiff and seemed to lack athleticism in his drills. Some thought he was the top corner and possible pick at No. 7. I wouldn't touch him there with a 10-foot pole. He may end up being a good NFL corner, but the real question with him and just about every other corner in the draft is where they deserved to be picked. There may be depth at cornerback but that fact that there isn't a consensus top corner at this point tells me there may not be an elite corner in the bunch. And that means there is no Law in the bunch.
Andy Hart

Dear Tom Casale: With all due respect to your opinion that the Patriots '07 team was a "failure," change your opinion. Yes, they did play their worst game of the year in their last game of the year, but minus one play, they would have won that game. And, no other team has gone 18-0. Yes, the Super Bowl is important but we've (with core players such as Brady, Seymour, etc.) already won 3. I refuse to nonchalantly dismiss the entire season (which, by the way, how can they - how can anyone - top) because Eli Manning gets lucky with one throw. I agree with the reader: though the loss was excruciating, people need to look at their season differently -- as one of the greatest of all time. It can't be all or nothing. Why did they even bother to play the other 18, then?
Susan Morin

Am I really going to have to call Herm Edwards to answer these types of questions? They play the other games to earn the right to play in, and get into position for, the Super Bowl. That's the bottom line. The Patriots did a lot of great things last fall and winter. They made plays and won all the their games except the most important one, the one to put the stamp on the historic season. As Ellis Hobbs put it after the loss. "We choked."
Andy Hart

Do you think the Pats might be interested in Clark Haggans? Because I think he would fit into Belichick's 3-4 defense perfectly because he is very versatile (can play inside and outside linebacker at 6-4, 243 pounds) and he was a Defensive End in college who converted to linebacker. Haggans is only 31 and on the young side of 31 that he turned last month on 1/10 and has been healthy his whole career in the league (8 years). Haggans could be the sleeper in free agency this year and could possibly be a steal for Belichick and the Pats. I would love to hear what you have to say about this topic.Sinclair Miller

Haggans is interesting in that I would think he'd be a good fit in New England but I haven't heard of much interest from the Patriots or many other teams (the Giants have reportedly shown interest) for that matter. Maybe Haggans can't play anymore. I haven't watched him that much. But based on his experience and resume, I'd think the Patriots and plenty of other 3-4 teams would be interested in his services. I'd sign him. Hey, at least he's a body who could play in the 3-4. The Patriots don't have many of those right now. Sign him up. Maybe the Patriots will, sometimes these types of signings sort of hover under the radar and then all of the sudden the player is in New England. I think Haggans could start for this team right now.
Andy Hart

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