I have a few random questions: 1) Does compensation for coaches, GMs, etc. factor in at all on a team's salary cap figure? 2) If Scott Pioli does take the Cleveland job, do you think Nick Caserio is a capable replacement? Or would the organization look for someone on the outside? 3) If Josh McDaniels takes a head job this offseason, is there someone in-house ready to take over his role?Shane Holmes
Compensation for coaches and other front office personnel does not count toward the salary cap. Only players' salaries count, and that includes those on the 53-man roster, the practice squad and injured reserve during the course of the season. During the offseason, there's a slight change where only the top 51 players in terms of salary are counted toward the cap. Question Nos. 2 and 3 are more opinions than fact, but I'd say that Caserio would be a logical replacement for Pioli if he were to leave. He moved up to fill Thomas Dimitroff's position as director of player personnel last season when Dimitroff left to run the Atlanta Falcons and has proven to be a valuable resource in a variety of roles. His promotion would make the most sense to me. As for replacing McDaniels, I'm not sure anyone on the current staff would be a candidate. Tight ends coach Pete Mangurian has a year of offensive coordinator experience under his belt but I'm not sure he'd be in Bill Belichick's plans to call the plays. Most of the other offensive assistants have been position coaches for several years and don't appear poised to make the leap to coordinator. Perhaps Belichick would venture outside the organization to fill the role, but I honestly would have no idea where he'd look. If McDaniels does leave, finding a replacement would be one of the bigger offseason stories.
Could you please tell me how many picks the Patriots have in the 2009 draft?
The Patriots currently have eight picks in the draft, which include one of their own in each of the seven rounds plus San Diego's second rounder from a draft day trade last April. The team will also likely receive compensation picks for losing free agents. Those are awarded before the draft and fall anywhere from the third through the seventh round and come at the end of those respective rounds.
Is it me or did I hear Jarvis Green's name mentioned more in the Bills game than I heard Richard Seymour's name mentioned all year?Jesse M.
I would have to say that it was just you. Seymour had a solid year leading the team in sacks with eight, which tied for eighth in the AFC, and a team-high 17 quarterback hits. He also played really tough against the run. He was healthy for the most part and he produced with 63 tackles, starting all but the finale at Buffalo. As a point of comparison, Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth is considered the best interior defensive lineman in football and he finished with 8.5 sacks and 51 tackles. Seymour wasn't at his All-Pro best, but he was quite good. Jarvis Green made a couple of plays going against Buffalo's third-string tackle on a day that was made for defense. If you didn't hear Seymour's name during the rest of the season, you weren't listening.
Do you think Matt Cassel will be franchised with this new Tom Brady knee situation, and how much of that rumor is accurate?Jeremiah Carmody
We've pretty much exhausted the whole, Will Cassel be franchised routine so I'm not going to repeat what we've been saying every week for about a month now. I do believe he will be franchised and I believe the Patriots will attempt to trade him in order to get value for him. I don't believe Brady's injury situation has a lot to do with the situation. Cassel wants to play, plain and simple. He won't re-sign in New England long term unless Brady's playing days are over, which I don't believe to be the case. Assuming Brady comes back, whether that's in 2009 or beyond, I'd assume Cassel would want to go elsewhere. Even if Brady can't play in 2009 I don't think Cassel will stay under the franchise number since that would tie up an awful lot of cap space (about $28 million for Brady and Cassel combined). The Patriots could do that but it would restrict them in other areas like signing free agents and extending some of their own pending free agents. No one knows how Brady's knee is at this point other than those directly involved so speculating on the validity of any rumor right now is pointless. My opinion is Cassel gets franchised and is dealt for draft picks while the Patriots hope Brady is ready to go in 2009. If not, then Kevin O'Connell would likely be thrust into the spotlight like Cassel was. Plus the Patriots would likely seek a veteran alternative more aggressively than in the past with the knowledge that Brady is less than 100 percent. But I doubt Cassel will be the quarterback in 2009.
Everyone says we cannot afford to franchise Cassel because of the salary cap implications, but if Brady is not ready wouldn't he be willing to restructure with an extension with only a little cap hit for next year?Jim Polchin
That's always a possibility. I'm not sure how Brady would feel about that, but it's possible that his contract could be re-worked in order to better fit the cap. But the pending labor strife also may have a role in that. The potential for an uncapped year in 2010 has placed some restrictions on how teams can push money forward into future years. If Brady were to restructure, it's important to understand that he wouldn't be taking a paycut, which is how it is often reported when that occurs. When that happens, the money is given as a payment up front so the team can prorate the cap hit over any extending years of the contract. The uncapped situation prevents teams from doing that, therefore making restructures a bit trickier. There are always ways to work around it, but some creativity may be needed in order to do that. Regardless, I couldn't see a scenario where Brady takes less money so Cassel can stay. That wouldn't make any sense for Brady.
I was open to Matt Cassel coming in for Tom Brady, after all wasn't it Tom who came in for Drew Bledsoe? But I still believe this is Tom's team. So I had a thought for the team. Sign Matt to a decent deal and package him with Maroney to Minnesota for whatever draft pick or picks they can get, plus the Vikings throw in Chester Taylor and possibly Chad Greenway. Matt would go to a team with a good offensive line with the best running back in the NFL. Maroney went to school in Minnesota and he would not have to be the featured back. Taylor would give the Pats a durable back and Greenway was a target a couple of years ago in the draft. So do you think this could be a possibility for the Patriots?Jason Quackenbush
Why would Minnesota want Maroney when they have Adrian Peterson? And why would they trade Chester Taylor, who has been extremely productive as Peterson's backup, in order to acquire Maroney, who has done very little in three years? I believe Minnesota is a likely trading partner for the Patriots with Cassel. The Vikings need a quarterback and Cassel makes a lot of sense. I would think that draft picks would make more sense for both teams, although Minnesota did that last year with Kansas City to pick up Jared Allen and I'm not sure how many picks they'd want to deal in such a short period of time. Perhaps Belichick would look to future draft years if the Vikings wind up being the trading partner.
When a place-kicker kicks a field goal, he gets credit for the yardage from where he kicked it. However, a punter gets the yardage credit only from the line of scrimmage rather than from where he kicked it. Why the difference? Jeffrey Anderson
This is just the kind of random question we love. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the answer is. But as usual we're not without opinions. Our best guess for this difference is as follows: a field goal is marked at a specific spot. If the ball is placed at the 34, then it's a 44-yard field goal. Punters can kick it from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Some punters take longer strides than others. Some take fewer strides before kicking. So it's tougher to determine exactly where the ball is kicked from, and they go by the line of scrimmage. I'm not sure if this is the reason, but it sounded good to us and we're sticking to it.
I was wondering why the NFL (and sports in general) even have divisions. I understand that it creates rivalries and a schedule. But for me (being a fan since the 2000 season) I dislike the Colts more than any other team because both were perennial playoff teams. Good teams will make rivals, so we don't need divisions to do that. Just remove divisions and divisional tiebreakers (keep the other 13 or whatever) and let the top six teams make it. Teams that deserve to go, go, and teams that don't (Cards, Chargers), don't.Mark Zimmerman
I disagree with that. I like the divisional format and I do believe they create rivalries. I hate the Jets and Dolphins far more than the Colts, but then I'm an old fart and have been watching the Patriots since 1976. Since the Patriots always beat the Colts and Bills, I didn't hate them as much as New York and Miami as division rivals. If you win your division, you deserve to go to the playoffs. And by the way, in your top-six-make scenario, the Cardinals would have been tied for sixth in the NFC at 9-7 with Dallas, Chicago and Tampa Bay. I have no idea who would have won the tiebreaker, but Arizona would have deserved to be there every bit as much as the others. They even beat Dallas head to head. I would like to see the seeding changed based on record. Take the four division winners and two wild cards, but seed them in order of record. No way 12-4 Indy should have had to travel to play 8-8 San Diego. The Colts should have been the No. 2 seed (they beat Pittsburgh head to head) and had a bye. Instead they were 5 and hit the road. That's far more unfair to me than having a division champ make the playoffs.
With Richard Seymour in the last year of his contract, and due to the fact he will be on the other side of 30 at the end of next season, would it make sense to seek a trade? Since this will be his last contract he will not look for a hometown discount, and we still have to lock up Vince Wilfork who is crucial to the 3-4. If we could get multiple picks would it make sense to trade him, assuming we re-sign Jarvis Green and Mike Wright.Greg Driscoll
I would hate to do that. As I explained earlier, I thought Seymour had a solid season and there's no reason to believe he won't build on that next season assuming he would come into training camp healthy again after an offseason of work. I never have any illusions of hometown discounts – I feel they are extremely rare (Tedy Bruschi is an example) – and I wouldn't expect Wilfork or Seymour to take much less than they'd get on the open market. But I believe with the way the cap is expanding, assuming the labor problems get ironed out, that the Patriots will be able to retain pretty much anyone. I feel the strength of the defense remains the guys up front and I feel there's a huge drop-off from Seymour and Wilfork to Wright and Green. Sometimes the numbers don't always suggest that, but I remember watching teams run right at Ty Warren's vacated spot this season where Wright was trying to fill in. He and Green are solid backups but I don't feel they're talented enough to replace Seymour on a full-time basis.
I was just wondering what you thought the chances were of the Patriots going for offensive playmakers early in the draft. By playmakers I mean Receivers/Running backs/Tight Ends. They have three Day 1 draft picks so I think that they really should. With Randy Moss getting older and his contract being done in two years, I think it's a good idea to draft a WR for Tom Brady/Kevin O'Connell to throw to in the future. I know defense is the priority, but it wouldn't hurt to make sure the offense maintained its explosiveness for years to come.Darrell Collins
I just don't feel offense is a problem. The Patriots are coming off a season in which they scored 413 points with their backup quarterback running the show. They could probably use another wide receiver to replace Jabar Gaffney, who struggled in my opinion as the third option. And the tight end play hasn't been up to par. But I have no problem with the running back by committee approach that was used very effectively this year. Maroney and Morris will be back and with Kevin Faulk on third down that's plenty. I'd rather see the early picks once again go to defense to improve the secondary and add some more depth to the linebacker spot. I wouldn't ignore the offense, but Moss and Wes Welker are enough for Brady in the passing game and the running backs showed they could produce as well. Stick to defense.
So what ever happened to David Thomas this season? Did that ONE penalty in Indy strap him to the bench for the rest of the season? Did he have some sort of undisclosed injury, or something else? With the lack of production from both Thomas and Benjamin Watson, will tight end be a priority for the Pats in free agency or the draft?James Durham
God I hope not. Everybody has a weakness, and Bill Belichick's appears to be picking tight ends. Here's a list of players he's chosen at the position over the years – Watson, Daniel Graham (first round), Thomas (third), Garrett Mills, Jabari Holloway (fourth), Dave Stachelski (fifth), Arther Love (sixth), Spencer Nead and Andy Stokes (seventh). That's nine different players chosen in six different rounds and not a single home run among them. Add to that the likes of Cam Cleeland, Jed Weaver, Christian Fauria, Fred Baxter, O.J. Santiago, Eric Bjornson, Kyle Brady, Chris Eitzmann, Zeron Flemister, Chris Fontenot, Marcellus Rivers, Stephen Spach, Marcus Pollard and Jermaine Wiggins – all of whom were free agent acquisitions at the position – and it's clear that Belichick's luck picking tight ends hasn't been anywhere near as strong as in other areas. Other than Fauria and Wiggins, the rest of that group didn't provide much. I'd rather see Belichick focus on other areas as priorities, particular defense.
As for Thomas, I'm not sure what the deal is there. He didn't catch a single pass after his gaffe in Indy. He was even a healthy scratch for one game down the stretch (Seattle) while Tyson DeVree dressed. I thought he'd be an attractive target with his good hands and athleticism. But that never materialized and I'm not sure why.
Will the Patriots receive any compensatory picks in the 2009 NFL draft for losing Asante Samuel to the Eagles in free agency? What decides the amount of compensation a team receives? Also, now that Samuel has been gone for a season what is your opinion of the Patriots letting him go?Robert Mallory
The Patriots will likely receive a compensatory pick for Samuel. The league uses a formula that weighs a team's free agent losses against its additions, using the individuals' playing time for the new teams as a guideline. Samuel had a solid season for the Eagles and the Patriots really didn't add anything in free agency so I'd expect a pick in return, maybe even a third rounder, which is the highest a compensation pick can be. As for my opinion on losing him, it really hasn't changed. I thought he was one of the top five corners in football when the Patriots let him go and I still believe that to be the case. I never bought into the system cornerback nonsense and he's proven that to be a myth in Philadelphia. The Patriots need to find some playmakers in the secondary to make up for that absence.
When trading a franchised player, does the opposite team need to give up two first-round picks? Or could the Patriots trade someone like Cassel away for a second-round pick? What do you guys think Cassel is worth? Also, would the Patriots be stuck with the $14 million cap hit if they do trade Cassel away?Tom Humplik
Teams don't have to give two first-round picks if they are trading for the player. That would only be the case if they signed the player outright. I'd guess that Cassel would be worth a first-round pick and probably another pick, maybe a third, via trade. That's what Jared Allen got Kansas City last year and a quarterback would seem to be more valuable. The Patriots wouldn't be responsible for the cap hit if they traded him as a franchise player. The only cap hit a team absorbs by trading a player comes from the signing bonus, which franchise players don't receive.
With Miami finishing 11-6 and us 11-5, will the Dolphins draft ahead of us? If so, they are rewarded first for winning the division, and then for losing in the playoffs. Please help me understand the logic behind it.Stan Covalt
Relax Stan, that's not how it works. While I believe it's ridiculous that playoff teams that finished with worse records than the Patriots (San Diego, Minnesota, Arizona and Philadelphia) will be picking ahead of New England, Miami won't be moved up the draft chain because it lost in the playoffs. Miami finished 11-5, same as New England. The Dolphins won the tiebreaker and the division, but they'll draft after the Patriots for the same reason.
I've been a Pats fan for more than 20 years (since their first Super Bowl run against the Bears). After the Jets-Dolphins game, I've come to the conclusion that Brett Favre is the opposite player that has hurt New England the most in the last 25 years. Not only did he help beat us in Super Bowl XXXI, he played lousy in both final games (2002 & 2008) we needed him to win for us to qualify for a playoff spot. I tried to come up with other names like perhaps David Tyree, Desmond Howard, Champ Bailey ... but they basically made one big play each to hurt us. Richard Dent in Super Bowl XX. … I think that the whole Bears team destroyed us. Peyton Manning? ... Perhaps in the last few years, especially the AFC Championship Game in Indy, but the Patriots did their share of damage to the Colts before that. So I was just wondering if you can come up with other names or is Favre the one?Karim Sassi
I included this just because I thought it was clever. I gave it a little thought and I can't come up with anyone who'd top Favre in this category. The added fact that he won a big game against the Patriots before losing the others makes him the choice. Good stuff, Karim.
What would be the difference from what Pioli is doing with the Patriots as opposed to what he would be doing with the Browns, Chiefs or where ever he is wanted?Tim Bartlett
I see all the articles stating how Scott Pioli is interviewing for G.M. duties with other teams. Did anyone see this coming? Did Spygate cause a falling out between Pioli and Belichick? It seemed up until now that Pioli liked it here and liked working with Belichick. I'd hate to see him leave but if he feels a change is needed there's nothing anyone can do.Bob Stuart
Pioli would have the opportunity to run those organizations as the final decision maker while here in New England Belichick has that final say. They obviously work well together and have established themselves as the most successful tandem in the league, but it would be understandable if Pioli wanted the opportunity to run the show on his own. He won't get that chance as long as Belichick is in charge of the Patriots.