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Ask PFW: Moss trade fallout

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WHAT!!! I wake up this morning to this? Moss doesn't have a catch [against Miami] and then we trade him to Minnesota for a third-round draft pick? Tell me I'm not sleeping still. No wonder he didn't feel the love at New England anymore. I guess we figure the special teams are going to win it for us every game, eh? Over the top for ... not Moss … [Brandon] Tate? [Taylor] Price? Certainly not [Wes] Welker. What brought all this on?
*Kristopher Jones *

Why does this make sense for the Patriots? Wouldn't the Pats get a third-rounder if Moss left in free agency anyway? So what was gained?? Is Belichick making his job harder on purpose because he is bored? Does this say he is giving up on Super Bowl aspirations for this year? I'm very close to tuning out for the year, as the Patriots should be a source of entertainment not indigestion.Gary Ritterhouse

Wouldn't the Patriots have received a third-round compensatory selection for not re-signing Moss in the offseason? Why trade him now and get a third from Minnesota when they could have played out the season with him, not re-signed him, and still gotten a third- or fourth-round selection from the NFL? Thanks.Rick Goodwin

Now that the Randy Moss trade has happened, who do you see stepping up their game? Is Brandon Tate the guy?Israel Lopez

Safe to say, Patriot Nation is not happy with this move, based on the deluge of comments to our blog, e-mails to our patriots.com radio lineup, and submissions to Ask PFW.

There's some misinformation being spread out there in regard to the compensatory pick that New England would have received for Moss, and I'd like to clear that up here. The NFL has an enormously complicated formula for allotting compensatory draft picks to teams that lose free agents. I've had people who work in the league try to explain it to me and even they have a difficult time because it is so involved a process.

However, one of the aspects we do know of is that, when a player reaches 10 accrued seasons in the league, his equivalent value in a compensatory pick can be no higher than a fifth-rounder. Moss, in his 13th year, falls into that category.

Furthermore, that compensation comes in the draft year following the offseason in which the player in question leaves via free agency. So, even if New England held onto Moss for the remainder of 2010 and he signed elsewhere in the 2011 offseason, the Patriots wouldn't receive the fifth-round compensation until the 2012 NFL Draft. In essence, the trade with Minnesota gave the Patriots a compensatory pick that was two rounds higher and a year earlier than if they'd kept Moss.

Now, how will this affect the Patriots offense? If I'm the Ravens defensive coordinator (New England's next opponent), I'm taking the double-team I had reserved for Moss and sticking it on the Patriots' next best receiver, Wes Welker, and taking my chances that young, unproven players like Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, the two rookie tight ends, et al will beat me. This changes the entire dynamic of the Patriots offense. Rookie Aaron Hernandez has credited, on several occasions, his ability to produce big plays to Moss' ability to stretch opposing defense, thus creating the openings in the middle of the field that Hernandez has exploited. Without Moss, will Hernandez still be able to get open? We'll see.

If the Patriots passing game suffers, therefore, will it start having to rely more on the running game, which is also going through a transition to BenJarvus Green-Ellis? At the end of the day, this trade creates more questions than it answers for the Patriots.
Erik Scalavino

I know the Pats usually don't make blockbuster trades during the season, but since their defense is lacking, and they do have two first-round picks, do you think they try it this year? If so, who do they go after? Personally, I definitely think they keep the Raiders pick to get Robert Quinn from North Carolina.
Derek Dueker

Do you think BB will make a defensive trade before the deadline to boost the defense? If so, who should he go after?Randy Ranz

Obviously, things have changed now that Moss has been dealt. With less than two weeks before the October 19 trade deadline, it's still possible that disgruntled guard Logan Mankins could be packaged with one of the multiple mid-round picks the Patriots have in the 2011 draft. But I'm still not in favor of panicking and trading one of next year's first-rounders. If it did happen, though, there are a few realistic names who've been mentioned throughout the offseason – the likes of Shawne Merriman topping the list. The Patriots need pass rush help, more than anything. Problem with Merriman (among many) is that he's currently injured and is on a one-year deal, so, New England would have to work out a long-term deal with him if they still feel he can be the kind of player he was just a few seasons ago. I'm not convinced he is.

Another player who's been talked about – at least in chat rooms and e-mails to Ask PFW and "PFW in Progress" – is defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who's clearly not happy with the new Mike Shanahan regime in Washington. The feeling appears to be mutual, even though Haynesworth had his best game of the young season this past Sunday against Philadelphia. I can't imagine that volatile relationship will last a full season, so, he may be a name to keep track of. Again, though, some well-documented issues exist with him, which might rule him out of consideration with New England.

Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, I have a question concerning Brandon Meriweather. I've seen over the past couple of weeks he hasn't been starting. What's going on???? I mean, the guy's a playmaker. Why doesn't BB have him and [Patrick] Chung starting side by side????
Joshua Brand

Well, as you probably saw Monday night, Meriweather was back in the starting lineup, before leaving in the second half with a knee injury. He did speak with the media after the game, so that may be an indication that it's not all that serious. He hadn't been starting the past couple of games, though, because, by his own admission, he'd been "freelancing" too much in practice, rather than sticking to what his coaches have been asking him to do. As a result, he'd seen his playing time diminish.
Erik Scalavino

It seems that everyone likes to bash the Pats defense, but I wonder, what is the strength of their defense? They looked great against Carson Palmer, but he has yet to look good this year. They struggled against an underrated Jets offense (it pains me to say that), and the Bills had a kind of breakout game against them. So, are the Pats better at defending the pass or the run? It's hard to get a bead on them so far. Thank you and my prayers are with you, Kevin Faulk – one of the most underrated Patriots of all time.Travis Zembower

Before I get to the Monday night win over Miami, let's quickly revisit the Bengals game. If you recall, the defense was making plays in the first half, then allowing them in the second. Palmer carved them up and nearly led a comeback. But to answer your question, up until last night, the Patriots had been struggling equally against the pass and the run. Overall, they've been a unit without a strength. Perhaps the Dolphins game will mark a turning point, but it's still too early to say with certainty.
*Erik Scalavino *

Hi guys, great job. I read you every week. I would like to continue this defensive theme. I would like to know why the DBs won't jam the receivers at the line. Can't they play physical and disrupt the timing? Or maybe give the pass rushers that extra fraction of a second to get in the QB's face? When they show that yellow line for the 1st down on TV, the secondary is ALWAYS on the wrong side of it! Are they coached that way? Do we really not have the physical talent to match up? I'm just so tired of the defense looking like they're playing scared! Thanks for letting me vent.
Howard Wolfe

I'm with you, Howard. It's a common lament we have from our view up in the press box. Ellis Hobbs used to do it all the time, and now the new corps of corners seems to be giving big cushions too often. I can only presume that they're doing what they're coached to do, because most corners say they prefer to play aggressive, press coverage against receivers.
Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, you all do a great job. My question is about Stephen Gostkowski and why he has been struggling so far this season. Is there anything the coaching staff has been working on him with? Also, I like him, I think he is a good regular season kicker, but I feel like he has struggled some in the playoffs (where as all Pats fans know) or even some clutch kicks. He has done a good job following Adam Vinatieri and we can't expect him to replace the legend completely. How do you guys feel?Shawn Frazier

I feel that Gostkowski's so-called struggles have been vastly overrated. Of his three misses in the first three games, two were long-range bombs (45+ yards). I don't fault him for those misses. The fact that he's working with a new holder (rookie Zoltan Mesko) should not be discounted, but that transition has been fairly seamless – especially on Monday versus Miami, when Jake Ingram's long snaps were a bit off. Mesko did a great job of getting the ball down in the right spot for Gostkowski.

Before the win over the Dolphins, Gostkowski's kickoffs hadn't been as consistently deep as last season, but as you saw Monday night, he seemed to correct what was wrong and was drilling nearly every kickoff out of the end zone (wind wasn't much of a factor, either). Gostkowski has done more than "a good job," as you termed it, replacing Adam Vinatieri. He's been the best possible replacement and Patriots fans should be grateful the team drafted him.
Erik Scalavino

Assuming the offense is who we think it is, I believe we will only need to improve on coordinator, play calling, and execution for the offense (a pick up or two here and there). With that being said, is it reasonably fair to assume we should/would focus 80% of our draft and trades on the defensive side? I don't want much, just two studs (one in front seven and the other in back). As an extra, can we revamp the RBs? I like the committee approach, but I don't know if we can afford to rely on both [Sammy] Morris and [Fred] Taylor.
Ramon Browne

You think we "only" need to improve the offensive coordinator, play-calling, and execution? Only? That's three-fourths of the offense's components, Ramon, the other being individual talent. Which, if I understand your premise, I agree the Patriots have in abundance at the moment.

Where I don't necessarily agree is with your seemingly arbitrary percentage designation. And why limit your upgrades on defense to just "two studs?" If you can make more moves, make them! At the moment, perhaps, there are more needs on defense, but what if Randy Moss and Matt Light don't re-sign; Kevin Faulk, Taylor, and Morris don't return; Stephen Neal, who's under contract for another year, decides he's had enough. What if the defense suddenly finds itself and turns things around?

My point is, a lot of unexpected things can happen between now and the offseason, so, to try to plan too far ahead is a worthless exercise. There'll be plenty of time to worry about the offseason when it gets here.
Erik Scalavino

In the Jets game, [WR Wes] Welker got whacked by a Jets forearm and was down and out. It was a penalty play. There were a lot of similar hits in which players were FINED up to $10,000. Why wasn't the Jets player fined or suspended or sent from the game? It looked to me that coach Belichick protested to the official. That was a vicious hit and the guys calling the game on CBS seemed surprised that the Jet got away with it! Can you explain this? And why the Pats didn't protest more strongly?
Sam Gammons

First of all, the Jet in question was safety Eric Smith, and he didn't get away with anything. For one thing, the officials did throw a flag, and a few days later, the NFL imposed a $7,500 fine on Smith. It was a tough hit, no doubt, but in his post-game comments, Welker insisted that it was a fair one and that he held no ill feelings toward Smith. He even said he didn't believe Smith should be fined, but the league obviously felt otherwise.
Erik Scalavino

I heard Jarvis Green was cut by Denver. I thought for sure the Pats would pick him back up. Just wondering why they didn't because I think he was great and at this point he would certainly be an upgrade for that defense as a whole. Thanks guys.Toby Kane

You heard right, Toby. I thought they might consider bringing him back, too, when he became available, but clearly, if the Patriots really wanted him to be part of their 2010 plans, they would have re-signed him during the offseason, instead of letting him go via free agency. My only conclusion, therefore, is that New England would rather move forward with what they have – developing young players like Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, Kyle Love, and Brandon Deadrick – than look to the past with Green, nice a guy and solid a player as he was during his years here.
Erik Scalavino

PFW, if Logan Mankins reports to the team on Week 6, can the Patriots trade him to another team at that time? If yes, according to the rules on restricted free agents, then what type of trade compensation do you expect the Patriots would get for him with only six weeks of service? In this scenario, Mankins would still get his six weeks for unrestricted free agent eligibility and the Pats would get something?Larry Murphy

OK, let's clarify a couple points. First, NFL players can sit out the first 10 games of a season and still get credit toward an accrued season if they return in Week 11, for the final six games of the year. Mankins is in that exact situation right now. If he comes back to New England on or before that time, he'll earn a sixth accrued season. However, as you appear to be suggesting with your Week 6 idea, the NFL's trade deadline is October 19, the Tuesday immediately following Week 6.

However, since Mankins is still a restricted free agent, his rights still belong to the Patriots, meaning they can trade him at any time before then, even if he doesn't decide to come back to Foxborough (assuming, of course, that they can find a willing trade partner). What could they get for him? That's the question we've been debating for the past few months, as you know if you've been keeping up with your weekly Ask PFW columns.
Erik Scalavino

How do practice squad salaries work? I read that most make about $285K/year, but what happens when the player signs a contract with the team and has a much higher salary, then he only makes the practice squad. Which salary do they pay him?
Hugh Maguire

According to the current NFL collective bargaining agreement, the minimum salary for a practice squad player in the 2010 season is $5,200 per week (players are paid weekly during the season). Some teams, like the Patriots, elect to pay certain practice squad players higher salaries to entice them to stay in New England, rather than sign elsewhere when another team wants to add them to their active roster. Teams are at liberty to sign those players to whatever they choose, provided that it fits under the salary cap during capped years (2010 is an uncapped year, due to the on-going labor negotiations).

As to your specific question, teams cannot automatically assign players on their active roster to the practice squad. So, when a player signs for a high salary, in order to be added to the practice squad, he must first be cut (thus nullifying his contract), clear waivers (if he's not a fully vested veteran), then re-sign at whatever amount is agreed upon by both sides.
Erik Scalavino

We all agree there's been a number of bad drafts and bad free agent moves on defense. Do I remember correctly that after [Thomas] Dimitroff went to Atlanta, there were two or three scouts that also left for other teams? What year was that? And did it contribute to the woes?
Chris Mooney

Dimitroff, the former director of college scouting for New England, left to become Atlanta's GM in 2008. He was and is an excellent talent evaluator, and his loss certainly wasn't good for the Patriots. Exactly how much his departure can be directly tied to the questionable moves to which you referred is difficult to calculate, but it certainly is a factor.
Erik Scalavino

Hi - being a fan of the game from England, I'm a tad confused about the use of different players to return kickoffs and punts and this is presumably because they need different skill sets. Can you please explain what they are and why?
Mark O'Callaghan

Glad to, Mark. In short, on kickoffs, the returners usually have more room in front of them to get a running start, so teams often let their speedier players handle those duties. Punts are more unpredictable, in terms of where and how far they're going to travel, so, you want your most sure-handed return man back there, not necessarily your fastest. In both cases, you want players who have that intangible ability to elude tacklers, while still moving forward. Too much side-to-side indecisiveness is not what you're looking for in a kick or punt returner.
Erik Scalavino

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